Open letter to developers from Russian Fan-Community
This message was originally posted in November 2019 as series of comments (due to size limitation) on the Homeworld 3 annoncement page on Fig.co, but for historical reasons it’s also preserved here.
CIS-community fansite admin and Splendor Mod (my little tribute for FIRST Homeworld) creator here.
First – my congratulations to developers! I can imagine, what you are feeling when, after all these years, you – at last – can create the game of your dream, and fans around the world are waiting impatiently for the result of your creative efforts. I’m glad to wish you a wide-winged inspiration and a depthless sea of enthusiasm, and let your creations delight more and more fans for many years. And last (but not least) – let the development of new games will be generously funded, so you don’t have to be distracted by sad thoughts about how to provide for your families.
And for us this is also a very joyful event! New sequel, new perspectives and possibilities, further development of the beloved space opera – sometimes I don’t even believe that we’ve reached this moment. It’s great to hear about the “return to the roots” – because first Homeworld established glorious traditions that are worthy of exemplary and further development. And if don’t take it seriously about some naivety points of the plot (the chances of returning after such defeat and exile are very slim) due to limited resources and a truly incredible challenges for the then-young development team (as it seems to me), in ideological and storytelling terms the game was incredible and very successful. “Journey from, working hard, _being good_, and fight like hell for you own”, Alex Garden said, and in the game it’s felt so much and very inspiring. We don’t want to take away something from someone else, but we’re ready to fight for our own and will do this – and no matter what happens. And like Vergilius said, “audentes fortuna juvat” – if you are hardworking, purposeful and insistent, you can’t be broken in any way, you can overcome any obstacles, get out of the most hopeless situation and still achieve your goal. THERE IS NO OTHER FATE BUT WHICH WE FORGE BY OURSELVES, and an approach of this kind can only be ardently supported.
Also the plot skillfully interwoven with the idea of unity for the sake of a common goal, and even more so – for the sake of their ancient Homeland, when the tribes, that were at war due to the poverty of the sand planet, were able to get rid of past feuds and began to pave the way to the stars with joint forces. With current disagreements on the Earthglobe, such union will be a good example for many years – and one of the main tasks of art is to show ideals and guidelines that we would like to strive for.
The scientific and technical aspects of the game are very well developed, which allows to rank it in the genre of quality science fiction. Electromagnetic mass drivers (railguns), electromagnetic particle accelerators (ion cannons), plasma blob launchers, fusion powerplants, plasma engines, phased disassembler array on resource collectors, durable armor, based on crystal polymer composite, interwoven with advanced ceramics and covered with an ablative layer, powerful electromagnetic emitters, that are capable of deflecting projectiles by a precise narrow pulse, suspension of vital activity of colonists by using cryotechnologies... No sorcery and magic, just the pure knowledge of physical principles and the ability to apply this knowledge. The hyperdrive/warp-drive, however, looks a bit fantastic, but in 1994, the Mexican theoretical physicist Miguel Alcubierre made an interesting attempt to theorize the principles of its work. Besides, what kind of space opera can do without faster-than-light travels?
It’s also worth mentioning separately the question of origin, raised by the game, which draws attention to various archeological finds and all kinds of oddities that aren’t fit into the official history, and, accordingly, gives the scope for dreams and fantasies.
All sorts of little things also add a lot of charm to the game – the mysterious “Flying Dutchman” in a bizarre web of asteroids and dust, a surprisingly authentic change of scenery as we move to the Galactic Core, ionization of dust clouds by a stream of charged particles, ablative clouds of vapor when ships get a hit, plasma leaks from damaged engines, beautiful and impressive Immelmann turns, barrel rolls and other strike craft maneuvers, and even wedging the mount points of garden fuelpods in case of serious damage...
Yes, HW1 developers didn’t have time to implement all their ideas, but even what they did is causing genuine admiration. And for me, the only thing that the game really lacks is T-mat (p3) at Tenhauser Gate and 17-18 missions with their participation. Also, it would be nice when, after defeating the Honorguard of Khar-Toba ship in the Garden, the whole Nebula Fleet comes in to the light, and under the ion blades of multi-beam frigates, they interrogate, “where are you, so brave, came from, where are you so insistently going to, and why our hyperdrives have similar power signatures”... and in the end, events can turn out so that the Protectors of the Garden will also take part in the final battle for the Home world... Aagh, sweet dreams
Nevertheless, thanks to all of the above ideas, that also carefully wrapped into truly masterpiece audio-visual design, the first Homeworld really brings good and bright to our world, instilling nobility, perseverance and adherence to principle, which both space sequels of the series are largely devoid of.
Therefore, the phrase about the “story that follows the story of Homeworld 2” causes some concern. Indeed, if we look back at the past and analyze both space sequels, then, in addition to unconditionally interesting ideas and achievements, we can come across several dubious moments.
If we talk about HW:Cataclysm aka HW:Emergence – we must admit that its campaign masterfully doses events, constantly keeping the player in tension and forcing him to look for a way out of more and more troubles. Also, this is a vivid example of how to successfully do this without a mothership and god-forged wonder-cores. Brave Kuun-Lan commander, in general, turned out to be a very bright and charismatic character and deserves special mention. The picture of the world after the War for Homeworld is also shown quite reliable and much more convincing than in HW2.
However, contrary to the overall unity in the previous game, the HWC plot is based on internal dissensions in the camp of Exiles, which are unthinkable because of their small number, resource-rich planet, and the remains of the “evil empire” battle fleet, which still can strike back. In addition, the northerners from the kiith Naabal, the people who once punished the mad priests and gave us the Age of Reason, are portrayed as power-hungry bad guys, and we play for the descendants of religious kiith, who are not very picky in methods of achieving their goals. Due to such events and the overall background, the desire of Somtaaw politicians to single-handedly manage alien technologies seems quite natural, but this doesn’t add positive charm to the game. About Kaaleli scum of torturers and interrogators, it’s at all disgusting to recall, and it’s a pity that this is presented as the norm.
As the new enemy, we got hastily cooked-up the charismatic nano-virus, which is spread by plasma beam (?), strengthens the armor of ships by the meat of crews (??), and moreover it has practically unlimited, if not extramundane possibilities (???), and competent management of these possibilities makes any victory over him technically impossible. The reason for its appearance is understandable – it was allowed to quickly create ships of the new enemy without much effort, just by slightly tinting existing ships with red outgrowths, but an approach of that kind is poorly consistent with ideas of the original HW. An ancient beacon, that was sending signals for many thousands years on the outskirts of the Hiigaran planetary system and has never been discovered during this time, is also shown in a very unrealistic way.
From a scientific and technical point of view, many things also gone wrong. Wonder energy cannons with homing ball projectiles, repainting “salvage web” with an incomprehensible operating principle, supersonic ramming frigates (how the frigate doesn’t crumple and its crew survives at that speed), holographic emitters that can fool radars, replacing durable ceramic armor with more weak metal armor, hardworking on resource processors (where did the phase disassemblers go?)... So, having a good technical groundwork from the predecessor, HWC was able to ruin it.
In general, although the game campaign is quite well-structured from logical point of view, it’s based on ideas that are opposite to original game. And as an overall result, instead of science fiction, we got a horror, flavored with unprincipled political games, IMHO, impossible for people who have reached the Age of Reason.
If we talk about Homeworld 2 (not the one that was developed in 2001, but that was released in 2003) – this game, although it has a much more advanced and powerful engine, amazing graphics quality even in modern times, well-recognized stylistics, well-thought-out balance and dynamic gameplay, it also has an amazingly holey plot, the main task of which, as it suddenly turns out, is to finish and release the project at all. It must be said that it solved this task, but like HWC it also caused serious damage to the traditions of original Homeworld.
I’ll try to list the dubious points, everyone can join the discussion, while the new game is in pre-production stage and it’s not too late.
1. PROPHECIES AND CHOSEN ONES
In HW1 we are just the rightful owners of the native constellations and are seeking way to reclaim them back, but in HW2 we are no less that Chosen Ones and Preventers of the galactic-scale End of Times, when for the sake of our success even Bentusi sacrifice themselves.
Also, a key idea of HW1 – that everything depends on us – replaced by the idea that everything depends on the circumstances: if we got wonder artifacts, then we are winners, and if not, we are losers.
The only purpose of this approach (IMHO) is to retouch the game plot flaws. And it’s a pity for such a serious sci-fi series of RTS to gain popularity by playing on strings of gamers’ conceit – this is totally wrong Adagio.
2. FALSE GUILT AND REASONS FOR EXILE
As we well remember from the HW1 description, “You were the benign lords of a peaceful society located in the center of a lush spiral galaxy. For as long as anyone could remember, no one challenged your peaceful existence. But then came the conquerors, invading with the sole purpose of overtaking your world.”
The HW2 Prelude to End Times explicitly shows that we ourselves are guilty for our exile – we kicked out Taiidan, attacked Bentusi and were defeated with far-reaching consequences. It’s very strange that the HW2 backstory, which would seem to be dedicated to the events between these two games, didn’t reveal these events at all, and instead distorted HW1 backstory by the worst way.
The Mothership is, in fact, a long-range expedition city-ship with colonists aboard. And when in the first game this is an integral part of the plot, in the sequel this ship isn’t needed – we aren’t sending any colonists anywhere. Our current goal is to repel the attack of new invaders, and a well-armed and armored flagship with proper escort is best suited for this. Moreover, it’s simply astounding that after so many efforts to build and protect this Mothership, it was simply thrown out as a boring toy at Galaxy Core with heartbreaking music accompaniment.
It’s clear that this ship became some kind of visiting card of the series (which even the protoss took into service ), but why is it being administered so unreasonably?
In first Homeworld we could not do without her – to manage giant Mothership we required a sophisticated control system with advanced intelligence to process huge flows of information and respond competently and in a timely manner to a changing situation. Development of sophisticated AI system for this purpose meant taking a risk (although for me as a programmer, notorious “SkyNet’s problem” seems very exaggerated ); the current methods of human interaction with the machine didn’t allow to solve this problem, and it took decades to create even an elementary neural interface. Therefore, the neuroscientist took a desperate step – the surgical connection of nerve endings to electronic control systems. Since such connection was supposed to be irreversible, she sacrificed her own destiny for the well-being of the whole people, and her shadowed silhouette in the control pod became another reminder about of what cost sometimes success is achieved.
In HW2 she was again stuck in an unnecessary Mothership, with twisted-pair cords in her forehead and even with her tits rolled out. It’s very sad to see that her self-sacrifice is exposed in such a dubious, if not mocking, manner.
By the way, many people paid attention to this nuance more than once, for example:
5. WONDER GOD-FORGED CORES
In the depths of the starship at the Khar-Toba ruins, in addition to other finds, we found a hyperspace drive, and after a series of experiments we were able to recreate the same drive, but with 12 times increased power, to send a huge city-ship into hyperspace. In addition, as we know, the hyperdrive of the Nebula Protectors also had a similar signature, and Fleet Intelligence paid special attention to this fact – apparently, the signatures of the Evil Empire and the Turanic Raiders were significantly different from ours. So, these are quite ordinary technical devices (in the Dustwars drafts they are called warp cores), that were aboard at least two prison ships (on the Kharak and in the Nebula), and it’s quite possible that the entire convoy passed from Hiigara to Kharak through hyperspace – otherwise how to pass 35000 of light years, settle on the Kharak, rise and return – and all this for 4000 years.
In HW2, this hyperdrive was turned into god-forged core with immense power, but incomprehensible and unrecreatable. And hiigarans (according to the prelude), despite already having experience of using this power on their “Sajuuk Wrath” flagship, didn’t come up with anything better than turning this core into a museum exhibit.
6. SCI-FI VS RELIGIO-FI
HW1 manual mentioned about Sajuuk – believable thing for ancient kharakians, that, accords to its believers, banish them out of paradise for some sins (details aren’t specified – repent and maybe you will be heard). In the Middle Ages, the greedy priests of this cult almost put the whole people on the edge of destruction, and only by a miracle (impersonated by kiith Naabal) this fate was avoided. Later we found out that actually we were banished by our hostiles, who are inclining to grab something that doesn’t belong to them.
HW2 not only unreasonably revived these local kharakian beliefs, but also expanded them to a galaxy-wide scale, and also lowered all Sajuuk’s believers to the level of silly cargo-cult/airplane worshipers, who are seeking to get an ancient battleship. And this battleship is placed in a massive black hole cluster, and only the one-way (!) gate lead to it. And this gate violently destroying by enemy forces, so Makaan can’t awoke this old ship as he have only one core (apparently, the Vaygr were so tired of this arriviste, so they decided to lock it out near to the subject of his desires ). And when we got a new core-holding ship, then took the old one, which is so difficulty built and so desperately guarded, and threw it away as unnecessary thing.
In general, this part of the plot turned out to be very weak and doesn’t withstand any criticism at all.
7. TAIIDAN, TURANIC RAIDERS AND OTHER FACTIONS
All Taiidani, who preferred a settled way of life, united with nomads, and it’s unclear where they came from in such numbers. Turanic Raiders and other pirate factions don’t shown at all. Even entire Bentusi race shown as single ship. It appears that we are exclusively fighting the eastern red plague. Another strum on the strings of player’s conceit.
8. SCIENTIFIC AND TECHNICAL VERACITY
Earlier, we talked about the deep scientific and technical design of the first game and complained that much less attention was paid to these things in HWC – but in HW2 these things didn’t receive attention at all. Weapons and armor turned into a trivial set of numerical modifiers. In the game manual there are no mentions about technologies. At all. Neither a word has been said about the achievements of scientific and technological progress over the past hundred years.
What did we get as a result? As a result, instead of science fiction (again), we got a jeasly religious fable about the End of Times and its prevention, which is very poorly designed and feels thoroughly fake. Of course, a logical question arises – is there any point in continuing this nonsense in the new game? HW:Empire drafts mention the past war with the Vaygr – the events of HW2 can be written in its place, and the new plot can be started from scratch – with using good ideas from old drafts. And although not all drafts became available to us, even what we saw thanks to the goodwill of BBI founder (I talk about Dustwars storyline which is revealed in 2004) is enough to understand how much more interesting and deeper Homeworld2 could have be.
Therefore, I think the following things will not benefit the so long-awaited sequel:
- Mothership and Karan – please, give them a rest! Karan can be left as an electronic echo (it’s still present in the HW2 99’draft), but no more that. And, of course, without tits! I have nothing against women’s beauty, but this is a very intimate thing, and it’s not necessary to flaunt it.
- Religious whirls and ancient prophecies like “my fate is sealed”.
- Incomprehensible and unrecreatable God-forged cores and any other wonderful artifacts of such kind.
- Apocalyptic Beast is also alien to the series.
- Dirty political squabbles in our ranks, taking into account the fact that the best of the best were prepared for the expedition to Hiigara – essentially the elite of the kharakian people in the best meanings of this word. It makes no sense for them to quarrel on a rich planet — there will be enough resources for everyone, and each person is worth its weight in gold.
In general, turning over old comments, it’s nice to see that many people have similar opinions with a greater or lesser extent.
I think that the following points can breathe life into the series and return it to the hometown of the science fiction genre:
Well-developed plot, full of trials, high aspirations and unexpected events. Without prophecies and chosen ones, without dirty political intrigues like Game of Thrones and other filth. In previous comments Peter Watts was already mentioned – I think his participation will only benefit, since even the drafts of the HW2:Empire storyline easily surpass the story of search for the ancient battleship.
In addition, the universe is large and lives its own life, and it would be interesting to meet with its inhabitants – both old (Taiidan, Turanic Raiders, Protectors of the Nebula) and new (Naltorians, Tobari, Tiamat etc).
Carefully preservation of visual stylistics – monolithic, utilitarian design of ships without unnecessary bulges, ledges and other details “just to be” like in a remaster – despite the large amount of work, its ships feel plastic and toy-like.
Also, HW1 creators wanted to implement the possibility of ship upgrades, affecting their appearance (like creatures in the Heroes of Might and Magic III videogame, for example), but didn’t have time to do this – I hope such ability will embellish the new game.
Technologically cogent and well-thought-out description of weapons, armoring, subsystems – in the best traditions of sci-fi. I would also like to separately mention phased disassembler on resource collectors – it would be nice to return it, otherwise picking asteroids with manipulators after such advancements is stone age.
Also, the sequels are lacked limit of fuel and ammunition for strike craft, as in the first game.
Music – rich synth parts in the best traditions of Vangelis/Kitaro/etc are much more suitable for the series than the mournful desert tunes, which sometimes resemble an oriental bazaar.
In general, the opinion that the soundtrack of the first Homeworld is the most outstanding is quite popular, for example:
About voice acting – it seems that Dave Sobolov (Pilot 1 Voice, Garden Ambassador and Cpt Elson voice) took part in the scoring of the trailer – it would be just great if he also takes part in the creation of the new game.
Flexible and customizable game engine in best traditions of Data-driven development, which allows deep modification of the game and opens up huge scope for creativity.
And of course, we are waiting for the traditional elements of the series – charming star landscapes which are corresponding to our location, a map of the galaxy, epic space battles, ship salvaging, well-designed levels and interesting missions... And then the new sequel will be able to rightfully take the throne and give the twenty-year-old game a well-deserved rest.
I’d like to believe that it will be so