European cover art
|Developer(s)||Mucky Foot Productions|
|Genre(s)||Business simulation game|
StarTopia is a computer game from Mucky Foot Productions (formed by ex-Bullfrog employees) and published by Eidos in 2001, in which the player administers various space stations with the task of developing them into popular hubs. The game has a comical overtone, with lighthearted humour and cartoonish aliens. The game was re-released on GOG.com in September 2012.
The player is tasked with developing a series of space stations according to the wishes of various employers. The game is set after an apocalyptic galactic war, and many of the stations are in a state of considerable disrepair. It is hinted that these space stations are essentially the last few space-based environments available to the denizens of StarTopia, as most of them had been destroyed during the war.
The player has no direct control over the aliens that wander about the station. Instead, it is the player's job to construct rooms and hire aliens to staff them. The rooms provide basic necessities as well as recreation, encouraging visitors to remain on the station and continue spending money. Each type of alien is suited to a particular kind of task, and individual aliens have a set of statistics that determine their value as an employee. The actual goal for the player varies from one scenario to the next; in some scenarios, the player is expected to meet an economic goal, while in other scenarios the player is required to perform a specific task such as converting a certain number of aliens, or taking over the entire station by force. A sandbox mode is also available.
StarTopia draws inspiration from and makes frequent references to mainstream science fiction, such as Star Trek, 2001: A Space Odyssey (the player's assistant computer VAL, is a parody of Space Odyssey's HAL), Red Dwarf, and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. StarTopia is dedicated to the memory of Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker's Guide, who died during the game's production.
Each station contains three decks, or levels, though some of the early missions only make use of one or two decks. The engineering deck is the "main" deck where most of the station's facilities are built. It is also where visitors and trade ships enter or exit the station. The pleasure deck is mainly for recreation and is the economic centre of the station. This is where aliens go to spend most of their money, provided that there are shops to spend it in, and it is also important for maintaining happiness. The biodeck, which is similar to an artificial biosphere, has a terrestrial floor and a transparent dome. The player can adjust the environmental parameters of the deck, including terrain height, water level, moisture, and temperature. These parameters can be adjusted locally, such that a single biodeck segment can contain many different environments. The player can use the biodeck to grow and harvest plants that produce material goods. Plants can also be transplanted into pots and used as decoration elsewhere on the station.
As with most business simulation games, the player builds facilities and hires workers to operate them. Some rooms take care of basic necessities such as food, sanitation, and health care, while others provide entertainment or love. Visitors may be hired by the player to remain on the station and attend to its facilities. Otherwise, they will remain on the station until they run out of money or become unhappy. Visitors can also be forced off the station at the player's discretion, and criminals will be automatically escorted out by security bots if there is no available brig to hold them in. Unhappy employees may also quit and leave the station depending on their loyalty rating.
In addition to normal visitors, the station can also receive enemy agents. These agents can be disguised as a normal alien or appear as a shady human character sneaking around the station. In either case, the agent will attempt to plant a bomb somewhere on the station and may also attempt to murder other aliens on board. In addition, when caught, the agents will resist and shoot it out with your security forces, causing nearby aliens to panic and flee, disrupting the station's normal operation.
Each space station is subdivided into a number of segments into which the player may expand. These segments are initially isolated by bulkheads, which can be opened for a fee if the segment is vacant. If a rival station manager owns an adjacent segment, the player can take it over through force. Security droids are able to hack bulkhead controls, causing them to open for a short time. During this period, the player can attempt to capture the segment by hacking the new segment's bulkhead control, effectively sealing the segment within the player's territory. However, rivals may take the same takeover action against the player. It is enough to take over a rival's engineering deck to evict him or her. It is possible to achieve an instant eviction by destroying a rival's Energy Collector, but this is extremely difficult to achieve until that rival has been weakened.
- VAL - Short for Virtual Artificial Lifeform, VAL is a computer who advises the player on occurrences in the space station.
- Arona Daal - A mysterious space merchant who sells goods to the player, sometimes offering rare things (though usually at inflated prices). His dialogue is littered with references to Terry Pratchett's character Cut-Me-Own-Throat Dibbler.
Startopia contains a number of different alien races who all perform different tasks aboard the player's station:
- Groulien Salt-Hogs - These are the backbone of any station. They are the industrial workers where they operate the player's recycler (the building which transforms litter into energy) and the Factory. They are, like most of the aliens, humanoid in appearance. They wear cream-gray space-suits, and their face resembles both a pig and a bird. They can be seen in the upper-left square of the cover art.
- Grekka Targs - The Targs are a race of short alien insectoids. They are communications experts and as such, they man the Comms Sensors which monitor trade traffic.
- Greys - The Greys are the most iconic of Startopia's aliens, as they take the form of the typical "little gray man". They are renowned for their medical prowess and they take charge of the Sick Bays. They can be seen in the lower-left corner of the cover art.
- Dahanese Sirens - The Sirens are the most humanoid of the aliens. They are tall, beautiful men and women with wings on their back. They wear no clothes apart from what appears to be a swimsuit. This is explained by their dislike of material possessions. They are the "love givers" of the station, and they work in the Love Nest providing affection for lonely aliens. They are also the only race to have a visible difference between male and female.
- Karmarama - The Karmarama are a purple four-armed race of aliens. Their hair hold the middle between tentacles and dreadlocks. They are stereotypical "hippies" and they farm the Biodeck. They can be seen in the upper-center portion of the cover art.
- Kasvagorians - The Kasvagorians (or "Gors") are large brutish orange aliens. They are the fighting force of the staff and they are in charge of station security.
- Turrakken - The Turrakken are two-headed alien scientists. They are in charge of the Research Lab which develops new technologies to use on the Station. They are featured in the upper-right-hand corner of the cover art.
- Zedem Monk - The Zedem Monks are highly religious creatures and they form the faith arm of station society. They provide redemption to aliens that seek it and they live mostly around their monolith on the Biodeck (which appears once the player hires one monk). The Zedem Monks are there to convert ordinary aliens into Penitents. The monks are tall, thin and wear red robes. They are not featured on the box art.
- Scuzzer Droids - The Scuzzers are the robotic maintenance crew which tidy up, build facilities and conduct repairs on the station. They are squat and yellow and their movement is dictated by their design, Marks I, II and III. They have a single, HAL-9000-like eye. A Mark I Scuzzer can be seen in the lower-right-hand corner of the box art.
- Security Scuzzers - Security Scuzzers look a lot like Mark I maintenance Scuzzers, apart from their white-and-blue "police" paintjob. They are adapted for security, they sport a laser gun and have the ability to hack bulkheads of the station to allow for hostile takeovers of an opponent's segments.
- Polvakian Gem Slugs - The Gem Slugs are the aristocracy of the galaxy. It is mentioned that their homeworld is the only planet in the universe to have more aristocrats than peasants. They do not work, but carry copious amounts of money. This oddity is easily explained by their excrement Turdite being a precious gem-like compound. They are transported around the station by floating chair-like devices. They are shown in the lower-center square of the box art.
- Penitents - The Penitents are created from normal aliens who have been converted by the Zedem Monks. They wear large, uncomfortable, red and gold suits as penance for their sins. Once converted, a penitent will not work at all and will never change back to their previous alien form. Penitents are disliked by all races except the Zedem Monks.
- Enemy Agents - The Enemy Agents are assassins and saboteurs who will try to kill aliens and plant bombs in your segments. Enemy agents can look like regular aliens or a shady sneaking humanoid.
- Space Vermin - The Space Vermins are a race of rodents that live off the trash and litter on the floors of the space station. They carry diseases and make aliens who like cleanliness unhappy.
- Memau - The Memaus are cat-like creatures that often appear when there is litter. If they eat too much litter, they become infectious and anyone who pets one will become infected by the Skrasher parasite. Some can be purchased from Arona Daal and be placed on the bio-deck where they can't get to any litter. The Memaus are a reference to Tribbles from the Star Trek franchise.
- Skrasher - The Skrashers are massive insectoid aliens. They are very tough and very aggressive. Skrashers start off as parasites that can end up in anyone should they pet an infectious Memau. If the parasite isn't removed in the Sick Bay before it matures, the Skrasher will burst out of the alien and trash anything in its path. When they die, Memaus spawn from their carcasses, starting the infection cycle anew. The Skrashers are a reference to the Alien franchise.
- "British Academy of Film and Television Arts 2001 Interactive Entertainment Award Nominees". BAFTA. 2001. Archived from the original on 2002-10-03. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- "Startopia Review for PC: "Take many great management games, bung them in a rocket and fly them into space!". GameFAQs. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
- Gillen, Kieron. "Footprints". The Escapist. Retrieved 16 June 2011.