Starflight 1 was developed by Binary Systems and published by EA in 1986. Because the project was rather ambitious it took 3 years to develop the game. That translates into some 20 years of labor totally, given the amount of people involved. The game has procedurally generated 3D planets which you can land on with your ship and crew. The planet surfaces has a topology, climate zones, weather, generated life forms, and alien ruins. There's a star map with hundreds of solar systems to explore. Some regions of space are occupied by aliens which you can have a chat with, befriend, or not.
A sequel came out in 1989 and both games were eventually ported from DOS (PC) to Amiga, Mac, Genesis, C64, etc. While the games were very influenced by popular Sci-Fi at the time, they also had influence on games which were to follow, such as Star Control, which pretty much seems to be a Starflight paraphrase in some regards.
What I like about the games is the general concept of space exploration, having a ship you can upgrade and populate with crew characters. This page contains a mishmash of the materials I've done since '06. I just copy pasted things together to make it slightly more presentable.
I thought a bit about Starflight as Mass Effect. Maybe more space battle focused, walking around on the ship. Hmmm. I don't think there are any "Orion girls" in the SF universe now when I think about it.
It's a bit strange to land a massive ship just to deploy the terrain vehicle. Starflight isn't really consistent about the mass of the ship though. The bare ship is almost skeletal, with each of the cargo pods potentially heavier than the ship. In The Ur-Quan Masters a shuttle is used instead. While it's interesting to explore planetary surfaces, it's difficult and demanding to represent graphically. Abstract solutions like sending down probes, outposts and mining rigs from orbit might not feel rewarding either.
It might work to give planetary exploration three layers. First, there's the view from orbit just showing the general texture of the planet. To actually explore the ship has to go into a high altitude scouting orbit, still not high rez enough to be asset demanding, but visually interesting. Then there are designed locations for vehicle / on-foot story stuff, and maybe also for (scripted) landing sequences for automated mining rigs and such. Because a high altitude view can show some geometry and only a segment of the planet at a time, it might feel more like exploring. The on-surface views gives the player a sample of what the rest of the planet might look like, functioning much like an environment panel in a comic. One of the problems with proc-gen is that it gets repetitive across an entire surface. Perhaps it doesn't when applied only for sample locations.
My take on some of the robots. The robot designs are inconsistent throughout the games & other sources. As for creatures, I believe SF1 has randomly generated text descriptions, and SF2 shows a few in the trading goods images. SF2 is a bit wackier.
Acid fashion neon & pants from the SF2 cover.
2015 Spemin doodles. I had some idea that while Spemin ships look random, they're actually build after schematics they came up with.
PC/DOS: Abandonia's page
I'm using grays as uniform color because the profile pics are solid gray, giving a gray feel.
The Arth Thrynn gets a collar too, but gray.
I reworked Elowan to give it longer legs (I use short little demon legs far to often). It matches the silhouette pic slightly better than my old version. Elowan sounds like Elegant and Eloquent, so a long slender neck came to mind, as well as the Kamino 'cloners' from Star Wars. Thin also works well because they're frail (low durability). Gave them a mouth first, but changed into mandibles. Why anything at all? Because I feel they need to have a... narrative capability so they can animate and emote in a fun way on screen. Also, I think they need to be somewhat anthropomorphic to integrate with the other Arthlings.
The Android design has masses which relate better with the source art than my previous designs did. Smaller shoulder knobs for example, although not quite as small as on the source art. I gave them cloth because it's a fun contrast and there could be uniform dress codes in the Interstel fleet. I'm thinking the Androids are like AI's in Star Trek, they start out as the EMH or Data, but then develop... quirks. There are different models. Maybe the trade pic (and g'nunk tripod bowling ball robot) can be used as reference?
Early spemin experiments : Number 3 and the unmarked one are probably the most faithful. The ones with letters are the same variant as the unmarked one near them. I wasn't really fond of the undefined amoeba blobbyness, so I gave it some symmetry and and anthropomorphic qualities (mouth, feet knobs) which will allow some expression variance. I imagine the head/nose being somewhat like a hippo, which it can rest on the floor, hiding the mouth. The mouth is a deviation, but since it can be hidden, maybe it just didn't show on the original. I can sort of imagine that mouth saying spemin stuff though, it has a certain range of expression. I made the legs into knobs cuz I didn't want to give it any practical mobility.
Eventually I settled for a mouth with 3 pointy teeth. I made them more symetrical and stuctured because the Umgah are random. I'm trying to space these design with my Star Control ones. That's why I gave up the short legs on the Elowan too, it's green and already looked too much like my Spathi design.
However, the blobbie in the cluebook expressed surprise regarding the earthling's teeth filled mouth, so they probably don't have any. They also expressed a preference for irregular shapes. Maybe I'll have an evil scientist make Ex-Spemin-ents, like versions with a mouth, then Augmented by a cybernetic body, then some ultimate version.
Humans sits around with their PDAs all day, so weapons go on their boots not the hip where the tech gizmos are. Maybe I'll move the short sword to the back and reduce the pistol size. According to a sword wielding dude I know, swords are best worn on the hip if they're long , but shorter ones could be worn on the back. I'm thinking the Arthlings have this military tradition to wear weapons even if they just sit on their ass in front of a console all day.
The Bugs (Veloxi/Velox) have some interesting stuff going on with 4 limbs on the ground and 2 long arms, I wanna play at that. I'd like to avoid using a long unflexible body, hence the wasp waist on my drawing. Maybe they have variants like Small Male Worker, Buff Guardian/Warrior, Female Tall Slender Caretaker. The Velox(i?) design has evolved a bit from my previous ones. Made changes to the back so it could look similar to the profile pic underneath the jacket. Limbs got multiple wedge shaped joints. Red color, blue eyes.
Some Starflight II aliens. Some of these are just minor races which you can trade with.
The G'nunk are some kind of space thugs who "confirm friendship by fighting to the death". They are an amalgam of many different species. I think a few Androids from the old Earth empire eventually ended up with the G'nunk. The reference material is slightly inconsistent for the G'nunk, but I've tried to give the Android a visor, chainmail and stuff like on the source art.
Here is an abandoned and unfinished G'nunk painting. I've changed the designs since I started on this, so I don't want to finish it.
The Natracch. Just how anthro are these little mushroom people? The text description of them contradicts the picture. They're described as 'colorful and varying in size', while they are mostly brown and the same size on the picture. I based some of my redesigns on mushrooms - a white stalk and dark hat. As for colorful, I threw in some minor sensor organs in color. I like the Pokémon look since they're cute and narration capable, but on the other hand I can appreciate a more abstract "what-the-heck-is-it" approach.
The designs have got to space properly from the Draffi Basti so they don't appear to be of the same species. I guess the Natracch turned into Zoq Fot Pik (of Star Control, because the same people were involved in both games). I did some Natracch concepts which never took off: 1, 2. I have some other concepts for them which I'll try to dig up.
These are based on the Starflight 1 ship silhouettes and masses. I did some research on the ship masses and stats of the Starflight 1 ships, but it's all pretty inconsistent stuff. Oh, I also did a sideview of the Gazurtoid ship The idea is that their ships are like a giant coral reef with a forcefield fishbowl in the middle, and lots of turrets on the sides. The Gazurtoid themselves are small like goldfish and there are only one per ship.
These designs are a bit older, among the first I did. I liked the graphical crisp quality the Amiga version of the Interstel ship had against that white background, so I used that for reference. I used some blue shades because the Amiga GUI is the most appealing to me. There's not a whole lotta GUI's with white BG's these days are there?
In retrospect I think these designs are a bit heavy with the greebles (meaningless hull detail). There are not enough pod slots on the spine of the Interstel ship either. It's a versatile exploration ship, whilst the others I extrapolated are more specialized. The Elite ships are just there because... I could not resist.
As usual, I have this idea of a great war going on (persistance universe deal), so I made some warships. If I we're to make something, I'd probably do the same as I did with my SC project, I'd move the theatre to another galaxy. This way I won't have to spend decades researching the old game, and I can present a new exciting environment.
Maybe in 3477 there was a top secret empire backup survivial plan, akin to the Noah deal. A freak warp/flux node maybe. What I had in mind is a small star cluster with a nasty deadly nebula stretching right through it, only leaving a narrow gap. This is where the centennial battlefront is, gigantic Empire fleets clash with the enemy on the other side of the cluster.
When doing these designs I tried to think about:
Ideas for pods. I think I had some comments for these somewhere but I can't find them now. In Starflight the modification done to the ships are all shown externally (although not on the ship combat / action screen). Seen at the bottom are some space suits and a mining robot at work.
This concept is newer. The engines might actually weigh 250t if anything like a modern engine. The Interstel ship probably needs two of them too. Maybe the fuel conversion is done elsewhere so single artifacts can be plugged into something.
Here I'm just playing around with some ideas for the 'first wave' ships (Numlox and Phlegmak, two species mentioned in the SF1 background story). The Numlox ships are inspired by light diodes and keyboards. The Phlegmak ship could be a sponge or a controlled blob of liquid/slime. I have already used a Coral-like material for the Gazurtoid. As for the Regal Interstel ship, it's from the future, after SF2. With its design I wanted to experiment with simple big shapes. I'm fond of the early Star Trek ships. Most ships today have so much 'decorative' tech junk on them (aka greebles). Here's an interesting read on the design of the original Enterprise.
The Enterprise design has some nice primitives put together, and is very to the point. It's just engine tubes, a body then a dish where most of the people are. There are very few mystery 'filler' knobs. Those tend to make the ship look like a haystack. So how could I paraphrase that without ripping the design off? Well, I couldn't, but I'm on my way. I replaced the front dish with a somewhat clean rectangular wing. It's a simple shape and one can understand how things can be packed inside. Then I made sure the engines had the repeating squares and not a lot of random tech noise. The center part could be engineering and a hangar. The various knobs are copper colored to suggest a function analog to the deflector dish of the original Enterprise. The colors are white and gold to suggest 'golden age'.
So given that nothing bad happens after SF2, pimped up Interstel ships might have some of the following:
Then possibly countermeasures for some of the above
I was thinknig the T.V. (Terrain Vehicle) is a really powerful behemoth, and also agile for its size. It could have limited hover abilities, a bit like the "Blaster Master" vehicle. This thing plows through mountains and oceans without trouble in the game (although it does use quite a bit of fuel when doing so). The Atmospheric Suits are derived from diving suits, and could take something like 100 atmospheres of pressure. No visor, just multiple cameras of various types on the head dome.
I did add a cannon turret on the top. It's just a laser knob though. The amphibic and agile aspect is betrayed by the clumpsy tracks, but the dome kind of hints a bit at amphibic qualities. Maybe it has ballast and water jets. Crew compartment has to work for 6 aliens. I'm not quite sure if these species all beathe air or not. Right now it's probably a bit like the vehicles from Aliens in comfort. A drill is a good idea, but maybe it uses a laser at the bottom of the hull, then a tractor beam, or something less crude than large steel drills.
According to some sloppy calculations/estimates, the Cargo Vehicle has an air displacement of 500 to 800 cu.m. It's 15m long or so.
Half of that (600) is hull structure and machinery (=300). Out of that half is probably 6-man-cockpit and ramp/entry and the other half is cargo space (=150) but since it has to be accessible maybe only a half of the cargo space can be used (=75) and then there's always corners you can't fit anything into. I'm not sure how they store creatures, if there's a cage which takes a lot of place. The creature 'mass' could be weight, air displacement volume or volume needed to store it safely. I doubt they play Tetris with the cargo.
Cargo-wise, it needs to squeeze in a cube the height of 2 men (3.6^3). I don't think my old design (the tank-like assault vehicle) can do this so I drew the new one, which is based more closely on the various sprites.
If I make two floors I could make a bridge at the top, an cylindrical elevator and a ramp at the back for large cargo. I want some camera space in the bridge, it's kinda tight now, but maybe doable. Elowans would have to duck along the walls.
I made some experiments in Excel. Usually when I make clay ships I make them a bit too tubby (the clay should be enough to make a longer ship). Most Ships are mostly around 2-4 cubes long (but a bit longer). Since I'm dealing with a cube, fractions of length does make a lot of difference, so my model is only good enough to estimate with a 30% to 300% error margin...
Aslo it's 190 000 tons for Enterprise, not 19 000 like in SF.
In SF Enterprise is 19 000 (according to StarFLT.com). Maybe they couldn't go above 2 bytes (65k)? This could however support my notion that values should be x10. Although, 190k would make Enterprise very dense as noted in the link above. 32kg (plane) to 250kg (very armoured ww2 naval ship) per cu.m are my (shot out of arse) reasonable values, atm... I'll have to do more research.
Ship Density Diagram - Might only be accurate enough to give some loose values. It makes sense that the Abrams is so heavy, and the Space Shuttle so light. Yamato is a bit heavier too, compared to the Carrier.
The Interstel warship components have the following mass values.
Previously I compared with small destroyers, which are 1000 to 8000t
Now an airplane: Boeing_747_Large_Cargo_Freighter
If one were to double its length, mass would be 8x, i.e. 1440... close to a value I had estimated for the Interstel ship of that size earlier.
Some of the Interstel ton values needs to be multiplied by 10 I think. Hull 500t. FTL Engines 2x250t. Cargo pods I'm not sure about.
To the left: Noah-9, Mechan-9 and Interstel ships - The latter is my adaptation. These ships seem to share architecture. The Mechan were supposed to prepare a new colony for the Noah colonists, who never turned up. The Mechan don't seem to be capable of improving the ships a lot, because their engines and weapons are weak. They keep getting nearly destroyed by nasty aliens too, so it might be hard for them to get things rolling. The Arthlings also based their design on a ship from Earth. The symmetry is off on the Mechan scout by a pixel.
I think at 100t the Interstel ship would be some 40-50 meters tops. Possibly the un-armoured one is very skeletal? Just some zig-zag girders (that's called something, I forgot) for the spine. Then the crew could just sit in the front part. See the Space 1999 'Eagle' ship.
Here's quick experiment, A small version of the Amiga Starflight interstel ship. Cargo pods would have to be scaled up, and TV is probably too small. I hung it on the underside.
This took quite a while to work out, but I'm not sure if I'm even going to use this ship design.
I had the idea of using views like in a 3D program for the GUI. Also, here is an unrefined idea of how planet exploration can be represented in a more abstract way by using symbols: Rough.
For the comm system visuals I can imagine something like having a bridge backdrop, then a few images of the captain in various emotional state, such as furious, bossy, neutral, pleased, sniveling. Rough.
Finally, a map idea. The red nebula is mysteriously impassable. The green ones are regular anti shield + dizzy crew nebula. The upper half of the map is the enemy territory. The lower half is Empire territory, although it has to be mostly unexplored for the player to have anything to discover. Maybe the Empire has been busy warring (at the narrow pass at the center of the map), or they lack intrest, or they have been exploring a bit but there are too many solar systems out there.
Right now I've plotted 2000 stars in a cluster formation. It's not really a matter of just plotting them, you have to space them properly too... and for that you need to do a lot of distance checks. Using buckets to limit the amount of checks is a good idea (and I have to use buckets later anyways). I'm going to use a Long (signed 64-bit iirc) for the playfield, with just one continuos 2D dimension. (Same engine I've been working on for my SC project).
I wrote a comic script based on what I think could happen after SF2, but it's not done yet. It's about the Interstel helping out a secular group of science savvy Natracch during "The Second Golden Era of Trade". I'll see if I can post some material later. I'm not much of a writer when it comes to figuring out the details and dialog.
It seems like a lot of work to reverse engineer the interpretation of the data from SF1 (which is available online). On the other hand, the data is there so it it could save some work too. Right now I'm leaning towards random generating the story though. Playing as a Noah (or some 'hyper-flux' project) colony in some random star sector could add replay value. I'd have to be careful and leave lots of different kinds of clues so the game doesn't degrade to scouring planets for coordinates.
The star map could be divided into sub sectors. Sub sectors with an important artifact or plot element could be generated with a certain configuration (like all yellow stars, a cross, triangle, circle).
Each important artifact could generate a bunch of clue messages which could be scattered about. More detailed clue messages are put closer to the emitter. Perhaps even on the same planet, so you can gradually get an increased detail level as you investigate.
Alien ruins, species and derelict ships could be given these clues. Perhaps there could also be indirect (pointing) clues, e.g. "This ruin/species knows a detailed clue about a thing".
The clue message could be given a flavor depending on the target artifact. Perhaps a certain species is always given clues about a thing. Some artifacts would need to have a certain flavor in the narration, like "secret weapon development". Some clues could be generated by less important things. A deadly group of amoebas on some planet could be generating warning clues, like a warning buoy put in orbit around the planet. An alien species could also generate clues, like a derelict ship with a warning message about a dangerous species in the x constellation.
I'm not sure if I want to generate the big plot (like Weird Worlds Return to Infinite Space or something like that), only sub plots and things which are at the disposal to the player.
Big plot could be to 'boldly go...' and also to locate and destroy the crystal planet.
There could be many ways to go about that however. Perhaps there are no black eggs and some other solution has to be found. Smaller quests could also have alternatives. Perhaps you can befriend the Veloxi not by finding the focusing stone or whatever, but by hunting down escaped female Veloxi or something.
So each quest could have 3 variants (the quests can't be connected and would have to be in the spirit of the universe). 3 ways to destroy the crystal planet depending on what's available. 3 ways to make a species like you. 3 different types of major upgrades to your ship. This means that the player will always have to research what to do, and not just run around looking for the same things but at different locations.
So, using my clue message system, if the Veloxi have some escaped females, they'd generate clues and send out. Clues could be artifacts, derelict ships, ruins with messages inside, messages given to other species, like the Thrynn mentioning the females if you ask them about 'other species'.
Then there could be minor artifacts which are nice but not necessary, and sometimes appear and sometimes don't.
I'm thinking about using my Black Leghk concepts for my story though, and not the Crystal planet.
I might explore a route where all three solutions are in the game, but each time they have different rarity... with that I mean that perhaps the random placement of stuff effects what is practical to do. Of course, the options may have slightly different consequences.
I was thinking that as time goes by the StarBase/Interstel automatically invents stuff, like allowing level 6 shields. Some artifacts of scientific value speeds 'leveling' up a bit, while others simply enable a new tech right away. I want the player to feel like there's other Interstel ships out there bringing home stuff, and that there's people on the planet busy doing stuff too.
Some of the main artifacts, based on some possibly-probably not canon grayscale pixel art printout image. There needs to be some kind of transition from ancient relic to functional item, so perhaps most artifacts are a lump of dirt until they are brought back to starbase and cleaned up / reverse engineered for use on several ships.
I liked the GUI style Stainless' used for his remake. It's uses a nice clean 'Okudagram' style, although I prefer black text on pale grey bg, at least when I'm coding or reading lots of text. I ended up using the Amiga Starflight GUI colors and threw in a yellow because it's complimentary. I'm also eager to try something with multiple view ports and windows, like a 3D app. It's probably harder to make the rounded corners work with that though.
I'm doing the Starbase GUI first as it's one of the most fun parts of the game... coming up with the crew and 'pimping your ride'.
I started on a Immediate Mode GUI in BlitzMax (based on a SDL tutorial). I think this IMGUI technique suits my coding style a bit better. It behaves like a GUI should, and was pretty painless to write. There's the usual hover over effects, and you must be on the button both when you click and let go. Doing radio buttons and check boxes is probably not too difficult. My sliders had to be tweaked a bit so they would snap properly to the resolution of their pixel length / value range.
The biggest problem was that I couldn't figure out how to pass the address of a variable into the widget. In Immediate Mode the widgets are not retained (remembered) so most will refer to your game data directly to set themselves up every frame. It gets complicated later when you're dealing with objects which may be null when a widget tries to refer to the data at that address. BlitzMax has pointers and stuff, but I couldn't get it to work so I just use a few program global Register variables until I sort it out :/ I'm probably better off using arrays than linked lists for the various game characters/planets if I'm gonna be passing things to the GUI effectively.
Textboxes... I'm not sure if I should bother with marking, copy pasting, etc. if they're just for names and stuff. Of course on this screenshot I'm referring to the same register variable (string) because I have no real game data. There's a blinking cursor.
I have a routine for word wrapping already. The question now is whether I should use strings or byte banks for the strings (different things in BlitzMax). I could also pre-generate the line breaks. For the Messages/Notices I'm thinking about embedding codes for pictures into the text.
I have a table of 5*20 portraits now, but I need to do more (6*4 for each species). Probably more for the humans because we're more sensitive to the subtlety of human faces. Alien faces are harder for us humans to tell apart.
The Thrynn's predator/'Raptor' look contrasts the smile. I think that's how they act ingame, always pleasant, but you know they probably are not. The Androids have mandibles because they were meant to be able to mimic the faces of Velox/Elowan, and not just human. I imagine that the Velox 'smiles' with the mandibles, etc. I'm not sure about cheesy Star Trek references for the humans, it takes away from the solidity of the universe.
There's also the other species which you can get as crew. I'm thinking of doing portraits for them too. I'm not sure about captains for alien ships, I might do a larger comm pic for those.
Starflight used short strings to make up the names. I'm combining those with my own generator which just mixes letters. For the humans I've made a table with 250 of the worlds most popular surnames, but I've left the forename generated. It needs to be genderless. I might split the portraits up into male and female later though, and use a table of common gender specific names.
The Crew data structure (class) is in place. Each Crew member is a Species, so I don't store any redundant stuff.
The CrewCard only lists a few relevant stats, but there's more underneath. This is a page with condensed info. I wanted to have more crew on the ship, so right now it works like this.
There are the usual bridge positions, but if someone dies a subordinate takes the place. Also, there's bonuses for having a great captain and subordinates (which are healthy and not dizzy) (The " - " is no status effect). For example, The Chief Engineer gets a bonus from the Captain's and Second's avg values and also from their subordinates' Engineering skills.
The idea with the Gray Shirts is that they are low ranking cadets which always die first when on a mission, so they are a meat shield of sorts. A nod to the Red Shirts of Star Trek of course.
I was thinking about changing my design so I have a list of applicants of varying skill levels rather than letting the player design them like I do now. I think that would feel more immersive. X-Com works like that.
I was thinking of increasing the chance of a veteran appearing as the time increases. At the beginning there aren't a lot of veterans because Interstel are new. Then veterans start posting on the notice board, and appear in the applicants list.
I won't make the cadets free because I might use random stats. The player shouldn't be able to re-hire a crew. Also, the stats won't show up until after purchase, so you'll but the pig in the sack. Each applicant may have a little generated background story to spice things up.
Also, some random artifacts or events can boost characters beyond their max limits. Occasionally, robots can exceed the sum of their hardware/software, like Data from Star Trek.
Byline: Arne Niklas Jansson, 2009-2020. Starflight 1 was developed by Binary Systems and published by EA, 1986. Starflight 2 came out in 1989. Above is just fan-art and ideas. No infringement intended.