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A Time To Build: When Homeworld met Star Wars
// Submitted @ 5:18 PM on 11.04.2008
As someone who's gaming roots lie in PC gaming, there are any number of classic strategy franchises that i'll remember fondly for time immemorial. Star/Warcraft, C&C, Age of Empires, Total War, Civilization, all stand as titans of the genre that still receive praise and new installments to this day. For the purposes of this article, i'll be discussing perhaps a lesser known entry in the strategy pantheon - Homeworld.
For the uninitiated, Homeworld, Homeworld: Cataclysm and Homeworld 2 are a series of fully 3D, space based RTS games. You control a mothership housing the frozen bodies of your entire race and are tasked with negotiating through deep space to bring your civilisation back to it's roots on the other side of the galaxy. The game was fantastic, combining then cutting edge graphics with deep but intuitive gameplay and a slick control system which handled the fully 3D environment incredibly well. Of course, it wasn't long before the modding community saw an opportunity to re-enact any space-opera that sprung to mind. Babylon 5 was the first mod i tried but it was only when someone hit upon the glaringly obvious but nevertheless genius idea of laying the Star Wars universe on top of Homeworld's stunning gameplay and graphics engine that nerdvana was attained.
This was geek heaven, to be able to take on a Super Star-Destroyer from an Admiral's perspective, or conversely to cleanse the galaxy of those rebel scum on such a grand scale was utterly delectable. Not only could i send whole squadron's of Millennium Falcons on bombing runs against gigantic capital ships, the Homeworld engine allowed you to zoom in on a single unit, following it as it swoops and dives over the enemy. Never before or since have i seen the modding community so perfectly combine an incredibly versatile game engine with such an iconic setting.
It wasn't perfect, mods rarely are. There were glitches here and there, the unit model for super star/star destroyers were basically the same but scaled up in size and I never got to control an actual Death Star but what gripped me was the sense of a franchise being ripped away from those who would traditionally control it and placed in the hands of the people who loved it most. The lore and background of Star Wars provided the modders with endless templates to place over the Homeworld tech-tree. Harvesters became corellian frigates, corvette's became the aforementioned millennium falcons and of course the fighters on either side were transformed into X-Wings and TIE-Fighters that could duke it out in epic swarms, bobbing and weaving in formation around one another. If the story of Star Wars is a space-opera, this was a sci-fi ballet choreographed by the player's imagination.
The production values could never match those of an officially licensed game. There was no canonical story to be pored over, no big-name voice actor attached and zero contribution from big GL himself. Just the sense of a community making it's own dreams for what could be done with the franchise come true. That's what made it special, and that's why i'll remember playing Homeworld and this wonderful mod for a long, long time.