StarCon Prototype (PSX)



There was quite a lot of interest when this prototype was released. Delving into the game’s coding, a lot about how the game may have turned out can be ascertained and this guide looks at these different aspects.

Extracts from the game’s coding are in italics.


Contents

1. Controls
2. Game Modes
3. Missions
4. Level Scripts
5. Ships
6. Weapons
7. Equipment
8. Cutscenes
9. Hacks
10. Updates
11. Links



1. Controls

The controls are very similar to other space sims such as Colony Wars and Blast Radius:

L1 – Roll left
R1 – Roll right
L2 - Deaccelerate
R2 – Accelerate
Start – Pause game
Select – Select fighter to launch (if playing as the carrier) or return to carrier (if playing as the fighter)
Triangle – Toggle first and third person view
Square – Fire battery weapon
X – Fire prime weapon
Circle – select target

In the prototype, there is no option to change these.


2. Game Modes



There seem to be two choices in the prototype, according to the game’s coding:

Missions
HyperMelee (2P)

However, there are other options in the coding that were to have been in the final game:

2-Player Deathmatch
Select Battlefield
Select Ship
Select Character
Cheat Codes
Choose two player alliance, race and location
Choose alliance and race
Next Selection
Next Alliance


The deathmatch may be the same as the HyperMelee. The Battlefield option may be the Starmap screen seen in the prototype, but the ability to select characters is obviously beyond the choices seen in this early version.



You start off with the Hyperium Carrier in the prototype, but, using the Select button, can launch one of two fighters in order to engage the enemy, while the mothership continues to fight on its own. This may be the Ship Select option mentioned above, but it could be a choice of capitals ships as well. As there is an ability to make alliances (which adds more of a RPG aspect to the game), this may mean you get to choose ships from either race. If the Select button on Controller 2 is pressed, the screen splits and allows Player 2 to choose a fighter with which to combat the enemy, while Player 1 is generally limited to the carrier.

Finally, the obligatory cheat codes, although these may be more for debugging the game.


3. Missions




The mission screen has the following breakdown:

Mission
System
Mission


The game script details the following missions, of which there are twelve. Some of these may be made up of multiple parts, though. Some levels do not seem to have either mission or system names, but the twelve missions correspond with the red spots in the starmap above.

NONE
Upheaval
Escape from a Rainbow World's exploding debris field of fragments.

NONE
Rainbow World Fragments.
Gather RBW fragments and capture/kill Lamprey.
Destroy hostile Zealot Monarch

AXIS
Pirates
Protect Three Freighters as they enter Crux space and attempt to reclaim stolen Hyperium Cargo Pods.

Lycoth
Glory Device
Stop Crux forces who are staging a raid on our colony in the Lycoth system.

DEGRADESTA
The Raven Hunt
Investigate why the Hyperium attack on the Crux forces in Degradesta failed?

VELA
Unzervalt
Important dig sites in the Vela System have increased our technology levels. Make sure they don't fall into the wrong hands.

NONE
The Hive
Find the source hive of the Lamprey and obliterate it!

ANMARI
Last Rainbow World
Battle through 'undead' carriers and destroy the Spirit Orbs controlling them before own ships are taken over.

Hanheim
Assassins
Locate the secret base of the Crux leader Hantiir and defeat this lunatic once and for all in his lair.

NONE
Planet Defense
A 'missile command' in space; destroying inbound meteroites and their source.

CALIS/ABYLIN
Assault
Launch an assault on the Crux Homeworld.

MATRIX
The Matrix
Fight your way through the Zealot's defenses, and destroy them.



Levels 4 and 9 are playable in the prototype, which do correspond with the filenames in the game's content folders. Whether there were to be any more in the final game is unknown. The player seems to be fighting for the Hyperium forces, with a range of enemies to destroy. However, there does not seem to be an overall plot, and, as the game in its present form lacks the mission briefings for all but missions 4 and 9, it is difficult to know the story in any more detail.


4. Level Scripts

There are two known playable levels in the prototype. The game coding has the scripts for both of these, based on Missions 9 and 4:

Mission 9:

Captain, that is the Crux Commander's carrier.
We need to destroy Hantiir at all costs!
HANTIIR: "Hyperium Dogs! You will never stop me."
Captain, Carrier has fled the TacVol.
Sir, six fighters on radar headed this way!
Only two ships remain, Captain!
Well done, Captain! Now, let's go after Hantiir!
Sir, there's the carrier from earlier.
It's trying to escape to the nav-ring. We need to take it out!
Crux Carrier Escaped! You Lose!!!
We must search the next location immediately for Hantiir.
CRUX CARRIER: "Wait...he's betrayed us to you..."
Sir, that wasn't Hantiir; he's fooled us!
Captain, we must mop up all enemies here to shear away.
There! That's Hantiir carrier; this must be his base!
We must destroy it all!
NO! It can't be!
My minions will avenge your petty vendetta! Aaaaa!!!
HANTIIR: "Hello again, fools. My loyal guards will dispose of you now."
HANTIIR: "Let's see how you do against my personal carrier..."

Mission 4:

Captain -- we must protect our planet; kill all Crux ships!
Sir, we've tracked one fighter with the white arrow.
It has a planet bomb! We must destroy it before it's launched!
We've got to destroy all the enemies before we can shear.
There's the bomb! It's running and we can't stop it!
Grab it and let's get it out of here!
Sir, we've got the bomb in the carrier.
Sir, we've got the bomb in the fighter
We need to return the bomb to the carrier.
Sir, we've got the bomb in the fighter.
We need to return the bomb to the carrier.
A new enemy has the bomb; get it from him!
Excellent. Let's take the bomb to the enemy site and give it back to them...
We've failed! The bomb will incinerate our colonists!
We're out of time -- it's going to blow!
The bomb drop-off point is marked with a nav-ring.
Follow the white arrow so we can send the bomb back to the Crux.
Sir, we've strapped the bomb to this fighter; good luck.
Captain, the bomb is onboard the carrier again.
If you launch another fighter, we'll fit it on that ship.
Sir, the bomb is adrift; the white arrow has been set to track it.
We've got to get it back!
We're out of time -- it's going to blow!
You've done it! Preparing to drop planeteering bomb...5...4...3...
Only one minute to detonation, sir!
Remaining Time --
Remaining Time -- DETONATION!!!




This should be the screen you see after you win, but it is unused in this prototype. Of course, if you lose …



Hyperium Carrier Destroyed! You Lose!!!


Mission 3 seems to have a (very) short script:

WARNING! Approaching TacVol Barrier

Picked up object

The Jackal is on that carrier! Destroy him!

Thanks! We'll take it the rest of the way!

Convoy has reached it's destination

Winner



5. Ships



As can be seen in the above screenshot of the SHIPS folder, there is a range of craft in the game.

From the game’s coding, a list of craft can be obtained. A number of these have the phrase “This is a description of the” before them. However, only the Griffon has a full description:

Griffon
This heavy bomber also carries a tractor beam weapon that can grab object up to the size of a fighter.


Another ship has the following description, although it is uncertain as to which one this is:

(Lightning?)
A fast fighter with twin rapid fire "burst" cannons and equipped with a spiral burn -- a radiating ring of exploding green plasma.

With more than three slots in the carrier’s fighter listing, it seems that players may be able select a variety of craft. The default Hyperium craft are the Hawk and Griffon.



The Raven and the Buccaneer appear as the default ships in the HyperMelee mode. The names of this craft were discovered after the game crashed because it could not find certain files in the H_RAVEN and C_BUC folders.

Other craft include:

Classic
Heavy Killer
Balanced
Gun Boat
Missile Boat


Hyperium forces have:

Raven
Hawk
Griffon


The Crux forces have the following:

Buccaneer
Lightning
Thunder


Both sides have cargo ships, carriers etc.

The Zealots have three craft:

Carrier
Violator
Monarch


The Hive on Lamprey do not have any ships at all, it seems.


6. Weapons

The ships have a range of weapons available and can carry two types at any one time, namely the Prime (or main) and Battery (secondary) weapons:

Suicide Missile
Tsunami Launcher
Neutralizer Net
Buzzsaw Missile
MIRV Missile
Chatter Cannon
Remote Gun Pods
Homing Bolt
Beam Turret
Pulse Blazer


There are brief description of some of these, which do not appear to be available in the prototype:

Battery Weapon: A small red pod darts towards the target, then harasses it at close range with gunfire.

Prime Weapon: This slow firing weapon generates a cataclysmic effect -- an ominous black ball crackling with blue energy, that sucks in any nearby craft like a black hole. It is particularly effective against stationary targets such as space stations or even small planets. It takes up the front Battery slot; and because of its tremendous power requirement, all battery weapons may need to be shut down when it fires.

Prime Weapon: This massive energy gun fires pretty rapidly. Since it is fixed forward, the carrier commander must maneuver his craft carefully to aim. However, the sustained spray of shots mean that a hit is likely. If he can keep it on target, repeated hits can cause massive damage. Due to massive energy drain, it also takes up the two front Battery slots.

Battery Weapon: These persistently pursue targets, but are not very fast, so they are easy for an experienced fighter to avoid. But when they hit, they do a lot of damage.



7. Equipment

The ships seem to have access to a number of pieces of equipment:

Repair Droid
Armor
Auxillary Engines
Gravity Well Generator
Jammer Array
Tracker Array




Both weapons and equipment are probably earned as upgrades, but the HyperMelee mode does seem to have some kind of power-up (resembling an orange fireball). It is unclear as to how this feature is used, though.



In a screenshot from the press kit at E3 in 1998, there is an unfinished menu showing the Hyperium Carrier being upgraded. Whether these are weapons or equipment is unknown, but the circles on the schematic on the left seem to match the ship's weapon locations. The player has the option to install, sell or discard the upgrade. The resolution and detail suggest that this screenshot was from the PC version.



But the Playstation prototype has a similar image, albeit unused. The image is called Depot, which might mean that the ship has to be docked at an outpost or station in order to install or upgrade weapons and equipment.


8. Cutscenes



The game has an opening movie, although this does not seem to include any plot details. Each of the two available missions has a briefing by Vice Marshall Ra-gar and a mission debriefing afterwards. There is also a movie showing the end of Mission 3, where the player uses the Crux Glory Device against them.



From the 1998 E3 press kit, there are some images of concept art form the game. However, the picture above image is interesting as it shows a still from the aforementioned Glory Device mission FMV. The planet in the bottom-left corner is the same planet, and the main image seems to match its destruction some seconds later. So are the other images from mission FMV? Is the bottom-right picture of the first mission, Upheaval, where the player has to escape the fragments of a destroyed planet? The middle image on the bottom row may show the same ship as that seen in the row above it. If this is a sequence, it may be the "Missile Command" level, Planet Defense.


9. Hacks

Looking at the game's coding with a hex editor is one thing, but all this information is a little pedestrian if nothing is done with it. After all, this is a video game rather than just a video, so what can be done? There are two ways of altering PSX games: codes (Gameshark etc.) and disc content. Having tried the former to see if any of the other craft were playable, with little result, changes were made to the game's coding (again using a hex editor).

There are five aspects that can be changed in this prototype: fighter (HyperMelee mode); fighter (Mission mode); carrier (Mission mode); outpost (Assassins mission); level or background.

After some research, it seems that the Raven's file name only appears in one place in the coding, indicating that this may be an opportunity to exploit and get to use other ships. Changing the name and folder to those of other fighters worked in a number of cases for HyperMelee mode (Player 1):


Griffon and Bucanneer




Hawk




Lightning




Thunder




Zealot Violator



The Griffon could be replaced by other craft in the Missions mode, but changing the Hawk resulted in an error. The larger ships, such as the carriers, cargo ship and Monarch, resulted in a game crash and a message about the "weaponpop" being missing. But as this happened with the Hyperium Carrier too, which the playable ship in the main game, this may mean that the opposite can be done: the capital ships may be interchangable in the main game.







Play as the Crux carrier


Hyperium Carrier as the enemy!


As can be seen in the above screenshots, the Crux Carrier can be interchanged with the Hyperium Carrier, although they both launches the same fighters. The Zealot Carrier, Zealot Monarch, the Lamprey and the Crux Cargo ship all caused an error, where a weapon could not be attached. If there is any way of disabling this, it could make these other ships playable. The Hyperium and Crux Carriers cannot be swapped in the same game, as there is not enough VRAM for this to happen, so only two carriers of the same type (one playable, one as the enemy vessel) are available at the present time.





Hyperium Outpost


Lamprey Hive




Crux Satellite





Zealot Carrier




Zealot Monarch

However, the Crux Outpost in the Assassins mission proved to be the key in unlocking these last ships. Rather than using them as playable ships, they replace Hantiir's hideout here. The results for the Lamprey Hive proved to be a little underwhelming, but at least these can be seen in the game now. The Zealot Carrier cannot be played due to weapon issues, but it can be used as the enemy outpost. The same goes for the Zealot Monarch.


Glory Device mission background used for HyperMelee mode


There are some four stages or backgrounds (with minor variations). It is possible to change these and, due to the range of image files in the game's content, other variations may be possible.


10. Updates


1/2/15 - Images of Crux Satellite and Zealot Monarch added.

30/1/15 - Details of the weapon upgrade menu and info on FMV added.

29/1/15 - Victory screen added.

28/1/15 - Good grief, more info after two years. Images of the Zealot Monarch and Carrier added.

18/1/11 -

Links section added.

16/1/11 -

Details of background hacks added.

15/1/11 -

Working on a patch release which will allow players to use three new fighters, play as the Crux Carrier, and attack the Hyperium Outpost in the Assassins mission. The file will be in the form of the game's PSX.exe, which will need to replace the ISO's version (using UltraISO or similar software).

Corrected some information about the default Hyperium fighters, which were thought to be the Thunder and Lightning as mentioned in the game's coding, but have been confirmed to be the Griffon and Hawk.

14/1/10 -

Added details of replacing Crux Outpost with other ships or stations.

Added screenshot of the Hyperium Carrier as the enemy.

13/1/11 -

Screenshots of the Crux Carrier as a playable ship added to the Hacks section.

12/1/11 -

Updated the name of the Monarch craft.
Added the Mission 3 script.
Added images for the Bucanneer, Griffon, Zealot Violator, Thunder, Lightning and Hawk ships.
Added the Hacks section.
Added more to the menu options section.
Cleaned up some of the FAQ to make it a little more logical.


This FAQ is copyright Dr Kirk (2015).

11. Links to other pages on StarCon

Article & links at The Pages of Now & Forever
Star Control Discussion Board
StarCon article at the Playstation Museum
StarCon article at Unseen64