I will never forget the first time I played a Homeworld game.
Well, game is a bit of a misnomer. The demo had come in the mail along with a few others as part of my monthly PC Gamer subscription, a paltry bit of scrap I was allowed from the table of non-bargain-bin games. As I installed the game, my hopes were tamed by the spectacle of images I viewed. Vistas of space combat flew past me, threatening me with the promise of a chugging framerate or the too-common problem of cutscenes grinding my poor video card to dust. Yet, as the installation finished and I started up a skirmish game against the computer, I found my fears to be misplaced. It ran beautifully and, what is more, it was a damn fine game.
The Homeworld series first began in 1999 as the debut product of rookie game developers Relic Entertainment. In terms of a freshman effort, Homeworld was a raging success, racking in GoTY awards and high marks for its engaging storyline and refreshing take on the Real-Time Strategy genre. In my case, having cut my teeth on the Red Alert series and Warcraft II, I felt akin to Khan Noonien Singh- inexperienced in the ways of three dimensional warfare and thus suitably spanked in my first few games. That being said, it was a challenge which enamored me and pushed me to follow the series as it continued on into Homeworld: Cataclysm. Then, following the release of Homeworld 2 in 2003, it just stopped.
It was not that Homeworld 2 had tanked; though the game did not score as highly as its predecessor, it was still warmly received and was certainly not seen among the Gaming Press and public as a deathstroke for the IP. The primary cause of the sudden stop seemed to have been the purchase of Relic Entertainment, who had developed two of the three games in the series, by THQ in 2004. Though Relic was assimilated into the THQ fold, some of its IPs -most notably the Homeworld IP- remained with their publisher Sierra Entertainment. Sierra was, at this time, a shell of its former glory. After a strategic merger with Vivendi International (later Vivendi Universal, later Vivendi Games) in 2000, Sierra found itself compounded by not only its own financial problems but the constant restructuring of Vivendi and its assets. For three years Vivendi and Sierra restructured, merged, and laid off workers, all the meanwhile leaving the Homeworld IP to sit. In an effort most likely used to prep Sierra for the dusty shelf upon which it now rests, the Homeworld IP was sold to THQ in 2007. Sierra would later be transferred to Activision following the Vivendi/Activision merger, with many of its assets being locked away in a vault by Bobby Kotick.
Mr. Kotick was later seen swallowing a key and laughing maniacally.
THQ, it will be remembered, had also purchased Relic Entertainment three years earlier. In those three years THQ put Relic to work churning out its Warhammer 40k and Company of Heroes franchises, both equally respected in their own rights. Many fans were enlightened to see the Homeworld brand return to those who had created it, and haruspices began to foretell the beginning of a new age in the Homeworld franchise. It was not, however, to be so. Like two lovers who engaged in a long-distance relationship and suddenly found themselves thrust together, Relic seemed to have found other interests in, well, other people. Company of Heroes and Warhammer 40,000 games continued to be the focus of their attention, with the occasional comment to stave off the Homeworld mob. Then THQ filed for bankruptcy.
After the dust settled around the dismantling of THQ, Relic found itself under the flag of Sega. Sega did not, however, take Homeworld with them, which caused some consternation and speculation about where those rights actually were. When teamPixel’s Rob Santos inquired about the rights, he was told that they were part of a “legacy assets bucket,” a collection of games that included such titles as Red Faction and Darksiders but wouldn’t be auctioned off until a later time. Santos started the Save Homeworld campaign, an effort to crowdsource a bid on this later auction. While a noble effort was made, it got nowhere near historical strategy developer Paradox’s third place bid when the Homeworld IP came onto the auction block. In second place was Stardock Entertainment, who were a bit more familiar with the sci-fi strategy genre having developed both Galactic Civilizations and Sins of a Solar Empire.
Homeworld, however, landed in the lap of Gearbox Software. Gearbox “Borderlands-yay-Duke-Nukem-Ugh-BrothersinArms-Yay-AliensColonialMarines-ohdeargodno” Software. While Gearbox has explicitly revealed its priority to preserve and release the first Homeworld games for digital distribution (even soliciting the community for thoughts), Gearbox has not seemed to rule out a new game in the series. At this stage, I find myself going either way on the situation. Gearbox has nearly all its experience in the first-person shooter genre, from which it has a stellar track record marred by two extremely horrible games. They know how to do their research and craft games that can be fun, but by the same token they released Duke Nukem Forever. All in all, what we can hope for is a digital release that will allow those of us who have lost our physical copies to traverse space in our Mothership once more, fighting for our very survival against an unknown alien horde.
So that is the long and short of it, Lusipurrfections! Did any of you follow the THQ auction these past few months? Were there any IPs that you are excited to see in new hands (if it was not going to be Homeworld, I was totally about to write on Sega and Warhammer 40k. Warhammer: Total War, baby!)? And don’t forget- we are still in the process of our readership drive. If you would like to receive a FREE (how much, Che? Free? Free!) game, encourage your friends to join the site and comment on a post. All you need is for them to cite you as their reference to joining our fold as useful and productive tools for commenting, and you could win a free game of your choosing.