The 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

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: "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 addictive!
We're hankering 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.

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: All hail the omnipotent deific duo of Star Control!
: No, not Dogar and Kazon. The Creators!

: StarControl 2 is the only program which has survived on my hard drive for more than four years.
: 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 purpose?
: 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
sympathies lie) 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
trouble.

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: 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 I
don't think 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, given
the limitations of two players fighting on the same screen, to make it functionally better/more interesting than the Ilwrath's.

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: 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 X.
: 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 is a
downside, however. 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 peck
typing isn't a completely accurate description of your keyboard usage is it? :)

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: 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 names
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.
Alpha, Beta, 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. So
the rest is manual history.

: I shall torture a sickiningly cute, innocent creature in your honour, oh lords.

: Greenish_9

: PS. Oh Ancient One - I thought you and Paul used the same address (tfb@crystald)??? Was I mistaken, then?

tfb@crystald.com is our communal e-mail address. We each have personal addresses as well.

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: *falls on his knees and burns incense for the Ancient One*
: well, so i didn't. :)
: 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 device,
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 Paul
Reiche?

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
contract we 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 let
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. For six
months, Paul 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
Accolade in 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" or
"Ilwrath goodbye 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
Horde). This 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 SCIII
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
mysterious, unanswered questions in SCII, we did indeed plan to do a sequel. Once we separated from Accolade (the owners of the trademark) this became
increasingly 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. Because,
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
legally withhold 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 cut Paul
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 vision was.

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: 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
homeworld again. Is this the remains of that "Illrath goodbye 5" thing you were talking about?

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 were
connected incorrectly 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 course)

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
approval from Sony for The Unholy War. I will try to be available but at some point my participation will inevitably diminish (besides the Frungy championships start
on ESPN-2 next week). Anyway, ask away while you've got the chance.

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: 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 out
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
properties of the ships.

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
provide specifics 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 a
powerful thing.

: Were ALL the Androsynth destroyed when the Orz came?

Perceptive lad. This was a leading plot candidate for our theoretical sequel.

: Theoretically 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
really wanted 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 and
differently, 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.

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: 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
they didn't 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
buying, becuase 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
graphics, and sound...

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 to
investigate books about DirectX and let Microsoft worry about hardware compatability issues. I have to say, though, that it was extremely painful to write that last
sentence, because 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
belt, there 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 3-D
to high-end pixel rendering. Good luck.

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: 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 to
fill in the picture. Frungy is the poster-boy for this technique.

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: 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...
: Starcontrol3... 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
(which only 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
with another 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*.

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: 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
: character 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
from scratch 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
recompense and 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
fans) would 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, but
StarCon really 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
products be 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 are
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 question.

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).

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:  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
: Accolade's 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.

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: These questions have been asked many times of fans, but now here is an
: opportunity 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, but if
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
even remember 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?

You're probably 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 we,
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
: Nicholson, 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 we
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.

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: 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
: developers (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*

: Creators... 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
: developer? I think that fan support of such a project would be
: undoubtedly 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 (aka Anamnesis)

: P.S. I'm curious to know whether or not I'm the first person to think
: of this... =)

Martin, it's 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
communications. But on to important matters. First, let me clear one misconception. Technically, we are no longer outside developers. When we first started working
for Crystal 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 all
parties. We 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
our operation 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 individuals
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.

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: Which reminds me, Ancient One, could you tell us what you had planned for Star Control III?

: I doubt they had anything concrete about the
: storyline 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
sequel. Neither 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.

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:(soapbox on)

: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
:always hard 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
:to accomplish 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
:believable cultures? Where are the games where you understand and even sympathize with your adversaries? Where are the games with a dynamic world which
:changes according 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
:happens unless 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 of
:Krondor to 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
:development. 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 of
:being cloned than Diablow?

:(soapbox off)

:Oh, well... 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, if
:you are reading this, are there any more details you could share about what you are planning to do?

An old person's ramblings:

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
lesser extent 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 and I
were doing. 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 II
would never 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
derivative of 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 hard
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 Space Opera).

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
games, etc. 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 of
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
getting enthused about the prospect.

You can call the nurse now.

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