The Stars My Destination: GOG Recruits Startopia

By Alec Meer on September 4th, 2012 at 6:00 pm.

Startopia is officially endorsed by NASA's Curiosity rover, I've decided to claim

Startopia is the best management game you’ve never played. No, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to that other person, the one who didn’t play it. And especially to that other guy who never even heard of it. One of just three games created by taken-before-their-time Bullfrog offshot and Urban Chaos dev Mucky Foot, it took the Dungeon Keeper/Theme Park model to the stars, with greater complexity and nuance and grand galactic vistas to warm the cockles of one’s soul. Inevitably, it didn’t sell well. With slightly eerie timing, given we were only yesterday cooing at the inadvertently similar-in-concept Maia, this oft-forgotten space station sim has just been granted a new lease of life on GoG.

$5.99 is a more than reasonable price for the old dear, trust me. It might be old, but it’s still rewardingly pretty, wide-ranging and rammed with possibilities – such as terraforming and the way each of the NPCs has their identity of sorts. It was also very silly. It was the Stage Two of the management genre, but no other followed its cues.

Startopia is one of those What If games, forever standing at a crossroads of what might have been. In a universe just slightly to the side of our own, it was the success it deserved to be, it kept the management genre thriving and evolving, and that universe’s earthlings were spoilt for choice of detailed, procedural, whip-smart, unpredictable social simulations. Because the genre didn’t atrophy, Farmville never happened.

Look at where we are now.

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104 Comments »

  1. barelyhomosapien says:

    Yay I remember playing this happily once upon a time, fab little game

  2. Mr Monotone says:

    I was looking for my copy of this this morning. I was all sad when it was nowhere to be found. Problem solved.

  3. MiniMatt says:

    Despite seeing it referenced at least weekly in RPS articles or comments since 1873 I’ve never actually played it.

    And it looks right up my street too.

    I’d like to apologise to everyone, I’m very sorry, I shall scamper off to GOG and make amends immediately.

  4. Gnoupi says:

    Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

    • Gnoupi says:

      Joy aside, I’m wondering who is actually getting money from this, though… Unfortunately, probably Square Enix, and no one from the original devs.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        The most notable “recent” activity I can find for them is working on GTA 4.

      • MattM says:

        Well remember that at some point in the past the developers chose to sell their time for a paycheck and that the publisher chose to pay all their salaries in return for the rights to own and distribute this game. If the publisher later went bankrupt they sold the rights to pay back a bank or investor that had given them money.
        It wouldn’t be ok to take food from the grocery store just because no one there grew or made the food.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’d be a stronger argument if publishers weren’t constantly trying to be mistaken for Captain Planet villains, though.

          Hmm. Fair Trade games? :V

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Oh, money changed hands at some point? Then thank goodness, I’m freed of thinking about my involvement. I’m sure everything worked out to everyone’s equal and mutual benefit anyway, as it usually does when giant corporations are involved.

        • GuySimmons says:

          Actually we didn’t sell up, Mucky Foot went bust in the end :-) StarTopia, despite being a critical success, sold next to nothing & we never saw a single royalty from it.

          I think I can speak for the rest of the team here in saying that creating StarTopia was probably the most fun we ever had in the games industry. For what it’s worth there’s a pretty well formed sequel in my head, which I’d love to be able to work on…but given the original was a commercial flop I doubt I’ll ever get the chance to create it. I have to say though, I’ve been pretty inspired by one of my ex Mucky Foot partners, Mike Diskett, successfully kickstarting Satellite Reign, his spiritual successor to Syndicate…

      • DatDirtyDawG says:

        Looks great

  5. Xocrates says:

    If you’re reading this, you’re not buying it.

    No, I don’t care if you already bought it, go buy it some more.

  6. Grey Ganado says:

    I remember playing a demo of this game back when my family got their first PC.

  7. RaveTurned says:

    RPS articles have the best titles. This one’s Bester.

    Also: Startopia is awesome. That is all.

  8. Shivoa says:

    The bit of the EULA about In-Game Advertising (section 6): is this new to this versionl something I have completely failed to remember from the original; or just boilerplate that doesn’t apply to this game at all but is in the generic Square Enix Ltd EULA for digital purchases?

    Yay for getting this available for sale (11 years later) but boo for the EA-level anaemic selection of value-add on GOG, without even a rip of the in-game music files to go along with the required pdf of the manual.

  9. Toberoth says:

    Great game, this. I fondly remember it from when I was a sprog.

  10. Flint says:

    King of Dragon Pass has sneakily appeared in their catalogue as well.

  11. Tuggy Tug says:

    Urban Chaos was such an incredible game.

    I remember buying that and Deus Ex at the same time. Those games in their huge boxes for such a tiny CD case.

    Good old Woolworths…

  12. Jac says:

    Loved this game, although i seem to remember having a massive dislike of the bio deck.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      My only problem with the biodeck if I remember correctly was that I ended up with a tonne of low level resources when I was trying to grow rare stuff.

      • Gnoupi says:

        You don’t “try to grow rare stuff”. You let the Karmarama do the whole job! They’re specialists, they know better.

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          Explain! All I remember was trying to micromanage the climate of tiny areas to get different crops. Is there a better way?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Completely and utterly spoilerful, but that’s how you do it, yes.

            By which I mean the correct thing to do is make a whacking great mountain, stick the Endeavour statue on it, and try not to smile when your Groulien Salt Hogs clamber up there to re-enact it.

          • Gnoupi says:

            I meant mostly that myself, I wasn’t micro-managing, I just enjoyed seeing the biodeck nicely evolving without my intervention. Meteorites were the greatest factor of climate and geography change, in my stations :P

  13. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Instabuy. Been waiting for this to come out since GoG launched.

  14. Jorum says:

    Yay!. Still have the original disc for this, but IIRC last time I tried to install it was real pain to get working properly on modern PC.
    So will probably end up buying GOG version as well.

    • peschi says:

      was thinking of buying but then realised I bought it when it was just released. Installed from the cd-rom and it works fine on my win7 pc.

  15. LionsPhil says:

    Where are the red borders and JavaScript sparkles, RPS?

    Anyway, linking to the dev’s post-breakdown updated version with fancy graphics is required. Anyone tested it against GOG’s version yet? I still have my trusty DVD box.

    RTSC’s site is also an excellent resource for those returning to it who want to look up things and gory details. (For first-timers, you don’t need it, and it might just spoil stuff.)

  16. Didden says:

    Back when it was released, I wrote to Mucky Foot to tell them how good I thought the game was. At the time, Black and White was also being released, taking all the hype and sales. As such, Startopia was a lovely little game that was overlooked by the masses. Mucky Foot also kindly wrote back, being the good british lads they are.

  17. mcnostril says:

    Oh my.
    This is one of my favoritest games ever.
    I was always a bit annoyed that it was quite easy once you got the hang of it, but not too much, because a perfectly functioning station is quite a sight to behold.
    This is one of those games that desperately needed a sequel just so they could push its gameplay further (oh how I longed for a version of Startopia where you could assign any job to anyone and watch the ensuing hijinks). I fudged a lot with the ini files to try to make the game harder and make personalities more distinction between aliens and buildings, but half the time I’d end up breaking the game, although I did accomplish my goal of making the Rough Bar a truly fearsome establishment.

  18. Yosharian says:

    Yeah, great. Release this in September, just when all the other great games are starting to come out. Good one. I’ll have to see if I can find some space for this. (Get it? ‘Space’. )

    Is this actually as good as Dungeon Keeper? It looks a bit clunky from the screens.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      It’s not exactly a space-reskin of Dungeon Keeper, but it is equally good in the humor and gameplay.

      For example, the biodeck (the 3rd deck type, with entertainment, and station-guts being the other 2) features some quasi-Populous terraforming controls (height, water level, moisture, heat).

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s less combat-focused, but that’s good because the combat follows the management game tradition of being truly dire.

      Everything else is excellent. (And, to be honest, I found combat in DK2 to mostly be a clusterfondle.)

    • Yosharian says:

      Oh I loved everything about Dungeon Keeper, combat included. DK1 was an example of a ‘perfect’ game, for me.

      What I liked about DK2 was the improved multiplayer, but I never really got a chance to try it out.

  19. DrZhark says:

    The Stars my Destination (Tiger, Tiger!) by Alfred Bester is one of my favourite books, Startopia is one of my fav games. Nice to see both things on the same header Alec :)
    I wish there were more of those games, as Startopia and the Dungeon Keepers are some of the greatest games I’ve played.
    Why don’t they Kickstart Dungeon keeper 3 or Startopia 2? I bet it would be a success just based on our nostalgic memories. Who owns the Intellectual property rights for those games? If its not feasible, why don’t Mucky Foot makes some Spacetopia or whatever as the spiritual succesor? One can dream……

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      Came on here to post that! The Stars my Destination is probably my favourite book. Not the best, just the favourite, read it about once a year and love it every time. It would also make a super film if anyone fancied making a sci-fi film that isn’t a remake? Might regret saying that, mind.

      Startopia, I hate to admit, passed me by at the time. I was young and excitable, theme space park didn’t appeal. NIce to know I can correct that now.

  20. Joshua Northey says:

    I have never been able to get it to work on a modern PC. Will the GoG version work on something a year old running Win7?

  21. Hezzy88 says:

    But does Multiplayer work?

    • Joshua IX says:

      I second this. There used to be a crippling bug in multiplayer where ships would not dock properly ruining the basis of the economy.

  22. Torgen says:

    Well shit, there goes my PC game-buying moratorium. I never got to play this the first time around.

  23. lordcooper says:

    I’ve pirated this game several times over the years. Now I finally get to pay for it :)

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      So it’s your fault that Mucky Foot is no more, then.

      • lordcooper says:

        Seeing that they closed in 2003 and I played my first PC game in 2008, this was quite an accomplishment. Despite being upset that I single-handedly destroyed the company retroactively, I’m kinda chuffed to find out I have this kind of power.

        • Grygus says:

          I can’t believe you’ve already destroyed Valve’s wearable computing in 2040, as well. You should be more careful.

          • TCM says:

            He caused the American video game crash of 83 too, this guy is a monster.

    • Steelfox says:

      Pirated our game eh… Well we will all be getting together coming round your house and giving you a right good seeing to and no mistake. We mucky types never forgive or forget.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        If you had a hand in the game: thank you, dear sir/madam! So many well wasted hours in space.

        I still got my disc and box, so it sure wasn’t my fault it didn’t win the world as it ought to. I actually prefer it to Dungeon Keeper.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Second that.

          Er, I mean, no! I pirated it seventy-gazillion times, please do send all the devs ’round. Just make sure you come in via the front door, and don’t tread lightly on the huge mat in the hallway or anything.

  24. Lemming says:

    Great game! Also loving the article title reference!

  25. PsychoWedge says:

    Well, I bought Startopia back in the day. Not exactly at release but a year later or. 50% off it was. Yep, we had to wait years for bargains… :D

    But I bought the german version as I was usually doing back then. Not that I have played anything but the english version in recent years. I guess now is the time to finally go legit and buy a proper english version…

  26. Earl-Grey says:

    Goodness!
    Just this morning I was on GOG looking for this, and some hours later: hey presto!
    Tomorrow I’ll go looking for Homeworld, stay tuned.

  27. Gap Gen says:

    Yeah, it was awesome. Getting to the end and finding an I AM YOUR FATHER joke was like getting to the end of an icecream sundae and finding a tiny turd at the bottom, but still.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Agh, spoilt.

      (What? I really, really don’t get on with the damn combat, so I’m stuck in the chuffing campaign again despite many hours of sandboxing. Mission 10, I believe—Sirens and a trio of hostiles.)

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s a complete non-sequitur, so it’s not spoiling much other than that there is a nonsensical Star Wars reference at the end for entirely no reason. Unless my teenage self missed something, but now that’s unlikely. Maybe quoting Star Wars lines out of context is inherently funny. “Dagobah”. Yeah, ok.

    • GuySimmons says:

      Actually it was supposed to be “I am your mother!” I’ve no idea who changed that at the last minute :-)

  28. JThomasAlbert says:

    I cannot recommend this game highly enough! bought it on CD-ROM when it first came out and still have it installed. I play it at least once a week and it’s still as fresh and fun as the first time I played it. How many decade-old games can you say that about?

    I have a full station in sandbox mode filling all sectors of the torus. I hardly have to touch a thing. I can just lazily drift through the different decks watching all the aliens go about their routines and interact with one another.

    This is a game worth having for sheer charm alone.

  29. LionsPhil says:

    Space Colony’s pretty different, yeah. That one’s got a cast of a dozen or so individuals, planetside, and you need to allocate them to jobs and what-not.

    (It also had terrible combat. That worm mission. Aaarghhh.)

    • TH0TH says:

      I have managed to complete startopia and space colony a couple of times, probably more times for startopia. Space Colony at least compelled me to finish it, but haven’t replayed nearly as many times as startopia, which i bought on release! hurrah me!

  30. Shaz says:

    This was possibly the last, and definitely the best, game me or my husband ever snagged from the (now sadly extinct) PC Game Discount Bin. Probably bought it for less than the current price on GOG, thanks to the ridiculously low Discount Bin prices. Husband bought it for me because I wasn’t feeling well at the time and he thought I’d enjoy it. Boy was he right.

    Even though I still have the CD lovingly stored in its case on my Important Games shelf, I’ll probably snag this version, too.

    • RogB says:

      I recommended it to my girlfriend who pickup it up for ONE POUND from HMV, thinking she’d love it.
      (She loves rollercoaster tycoon, and theme park – the 2d ones that is)
      Oddly, she didnt like this at all, and wanted to sell it… I can only think its a ‘theme’ thing and the scifi bit didnt work.

  31. Doctor Deimos says:

    This game, along with Morrowind, Tropico, DoD, and Freelancer, was a huge chunk of my childhood. Totally buying it again.

  32. Hulk Handsome says:

    Never got into Startopia, maybe now is the time to!

    I absolutely loved Urban Chaos despite its rather large flaws (no mid-level saves, a plot that jumps a chasm full of sharks). I wonder if I still have my copy…

    Also worth noting that some of Mucky stayed together to form Muckybaby Productions. The released a Skool Daze style game that was a bit of fun:

    http://web.archive.org/web/20060111010913/http://www.muckybaby.com/games.htm

  33. MadTinkerer says:

    “No, I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to that other person, the one who didn’t play it.”

    I know. And I will not miss it this time around. ;)

    “Because the genre didn’t atrophy, Farmville never happened.”

    One can dream, and this release will no doubt help that dream.

  34. Zorn says:

    I remembered people talking about Startopia on the internet, sometimes when a game popped up that was being the hope of a new Startopia. There was something in me that said I’ll have to play someday, like reading a book that is mandatory because of one’s personal tastes. Then I looked at the screenshots and I remembered: I played Startopia, and completely forgot I did. And I remembered a familiar feeling, which just now I know is because it’s former Bullfrog people. Oh no, what’s this sudden feeling of acceleration, no no no, I don’t have time to race down memory lane, popolous on the Atari ST. Huh, an email, purchase on Gog, Startopia, when did I even do this?

  35. Hazzard65 says:

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-back-Startopia/209262399127711

    When I saw the picture of the station I nearly peed my pants with happiness. I thought it might be a story about a sequel in development but oh well… this is fine :).

  36. bachepoloGR says:

    i had this game years ago,but i couldn’t understand what i was supposed to do.I didn’t know english

  37. AstaSyneri says:

    Where is this COG? If Startopia came out for Steam at that price I’d absolutely look into it, but I can’t even find it…

  38. zebramatt says:

    I have literally been fervently anticipating this.

    I honestly check GOG and similar sites once every few months to see if it’s been released yet.

    AMAZING!

  39. Dilapinated says:

    Instant-Purchase. Thanks for letting us know.

  40. Bobtree says:

    Wonderful game.

  41. running fungus says:

    Very cool. Wish I’d played it when it was first released.

  42. spathi says:

    question to the folks that bought this off gog – what version is the game ? does it include the mentioned above 1.01 patch ? and if not, does the game still work after applying 1.01 to the gog version ?

    thank you

  43. Khalan says:

    jackfuste at the Widescreen Gaming Forums has just released a fix to prevent stretching on widescreen resolutions:
    https://www.wsgf.org/forum/9538/startopia#comment-249618

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