Ancient One, Wimbli, and Evil Squid - Fred Ford
Note: This is meant as a log of all
the 'wisdom' from one of the creators of Star Control 1 & 2, so that
it is never forgotten. Fred is listed in the credits for Programming, Additional Design and Sound Effects. All the messages put together, sort of form an interview.
A special thanks should go out to all the people on the boards who asked
the questions. All of this was taken from the Star
Control Discussion Board and All About Star
Control Board. I take no credit for it at all.
The excerpt(s) from the original message is(are) in xxxxx and Fred Ford's response
is in xxxxx.
: "Crystal Dynamics
will declare war on gamers when it unleashes the action-packed combat/strategy
game, The Unholy War, from the creators of
: Star Control
I & II and the co-designer of Archon.
It is a lot of
fun. It's kind of analagous to Star Control I. Intriguing story bits, but
mostly Super Melee with critters and a strategy game built on top. Very
to do another adventure game with lots of humor in it again. So stay tuned.
BTW, I've enjoyed
monitoring the traffic about SC on this board. It's a good feeling to know
that after pouring a significant portion of my life juice into a game that
it's still being
enjoyed after almost six years.
: All hail the
omnipotent deific duo of Star Control!
: No, not Dogar
and Kazon. The Creators!
2 is the only program which has survived on my hard drive for more than
: Good Job!
: Hey, not to
knock George McDonald or SC3, but what did you guys have in mind with regard
to the purpose of the Rainbow Worlds?
: Were they
actually just Precursor garbage dumps, or did they indeed have a higher
: Just curious.
I'm afraid they
were going to serve, what you might say, was a lower purpose. They were
indeed meant to serve as a pointer (as the first follow-up suggests), but
they were only
going to point to a conversation with me and Paul that Accolade never knew
about. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on where your
we were just so busy finishing the actual game that we could not, in good
conscience, spend any time on something that was going to get us into
: O Ancient One,
I beg yet another drop from the font of wisdom!
: Once and for
all, what is the deal with this alleged Cloaking Device?
: I personally
believe that it was what the Taalo device was called in a beta version
of the game.
: A few visitors
to this forum have stated they found it...
: They may have
somehow gotten their manipulative appendages on a beta version.
: If the Cloaking
Device is indeed an Easter Egg and you wish to preserve the mystery, fine.
: If it's a
wild goose chase, please let us know!
: After all,
the time spent by numerous players combing the galaxy could be better spent
playing the Unholy War, right?
O.K., O.K. I
must admit the conversation threads relating to the cloaking device have
been the most amusing to someone who knows the truth and after six years
it will diminish the game to put this matter to rest. No, there is no cloaking
device. Yes, there was going to be one, but we couldn't figure out a way,
of two players fighting on the same screen, to make it functionally better/more
interesting than the Ilwrath's.
: Thanks, FF.
: I'm sorry
to hear from your reply to Greenish 9's post that we will never see the
Star Control universe as originally conceived by its creators (sniff).
: Ah, well,
life goes on.
: And there
are always the creative impulses of devoted fans to sustain us (e.g. StarControl
: How do you
and PR feel about the Star Control clones and fan fiction?
I can't speak
for Paul, but the fact that something I participated in creating has inspired
people I don't even know to try to emulate it is very satisfying. There
Star Control II has also inspired, more than any other game we've done,
psychos (and I mean genuine crazies) to get in contact and share with
us the special
relationship they feel. Now, I'm not implying anything, but your arms --
they don't happen to be in a constant hugging position do they? Hunt and
a completely accurate description of your keyboard usage is it? :)
: Another request
here, oh mighty lords!
: In the SC2
resource guide, two stars have gone mysteriously...missing. They're not
on the starmap...what happened to them? Please?
You want all
our secrets, don't you? This is really just a case of a sleight-of-hand
way to cover our incompetence. After we laid out the starmap and assigned
to all of the
systems, it was brought to our attention (probably by some accursed tester
at Accolade) that two star systems were lacking contiguous sequences (i.e.
Gamma, Delta, etc.). Well, we didn't want to rename the stars that we had,
because I think we had already sent off a Postscript file for final printing.
the rest is
: I shall torture
a sickiningly cute, innocent creature in your honour, oh lords.
: PS. Oh Ancient
One - I thought you and Paul used the same address (tfb@crystald)??? Was
I mistaken, then?
is our communal e-mail address. We each have personal addresses as well.
: *falls on his
knees and burns incense for the Ancient One*
: well, so i
: It's nice
to know that you haven't ignored Starcon (even if you did ignore, possibly
taking a sadistic pleasure out of, our many conversations on the cloaking
and other devices)
: Now, thanks
for giving us another thing to talk about now that you've dispelled these
rumours of the cloaking device, what is this conversation you had with
This was basically
going to be an easter egg where you would be able to progress through a
conversation tree much like any of the other alien race conversations.
We were going
to reveal interesting trivia and possibly pose questions to you which were
impossible for you to answer correctly -- like which do you like better
about this game:
the design or the programming? And suddenly you might find yourself in
the middle of Urquan space (ala the Talking Pet).
: And lastly,
if anyone can answer, please do, who or what is Toys for Bob?
: *also wants
to know if the Creators plan to make another StarControl or derived game*
Ah, now this
is a question, the answer to which may reveal much about the state of Star
Control today. Paul Reiche and I have been a partnership named Toys for
Bob since 1989.
While creating SCI and SCII for Accolade we were outside developers --
getting paid for milestones and receiving royalties. As part of our
were careful to keep ownership of the ideas; however, Accolade owned the
trademark. Accolade, at the time, never understood Star Control. They
were a sports
game company. Star Control I, to Accolade's bafflement and complete lack
of marketing, was an unexpected success. So they were quite willing to
us do a sequel.
They didn't know what they were getting and, frankly, didn't much care.
Paul and I threw ourselves into Star Control II and when the project started
to run late
and we were unwilling to compromise our vision in order just to get the
product out the door, Accolade, as was their right, stopped paying us.
and I worked with no income and the last two months we averaged 18 hour
days, seven days a week. When we finally presented a final version to
November of 1992, we were told that they would have been happier to ship
the version they had in September. To show you how little of a clue they
had that version
had NONE of the conversation in it. You would fly up to a home world or
an alien in hyperspace and it would say something like "Arilou hello 1"
5." Needless to say, Paul and I were pretty burnt on Accolade and Star
Control and we wanted to do a simple game to cleanse the palette (The
is where our working relationship with Accolade came to an end. With the
critical acclaim of SCII (again to their surprise) they wanted us to do
for the exact
same amount of money that we did SCII for (the same amount of money that
kept us unpaid for six months). As you may have guessed from all the
unanswered questions in SCII, we did indeed plan to do a sequel. Once we
separated from Accolade (the owners of the trademark) this became
unlikely. They would call us up every now and then and try to wheedle,
but given their track record with I and II the incentive just wasn't there.
we owned the
characters and settings, however, if Accolade ever wanted to commission
a sequel with these elements they needed our permission (which we couldn't
given adequate consideration). Thus, SCIII. They had enough rabid fans
of SCI&II to convince them that they had to do SCIII. But because they
had to deal
with us they wanted slowly to change the storyline enough so that they
could eventually claim to be using none of the original material and thereby
and me completely
out of the picture. SCIV or StarCon is heading even more in that direction.
Anyway, at this point Paul and I have pretty much given up returning
to the Star
Control universe since we feel it has deviated enough from what our original
: Ah ha! So that
explains it. When you go to the chmmr after they send you back to earth
with the bomb, you get this weird freaky menu when you go to their
Is this the remains of that "Illrath goodbye 5" thing you were talking
More likely this
is a bug. I think we managed to fill in all the conversational stubs, but
I do know for a fact that in a couple of the conversation trees branches
leading to corrupted dialogs.
: Hmm. Seems
like accolade was the money grubbing evil company that I thought they were
and that you guys seem to be the kind of people who don't stop tinkering
with a game
until its out the door. Ever considered working for blizzard?(joking of
We have never
considered Accolade evil. Just a little slow and unimaginative.
: P.S. So whats
it like at crystal dynamics?
Crystal is great.
They pretty much allow us to do what we, as creative people, need to do.
And they are not jealous of our parallel existence as Toys for Bob. As
long as this
arrangement continues we are happy.
As a postscript,
let me just say that I will not always be this free to respond to interesting
topics from this board. We're kind of in a dead zone as we await final
Sony for The Unholy War. I will try to be available but at some point my
participation will inevitably diminish (besides the Frungy championships
on ESPN-2 next
week). Anyway, ask away while you've got the chance.
: Was there ever
any plans to make additional ships for Starcon2? As you probably know,
we've been tinkering with the .shp files, trying to see if we can figure
the format so
we can make our own ships... Well, unless somebody else here knows something
I don't, we haven't succeeded in anything other than chaning the basic
Yes. It is possible
with only new .shp files. The melee executable has no hard-coded ship relationships.
I know what you really want are specific details. I will
later (I'm at home right now and the information is at work). I don't know
how successful you will be with the info though. Motivation, however, is
: Were ALL the
Androsynth destroyed when the Orz came?
This was a leading plot candidate for our theoretical sequel.
speaking, if you and Paul wanted to do another Star Control game independant
of Accolade, would Accolade have any legal groud to prevent you
from doing it?
(I really hope NOT!)
I'm afraid the
answer is, "Yes they would." We were slowly losing the Mexican standoff
with Accolade. They were making sequels we didn't much support and at the
same time changing
what people thought when they heard the name "Star Control." So Paul and
I decided to sell them our half of the rights and when (not if) we were
ready to do
another epic adventure game, we would just have to start from scratch.
: Were there
any interesting plot lines that were left out of the final product?
The first one
that comes to mind is that we wanted the Orz to be much scarier and if
you ever took them into Quasi-space with you bad things would happen. We
them to creep you out so that you were never sure whether or not it was
a good idea to be allied with them.
: I'm not a fan
of SC3, but I'd like to know if you've played it, and what your impressions
are... What you thought was the funniest new race.
Paul played it
much more extensively than I did. But I can say that when you've planned
to do a sequel of something you created and someone else does it first
it leaves a funny taste in your mouth.
: (I know this
is probably looking ahead a bit too much, but) What project do you think
you and Paul will work on next? Maybe we should take a poll, here, to help
you decide what
to work on... *lol*
We are finishing
another game for Crystal (Japanese version only) for the next few months,
but after that we are seriously considering another epic adventure game
with lots of
humor. And if we do this, I hope it will live up to all of our expectations.
: I have a question
about the credits, actually... When the evil Druuge said they wanted to
be producers, was that an allusion to the producers @ Accolade, since
pay you for 6 months? :-)
Not really. We
actually like(d) our direct producer, Pam Levins -- although she would
be the first to admit that she's a sports game fanatic.
: But, a new
Epic Adventure game would be really cool! Do you have any ideas about what
it might be about, or is it too early? And my guess is that you'll somehow
work in more
than a few references to Star Control, ala Wimbli's Trident in The Horde.
It's a little
too early still.
: Also, I have
a few questions about the programming of SC2... It was done in C, right?
I wondering if there were any books of products you would recommend
I know a lot about C (pointers, structures, arrays, functions, disk I/O,
etc) but I have no idea where I should look for information on things like
Yes, the game
was done in C. As for books and such, that's a tricky one. The hardware
is changing so fast now (what with 3D accelerators) that it may be best
books about DirectX and let Microsoft worry about hardware compatability
issues. I have to say, though, that it was extremely painful to write that
I feel Microsoft puts out inferior product but they usually end up as the
ONLY product. Once you've got a little graphics experience under your
is a good, continuing series of books called Graphics Gems. The books detail
algorithms for a variety of graphics applications -- ranging from 2-D to
pixel rendering. Good luck.
: Did anyone
ever figure this out? What the game was, I mean? I didn't....
I think one of
the reasons SC has endured is that Paul and I were conscious of hinting
about things, but ultimately letting the game-player use his or her imagination
fill in the
picture. Frungy is the poster-boy for this technique.
: Woops And i
forgot one thingy...
: Accolade can
stop you of making a Star control
: And you can
more or less stop them of making a
: Star control...
: And i read
the thingys about the star control universe
: and alines
that they try to make it far away from
: the original
plot... and iv'e noticed it...
: The fact that
they've changed the VUX ... took away
: the ORZ...
and another half of the entire races..
: And brang
some new races...
: But they are
not working on a "Star control" They are
: working on
a StarCon... which you have no legal rights
: on... but
what of you'd create... your own...
or maybe... Star3control?
: And another
billions of varitions of the name?
: What if you'll
change the name?
: To say: The
Ur-Quan's Saga? Or anything you want...
: Well please
ancient ones I beg you replay...
The chances of
our doing another Star Control game without Accolade are slim and none.
We not only had to pay Accolade for the license to do the 3DO version
came about by happenstance), but we had to pay them royalties as well.
And even then, Crystal was not elated to be releasing a game that was identified
company. The legal risks of trying to slither around Accolade are too great.
We have much more fun and productive things planned with our lives than
sitting in court.
It is a sad situation and I can state unequivocally that we are *FRUMPLE*.
: You said that
you have the characthers of the game. That explains
: why the Cmdr.
of the Human Starbase couldn't appear, and that also
: explains why
the Yehat couldn't be in SC3( you have the rights to
of the Yehat Queen, right?).
We always had
the option of refusing to let Accolade use any of the characters or settings.
But they claimed they were willing to use the name Star Control and start
with the other pieces. Therefore, we could let them do Star Control games
that had absolutely no bearing on the previous ones and receive no
try to live with what was happening to the name or we could come to an
agreement with them and hope that Legend (who were big Star Control
do a good job on III and thereby leave us an opening to return, perhaps,
to the Star Control universe in the future. SCIII was a disappointment,
signalled the end for us. We were pretty much given the option to sell
Accolade our half of the rights or to have StarCon and any future related
Star Control products in name only. You may be surprised to learn that
SCII was TFB's least successful money earner (although it is the game we
most proud of).
So anything that let us salve the wound (of not getting paid for six months)
with some of Accolade's money was not to be lightly set aside.
: My question
is, since Accolade used the "captain" from
: SC2, could
you sue them for it. Please forgive my pitful
: and ignorant
I suppose in
the U.S. lawsuits are always an option. But Paul and I have more fun things
we can be doing than paying Dnyarri -- I mean lawyers -- to sue Accolade.
We are "move
forward" sort of guys. We try not to dwell on what could or should have
been, but rather we try to create what will be (and hope people like it).
: Why did
you take the name Ancient One if it was from SC3?
: Although I
cannot speak for Fred himself, I never
: once associated
his name with anything from SC3
: until you
pointed that out right now... I think
: he chose the
name due to its more literal meaning
: of 'guru',
or wise man, rather than it's link to
attempt @ expanding the SC Universe.
: That's just
my take, though.
You, sir, are
mostly correct. It also happened to reflect perfectly how old I was feeling
after the unholy finish of The Unholy War.
: These questions
have been asked many times of fans, but now here is an
to ask a creator. Which is your favourite race?
This is a little
bit like asking a parent "Which is your favourite (I'll keep the English
spelling) child?" There are certain aspects of all the races that are compelling,
put me on the
spot (just hold a vegetable to my head) I would probably choose the Druuge
or the Pkunk.
: Which do you
think is the best Melee ship?
I have sentimental
favourites. The Pkunk, for example, because that is my voice (modified
of course) for the insults. I was sooooo mad at Paul that day (and I don't
why) that we only needed one take. The Druuge again, because it was my
design and its melee character suggested its adventure game character.
The Yehat (again
my design) and the VUX, because they are the first two ships we ever made.
Which is the best? There is no answer -- it's rock/paper/scissors.
: What is the
funniest line in the game?
starting to think I'm an unethical bastard, but I'm fond of the Druuge's
contract with their god. Mainly because this is poking fun at the contracts
as outside developers,
had to deal with all the time from the game companies we worked for.
: How was the
music gathered and placed into the game? Were Dan
Riku Nuottojarvi, et al. commissioned to provide music?
: Are they known
to you personally?
Believe it or
not we have never met Dan or Riku face to face. We have only dealt with
them electronically. The music is an interesting story. As we hurtled toward
our finish date,
we realized that we had all these alien races and not only no music for
them but no budget (understandable given my previous posts). That's when
came up with
a desperate gambit. We would hold a MOD music contest over the internet
with a $500 first prize and many $50 second place prizes. We probably
got about ten
different MOD artists who submitted MODs (two of them were Riku and Dan
and, in fact, Star Control II is what brought them together). We used
most of the
MODs that we got, but Riku and Dan demonstrated the talent and willingness
to do additional pieces for us as well.
: Is Paul aware
of this Board and has the time to post?
Paul is aware
of the board; however, he is currently much busier than I am working on
localization of The Unholy War for the European market. I cannot say
whether he will
participate in this forum, but he is a great guy and if he has time, I'll
try to convince him to post something.
: As much as
we all do love to visit this board to read and post our
: deepest thoughts
on the game we all love devotingly and unendingly,
: there is something
lacking in the content that can be answered by
: none other
than the Creators themselves.
: I'm not talking
about beckoning for merely their posts on this board,
: I'm talking
about something else entirely.
: What I'm trying
to get at is the fact that this board is virtually the
: only public
forum available for direct interaction/communication with
: the Creators
themselves, and the rest of the board space is taken up
: by fan discussion.
The one thing that none of us has ever seen is a
: web page...
a web page made by the Creators themselves!
: I've been to
Crystal Dynamics page any number of times, but they don't
: exactly have
pages within their site that are dedicated to outside
(like TFB). How many developers they actually are in
: cahoots with
is anyone's guess, but imagine how unparalleled a Toys
: For Bob page
would be! Just imagine, www.toysforbob.com *cream*
I ask of you to at least consider my question. Would you
: be interested
in developing your own site for the company? What are
: the legal
aspects of dealing with Crystal Dynamics, Accolade, etc.?
: Would this
not be allowed since you guys are strictly an outside
I think that fan support of such a project would be
unwavering. Forget unwavering... try undying. I wouldn't
: be at all
surprised if there are some talented HTML/page designers
: on the board
who'd be more than willing to actually help out.
: Anyone who
expresses interest (and I know there must be scores of you)
: please let
me (all of us, for that matter, as well as the Creators)
: know that
you ARE interested. Who knows what could happen?
: - Martin Lettvin
: P.S. I'm curious
to know whether or not I'm the first person to think
: of this...
nice to hear from you again. Although you have corresponded with Paul in
the past, I sit right next to him and therefore have been privy to your
But on to important matters. First, let me clear one misconception. Technically,
we are no longer outside developers. When we first started working
we were, but they felt it was very important to have stronger ties with
TFB. Hence, we negotiated an employee agreement with them that satisfies
make games solely for Crystal and they reward us for this exclusivity.
Physically, we still retain our offices separate from Crystal and they
allow us to run
as well as keep the Toys For Bob identity.
The web page
idea has never gotten very far in our office. We've toyed with having Devin
(Paul's son) make one for us but have never really followed through. None
of us -- and
there are really only three of us now: Paul, Ken (my brother), and I --
has the time or inclination to keep the page updated. We are all driven
and MAKING you
guys have fun can be all-consuming. And, frankly, I'm actually a fairly
quiet guy and attention -- even flattering -- can be uncomfortable.
: Which reminds
me, Ancient One, could you tell us what you had planned for Star Control
: I doubt they
had anything concrete about the
or gameplay. They were just going to
: worry about
one game at a time, I suppose.
This is essentially
true. We left ourselves and you enough unexplained and interesting mysteries
that we would have a wide variety of choices for expanding into a
Paul nor I are meticulous planners -- that takes all the fun out of exploring
ones capabilities. So we had many possible avenues, one or more of which
we would have
explored, if a sequel had been in the cards.
:To me, the most
disappointing aspect of SC2 is how it failed to inspire other game developers
to build other games on the top of what it has accomplished. It is
to be the first to thread into areas of game design which have not been
covered by other developers. But once someone releases a game which manages
something new and interesting, I'd expect other game designers to follow
suit. Yet we get nothing.
:Where are the
space operas like SC2? Besides Starflights (which were out before SC2)
and Planet's Edge (which I think came out at about the same time), the
:genre has been
woefully underutilized. Where are the games which have such a well-developed
history and dozens of different races with their own unique but
cultures? Where are the games where you understand and even sympathize
with your adversaries? Where are the games with a dynamic world which
to the timeline and not just as a response to player's actions? I am sick
and tired of the games where I am the only active party and nothing
I trigger it directly.
:It just doesn't
seem to pay off to be ahead of your time. I would think that after seeing
what SC2 could do, the Ancient Ones would have several offers to develop
:games in SC2
style; yet apparently they didn't, since they waste their talents making
what looks like a variation on a shooter. Much like a failure of Betrayal
inspire more BAK-style games, the failure of SC2 to inspire SC2-style games
has been one of the more disappointing aspects of recent game
It is not that I like game developers to clone other games, but as long
as they are doing it anyway, couldn't they have picked something more worthy
Perhaps the adventure game that Ancient One mentioned a few days ago would
be such a followup. I hope the project comes to fruition. Ancient One,
:you are reading
this, are there any more details you could share about what you are planning
An old person's
The issue is
much more complex than you make it out to be. For a game company, the bottom
line is money, because money equals survival. And to a greater or
that is true of the outside developer. During the development of Star Control
II, I had to spend $15000 of my own money in order to allow me and Paul
to finish the
game as we wanted to. The point of this is that developing any game has
its risks. I was willing to take the risk, because I believed in what Paul
Accolade was not willing to pay us more than we had initially agreed upon
for the contract. If both Paul and I hadn't made sacrifices, Star Control
have been. Of course if we had guessed better the magnitude of the undertaking,
maybe we could have negotiated a better contract.
But maybe not.
Game companies also must make decisions on a risk/reward basis. It's much
easier for them to evaluate the probable success of games that are
other successful games (they know how many units were sold of that previous
game, they know all the pieces they need, they know how to market it
and to whom,
etc.). At the time, Accolade had no idea how to market Star Control II.
Was it an action game? Was it an adventure game? Are we going to get the
union of those
two types of game players or the intersection? I think Star Control II
came closer to the intersection since it was not a great selling game.
So with the production
quality of games such an issue today, it doesn't matter how compelling
your story is; if you don't have the expected bells and whistles, it's
to market your
game to the masses. And if the masses don't buy your game you've lost money,
because it takes a lot of time and effort to paint the Sistine Chapel (or
produce a good
And as for wasting
our talents, I reject that notion completely. We are gamers. We like all
games: board games, dice games, card games, adventure games, action
If some company tried to force us into one particular genre, not only would
we no longer be working with that company but we just might be so sick
that genre that
A) we are making others sick of that genre or B) we never want to be involved
with that genre again. I'm sorry we haven't made a game since Star
Control II that
has captured your imagination, but we, at least, take pride in everything
we have done and have no regrets.
Will we do another
Space Opera? As the magic 8-ball says, "Signs point to yes." Can I give
you a timetable? No, but both Paul and I are avid sci-fi fans and are
about the prospect.
You can call
the nurse now.