The Star Control series has always been a blend of strategy and adventure. But Accolade's fourth installment went through a paradigm change. Accolade decided to implement state-of-the-art 3D technology with a mission based arcade shooter similar to Colony Wars. As you win battles and complete missions, you can improve your fighters and carriers with new weapons, upgrades, and technologies.
Accolade had an outside developer working on StarCon by the name of Starsphere Interactive. The gameplay was to be modeled after that found in the Colony Wars games, also found on the PlayStation. The gamer would fly either "inside" the ship or "behind" the ship in 3D space, sort of like the "Wing Commander" games. Gone was the classic Star Control battle interface, the "2D top-down melee". Not much was else was known about the gameplay, except for the fact, that the gamer controlled a "carrier" ship that would launch fighters when hostiles were encountered. You could let the computer control the fighters for you or jump "inside" a fighter to join in the battle. There was still to be interaction and dialogue with alien races, but the focus was on the space combat. The graphics were to be top notch. For the PlayStation version, there was going to be split-screen two player action.
However, according to Starsphere Interactive's website: "October 5th, 1998 - As of this date, development on StarCon has stopped. When word of Accolade's decision on StarCon reached the press, several on-line sources reported that the game was being re-evaluated due to deficiencies in the game's design and attributed that design to Starsphere Interactive. Though only Accolade can speak as to why the game is being re-evaluated at this time, one thing is certain, Starsphere Interactive was not responsible for the design of the game. An internal Accolade team designed StarCon and was also developing the PC version of the game (StarCon is the fourth installment in the Star Control series). Starsphere Interactive was contracted to develop the PlayStation version of StarCon from Accolade's original PC design and resources."
Allegedly Accolade was going through a transition at the time this game was being developed. In 1997 Electronic Arts had signed a multiyear distribution contract with Accolade Inc. of San Jose. The pact gave Electronic Arts exclusive distribution rights for all new and existing Accolade software titles. It is unknown if the decision to stop developing StarCon came from Accolade or Electronic Arts management.
StarCon was designed by an internal Accolade team for the PC and Starsphere Interactive was responsible for the PlayStation conversion. Starsphere Interactive was formed by two former Mindscape developers who are responsible for critically acclaimed hits such as Starwinder and the Wing Commander series on the SNES. Utilizing their experience and know-how, Starsphere Interactive's PlayStation conversion of StarCon was surpassing all expectations.
In late 1998, Accolade decided to re-evaluate the game and StarCon was officially cancelled.
According to Starsphere Interactive's website:
"October 5th, 1998 - As of this date, development on StarCon has stopped. When word of Accolade's decision on StarCon reached the press, several on-line sources reported that the game was being re-evaluated due to deficiencies in the game's design and attributed that design to Starsphere Interactive. Though only Accolade can speak as to why the game is being re-evaluated at this time, one thing is certain, Starsphere Interactive was not responsible for the design of the game. An internal Accolade team designed StarCon and was also developing the PC version of the game (StarCon is the fourth installment in the Star Control series). Starsphere Interactive was contracted to develop the PlayStation version of StarCon from Accolade's original PC design and resources."
The PlayStation Museum caught up with a member involved in the development of StarCon for the PlayStation. He had previously answered some questions about StarCon for another website and to the best of his knowledge they never published the article.
The statements and expressions in this interview are the opinion of an individual involved with the development of StarCon on the PS1 and do not represent those of any other company or individual.
Question: Starsphere worked on porting the StarCon code from the PC Accolade developed version to the PS1. How complete was the game before Accolade canceled the game and it's contract with you? Was it playable?
Answer: The PS1 version, which at the time of cancellation had become the lead SKU, was approximately 70% complete, so it certainly was playable and (in my humble opinion) showed a great deal of promise.
Question: I've read that when Accolade reassigned their internal developers from the StarCon project, they were going to let the outside developer that was working on it try and improve it. Was Starsphere this developer, and did you continue work after the Accolade development stopped?
Answer: Here's the short version of how the project evolved:
Accolade had an internal team that was developing the PC version of StarCon, and about 4 to 6 months into that project, they contracted our company to develop the PS1 version. The goal at the start was for the PS1 version to follow the lead of the PC and utilize the design and art assets of the PC game but not the code (due to the differences in the PC & PS1 platforms). With that, Starsphere started work on the project. Soon after, the internal Accolade PC team started having difficulties as they lost their lead programmer and the project started to fall behind schedule. This fact combined with our good progress on the PS1 version (along with the fact that the PS1 market was growing very rapidly) resulted in Accolade making the PS1 SKU the lead and in the process reassigning most of their internal PC team to work on the PS1 version. After this move, the development of the title was split between the Accolade group in San Jose and our group in Los Angeles. Needless to say, this made for a difficult situation on both ends, but despite that I believe both groups made a valiant combined effort to complete the title.
Question: What do you feel were the reasons for the game to be put on hold, and then eventually forgotten and canceled?
Answer: Difficult to tell, maybe the fact that the PC version had fallen back resulted in a change in the financial outlook for the project. Also, the space genera is rather small unless you have 'Star Wars' in the name of the game!
Question: How closely did you work with the Accolade team on the project? Were you able to make any design decisions or gameplay suggestions? Are there any names or contacts that you remember? Was the relationship friendly, or just a working relationship?
Answer: We worked very closely with the team at Accolade, and certainly contributed to the overall design of the title (in particular when it came to PS1 specific issues). I can't recall any specific item at this point (it was back in 1998!) Our relationship with their team members was both professional and friendly, and as such I've maintained contact with a number of the individuals to this day.
Question: The gameplay was a large derivation from the previous Star Control games. Many people still consider Star Control 2 to be one the the top games of all time. Did you feel that StarCon offered a good addition to the universe created by Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford?
Answer: There was a specific emphasis at the start of StarCon to create a more combat-intensive game than the previous incarnations of Star Control (I spoke to Paul Reiche after the project was canceled about this issue). I can't fully speak as to why that decision was made by Accolade.
Question: Were there any unique additions you were able to make to the PS1 version of the game that set it apart from the PC version?
Answer: Overall there were a lot of very cool elements in StarCon, but for the life of me I can't recall whether these features were specific to the PS1! As I mention above, a short while after we got started on the project, the PC version was pushed to the back and the PS1 version became the lead SKU, so all the features were going into the PS1 version first. Among the coolest features in StarCon was the ability of a second player to join an existing single-player game at any time (all they had to do was press a button on the second controller and they were brought into the game!)
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