Battlestar Geriatrica: Homeworld Is 10

By Alec Meer on October 2nd, 2009 at 3:22 pm.

Well, 10-and-a-bit. We’re a couple of days late with this, but that’s only so we can look fashionably nonchalant. Landmark strategy game is a decade old, you say? Yeah, whatever. We’re too busy listening to Dizzee Rascal records and calling LaRoux the new Dido.

No, of course we’re just tardy – Homeworld is a game to be celebrated if ever there was one. Ten bloody years! Yet it still seems so fresh and modern in many ways. And, thanks to its creators, it looks as though it’s not going away just yet. (That isn’t a tease for Homeworld 3, I’m afraid – but the news is still good, honest guv).

Though developers Relic are now owned by THQ and spend their days alternately making Dawn of War and Company of Heroes games, they’ve spared a little retrospective love for the space-RTS that made them.

In two ways- number one, to rereleased the generous HW: Raider Retreat demo, which contained five singleplayer missions (one of whic wasn’t in the full game) and a whacking great slice of skirmish and multiplayer action.

Number two, to find a way around the now-expired WON.net multiplayer stuff. They’ve done so with the help of the venerable virtual LAN/multiplayer social networking service GameRanger – which now supports Raider Retreat as well as the full game. There’s a short guide to setting it up here, and a ‘quick-start kit’ here.

Which, in short, means you can get a shedload of multiplayer Homeworldery for free, or alternatively relive the glory days of HW all over again.

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75 Comments »

  1. Heliocentric says:

    Was already on to this but its great news. I had a dream last night where i was playing homeworld on my ds, thats important news. If Homeworld DS is announced in the next few days my subconscious gets to sue.

  2. phil says:

    A game that taught us there is nothing more important to an intergalatical fleet of flaming plasma death than the humble salvage frigate.

    • klumhru says:

      Haha, so true

      This was fixed in patches though, and most mods make the AI slaughter any salvage fig they come into range with, first priority. The days where 5 s-figs would cap a cruiser if it wasn’t defended by a player are sadly over :)

    • klumhru says:

      Incidentally, HB HW!

      Best (only?) true 3d rts of all time.

    • jRides says:

      The first time i did the campaign all I built were fighters and salvage corvs, absolutely everything else was captured – by the end I had a crazy amount of shipping. :D

  3. TeeJay says:

    Sorry to be off-topic, but is the forum working for any/everyone else? I just get a black screen below the RPS masthead. :(

  4. ChaosSmurf says:

    Good old Homeworld. I always preferred the sequel but it’s an awesome pair of games. Got a friend who was well into it back in the day.

    Wasn’t there teasing on Homeworld 3 a couple of years ago? Relic reacquired the franchise or something?

    RE: RPS forum – yeah it’s busted, they’re working on it. Alec commented in one of the other threads.

  5. Lord_Mordja says:

    This game single-handedly killed off any interest in Starcraft I ever had.

    Possibly a bad thing.

  6. Caveat53 says:

    I still fire this game up every once in a while. Few games are truly ground breaking. HW certainly was.

  7. nine says:

    I miss this game so much

  8. CMaster says:

    Homeworld ranks up there with Deus Ex as “games that make everything else in the genre a dissapointment”. Honestly, in the 10 years since HW, it feels like only in the last one or two years has anyone else done anything to really change the RTS format around at all. It’s the game that stopped me playing any more RTSes for years – they just couldn’t hold a candle. Only recentley with WiC (really an RTT game) and Supreme Commander (old fashioned but fun) have I given them any time at all. And they’re still not as good as HW.

  9. Walsh says:

    Agreed and speaking of lasers pew pew in space, Independence War needs to be remade. So annoyed that every spaceship captain game is a dumb grindy MMO or an ugly bug ridden mess.

    Oh how I miss it and homeworld :(

  10. Quercus says:

    I really enjoyed homeworld when it first appeared and love the beam weapons.
    Incidentally, anyone who says it has never been matched should try Sins of a Solar Empire.

    • Walsh says:

      Sins is nice but doesn’t quite capture the same feel as Homeworld. The feeling that space is big and empty with brief and brutal combat. I’d argue Sins’s combat is more strategic than tactical vs homeworld where individual unit position matters.

    • Walsh says:

      I’d argue Nexus: Jupiter Incident came close to Homeworld but wasn’t quite all the way there.

    • klumhru says:

      I can’t easily see a context where SoTS can be compared with HW.

      One is primarily a strategic construction game with limited combat mechanics while the other is a deep tactical 3d rts with resource management. In addition the 3rd dimension in SoTS has limited functionality while it is fully realized in HW.

      I’m not bashing SoTS to be sure as it is an excellent game, but I don’t see a real correlation of design focus between the two.

    • Noc says:

      I dunno, I felt like SoTS was a fairly comparable experience. It dropped the third dimension, but that wasn’t all that integral to the experience anyways; it was neat, but most maps didn’t really use it.

      The real change, I think, was shifting from an on-field base-building structure to a turn-based strategic map one, which I really kind of liked. The main thing it was missing, I think, is Homeworld’s oodles and oodles of atmosphere; most of the artwork was fairly goofy, and it didn’t quite manage to convey the fantastic sense of awesomeness and scale that Homeworld did.

      (Also, it was missing the capability to run cleanly on my laptop and not grind to a screeching halt when battles started to get big. Ah, well.)

    • Hypocee says:

      SotS or SoaSE? Not that it matters much, because the same comparisons apply about equally to both, but it is funny that people still mix them up so much.

  11. diebroken says:

    Fantastic game, great use of music and those cutscenes are wonderfully crafted – it will always remain a classic. :)

  12. DMJ says:

    One of gaming’s (and my own life’s) landmarks.

  13. Casimir's Blake says:

    A fabulous game, and with a song by Yes! (Admittedly, not their best, but hey lets be honest they lost it with Union…)

    But each mission can take an age to play, hours and hours. The visuals are still delicious and inspiring, as is the soundtrack, but even though I still have a copy… I respect it more than I enjoy it. A shame, I have too many other more important things to do than devote so much time to a game. :(

    (Really, it felt like it would take a week to complete a mission sometimes)

    • Erlend M says:

      Let’s be honest, they really lost it with Tormato.

      But Homeworld is a really cool song, and actually the first Yes song I ever heard (from the Homeworld sound track, natch). It started me on the path to becoming the Yes fan that I am today.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Hell no, 90125 and Big Generator are great… pop rock. Nothing like their 70s output hence they get called YesWest. They definitely lost it after that though!

  14. jsutcliffe says:

    In a flash of nostalgia, I want to find Cataclysm since I never played that one. Anyone know of any digital distributojobbies that carry it?

  15. Alexander Norris says:

    This game screwed with my mind in ways that nothing else ever has (Sins of a Solar Empire came close, but is only 2D).

    Apparently, my brain really dislikes the sight of the infinite vastness of space, and I actually suffered a couple of panic attacks when I first played Homeworld.

  16. Gabanski83 says:

    Really wish they’d either announce HW3, or to raise some interest do another game like Cataclysm; based in the HW universe, but exploring one of the other Kiith.

  17. Jad says:

    Whenever Homeworld comes up, I always need to give a shout-out to the beautiful, well-written manual. I started gaming somewhat past the golden age of massive manuals and cloth maps and other “feelies”, so I don’t really lament our current era of digital downloads and extensive in-game tutorials, but I do miss Homeworld’s manual. It just had so much ancillary detail — detail that really wasn’t important to the game itself, but just improved and increased the atmosphere enormously. I believe the manual’s author’s name was Montgomery Crabapple, which I remember 10 years later (how many game manual authors do you remember?)

  18. CPY says:

    I want homeworld 3 back or new hegemonia :D
    That was epic game with very nicely cutscene video to game action, very cinematic battles! (Yeah sound in space but fun!)

  19. Scroll says:

    I do believe that Relic hinted that one of there teams was up to something and they reclaimed the rights a while back.

  20. Dante says:

    I always wanted to love Homeworld but gosh darned it, I was never good enough for it, it just whooped my ass time and time again. Maybe I should go back to it, now that I’m a more experienced gamer, and I’d still love them to have another crack at it, applying all the lessons they’ve learned on DoW and CoH (the latter of which is probably the best strategy game I’ve ever played)

  21. Tei says:

    Homeworld is a super-mega-classic, the tutorial made me cry.

  22. Shalrath says:

    I JUST beat the game again last week (to celebrate the 10 year, actually.)

    I have a signed copy, and every now and then I bring it out and give it another run. I’ve, in the … seven moves since I bought the game, lost the manual,the 2nd manual that was just backstory, and the soundtrack. Still have the box + CD though.

    God, even now that game is gorgeous. And the music – I can’t think of a game since that has come close to the sound of Homeworld. The chatter of ships (‘I almost feel bad about this.’) the haunting score, the massive coloured gas clouds in the background…

  23. Serenegoose says:

    Homeworld, and its sequels, are some of the most artistic games of our time. They're beautiful, even now, in every way. The soundtrack, the art, the way it comes together. It was ambitious. I mean cataclysm combined the genres of RTS and horror and actually made it work. I only wish that Homeworld was noticed by more, that it had become the bedrock for the RTS genre in the future.

    And the manual was awesome. More manuals like that please.

  24. frymaster says:

    ” I always need to give a shout-out to the beautiful, well-written manual”

    hell yes

    I read that on the bus home from buying the game, the backstory was brilliantly done. it made the arrival of the enemy fleet genuinely horrifying. The most intense emotional reaction I’ve had in a game was when the narrator said “(the enemy) did not survive interrogation” in the cutscene following that mission. I had the most viscious feeling of absolute pleasure, followed swiftly by shame

    they don’t make storytelling like that any more. beautiful manual, beautiful cutscenes, fabulous scenery, music, plotting…

  25. Max says:

    Homeworld is the only game to have evoked a strong emotional response from me (even including HL2:Ep2).

    The game was practically dripping with atmosphere and the sense of empathy I felt for the protagonists was immense. It felt so incredibly satisfying to stick it to those Homeworld-stealing bastards.

    (*sigh* Still haven’t beaten though. I’m not that great at strategy games…)

  26. malkav11 says:

    I really, really wanted to get into Homeworld, but I’m incredibly bad at it, and there’re no cheats or lowered difficulty settings to mitigate that. When you combine that with the persistent fleet and resources, I dig myself into an inescapable hole in short order.

    • Tei says:

      I, random dude on the internet, I give you permissions to download a trainer and use x10 the original resources on every mission (but never cheat more than x10), now, go back, and download a trainer :-)

    • jsutcliffe says:

      I seem to recall that my basic strategy, used wherever I could, was to make salvage corvettes and steal their ships. I believe you can get a much larger fleet than the build limit allows that way — the (penultimate?) mission with bajillions of ion frigates guarding a station in a sphere was just like an extended ion frigate shopping spree for me.

      It worked well.

  27. Hypocee says:

    I only got angry at Homeworld once, I think on the penultimate mission. IIRC the Taiidan come at the Mothership with a Heavy Cruiser and change, and you have to carry enough force through for a second big battle. I was failing over and over again, being a clever lad with four Destroyers micro move-shooting it from below: more gunpower per credit, faster to get out there, flank and rear hit bonuses…but I always scraped through that battle then lost the war. My little brother, who was watching but not generally into the game, says ‘why don’t you just build one of those to fight it?’ ‘Well, for reasons X Y and Z; this method hits harder for less money and build time.’ ‘You’re obviously wrong, since it kills your tactic.’ ‘It doesn’t! I win by one-and-a-half to two Destroyers, you saw that!’ ‘Come on.’ ‘Fine.’

    And so I went in with a Heavy, some Assault Frigates, maybe a Destroyer by recycling some stuff…and won the mission on that first attempt, right in front of my smug brother. Why you gotta do me like that, Homeworld?! I can only assume in retrospect that the fault in my reasoning stemmed from either the Destroyers being bad at the rest of the mission in some way I couldn’t perceive, or the economic value of preserving all the firepower in one damaged hull.

    HW did indeed have an excellent, atmospheric manual. I remember reading it twice on the way home, breathless with anticipation – a gut feeling that’s only ever happened three times, and never yet been wrong. The only parts that bugged me were the ‘debate’ between brown-shoe and black-shoe admirals, which just felt cheesy to me (‘You’d need the reflexes of a whipcrawler to pull that off!’ ‘Well, if you’re not up to it…’), and the implication that fighters and bombers could so much as scratch the paint on a cap ship, which led me astray for several missions until the game taught me what was actually going on.

  28. PHeMoX says:

    It’s a shame they haven’t started with Homeworld 3 yet. This game needs moooooooore. Well, of everything basically.

    These days it’s graphics don’t look too good anymore and it’s AI is a bit outdated as well.

    However, it’s still the number one space strategy game of all times for me, especially Homeworld Cataclysm.

  29. Heliocentric says:

    I wanted a carrier campaign for homeworld 2, not being able to move about your base seems a silly option for a space game, you couldn’t move the mothership right? Even homeworld 2′s scripting assumed you near never moved your mothership. When you drove it about like it was a meat shield for your units with less than a billion hit points all those “ambushes” sorta failed.

  30. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I never bought it, but I still long for it sometimes. One reason is that it’s not available on the mac (and HW 2 never attracted me as much, for some reason). Another is that I was frightfully aware (and in awe) of the complexity of 3D RTS gaming it represented. Not being a master of 2D RTS games, that seemed like a bridge too far.

    Still, I feel like I should have it.

  31. Heliocentric says:

    I’d like to share a tip for all the people playing the demo. In mission 2 when you send the salvage corvette to the old burnt out ship put 5 or so scouts guarding the corvette in sphere formation.

    The fly in one direction and shoot in the other, its bloody lethal against the pursuers.

  32. Abigbat says:

    For the record, I recently did a painting as a Homeworld tribute: http://mrcanavan.deviantart.com/art/Raiders-137673789

  33. gulag says:

    +1 to Jad above.

    The HW1 manual was an amazing piece of writing. There is a great deal of emotion in the game itself, detailing the struggles of a race of exiles fighting to regain their home, but the sheer depth and imagination of the history of the game puts a lot of other ‘story heavy’ games to shame. And none of it makes the slightest difference to how the game plays, but enriches the experience so much.

    I once wrote a Larp based around the backstory of Homeworld. It’s that good.

    • Dominic White says:

      The manual fluff writer on Homeworld is one Arrin Dembo. She also did backstory writing for a ton of other games, including Arcanum, Ground Control and Sword of The Stars. Always good stuff.

    • Hypocee says:

      I did not know that she’d written the Homeworld fluff – that explains so much! Most specifically, why Sword of the Stars should ‘coincidentally’ be the other strategy game whose background I absolutely swallow hook, line and sinker. Thanks, now I double have to check out her books. It was impressive enough when I knew she could channel Niven with her own twists; Niven and Herbert? Wow.

    • Hypocee says:

      FYI, Internet, Arinn Dembo doesn’t have much published in books – at least *ahem* not in terms of sci-fi. It looks like she’s focused on videogame criticism, journalism and development from the beginning, which is both crushingly disappointing and rather neat.

      Also, I didn’t know who’d written the manual because I naively assumed it was the result of some committee of the designers who were Just That Awesome, but even if I’d memorised the credits I still wouldn’t have connected her because she wrote it under a male pen name. Quick, someone write something about the endemic sexism in videogame development! (Although I have no idea whether that was a factor)

  34. DK says:

    Kharak…is burning

    Incidentally, there’s a graphical overhaul mod for HW1 that doesn’t change gameplay or the original art in the slightest – it simply removes the LODing (which isn’t necessary anymore thanks to modern computers) to preserve max detail at all zoom levels.

    • Hypocee says:

      The only one I can find is long-dead in an MP-only state…? (and changes gameplay, albeit ‘in the slightest’, by adding a few turrets to things like the Ion Frigate)

  35. El_MUERkO says:

    i've just pooped a little due to overhappiness
    now all the need to do is release the full game on Steam!

    Today, a young man on acid realised that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration and that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively.

  36. bill says:

    Played this for the first time last year. it still looked at played great.
    If they simply remade the original with bump-maps and infinite zoom, it’d still hold up as an awesome game.

    Waiting around at the end of the level for 10 minutes for the harvesters to finish got old though. ;-)

  37. Heliocentric says:

    Hell, cataclysm fixed waiting around at the end with its both its fast forward and when you jumped away the game hoovered all the res on the missions where you had no enemies.

    Homeworld 2 was worst, when you completed the objectives the game forced you to leave, not that it mattered. The enemy scaled up to you so you were always meant to be on the back foot. Wasn't true if you just had swarms of torpedo frigates, they could handle anything.

  38. ShardPhoenix says:

    Homeworld was very atmospheric but I thought the gameplay was only so-so – the every-direction 3D on a 2D screen made it too hard/slow to precisely control the movement of the ships in the way I wanted too, and it could be hard to visually keep track of what was going on during the bigger battles too.

  39. ShardPhoenix says:

    Plus, I think that 3D open-space combat is just fundamentally less interesting than 2D combat because movement, flanking, etc, become much less important – it’s much harder to surround somebody in 3D than in 2D, there are fewer natural barriers and chokepoints in space, etc.

  40. We Fly Spitfires says:

    HW3 would be sweet, so so sweet.

  41. DK says:

    It’s actually more important to flank in 3D – you have more directions to flank in, and subsequently more directions to defend if you are on the backfoot.
    Add the whole jumping aspect and side/rear armor modifiers and you got ambushes, stealth attacks, etc.

  42. ShardPhoenix says:

    @DK: flanking is much less important in 3D because it’s much harder to trap someone (or to attack slow-turning forces from a vulnerable angle, which isn’t really relevant in Homeworld), which is the whole point of flanking. If you can trap them they can just retreat and then they’re not flanked anymore.

    • Hypocee says:

      …or to attack slow-turning forces from a vulnerable angle, which isn’t really relevant in Homeworld

      Not true. Aside from getting up to 1.5x damage for shooting from astern, turret coverage is a huge factor – ion cannons alone: Destroyers turn fast but their beams are only mildly turreted, any chance you get not to soak those ion turrets on the HC is a chance you grab with both hands, and ion frigate squads are beamy death in front but pathetic sitting ducks from any other angle. Add in the fact that many ships are designed, and all ships behave, as if there were gravity (i.e. stupidly), and you get ships like the Destroyer (maybe only the Kushan?) which can do absolutely nothing for a long time to anything striking from below. Now add to those shipwise factors the fact that forces tend to have a certain organisation in space – trivially, valuable squishies like the Salvage Corvette corps go in back – and you wind up with a game where macro and micro flanking are more important than in any 2D RTS short of Sid Meier’s ACW games.

  43. ShardPhoenix says:

    The last sentence should say “if you *can’t* trap them” etc.

  44. Nikos says:

    Nah, not the x-plane, that would be /so/ linear :P

  45. kupocake says:

    People are saying ‘Homeworld 3′, but I think storywise at least, Catacylsm and Homeworld 2 showed us that giving us compelling stories post planetfall was difficult and never as satisfying as the simplicity in the original.

    Given how long the franchise has been dormant, I’d prefer to see a remake of the original, taking cues from the gameplay of the proper sequel and the more interesting stuff dropped from both titles: especially the third ‘pirate’ race, the T-Mat, who were just roughed you up for no reason and the ‘Megaliths’ that Homeworld 2 was supposed to have, essentially giant space wreckage that could be used as bases. If it worked out, they could officially reboot the series, ignoring the rubbish, somewhat dead-end storyline of the second game, and no-one would really miss it.

  46. Billzor says:

    What I remember about HW were the cut scenes. I could be wrong, but the moving still pictures for its time were different from what I remember other games doing. The art of those pictures was just so distilled-HW that, even though they were black and white, really brought the previous and following game scenarios together. Perhaps it was because they were black and white that they were so striking.

  47. Sunjammer says:

    To me the best Homeworld game to date was Cataclysm. The first game was too clunky to play, the second was gorgeous but had an almost unbearably boring campaign. Cataclysm struck exactly the right balance for me.

    10 years, that’s wild. Christ i’m old.

  48. luminosity says:

    Nothing comes close to the pure atmosphere of Homeworld for me — the music, the background to your missions, the amazing settings/missions themselves. I still feel a sense of awe remembering the nebula farmed by your long lost brethren, the nova research station, the amazing capital ship graveyard, where if you don’t pay close attention you find half your fleet suddenly missing, or the crushing feeling of watching 1/6th of the remaining population of your destroyed planet go up in flames.

    More games like this, please.

  49. Kong says:

    Watching my fleet manouvering while the rest of the resources were being gathered filled hours. It was great.
    A shame they removed the fuel feature for figther craft. “We are running on vapor”. Sigh. They do not make games like they used to.

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