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Old 09-26-18, 08:42 AM   #1
Breakfast with Girls
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The Star Control legal battle

Star Control II... maybe my favorite game of all time.

I was excited to see that Stardock released a new game called Star Control: Origins last week. But almost immediately I ran into information about an ongoing legal battle between Stardock and the original creators of Star Control I and II, Paul Reiche and Fred Ford. The original creators were not involved in any way in the new game, and it doesn't exist in the same universe. The lawsuit was initiated by Stardock and names Paul and Fred personally (as opposed to their company, Toys for Bob).

Here's a short summary. Paul and Fred created Star Control for Accolade, but their contract stipulated they retained the copyright to everything and that all rights would revert to them if Accolade didn't pay them at least $1,000 in royalties each year. Those rights reverted in 2001 when they did not receive a royalty check, and they continued to not receive royalties for the next decade, as Star Control I and II were not being sold anywhere.

Once the rights reverted, they released the Star Control II source code to the public for free, renaming the game The Ur-Quan Masters so as not to infringe on the trademark. Then they went on to create Skylanders and that occupied them for awhile.

Eventually the Star Control trademark and copyright for original aspects of Star Control 3 ended up with Atari (Paul and Fred were not involved with the third game), and Stardock bought those rights as part of a bankruptcy sale in 2013. Brad Wardell of Stardock approached Paul and Fred to try to license their universe and they considered it, but ultimately decided that they wanted to create a sequel on their terms (which is currently in development as the game Ghosts of the Precursors). Brad came back again and again and each time they declined.

So finally in late 2017, Stardock sued Paul and Fred in order to use their universe without their permission and deny them the right to create their own sequel. Stardock also started selling the original games on Steam without permission and keeping all profit. They also applied for trademarks for every race, character, and ship name from the original games, including "The Ur-Quan Masters."

Here was their "generous" settlement offer to Paul and Fred:
  • Fred and Paul must surrender all their IP rights to the classic Star Control games to Stardock.
  • Fred and Paul never again use the words “STAR CONTROL” or “GHOSTS OF THE PRECURSORS” or “THE UR-QUAN MASTERS”.
  • For the next 5 years, Fred and Paul do not work on any game similar to the classic Star Control games.
  • Fred and Paul issue a public apology to Stardock.
  • Fred and Paul never again challenge Stardock’s rights to STAR CONTROL trademark or STAR CONTROL 3 copyright.
  • Fred and Paul pay Stardock $225,000.
  • Fred and Paul never again call themselves the “creators” of the classic Star Control games.

My take: having been turned down repeatedly, it seems clear to me that Brad Wardell is a bullying piece of shit and this is his attempt to steal control of the Ur-Quan universe from Paul and Fred by any means necessary. I don't think Stardock has a leg to stand on, but the rights issues are complex and it will no doubt take years to sort out.

If you want to learn more about it, here is a link to their website and a couple of videos that explain the case in more detail:

Paul and Fred's legal defense website (I've also donated to their legal defense fund.)



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Old 09-26-18, 11:43 AM   #2
funkyryno
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

Geeze. Doesn't make me want to rush out and buy that game.
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Old 09-26-18, 01:02 PM   #3
shizawn
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

I'd been keeping an eye on Origins since it was announced, but once I learned that none of the IP from Star Control II wasn't going to be used my interest waned. But since there was never any news about whether Paul and Fred were going to be making some kind of spiritual successor (despite wanting to for the last 15 years), I figured Origins is all we were going to get and I started getting more interested.

Then Paul and Fred did finally announce they were working on something, and even though it probably wouldn't have seen the light of day for many years, I got excited about a true return to the series. I was still interested in Origins though and figured both games could work in their own right. Once this legal crap came up though that pretty much ended my interest in Origins and anything Stardock makes.

By the way, there was a 4th Star Control game in the works. I was working at Accolade when it was cancelled. And thank goodness it was. It would have been a disaster.
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Old 09-29-18, 08:52 AM   #4
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

Wow, you worked at Accolade at the time? Can you give any details?
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Old 09-30-18, 11:44 AM   #5
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

Early in its development, the 4th game was going to be similar to Star Control 3. But I guess the success of a game called Colony Wars for the PSX made them change the direction of the game to a straight space combat shooter. It became a 3D game, with the camera placed behind the ship you were flying. I don't recall anything about the story as either nothing had been implemented or it had mostly been scrapped, but I definitely did not like the way you controlled the ships. It certainly wasn't Star Control to me.

I don't believe it was planned to release on the PC (at least I never saw a PC build), only the Playstation.


I got a chance to play around with Star Control: Origins a few days ago. I tried out Fleet Battles (their version of Super Melee which they can't use for copyright reasons) and something felt off. Like it was too slow or something. I also played through the story a bit. The beginning felt like a complete rehash of Star Control 2. Not a bad thing in itself, but I can just play Ur-Quan Masters if I want that.
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Old 09-30-18, 06:10 PM   #6
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

Quote:
Originally Posted by shizawn View Post
Early in its development, the 4th game was going to be similar to Star Control 3. But I guess the success of a game called Colony Wars for the PSX made them change the direction of the game to a straight space combat shooter. It became a 3D game, with the camera placed behind the ship you were flying. I don't recall anything about the story as either nothing had been implemented or it had mostly been scrapped, but I definitely did not like the way you controlled the ships. It certainly wasn't Star Control to me.

I don't believe it was planned to release on the PC (at least I never saw a PC build), only the Playstation.
I never played it, but Colony Wars looks like an exact clone of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. Sounds like a fun game, but I agree; not Star Control.

Quote:
I got a chance to play around with Star Control: Origins a few days ago. I tried out Fleet Battles (their version of Super Melee which they can't use for copyright reasons) and something felt off. Like it was too slow or something. I also played through the story a bit. The beginning felt like a complete rehash of Star Control 2. Not a bad thing in itself, but I can just play Ur-Quan Masters if I want that.
That was my impression from videos. I can't fathom why they didn't just offer to give the original creators a team to create their vision of a true successor to Star Control II. It would have been wildly successful and saved them a lawsuit and bad PR.
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Old 09-30-18, 06:36 PM   #7
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Re: The Star Control legal battle

I’m not sure if I ever played the full game, but I adored the skirmish mode in part 2. I played hundreds of hours of that on my PC and maybe Genesis iirc.
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