We were lucky enough to snag an interview with a former Starsiege Dev., Louie McCrady talking about a few things that've been on our minds.
First off, I'd like to thank you for taking part in this interview, it's really appreciated. Here we go:
the Junkyard: I’ll start with the question I’m sure is on everyone’s minds. What is Sierra’s stance on Starsiege? What was once a blossoming game on http://www.sierra.com, now isn’t even mentioned anymore. Nor is it mentioned on the Dynamix site, http://www.dynamix.com. What’s up with that?
Louie McCrady: It appears that they are only featuring products that are currently in development or have shipped within the past year. Perhaps we should have a section dedicated to past products.
tJY: Why was the "Starsiege Universe" renamed as the "Tribes Universe" when Tribes 2 rolled about?
LR: The name "Tribes" has more market recognition. The original plan was to create an entire line of products under the "StarSiege" brand but that ended up being too confusing for the marketplace.
tJY: The Starsiege Community is one of the largest, most dedicated groups of individuals around. The anticipation for Starsiege 2 is overwhelming here … is there any possibility of Dynamix undertaking this project in the near future? Distant future?
LR: Yes, they certainly are a dedicated group. I applaud their dedication to a great game. We spent three years pouring our brains into that game and it is still quite a powerful and compelling combat simulation. It still keeps winning votes for the most anticipated game for 2001. Unfortunately it cost us a lot more to make than we will ever received in sales, so it is difficult to get people excited about doing another one. The market also got saturated around the time of our release witch didn't help. However, there are still a few of us around that know what that engine is really capable of doing. It is so tempting to crank out another one concentrating on game play, balance, and mission depth. Give it time. Don't be surprised if you see a Herc in a future game .
tJY: As I’m sure you’re well aware, the Starsiege community is full of talented individuals who have a skill for programming in the SS code, mapping and modeling. In fact, there has been entire campaign missions released as add-ons amongst the community. We’ve got fliers working, campaign missions working on multiplayer servers and even came up with fixes for recent hacks. Some would say that we have the skill, talent and no doubt the time and dedication to take on an entire game. Would you give the community the license to Starsiege 2?
LR: I would love to, and I would love to help. If you only knew how much stuff is in that game that isn't used. There's code in there for night missions with infrared vision, cruise missiles, flyers, motorcycles, squad based multiplayer with AI wingmen. Imagine, artillery strikes in a multiplayer game! Not to mention tons of planetary art and weather effects that weren't even used. There's enough art in that game for almost 60 unique planetary environments. We used probably less than 1/3 of that. There's even a weapon in there called the Finger of God, I'll let you figure out what it does.A lot of the capabilities of the AI were never used as well. You can string together orders to tell your wingman to cloak, circle around behind your target, hold position and hold fire until you fire the first shot. The menus for all these commands got too big so we only exposed a handful of the most commonly used ones. It's all still in the game. You can even create your own formations, assign group leaders and have them go off on patrols. However, it would require a commitment of money and resources to further this cause on our end, and that is a tough sell. They don't want to release it to the community because there is still a chance that it would become financially attractive to revive it at some future date. Right now, support is done on sort of a voluntary basis.It was always my hope that a few of you would pick up the flag and carry it further. I applaud your efforts. I managed to stick a couple of hidden missions onto the CD, (AI_2_DIE_4, and TO_YOUR_KNEES), they give a slight hint on how to do some multiplayer missions that we weren't ready to add to the game. It shows how to create a pilot I called The Reaper, which can pick your bones in about 4 seconds at 500M. There's also scripting language for cameras and cinematic sequences that we used to create the in-game movies played in the single player missions. Theoretically, there's nothing stopping the users from creating their own in-game mini movies with their own voices and plots. There's even some really high definition Hercs in there with translucent cockpits and such.
Face it, so much of that game is put together with scripting languages that there's almost nothing from preventing the users from putting together a whole new game with new single player and multi-player missions.
tJY: There are currently at least two separate MOD’ing groups undertaking a community designed "SS2" game. One of the more well-known ones being the Ghost Project,http://antipode.cjb.net/. What kind of support would Sierra offer to them?
LR: It would be up to the few of us that are still around to support this on a voluntary basis. We still pass information up to the corporate decision makers from time to time so that they know there is still interest. You can bet that if we were to undertake another StarSiege, that we would draw heavily from the existing base of user artwork, missions, and writing. The Tribes engine is evolving so that users can have more input into the game itself. It's almost a hybrid of web-based application and computer based game. As this technology advances, it gets more attractive and easy to start dropping things like Hercs into this environment.
tJY: Starsiegeplayers.com was once the main source for Starsiege community news. SSplayers.com is now shut down and moved to a new server (sierra.com/games/starsiegeplayers). Now it sits there as a lifeless reminder of what was once a bustling community site. Is there any chance that the rights to that site could be handed down to a community member(s) to be revived?
LR: As technology advances, servers get moved around, and responsibilities shift from one company site to another. There's still a lot of activity on the forums, but not a lot of new stuff on the web page. There are several reasons for that. Kamosa (Blake Carper), is busy working on other things and isn't officially supposed to be charging time to StarSiege. So whatever he does is on a voluntary basis. I don't think they'll give it up anytime soon. It's like having a Ferrari in the garage that doesn't run. You just can't give it away.
tJY: As stated above, Starsiegeplayers.com was moved over to a new server. Why has the domain been lost - www.starsiegeplayers.com just forwards you to www.sierra.com/games/starsiegplayers - is Sierra trying to brand everything? Why couldn’t the DNS servers just be changed for ssplayers.com and leave it as is?
LR: I don't know, I think all that stuff was moved up to Sierra in Bellevue.
tJY: What about salvage? If an SS2 is made is this something that would be possible? While taking a look at the code from some of the single player missions, I came across several snippets of "salvage code"; nimplemented, of course.
LR: Perhaps. It certainly is a fun part of other games like Diablo.
tJY: How about command detonated mines? These were in the SS Beta (non-functional) - would it finally be feasible to work these in somehow?
LR: Probably. There were some other mine types that were put in but never used. There's one that is an anti-grav mine that launches you over a long distance. I think there's also a magnet mine and a repulsion mine. I think there was one like the disruptor that slows you down and restricts your movement. It seems like there were a couple others that were put in while we were fooling around, but none of the missions called for this so they were left out, (but they're still in the code).
tJY: One feature that has been mentioned countless times on community forums, is the integration of infantry and HERCs in Starsiege 2. If SS2 were to enter the scene, would you consider adding "tribesmen" or would it create too much of a play balance issue?
LR: I don't think you'll see it in Tribes 2 but there has been a lot of talk about adding Hercs to Tribes. So, in some respects, you might see SS2 revived as a future version of Tribes. Tribes 3?
tJY: Little was ever brought up about the board game, Starsiege Rebellion. How did it sell? Are there any plans on making a Starsiege 2 / Tribes 2 version of it? Perhaps pewter figure add-ons?
LR: I don't know how it did. I don't think we actually owned that. I think we licensed it to the board game company.
Once again I'd like to thank Louie McCrady for taking part in this interview!