Star Control was one of the properties sold off in Atari’s bankruptcy auction last week, with the winning bid coming from Brad Wardell’s Stardock company. However, it may not all be as clear cut as it first appears. In a post at the Ur-Quan Masters forum, one of the developers of an open source version of Star Control II (based on original Toys for Bob source code,) has expressed doubts over what was actually sold.
“They may now own the Star Control trademark and the SC3-specific IP, but Atari did not own the SC2 IP. If Stardock wants to make a game including any of the SC2 races or plot points, they will still need to make a deal with Paul [Reiche] and Fred [Ford, of Toys for Bob] (unless they already did),” he writes.
Further to that, he quotes an email reply from Paul Reiche himself that seems to confirm this view.
“Stardock hasn’t contacted us, so we don’t yet know their plans. Looking at the court schedules (and this is consistent with my recollections), they acquired the trademark ‘Star Control‘ and copyright to the original materials in Star Control 3 — that is to say, not any of the copyrightable materials from Star Control I & II, which Fred and I still hold.”
If correct, this would mean any new Star Control game from Stardock may have to avoid direct references to Star Control II (the game most fondly remembered from the series.)
Stardock issued their own press release about the sale today, and the wording in it is quite subtle. It states that the company has “secured the rights to the classic PC franchise Star Control with the intent to develop a new Star Control game” and quotes Brad Wardell as saying “We are looking at Star Control II as a major source of inspiration.”
[Update] Wardell has since posted a comment of his own over at the Ur-Quan Masters forum, in which he states the following:
We have connected with Paul and Fred. Fingers crossed but things look hopeful. The copyright to Star Control 1/2 is owned by Paul Rieche directly, not Toys for Bob so I think there is reason to think that they might be able to participate in the creation of a new Star Control game.
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None of this changes the status of the Ur-Quan Masters or Star Control on GOG.
This suggests that Stardock’s plan is to co-operate with Rieche and get some degree of access to the original Star Control material, perhaps through a collaboration.