Star Control: Founders Vault May 2018

Published on Saturday, May 26, 2018 By Brad Wardell In Founders Starbase

The biggest, longest Vault journal is now available: 

Here is where I would rate us on a scale from 0 to 5 where 0 = not started, 4 is that it could ship and 5 is that it's amazing (May 2018):

Category Score
Story 4
Alien Dialogs 3
Fleet Battles 4
Solar System Exploration 4
Planet Exploration 3
Hyperspace Exploration 4
Ship Upgrading 4
Adventure Studio 3

At E3 we expect to announce our release date which is tentatively September 20, 2018.

Status Report

Here are things not in the Founder's Vault...

Over the next 9 years we have a long of new Star Control games planned Lifetime Founders get them all and standard Founders will get special access to them.

We plan to keep this area as a way for discussing issues as a community.

Issue #1: The Legal Situation

Now, as some of you know, there is a dispute between Paul and Fred the two people credited with creating Star Control 1 and 2 and Stardock.  Without going into the morass of details here is where things stand:

Stardock acquired the Star Control IP from Atari (who acquired Accolade).  This IP included 100% of the registered trademarks and copyrights that existed.  However, Star Control 1 and 2 copyrights were not included because Paul Reiche's agreement represented that he owned anything he supplied such as source code, art and anything that could be protected by copyright.   No one disputes that.

Between 2013 and 2017, myself and Paul had numerous email discussions on the status of Star Control: Origins.  It was Paul that set us up with Riku and it was Paul that suggested books we should read to get ourselves into the Star Control mindset.  It was also Paul who requested we keep him up to date on our progress.

In mid 2017 we wanted to have a 25th anniversary of Star Control 2 and Fred informed me that they had their own plans and those plans turned out to be their own announcement which turned out to be Ghosts of the Precursors.

Unfortunately, they announced Ghosts of the Precursors as the "true" sequel to Star Control II and utilized Star Control heavily in their promotion going so far as to promote it as Star Control: Ghosts of the Precursors.  

Obviously, we were not pleased that a: They waited until 5 days before our Fleet Battles announcement to do this and b: That they did so in a way designed to make it appear that we were Star Control "in name only".  They would later, unfortunately, describe our effort as "Star Control in name only" in email.  

When we privately complained about what they were doing, they insisted that the DOS games come down and that we needed to remove the ship designer, change the Earth Cruiser and provide them with beta builds so that they could inspect it for infringements (mind you, this is after they were publicly claiming to be the sequel to Star Control, a trademark that they declined to acquire in 2013).

They said we must do what they want or, in effect, they'd use their fame and reputation to ruin us publicly. A threat they have since tried to carry out.

Soon after, lawsuits started to fly back and forth.

So where are we at now?

I can't go into settlement discussions but broadly:

  1. Stardock cannot allow them to release a game called Ghosts of the Precursors.  The coverage they received for that announcement was because of its marketing as being the sequel to Star Control.  If they want to call it something else, they can but they can't call it Ghosts of the Precursors.
  2. Because they have publicly and effectively called into question the legitimacy of our Star Control mark, we legally must use the aliens associated with Star Control or else our hold on the trademark becomes tenuous. 

I know many of you (and myself) are big fans of Paul and Fred.  The reality, however is that Paul was an Accolade contractor. An amazing contractor to be sure but games are made, all the time, like this.  Some developer will pitch an idea to a studio. The studio will fund it and own the trademark and the developers can own whatever unique bits they create (art, source code, etc.) because those things have very limited value.

Now, Paul and Fred's position is this:

  1. They own copyrighted IP within Star Control 1 and 2 and believe they have rights, even to the names, of aliens from those games and thus will not tolerate any aliens, even if only by name, in the new Star Control games.
  2. They insist that we have no right to associate with Star Control 1,2,3 (I am not sure on what legal basis they believe this to be the case).
  3. They want the right to make sure the new Star Control game isn't similar, in gameplay, user experience, style, thematically, music, etc. to the classic Star Control games.

I cannot honestly how much is this is them talking and how much is their lawyer.  But obviously, none of the 3 demands are acceptable to us.  Item 1 might have been acceptable before they made the dispute public and called our legitimacy into question. 

So what's the bottom line?

There are two schools of thought on this matter and where you side tends to be which school you fall into:

Viewpoint #1: It is unethical and immoral to believe that intellectual property can simply be bought and sold like a commodity. Stardock was not there for the creation of Star Control and now thinks that they can simply go and acquire the Star Control IP and can cash in on the good will and reputation of the classic Star Control games despite having done nothing to have earned it. Paul and Fred may not have the trademarks or other registered IP but everyone knows they were the ones who guided the creation of the games and therefore only they have the moral right to create future Star Control games.  They're George Lucas and Star Control is their Star Wars.

Viewpoint #2: Intellectual property is the foundation of our modern society. Patents. Trademarks. Copyrights. Without them, things wouldn't get done.  Paul and Fred owe their fortune to these laws as it was intellectual acquisition and licensing that allowed them to make Spyro the Dragon games, Skylanders, the various Disney games, etc.  They are, right now, literally working on a remake of Spyro the Dragon, a game "created" by another person who gets nothing from the new game.  They had 25 years to return to Star Control.  They could have acquired the Star Control IP.  Now that someone else has done the work in bringing Star Control back into the spotlight they decide to announce a game on the back of IP that they never had any legal ownership of.  They're not George Lucas.  George Lucas owned Star Wars, trademark and all copyrights and sacrificed a great deal, including self-funding the sequels, Empire Strikes Back, to make that happen.

Now, myself, I fall firmly in category 2.  I can appreciate the great woodwork that the carpenter did in my house but that doesn't give them the right to come live with me.  Any copyrights they have doesn't give them any rights to the last 4 years of our work (morally or legally) and all they have done is wait until the eve of our release to try to make something that should be wonderful and exciting into a source of bitter argument.

You can recognize someone's achievements and work without giving them extralegal benefits.

So how will it end?

Stardock's legal position is very strong.  Simply put, if owning a trademark can't prevent a competitor from claiming to be a sequel to your trademark, then why have trademarks? Let's just call Star Control: Origins the true sequel to Halo.   

From a PR perspective, we would like to see Paul and Fred be able to develop their game.  More to the point, we don't want them to use us as the latest reason why they can't continue their story.   However, it cannot be called Ghosts of the Precursors and if they want to use the Star Control aliens they will need to acquire a royalty free license.  If anyone here believe that is too unreasonable, feel free to opine.

What's next:

The Chapter 1 beta is now being rolled out via Discord.  Make sure you join up on  Sometime next week we'll be rolling it out to all the Founders on Discord who want to try it out.

While it will "spoil" the opening game for those who try it, chapter 1 is just a tiny percentage of the entire game.

Feel free to talk below about anything you'd like.