Friday, April 16, 2010

Star Control 2 artwork

A look at some genuinely excellent Star Control 2 fan-art.

When fellow gamers ask what my favourite game is, I always say Star Control 2. On occasion people have assumed I meant Starcraft 2, and subsequently ask if I really love my RTS games. What follows is a serious case of MANRAGE (pronounced mun-rah-geh) and what most would describe as murder, then me trying to hide the very large body of a dead nerd. Star Control 2, such is its universal excellence, should never be confused with anything but itself. But I digress.
When you come across a creative piece of fan-work of genuine merit, especially one based on your all-time favourite game, it deserves to be showcased for all to see. Good quality fan creations are something rare and precious. So it is with Niklas Jansson’s absolutely awesome personal takes on what the aliens in Star Control would look like naked (and outside of their crafts). He also has some fascinating ideas for a homebrew game based on the IP.

As Jansson explains:
“Star Control is a game derived from Starflight. In both games you travel around in space, talk to aliens, trade and shoot stuff with your spaceship. They take quite a bit of patience to play, especially Starflight. I think it's mostly an UI problem though. With an improved UI, the games could be made even deeper and more complex. Some day I want to do an space game engine which can plug-in (data driven) different species into a persistent universe simulation. Kind of like making the entire game universe one big RTS-game map (like Warlords), but with trading, exploration and all that. Potentially a Zero-player game, the player would be a Starship captain doing the usual stuff, but the universe would go on without him.”

What I like about the art is that to me it feels faithful. A lot of fan-art is diabolically awful, but this is good. It’s the kind of work which I think Toys For Bob would probably approve of.

As he explained:
To achive likeness, I'm trying to take the following into consideration:
* Communications image
* Melee pilot image
* Printed images (manuals and guide books if canon)
* Communications text and conveyed feel
* Printed text

It's difficult to be faithful when you don't see the lower body of many of the characters. The Spathi gave me a lot of trouble because the lower body needs to fit their character. I imagine that they kind of wobble around like ducks in a hurry, but some guy who works at TfB used a kind of hover pod solution which I think works too. Makes sense for them to want to be swift.


The Thraddash in the opening picture are drawn based on their dialogue art, and their melee artwork, which has them appearing to wear a space-suit of sorts. Jansson's take on what the Umgah looked like before genetic modification is also interesting - though maybe they look a little too cute and anthropomorphic when considering their genius with biological manipulation? His other designs are equally excellent, and I like the reasoning behind certain style decisions.

I based their anatomy on the word 'Twig'. Balls for head.

These little creatures could vary in appearance just like house cats do. Maybe they have a lot of latent/dormant genes to prevent inbreeding. They'd have to, since their entire species is repopulated by just one male and 6 females. I made them pretty small because they can produce new adults in just a few months. To grow from single cell to adult in that time would require a lot of food and energy. Another reason for their small size is that I want to stay away from doing too many human sized (and human proportionate) aliens. With drawn stuff, one has the liberty to avoid the 'man-in-suit' feel which sci-fi often presents.

This is just my way of solving the problem with the differing melee pilot portrait.

Not buying it this time guys!

Little black spider controlling the giant red puppet:
But... but... we're evil! Look how scary it is! Argarak, do the mandible thing again!

Second black spider:
*Clac clac clac*

Niklas' website, Android Arts, has other fascinating things, including an emulation page and ideas regarding Exile, and other classic games.


  1. Cool stuff. I WANT to say there was a line that said that Spathi had shells, which I assumed to mean like a tortoise, below its eyestalk. It's been a good eight years since I played it to completion, though, so I may have just made that up.

  2. 1) Star Control 2 is my "what's your favorite game?" answer, too, so cheers for that.

    2) The Shofixti are so freakin' cute! Combine this look with their great accents, insults, and suicidal tendencies, and I think you have a winning new design.

    3) When will we see Star Control covered on HG101? :)

  3. I've been a HUGE fan of Niklaus Jannson's work for a while now - I practically learned how to paint on the computer from his tutorials! Its nice to see his works being covered here!