Hehehe... ah, Freespace...

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
A couple of months ago, when THQ went bankrupt and their assets were auctioned off, Interplay bought the Freespace IP back. Gamasutra has just published info regarding just how much it was that Interplay had to pay for this venerable franchise. So, how much does it cost to become the owner of Freespace?

Brace yourselves...

...$7,500.

That's right - total ownership of the entire IP, publishing rights, et cetera, all for under ten thousand dollars.

Now, I've never been one to mock Freespace - I know some folks here considered Freespace to be a WC ripoff, not to mention claiming that Freespace 2 had ran the genre into the ground, but I never bought into that. Even so, Freespace was Wing Commander's main competitor for a while, so I can't help laughing a little bit about this. Really, $7,500 for the entire IP? At an auction?

There is also a sad aspect to this. Interplay bought the franchise because it was cheap, and there's still a couple of dollars to be earned from online sales at Good Old Games. But can the Freespace fans ever hope for a sequel? Of course not. So... imagine, had the fans known in advance that the IP would be such a cheap buy - the FS fan community is pretty well-organised, thanks to all the work they've spent collaborating on their source code projects. Certainly they have the manpower and ability to produce a game, and certainly as a group, they could have collectively raised more than $7,500 to secure the IP for themselves. Sure, I wouldn't be interested in playing a fan-made Freespace 3, just as I never really got interested in playing the Volition-made Freespace 2 - but I would have very much loved to see the Freespace fans accomplish something like this.

Oh, well, maybe Interplay will go bankrupt too? ;)
 

FekLeyrTarg

Rear Admiral
I remember that Interplay was bankrupt once.

Even though I doubt that a Freespace 3 will happen, maybe the chances aren't that bad since Spacesims are in the process of coming back with Star Citizen and Elite IV.

Also, there is one fan-sequel to Freespace 2 which is excellent in my opinion and also very popular: Blue Planet.
 

Deathsnake

Rear Admiral
I written already a news at Gamersglobal.de
http://www.gamersglobal.de/news/70799/freespace-interplay-kauft-die-rechte-von-thq-und-volition
In the video is the Intro from Blue Planet - War in Heaven 2. A very good point of view, how the community push the old engine. But after now see the Lizenz is full back at Interplay. Maybe there is a chance to get a HD Version on Steam with a new Engine with State of the Art 2014 standarts. For such a version I would buy Freespace 1+2 again. And of course the new TC and campaigns for this version. I really hope so...
 

LeHah

212 Squadron - "The Old Man's Eyes And Ears"
I could not think of a more indignant or more appropriate end to Freespace than being sold on public market like a cheap whore in a shabby brothel.
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
A little harsh are we?

Still interplay already had some of the rights so it really was the only thing to do. Volition had long wanted to do a FS3 but didn't have interplay's support. No one else could do anything with the franchise so long as the rights were split the way they were. Which is, I'm sure, the reason for the low auction.

Still residual rights to the fanbase would have been been amazing.
 

AD

Finder of things, Doer of stuff
I'm not sure anyone claimed FS2 killed space sims because it was bad. It was more the expectations compared to actual sales. How does a game that is claimed by fans to be the pinnacle of genre get such awful sales? You could argue that whatever killed the space sim was what led to the bad sales, but it's also true that the dismal returns made publishers leery of putting stock in the genre. It more or less cemented in their minds the idea that space sims weren't marketable.

$7500 for the IP? You know, for how much Freespace fans say they love the mission design and the flight model, I'm not sure I've ever heard someone say that the main thing they love about Freespace is the story, characters, and setting. It's always that they liked feeling like a nobody... a small cog in the war machine... So while I'm sure Freespace fans do like the story, I question the value of an IP from a marketing perspective. If I was going to resurrect Freespace for modern audiences, what story elements would I be working off of that would stand out from the countless other generic Sci-fi IPs out there? (I'm not asking rhetorically since I really don't know).
 

cff

Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi
I guess the name Freespace would be worth $7500 with regards to marketing even if you would not use a single thing from the games.
 

Deathsnake

Rear Admiral
Meanwhile its clear:

The 7500 Dollar was for additional rights. The main licence was always at Interplay. With the additional rights Interplay gets all the money from the GOG sells. Before some money gets to Volition. Now Interplay can do anything without question Volition.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
The 7500 Dollar was for additional rights. The main licence was always at Interplay. With the additional rights Interplay gets all the money from the GOG sells. Before some money gets to Volition. Now Interplay can do anything without question Volition.
Ah, that explains it. In that case, they may well have paid too much - really, how many GOG sells would Freespace get?

I'm not sure anyone claimed FS2 killed space sims because it was bad. It was more the expectations compared to actual sales. How does a game that is claimed by fans to be the pinnacle of genre get such awful sales? You could argue that whatever killed the space sim was what led to the bad sales, but it's also true that the dismal returns made publishers leery of putting stock in the genre. It more or less cemented in their minds the idea that space sims weren't marketable.
I have to say, in that regard, there is a grain of truth about the notion that FS2 had something to do with the decline. As you point out, The Freespace series was a very specific kind of game, with a very impersonal story. I never got around to playing FS2, but I did watch the endgame movies a couple of years back, and I couldn't help guffawing upon hearing some great big admiral eulogising the heroic sacrifice of... Alpha One. Jeepers, you'd think an admiral would know the names of the people serving under him...

Anyway, I am convinced that the lack of story in the Freespace series was one of the causes of the abysmal sales of the sequel. With any Wing Commander game, you'd have a hefty chunk of players who weren't really that into the gameplay - but they loved the story. Freespace offered nothing to them, they may have bought the first game because they thought it looked interesting, but the sequel? No point.

However, it has to be said - it's not really FS2 itself that is to blame. I think a lot has to do with the problems of storytelling in the late 1990s. Prophecy had a noticably smaller story than WC3/4, and everyone knew it was because of the costs. Secret Ops... I don't think there's too many people out there, even amongst WC fans, who'd praise Secret Ops for the story and characters. And again, everyone understood that this was because of the costs. The exact same thing happened with Freespace - it was a new game, a new franchise, developed by a relatively small company on a relatively small budget, so its story was cut down to a few impersonal cutscenes. Starlancer? Same thing, even though Digital Anvil might well have had the possibility to do better than that. We can all too clearly see the tendency - that terrible equation between the need to reduce costs and the reduction of story. Starting as early as Prophecy, the marketing folks all over the world were constantly stressing the fact that, you know, it's really all about the gameplay, and that the story isn't really that important. The fans simply begged to differ, and stopped buying the games - and it didn't help at all that the space sim got typecast into being a PC genre (what about Star Wars Starfighter, or Jedi Starfighter, or half a dozen other games of the kind? Ah, those aren't "real" space sims, they're console games!). Possibly one of the worst things that Electronic Arts did for the WC franchise in this period was the cancellation of Prophecy on the consoles.

The irony is that the RTS genre went through the reverse right around this time. While the space sim started off as a story-heavy genre that got lighter on story over time, the RTS started off with next to no story, and started adding more over time (note: when I say story, I mean characters - which is to say, I don't consider C&C to be especially story-heavy). Blizzard had just released StarCraft, where they used every trick in the book to jam more story into the game with next to no budget to spend. It's funny, given that nobody would ever think of Blizzard these days as having budget issues, but if you look at their games, it's clear that they realised as early as 1997 that their high-quality cutscenes were a dead-end, and started experimenting more and more with cheap storytelling. Even StarCraft II - what are those cutscenes with Raynor talking to one or two other people, most of whom only ever appear in a single setting, if not simply a high-tech adaptation of WC1's talking heads scenes?

If only the space-sim & flight sim developers of the late 1990s - hey, FS2, Starlancer, Crimson Skies, I'm looking at you - had been able to do the same, perhaps their sales wouldn't have plummeted so much. But they had it harder - in the RTS, any extra story was considered an improvement, while in the space-sim, the developers had to wean players down from high production values. This is why even Freelancer wasn't really a success on this count - yes, they rendered their cutscenes in-game, a decade before StarCraft II, but they still emphasised their high production values a lot, with a big variety in sets and characters, as well as an over-reliance on scenes requiring special animations.

Hmm. At least that's how I recall it. I think I may need to go back and take a look at Freelancer again these days, to see how it matches up with my theory.
 

Deathsnake

Rear Admiral
Interplay release it on steam, thats for sure:

http://steamdb.info/app/41620/
http://steamdb.info/app/41610/

Just the release from GOG or a version worked for Steamworks? Mod compatible? Use then the builds and launcher from the Community to worked with the latest OS and GPU? That means, they need to talk to the comm and using theyr works. If they do - great for the comm... if not...

but with the additional rights, Interplay gets all the money from the Steamsales.

Example:

9,99 Dollar - 2000 people buy it ( I don't know exactly how much money get Valve - I say now 2.49 Dollar) 7,50*2000 = 15.000 Dollars. But we know Steam sales a lot more then just 2000 copies. Maybe then enough money to start a Kickstarter Campaign for a possible Freespace 3 with a new engine.
 

cff

Kilk'dymga'qith laq Ik'vikvi
I dunno, you might mourn the loss of Alpha 1, but Freespace did IMHO present the story of an unknown alien menace WAY better then Prophecy did. The enemies were far more mysterious and frightening then anything WC put out with the Nephilem for me. Yes they completely lacked any character interaction and that was also amongst the stuff that killed it for me, but parts of the story was told better ,,,
 

FekLeyrTarg

Rear Admiral
Also, X-Wing and TIE Fighter also don't have that much story without the Strategy Guides and they still have been successful games.
 

Jason_Ryock

Vice Admiral
I dunno, you might mourn the loss of Alpha 1, but Freespace did IMHO present the story of an unknown alien menace WAY better then Prophecy did. The enemies were far more mysterious and frightening then anything WC put out with the Nephilem for me. Yes they completely lacked any character interaction and that was also amongst the stuff that killed it for me, but parts of the story was told better ,,,
They were so mysterious - after three playthroughs and week of mission building, I still can't remember anything about them.

Also, X-Wing and TIE Fighter also don't have that much story without the Strategy Guides and they still have been successful games.
This is wrong on so many counts I don't even know where to begin.

First, the story in the strategy guides is purely character development back story that has nothing to do with what actually happens in the game. The revelation that Maarek Stele used to be a swoop pilot or that Keyan Farlander is from Agamar is totally irrelevant to the rest of the story because the games are not ABOUT the characters. They are about the Rebellion against the Empire, in both games. This story isn't even told in the manuals - and it doesn't need to be. Unless you've been hit over the head AND living in a cave your entire life, when they say "The Empire is building something big." It's KINDA obvious it's the Death Star. In Freespace there are vague threats about bad things that might or might not happen in the future. Hang on, I'm going to E-Bay my car right now because tomorrow might not happen.

Second, the story does not start in the strategy guides - it starts in the game manual which is included in the game box. Did Freespace have a manual? If it did it was so unremarkable it might as well have been toliet paper. At any rate, the copy of Freespace I bought didn't come with a manual. Sitting on my desk right now is the manual from TIE Fighter: The Stele Chronicles. I can't even tell you where my Freespace disc is. The last time I saw it, I used it as a coaster. I do remember that part of the game. It saved my copper end table from a really bad stain.

Thirdly, TIE Fighter has one of the most well regarded story lines of a space simulator. Ever. It still makes peoples top ten lists today, and frankly non-3D sprite based Wing Commander looks a helluva lot better then untextured geometrical shapes floating in space. But people love it. Because it DID have a fantastic story, told during the missions over comms and also through between mission cutscenes. It brings back fan favorite characters like Grand Admiral Thrawn. Grand Admiral Thrawn, compared to Alpha 2. I still remember the mission I flew in TIE Fighter with Darth Vader on my wing - racing back to Coruscant to defend the Emperors Yacht. In Freespace I have a vague memory of fighting some big brown vacuum cleaner in space. I thought maybe it was leftover from Spaceballs or something - even at the time I don't know why I was fighting it. But by golly, Vader as my wingman. That was a true moment. Or the Redemption Scenario. As an actual mission. In X-Wing. Man, I played X-Wing after I read Rogue Squadron, and that was truly an experience.

Fifthly, X-Wing and TIE Fighter are based on an already successful IP. You could have called the game Geometry Wars and with the Star Wars label on it, everyone would have shelled out cash for it. Unlike Freespace - which branded itself as Descent in a desperate attempt to connect with an existing batch of gamers. Even though it was unrelated to Descent. And it played NOTHING like descent. Gone were the puzzles and traps and navigating a labyrinthine of confusing tunnels. Gone were even the most basic attempts at story telling. Most of my friends, to this day, maintain that Descent is an FPS not a simulator game, and the main character is just a ship. The point here is that the story in X-Wing - and in TIE Fighter - had already been told in the movies, and it didn't need to be presented the player all over again. I must have missed the theatrical release of DESCENT FREESPACE: THE STORY OF HOW WE ARE RELATED TO THAT OTHER IP. It could have been compelling, I'm sure.

Finally, X-Wing and TIE Fighter are based on a successful IP that already HAD clearly established characters. The point of X-Wing and TIE Fighter wasn't to let the player experience the universe through Steele or Farlanders eyes. The point was to let them be Luke Skywalker (which is who you are supposed to be - according to the strategy guide - on the final mission) or Darth Vader. That's for the casual fan. And for the fan who wants that little bit more of the Star Wars universe, there's a compelling story in the manuals. So here's the comparison: Hey do you want to be Joe Smith who dies at the end, or a freaking JEDI KNIGHT who blows up a station that can kill planets and save the entire galaxy? Yeah, Freespace comes out smelling like a rose here.

There are all of my memories of Freespace. None of them particularly fond. And my memories of X-Wing and TIE Fighter, games that defined me until I discovered the gloryness of Wing Commander. And why you're so clearly wrong about X-Wing and TIE Fighter.

Now, maybe if you had said X-Wing VS. TIE Fighter, you might have had a point. But XVT has no pretensions of being about story - it existed solely for multiplayer gaming - any story there is accidental.
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
You mention a lot of Tie Fighter, but you fail to convince me X-wing had much of a story aside from the major plot point of leading into the Battle of Yavin. And I'm going by memory but most of the missions were rather disconnected with each other. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! But that's the way it is) But the point remains, that the protagonist in both games also goes unnamed in-game so that the player may freely put himself in their shoes. (Part of the immersion aspect you see)

And yes freespace very much did have a story. Although it is very basic, it is very well executed. The human race is fighting against a foe technologically superior to it. You as the player are thrust into a series of crucial missions to even the odds. Then just when it seems you are about the gain the upper hand, in comes the Lucifer bringing the war to the lowest point with the destruction of your allies homeworld and the near destruction of your own. Then the player gets an epic battle turn it around. Simple, yes, but again, it is well executed if you play it. And some of the best stories are the simple ones (Star Wars anyone?)

Freespace 2 is far more plot heavy then its predecessor. When naming identifiable characters, people seem to forget Admiral Boche . Id even argue, in 2, the Shivans as a whole are a character. Quarto you yourself proclaim you haven't played it through so I'll leave it at that. Its on Gog, very often for ridiculously cheep. Pick your self up a copy. Enjoy it for what it is. You can certainly do worse in a couple of afternoons, and to be honest I do enjoy that game a lot more then Prophecy.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
You mention a lot of Tie Fighter, but you fail to convince me X-wing had much of a story aside from the major plot point of leading into the Battle of Yavin. And I'm going by memory but most of the missions were rather disconnected with each other. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! But that's the way it is) But the point remains, that the protagonist in both games also goes unnamed in-game so that the player may freely put himself in their shoes. (Part of the immersion aspect you see)
There is a significant difference. Anyone who plays X-Wing is channeling the movies. It's not that you get to be Luke Skywalker (you don't), but you get to be a part of the greater story. I remember when I was playing through X-Wing (can I even put that in past tense? I still haven't finished the addons, even after all these years, and I really do intend to... damn, that game is hard :) ), the moment I really started getting excited about the story was when I escorted a bunch of Corellian corvettes - and realised that hey, on the other end of their flight, one of them will be boarded by Darth Vader, and Episode IV will begin. The whole "Operation Strike Fear" part of the game had some cool mission designs, but I struggled to stay focussed, I'd sometimes play one mission a week or even less than that - but when my pilot's story started intertwining with the movie...

And yes freespace very much did have a story. Although it is very basic, it is very well executed. The human race is fighting against a foe technologically superior to it. You as the player are thrust into a series of crucial missions to even the odds. Then just when it seems you are about the gain the upper hand, in comes the Lucifer bringing the war to the lowest point with the destruction of your allies homeworld and the near destruction of your own. Then the player gets an epic battle turn it around. Simple, yes, but again, it is well executed if you play it. And some of the best stories are the simple ones (Star Wars anyone?)
I don't think we mean the same thing by "story". I am talking, above all, about character-based story, with a main protagonist who undergoes change over the course of the story dealing with internal and external challenges. You're talking about the setting, that's different - yes, to some degree the events, even without characters, are a story, but ultimately stories need characters to really be interesting. You point to Star Wars - well, really, how many people watched those movies to find out if the Rebels are going to win in the end? I think it's safe to assume most people watched to see what would happen to Luke and his friends. You didn't have this in Freespace. Yes, to some degree, everyone wanted to see what would happen with the collective story of humanity - but it just wasn't that exciting, and it was very hard to identify with it.

Freespace 2 is far more plot heavy then its predecessor. When naming identifiable characters, people seem to forget Admiral Boche . Id even argue, in 2, the Shivans as a whole are a character. Quarto you yourself proclaim you haven't played it through so I'll leave it at that. Its on Gog, very often for ridiculously cheep. Pick your self up a copy. Enjoy it for what it is. You can certainly do worse in a couple of afternoons, and to be honest I do enjoy that game a lot more then Prophecy.
Well, look, my point about not playing FS2 isn't that I disdain the series. Yes, you'll get people here who will proudly proclaim that they didn't play FS2 because they hate Freespace and all it stands for, and blahblahblah... that's not the case with me. I liked FS1, and I did want to play FS2... but I simply couldn't get around to it. Even in my student years, when I had lots and lots of time to play games, I found that FS2 just didn't entice me enough - I kept picking other games over it. Today, it's almost certain I will never play it - look, I have not even had time to replay any of the WC games that I utterly love in at least three years. So, my point is - the characterless nature of Freespace limited its appeal. My personal story is precisely that - I couldn't be bothered with it. You might say that that's just me - no, it isn't. The first Freespace sold hundreds of thousands of units. The second one sold, if I recall correctly, forty-two thousand. That means something.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying FS2 is a bad game. In fact, I believe it must be a damned good game, to have attracted such a hardcore (albeit small) fan following that still plays the game after over a decade. But whatever was good about it, I do believe its lack of character-driven story was a huge problem, which almost certainly led to smaller sales and contributed to the collapse of the genre.
 

wcnut

Rear Admiral
The second one sold, if I recall correctly, forty-two thousand. That means something.
I believe fans will tell you that it means there was a huge mishandling of distribution, promotion, and advertising on Interplay's (the distributor) part which lead to the poor sales. There weren't exactly a lot of copies made judging as I had never seen a physical copy in a store at the time, when I would find copies of FS1 combined with it's Silent Threat expansion all over the place. The fact is, they made their own self fulfilling prophecy when they released that into the public expecting poor sales. At the time, most people had no idea there was a sequel when they were total fans of the first game. I think the first I heard of it was when I got a OEM disk packaged with a Nvidia graphics card, and that had a small mission set not in the main game. How often were people buying graphics cards? Anyway who was complaining about story enough to hurt sales? I don't remember that ever being said at the time. Most reviews at the time were highly favorable, in fact, praising its story. If you ever get a few hours in a day, give it a play through. It's not terribly long, you can probably beat it in 2-3 days of intermittent play. Your right about X-wing, that damn game is hard an has been plaguing me since I was little.

I don't think we mean the same thing by "story". I am talking, above all, about character-based story, with a main protagonist who undergoes change over the course of the story dealing with internal and external challenges.
That's the whole point, you, the player, were the protagonist, your arc was dictated by the various medals and achievements you accomplished as you were successful. That end movie you quoted was one of two depending of whether or not you, the player, survived the mission. If not, the admiral gave you a nice eulogy. It was essentially the same otherwise.
 

Quarto

Unknown Enemy
I believe fans will tell you that it means there was a huge mishandling of distribution, promotion, and advertising on Interplay's (the distributor) part which lead to the poor sales. ... At the time, most people had no idea there was a sequel when they were total fans of the first game.
Yes, fans will tell me that :). But it's never that simple. The fact is, none of these things depend entirely on the distributor. It's a big challenge to get a game in stores - today, a game like FS2 would be a big success because it would get a digital release, but back then, it was genuinely hard. You have to understand, from the prespective of a brick-and-mortar store, with limited shelf space, it's far better to have forty copies of the current best-seller on the shelves, than to have one copy each of forty different games. If your game is not promising enough, and you want it to have more shelf space, the big question stores ask is - "what's in it for us?".

The same goes for promotion. Two years ago, I went on a press tour to promote the air combat game I was working on at the time (Combat Wings - ultimately published as Dogfight 1942). Prior to this press tour, the dev team had a pretty bitter relationship with the marketing department (even though we were all in the same company) - we all thought that the marketing department is basically ignoring our game, concentrating all their efforts on another title, and that our title would ultimately fail because of their laziness. Not much changed after this press tour for most of the team, but for me - well, what I experienced blew me away. The marketing team had arranged dozens of meetings with the press, in Europe, the UK, and in the US. Two weeks of travel, day after day of meetings. And you'd think that from the dev team's perspective, the conditions were positively ideal - there I was, the game's creative director, with full and total control of the message we were driving across to the press. I was making all the presentations, after all. And hey, we felt we had a pretty good game - rough, unpolished, but overall pretty good. But there was no real story in it, just like Freespace.

Do you know what the result of this press tour was? Precious little, actually. Time and again, the press seemed pretty happy with what they were seeing. They enjoyed playing the game. They asked questions, they were interested. But we got very, very little press from it. The online outlets usually published a short preview, some indeed very positive; all the printed press, however, utterly ignored us. They liked the game - but there was nothing about it to warrant using up even half a page in print. Paper is limited, you know.

I can imagine Interplay having the exact same experience - only worse, because back in 2000, the printed press was huge, while the online press... not so huge. And trailers! Today, trailers are the mainstay of marketing, precisely because the internet allows us to access an unlimited number of trailers. Back then, you could either download a trailer (hours, and hours - you'd really only do that if you were already interested in the game), or you'd see the trailer on a TV in a store. But why would a store waste precious time with an FS2 trailer, when they could spend all day showing the trailer for Quake III, Medal of Honor, or whatever else the big hits at the time were?

So, what did FS2 have going for it? Check out its features, which I'm paraphrasing (in a slightly sarastic manner) straight from the original box art:

That big enemy you had in the first game - well, they're back! And they're bigger! Whoa, that force that almost destroyed you previously, it was just a scouting party! The game features nebulas which add a new dimension to the gameplay (whatever). There are gas mining ships in the game (uhm, not excited). There are fighters, and corvettes, and the enemy has bombers, and turrets (yeah... really?)... and two kilometer-long capital ships! Wow! Twenty weapons! 30 missions! 70 new ships! Beam weapons! And a mission editor! Don't get me wrong. All of these things are interesting to someone who is already excited about the game. If I'm excited about FS2, I'll be even more excited knowing there's as many as seventy new ships in there, and cool new weapons and stuff. But none of this has the potential to make me excited about the game in the first place. If a player who doesn't really have that much interest in space sims were to pick up the WCP box, he'd see Mark Hamill, and live actors and stuff - hey, that looks interesting. If he picks up FS2 - he won't care. All the features listed on the box are clearly aimed at people who really liked the original - and that's not a huge crowd.

Yes, the game was highly praised for great dogfights, great graphics, and so on. But when you're making a space sim or a flight sim, if you want to achieve mass market sales, you need something that appeals to the mass market, something that people who are scared of such games can relate to. And people are scared of such games, you know - everyone wants to be Luke Skywalker, but the moment you tell them about a game that tries to recreate fighter dogfights, they start unconsciously backing away, because of the perceived complexity. The word "simulator" in particular is frightening. Most people would rather stick to first-person shooters. You can counteract this with a big, bombastic story, like Wing Commander did - or by tacking onto a big franchise, like the X-Wing series did. Without either of these things, you're stuck with low sales, and it doesn't matter if you're a young upstart company with a small publisher, like in the case of Freespace, or if you're world-famous Chris Roberts with all of Microsoft's marketing power behind you, like in Starlancer's case. It's just a very difficult genre to achieve massive sales in, and nobody is going to spend massive amounts of money on marketing unless they have some hope of achieving good sales.

Anyway who was complaining about story enough to hurt sales? I don't remember that ever being said at the time. Most reviews at the time were highly favorable, in fact, praising its story.
Actually, even reading through the very rough summary of the game's reception on Wikipedia shows that both the sequel and the original games were criticised for the impersonal story, the argument being that it was ultimately difficult to connect to the player character. Yes, the reviews said the events depicted were great and all that, but they did not like the impersonality of it.

But that's not even the point. The problem with Freespace's story is not that people hated it. The problem with it is that people didn't care. Here's a sample conversation kids never had:
"Hey, who do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Man, I wanna be Alpha One!"

I mean, read through any of those "greatest character/enemy/whatever of all time" polls. Blair, Spirit, Thrakhath, the Kilrathi - they show up. Nothing ever shows up from the Freespace series. Not even the Shivans, because ultimately, you know, they're not that memorable - they have no real resonance, they're just the usual cliche - a deep, dark alien race that wants to destroy everything for no apparent reason. Yes, they were a far better implementation of this cliche than WCP's Nephilim - but it's still one of the shittiest and least exciting cliches of pulp science fiction, because we, as people, cannot ultimately relate to a story unless it revolves around characters. The Shadows, the what''s-their-name from Star Trek: Voyager, the Nomads from Freelancer, et cetera, et cetera - no one ever gave a shit about any of those.

The point of all this, is that Freespace 2 failed when it came to that ultimate marketing tool - word of mouth. The first Freespace achieved a mild success, because of word of mouth - but ultimately, only because Wing Commander Prophecy had been released a few months earlier:
"Hey, I just played Wing Commander Prophecy. Cool game, but the aliens kinda sucked."
"Yeah, I know. But listen, I just played this other game, Freespace. They did the alien thing way better than Prophecy did."
"Really? Ok, I'll check that out."

A year later, this strategy simply could not work with Freespace 2. About the only way they could have achieved good sales, ultimately, would have been on the back of another outing for the dull-and-unimpressive Nephilim in a new Wing Commander game...

Man, I've wasted a lot of time on this post :). Just one thing to add in conclusion - and I'm kinda repeating myself with this - I'm not disparaging the Freespace series. They're great games. But there are very concrete reasons why they failed to achieve success. Freespace fans would do themselves a favour in acknowledging that no, it wasn't a case of the world failing to recognise the greatness, but rather that the games simply contained a fundamental flaw that made them uninteresting to most people, except perhaps as a foil to another, story-based space-sim.
 

Darkmage

Vice Admiral
FreeSpace, ah the memories... Still being modded 10+ years on, I'd say it was a success as far as longevity. When you think of modding a space game Wing Commander is pretty far down the list of engines you'd use, and FreeSpace is very high up the list, of course that's not the full story. In the 90's there were an absolute ton of space games, just go look at the 3DO's games library to see what I mean (in fact everyone should checkout the 3DO because it's from the era when 3d was an experimental medium still being explored by developers, something which is seriously lacking in today's market. If you remember Sonic-Xtreme, you know what I mean when I say modern 3d gaming hasn't even scratched the surface of what's possible, and what true innovation in game development is.) . The genre was really pumping along, but then something odd happened. Joysticks stopped being made, and being supported in a lot of games around windows 98 to XP transition (Microsoft Sidewinder and force feedback? where are you now?). Game controllers took over from that, and the space sim genre never really recovered. It's only been with the advent of kickstarter that this groundswell of support for space games has started to come back. FreeSpace's storyline or lack of, had nothing to do with it. Just look at StarLancer to see how a game with a great storyline failed to sell massive numbers. Full motion video is slammed by pretty much every reviewer on the net and the only exception I've seen to that is Wing Commander 3 which usually gets a bit of praise for doing it right while the entire FMV genre gets slammed for trying it. FreeSpace 1 and 2 had a lot of innovative gameplay that stomped all over Wing Commander with a lot of it's subsystem targetting/disabling of ships, and it implemented these features in a way which was coherent to the storyline, not just a one mission, "oh yeah disable that fighter and we're gonna go gank it for no reason." The online multiplayer was something that Wing Commander fans could only dream of, until they finally hacked it in about 8 years too late to be meaningful.

I love both series but seriously? the animosity on here over FreeSpace is comical. It's like nerds fighting over Star Wars vs Star Trek. What's next? wars over Star Citizen vs Wing Commander, even though it's Wing Commander Online, just renamed so EA doesn't sue Mr Roberts. Games fail for many different reasons and I'm yet to hear any real arguments, not having a story? Big deal, quake 3 had no story and it sold squillions of copies. The graphics and tech of the game were top notch, I think the fact is that the Space genre was just on it's way out with publishers, the gaming press and pop culture in general. There's also the fact that we don't really know what went on inside volition and Interplay. FreeSpace2 was one of Interplay's last titles, it's possible they devoted little to no resources to marketing the game, especially with the financial difficulties they had.

Personally I think FreeSpace 3 if it was pitched right, and it would need a massively new engine, could be a hit on Kickstarter, the only problem it might face now is over saturation since there's at least 5 space games on the service currently generating money in amounts high enough to be green lit.

The death of the genre seemed to coincide with the death of Star Trek on TV as well as the death of any other experimentation with Space Opera Sci-Fi such as Babylon 5. Not to mention the massive consolidation the games industry went through in the early 2000s, Nintendo basically being killed, Sega's death, the rise of Xbox and the Playstation/Xbox war that has cost both sides billions. Gaming in General has been massively stripped back and gone business-conservative. That's why Kickstarter is so popular now. The games in EA's back catalogue that should have been getting made are being demanded by fans and funded by them. Hell there's now a Syndicate remake, Road Rash remake, and Wing Commander remake... The 3 games that were being hinted at as EA working on 2-3 years ago! It shows how dumb EA's corporate team is if they can't greenlight projects, while millions of dollars walk out the door to Kickstarter. Syndicate the first person shooter, when it's clearly a tactical RTS???

I mean seriously, how hard would it be for EA to setup some office space for 5-20 guys to hack on their old IPs making new titles? Whilst the larger industry pursues a suicidal course into subscription gaming, always online and generally horrible repetitive gameplay (Call of Duty 8/9/10/11 anyone?) At least EA is doing something right in Battlefield (it's actually fun) but I digress, the bulk of large scale gaming has sucked in recent years, just look at Diablo 3, online marketplace whoring and hacking, and now we get swamped with DOTA 2/3/4/5/6. The point is people just want something different to the Racing/FPS/RTS/RPG/Sports genres, and the big companies don't want to deliver that experience.

I dropped $1000 onto Star Citizen, and if the Crytek Linux port stuff actually plays out (Crytek's hiring a Linux dev for the 3d game engine now) It'll be the best investment in gaming I've ever made. Companies need to sit up and take notice, because the PC market is undergoing a rapid and large scale shift right now. Most of the games I want to play are on Kickstarter (Planetary Annihilation, Satellite Reign (Syndicate), Road Redemption (Road Rash) and Star Citizen (Wing Commander)), and all of the Kickstarter games are supporting Linux (As well as Windows). I know who's getting my money, and if money is all that talks then I tally about $2000 that's going to Kickstarters and not EA/Activision from myself alone. I have lots of friends that are voting with their wallets too. I think, and hope that the future of gaming is going to hopefully see a lot of the management in gaming companies get sacked (I'm looking at you focus testing groups and marketing departments.) As one major dev said "I pitched a Lego game in the 80s and Minecraft is that game, but management wouldn't greenlight me." Chris Roberts is living proof that the corporate games industry has no idea where the next big thing is even when it comes begging to them for help.
 
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