The Third Doctrinal War -- Stardock, Reiche/Ford, and Star Control



First. a failed crowdfunding campaign–especially one run somewhere other than Kickstarter–doesn’t say anything about the game’s design or the size of the audience that might enjoy it. It speaks to the visibility of the project and whether it pushes some very specific buttons (nostalgia, aesthetics) that get people to cough up money before there’s even a product, much less any reviews.

Second, a StarCon-like is a complex game. It’s basically a story and several action games wrapped in a strategy/management game. Execution matters in a game like that, or the whole thing falls apart. The action games require satisfying controls (a thing that takes WAY more effort than most folks realize) and halfway decent AI. The strategy game not only requires lots of good balancing, but usually a lot of well-considered UI. Then you need to have appealing storylines at the heart of it! The team needs a broad skill set and the experience to execute on all those levels. I haven’t played Star Control: Origins, but if some of those things (I would say especially the action elements, since you engage in them repeatedly) are not a blast to play and the story (AKA, your reward) is not really memorable, then the player’s experience drags.

Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a similarly complex game, and it was updated several generations after the original and it worked. StarCon can too. And if someone could really execute on it, I’m sure there’s an audience for it. I can’t prove that, but why would the folks who love, say, FTL not love an updated Starflight or Star Control?


Not really on topic, but Pirates! Gold is one of my favorite games ever. I liked the updated version well enough, but I didn’t love it. Others have said similar things about remakes, but I think the pixel art of the original left more space for my imagination to fill in. The remake would have needed to go beyond the original in ways it didn’t to overtake it. (See XCOM & X-COM)

To try to tie this to the topic, I think making an updated version of a classic is HARD and I’m still a little baffled that either side is spending so much money fighting about it.




Empty threat or not, just uttering it makes him a massive tosser.


Not disputing that.


Yeah I wouldn’t say it’s a flop yet.

Galciv III had similar numbers of reviews on its release week (370 vs 317 so far), and we’re only a few days into their first week. Steamspy indicates 20-50k owners, which translates to a $560k-$1.3M launch weekend, assuming that data is trustworthy. Of course, SC:O took a lot more money to make than Galciv. It’s still a bit too early to tell, IMO.


The game is thankfully doing well enough by any metric I can imagine, specially as an indie 2018 launch.

It’s true that the game is probably expensive, but I do not think it needs to make back those $10m to break even. There are many ways to account for a project cost. I think Stardock should be fine, if maybe not flush, as long as it shows a reasonable sales curve. Reviews are stabilizing on 75% which should be fine too.


I though a lot about Pirates! As a counter argument to my hunch that mechanics need to be updated. Pirates! holds up, but I would argue that the original was a much better designed game than Star Control, and also a more open, systemic experience that has more legs with current audiences. And I do think had the remake offered a more modern set of mechanics we would be talking about it as a second masterpiece and not just a remake.

But you are right. It’s doable, but it requires a certain level of polish that is HARD to obtain.

Also, Star Control was billed as an XCOM type remake, not a Pirates! type remake. And I think it’s because XCOM was enlightening in how to approach a project like this.


Unsure. There’s zero fair-use provision in the UK, for instance. I’d be surprised if they are not in legal danger (in principle - I doubt they are in practice).


Sure, that’s one way of looking at it. But from what I’ve gathered, the campaign didn’t generate a lot of buzz, with a lot of outlets not picking it up at all. Could be because the campaign is too low-profile or simply because most people shrug.

Of course. I’m not sure I would describe these games as complex – they’re basically a collection of minigames connected through traversing a game world (that is a little to moderately reactive to what the player accomplishes). They have a bunch of moving parts, certainly, but the individual elements are fairly simple.

Also, the remake of Pirates! was released in 2004, back when there was far less competition (no mobile games, no free-to-play games, no (?) pirate-based MMORPGs, and what have you). The market has changed drastically. I think that if Star Control: Origins had been released around that time, it would have been far more successful than it currently appears to be.

From what Steamspy tells me, The Long Journey Home, which is very similar to Star Control, has done more or less as well/badly as Star Control: Origins. I imagine, since Stardock is a better known Indie developer, that Origins will have a better long tail. But it seems like these games cater primarily to a niche audience, unless you really manage to tap into something that makes a lot of people enthusiastic.

I’ve actually re-installed Spore and have been playing around with the space stage again. I think it offers a better, more modern approach to a more arcade-like space game than Origins does. For example, it offers better (IMO) player rewards by issuing badges and levelling up the player. It also simplifies a bunch of stuff that’s more complicated than in Origins, like travel within a system and between star systems (just point and click), and does away with lander missions by just having your ship fly closer to a planet’s surface. The visuals are similar, but more varied (just look at all those types of trees!). There’s also quite a few people still playing that game (released in 2008). With Galactic Adventures, it even adds an ARPG-like dimension to planet interactions.

So, sure, I think people would love an updated Star Control. But I wonder if Origins is that game: it seems to be essentially a remake of Star Control 2, incorporating every element of that game without wondering if it’s actually fun or could be replaced with something more modern/streamlined/better. Since Stardock generally doesn’t give up on a franchise easily, especially not one as important as this, I expect they’ll go the Elemental route and release a (hopefully) vastly improved sequel.

Oh, certainly. They’ve got a lot of games in their catalogue that do well. I don’t expect Stardock banked their entire future on this game. They’ve got the software division well, which props up the company as a whole. Like I said, they’ll continue with Star Control regardless, and are no doubt betting on continued interest and purchases as they release expansion packs, DLC, and sequels.


Hate to derail this thread, but if Stardock is an “indie”, so is Electronic Arts and the term is meaningless.


Oh, good. This semantic debate is always thrilling.


@mok, EA has shareholders – Stardock doesn’t (hence, “independent”). But yeah, sure, they’re a larger company, with multiple teams, not a pair of programmers working from their attic. Also, within the context of my post, the “indie” bit isn’t the most important part; the “better known” part is.



They publish as well. Offworld was not made by them, as well as many other titles under their name.

I did not know Public Equities was the determining factor. that does make it easy.


Sure! So do Klei Entertainment and 11 Bit. I’d still call those “indie” developers/publishers.

I think that and coupled to the fact that the company’s not owned by anyone else (i.e. not a subsidiary).


and hence the phrase:


Anyway, to get this thread back on topic, the UQM forum noted that Stardock’s application for the “Ur Quan Masters” trademark was delayed. Official document here, relevant thread on UQM forum here as posted by @Elestan.


Shirley you jest?



Not worth it’s own topic imho, so forgive the tangent, but there’s a copyright dispute (so not entirely unrelated to the thread) regarding the Witcher author and CD project red: