The Obsolete Gamer Show: Steve London (Halcyon 6)


We talk a look at Halcyon 6 the game inspired by classics such as Star Control, Master of Orion, X-COM, Civilization and new classics like FTL and talk to its composer Steve London who loves classic Commodore 64 and Amiga games, cool pizza toppings and the Toronto Maple leafs.

Halcyon 6 began as a Kickstarter passion project with a goal of $40k and raised over $180k. We get into all that and of course Steve’s love of music in our interview.

About Halcyon:

In the midst of a disastrous war, you and your ragtag group of Terran officers discover an ancient, derelict space station, and attempt to harness its mysterious power to turn the war’s tides in a grand, desperate campaign to save the human race from extinction.

Halcyon is available now on Steam early access.

Bonus: Check out some Halcyon game music from SoundCloud.

Star Control: The Ships

The first Star Control title really is a game of two-halves. The ‘Main’ game is seen as the strategy side of the game with its turn-based, territorial expansion-based shenanigans, while the ‘Melee’ mode is seen as the action, shoot ’em up side, but it is a lot more strategic than people realise itself. Each of the fourteen starships in the game has many variables, as can be seen in some of the screenshots below and, while it’s possible for any one ship to defeat any one other, there are certain ships that are better or worse against certain others, and many crafty tactics can be employed to exploit their weaknesses.
There really is nothing like an epic Melee battle between two experienced, well-matched combatants. Each lurking on opposite sides of the screen trying to guess what the other is thinking, the occasional skirmish to test each other. They can be very tense affairs! So, for the benefit of any budding Melee-Masters, the next installment in my series of Star Control features will take a look at the ships used by the seven races that comprise the Alliance of Free Stars (the ‘good guys’)…
Chenjesu Broodhome

Star Control

Arguably my favourite ship in the game! This is the flagship of the Alliance fleet, used by the crystalline Chenjesu species. While not particularly quick, it’s big and powerful enough for that not to matter most of the time. It’s primary weapon is the Photon Shard which is a round projectile with an infinite range – when you launch one, keep your finger on the fire button and the shard will continue on for as long as you hold down the button! It’s the longest range weapon in the game and causes devastating damage with a direct hit (some smaller ships can be taken out with one strike), but you can only fire one at a time. When you release the fire button the shard will fragment into eight smaller pieces that travel a short distance causing minimal damage.

Star Control
The Broodhome’s secondary weapon is the D.O.G.I. Creating one of these will use all the fuel supply but the D.O.G.I will then home in on the other vessel and each time it makes contact (and makes an amusing ‘barking’ sound!) it will drain your opponent’s fuel. These are very useful, and you can deploy up to four of them, but some of the ships with powerful, short-range weapons like the Avenger and the Drone can take them out with ease. The Broodhome’s biggest weakness is its lack of maneuverability which, amongst other things, means that it’s the ship most vulnerable to planetary gravity, with each high-velocity collision causing a significant percentage of its crew complement to be lost, but it’s still a imposing, numerously-crewed vessel that you’ll do well to come out of a battle with alive!
Ship Rating: 5/5

Yehat Terminator

Star Control

Smaller and more agile than the Broodhome, this nippy craft crewed by the Pterodactyl-like Yehat is a formidable offensive and defensive craft. It’s armed with twin, rapid-fire Pulse Cannons which can pepper an adversary’s ship with many small, weak shots which can collectively cause a lot of damage, especially to larger ships. The defensive side is catered for by an impenetrable Force Shield which can be activated at will. Both of these eat through the Terminator’s fuel reserves though, and it doesn’t have very big tanks! Luckily its refuel rate is pretty high which, combined with its speed and maneuverability, makes it a tricky opponent that’s hard to beat in the hands of an experienced player. The cannons have a decent range so you can hover just inside it, popping off occasional shots, and using the shields to protect you from the shots you can’t avoid. The cannons have a great sound effect too!

Ship Rating: 4/5

Mmrnmhrm Transformer

Star Control

The Mmrnmhrm are best mates with the Chenjesu, a friendship that would lead to the creation of the devastating Avatar battleship in Star Control 2, but in this original their ship is interesting, but ultimately pretty average. As you may have guessed from its name, this craft is able to alternate between two forms. The first and default form is a slow but maneuverable one with twin short-range Laser cannons. With the tap of a button, however, its wings sweep back and its powerful afterburner kicks in, turning it into a fast, long-range craft which fires twin, long-range homing missiles. Both forms come with problem though – the first form is very slow and the second has a horrendous turning speed meaning it’s basically only usable in a straight line. The trick is to attack with the lasers, retreat with the faster craft, wait until the fuel reserves build back up, then zoom in close to your opponent and, change back, and let rip with the lasers. It’s a sound tactic but the ship is pretty clumsy in practise. It can be reasonably effective but isn’t particularly enjoyable to use.

Ship Rating: 3/5

Ariloulaleelay Skiff

Star Control

They’re a brainy bunch, those Arilou, so it’s odd that the Skiff is one of the weediest ships in the game! This is one of three ships that can be destroyed by a single shot from one of the larger vessels, but of those three, it’s almost certainly the handiest. It’s very fast, has the tightest turning circle in the whole game, and most impressively it comes equipped with an inertialess propulsion system. This means it can reach maximum velocity instantly and stop just as quickly, and is also unaffected by planetary gravity too. As those with a knowledge of astrophysics will know, that makes the Skiff one agile little bastard, and it can even hide next to planets to lure larger ships into the gravity well! On top of all this, the Skiff is also equipped with a ‘Hyperdrive Shunt’ which basically teleports the ship to a random location in the playfield (whilst making a funny noise). This is extremely useful for escaping from any hairy situations, and with the Skiff’s meagre crew complement, there are many! Its weaponry consists of a short-range, rapid-fire, auto-aiming laser, which can do a decent amount of damage if you can get a full volley off without taking any fire. The best tactic with this little ship is to sneak up behind a ship, pummel them for as long as possible with the laser, then ‘shunt’ out of harms way. Repeat until ship is defeated!

Ship Rating: 3/5

Syreen Penetrator

Star Control

Clearly a riff on the sultry green alien women from Captain Kirk’s adventures, the female-dominated Syreen race is one with whom you can have many interesting encounters in the sequel to this game (including shagging one of them!). Here however, the innuendo’s are limited to their ship (and its name) which is pretty fast and armed with a fairly weak Particle Beam. The ship’s most helpful feature though, is its ability to project the hypnotic songs of its crew outside the ship. When done in close range, the song lures crew from the opposing ship out of their airlocks and into space where they can be collected by the Penetrator, adding them to its own crew roster. This can be done until even the largest enemy ship is down to a single crew member so you just have to finish them off with a single shot!

Ship Rating: 3/5

Earthling Cruiser

Star Control

Hooray, it’s our ship, and a pretty decent one it is too! It takes a while to get going and even then it’s a bit lumbering and not particularly fast, but its armaments make up for that. The Cruiser’s main weapon is a plentiful supply of Nuclear Missiles which do a decent amount of damage and have a range bettered only by the Broodhome’s Photon Shard’s and the Podship’s Plasma thingies. This means it can stay as far away from its enemy as possible, using its excellent turning speed to whip round and fire off a missile before continuing on its way. Any time an enemy does get close enough to shoot at the Cruiser, it can take down weaker projectiles with its auto-targeting Point Defense Lasers which can shoot up to four things at once. This means its the only in the game ship to be effectively immune to the Dreadnought’s bloody fighters (much to its users chagrin!).

Ship Rating: 4/5

Shofixti Scout

Star Control

The Shofixti are a proud and courageous species modelled on the Japanese of old, so it’s a shame their ship sucks ass! It’s pretty fast and maneuverable, but has a weedy Energy Dart as its main weapon which, contrary to the picture, can only fire one shot at a time doing minimal damage to your opponent. That’s assuming you even get a chance to shoot as the Scout has a tiny crew complement and can be destroyed by a single shot from larger ships, and still in seconds by some lesser ships. The only thing it’s remotely useful for is its Glory Device – a self-destruct which, when detonated close to an enemy, can do a decent amount of damage. When under computer control, they bide their time waiting for a chance to get close enough to deploy the Glory Device, then blow themselves up! That says it all really…

Ship Rating: 1/5

Alliance Ships Total Rating: 23/35

Top Five 3DO Games

Top Five 3DO Games

The poor old 3DO was hardly a run away success, was it? It was released during a difficult period. Change was coming, but not quite ready to be embraced by the gaming public. The fact that it cost as much as a car didn’t help matters either, of course! Consequently it doesn’t have the biggest of software libraries. With this in mind, instead of doing a genre-based Top Five for some of its games, I have little choice but to simply select the five best games on the system from all genres. Behold:

Games-Related Top Fives Disclaimer: I’ve traditionally stuck to the games I know and love so far, and these game-related top fives reflect that. One of the purposes of this blog is diversify my gaming experiences, to play games I haven’t played before, so I will do new game-related top fives in a few years to see how different they are!

5. Return Fire (1995)

Return Fire

Released somewhat belatedly as a sequel to the popular Amiga strategy shooter, Fire Power, this fiendishly addictive game was among the best the 3DO could offer for two-player thrills. The move from Fire Power’s overhead viewpoint to a slightly angled 3D perspective was slight but Return Fire looks a lot prettier, and it retained and expanded upon its prequel’s enemy-flag-capturing fun. There are four vehicles you can employ to capture your enemy’s flag – tank, jeep, helicopter, and an armoured missile launcher – and each is accompanied by it’s own classical music! There are a good few stages, or ‘maps’, to battle through here, but the game was also later supplemented by a ‘data disc’ called Maps O’ Death which contained 100 new stages too. Return Fire is good fun for the solo-gamer, and I’ve spent a lot of time playing it by myself, but it was always intended as a two-player game, and in this capacity it’s one of the most enjoyable games I’ve played.

4. Gex (1994)

Gex

Poor old Crystal Dynamics. They clearly put a lot of effort into this game but it went virtually ignored by most gamers who were presumably awaiting all the ‘next generation’ games they’d been promised. I suppose most weren’t really looking for yet another 2D platformer after the deluge the MD and SNES received, but if they’d actually played Gex, they’d have discovered a superb game. Starring Gex, a lazy, television-obsessed Gecko who gets sucked into his TV, the game consists of five TV-themed levels, each split into several stages, through which Gex must travel before he can defeat Rez (no, not the Dreamcast game) and escape. Featuring sumptuous, varied graphics, some great music (although the frequent quips uttered by Gex can soon grate), a huge game world, and a perfect difficulty curve, Gex really is one of the most enjoyable 2D platformers around. Forget the fact that there’s no FMV or polygons and give it a go!

3. The Need For Speed (1994)

Need For Speed

There’s a good chance that around 9 out of 10 gamers have played at least one of the Need For Speed games, but how many know that the series started here on the 3DO? Not only that, but many fans still consider this the best game to bear the name too! Most of the many NFS games have been unrealistic, arcade-style games, but this original was designed to be as realistic as possible right down to the vehicles sounds and dashboards, and it worked too. Rarely has a driving game made it so enjoyable to simply drive. Nevermind the racing, the admittedly superb crashes, or anything else, cruising along the coast in a Supra or Ferrari, or any of the other real cars depicted here is a hypnotic experience. The Saturn and PlayStation conversions added more courses and a two-player mode amongst other things, but never has the series matched the enjoyment of the driving in this original.

2. Star Fighter (1996)

Starfighter

The previous three games, whilst all going on to appear on other systems, all debuted on the 3DO. This game did not, but it’s by far the best version of it. Converted to the 3DO after first appearing on the Acorn Archimedes of all systems, it was subsequently ported to the Saturn and PlayStation, but both these versions are horrifying, which is a mystery considering their superior power. So, this version remains the best, and what a game it is! It was my first experience of a free-roaming, 3D game world and still one of my favourites. Set on a variety of planets, and even in space, it’s a mission-based strategic shooter which sees you up against a sizable enemy military, largely on your own! Yes, it looks a bit ropey today, but it’s a game with enormous scope and creativity, not to mention a fantastic soundtrack, which I still love to play today. Just make sure you avoid discovering the atmosphere-destroying story!

1. Star Control 2 (1994)

Star Control 2

The winnah! Could it be anything else? Anyone who knows me would be expecting this – not only is it my favourite 3DO game, but my favourite videogame of all-time! It doesn’t look like much from screenshots, nor from watching someone play it, but this epic space-exploration adventure drew me into its world, captivated me, kept me playing, like nothing else ever had, and it continues to do so. The story really is enthralling, with details revealed, clues released, little by little as you play through the game. With a huge game universe to explore featuring 25+ races, each with their own territory, mannerisms, and hours of speech, this is a game that literally lasts for years. And that’s before you’ve even tried the Super Melee, two-player battle mode! A stunning game that still enjoys a strong following, and it’s free to download now too!

So, that’s my personal 3DO Top Five. It was hard to leave out some other great games such as Road Rash and Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (the best versions of both games in my opinion), but the games I did select are not only superb, but also mostly not so well-known. If you agree or disagree with the list, let me know!

Star Control

Star Control - Title Screen

Star Control (1990)
By: Toys For Bob / Accolade Genre: Strategy Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sega MegaDrive / Genesis
Also Available For: PC, Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum

The Star Control series is not the most well known series of games but they have amassed a fiercely loyal group of fans over the years. This is largely thanks to the stunning second game in the series which, as some Red Parsley readers may know, is my favourite game of all-time. However, much of the groundwork for that game was done here with this under-appreciated original, including the creation of many of the series’ races and their associated mythologies. It was certainly an original and perhaps even unusual concept featuring a combination of two genres. Some loved it, some hated it. It’s also pretty complicated to explain, so here goes.
Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 1

The backstory for most of the races here was largely fleshed out in the epic sequel but about all you get told here is that there are two opposing space-faring empires – the Alliance of Free Stars (which includes Earth), who stand for a peaceful and prosperous galaxy and the Ur-Quan Hierarchy. Who do not. The Ur-Quan are an evil, oppressive race bent on enslaving and/or destroying all sentient beings in the galaxy, and the Hierarchy is the group of races they have conquered who have chosen to fight alongside them instead of remaining imprisoned on their home worlds. The Alliance and the Hierarchy each have seven races in their ranks, with each possessing one type of starship. The main game in Star Control is a strategy game set on a single screen featuring a rotating starfield. This starfield is a spatial world, multi-dimensional and moving about a vertical axis and consists, largely, of many stars.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 2

Before playing, you must choose your control options and which side you wish to play as (Alliance or Hierarchy). The control options are Human, Computer, Cyborg and Psytron. If you choose Human, then all decisions are made by you, choose Computer and all decisions are made by the computer (set one side to each setting for a normal single player game). Choosing Cyborg will result in the computer fighting your battles but you will make all strategic decisions, and Psytron vice-versa. The computer has three skill levels, and this can also be altered at this point. Once this is done, you then choose one of fifteen scenarios. These are basically missions with set objectives to achieve (which usually involve blowing the crap out of your opponent), although the starting conditions vary considerably, such as what resources you start with (if any).

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 3

Each of the scenarios has a brief background story and are split into three groups of five – ones which start off in favour of the Alliance, ones which favour the Hierarchy, and ones which favour neither side (neutral). Most scenarios will see you start with a starbase – the Alliance one will appear at the very bottom of the starfield and the Hierarchy’s at the very top – and it is from this point that play begins. Gameplay is turn based with each turn enabling you to perform three ‘actions’, such as moving a ship, building a new ship or establishing a mine or colony, etc, before your opponent gets the same choices. You can play against a friend, the computer or a mixture of both (Cyborg or Psytron).

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 4

The object of the game depends on which scenario you choose, but most involve destroying the enemy Starbase/Starships. All the stars in the starfield will initially appear blue which means that they are unexplored. When one of your ships arrives at a star, it will turn one of three colours depending on which type of planet orbits it: white, green or red. A white world is a dead world and is valuable only for its strategic position (potentially). A green world is a life world which is suitable for colonising. A colony provides a place for a ship to recruit new crew members to replace those lost in combat, and also speeds up ship movements, as moving from a colony world does not cost an action. A red world is a mineral world suitable for mining. For each mine you have in operation, you will receive a Starbuck (the game’s currency) per turn in addition to the single Starbuck your Starbase generates per turn if you have one. It is possible for these colonies and mines to be destroyed much quicker than they were built, however.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 5

To destroy an enemy’s colony or mine, simply move one of your ships onto that star. If an enemy ship is guarding the facility, then a battle ensues – if you win the battle, then the facility is destroyed. If it is unguarded, then it is automatically destroyed. Bear in mind, however, that your opponent can do the same thing to your colonies/mines. Luckily, it’s possible to fortify your installations. A fortification is a defensive web which no single ship can easily destroy, and through which no single ship can pass (with the exception of two specially gifted ships). If you should move a single ship into an enemy fortification, your ship is stuck. To be freed, it can attempt to besiege it (which gives only a ten percent chance of success) or wait to be joined by another ship. Any two ships from the same side automatically destroy an enemy fortification. These conditions, of course, apply to both sides in a battle. Colonies, mines and fortifications all take two turns to build.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 6

Movement and combat in Star Control is achieved via the use of Starships – you can move your Starbase (which takes all three actions of your turn), but you cannot fight with it. You might start your chosen campaign with a full compliment of ships or you might start with no ships – it again depends on which scenario you choose. You can have no more than seven ships in your fleet at any one time, however. If you start with none then you must build them at your Starbase. There are fourteen types of ship in total – seven Alliance and seven Hierarchy – though you’ll only be able to build ships from your chosen side. They vary in cost and ability considerably, though fortunately you can build more than one of any type of ship. For example, if money is tight, then you could build seven of the cheapest ship available relatively quickly in order to spread out establishing many mines and colonies until you’ve got enough money to build some better ships at which point you can begin attacking the enemy, but you could get attacked yourself as you’re attempting to do this, so some careful planning is required.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 7

At any point in the game, if one or more ship from opposing sides should meet at the same star, then battle will begin once that turn has ended. If your single ship met, for example, four enemy ships then you’ll have to fight them all, one at a time, until there is a winner, and you will be unable to visit a colony to replenish your crew until battle is over. Battles are fought in real-time and viewed from above, and the screen will automatically zoom in or out depending on how close together the two ships are. The screen also uses screen-wrap which means that if a ship appears as if it’s about to disappear off the edge of the screen, it will reappear on the other side of the screen. Gravity also comes into play in battles. Each ‘battlefield’, for lack of a better term, contains a planet. This planet has its own gravitational field which pulls in ships that stray too close, but you can use this to your advantage by using the gravity as a slingshot to fling yourself at high speed away from an advancing enemy. Contact with the planet can be fatal, however, especially if your ship has a small contingent of crew. There are also asteroids flying about every now and then which do not possess any gravity, but can affect the path of your ship if they hit it, though these can be destroyed with a single shot.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 8

Providing a helping hand in battles, however, are the Precursors. The Precursors were a race who inhabited space approximately 300,000 years ago. Both their origins and subsequent demise are shrouded in mystery, but they did leave some of their technology lying around when they left/died out and it can be used to improve your starships. When exploring stars, you may stumble across one with leftover Precursor technology on it (or rather, on one of the planets orbiting it, but it’s the same difference as far as the game is concerned). If this is the case, you will be told immediately and the artefact is then automatically fitted to whichever ship is in use at the time.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 9

The ships themselves possess numerous characteristics which differ from ship to ship such as thrust, turning speed, weapon range, weapon damage etc. Each has a finite supply of crew and fuel. These are represented as small dots on the information panel on the right of the screen. Crew members are lost when an enemy’s weapon impacts on the ship or if the ship crashes into a planet. If all crew members are lost then the ship is destroyed. The fuel powers the weapons and is reduced each time the weapons are fired. The fuel supply will automatically replenish if no weapons are fired but the speed at which it does so varies from ship to ship. Each ship’s main weapon is different, but is generally a projectile type weapon with a specific range, which again varies from ship to ship. Each ship is also equipped with a ‘special ability’. This is sometimes another weapon, but is more often something else. Some examples include the Ur-Quan Dreadnought which can launch squadrons of autonomous fighters, the Ariloulaleelay Skiff can teleport, the Chenjesu Broodhome launches enemy fuel-sapping drones, the Illwrath Avenger employs a cloaking device, etc.

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 10

Star Control also features another play mode called Melee which is just the starship combat from the main game without any of the turn-based strategic play. Simply choose seven ships (from either side) and fight against your chosen opponent (human or computer) until one of you runs out of ships. This is basically a spaceship-based equivalent of a Street Fighter-style game with one-on-one battles to the death! It’s entertaining fighting against the computer, which has three skill levels, but this game comes into its own between two human players. Some epic battles can be had here and it’s addictive as hell! A practise mode also exists in which you can choose a single ship and fight against your opponents single ship, again fighting one-on-one to the death. This is obviously the best place to learn each ship’s abilities and intricacies before braving a full-on war!

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 11

As you might have guessed from the screenshots, despite its gameplay innovations, Star Control is hardly the pinnacle of MegaDrive technical achievements. The graphics are functional with nice enough sprites but the backgrounds are all black starfields and there is precious little animation here. There are a few nice static screens though, including some good ship profiles, and the rotating 3D starfield in the main game is very impressive. There is no in-game music but there are a few short tunes here and there and each race has a ‘victory ditty’ played when their ship wins a battle. The sound effects, however, are excellent, consisting of a lot of sampled explosions, weapon fire, and even a few stranger things like a dog barking!

Star Control - Gameplay Screenshot 12

Star Control was a fairly unassuming game when it was first released and went unnoticed by many, but it nonetheless holds a very special place in my heart. This is partly because it led to my discovery of Star Control 2 (which I bought on a whim during a fleeting visit to my local second hand game store as a result of liking this game), but it’s also a great game on its own merits too. It’s a bit of an unusual concept, but one that, initially at least, proves highly intriguing. However, the main game won’t hold your attention for ever. It’s still enjoyable to return to, even once you’ve finished all the scenarios, especially when playing against a friend, but the fantastic Melee mode endures to this day! I fondly recall many great battles against friends in this mode, particularly against my good friend, Stu (“If I hit a planet, it’s a draw!”) and it remains one of my favourite two-player games even now. But hey – even if it sucked, it still gave birth to the mighty Star Control 2!

RKS Score: 8/10

Free Stuff – The Ur-Quan Masters, the Star Control II remaster

Ur-Quan Masters title screen
Ur-Quan Masters title screen

Free Stuff – The Ur-Quan Masters, the Star Control II remaster

Ur Quan Masters is the remaster of Star Control II, one of the best space games of all time! Get it NOW for FREE!

The game has two sides of it. It has an EPIC campaign game which basically consists of fighting against time in a race to save the universe from being consumed by a deadly threat. This is all done in the humor style of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The melee (arcade) mode consists of you playing any kind of battle with any kind of ships vs any other kind of ships either you against the computer or against your friends on the same computer or system.

Get it NOW. This is just about the best free game out there.

There are versions for Windows, Mac, Linux, Linux, BSD, and also versions for handhelds.

You can download whatever version you want here: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php