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Author Topic: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!  (Read 2773 times)
SanderScamper
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Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« on: September 02, 2006, 07:44:00 pm »

Hey everyone I've been around on and off for a long time and recently picked up the latest edition of the Australian PC gaming magazine PC Powerplay. They've started a retrospective piece each month, where they pick a true PC gaming classic and go over it for nostalgic and presumably educational reasons. This month it's Star Control 2's turn and as well as having a nice summary of the game they interviewed Fred Ford from Toys For Bob! They also had a small piece detailing the release of the code to the internet public and this very open source project! I'll post up the interview when I can get around to it, unless someone else happens to have the transcript.
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SanderScamper
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2006, 04:10:37 pm »

Heres the Interview:

Constructing a stellar setting.

Fred Ford, one of SC2's designers, explains how this was done: "We didn't want any of our alien races to be throwaway characters. And we also didn't want to have the trite good guys versus bad guys. It was therefore important to us that each race has a history and consistent philosophy from whose perspective good and bad can be derived. So even though the Kzer-za -- and even more so the Kohr-ah were performing what from our point of view were horrible atrocities, viewed from the context of their past sufferings, they were completely understandable."

In SC2's case, we wanted to allow the player to be able to go his own way by providing a range of tones from silly to straight to bellicose; however it's obvious that no matter how serious the player wants to be, the game is laced with absurd situations. What we tried to do was make each alien race extreme in some way and if you follow an extreme far enough you can find humour. As an example, one of my favourite conversational bits is with the Ilwrath, where they are revelling in how evil they are. But you point out that what they have just derived is their behavioural norm, so how can that be considered evil? They realise of course, that you are right, and are infuriated that you did not concede them the point, because being thought evil by others is important to them."

While most of the game's writing credits go to Paul Reiche III, there were also many talented writers who brought SC2's aliens to life who were given "instructions on critical information the aliens had to impart and very loose parameters about where they could take a particular alien." says Ford. "So, after we had created many of the leaves and branches of the tree, we used the adventure story as the trunk and the back-story as the roots. I can't help but think that it served to make the whole experience more engaging."

Did Ford remain sure that he was churning out a winner? "There were many long nights where we questioned our own faith in our creation. Not getting paid for the last six months didn't help either. On the positive side, from SC1 we knew the super melee core (the combat system) was a solid, fun mechanic, which was why we included it as an additional, standalone experience in SC2. We figured if nobody 'got' the adventure game at least they wouldn't be disappointed with the upgrade of the combat from SC1. "Then, as we finally shipped the game, Wing Commander debuted and Star Control 2 was quickly lost in its after-wash. On the other hand, if you construct he Venn diagram of people who like twitch action, a deep adventure, intelligent humour and a lot of reading, then we believe we completely penetrated this intersection." Pessimism aside, he knows why SC2's fans have latched onto the product for so long. "Any game that allows you and a friend to hit each other over the head with a stick -Super Melee - will have legs. We still play SNES Bomberman every day at TFB. The adventure portion of the game remains popular, I think, because of the non-linearity that allows for replay in many different styles."

Philosophy for Fun

Toys for Bob was very conscious of making sure the game was tight and enjoyable at any point. "In designing the adventure game, we tried to observe several key mission statements: the game should feel huge - at least in the beginning - but the player should never feel completely lost. Different styles of game play should be supported - don't force the clever player to do boring activities just to advance. And never let the player lose for silly reasons or without letting him know immediately. Because we could not control in which direction you would head off, or what style of exploration/exploitation you would prefer, and because we didn't want transparently artificial restrictions on what options were presented to you, we had to make sure that order and timing were not overriding concerns. We also let you control the 'difficulty setting' of the game through your conversational interactions with the aliens. If you examine even briefly the alien conversation threads, there were almost always several dialog tactics you could take, ranging from silly, to straightforward, to belligerent. Each of these threads typically resulted in varying consequences for the player - some making the game easier and some more difficult. We did this to support players who were only comfortable in a particular role, and also to accommodate re-playability. Also, although many people grumbled about the early recourse gathering and having a slow, weak ship to start with, we felt this was important in conveying the massive scope of the star-map and the danger of early hostile contact. Yet later, when their ship was souped-up and they were in possession of the Quasi-Space Portal Spawner, these hostilities would no longer concern them."

Plotting the Stars

Obviously there are inherent issues with this kind of non-linearity. How did Toys For Bob make sure that SC2's strong storyline didn't disappear in the giant star-map?
Ford shoots from the hip: "In a word: repetition. For every piece of critical information there had to be several ways for you to unearth it. Just thoroughly picking the brain of the starbase commander could get you at least a few hints about much of the required elements. It was also kind of fun for us to expose information from the different viewpoints of the aliens. Also, did I mention repetition?"
In the end though, there's no doubt that Ford believes Toys for Bob's perspiration paid off. Does he think non-linear games are, generally, more fun than linear ones? "Is having sex generally more fun than being stabbed in the eye? Seriously if a game can support open-ended play, then I would prefer it. And While we're splitting hairs, or stabbing eyes, I don't think SC2 is open-ended - there is only one way to win - but it is 'open middled'. I guess to generalise if you can make the player feel as if his choices have varying consequences and make a qualitative difference, then he is probably engaged".

And heres the bit about this lovely project...

The Remake is Out There

There is a better way to play SC2 than to squish it through DOSBox. It's called The Ur-Quan Masters, and it's an open source remake of the game. What does Ford think of it, you ask? "It's great! Actually we were the ones who thrust the antiquated source code and dated graphics files onto the members of our capable fan base, who are lovingly restoring it. We don't really have any well-formed, long-range agenda with this project, but Star Control maintains a special place in our hearts - one we would love to revisit somehow and someday in the future (note, maybe he's referring to the possible sequel...?) So, if we can keep the memory alive in others, it may help us down the road. Frankly though, fans of the series can be so passionate - see SC3 - that we would be hard-pressed to live up to their expectations, let alone our own."
You can find the remake at http://sc2.sourceforge.net/

I'm off to put my wrists in ice water. Hope you all enjoyed reading it.
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Ivan Ivanov
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2006, 07:30:25 pm »

I'm off to put my wrists in ice water. Hope you all enjoyed reading it.

It's great!
Thanks Comrade!

By the way, there's an on-line version of the interview  over here.

Quote
I don't think SC2 is open-ended - there is only one way to win - but it is 'open middled'.

I love this guy.
I lost count of the number of people that I had to kill, because they couldn't grasp, that an open-ended game needs to have multiple endings.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2006, 07:47:32 pm by Ivan Ivanov » Logged

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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2006, 09:49:24 pm »

By the way, there's an on-line version of the interview 
over here.

What age are you? Usually "made you look" becomes old just after
kindergarden.
And congratulations, you've just delayed the release of uqm 0.6 by a few
minutes.

To the other readers: click this link and waste your time.
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2006, 06:59:22 am »

By the way, there's an on-line version of the interviewÂ
over here.

What age are you? Usually "made you look" becomes old just after
kindergarden.
And congratulations, you've just delayed the release of uqm 0.6 by a few
minutes.

To the other readers: click this link and waste your time.


Errr.... sorry mate, it was directed at SanderScamper. The idea was to give him a heart attack, by making it seem, that all his work writing down the interview in his post was in vain.
Sorry, next time I make a silly joke, I'll try to make sure it is funny for someone else then me.
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2006, 08:23:32 am »

I still found it funnier than "Posting Diarrhea". I suppose both age and humour is relative.
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SanderScamper
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2006, 03:53:36 pm »

I'm an Aussie and a good burn is a good burn, and you did almost give me a heartattack so good job =p
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Ivan Ivanov
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2006, 05:06:39 pm »

I'm an Aussie and a good burn is a good burn, and you did almost give me a heartattack so good job =p

Ah... so it worked!
Mwahaaha! I am the Ultimate Evil, no?

But seriously, I appreciate your work.
It's a great interview, and it was really cool of you to take your time and write it all down for us.
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2006, 06:08:09 pm »

By the way, there's an on-line version of the interviewÂ
over here.

What age are you? Usually "made you look" becomes old just after
kindergarden.
And congratulations, you've just delayed the release of uqm 0.6 by a few
minutes.

To the other readers: click this link and waste your time.

LOL.  I actually clicked the link too.  Disappointing. Huh It's good to know that a magazine today has mentioned Star Control 2 Cheesy

Thanks SanderScamper
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2006, 01:53:43 am »

What issue contains this interview? (for http://uqm.stack.nl/wiki/index.php?title=UQM_in_the_Press).
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SanderScamper
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Re: Fred Ford Interview, Ur-Quan Masters mentioned in PCPP Magazine!
« Reply #10 on: September 08, 2006, 12:40:09 pm »

PC PowerPlay Issue #130 for October 2006, has a big picture of Hellgate London on the front.
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