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September 14, 2011 8:12 PM   Subscribe

After a long dormant period, the newest version of the Ur-Quan Masters has been released for basically every operating system. The game is a legal port of the original code of Star Control 2, a space-based RPG/shooter/adventure hybrid which, despite being two decades old, maintains a strong cult following, including for its alien races and their distinctive theme music. You really should play it.
posted by blahblahblah (105 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man, I totally remember playing SC2 as a kid. Loved that game. May have to check this out over the weekend.
posted by axiom at 8:16 PM on September 14, 2011


Wait, you mentioned the distinctive theme music without mentioning the Melnorme?

Enjoy, everyone.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I should also say that I love, love, loved Star Control II, so much so that I played Star Control I and III, which were ill-advised decisions.

I also had a friend who enjoyed moving his (rather large) stomach like it was a mouth while reciting bits of Kohr-Ah dialogue, and I loved the game so much that that didn't seem nearly as weird as it actually was.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:30 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wow, that music really sells it.

(not hamburger)
posted by oddman at 8:30 PM on September 14, 2011


Aw, yeah, love this one. FYI, it plays like garbage on my Android phone. The touch controls just suck so bad for fighting it's not even worth it. Great on the eee PC, though.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:32 PM on September 14, 2011


so much so that I played Star Control I and III, which were ill-advised decisions.

I'm afraid you're mistaken. There was no Star Control III. Let us never speak of such a thing again.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:33 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


Fond memories of playing this in melee mode in college against my friends, sharing a keyboard. This, and Scorched Earth.
posted by exogenous at 8:34 PM on September 14, 2011


And yet, even after all these years, I have no idea why the bridge turned purple.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:34 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


This video does a nice job of capturing my Star Control II experience. This one too. I love the insults the Pkunk hurls at its opponent.
posted by exogenous at 8:38 PM on September 14, 2011


What's in this newer version - updated graphics, new content? I downloaded and played it from the Ubuntu repositories years ago, but I couldn't really get engaged. I didn't much understand what was happening.
posted by Buckt at 8:40 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never played this in it's SCII form, but only picked up the Linux port of UQM a couple-few years ago and loved it. Will definitely be giving this a spin! Thanks!
posted by kaibutsu at 8:41 PM on September 14, 2011


bugfixes aside, there doesn't seem to be much new in the changelog, but what's this?
NEW FEATURES
...
- Support for Windows CE


!
posted by juv3nal at 8:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Somebody app-itize this for my iPad!
posted by youthenrage at 8:46 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


IMO the two-player "melee" is where this game really shines. It's primitive by present-day standards, but the planet, asteroids, and varieties of ships with different primary and secondary abilities make for an exciting game.
posted by exogenous at 8:49 PM on September 14, 2011


Speaking of Star Control 2 music, did you know there's a complete set of remixes available (free!) for download? The Ur-Quan one suitably cranks up the SUBMIT NOW HUMAN up to 11, while the Spathi remix is... um... something. Relax though, after all, didn't you mean to ask about flowers?

I have no idea what bringing this up on date would mean about me, but I'll assume it would be awesome.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:52 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man I hope they nerfed the spathi, they were close to invincible.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:58 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Man I hope they nerfed the spathi, they were close to invincible.

Nothing says terror quite like Fwiffo
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:03 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't realize it until now but I had only played Star Control I. I thought it was the second one I had played.

We had amazing times with that game, my friends. I remember one friend and I had a little thing we called "returning to alpha base". The idea was this: if you were in a losing fight, you could reduce the humiliation of losing and rob your opponent of some glory if you could successfully "return to alpha base" before he killed you - which meant ramming yourself into the planet until you died. But you had to announce your intent to return to alpha base by simulating a communications transmission with the order, so your opponent also had full warning that you were attempting to rob them of victory. It gave games an awesome fulcrum point where we would go from actively fighting each other to one player racing towards suicide before the other player could finish him off.

I also remember just having match after match of Ur-quan versus Shofixti (the dreadnought couldn't launch fighters), with us roaring with laughter as the Shofixti would weave around trying to dodge that mighty cannon and wear the Dreadnought down to kamikaze-vulnerable levels of health. I don't recall if the Shofixti ever won, but it was hysterical, for some reason.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:04 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


My ex-boyfriend's mother wanted to buy him the very finest video game console, so she bought him a Panasonic 3DO. He had exactly one game for this system: Star Control II. He played the everliving shit out of this game, achieving a level of obsession and mastery rivaled only by movie-cliché borderline-spectrum savants. Naturally, buoyed by a surging tide of teenaged limerance, we wanted to share as many of our formative experiences with each other as humanly possible, and one night he hooked up the 3DO and started up Star Control II.

Well. I won't rain on anyone's parade in any great detail, but suffice it to say that it was not exactly my idea of a good time.

Many years later, though, I wrote this piece of ridiculous cracktastic Star Control II slash fanfiction for him, so I'll call us even.
posted by mayhap at 9:17 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, and I have things to do this month.

I just have to say, SC2 is the game that makes me realize how depressing it is that I will never have a chance to roam the stars, exploring planets, and looking for Rainbow Worlds.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 9:18 PM on September 14, 2011


I tried playing this ages ago. Going to give it another shot.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:34 PM on September 14, 2011


Going to give it another shot.

Make sure to give it a little time. The game is pretty underwhelming at the start but it should start grabbing you after an hour or two.
posted by zixyer at 9:43 PM on September 14, 2011


so much so that I played Star Control I and III, which were ill-advised decisions.

Star Control I was really good too... or so I recall. Maybe, like most games, standards were lower back then.

Star Control II though... man, that game was seriously epic. It blew my mind the first time I realised that every single point of light in the universe was a star system, with planets and moons and alien species to explore. It had all the hallmarks of great fantasy: humanity's desperate struggle for survival, enigmatic alien races, dangers so dire that could destroy entire galactic civilizations, an unwinnable war against a vast an unimaginably numerous enemy, a suicide mission to save the galaxy. But again I'm not sure how it would stand up to games of today.
posted by xdvesper at 9:43 PM on September 14, 2011


They're selling the original game on GOG for $6.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:47 PM on September 14, 2011


I don't think there was any ship I couldn't defeat with the araloulaleelay skiff - it was so fast and nimble that nothing stood a chance. But I dreaded using its teleport ability in a tight sport, because every hundred times or so, the random position you appeared at would happen to be inside the planet, and instant death :-(
posted by -harlequin- at 9:49 PM on September 14, 2011


Heh, I also remember the aralou becoming harder and harder to control as are gaming shifted from x86 to 286 to 386 to 486, with the earlier systems running th game slower than its intended speed :)
posted by -harlequin- at 9:52 PM on September 14, 2011


Am I the only one who thinks the music totally sucks compared to say, Mega Man 2 music or Road Rash 3 music (just to name two obvious examples)?
posted by 3FLryan at 9:52 PM on September 14, 2011


I mean, I don't mean to dis you if you like this music, but man, I love all sorts of video game music and to me this stuff is really bad.
posted by 3FLryan at 9:53 PM on September 14, 2011


In fairness, all sounds everywhere pale to Mega Man 2 music.
posted by Rangeboy at 9:55 PM on September 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


Your favourite video game music sucks.
posted by Joe Chip at 9:56 PM on September 14, 2011 [8 favorites]


I wouldn't say the music totally sucks. The music was appreciated at the time because it was one of the first games to use sampled instruments on the PC. I do like the remixes of the music used in the 3DO version a lot more (example).
posted by zixyer at 10:00 PM on September 14, 2011


I wouldn't say the music totally sucks. The music was appreciated at the time because it was one of the first games to use sampled instruments on the PC. I do like the remixes of the music used in the 3DO version a lot more (example ).

Fair enough. Maybe I don't know the history behind the music or the specific achievements involved. But if I'm going to voice my opinion on one thing, it's video game music. I played a damn lot of games. I would rent games specifically to hear the music. I can hear a sound effect used in a movie/tv show/video game today and say with certainty "that sound effect was used in [game] made ten years ago for [purpose]." I compose video game music. I can "name that tune" for a ridiculous amount of themes/stages/boss battles etc. I appreciate 8-bit Mario through the sweeping scores of Halo. And to me this stuff sounds like it was composed in 10 minutes using a few samples from garage band.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:05 PM on September 14, 2011


I mean, I don't mean to dis you if you like this music, but man, I love all sorts of video game music and to me this stuff is really bad.

To be fair, 90% of the time during gameplay you're listening to one of these three tunes, not the themes linked in the post:

space theme
hyperspace theme
battle theme
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:06 PM on September 14, 2011


RE: Music not being good...

You have to look at it from the concept of console vs pc. Consoles had hardware dedicated to sound. I don't know when SC2 came out, but I have a feeling that at the time, soundcards were still fairly primitive. I remember playing the old shareware games like Wolfenstein 3d and Commander Keen, and the sound was pretty primitive. Keep in mind that a lot of the games that were on the PC still used the shitty built in speakers. Wiki says soundcards didn't really start on the PC until 1988. When you realize that the Famicom was out in Japan in 1985, 3 years before PC's really even started to get a sound card, you can kind of grok that the sound production of PC games was a bit delayed compared to home consoles.
posted by symbioid at 10:15 PM on September 14, 2011


Sad what happened to the Androsynth.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:19 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who thinks the music totally sucks compared to say, Mega Man 2 music or Road Rash 3 music

Forget them, it's all about OutRun.
posted by asterix at 10:25 PM on September 14, 2011


Well, I'm honestly not sure why blahblahblah chose to focus on the music, because while it was certainly evocative, the actual game doesn't focus much on it. It's really the voices that make it shine, and the story after you've gotten into it. The music is just supposed to set a mood. I don't think you're supposed to actively LISTEN to it.

You know, this is a really hard game to explain. I've been sitting here a bit now, trying to organize an introduction to it, and it's not easy. It's a weird combination of very old gaming concepts and much newer ones. At heart, it's really just a game about two spaceships fighting, kind of like that early Klingon v Federation vector game in the arcade, but way more advanced. That was Star Control 1, and they took that basic core, of dueling starships, and expanded it out into a galaxy-spanning adventure-ish game. But whenever it comes down to conflict resolution, it's back to 1 on 1 fighting. So it's kinda weird in that sense.

But damn, it's fun. The ships are crazy, the races are nuts, and there's a zillion different ways to approach the game. It's got these ridiculously over-the-top aliens, super weird and funny, but there's also a very serious undertone. Everything's in bright colors and jazzy music, and the dialog is freaking hilarious, but you are ultimately trying to stop a galactic extinction event, and if you are too slow, your friends are going to die. And not just the specific aliens you know, but their entire species. Whole worlds will be cleansed of all life if you fail.

So Star Control 2 is really strange and hard to explain. It's funny, but it's not. It's simple, but it's not. It's about ship combat, but it's not. It's also about making friends, and trying to understand and survive a surprisingly complex galaxy. It looks completely trivial when you first start to play it, but there is a hell of a lot going on, especially considering the age of the game.

I actually had a 3DO for a number of years explicitly to preserve the best version of this game; fortunately, the Ur Quan Masters made my only reason to own that console irrelevant. I thought enough of this game to spent a couple hundred bucks getting hardware so that I could play it again whenever I wanted, years and years after it had come out. This is one of the Great Classics of computer gaming, and if you haven't experienced it, try to imagine it's the late 1980s when you fire it up for the first time. It's good in an absolute sense, even now, and quite playable, but if you can get yourself into the mindset of pocket calculators and paper notebooks and television and magazines as your major sources of information, it's jaw-dropping.
posted by Malor at 10:25 PM on September 14, 2011 [9 favorites]


There are some interesting notes in the mod files for the music. It's like they outsourced the music to different people. I'll try to find it on the bigbox and post the stuff here if Google doesn't come up with anything.
posted by herrdoktor at 10:30 PM on September 14, 2011


Oh, it's worth pointing out that the original music for this game was probably intended for the Soundblaster Pro, which is freaking ancient. About all you could say in favor of the Soundblaster was that it was better than an Adlib. :) Calling a SB a synthesizer at all is a bit of a stretch ... they were extremely primitive.

Further, the first version of the game didn't have spoken dialog at all, only text. It wasn't until the 3DO version came out that they expanded on the music and recorded all the dialog, and they couldn't go far from the original without messing it all up.

When you're playing the Ur Quan Masters, keep in mind that you're playing a port of a much more primitive game. It was done fabulously well, and added a great deal to the original, but it is, at heart, a port of a DOS game, and DOS sucked. The UQM project is a port of a port.
posted by Malor at 10:37 PM on September 14, 2011


I almost never read books, watch movies or TV shows a second time. Video games, I don't even finish most of the time.

Star Control II, I have played start-to-finish at least three times. And I don't even like the starship battle stuff that is the ostensible 'core'. (The core for me is characters, and storylines.) The only other game I've played through any where as much is Deus Ex.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:39 PM on September 14, 2011


You have to look at it from the concept of console vs pc. Consoles had hardware dedicated to sound. I don't know when SC2 came out, but I have a feeling that at the time, soundcards were still fairly primitive.

Ok, this is probably a big part of it. The Wolfenstein 3D theme sounds similarly...bland. I guess the hardware was just pretty bad. But it's hard to believe the hardware prevented them from making interesting / musical songs...songs that sound like they were created with love to go along with the game. It's also hard to believe that just three years later PC games could have awesome songs like this. But I guess PCs got dedicated sound cards in that time?

There are some interesting notes in the mod files for the music. It's like they outsourced the music to different people. I'll try to find it on the bigbox and post the stuff here if Google doesn't come up with anything.

That would be cool, thanks. Damn this post for keeping me up way past my bed time!
posted by 3FLryan at 10:40 PM on September 14, 2011


(I should have noted both Star Control II and Wolfenstein 3D were released in 1992)
posted by 3FLryan at 10:42 PM on September 14, 2011


There are some interesting notes in the mod files for the music. It's like they outsourced the music to different people.

That's exactly what they did. Somewhere ages ago I found mp3s of the tracks a bunch of people had put together for a previous release... Oh, here they are.
posted by asterix at 10:42 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's like they outsourced the music to different people.

I think most of the music was obtained actually through a contest. The game was over budget when they started getting the music together so the held a contest on Usenet. The winners got some money and their music used in the game.

Then I think they just had the people who composed the winning tracks make some additional ones to fill out the soundtrack.
posted by zixyer at 10:43 PM on September 14, 2011


I think most of the music was obtained actually through a contest. The game was over budget when they started getting the music together so the held a contest on Usenet. The winners got some money and their music used in the game.

Then I think they just had the people who composed the winning tracks make some additional ones to fill out the soundtrack.


OK, that makes sense - that's exactly what it sounds like.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:45 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Star Control: The poor man's Starflight.

What I wouldn't give for a modern version of Starflight.
posted by Justinian at 10:48 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


For those interested, from the wiki:

"The contents of the soundtrack of the PC version were determined by running a contest which anybody could participate in, composing tracks based on a description of the game. Included on the soundtrack are compositions of Aaron Grier, Erol Otus, Eric E. Berge, Riku Nuottajärvi and Dan Nicholson, the president and founding member of The Kosmic Free Music Foundation. Music is in Protracker-MOD format which uses digitized instrument samples while most of PC game music still relied on FM-synthesis based instruments at the time. The game also supported Gravis Ultrasound sound card, which was popular among MOD composers."
posted by 3FLryan at 10:48 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, it's worth pointing out that the original music for this game was probably intended for the Soundblaster Pro, which is freaking ancient. About all you could say in favor of the Soundblaster was that it was better than an Adlib. :) Calling a SB a synthesizer at all is a bit of a stretch ... they were extremely primitive.

The SoundBlaster was the defacto soundcard back then. You could get much better stuff, but the better stuff wasn't as widely supported as the SB. As far as synthesis goes, you did get a Yamaha OPL2 or OPL3 chip, which was a moderately sophisticated FM synth.

They also had DAC capabilities, but you couldn't really make use of that because games were still being deployed on a handful of 1.44 MB floppies. The CD ROM drive was revolutionary because it provided enough space for CD or near-CD quality sound. Later CPUs got powerful enough to decode compressed audio while playing a game, but not in the SC2 days.
posted by b1tr0t at 10:51 PM on September 14, 2011


3FLryan: during that period, PCs moved from doing music synthesis with extremely crude, 3- or 4-channel cards that could maybe do triangle and square waves, to first Roland MIDI boards, and then to General MIDI, which was a universal standard for which sounds were supposed to be on which channel number. Once you had a MIDI synth hooked up to the PC, you could have full orchestral music, and many developers took advantage. MIDI could usually do at least 16-voice polyphony, and a good synth could sound amazingly real. It was a gigantic step forward.

Eventually, they shrunk the big keyboards down into small bits of dedicated hardware on sound cards (like the AWE32), and then gradually, everyone shifted away from MIDI. Instead, they just recorded real musicians, stored the file as an MP3, and played it back during the game. But they couldn't do that early on, because it took way too much CPU power. MIDI sounded pretty darn good, and took very little CPU time.

Overall, the shift from Adlib-derived synths to General MIDI was probably the single biggest improvement in PC music quality.

If you want a real example, fire up DOSBox, and scare up some of the older Sierra games. Run the setup program to configure the sound first for Adlib, and then for Soundblaster, and then for General MIDI for the music. The Sierra guys were about the best in the business at the time, and they did their damndest to make all their scores sound good. That'll give you the best point of comparison I can think of.

Fair bit of work, though, especially if you don't understand early PC music standards. Ah, the joy of IRQs and DMAs and port addressing....
posted by Malor at 10:53 PM on September 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


The original music was actually intended for the Commodore Amiga, given that it was in Protracker .MOD format, which was pretty much determined by the sound capabilities of the Amiga: 4 channels of 8-bit PCM audio. This standard pretty much existed entirely outside of the timeline Malor mentions above.
posted by zsazsa at 11:00 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Keep in mind that the music isn't MIDI - it's MOD, which uses digitized PCM samples for instruments, and not the wavetable in the sound card.

The format used for SC2 uses four channels. I'm not a musician, and I have a limited knowledge of music theory, but the limited number of channels probably accounts for the thin-sounding music. Since only four sounds could be played at a time, chords in the harmony would have to be syncapated and detached.
posted by zixyer at 11:03 PM on September 14, 2011


Oh, there were other attempts -- as you spotted, the Gravis Ultrasound was one very good attempt at a 'real' soundcard on the PC, and it sounded fantastic with the few games that supported it. But it never quite quite hit it big -- it was too expensive, so not enough people bought it, so not enough games supported it, so not enough people bought it, and it stayed expensive.

I never owned a GUS, but I think it had, um, maybe 14 voices, and I think they could play any arbitrary sound you wanted, but typically they were driven much like a MIDI synth, since MIDI was so common at the time. You had to load a patch set onto the card, and then it became MIDI-ish, but I think it still had to be addressed as a GUS, not as a standard MIDI adapter.

zsazsa: was the 1992 version on the PC using Protracker? That seems awfully early. Running the decode on a 1992 PC would have been a fair bit of work.
posted by Malor at 11:04 PM on September 14, 2011


Was the 1992 version on the PC using Protracker? That seems awfully early. Running the decode on a 1992 PC would have been a fair bit of work.

Yes, I'm positive the 1992 PC version used Protracker MODs for its music.
posted by zixyer at 11:08 PM on September 14, 2011


Info within the mod files below. Note that some of the samples are in all caps-- I just typed them out in lowercase so it's easier to read. Some sample names are capitalized as written. Quotes are around samples and put together in one line/sentence for readability. Took out some personal info as noted below.

It's interesting to see the differences in song titles vs mod titles. More info is available here.

Apologies for any lack of consistency in quotes/capitalization/notes-- it's late!

ARILOU.MOD "Going back a bit"
- enighat.sam
- blsnare.sam
- funbass.sam
- bassd4.sam
- coolflte.sam
- "Possibly suitable for The Arilou?"
- D. Nicholson

CHMRR.MOD "working song"
- bassrump.sam
- blsnare.sam
- casiosnr.sam
- mobybuzz.sam
- "Dont know if this is any sort of thing you can use but its some thing i have been working with"
- D. Nicholson

CNTDOWN.MOD "Victory Song 2"
- tr909bas.sam
- explosin.sam
- bass5.sam
- tom_i.sam
- becken.sam
- D. Nicholson

DNYARRI.MOD "Pet - Unfinished -"
- boomtr.sam
- parker1.sam
- ravest.sam
- mohonk.sam
- snapsyn.sam
- D. Nicholson

DRUUGE.MOD "Druuge"
- gguit.sam
- snare.sam
- defbdrum.sam
- chant.sam
- droll2.sam
- "This is what I have been working with for the Druuge."
- D. Nicholson

ENDTHEME.MOD "Final Victory Theme"
- anatrump.sam
- synbass.sam
- choirsyn.sam
- bdrum2_i.sam
- altdr.sam
- d50organ.sam
- "Final Victory Teheme for Star Control II"
- D. Nicholson

FIGHT.MOD "Attack!"
- hsbass4.sam
- zbass.sam
- zsnare.sam
- klaxon.sam
- "Music For Battle!"
- "Dan Nicholson"
- "908-687-XXXX" (X'd out the last 4 digits, dunno if he's still got same number!)

H-SPACE.MOD "star control2,tune5"
- (c) riku nuottajarvi
- [what looks like an address for Finland]

ILWRATH.MOD "Ur-Quan Kzer-Za"
- nitzhiy.sam
- zbass.sam
- deepbass.sam
- snarerev.sam
- forward.sam
- "Music possibly for The Ur-Quan Kzer-Za or another evil race"
- "Dan Nicholson"
- "8-17-92

INTRO.MOD "INTROx.MOD"
- wind2.sam
- bassdrum.sam
- altdr.sam
- tomdrum4.sam
- anatrump.sam
- synthtoo.sam
- thump.sam
- efx.sam
- d50organ.sam

KOHR-AH "Slyandro Theme"
- tightbsd.sam
- bangbang.sam
- openchrd.sam
- fishin2.sam
- fisin1.sam
- water.sam
- wind1.sam

MELNORME.MOD "mod.POTATOJUICE"
- "#Composed_By_Eric_Berg
- [A PO Box in San Marino CA]
- "#Made_in_the_USA!"
- st-09:bass-ffdunk
- spoils
- Ahhhhhh_1
- C-YELL
- dovoice
- HighOp4
- synbrass2
- dog_bark

MYCON.MOD "star control2,tune2"
- (c) riku nuottajarvi
- [Address for Finland]

ORZ.MOD "ORZ3.MOD"
- "#Composed_by_E_Berge"
- Drop.ss
- Scooby Doo.ss
- Clab2
- bobo_flute
- Barritone Sax.pp

OUTFIT.MOD "Theme Music?"
- techno4.sam
- plbass.sam
- warp.sam
- escape.sam
- kbassd.sam
- kwerk1.sam
- steelsnr.sam
- wind1.sam
- techno3.sam
- teknos1.sam
- "Theme Music Perhaps by Dan Nicholson"
- [Address in Union, NJ]
- "908-687-XXXX

PARKING.MOD "Victory Song 1"
- bdrum6.sam
- fartbass.sam
- blast.sam
- spaceey.sam
- "Victory Song 1"
- D. Nicholson

PKUNK.MOD "PKUNK2.MOD"
- "#Composed_By_Eric_Berg"
- [PO Box in San Marino, CA]
- "#Made_in_the_USA!"
- Vocal33
- d-10basser1
- Tom_Reverb
- dovoice
- Celeste
- hooman

PLANET.MOD "ORBITX.MOD"
- fsynth.sam
- openchrd.sam
- "Mellow Music by Dan Nicholson 9-1-92"

Q-SPACE.MOD "mystic shadows"
- touch.sam
- softbass.sam
- bomomomp.sam

SB_CMDR.MOD "star control2,tune4"
- (c) riku nuottajarvi
- [Address in Finland]

SB_MENU.MOD "Alien Trance"
- openchrd.sam
- fstsnare.sam
- bass3.sam

SHIPYARD.MOD "Druuge Music"
- noc1.sam
- clhihat.sam
- "Druuge Music"
- "D. Nicholson"
- digdug.sam
- bassc.sam
- vsnare.sam

SHOFIXTI.MOD "SHOFIX2.MOD"
- abdr.sam
- scratch.sam
- pipeflte.sam
- clank.sam
- jsnare.sam
- bassd2.sam
- clap.sam
- bongo.sam
- outlaw.sam
- water.sam
- "ow! that funky alien!"
- "Dan Nicholson"
- "908-687-XXXX"

SLYLANDR.MOD "MOD.ZANYGYRA"
- "#Composed_by_E_Berge"
- filtered_bass_reson.
- xylophone
- GatedBass1
- Snare4
- Tom3
- dog_bark
- HighHat2
- bobo_flute
- Belch 2 (Danny)

SPACE.MOD "Configuring Ship"
- fsynth.sam
- sturm2.sam
- crowd.sam
- shhh.sam
- escape.sam
- blast.sam
- lzr.sam
- "Music For An Engine Room"
- "Dan Nicholson"
- "908-687-XXXX"

SPATHI.MOD "W2.MOD"
- "#Composed_by_E_Berge"
- stadiumorgan
- HighOp4
- GatedBass1.pp
- boss-snare4
- 800ii-rubber3pp
- ooooooyyyyeeeee.pp
- devoknall.pp
- beank.pp
- b2.pp
- bobo_flute.pp
- Wow!
- tacobell

SUPOX.MOD "Fuchia fantasy"
- "Another strange song written by The Finn."
- "Be sure to watch out for Cascada's new vector demo due this easter of '92..."
- "Greets go out to:"
- "Zodiak of Cascada"
- "Sauron"
- "Fred Nietzche"
- "U4ia"
- "Mark J Cox"
- "Contact me if you like my stuff ... or even if you don't... your comments are welcome."
- "E-mail: XXXXX@pnet01.cts.com" [Removed part of address]

SYREEN.MOD "SYREEN2.MOD"
- "#Composed_By_Eric_Berge"
- [Address/PO Box for San Marino, CA]
- "#Made_in_the_USA!"
- davesynth
- blip
- Clap2
- synbrass2
- Marimba_Reverb
- SOUND10
- dovoice
- bassdxpop
- dxjapan
- CrashCyb1
- hooman

THRADDAS.MOD "star control2,tune1"
- (c) riku nuottajarvi
- [Address in Finland]

UMGAH.MOD "Umgah Theme"
- agebass.sam
- ritsnare.sam
- pitbd.sam
- klirsyn.sam
- churchbe.sam
- waterdri.sam
- "Umgah Theme"
- D. Nicholson

UR-QUAN.MOD "urq.mod"
- 1
- 2
- 3
- 4

UTWIG.MOD "Utwig Theme"
- st3.sam
- st4.sam
- st8.sam
- "Theme for the Utwig"
- D. Nicholson

YEHAT.MOD "star control2,tune6"
- (c) riku nuottajarvi
- [Address for Finland]

ZOQFOT.MOD "Zot Fot Piq"
- housebas.sam
- dgong2.sam
- drop2.sam
- gut2.sam
- people2.sam
- "Zot Fot Piq music --still working on it!"
- D. Nicholson
posted by herrdoktor at 11:10 PM on September 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's odd, for me the music is one of the best parts of the game, and certainly the most evocative. Although the theme for each alien species is fun, I especially like the more ambient tracks. Nothing says "thrill of tentative exploration" to me quite like the star system music, with its weird assemblage of splashing oars, bicycle bell, and synth pads. Or what better sound to make you feel all alone on the far edge of space than the five different planetary orbit themes, each more desolate than the last?
posted by Nomyte at 11:24 PM on September 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


Doing some Googling relating to this post I discovered that Fred Ford (one of the original creators) posted last year about maybe working on a sequel.
On a side note, I want to mention that I've started doing some unspecified work away from the office after some early and continuing conversations with Paul. Just saying . . . and it's way early yet . . . and it's just me . . . so, yeah.
And later in the thread:
That being said though, we're a long, long way from anything concrete …
It will definitely be in our spare time for a while, but we also want to spend the time to do the job right. I guess that's what got us in trouble with Accolade the first time around ;)

In case it isn't clear, this is not a TFB venture. It is a Paul and Fred venture.
posted by zixyer at 11:26 PM on September 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


IIRC the music was sourced largely via a post to comp.sys.amiga.mods. When the promised Amiga version never materialized, there was a lot of unhappiness.

When I tried playing it as an adult I honestly found it to be really unapproachable. Maybe it's that I was pissed off by it throwing a tough battle at me before I'd even begun to learn how to deal with its sluggish, awkward controls, maybe I just don't have the free time to engage in a seemingly open-ended exploration of an entire galaxy any more (though I never managed to get much of anywhere in Captain Blood when I was a teen either), or maybe I was still vaguely ticked off by the lack of an Amiga version.
posted by egypturnash at 11:50 PM on September 14, 2011


Justinian, thanks for mentioning Starflight. Going through the entire thread all I could think of was, "What was that game that was a lot like Star Control but less witty, less arcadey and more of a sim? Because that was the game I sunk a lot more time into."

I found Star Control to be a fascinating game back in the 486 days but I was no good at the ship to ship combat and simply never got very far. I was always more of a strategy gamer and there were a few games in this era (Sid Meier's Pirates being another example) that were genre-benders in a way that gave them a big following but left me wishing for a more turn-based pace. Civilization and later X-Com were where I spent the vast majority of my PC gaming time in the early 90's.
posted by thecjm at 12:43 AM on September 15, 2011


The best *campers* are the *happy campers*
posted by TwelveTwo at 1:09 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


and later X-Com were where I spent the vast majority of my PC gaming time in the early 90's.

The new X-COM game is coming out soon. It's a... wait for it... first person shooter! HAHA. Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?
posted by Justinian at 2:12 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


but it is, at heart, a port of a DOS game, and DOS sucked.

Nope.

Abuse! Arkanoid! The Sierra adventures! Cannon Fodder! Championship Manager! CnC! Civ! Wizardry/Might & Magic/Ultimas! Doom! The Lucas Arts adventures! Dungeon Keeper! Warcraft 2! Fallout! etc.!

DOS had a run of many years, so it's hard to compare games from different eras. Many great games were released for DOS though.
posted by ersatz at 3:49 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, I also remember the aralou becoming harder and harder to control as are gaming shifted from x86 to 286 to 386 to 486, with the earlier systems running th game slower than its intended speed :)

For a slow clumsy human like me, the game is way more fun if you hack it to run the battles a third slower, or even half-speed. It's not hard to do now that you can get the source code. It was too fast and twitchy for me even as a teenager.
posted by sfenders at 4:34 AM on September 15, 2011


I mean, I don't mean to dis you if you like this music, but man, I love all sorts of video game music and to me this stuff is really bad.

Phooey to you sir.

Star Control: the poor man's Starflight

1. You mean Star Control II, Star Control I is a different kind of game overall, although it still has the one-on-one spaceship fights.
2. Greg Johnson designed both games. He hit upon such a successful winning formula for them, the "Star Trek simulator," that it's surprising it isn't used more often.
posted by JHarris at 4:40 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The "Star Trek simulator"! Ha! I was just wondering the other day if there was a name for this most excellent genre. Hard Nova, anyone? Elite?

I love SC1 (Sega Genesis), but couldn't get into UQM when I downloaded a previous PC version a few years back. I am keeping a close eye on this Android port, which I am pretty sure is getting a 4-star rating purely due to nostalgia.
posted by Jonathan Harford at 4:50 AM on September 15, 2011


The guys from Three Mile Pilot are going to be stoked.
posted by saladin at 6:12 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Could you folks recommend more recent games with Elite/SC2-style gameplay? There are some out there that I've looked at (eg Freelancer, DarkStar One), but few seem to have been reviewed positively.
posted by vanar sena at 6:31 AM on September 15, 2011


Anyway, I like Star Control II quite a lot, my only real problem with it, which has been acknowledged a bit in email communication with Greg Johnson, is that the nature of the main quest isn't adequately communicated to the player.

That is, you aren't made aware until it's practically too late that there is a time limit on the game. It's so much fun just to bop around exploring and finding alien races and stuff and just when you think you have a handle of things, the Kohr-Ah start roaming around the galaxy wiping out all the wonderful species you were just discovering. (I find it particularly saddening that the hilarious Zot-Fot-Pik are the first race to go.) The fact that there is such a time limit is not explained that well to the player; it's kind of hinted at in a couple of places, but the player has no way of knowing it's not one of the false time limits many games feature to try to make the story more exciting.

That is to say, in most games, something like this happens: the evil overlord's fortress might have risen up out of the ocean and be about to release the horde of dragons that will destroy the world, but in fact this event never actually happens until you initiate it by going into said fortress to attack the emperor. It's a false crisis, set up by the story to give the player motivation.

It is to Star Control II's credit that in fact this isn't the case, that the time limits given in messages are real ones, but the player has no way of knowing this is actually true until the time limit draws nigh. After all, the situation before the player enters the game has been stable for a good many years, why should it start shifting now? (Reason: just plain bad luck.) And once the Kohr-Ah start's moving around killing alien races, eventually they'll get to Earth, at which point you plain out lose the game.

Starflight also has this kind of final time limit, reflected in the flaring of the stars throughout the galaxy, but you find out about it quite early, and it's more obvious (from the messages left at base) that it reflects a process that's progressing as you're playing, and will eventually hit the player's base.
posted by JHarris at 6:36 AM on September 15, 2011


Note to self: when I get good enough, arrange the SC2 music with saxes as lead instruments.

SC2 was great, think I played it twice. Tried the open source version, really good but didn't finish that run. Mmmm tempting to go again. Pew pew pew.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:41 AM on September 15, 2011


And er, thanks. Now I have the mega man 2 music stuck in my head as well.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:41 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


JHarris, I understand where you're coming from. But what's the point of giving you a huge world to explore and then not giving you the leeway to explore it? There are plenty of games that are based around a pervasive sense of urgency, I don't really understand why this kind of game needs to be like that.

(I had a similar complaint about the original Fallout, FWIW.)
posted by vanar sena at 6:43 AM on September 15, 2011


JHarris, I understand where you're coming from. But what's the point of giving you a huge world to explore and then not giving you the leeway to explore it.

That's my point. I guess I wasn't clear.
posted by JHarris at 6:45 AM on September 15, 2011


Okay, from your "false crisis" angle I figured your only complaint was that the need to get on with it was not adequately conveyed to the player.
posted by vanar sena at 6:47 AM on September 15, 2011


What a wonderful game. I agree with JHarris, the time limit is handled very poorly, but the rest of it is exceptional. I love how all the components--the big story-arc, the melee fighting, and even the planetary resource-gathering are all great games in their own right (well, okay, mostly the first two, but the third isn't bad). And I think Fwiffo might be my favorite NPC ever.
posted by phoenixy at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2011


vanar sena: Well I don't know then. If you knew the time limit was there earlier then you'd know it was important to roam around and see things, and get the important plot stuff done, before the time limit hits. So I don't know. The game is hard enough without the time limit I think, but time limits do work well for adding consequences to your actions.

Possible design solutions to this problem:
1. Communicate better to the player that the hinted-at time limit is real and pressing.
2. Remove the time limit entirely.
3. Increase the time limit so more leisurely explorers aren't surprised by it. Even if it was doubled I don't think it'd be too bad.

I think I'd lean towards a combination of 1 and 3. Maybe offer the original time limit as part of a hard mode.
posted by JHarris at 7:16 AM on September 15, 2011


The Spathi are such wonderful comic creations -- ostensibly bad guys, but they just fall so utterly to pieces when confronted with even the slightest danger. They are sort of like a revision of the Spemin from Starflight, except while the Spemin are more like bullies who fall apart the moment you push them back, the Spathi don't even have that initial show of force to them. They're so adorably pathetic. They're only even in the war at all because of an Umgah practical joke.

The Umgah: trolls of the universe.
posted by JHarris at 7:20 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well this was back when shitting on the player was more acceptable, before they felt entitled: Still worth playing through with a walkthrough. Perhaps one of the best "so we added a story mode" executions in gaming, which admittedly isn't saying a lot.

And the Spacewar! core of the game is hella fun. All of the ships have quirky and creative powers and they create lots of interesting matchups. Though of course, many of them weren't fair, but due to the Super Melee format you'd still want to do as much possible. Playing the Earthling wasn't about survival as often as it was about making sure you got a couple missiles to hit before you got squished.
posted by cold dead hans at 7:23 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The earthling was easy enough if you could slingshot around the planet to get up to speed and then just shot your big missiles until they finished up the other guy. Intercepting a fast moving earthling is a lot of fun (you have to let it crash into you).
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:50 AM on September 15, 2011


The way the Ur-Quan probe labels you "independent," man...such disdain.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:34 AM on September 15, 2011


(I had a similar complaint about the original Fallout, FWIW.)

Er yeah. Not much of an issue once you've found the water chip once, but I remember rushing to find it the first time only a few days ahead of the time limit.

Incidentally, are large-scale games set in space dying out or have I not been paying attention? The last successful example I could name is Sins of a Solar Empire. What a name though!

And where's Wing Commander VI?
posted by ersatz at 8:53 AM on September 15, 2011


I download UKM last time I saw a hubub about it, and couldn't get past the first melee battle. Kind of a downer.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 8:55 AM on September 15, 2011


Juffo-Wup is the hot light in the darkness. All else is unfulfilled Void. The source of Juffo-Wup is at 629.1, 220.8.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:00 AM on September 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


are large-scale games set in space dying out or have I not been paying attention

It leans towards RPG, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect 2.
posted by exogenous at 9:15 AM on September 15, 2011


Not really liking the "You really should play it" editorializing. I'll decide what I really should play, thankyouverymuch.

But I really should play this...
posted by inturnaround at 9:16 AM on September 15, 2011


Some of the highlights of the story mode for me: impersonating Dogar and Kazon, the gods of the Ilwrath, for fun and profit. Also, the Thraddash are hillarious, and if you sweet talk them just right, you get to build their ships, which are the most fun to play, and one of the most effective if used right (especially devastating to the AI).
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2011


ersatz: "Incidentally, are large-scale games set in space dying out or have I not been paying attention?"

In the Sins vein, I've been hearing good things about Star Ruler, though I haven't yet tried it.
posted by vanar sena at 9:27 AM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


AH!

AHHHHH!



AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2011


It leans towards RPG, but I thoroughly enjoyed Mass Effect 2.

Yeah, Mass Effect 2 did remind me a little of SC2. But I really missed the whole "tedious mucking about in hyperspace" thing. Being free to navigate on that huge map of bountiful star systems, the early game where it seems like such a daunting challenge to avoid running out of fuel or other resources in the middle of nowhere, that was the best part of SC2. I still remember discovering quasispace for the first time, getting randomly transported to the far unexplored side of the map with no way home.
posted by sfenders at 9:30 AM on September 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Via AskMe, the game Transcendence looks neat and SC2-like.
posted by exogenous at 9:47 AM on September 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Transcendence is terrific, you can also check out this AskMe. Slightly more realistic and RTS-y, Nexus is also great.
posted by blahblahblah at 9:58 AM on September 15, 2011


Space Pirates and Zombies (steam) is SC2-like. Kind of rough around the edges and it doesn't have the charm of SC2, but there's a demo.
posted by juv3nal at 10:47 AM on September 15, 2011


oh, also, Tom Chick liked it a lot.
posted by juv3nal at 10:52 AM on September 15, 2011


I played the original DOS game when it came out years ago and didn't run into the time limit problem I guess because I was really enjoying it and wanted to propel the story along. Since it was the DOS version and the music was primitive I would mute the music and play my own. Not surprisingly space rock and ambient music goes really well with the game. There are still some tunes that when I hear them evoke a weird SC2 deja-vu feeling when I hear them.

On playing an earlier UQM port a couple of years ago I wanted to take my time and methodically explore the universe one star system at a time. I ran into the time limit pretty quick. I found a mod that eliminates the time restriction. Not hard to find if you look.
posted by Justin Case at 1:03 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks, everyone. I have played Transcendence and I can confirm it's good.
posted by ersatz at 3:26 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was going to start questioning people's taste until I realized I was confusing Transcendence with Ascendancy, the MOO2-like game that seems awesome until you realize the developers completely failed to include any AI in their AI. It was shown that you could win the game by doing nothing but turning on the auto-governor and hitting end turn over and over and over.
posted by Justinian at 5:31 PM on September 15, 2011


Space Pirates and Zombies is only vaguely similar to Star Control 2, but it's excellent. Well worth the purchase price. I absolutely love the engine -- it's like watching a Swiss watch ticking over as all of the various bits and pieces do their respective things.

Kind of a simple game in many ways, nowhere near the scope of SC2 -- it's just the product of two guys working for about two years. But I think it's pretty goddamn great anyway.
posted by Malor at 7:47 PM on September 15, 2011


can we talk about how the Them and the Orz are probably the same entity?
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:49 PM on September 15, 2011


TwelveTwo, you wouldn't happen to be a *silly cow*, now would you?
posted by JHarris at 10:17 PM on September 15, 2011


I think it may be time to take on yet another leisure programming project.
posted by vanar sena at 11:18 PM on September 15, 2011


can we talk about how the Them and the Orz are probably the same entity?
Do you want to see our *surprising toys*? No!! Do Not!!

Orz are the best.
posted by juv3nal at 11:24 PM on September 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seconding thanks to all for the recommendations. Looks like most interest in this genre is coming from free software and indie devs these days.
posted by vanar sena at 5:07 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


This post convinced me to finally play Ur-Quan Masters. IT IS AWESOME. Usually when I play a game I'll mute it, put on my own music, and try and skip whatever story there is. This game totally charmed me right away, enough to earn music and story priviledges. Plus it totally has this 1990's funny escapist sci-fi vibe to it that seems really of its time in a good way. Thanks for the recommendation!
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 9:19 AM on September 16, 2011


Nexus The Jupiter Incident - I have no idea what the development was like on that game but it felt like a great missed opportunity. I loved playing it, love the pace and the way the big ships felt like big ships, but it was extremely linear with episodic levels. There was this map interface that looked like you could go anywhere. Again, I don't know if they planned on being open ended like Privateer or Elite and had to scale back due to time and budget or if that map interface was just window dressing, but a open-world version of Nexus is one of my dream games.
posted by thecjm at 11:27 AM on September 16, 2011


Congrats, One Second, you're in for a hell of a ride. :)
posted by Malor at 8:59 PM on September 16, 2011


"enough to earn music and story priviledges."

Thanks for this turn of phrase. I'll be borrowing it.
posted by Eideteker at 5:38 AM on September 20, 2011


Man, UQM is gonna eat my brain again probably. I'd blame blahblahblah, but my leaving this tab open for a week and a half pretty much cements my own culpability.

The new X-COM game is coming out soon. It's a... wait for it... first person shooter! HAHA. Makes you want to cry, doesn't it?

It's a goddam travesty. The silver lining here is that in the mean time the upcoming (and quite nicely far along in beta, in fact) indie game Xenonauts is doing the "let's do X-Com again but polish things up a bit and also not totally fuck up the formula" thing and seems to be doing it right. After so many failed fan projects and not-really-the-same releases "inspired by" the original, this is making me very happy.

Tangent: the recent Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Shadow Wars for the 3DS is, name and concomitant set dressing aside, actually a really nicely put together turn-based squad tactics game helmed by Julian motherfucking Gollop. It doesn't have the grand strategic scope of X-Com but the missions are fun and there's a degree of long-haul squad development to it that rewards ongoing play.

Also, EA has a studio remaking Syndicate as...an FPS. So you can go back to crying for a bit if you'd like. But it looks like Paradox is sort of remaking it correctly, so, maybe not!
posted by cortex at 12:46 PM on September 24, 2011


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