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Star Control II (filfre.net)
148 points by doppp 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

Yes, it's my favorite game of all time. No, I'm not sure you can really "get" the experience today. One thing older games were able to do was use time and boredom(!) for effect in a way that mostly doesn't exist nowadays with so many more well-made games with "optimized" reward systems.

I think of Grim Fandango, where a lot of the effect of the narrative comes in the way scrounging for clues by trial and error makes it feel as if you really were stuck in that town for a year. Play through quickly with a strategy guide and you won't actually get the effect of the environment.

Or take the difference between the original Zelda and the later games: I'd say the fact that the original completely lacked the well-marked trail of where you were supposed to be going and what you were supposed to be interacting with made it seem as if you had "found" a smaller part of a wider world, and you were reacting to its logic.

Star Control II did both of these things as well as any game has. The reasons for your actions were always intrinsic (not to make "1/5" go to "3/5" and then "5/5", quest completed!) and your course through the game was meaningful because it took place in an economy of choice, effort, and time that was consistent and weighty.

Beyond navel gazing, I think the real upshot is when something like Breath of the Wild is so universally adored, part of what you're seeing is all the potential being left on the table by the current paradigm of gerbil wheels with scrolling backdrops.

When I look back at my favorite games of all time, they all evoke this feeling of "I can go anywhere and do anything. There's so much to do and see, and I'm a little nervous to venture out because I'm not sure I'll be able to find my way back."

Star Control II is that game. So is Ultima VII, and several Infocom games that filled my imagination and seemed bigger than they were. Before the era of a complete walkthrough a click away that will lead you by the nose.

The turning point was voiced dialogue. Once that became the norm, content became exponentially more expensive to produce, and so the size of the worlds shrank.

Star Control II has voiced dialog[0].

[0]: https://packages.debian.org/jessie/uqm-voice

Not the original, only the later 3DO adaptation.

maybe, but eventually it was added for PC. I played StarControl2 about a decade too late, and it had spoken dialogue.

Sure, but the context was whether StarControl was already an instance of a game where other content creation had to compete for resources with spoken dialogue. It wasn't.

Sierra Quest games were like this - one pixel to the left, and you have to reload your last save :)

In contrast with Lucasart ones - but both were fun, just in different way!

Then came... "The Day of the Tentacle" - OMG!!!

Modern examples of this are GTA5 and Zelda: Breath of the wild. They are not endless but huge open worlds that evoke similar feelings and emotions to what you describe

I found Horizon Zero Dawn somewhat similar. There were obviously edges, but they appeared natural and weren't always where you thought they would be. e.g., you could actually scale fairly rugged and steep cliffs and end up in places other games would never let you get near.

Superbly put. I miss the days of wandering into unfamiliar lands in Ultima VII - you never knew who or what you'd run into (and they'd be colourful characters and enemies - not just variants on a theme). I've read good things about BotW, and I'm glad this sort of living, open world still appears now and then in gaming.

Bethesda, particularly Skyrim, is pretty immersive and fun in the open world sense.

I replayed Star Control II a few months ago and felt it held up surprisingly well. If you get bored, the whole game has already been mapped out, so you can easily speed-run it.

It holds up every time I play it too, but it's certainly not going to create any zealots playing it for the first time today.

I wrote copious notes while I played that game, something that I tried to do recently with a game, but eventually gave up in a moment of weakness and just looked for FAQs online. This was something you could do in 1992, I certainly had internet then, but you had to stop playing your game, possibly reboot, and then dial your modem, and try finding the answer with something like gopher, or hope that a local BBS had people talking about it. Basically it was enough bother that you'd power through a lot more than you would today.

I also largely consider SC2 to be one of the first incrementals ever produced. I don't think there's any way you could beat the game the first time you played it, without knowing some key locations. There was just too much to explore. Like the first rainbow planet I found allowed me to make enough progress, that I think I beat the game the following playthrough. But like the article mentioned, this accidental incremental element just doesn't really fly today, especially for a game that can take hours of investment.

> the whole game has already been mapped out

I bought Star Control 2 in a retail box, and it came with a big fold-out map of all of the stars, which I still have in a box somewhere. Granted, the map didn't tell you exactly what you would find at each star system, but it did subtly mark points of interest (which I failed to notice until after I had completed the game the first time).

Without the FAQs online, there is a whole lot of grinding to do for star systems with resources worth mining on them, and the "fuel" system makes random grinding much more tedious.

True, every time I pick up the game for a replay, it's an instant "sell all landers until the (un)signed integer handling breaks and rake in unlimited Resource Units". Then I otherwise play normally and have a blast without the tedium of fuel.

I've resisted this on nearly every playthrough. I actually find it fun, the exploration for resource rich systems felt sandbox-y. You only need to hit a few and you're mostly set.

Which only shows how ahead of its time it was. Modern games love to fill your time with tedious resource grinds that can only be made tolerable by having the wiki open while you play.

Don't have a favorite singular:

Master of Orion

Master of Magic


Raptor: Call of the Shadows

Chuck Yeager's Air Combat

Command & Conquer


Falcon 4 Gold

Doom II (with some ridiculous levels I hacked like an enemies mosh pit on a secret outside area)



SimCity Enhanced

Welltris + Mouse Commander mod (TSR that converted mouse movement into simulated keypresses)

11th Hour

Also: that universal crack/trainer from way back and all the demoscene goodness that went into awesome cracks, cheats and trainers

Just to make sure its known, the game source code was released to its fans in 2002. It has since been maintained under the subtitle The Ur-Quan Masters, and plays on everything.

It is freely available here: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/

Play it.

Nit pick, it's based off of the source code for the 3DO port rather than the original PC game.

It's also curious that TFA claims it never had a console port, and then later on mentions that the open source version is based off of the 3DO source.

Specifically from TFA:

> Star Control was ported to the Sega Genesis, but, as it happened, Star Control II would never get the same honor, perhaps because its sales didn’t quite justify the expense and/or because its complexity was judged unsuited to the console market.

I think in context, they mean it never got a port to the Genesis as SC1 did.

TFA does also mention the 3DO console port in the context of the Crystal Dynamics acquisition, a few paragraphs before talking about the source code.

The experience is indistinguishable (apart from maybe some better sound) from my first play through when it came out on PC.

according to the urquan master (UQM) site, the 3DO port was only half-finished when it was publicly released.

Wiki implies there was a full release on the 3DO? It's on the available platforms list anyways, but so is OSX, which would imply they're including UQM-supported platforms

>One solution might have been to tie the evolving galaxy to the player’s progress through the plot rather than the wall clock, a technique pioneered in Infocom’s Ballyhoo back in 1986 and used in countless narrative-oriented games since. It can convey the impression of rising danger and a skin-of-the-teeth victory every time without ever having to send the player back to square one. In the end, the player doesn’t care whether the exhilarating experience she’s just had is the result of a meticulous simulation coincidentally falling into place just so, or of a carefully manipulated sleight of hand. She just remembers the subjective experience.

Ugh, I've played many games like this, and while it's true that they do have advantages, I think they're a poor choice in open-world games like Star Control II, where there are many different things you can do at any one moment. If I can just ignore the world-ending threat and mess around with side quests with zero consequences, it really makes me not take the threat seriously. Plus it's much less immersive when the evolving galaxy doesn't evolve independent of my actions - it's easy to perceive games that only progress the world when I hit some specific milestone in the main story.

IMO, "the world only moves when you do" is the safe and boring choice when it comes to stories. A truly independently evolving world like Star Control II's is radical and much more interesting - and if it was more common for games to evolve in wall-clock-time, you wouldn't have this issue of players having their playthrough unexpectedly ruined.

I think the second option of selecting your own deadline is probably much better, though it might lead to players never discovering quasi-space.

It's a little weird reading about people not catching on to quasi-space, not just because I'm not an especially good gamer and I got it no problem, but also because I cannot fathom how anyone could actually place SC2 for any length of time without it. Travel in SC2 is a slog.

I also don't remember having an issue discovering it, and I'm also an average gamer, but I'm taking the article at face value when it says that this is a problem for many players.

Yes, I think the suggestion from the article defeats a lot of why SC2 is a special game. When I played SC2 (many years ago but also many years after the original release), I lost my first playthrough to the time limit. Despite being conventionally unfun, that loss improved the experience by being a refreshing change from the typical RPG cliche.

I hold SC2 in high regard from when I played it back then, but I don't think it aged well. I tried playing it again recently and found the travel to be too tedious.

I'm not sure though that it'd be possible to fix SC2's unfun aspects while keeping what makes it special.

I think SC2 may be my favorite game from childhood -- I discovered it, of all places, in a Barnes and Nobles which had a playable 3DO console and had a playable demo of the Melee mode, which is still a blast to play because of the creative design of the ships.

But what I remember most was how brilliant the writing and humor was. Not just the hilarious alien races and their depictions/dialogues, but the creative drama of the overall plot and universe, in which humans were seemingly just a minor character in a conflict between warring centipedes. I don't think there's a game from that era that I want more to be remade/rebooted (with Fallout 3/4 being disappointments). Unfortunately, it seems to be mired in a intellectual property dispute between the original creators and Stardock [0].

[0] https://www.polygon.com/2018/6/25/17501084/star-control-crea...

Stardock released their own spiritual successor already, so give that a try if you want. And as far as I'm aware the original creators are still working on their own successor.

The original creators of SC2 are in a legal battle with Stardock.

I loved this game, and Ur-Quan Masters is a 100% faithful remake for anyone wanting to give it a try.

My favorite moment: when the Ilwrath tell you exactly from where, and on what radio frequency, their evil gods communicate to them. You immediately think: Wait, surely you can't ....? Ah, but of course you can.

>Ur-Quan Masters is a 100% faithful remake

It's based on the 3DO version, which has different dialogue in some places. This makes the game noticeably more difficult, because you are only told the general area of a certain mandatory quest item, not the exact location as in the original PC version. This also makes it IMO more boring, because the only way to find the item without spoilers is repeatedly checking planets at a time when you probably have enough minerals already.

Oh. I'd played both (15 years apart) and didn't notice any differences... guess I just overlooked them! I stand corrected.

Argh! now I must...

Star control II is one of my favorite games of all time. I hate it that Toys for Bob lost the brand, and even more that stardock would take the name and use it for something completely unrelated to the original story.

Stardock rebooted using a different timeline reportedly to leave room for Toys for Bob to expand with their own related eventual sequel. Sounds like a win-win for gamers to me. (I've also completed the new Star Control reboot and found it hyper-faithful to everything we loved and remember about Star Control II, with similar controls, UX, and even remixed music.)

I think gp is referring to the current lawsuit between stardock and toys for bob, in which stardock is trying to claim total ownership over the star control trademark/universe

See: https://www.dogarandkazon.com

Also of note — they’re requesting $2m in gofundme donations to fight it, but have only gotten 40k in 6 months. My hopes of ever seeing a proper sc3 is vanishing.


Yup, I'm very aware of the ongoing legal battle. I was trying to side-step discussion around it as Paul/Ritchie appear to present a very warped view of history/reality via their blog. (For example, available data suggests P/R didn't actually substantially contribute to SC1/2.)

A slightly better armchair take can be found at the UQM wiki [1] with actual lawyer commentary [2]

Not taking any real sides here, I feel everyone involved is greater than I regardless of outcome, but do hope folks keep an open mind.

[1] http://wiki.uqm.stack.nl/Stardock_Systems_Inc._v._Paul_Reich...

[2] http://wiki.uqm.stack.nl/Stardock_Systems_Inc._v._Paul_Reich...

"For example, available data suggests P/R didn't actually substantially contribute to SC1/2."

That's a pretty wild claim to repeat. Not a single person on the original team agrees with it, and they've filed the copyright registration in court[1]. There's basically no evidence at all for that conclusion, except that Stardock made the claim (not supported it, not provided evidence of it, merely made the claim)

Even if you do believe it, it's legally irrelevant as the team has signed the copyright over to them[2], and they released The Ur-Quan Masters back in 2003 using that copyright.

I was a member of the community back in the lat 90s/early 00s and this was common knowledge even back then.

[1] https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6239751/71/6/stardock-s...

[2] https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/6239751/64/5/stardock-s...

Stardock has acted like scum through the whole ordeal. On top of the lawsuit against P/R...

1. They attempted to trick the UQM project leadership into signing a document that said Stardock owned the rights to everything in Star Control II. Stardock would then "generously" license rights back to the UQM project as "protection". In reality it would put the free game under Stardock's thumb[1]

2. There are leaked conversations of the owner of Stardock labeling the UQM forum and star-control.com as hostile to his company and how he is going to shut them down

3. There are two subreddits for Star Control. The fan owned /r/starcontrol and the Stardock owned /r/StarControlOfficial. An unknown reddit account took over /r/starcontrol under strange circumstances and sowed havoc for a couple of days before reddit intervened and removed the new mod. There are theories that Stardock was behind it.

[1] http://forum.uqm.stack.nl/index.php?topic=7396.0

That sounds like a fair take, IANAL.

It's worth noting these registrations are dated 2017/2018, after the mud-flinging began. I wouldn't be shocked to hear they're invalid.

I really can't think of any reason they'd be invalid.Keep in mind copyright doesn't need to be registered to be valid - the actual copyright applies since they created the work, this is just a formal registration of that.

There's also a ton of evidence supporting this copyright: The game CDs, manual, and box art all also say copyright Fred & Paul; there's email threads with Accolade discussing the possibility of merging the copyright and trademark; the fact that they published the game with no change other than removal of the "Star Control" trademark; and basically the entire team signing off on this.

If someone else was claiming to have written it, I could see a credible conflict, but literally everyone involved in the actual creation of the game says that, yes, it was created by Fred & Paul.

Cool, thanks for the calm discourse lixue.

I mean, the wiki page itself notes that multiple involved in making it support the idea they were creative leads in section 4.2[0], and they’ve been the front of every interview and on the game’s splash... if they weren’t actually doing much, this would’ve been in a controversy beginning in 1992, not today

But I haven’t taken a look at the lawyer commentary. (I don’t know that I care enough to). But outside of the lawyers and stardock’s ceo commentary, I haven’t seem anything to imply they weren’t in charge of the whole thing.

But anyways, I didn’t care for the stardock’s game, so it doesn’t matter what the truth is for me. I just want a proper sc3 (though I’m expecting they’ll still try to “modernize” itand toss out all the fun with it, as most decade-apart sequels go; but a man can dream, can’t he?)

[0] http://wiki.uqm.stack.nl/Stardock_Systems_Inc._v._Paul_Reich...

Stardock rebooted simply because they didn't have rights to the original Star Control universe, not out of benevolence.

It's very much the opposite in fact. Stardock has sued the original creators on frivolous grounds, is trying to prevent them from using the characters they created, and is actively spreading false information about who created the Star Control universe. More information here: https://www.dogarandkazon.com

Faithful without any of the races, history or story?

I mean the mechanics were not really groundbreaking even back then. The game won it's place in history due to it's great characters and wonderful story. You can't be faithful to the game without building on it's story.

If nothing of the story is used they could have just made the same game with a different brand and it would be exactly the same. The use of the Star control name is simply a marketing tactic to get people who heard and liked SC to buy a game they would otherwise not - I.E. they wanted to milk the brand.

Star Controll II, unlike any other game of its time, fired almost perfectly on all cylinders.

  - Excellent storyline, for the most part
  - Well written humor and dialogue
  - Creative dialogue options
  - Unique personalities for every species
  - A sense of vastness in mystery in the universe that rewarded exploration.
  - Great artwork
  - Fun mini games, especially the "Super-Melee" combat
  - Interesting RPG/upgrade element as you acquired new ships and parts for your main ship.
  - Did I mention the music was both ahead of its time (tracker format when everything else was midi), and amazing?

Loved Melee and the music especially. I remember each ship having a points rating in Melee, and we'd play lowest vs highest. There were some cheap ships (Spathi, Androsynth, Thraddash, Arilou, Orz, VUX, etc) that could thoroughly torment the big slugs with the right tactics.

Teleporting the Arilou into the planet/moon though was infuriating.

I have such fond memories of playing the melee mode at a friend's house, with a shared keyboard -- he would always pick the little alien that shouted insults. "Jerk! Idiot! Fool!" And the soundtrack, the soundtrack was so good you could just let it spin while you did other things.

Play enough melee mode against humans and you can soundly beat the computer, even with insane matchups like playing the Slylandro Probe against the Ur-Quan Dreadnought.

The secondary option for the Thraddash was surely the most devastating option among the cheaper ships. 10 points in Melee yet could take down as many of the "big four" as needed.

No joke: I put the SC 2 battle song on infinite loop when I'm dealing with some serious shit, like a production server that crashed and the phones started ringing.. helps to keep me in the zone.

“Hallelujah”... damn, not AGAIN

The Pkunk!

I had such a weird relationship with this game.

My godfather got me a pirated disk (5 1/4"!) from Malaysia when I was about 9 or 10, which included the full manual. The disk was completely corrupted - I was able to get it to play just the intro and then the game would crash.

I devoured that manual though - the full future history of Earth and the Ur-Quan War story had me totally hooked.

Fast forward 15-years or so to when I discover the whole game is open-source now as the Ur-Quan Masters story, and I was giddy to finally be playing it (and getting to listen to the glorious Hyperspace music scores), while my kitten at the time had to be distracted from clawing my monitor because he wanted to chase the blue-spaceship across the screen.

It's an amazing game, that just goes all the places you want it to.

I recall being a small child and constantly bothering my older brother to play Star Control II so I could watch. I tried playing it myself but was too young to figure out how to exit the starter station. As I grew older, I could finally get to the point of crashing into planets.

Dipping into https://mastodon.social/@orz works for me when I'm nostalgic but don't feel like spinning up dosbox.

Happy campers!

My experience with SC and SC2 goes back from high-school, we've got some "beefy" PC-XT and PC-ATs with CGA graphics, and the thing to do was to find a keyboard where two players can play hold 10 keys simualtenously and play against each other - choice of keyboard was critical, and there was an APP allowing to find these keys.

Played MELEE mostly from the game, and bit of the Adventure, but to be fair - MELEE for me was the best part - endless plays, much like we've played ARCHON, and ARCHON 2 before that - in fact these were the two most played games at school (somewhere ~1991-1993).

Then around this time my other favourite game came to be Heroes of Might and Magic 1, 2 and later 3 - and much like the ones above it - "multiplayer" was really people taking turns, and promising to not see while the others are playing - some sessions ended up being more than 24hr, after which the girlfriend back then of my best friend, had to kick us out (we drank, and not showered for whole day...)

Then the same experience in the army (mandatory service back then, where I came from), lol. So much fun...

And I've never really played much multi-player network game myself - PC clubs, or nowadays internet (with the exception of Hearthstone - nothing else).

I do miss the funky, weird, games of old times...

C. 1996 I was about 17, I remember interviewing for a job at Accolade in the old former Apple HQ black triangular building off I-280. SC3 just came out.

PS: That triangular building is somewhat "cursed" in that it can't seem to keep tenants. Is the space too expensive, is it too unusable by being shaped as such or do risky ventures pick it?

Boxer on Mac, a wrapper for DosBox, is a great way to play DOS games. http://boxerapp.com

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