Mod Of The Century: Distant Worlds Star Trek

Distant Worlds is the best space strategy game ever made, although I’ll permit some leeway for the Master of Orion 2 lovers and have a real soft spot for Ascendancy. Hell, if you want to argue a case for Master of Orion 3, I’d love to read it but I’d need a heavy dose of sedatives on hand in case things became a little too weird. If you haven’t already acquainted yourself with Distant Worlds, my conversation with Edward James Olmos about its charms and intricacies may be just what you’re looking for. If you’re already a convert, news of a Star Trek complete conversion mod should be very exciting indeed. It’s here.

Sent to me by a gracious reader, the mod is thorough and impressive, and easy to install. Download the file and copy into the customisations folder in your Distant Worlds install directory. Here’s a (long) list of features:

22 Star Trek Races & 4 pirate groupings; The Shakturi and Mechanoids are not playable but are available for non-canon play.

PLAYABLE STAR TREK RACES
ANDORIAN, BAJORAN, BENZITE, BORG, BREEN, CARDASSIAN, CHALNOTH, DOMINION, FEDERATION
FERENGI, GORN, HIROGEN, KAZON, KLINGON, KTARIAN, REMAN, ROMULAN, SHELIAK, SON’A
TAMARIAN, THOLIAN & YRIDIAN ** More coming in Version 2.0.

PLAYABLE PIRATE GROUPINGS
THE ORION SYNDICATE, THE MAQUIS, THE KORGATH BARBARIANS & THE KHAN PRIVATEERS

– Shipsets – All 22 playable races have their own set. Pirates have 2 specific shipsets. Phantom Pirates have their own.
– Characters – Currently 524 specific images, over 1000 characters (some share a generic image or symbol) ** More coming in Version 2.0.
– Troop images – All races have their own set.
– Dialogue – All races have their own dialog.
– Flagshapes – All races have their own flag and color schemes.
– Music – 36 tracks from Star Trek The Next Generation’s first 3 seasons composed by Ron Jones (Fair Use Respected)
– System names – 9000+ Star Trek and other astronomical system names for variety.
– Race files- Completed. May require balance tweaking, please report any major issues
– Bias settings – Completed. May require balance tweaking, please report any major issues
– Policy files – Completed. May require balance tweaking, please report any issues
– Victory conditions – Complete. Please report any issues
– Race Event types – Complete. Please report any issues
– The Borg race shipset size-scaled to near-canon (at least closely!)
– New government added – Religious Unity (Race specific ~ Bajoran only) ** More being added in Version 2.0.
– Each Race may have their own specific UI icons and graphics {OPTIONAL} (located in the images\UI\chrome\[The Race Name]\ folder)
– Minimum garrisoned troop per colony set to 4 for defense against invasion or pirate raids.
– Rumors of Crystalline Entity sightings (replaces the Silvermist)
– A few select Star Trek resource images and Component names. Galactopedia entries have been modified.
– Some weapon effect replacements
– Message pop ups appear as Starfleet PADDs
– Numerous Star Trek sound effects
– Shakturi and Mechanoids are not overwritten so you can still play the story, just with your choice of the Star Trek races.
– Milky Way Galaxy map with Star Trek race placements – NOTE: [WIP] Not completed yet – Will be included in Version 2.0 coming soon!

Tasty.

Most of it means next to nowt to me though. Star Trek, pop culture behemoth that it is, managed to pass me by entirely during my formative years. My childhood home was so defiantly Trekless that the first episode of any incarnation of the show that I ever saw was The Man Trap, the first episode ever to air back in 1966. I first encountered it three years ago, having decided to watch every Star Trek episode and film in loose chronological order. Last one I sat through was This Side of Paradise about a month ago, which means at this rate, I’ll be able to watch the final season of the original series on an actual Holodeck.

71 Comments

  1. slerbal says:

    Distant Worlds looks like my kind of game, but with that price tag (£44.99) plus it is published by the horrible Slitherine who I won’t give money to under any circumstances, it is not to be. A shame, but my renewed policy of trying to whittle down my existing pile of unplayed games in Steam will have to suffice.

    The mod looks good though – I think it is is a unwritten rule that every space strategy game must have a star trek full conversion possibly to make up for the dearth of decent star trek games.

    • Gog Magog says:

      Well, you could always just steal it.

      No, I don’t advocate piracy. I advocate actual theft. Stealing is good for you not because you get to have but because you get to take away and deny another. Piracy does not have any of that and thus it is no more than base satisfaction and lacking in any manner of grandiosity.
      Or guts.
      Or fun.

      #IBlameSociety

      • slerbal says:

        Nah, I would rather not play a game than pirate it. I have plenty of games to play legitimately. Besides I have nothing against the developers of the game (even if I did I still wouldn’t pirate it), just the publisher.

      • Emeraude says:

        Theft is small time.

        No, what you do is engineer the fall of the studio that made the game to forcefully, but legally grab the intellectual property rights from its cold dead hands when you acquire it, then get the game off the market, so that no one else can ever have access to a copy anymore.

        It’s the only true way.

    • Didero says:

      What did the company do that’s so terrible?

      • slerbal says:

        Put out of business a games company I loved by not paying for the work they did for Slitherine. That is as much as I can/will say.

        • Iain at Slitherine says:

          I’m not sure where this strange myth has come from but if we didn’t pay our developers they would leave :)

          You can ask Elliot about his last royalty report – he’s very pleased with it!

          I think you may have some bad information…

        • Deakul says:

          Are you sure you’re not thinking of Strategy First?

      • Napoleon15 says:

        Well, in the case of Distant Worlds, you have to buy the new and slightly enhanced edition if you want to continue getting new patches and bug fixes. Now, if you own all the previous DW expansions, there’s really not much new in this complete edition, so even if you get the discount code, you’re still paying around £20 to fix bugs that have been in the game. They tend to adopt the mentality of premium pricing, subpar product support. They’re still selling games that are more or less a decade old at full retail price, with bugs, that they have no intention of ever patching or fixing.

        So yeah, I don’t like them or their business model, but unfortunately, they’re one of the few wargaming publishers still around…

        • Bassen_Hjertelos says:

          If you own all the Distant Worlds games you get a $40 discount. Do you perhaps know publishers a plenty who give their customers such a discount? I do not.

          • Baines says:

            I can think of a few. Mostly, they tend to be situations where the publisher knows they are effectively selling DLC as a full price release.

            The PC version of Capcom’s Ultra Street Fighter 4 is $30 on its own, but only $15 if you already owned SSF4AE.

            I want to recall that one of the newer Blood Bowl PC games gave a discount if you already owned the previous version, though Steam shows no discount being offered anymore. Some gamers argued that some of that content should have been a free patch instead of a new release, even if you got a discount for owning the previous version.

            Dungeon Defenders Eternity is 45% off if you already own Dungeon Defenders. This one is arguably the most shady, as Trendy has tried to pass Eternity off as an enhanced version of the original DD (and it costs more as well), when it is a port of the mobile version of the game and has actually lost content and features compared to the original PC release.

            There have been others in the past, these are the three examples off the top of my head. Of course one could also argue that game prices dropping over time has a built in version of a “discount” of sorts, just one that applies to all customers instead of those who bought early.

      • Nogo says:

        Their site was so terrible and broken that I gave up trying to get my steam key.

    • Great Cthulhu says:

      Same situation here. Thing is, this looks as if it’s the kind of game that I’d happily pay full price for. But I can’t be sure of that because there’s no demo. :-/

      • slerbal says:

        I think a demo for a game costing that much is pretty much essential – it doesn’t have the AAA hype machine to push people into risking the cash.

        • Baines says:

          But if they release a demo, people can play the game and decide that they don’t like it. Without a demo, the question of whether you will like it will eat away at you with every article such as this one, eventually egging you into buying the game.

          • Great Cthulhu says:

            Perhaps. But on the other hand; there’s plenty of grand strategy to go around these days. Paradox alone will keep me quite happily occupied.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      It’s true: Star Trek can only ever be properly served in all aspects by a 4x/grand strategy title, which I think explains why attempts keep being made. Birth of the Federation came so close to achieving greatness. I’m really excited that this might be the one to finally do it!

      • Ieolus says:

        Oh man, I miss Birth of the Federation. Great game, hampered by one of the worst UIs ever created. Sad.

    • sinister agent says:

      Distant Worlds is good, but it’s not worth that price at all. Far too fussy, demanding, and irritating, and despite all the options there’s really not that much variety as there appears to be. The ‘standard’ campaign is fucking dreadful, too, with hours of quiet leadup, then suddenly an instant magical bullshit superpowered enemy that’s impossible to stop unless you’ve played the campaign dozens of times already and already knew exactly what to expect and how to deal with it.

      If it were half that price, I’d say it’s well worth considering.

      • Arona Daal says:

        Lets not forget that even now it *still* has quite a few obvious broken/semi-broken Game Mechanics/Bugs.

        For example the weird Diplomacy ,
        where Empire A pays me *several Times* my yearly Income,
        to stop my Trade Embargo vs Empire B.

        Not only are they willing to pay insane amounts of Money so that i can create some Competition for them,and lower their Prices and Trade Income with Empire B,
        it´s also possible to renew the Trade Embargo a Splitsecond after getting *all* the Cash/Tech/Valuables he has.

        -Or the Wonders actually not stacking /having different Values than described.
        -Or automatic upgrades dropping superior racespecific Techs.
        -Or the fucked up Troop Generals which cannot be attached to Troops and have to be moved manually,*or* even fight for the pirate faction during Base raids.
        -Or the weird Results of planetary Battles with multiple Factions.

        *PHEW* Had to get that off my Chest.

        On the bright side:
        Compared to all the other crappy 4x it is still one of the best 4x Games.

  2. JustAPigeon says:

    Gah! I want this game! 45 quid though, bloody hell.

    • Loyal_Viggo says:

      I think Matrix/Slitherine whomever the publisher is has a sale at crimbo, not sure of the discount but it brings the price to ‘almost-tolerable’ instead of ‘get-second-mortgage’ levels.

    • briangw says:

      Well, technically, if you go for Distant Worlds Universe on Steam, you’re getting 5 games in 1. Not too far off from say Borderlands 2 or PayDay 2 if you add up all of the DLC. That’s $12 for each game.

      • Baines says:

        Most of Borderlands 2’s DLC is optional junk. It was also arguably created to exploit the kinds of customers who feel they need to own such material. (See also the recent DOTA article, and the comments section of people rattling off what they’d spent. Or the guy on the Defiance forums ranting about changes that he didn’t like, and how he’d spent over $10,000 on the game.)

        It is also worth noting that Borderlands 2 is currently 67-75% off on Steam. You can buy the base game for $5. The GOTY version (which admittedly doesn’t have all the cosmetic DLC or the Headhunter packs) for $10. Gearbox is finished with BL2 and has moved on to the Pre-Sequel, so they don’t mind cutting the price. How cheap will Distant Worlds ever be? Given that it is Slitherine, it will probably still be $60 ten years from now, maybe with the occasional very rare sale that drops it to $50.

      • sinister agent says:

        Five games that are pretty much exactly the same is not five games.

    • ScottTFrazer says:

      I’m sort of baffled by the complaints regarding the pricing of this game. The original Master of Orion was a $60 game. Adjusted for inflation that would be almost twice as much as the complete Distant Worlds bundle.

      And it wasn’t as deep, it wasn’t as expandable. It was simply new.

      Living in a golden age of PC gaming has spoiled us, apparently.

      • Bugamn says:

        Game prices haven’t changed a lot in those years, what it shows is that game prices were always inflated.

        • Emeraude says:

          That or that the market had expanded steadily allowing to make for a lesser price when adjusted to inflation by moving more units.

      • Baines says:

        Being “new” matters.

        Games advance and change. Standards advance and change. Similar titles are released.

        And game prices are a bit of a scam, because they are a combination of production costs and what the market has shown itself willing to bear. Publishers will routinely bring out a cost breakdown that shows their console games need to be $50-60 because of production and distribution costs, but improvements and changes in technology never bring that cost down because publishers know that consumers accept $50-60 price tags. Maybe they’ll pocket savings, or maybe they’ll feed it back into larger game budgets, but consumers don’t see prices drop when production or distribution costs drop. (At the same time, consumers generally don’t see prices rise if costs increase, because publishers don’t want to go too far above that accepted price range. Publishers will just cut back on content and/or try to sell more copies.)

      • sinister agent says:

        People say that, but if you were regularly paying those prices for games in the 90s, you were a mug.

  3. Choca says:

    As if I needed another excuse to play Distant Worlds.

  4. Colthor says:

    My brain is trying to hear Tom Lehrer singing that list of race names.

  5. RedViv says:

    As far as more game-y conversions are concerned: The WH40K mod seems to turn out splendidly, and the creator of the Mass Effect mod wants to convert it to DW Universe now.

    • Loyal_Viggo says:

      Ding ding! You sir are a winner, I had no idea there was a 40k mod for DW.

      Cheers for the heads-up, I shall acquire it immediately and retreat into my secret submarine lair off the coast of Guam to play non-stop… until my mrs tells me to stop.

      • frightlever says:

        Am I the only one wondering why there’s no Star Wars mod? Or Babylon 5? OR IS THERE? To Google!

      • jRides says:

        The 40k mod is really very good, it changes the game-play a bit to more full on War, Playing as Imperium is fun as you are just hated by everyone before you’ve even had a chance to invade their worlds.

        There is both a Star Wars mod and a B5 mod in the works, the SW one on a bit further I believe.

  6. Bugamn says:

    I liked playing Master of Orion 3 when I was a kid. To be fair, the only other space 4x I had played was STARS! and it was simply different (no diplomacy, for example, at least not in the same level).

    • frightlever says:

      There was diplomacy of sorts in “Stars!”. For instance you could send other races gifts. Gifts in the shape of megaton packets of minerals from your mass drivers. Happy, simpler times.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        STARS!

        That game ruined MoO for me. I never played MoO until recently (thanks GOG) but, whenever I try to get into it I just end up playing Stars! instead.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    I tried to play Distant Worlds for quite some time (15 hours, maybe?), but unfortunately in the end I got so frustrated that I stopped playing.

    My experience was that it plays very fiddly, and that automating stuff works reasonably well most of the time, but fails often and severely enough to undermine its usefulness. Each campaign was fun for a while and then devolved into hundreds of little annoyances. For example, I was never able to completely protect new colonies against pirates. My ships in/near the system would usually arrive pretty quickly, but not fast enough to prevent a pirate ship from landing. So I very often had one of those hidden pirate bases on my smaller colonies, which I had to get rid of by ferrying troops there from some bigger world.

    I gave up when I had a campaign that looked really good, until suddenly my biggest fleet (including two big ships that I had found and had not the technology to replace) decided on its own to attack a nearby base of the strongest pirate faction and got completely annihilated in the attempt.

    I’ll probably go back to it some day, because it still looks fascinating, but at the moment I want to play other things.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      Pretty much my experience with it. I wanted to like it, I love 4x games but I just couldn’t get on with it.

      • frightlever says:

        To be fair, that’s still my experience and I’m a born-again fan of it. I like the starting game but it can turn into a chore quite rapidly. I’ve still put in about a hundred hours just playing all those different starting games with different parameters.

    • Manco says:

      Turn off all automation and follow this guide link to matrixgames.com.
      Starts out really slow that way, but at least you’ll know what the hell’s happening.

      • Rizlar says:

        Great stuff, thanks for the link!

      • Archonsod says:

        Cheers. Bounced off this several times so far, hopefully this will help.

        At least once I’ve got over my current AI War relapse.

    • dontnormally says:

      Pirates are neat, but the idea of a giant pirate force outmatching that of an established empire is absurd and inspires hate in me when encountered in a game.

      • Emeraude says:

        Why ? Wouldn’t you take the Hunnic conquests as a proof that it can happen, if only temporarily ?

    • schlusenbach says:

      Same for me.

      Before buying it, I read every bit of information about the game and watched LPs. I really wanted to play this, but when I did, it just didn’t click for me. In the beginning I micromanaged everything, but at some point there’s too much going on for that. And when I then used automation I lost the feeling of playing the game. “Hundreds little annoyances” describes it quite good.

      I am still fascinated by the concept, but this didn’t work out.

  8. MacTheGeek says:

    We are far from home. We look for things. Things to make us go. Things to make us strong. We look for our names. Our names are not there. We need help. You will tell them. Tell them we need things. Then we will be strong. Then we will be a force. Then we will have respect.

  9. RanDomino says:

    Ascendancy was awesome. I loved the 3D maps. But sooo fiddly. It could really use a modern re-make.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Ascendancy is still my happy place for space strategy games.

      The time I discovered the Hypersphere Projector tech (the second most powerful weapon in the game) in a xenoarchaeology dig right at the beginning of the game was fun. My ships were leaky rustbuckets held together with string, with vacuum cleaners for engines and shielding best described as “foil-like”, but they had enough firepower to obliterate any ship with one shot.

      Or the time my opponents sent hordes of tiny warships after me, so I built a Huge hull with tiny engines and no shields and loaded it down with Smart Bombs and cleared half the galaxy of the enemy filth with just one ship.

      Or the time I fought a desperate running battle against the enormous dreadnoughts of a technologically superior enemy until I could lure them into range of my fortress colony which had its orbital slots filled with Long Range Orbital Whoppers.

      Good times.

      • Kempston Wiggler says:

        Aye. Good times indeed. Such a great little game. Logic factory promised us a sequel back in 2012 but not a word since. :(

        • Premium User Badge

          teije says:

          Ah, Ascendancy. I remember going into work on Saturdays, pretending I had overtime, just to play it because my home computer couldn’t handle it.

          Logic Factory did release a mobile version of Ascendancy essentially unchanged from the original – it’s okay but I enjoyed it more for the nostalgia factor than anything.

          The best mobile 4X space game right now is Starbase Orion – some quirks, but a satisfying 4X – just play it on AI with bonuses or it’s too easy.

          But back on topic, I loved DW when it came out and played it lots, but somehow can’t back into it. It’s either too much fiddly micromanaging or too much automation for me. I need to give it another try with this mod, methinks.

  10. UndrState says:

    Gotta ask – how does Distant Worlds compare to Sins ?

    • Thurgret says:

      Far, far more intricate and complex. Which isn’t always a good thing, but I felt that Sins of a Solar Empire was just much too simplistic. Good for watching groups of spaceships go pew-pew, although I would prefer Homeworld or Nexus: The Jupiter Incident (what a silly name, and what a shame there isn’t anything else like it out there) for doing that.

      I’m sure someone with slightly more time than I have right now will offer a more in-depth analysis than that.

    • BlackAlpha says:

      Well, Sins is a RTS. DW is a 4X. It’s very much like comparing Company of Heroes to Civilization. Apples and oranges.

      If you want to know what DW is like, go to Youtube and watch some Let’s Plays and such.

      • briangw says:

        Well, technically, Sins is also a 4X game, albeit a 4XRTS type as it does incorporate some elements of 4X in it.

  11. supermini says:

    I’ve invested about 150 hours in Distant Worlds and the end result is that I don’t really like it that much. From the outside, it gives an impression of this amazingly complicated strategy game that also allows you to automate certain tasks. First problem is, I’ve found automation to be pretty bad. I think I spent half the time in the ship designer manually upgrading designs because the AI is so bad at it that it can’t be trusted. Second problem is, while it’s complicated, it’s not very complex. The seemingly huge number of resources is something you stop paying attention to by midgame. Ship ‘classes’ are for the most part interchangeable, and apart from accounting for some racial bonuses, I didn’t have a lot of need to change my general designs significantly between playthroughs.

    Replayability isn’t helped by the fact that there are certain paths that seem to be superior – for instance, because of how slow population growth is and how expensive it is to research colonization tech, invading indigenous populations seems to be a better choice than colonization even for peaceful races. Also, because of the baffling link between tax rate and population growth, it’s good to tank your tax rate at the start of the game to max your population quicker. Cost of deals you sign with pirates are partly based on your income, so if you’re barely breaking even in the early game, your population is growing faster and you get cheaper pirate protection. There’s also an early economic wonder that you can go for that shoots up your income (and all you really need to do is delay researching colonization for a bit which doesn’t seem to be a problem). These obvious choices dilute the replayability because every game ends up being quite similar, unless you’re trying hard to do something different, at which point I might as well play some other game.

    All in all I fun with it, and it’s a decent 4x space game, but it’s not really top tier in my book. I never found motivation to move onto hardest difficulty settings and maybe I’ll be shot down in flames by Distant Worlds pros who do, but my general impression is that despite the apparent complexity it lacks strategic depth and on larger maps it’s easy to end up in micromanagement hell because the automation can’t be trusted.

    • Thurgret says:

      Maybe it depends on race, too? My Securan empire was rampantly expansionist, with colony after colony and billions upon billions of Securans. It’s still broadly similar to bog-standard human republic/democracy play, but my worlds were actually filling up really quickly (Securans with the Utopian Paradise government will tend to do that). And Utopian Paradise is an awful government type to go to war with, though this aspect of the game felt like it got broken a bit when I discovered the Way of the Ancients – in fact, if there’s a way to disable Way of the Ancients and Way of Darkness, that might be the way to go.

      I do wish there was more of a hard distinction between ship types, yes. I really do. That would be splendid. Engines, weapons, shields and other things are all distinct and so on, but I would absolutely love fleet composition and ship design to be more relevant, and I think with a bit of work, it could be.

  12. Ejia says:

    I managed to eke out some fun out of MoO III, but I still think Sword of the Stars is what it was supposed to be. I love my psychic dolphins.

    Like I said elsewhere though, I still like the Space Empires games for the fun factor.

    “Nice everything you’ve got there.”
    *parks black hole creator ship at star*
    “…shame if something happened to it.”

    • Kaeoschassis says:

      I am genuinely surprised it took so long for someone to mention Space Empires. Only recently rediscovered the series but for me, it’s definitely up near the top of the list, if not the ‘best’.

      My current empire’s building a cloaked starbase in the middle of a remote, empty nebula that’s equipped with the ability to both open and close warp points. Send an entire warfleet from anywhere to anywhere in about two turns? Yes please.
      Actually while the black holes and the dyson spheres are lots of fun, it’s the mobility control of opening and closing warp points that keeps me coming back to Stellar Manipulation. You can play a ‘peaceful’ race and if someone pisses you off, don’t kill them, don’t buy them out, don’t pay everyone else to gang up on them – banish them to a distant corner of the galaxy and lock the door behind them.

      • Great Cthulhu says:

        Oh man, that series is totally underrated! Had tons of fun with the shareware version of one of the earliest ones as a kid in the 90’s. Played IV a year or so ago, and was blown away by how good it (still) is.

        • frightlever says:

          SEV left a bad taste. Spent hundreds of hours playing SEIV but SEV, while it had some nice ideas, just fell apart the longer you played and the pseudo 3D star map was a chore to use. Malfador haven’t made a decent game since SEIV back in 2000. Think he makes mobile games now.

      • Ejia says:

        I also love manipulating warp points, but I play the opposite strategy: I still am a peaceful empire, but if my opponents get too unruly I lock out any systems I own, except for one very heavily defended planet so I don’t lose contact with everyone else.

    • Quiffle says:

      I managed to avoid reinstalling the thing the first time you mentioned it, but I think it’s time for a crack at IV again. Has there been an AI improvement mod in the last decade or so since I’ve played?