Recently, I took a break from playing current games, like Atlas, to replay one of my favourite titles from my childhood, back before graphics were amazing and when games actually needed to have compelling gameplay and/or story in order to be successful. The game I am talking about is Star Control II, or, more accurately, the freeware port of it which has been re-titled “The Ur-Quan Masters”, for copyright reasons.
Star Control II was amazing in its depth. Near the end of an intergalactic war that wasn’t going well for mankind, a science team landed on a world that they found to be a mother lode of ancient alien technology, from a race referred to only as the Precursors, superior to anything that the participants in the current conflict had access to.
It took decades to accomplish, but the science team, long since cut off from communication with Earth or her allies, managed to get a massive alien vessel working. With what little fuel they had access to, the protagonist flies the vessel back to Earth only to discover that the war had ended, Earth was sealed behind a massive force field, and the only humans not stuck on the planet below were manning a space station which hadn’t seen a resupply vessel in far too long.
Long story short, the protagonist gathers resources, builds up their flagship, and forges alliances with alien races before the ultimate showdown with the Ur Quan, the leaders of the group that defeated the original alliance Earth was part of.
This game combined a massive game universe, with thousands of planets and moons to explore, with the storyline of an adventure game, and arcade-like space combat, all in 1992.
The creators of Star Control and Star Control II, Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III, were not, however, involved in the creation of the third installment in the Star Control series (and it was objectively different, and not a terribly good game).
Fast forward about 25 years: Accolade, the publisher of Star Control 3, was long since defunct, and another somewhat well-known publisher of space games, Stardock Entertainment, had purchased some of Accolade’s assets at auction, including the rights to the Star Control name, as well as Star Control 3’s intellectual property, specifically the parts of the game’s story and design that were not featured in previous titles. Stardock has since used these rights to create Star Control: Origins, a game (which I haven’t played, mind you, so take this with a grain of salt) which has apparently copied a significant amount of Star Control II’s design, something that Stardock does not have the rights for, while unfortunately falling flat in terms of story – the storytelling and quirky humour present in Star Control II just isn’t in Stardock’s game.
Now, I have previously enjoyed playing Stardock’s games, including Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations, but unfortunately I will never be able to bring myself to purchase anything from their studio ever again, and the reason is simple.
Ford and Reiche are currently in a legal battle with Stardock over their basic rights as the original creators of Star Control, as they would very much like to make a sequel to Star Control II (they have never accepted Star Control III as canon in their universe). They have tried on many occasions to come to an agreement with Stardock whereby both parties can go about their business, even offering to continue using the name “Ur Quan Masters” instead of Star Control, but this wasn’t good enough for Stardock; they have gone further than trying to protect their own interests, and have acted in a manner that could best be described as vindictive, even going as far to try to sue Reiche and Ford for referring to themselves as the creators of the Star Control universe (which they are). Ford and Reiche estimate that they will need at least two million dollars in legal fees to combat Stardock.
At the end of the day, their behaviour has us wondering, what kind of sick game developer would go out of their way to try to rewrite history to discredit the achievements what was basically an indie studio more than two decades ago? I, certainly, will not support this evil.
If you want to read more about Reiche and Ford’s legal proceedings, you can read more about it on their website: Dogar and Kazon.