Star Control

It Is Time. Direct Response - September 2016

Published on Saturday, October 1, 2016 By cuorebrave In Founders Starbase

Well, slap me around and call me Susan. If that wasn't a bombshell dropped on us, I've never seen one. Fleshed out art of the planetary view with resources slorps. A full critter lineup. Every ship in the game. A Civil War within Stardock. Hold onto your butts, this is gonna be a long one......


5K monitors? Who has one of those!!! I mean, I want one, but dang, that's gotta be a little overkill. As long as it doesn't slorp up the budget planning for that many pixels, I'm fine with it. However, I will say that everyone looks sleepy in that conference room, everyone all reclining and at least two people napping. I WOULD be okay with you guys investing in a nice coffee machine to wake up!

As for the planetary user interface, starting with the temperature gauge. Please make the various colors all on the temperature spectrum, so it looks less like... I don't know... My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. For example, a scale of light blue to yellow to orange to red or something logical like that. I just got hung up on the purple. So, you've got a purple temperature planet... but, what IS a purple temperature? Seems kinda wonky to me. Also, maybe a separate spectrum for each value. Biology a green spectrum, weather a blue spectrum, gravity purple. 

Or...... you know.... give the actual temperature in degrees like SCII??

Also, I don't see tectonics on this display, replaced by gravity? I'd miss earthquakes, if we're being honest. 

Finally, I see the crew is measured with a solid bar now. Fuel as well. I think our cries for individual crew bits wend unheeded. I can't recommend this strongly enough, though: EVERY GAME HAS BARS. Every single one of them. Every single space game, especially, has solid bars. For health, for overheated weaponry, for fuel, whatever. Not a single game in history that I can remember, gave each member of your crew a dot, or each gallon of fuel a dot. This is important, not only for nostalgia sake, but as a visual representation of the lives lost. In the screenshot provided, there's probably 1/8th of the bar missing. How many crew is that?? How many lives were lost? People aren't measured in percentages, if you have any attachment to them. People are measured in percentages and bars if you're a corporation going over quarterly results, or weighing a recall on a product because 7% of them exploded in people's pockets. It's impersonal. And if I can just relate - I remember playing Star Control II, especially when my lander went down to the planet, and I lost ONE crew member, and I felt SO SORRY for that guy! That one dude who was lost. Turning that into yet another resource bar, in yet another game that has resource/health/fuel bars is a shame. Bring back the crew bits! Please!

I guess I had one more final note - do we really need the mineral breakdown/percentages and a whole separate section to show it? Isn't that what the planet view is for??? Isn't that needlessly confusing the issue? Just show me - ON THE ROTATING GLOBE - how many green, blue, red or fuschia slorps are on there! I'll look at the globe myself! Right? How does that not make sense??? Otherwise, what's even the point of seeing the planet there, in all its rendered glory?

The debate, I don't really understand, so I'll pass on that one.


Who knew casting shadows on a spherical world is so difficult? Although, there's definitely a shadow beneath the huge, voracious bug in the Mario screenshot. But again, I know next-to-nothing about coding, so I can't really offer any input on the subject. If you tell me it's too difficult, it's too difficult. We'll make do, either way. But I'll be damned if that lander concept art, shooting and gathering resources across the dunes - with HEAVY use of shadows - doesn't look damn tasty. There's gotta be a way to make it easier to include - that screenshot is GOLDEN! But I'm getting ahead of myself here...


Thank the good Lord above you're going to be including different, unique fonts for each alien. Stellar, that. But I guess the main talking-point here is whether the background should be 3d or not. Personally? I don't WANT a 3d background. I want to see good, old fashioned, animated 2d work. Smooth. Funny. Goofy or deranged or scary interaction between the alien and his ship, constantly checking the systems and making sure everything is working. I always got that sense from each alien. Constantly pulling levers, tentacles yanking on things, noses probing fleshy objects, catching an entire mini-galaxy in their hands, analyzing some completely alien... viewscreen or whatever? I don't want to comprehend it. And as nice as the trashy scene of the Tywom is - I can identify everything there. There's a rolling vault-door. There's a soda cup with a straw. There's a keyboard and multiple monitors. Trash. Maybe a glove in the background? I'll be seriously peeved if every ship looks as much like a SHIP as the Tywom's scene. You guys need to expand your minds about these aliens. They need elements that are completely FOREIGN to our thoughts. Some examples off the top of my head? Maybe one alien controls their ship by squeezing the heads of tiny animals, poking them in the eye when they want to move somewhere, pulling an ear when they want to shoot. And each different creature controls a different aspect of the ship when prodded. Maybe one of the aliens uses their palm to control some plant-like ferns, so that when he runs his hand over a certain area, ferns sprout and grow - and that makes the ship go!! Maybe one of the aliens we meet controls their ship by spinning a rainbow pinwheel of sparks around a giant water basin with a whirlpool in the middle?!?! I mean, it sounds ridiculous, but seriously go back and look at the SCII animations. The Arilou has stars constantly shooting behind him, while a ball of light is constantly being contained within his palms. The Orz float above pink stools while somehow manipulating a circular half-egg screen-type thing that's so alien and so foreign, it confuses me just looking at it. The Umgah have a ship made out of flesh, constantly poking and squeezing bundles of meat with their tentacles to make the ship move?!? The Supox ship is made out of FLOWERS and somehow propels itself through the galaxy that way. I mean, what could be weirder than that? But ONE thing is for sure - they should NOT be interacting with a ship that looks like a human ship. They are NOT confined by our current, human technology. Sure there were some traditional looking ships in SCII (The Thraddash, the Shofixti, etc), so the Tywom is fine!! But please branch out for the rest. Please! Please. Free your minds! (PS - the Scryve movie showed a pretty cool way of controlling his ship with those floating orbs. My 9yo son said it was a cool way to fly a ship, so you got me there!)

And to be honest? What graphics do YOU remember most? Which ones do you hold dear to your heart? A basic red/blue/purple orb floating on a black background while you're navigating? The rust colored tinge of hyperspace? Or the lovable, if naive, beaked face of the Pkunk?

The conversation screen should be the MOST lush, graphically, in my opinion, because everyone remembers the aliens. Always the aliens.

It extends to other games as well - I don't remember the tech tree graphics, the individual planets or the spaceships from space games like GalCiv or Stellaris or MOO or Endless Space......... but you bet your ass I remember what the aliens I met looked like. Right before I exterminated them


I love the look of the resources concept art. If you guys end up making it that smooth and the resources that bright, I'll be incredibly happy. The stark contrast, the detailed planetscape - I love the whole thing. The resources could probably glow less... seems a little too obvious, like you don't have to explore. But other than that, it looks great. I can't wait to see the planet view fleshed out, to see if you guys nailed the concept. Controls of WASD and mouse for the cannon sounds good, and is on par with the current generation of top-down shooters. I want to make sure you guys do an excellent job on the physics of the floating lander, inertia, momentum, etc. But from the movie? It actually looks REALLY fun.

As for the critters... I can't believe they don't get their own heading!! What's up with that? Well, either way - I can BARELY see them. @Frogboy - can we get a scaled up photo of these critters? How are we supposed to dissect them if we can barely see them. Of the small view we have, I will say - they are VARIED, outside-the-box, and incredibly creative-looking. I've got a million questions about them - like, will they behave in different ways? Or just the same 3 basic tactics from SCII - stand-still/move around/aggressively attack? I want to know more about them, I really really do. A flying whale? A Brontosaurus? A spiderlike robot? A voracious plant straight out of Little Shop of Horrors (or Mario lol)? A walking tree? Yes. Very cool. Honestly, I want to choose all of them. There's barely a cliche in the whole lot of them, and it's excellent.

The Great Debate

I want to bring up another game here. One of the greatest disappointments of my modern gaming life. A letdown almost to the level of Star Control 3. You see, several years ago, I loaded up a little game called Space Pirates and Zombies. I instantly, feverishly loved it. Since Star Control II, there had been no equal. I got LOST in that world for ages, just playing and beating the game, then booting it back up to play it again. I loved collecting the ships, I loved the dogfighting, I loved the story. I loved the sense of progression. I loved everything about it (except maybe the portraits of the characters. Those were exceedingly ugly). I've been waiting 6 years for the followup. 6 long years, and when I heard SPAZ 2 was coming out? I was overjoyed. 

And then came its Early Access release, and the dreaded EA disclaimer to dissuade people who might be disappointed:

“Important Note: SPAZ 2 is not a direct sequel to SPAZ 1. It is a new game with brand new gameplay mechanics but is set in the same universe with the same cast. SPAZ 2 is themed around scavenging and survival and the mechanics reflect that. Those looking for a direct SPAZ 1 sequel will not find it here. Those looking to try something new, certainly will find that. "

I was upset, but I still bought it. It took me less than 45 minutes to return the game, and do you want to know why? Because they changed very certain things that MADE SPAZ...... SPAZ. It changed on a fundamental level from its predecessor. Gone completely were the travelling around all the different, individual solar systems. Gone were the concise, brutal and very immediate battles. Gone was the top-down arcadey action. 

In its place, they had a weird galactic map where you would click to travel to random systems to just click on the resources gathered there, only going to ship-level when entering random arenas with multiple combatants. And when you got into combat? It was the........slowest.........most lumbering..........broadside battles I'd ever experienced. In the worst ways possible. And then, the dreaded kicker - 3d angled view. I couldn't refund the game fast enough.

But it wasn't the fact that I just don't like angled view space combat (It's a great way to play! Freelancer was awesome, among others).

It was the fact that it wasn't SPECIAL anymore. 

EVERY space game has multiple ship combat. EVERY space game has over the shoulder combat. Many space games have even implemented broadside combat (and much, much better than SPAZ 2 did, like Rebel Galaxy!). EVERY space game has health and fuel bars (see what I did there?). EVERY space game has you fighting in a wide open solar system, full of planets. But only a VERY special game will throw all these out, in favor of something truly unique.

You see, NOT every game has the concoction of wonderful elements Star Control II had. It was a gaming panacea. A one-in-a-million. And it was based on the very special reason that ALL the elements combined to make a game like no other. That's the point I'm getting at - SPAZ 2 came out, just like every other space game ever. If Star Control: Origins comes out and tries to just be like every other game out there, it will, by definition, cease to be MY Star Control. OUR Star Control.

So I'm in Camp #2. Not religiously or feverishly. But I'd LIKE to see Star Control NOT imitate the competition. I don't care about angled view or the gravity well graphics or the complexity and depth having more planets might afford. But I see Camp 1 as an effort toward sameness to the multitude of other space games out there. Could it work? Sure. Will I miss that special something that a close planet battlescreen gave me all those years ago? Definitely. Just something to think about. I DON'T want, however, the screen jump as you get closer or further away. A smooth-scrolling zoom would work much better, and I feel can be done easily with modern tech.

It Is Time: The Ship Critique Thread

Seriously? We have to critique all these ships with this tiny, low-res picture of them?!?! Fine. I'm going to number the ships, 1-15, starting from the left, and give my critique on them:

1) Cool looking ship, I like the separate, suspended 3 parts to the ship. I picture the parts rotating around that mini-star keeping them all together, hurtling through space at incredible speeds. I feel like it's probably slower than the rest, with a charge-up cannon that shoots from that star its containing. The design is good, appealing and completely new (though it does remind me a bit of the Protoss). I'd give this one a 7/10

2) THIS. If this isn't the Mukay ship, I'll pay everyone here $5. But if I got it right, you all owe ME $5 I love it, an incredible, incredible amount. It ticks all the boxes. 100% identifiable at a glance. It mimics the physiology of its creator. It, I'm sure, very obviously has a unique special that latches onto passing ships with those tentacles! So fun! 10/10

3) What an agile, aerodynamic little fighter, barely containing a black hole within its confines, harnessing all that dark matter to maneuver with precision and melt away its enemies. Pewpewpew! 8/10!

4) Meh. This one's kinda boring compared to the rest. I'm not sure its purpose, though I like the curved front arms quite a bit. I'd like to see something more graphically representational about it. What's it do? Who's piloting it? I've giving it a 4/10 because it's much less recognizable than its counterparts.

5) Earthling Cruiser, obviously - which, don't get me wrong - that's EXACTLY how it's supposed to be. The Earthling ship should definitely harken back to all our science fiction currently on earth. It looks excellent and well-made, launching nukes from those compartments on either side. 8/10 for sticking with a familiar design for a familiar race

6) The Precursor Artifact - YES. I love the centrifugal force rings. I love that the front looks like it has eyes. I love that each module is shown graphically, represented on screen. What more needs to be said? 9/10

7) I assume this is the ominous dreadnought of the antagonist, and it gets that point across. Though it has a much more ominous dark-matter model... am I sensing some deviation within the same race?!? Kohr-Ah and Kzer-Za maybe? A religious, economic, political or genealogical split? Could be interesting Except... this design is one of LEAST compelling to me. Just fairly standard, with no real wow-factors. Big ol' battleship guns are pretty cool. I hope it's not the main baddie, though... 5/10

8) Uhhh... is this one being kept a secret? Lol, why is it drawn like that? Can't see it. 0/10

9) OhmiGod! This one's hilarious! It looks like a junker ship made from old semi-truck remnants! That grill on the front! Oh, PLEASE tell me the little pods go and salvage the destroyed enemy ships, lasering apart pieces and bringing them back to the mothership to repair! That would be AWEEEEESOME! 9/10

10) Oh shit, I love this ship. Clean, concise, wholly alien. It's incomprehensible. About as far away from what humans may one day build as a spaceship! I can just imagine what the alien who drives it looks like. 10/10

11) Big, slovenly, slothful, gas-spewing podshi-... er... I mean spaceship. Very fun, want to play! 8/10

12) Yes! Play with the traditional concept of a spaceship's shape. A floating pyramid (or double pyramid, making it a diamond?) works because in space, you don't need aerodynamics, right? There's no air? 7/10

13) I was JUST starting to think - wow, all these ships are pretty friggin' large... where's the little guys? Oh! There you are! And look at all those blasters in the back, this thing must go faaaaaasst. 7/10

14) This looks like a throne, and the small pic even looks like multiple skulls at the top of the throne? Honestly, I can't really tell what's going on here. Could be cool, but until I can see more, I'm giving it a 5/10.

15) And lastly, the evil version of ship #7... or, maybe the MORE evil version. This one's design looks a little too close to #3, in my opinion. And I like #3 better. And unless it's intentional, it looks waaaaayyyy too close to #7. They've gotta be connected somehow. Maybe it's connected to both #3 and #7? That being said, it's still my least favorite, design-wise, maybe 6/10. On a side-note, my 9yo thought it was the best one out of all of them, so what do I know? Lol


**** As for the number of ships. Well, first of all, where'd you get 28??? ***** I know the screenshot shows 28 ships on the two teams, but uh... the Chmmr appears twice, the Shofixti twice, the Spathi twice... by my count, there were only 25 ships total, in Star Control II. Am I missing something? And of those 25, only 21 were actually IN the game, right? Because the Androsynth weren't in the game, the Chenjesu and Mmrnmhrm, and you couldn't reaaaaallly fight the Melnorme unless you tried really hard! So while they were playable in Super Melee, they were NOT in the actual story mode.

So don't feel TOO bad about the 14 ships at launch. It's only 1/3 less, really - not 1/2. 

And a final, final note............................. Is Star Control: Eternal & Infinite actually the name of the next game in the series?!

Phew. My fingers need a rest.

What did everyone else think?