Star Control II

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Star Control II
Star Control II cover.jpg
Cover art of the DOS version
Developer(s)Toys for Bob
Crystal Dynamics (3DO)
Producer(s)Pam Levins
Designer(s)Fred Ford
Paul Reiche III
Platform(s)MS-DOS, 3DO, OS X
ReleaseNovember 1992
Genre(s)Adventure game, shoot 'em up
Mode(s)Single player, multiplayer

Star Control II: The Ur-Quan Masters is the sequel to Star Control. It was developed by Toys for Bob (Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III) and originally published by Accolade in 1992 for MS-DOS.

Released to critical acclaim, Star Control II is widely viewed today as one of the greatest PC games ever made,[1] and has appeared on numerous publications lists of the greatest video games of all time.[2]

This game features exoplanet abundant star systems,[3] hyperspace travel, extraterrestrial life, and interstellar diplomacy, with the game featuring 25[4] different alien races that can be communicated with.

The game was ported to the 3DO by Crystal Dynamics in 1994 with an enhanced multimedia presentation, allowed by the CD technology. The source code of the 3DO port was licensed under the GNU GPL in 2002,[5] the game content under a Creative Commons license. The 3DO code was then ported to PC as The Ur-Quan Masters. A sequel, Star Control 3, was released in 1996.


The Captain's ship enters the Sol System at the beginning of the game. (In The Ur-Quan Masters.)
Discussion with various characters is an important aspect in the game. Here the player is speaking with Commander Hayes at the Earth starbase.

Star Control II added a large number of species and ship types to the already diverse cast and replaced the first game's strategy-based scenarios with a story-driven space exploration adventure game that included diplomacy with the inhabitants of the galaxy, some resource gathering sub-sections, and instances of the melee combat of the first game whenever diplomacy fails.

As typical of the adventure game genre, the player must explore the game world with little direction and make discoveries and connections independently. Interaction with the various alien species is a chief part of the adventure game; the backstory of both the species from the first games and new ones were fleshed out considerably. There are hours of dialogue, each species bringing out their characteristic conversational quirks, music, and even display fonts.

A two-player mode is available, named Super Melee, consisting solely of the ship-to-ship combat. All ships from the first game are available, even if they made no appearance in the story, along with a number of new ones.


In the last phase of the war between the Alliance of Free Stars and the Hierarchy of Battle Thralls, the Tobermoon, an Earthling ship, discovered an ancient Precursor subterranean installation in a cave on the surface of an uninhabited planet in the Vela star system. The Alliance hastily sent a secret scientific mission to study the relics, but a massive Hierarchy offensive forced the Alliance fleets to retreat beyond Vela; the mission commander, Captain Burton, decided to go into hiding on the planet and sent back the Tobermoon, her only starship, asking for help. Though the Ur-Quan forces didn't find the Earthlings during their sweep of the system, relief never arrived. Years later, with the help of a genius child born on the planet, the colonists activated the Precursor machinery and found out that it was programmed to build a starship. Using the limited store of raw materials available in the planet, in ten years the Precursor factory built a (barely) functional ship, which could be piloted only by the now grown genius child, who alone could interact with the Precursor central computer. In the first test flight, it was discovered that the ship Burton had sent for help had been severely damaged by the Ur-Quan and was orbiting unpowered in the outer solar system: the Alliance had never known of the mission's discoveries. The colonists decided to fix the recovered ship, train new crew members for both the Precursor ship and the Tobermoon and send a mission back to Earth, eager to know how the war had ended. Shortly before reaching Sol the little fleet was attacked by an unknown ship; Captain Burton, commanding the Earthling ship, intercepted the alien ship before it could damage the defenseless Precursor starship, but was killed in the short fight, leaving the genius young man in command.[6]

The player begins the game as a commander of the Precursor starship, who returns to Earth to find it enslaved by the Ur-Quan. It is discovered that the rest of the humans' allies in the war against the Ur-Quan have either been eradicated, put under a slave shield, or put into service as Ur-Quan battle thralls. As the player progresses, it is revealed that the Ur-Quan are fighting an internecine war with the Kohr-Ah, a subspecies of Ur-Quan who believes in eradicating all life in the galaxy, as opposed to enslaving it. The winner of this war will gain access to the Sa-Matra, a Precursor starship with unparalleled power. The player must take advantage of the Ur-Quans' distraction to contact and recruit alien races into a new alliance, gather resources and build a fleet, and find a way to destroy the Sa-Matra, all before the Ur-Quan finish their war and become unstoppable.


The contents of the soundtrack of the PC version were determined by running a contest which anybody could participate in, composing tracks based on a description of the game. Included on the soundtrack are compositions of Aaron Grier, Erol Otus, Eric E. Berge, Riku Nuottajärvi, Kevin Palivec and Dan Nicholson, the president and founding member of The Kosmic Free Music Foundation. Musicians were searched by posting a contest to Amiga users newsgroup because mostly Amiga hobbyists were making sample based tracker music those days.[7] Music is in Protracker-MOD format which uses digitized instrument samples while most of PC game music still relied on FM-synthesis based instruments at the time. The game also supported the Gravis Ultrasound sound card, which was popular among MOD composers.

Star Control II was highly influenced, both in story and game design, by the games Starflight (1986) and Starflight 2: Trade Routes of the Cloud Nebula (1989), developed by Binary Systems and released on a variety of platforms by Electronic Arts. Indeed, Greg Johnson, StarFlight's lead designer, helped write dialog for Star Control II and Paul Reiche III contributed to the earlier game's alien communication system. David Brin's science fiction series about the Uplift Universe is also often mentioned as inspiration for the Star Control II universe, as well as Larry Niven's Known Space universe.


Review scores
CGW4.5/5 stars[8]
Dragon5/5 stars[9]
Next Generation3/5 stars (3DO)

In addition to numerous awards by gaming magazines published around its release, Star Control II also has spots in top games compilations of notable gaming publications.

Computer Gaming World stated that Star Control II was as much a sequel to Starflight as to Star Control. The reviewer praised the VGA graphics and wrote that the game "has some of the best dialogue ever encountered in this genre". He concluded that the game "has been placed on this reviewer's top ten list of all time ... one of the most enjoyable games to review all year. It is not often that a perfect balance is struck between role playing, adventure, and action/arcade".[11] A 1994 survey of space war games gave it a grade of B+, stating that the game lacked replayability except for the ship-to-ship melee minigame.[12] A 1994 survey of strategic space games set in the year 2000 and later gave the game four-plus stars out of five, stating that "it offers hours of 'simple, hot and deep' play".[8] The game was reviewed in 1993 in Dragon #195 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 5 out of 5 stars.[9]

Reviewing the 3DO version, GamePro remarked that the user-friendly interface makes the complicated gameplay easy to handle. They also praised the impressive graphics and the voice acting's use of unique vocal inflections for each alien race, and concluded that the game is "an addicting epic sci-fi adventure that will have patient space explorers and zero-gravity tacticians glued to their screens for a million hours. All others should stay away."[13] The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly likewise praised the accessible interface and impressive graphics, but complained that the alien voices are sometimes difficult to understand. They cited the CD quality audio and the Melee mode as other strong points, and one of them commented that it "blows [the PC version] out of the water." They gave it an 8.25 out of 10.[10]

Star Control II was nominated for an award at the 1993 Game Developers Conference,[14] and Computer Gaming World named it the magazine's Adventure Game of the Year with Eric the Unready.[15]

Next Generation reviewed the 3DO version of the game, rating it three stars out of five, and stated that "if you've the patience to spend hours digging for minerals, the game is addictive, but not state of the art."[16]


In 1994, PC Gamer US named Star Control II as the 21st best computer game ever. The editors called it "an Epic" and "thoroughly enjoyable to play and look at."[17] That same year, PC Gamer UK named it the 33rd best computer game of all time. The editors wrote, "If ever a game deserved an award for being underrated, it's Star Control II."[18] Years later, Star Control 2 remained the 52nd best computer game of all time on PC Gamer's 2011 version of the list.[19]

Star Control remains highly ranked on many other "best of" lists. In 1996, Computer Gaming World ranked it as the 29th best PC game of all time, calling it "a stunning mix of adventure, action, and humor."[20] IGN named Star Control II the 17th best game of all time in 2005.[21] In 2013, Kotaku crowd sourced a list of "Best PC Games of All Time", with Star Control 2 emerging as the most popular choice among their audience.[2] GameSpot also named it as one of the greatest games of all time.[22] In addition, it was also given eighth place in GameSpot's list of the best gameworlds by reader's choice,[23] as well as the third place in the best endings.[24]

The Ur-Quan Masters[edit]

The Ur-Quan Masters (or UQM) project[25] aimed to port Star Control II to modern operating systems including Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, and BSD. The project began in 2002 when the original creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III released the source code of the 3DO version as open-source under the GPL.[5][26] The project was renamed The Ur-Quan Masters because the trademark Star Control was registered by Accolade in 1997, acquired in 1999 by Atari (then known as Infogrames), along with the rest of Accolade's assets.[27] Its latest version, 0.7.0, was released on 4 July 2011.[28] The game media is only free to use in non-commercial context as it was released under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 2.5 license.[26] The Ur-Quan Masters adds the option of online multiplayer Melee play, something which was not available in the original game. The ability to mod the game was one of the project's goals, and a variety of modifications to the melee have been released by fans, including versions with superpowered ships and numerous planets. A high-definition graphics version of the game, UQM-HD, was subsequently released in beta in 2013.

During the development of the UQM codebase, a second group of semi-professional musicians called The Precursors created new musical tracks and remixes of the originals, ultimately releasing four remix packs. They are an optional package that can be listened to in-game, replacing the original music, or just played with an audio player. The group's main members are Jouni Airaksinen (alias Mark Vera), Tore Aune Fjellstad (alias VOiD), Espen Gätzschmann (alias TiLT) and Riku Nuottajärvi (an original composer for the 1992 release).

A fully, sometimes unofficial, playable port has been produced for the Wii, OUYA Android microconsole,[29] GP2X portable game system,[30] the Pandora handheld,[31] and the Maemo 5-based N900[32] smart phone. Other ports are underway to the Sony PSP[33] and the Microsoft Xbox.[34][35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hutchinson, Lee (23 October 2018). "Video: How Star Control II was almost a much more boring game". Ars Technica.
  2. ^ a b Hamilton, Kirk. "The Game That "Won" Our Classic PC Games List (If It Had A Winner)". Kotaku. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  3. ^ When of this game publishing, Only 4 exoplanets are discovered as in real worlds, and thousands of exoplanet thereafter
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b Wen, Howard (2005-08-11). "The Ur-Quan Masters". O'Reilly Media. Retrieved 2016-01-19. When the original developers of Star Control 2 contacted the online Star Control fan community, they presented an enticing question: if they released the source to the 3DO version of Star Control 2 under GPL, would anybody be interested in porting it to modern-day computers? Michael Martin, a 26-year-old Ph.D. student at Stanford University, answered the call. After removing proprietary 3DO-specific components from the code, the developers released the source for Star Control 2 to the public.
  6. ^ Star Control II Manual, available at Abandonia.
  7. ^ Skrolli magazine, Issue 3/2014, page 37
  8. ^ a b Brooks, M. Evan (May 1994). "Never Trust A Gazfluvian Flingschnogger!". Computer Gaming World. pp. 42–58.
  9. ^ a b Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia & Lesser, Kirk (July 1993). "The Role of Computers". Dragon (195): 57–64.
  10. ^ a b "Review Crew: Star Control II". Electronic Gaming Monthly. Ziff Davis (63): 38. October 1994.
  11. ^ Trevena, Stanley (March 1993). "Accolade's Star Control II". Computer Gaming World. p. 34. Retrieved 6 July 2014.
  12. ^ Cirulis, Martin E. (February 1994). "The Year The Stars Fell". Computer Gaming World. pp. 94–104.
  13. ^ "ProReview: Star Control II". GamePro. IDG (64): 174. November 1994.
  14. ^ "The 7th International Computer Game Developers Conference". Computer Gaming World. July 1993. p. 34. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Computer Gaming World's Game of the Year Awards". Computer Gaming World. October 1993. pp. 70–74. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  16. ^ "Finals". Next Generation. No. 1. Imagine Media. January 1995. p. 91.
  17. ^ Staff (August 1994). "PC Gamer Top 40: The Best Games of All Time". PC Gamer US (3): 32–42.
  18. ^ Staff (April 1994). "The PC Gamer Top 50 PC Games of All Time". PC Gamer UK (5): 43–56.
  19. ^ "The 100 best PC games of all time". pcgamer. Retrieved 2018-04-03.
  20. ^ "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  21. ^ "IGN's Top 100 Games" from IGN
  22. ^ "The Greatest Games of All Time: Star Control II" from GameSpot
  23. ^ "GameSpot's Top 10 Gameworlds"
  24. ^ "GameSpot's Best 10 Endings"
  25. ^ The Ur-Quan Masters project page at SourceForge
  26. ^ a b The Ur-Quan Masters licensing
  27. ^ Star Control Trademark at UQM wiki Archived 2008-01-16 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Download page for Ur-Quan Masters at SourceForge
  29. ^ The Ur Quan Masters HD for OUYA
  30. ^ A GP2X port of The Ur-Quan Masters Archived 2009-02-03 at the Wayback Machine at the GP2X file repository
  31. ^ Ur-Quan Masters on the Pandora Repo
  32. ^ The Maemo 5 The Ur-Quan Masters port page at
  33. ^ Ur-Quan Masters 0.5.0 - PSP Port
  34. ^ Starcontrol 2 Port Source Code Release Archived 2008-05-14 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ The UQM Xbox port files Archived 2008-05-14 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]