This is the Starflight III Master Design Document (Game/Technical Design Document and Reference Guide).
The goal of this design document is to provide detailed information on the development of Starflight III: Mysteries of the Universe, a sequel and continuation of the original games Starflight and Starflight II: Secrets of the Cloud Nebula released by Binary Systems through Electronic Arts in the late 1980s.
SF3 will use many of the same features employed in the original games. This document details the plot and features of the new game as well as providing information on all of the alien races, key plot elements, interstellar navigation, and so forth. The design outline will attempt to follow the features that will be presented in the actual game, using as many diagrams and mockups included in the game as possible. It is intended that a complete newcomer could read through this document and through it understand exactly what the Starflight franchise is.
The new game will be updated significantly over the originals, but the design goal is that it will have the same look & feel. Screenshots from Starflight 1 (SF1) and Starflight 2 (SF2) are included in this design document to help describe the old game play and to show why we are doing things a certain way in this game. Portions of this document may need to explore the original games in order to put the new game into perspective and to explain why this game must retain it's old-school roots for the sake of nostalgic game play. For the most part, however, it's assumed that users of this design document are at the very least familiar with the original games and/or have played them on multiple occasions.
Credit and RecognitionEdit
This game was made possible by the generosity of the copyright owner, Rod McConnell, founder of Binary Systems, which retains the copyright when Electronic Arts originally published the games in 1986 and 1989. Starflight has been ported to many systems, the last of which was Sega Genesis in 1991 (it was also ported to the Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga). Rod McConnell still owns the copyright. A condition of granting the Starflight III Project permission to make this game is that it continues the franchise without monetary gain. It must be released as freeware, though not necessarily as public domain. We may do whatever we want with the game under that restriction, but may not sell it for profit. We may also not transfer ownership of the game to anyone. Any and all publishing issues will be strictly ignored.
Most of the history of the Starflight III project is beyond the knowledge of this particular writer (other editors may choose to pick up the slack when it comes to knowledge of the project's early history). The Starflight III project began as a collaboration between Brian Linton, Patrick Meade and Adam Schillinger starting in 1997. The original design plan for the game was mostly done through instant messaging and e-mails, with early versions of the code being passed around by these three core members. At some point prior to 2004, there was some kind of falling out amongst the core members, and the project stalled out with large portions of the game finished but without any design information for future project members. There was ostensibly some members in charge of the project, but not a lot of work was done until around 2006, when a new team congealed. This new team made the decision to move the project's core language over from C++/Allegro to Python/Panda3D, which was in turn moved over to C#/XNA (not a lot of coding took place during the Python era). As of 2009, the SF3 project has about half-a-dozen core members working on various aspects of the project. In April 2010, with the Starflight Role-Playing Game completed and with the project stalled yet again, capi3101 was made the new project administrator and the move was made back to Python/Panda3D officially in early February of 2011.
Throughout the project's history, Starflight III has been a labor of love; all members volunteer their free time to do what they can when they can. This has contributed to the long development time of the project (as most members do not have copious amounts of free time to work solely on the project), as has the prior lack of a single GDD (something that, through this document, is meant to be finally rectified).
Game Features List and StandardsEdit
The following is a modified list of features that were on the original main Starflight III web site since the inception of the project. This list outlines the intentions of the original design team and their grand vision for the project. The current design team is largely attempting to keep these new features in Starflight III , though in some cases a design idea has been dropped. The list is as follows:
- Encounter and communicate with over 20 spacefaring races, including Arthlings (aka Interstel vessels). The actual number planned at this point is around thirty.
- Numerous Starports and Arthling colonies to visit and trade at. Half a dozen, as of February 2011
- New trade goods, ship functions, and non-spacefaring races.
- New graphics and sound effects
- Music (largely missing from most versions of the original games).
- New storylines, characters, and races, along with those returning from SF and SF2.
- Four types of ships to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
- Access to several kinds of secondary vehicles such as fighters and terrain vehicles.
- An officer database from which to construct your crew.
- The ability to hire (short-term) fighter pilots and marine squads.
- New settings for character interaction, including Starport's Nebula Lounge and several favored hangouts of pirates and mercenaries.
- Three Sectors (starmaps) to explore, including an expansion of the original two starmaps.
- New artifacts, devices, and weapons for you and other races.
For details about the project's standards, please refer to the Project Standards page.
A Word on Editing this Design Document and Document OrganizationEdit
In the interest of watching our ideas unfold and develop over time, editors are advised not to delete any portion of the text contained herein. Rather, any text that no longer applies should be struck through. This is done by placing bracketing "s" tags in the wiki markup code surrounding the offending text
like this. Material should only be expunged from a page with the consensus of the entire design group. The navigational links leading to subsequent pages should be left alone, except under the extremely unusual case that a page either needs to be added to or removed from the document. Finally, editors are encouraged to keep extraneous information and other "fluff" to a minimum in the context of the design document. Authors may put their own thoughts and comments in italicized; unless otherwise specified, these comments are from capi3101.
Since the design document is the main reason why the private wiki exists in the first place, it only makes sense to have its main overall table of contents on the main page. Any portion of the document should be able to be reached at any time from that page. Pages can also be navigated to and from other portions of the document using the links at the bottom of each page. When navigating from page to page, links will only go to the "previous" and "next" page as they are listed on the main page. It's hoped that the data is presented in a coherent, logical order for ease of use by the SF3 design team.
Portions of the technical aspect of the design document will be migrated out to the public wiki. This will hopefully allow members of the general public to see our plan for the design of the game and help with recruitment of coders. It is intended that plot-specific information remain here on the private wiki.
Starflight I Event SummaryEdit
In Starflight, the player started the game at a world in the year 4620 called Arth in an orbiting space station (known as Starport Central, or just "Starport" for short) working for Interstel Corporation, a private space exploration and mining enterprise. Arth is not a new name for Earth, though the citizens of Arth trace their ancestry through myth from a home world called Earth. Early in the game, it is revealed that local stars are beginning to undergo catastrophic "flares", which wipe out all life in the system. It is also revealed that it is only a matter of time before a flare occurs in Arth's sun, wiping out all life in the system. The player's mission is to gather information, retrieve artifacts spread throughout the sector, and finally to destroy the Crystal Planet, ultimately revealed to be the cause of the flaring suns. In the final stages of the game, as the player is preparing to destroy the Crystal Planet, it is revealed that the mineral they have been using the entire game as a fuel supply for their ship (known as Endurium) is in fact a race of sentient lifeforms (known as "The Ancients"), who created the Crystal Planet as a last resort weapon to preserve their race.
The destruction of the Crystal Planet, the Ancients, and many of the listed "backstory" events listed in the game's documentation form the basis for Starflight III's plot.
Starflight II Event SummaryEdit
Starflight II: Secrets of the Cloud Nebula takes place approximately twenty years after the events of Starflight. It is revealed to the player that, after the discovery of Endurium as a sentient lifeform, Arth's high council placed a ban on the sale, use and ownership of Endurium, effectively leaving Arth without a source of fuel for their space fleet. About five years prior to the events of SF2, an amoeboid race known as the Spemin enter a new region of space and find a source of new technologies that gives them a superior position over Arth's fleet, and they threaten invasion. The player begins the game at a new space station (Starport Outpost One, also commonly referred to as just "Starport") in a new region of space, tasked with the mission of securing a new fuel source (Shyneum, found naturally on only one world in this new region of space) and with finding the source of the Spemin's new technology. The game emphasizes trade with alien races as the primary means of generating revenue, relegating mining (a major source of revenue in SF1) to a minor role at best. After travelling a million years into the past, the players learn the secrets of the hostile Uhlek race and learn of the Uhl, a trans-dimensional being responsible for enslaving the minds of the Umanu. At the game's end, it is learned that the Umanu and the Lowar, a race they had wiped out 400 years prior, were both the surviving Human and Elowan descendants of the Noah Six expedition, another colonization attempt in the same series of expeditions that founded Arth.
Starflight III takes place approximately fifteen years after these events. The plot of SF3 will be discussed later in this design document.