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Retrospective: Startopia

Science friction.

Fantastic, isn't it? Doesn't get the credit it deserves. What a classic.

My space station, I mean. Since I expanded it's even bigger than a Space Shark's barnacle, and worth twice as much. You've seen the sights, I take it? Had a ride on the Oroflex? Taken a stroll around the biodeck? Marvellous, marvellous.

But you must be tired! Have a seat. No, not there! That's for Polvakian Gem Slugs. You wouldn't walk straight for a month. And your reputation... Maybe just stay standing. And don't touch anything, especially not me. Came down with a nasty case of astro-gastrointestinal flu the other day and the doctors assure me it can be quite deadly.

You know, you don't look like a tourist. You're much poorer, for one thing, and you've got that determined glint in your eye, like a Borean metatiger slinking through the antigrass towards a kill. Ah! I understand. You're not here to see my station, recently voted #9 holiday destination in the Adraxus cluster, recently voted #12 cluster in the galaxy if I might add. You're here for the other thing. You want to know why everyone has such fond memories of this Startopia game. Well, I'll tell you.

Note the kinda-face they've kinda-given the laser turret in the upper left.

Startopia was a good idea to begin with. Sim Space Station, basically, except it had so much more heart than that. Instead of bothering you with the extraordinary pain in the ass that would be building life support systems, airlocks, power stations, water pipes and God knows what else, Startopia had you running a kind of autonomous galactic petrol station.

Aliens show up, and you extract money from them however you can while trying to keep casualties to a minimum. It was Babylon 5 run by the Muppets, which is about as flippant a comparison as the game itself.

Looking back at Startopia, I think this easy, amused tone might have been the most appealing thing about it, and I don't mean that in a negative way. This game understood the same thing that Dungeon Keeper did and that Viva Piñata didn't [*sprays coffee on keyboard* -Ed], which isn't particularly surprising since Mucky Foot was started by ex-Bullfrog employees. Startopia understood the importance of giving the player a nice place to be.

You're from Dematox 9, an artificial world in the Oparay Ting system? My mother's from there! Hired!

Your station is a hugely seductive piece of design. Wonderfully, going back to Startopia today it still charms and glitters, and not just because of the tattered miracle that is PC gaming and increased resolutions and whatnot.

It's in the immutable things - the animations of your Scuzzer droids (and their security counterparts, the Fuzzers) as they go about their routine maintenance are all cute, and watching smaller aliens climb up onto waiting seats in your sickbay. There's the fact that you can read the bios and names of all your visitors (Dr. Kerg Bifkin, Grubby Yonksjubbly, Ikipeep), and watch them jump for joy when you hire them.