Stars Supernova Genesis Beta

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jox...@gmail.com

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Aug 2, 2005, 3:20:39 PM8/2/05
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Was anyone here a beta tester for Stars Supernova Genesis? Is the beta
version available anywhere, or would anyone be willing to make it
available? :) :)

antar...@tlen.pl

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Aug 4, 2005, 3:02:15 AM8/4/05
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You can ask on:
http://starsautohost.org/sahforum/
I think that you will have more chance to find it...
I'm interessing too ;)

Antares

antar...@tlen.pl

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Aug 4, 2005, 3:01:59 AM8/4/05
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Russ Lewis

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Aug 4, 2005, 1:51:30 PM8/4/05
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I was a beta tester, but they made me sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement
about it. :(

jox...@gmail.com

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Aug 5, 2005, 10:21:35 AM8/5/05
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Russ Lewis wrote:

> I was a beta tester, but they made me sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement
> about it. :(

lol...o well. At least you can share your unique experiences with us...

What was the beta like? was it fully playable?

swp

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Aug 5, 2005, 11:35:09 AM8/5/05
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with whom did you sign the agreement? are they still in business? is
the agreement still valid? was there a time restriction on it?

is the beta release playable? are there any major flaws? minor flaws?
do errors ever appear on the screen?

does the Claim Adjuster PRT still have to be banned? Is everyone now
an equal "resource monster" with the automated features built into the
game?

does anyone care?

swp

Russ Lewis

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Aug 5, 2005, 1:16:33 PM8/5/05
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swp wrote:
> with whom did you sign the agreement? are they still in business? is
> the agreement still valid? was there a time restriction on it?

Frankly, I don't know if it is still valid, but I figure that I need to
be conservative.

I would gladly share my experiences, if I could. So, unfortunately, I
won't be able to say anything more.

Aldaron

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Aug 9, 2005, 8:17:22 PM8/9/05
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Depending on how the NDA is worded it could have an indefinite time period

Time Periods

Some agreements require that the receiving party maintain the secret
information for a limited period of years, including language such as
"the receiving party shall not use or disclose the secret for a period
of five years from the date of execution of the agreement." You can
often negotiate the time period. Disclosing parties want an open period
with no limits; receiving parties usually want a short period. Five
years is a common length in American nondisclosure agreements, although
many companies insist on only two or three years. In European
nondisclosure agreements, it is not unusual for the period to be as long
as ten years. Ultimately, the length you decide to use will depend on
the relative bargaining power of the parties.

Nats

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Aug 12, 2005, 2:23:26 PM8/12/05
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But does a non disclosure agreement still have legal redress when a firm
isnt in existence any more. And surely even if it did theres nothing wrong
with some modders getting together and creating the game themselves as long
as its not for profit.

Nats

"Russ Lewis" <spamhole-...@deming-os.org> wrote in message
news:CAsIe.12$do2...@news.uswest.net...

Nats

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Aug 12, 2005, 2:28:55 PM8/12/05
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Yeah but you have to look at the redress that the injured party would seek
to get due to damages. I mean firstly there must have been some damage
cuased by the disclosure and secondly they must be able to determine who
actually did the disclosing. Therefore is the beta was disclosed on the web
in secrecy and the disclosure didnt do any damage then the authors of the
game will not have any redress.

I must admit I dont know the ins and outs of the contract myself but I cant
see any reason for any beta tester not being able to disclose the source
code for modders to work on as long as noone is named. And once the source
code is out there its fair game for the modders IMO!! :-)

If the original developers had any plans for the code it would have been
done by now. Its obviously a dead parrot.

Nats

"Aldaron" <ald...@charter.net> wrote in message
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Piratelord

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Aug 14, 2005, 6:21:09 AM8/14/05
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Could whatever artwork produced Genesis be used by other people for not for
profit projects?

"Nats" <nst...@nstutt.freeserve.co.uk> wrote in message
news:ddiper$c66$1...@news8.svr.pol.co.uk...

Timothy Little

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Aug 14, 2005, 6:30:37 PM8/14/05
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Piratelord wrote:
> Could whatever artwork produced Genesis be used by other people for
> not for profit projects?

After you contact the copyright holder(s) and obtain explicit
permission to do so, sure!

Without getting explicit permission, it can be used by anyone who
accepts the risk of an expensive lawsuit being brought against them.
Non-profit use may reduce the potential damages you pay for
infringement compared with commercial use, but is not a defense.


- Tim

RJLadd

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Aug 26, 2005, 8:18:25 PM8/26/05
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On Tue, 09 Aug 2005 19:17:22 -0500, Aldaron <ald...@charter.net>
wrote:

>> I would gladly share my experiences, if I could. So, unfortunately, I
>> won't be able to say anything more.

Mare Crisium still exists.. But as one of the developers of SN, I'm
quite certain that Jeff would not prosecute anyone for breaking the
Supernova NDA at this point, at least as long as nobody posts slander,

Its been quite a while; it seems reasonable that the story can and
should get told. The short version is that Empire (the publisher)
refocused their attention on other kinds of games, and lost interest
in Supernova. The relationship between Mare Crisium and Empire had
always been somewhat rocky, for a number of reasons.

Empire owned (and still owns) the artwork for SN. Mare Crisium and
Novelty Hill Software (i.e. me) co-own the code. Too much of the code
was specific to the artwork for us to finish the game without Empire,
and they of course could not (and weren't interested in) writing new
code for the art.

Work on the code continued for a while, but after a few months was
shut down for lack of development money. Empire had provided part of
the funding; Jeff and I provided the rest.

We tried hard for about a year to find a new publisher. Many
conversations; some looked promising, but the tech meltdown hurt a
lot. Any new partner/publisher would've had to negotiate with Empire
for the artwork, and Empire wasn't very interested.

We continued having sporadic conversations with possible publishers
after that, but it would have been hard to restart the project. All of
the SN team had needed to find other work, although at least some
would have come back if the project had gotten going again.

At one point, I think it was in 2003 (2002?), Jeff and I started work
on a 32 bit update to the original Stars. The original code base,
though, is VERY Win16 specific, so the project morphed into a largely
redesigned game. The game engine architecture was superior even to
Supernova (we had learned a few things along the way), but the
graphics were to be just a bit better than the original Stars.
Unfortunately, real life got in the way. Both Jeff and I needed to
recover from the financial loss of SN, and as other opportunities came
along, we didn't have time to puruse the new, speculative, development
effort.

That's where things stand today. Jeff is still working at Mare Crisium
on other projects. I'm currently a Principal Firmware Engineer at an
embedded systems company in the Seattle area. The other former
Supernova people are mostly still in the Portland, OR, area, doing
various other things.

If Empire still even remembers that they own the SN artwork, I'd guess
that it could be purchased from them today very cheaply. Jeff and I
both still have copies of it, and the entire SN source code, but no
work has being done on it for quite a while.

In my Copious Free Time(tm), I'm still working on the "Stars 3" that
Jeff and I started after Supernova. Its very slow going, though, since
my day job takes most of my time. No idea if or when I'll ever be able
to finish it.


Jim Lane

(The return address on this post is not valid. Use the name of SN game
spelled out (just the first two words; don't include "genesis"), at
the name of my company (all three words, with no spaces or other
punctuation), dot the-short-version-of-"commercial".)

Piratelord

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Aug 27, 2005, 8:47:24 AM8/27/05
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Shame to hear all that.

I took part in the testing of the 32bit stars! rewrite but then it just sort
of died.

I'm sure that there would be massive support for some updated form of Stars!
and people would by it. You still get people buying serial numbers for the
original Stars! and there are many clones being worked on out there.

Personally, I think Stars! 3 would be good enough for everyone so that more
designs for ships are available.
I've written two very well known (I think) programs for Stars! and if Stars!
3 could have these features too (plus features from other software out
there), it would be amazing.

SN had many amazing new features, but minor improvements to the base Stars!
code would be great. I'd like to see a bigger Battleboard, more flexable
ship designs and improved graphics. No interested in seeing planets that
reflect the current hab/terraform values, that's just nice eye candy.

Pirate Lord
www.piratesretreat.btinternet.co.uk

"RJLadd" <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in message
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Dirk Thierbach

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Aug 27, 2005, 1:32:44 PM8/27/05
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RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote:

Thanks a lot for sharing all those information.

> Empire owned (and still owns) the artwork for SN. Mare Crisium and
> Novelty Hill Software (i.e. me) co-own the code. Too much of the code
> was specific to the artwork for us to finish the game without Empire,
> and they of course could not (and weren't interested in) writing new
> code for the art.

Just out of curiosity: Would it be possible to use the code with
some sort of schematic substitute for the images? Eye candy is nice,
but personally for me not necessary, and I would be happy to play
SN without eye candy. You probably wouldn't be able to sell the
game to a wide audience, but at least that would be better than
no SN at all. And if SN gets played even in this crippled for by
people, you'd have a strong argument to convince a publisher -- if
you're still interested.

Next question, also out of curiosity: Since you and Mare Crisium co-own
the code, would it be possible to open source it? I can understand
if you don't like to, but again, an unfinished open source code would
be better than no game at all. Of course, this option will stop any
chance to ever make any profit from it, so it's probably not something
that would be easy for you.

> If Empire still even remembers that they own the SN artwork, I'd guess
> that it could be purchased from them today very cheaply.

Did anybody try? What amount of money would "very cheaply" translate
to, roughly, in your estimation?

- Dirk

RJLadd

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Aug 28, 2005, 6:00:22 PM8/28/05
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On Sat, 27 Aug 2005 19:32:44 +0200, Dirk Thierbach
<dthie...@usenet.arcornews.de> wrote:

>Just out of curiosity: Would it be possible to use the code with
>some sort of schematic substitute for the images? Eye candy is nice,
>but personally for me not necessary, and I would be happy to play
>SN without eye candy.

Personally, I agree about eye candy. I originally got into Stars! 2
for the gameplay, not the graphics. :-) But publishers are very keen
on eye candy, so much so that the graphics and UI are usually the
first things to be developed, well before the game engine and
gameplay. Since Jeff McBride originated the project, gameplay was
important right from the beginning, but even Jeff had to go along with
Empire to some extent. Thus, the code related to eye candy and UI is
very nearly finished, but the gameplay related code needs more work.

>And if SN gets played even in this crippled for by
>people, you'd have a strong argument to convince a publisher -- if
>you're still interested.

The market for indie games has gotten much worse since the SN project
ended. It would be nice to find a publisher, but it isn't realistic to
think that its possible. Jeff and I were planning to go back to
Stars!' roots and self-publish Stars! 3 via a web site.

>Next question, also out of curiosity: Since you and Mare Crisium co-own
>the code, would it be possible to open source it? I can understand
>if you don't like to, but again, an unfinished open source code would
>be better than no game at all.

Possible? Sure. Not likely, though. A large fraction of the code is
specific to the particular graphics that were done. Either all of that
code would have to be rewritten, or new grahics would have to be
created to match. Both would be hard. Also, Jeff and I each invested
quite a bit of money into the project. Speaking for myself, although I
realize that not releasing it at all means not recovering any of that
investment, I would still be reluctant to give it away.

>Of course, this option will stop any
>chance to ever make any profit from it, so it's probably not something
>that would be easy for you.

We never expected to make a large profit, but we did at least hope to
recover our investment.

>> If Empire still even remembers that they own the SN artwork, I'd guess
>> that it could be purchased from them today very cheaply.
>Did anybody try? What amount of money would "very cheaply" translate
>to, roughly, in your estimation?

Your guess is just as good as mine. Empire's investment in the artwork
was mid-six-figures. Obviously they, too, have little chance to recoup
any of that. Being a busness, and considering that their investment
was a smaller matter to them than ours was to us, they probably have a
more pragmatic attitude about it. Given the relationship betten some
of the key MC and Empire people, I doubt if Jeff could approach them
even now, but a third party might be able to pick up the artwork for
pennies on the dollar at this point.

Of course, there's still several months work to be done on the code,
and neither Jeff nor I is in a position to guarentee to be able to
finish the work in any practical amount of time.

During the year or two after the break with Empire, there were a few
conversations with potential angel investors who considered trying to
buy the art and funding finishing the code. Obviously none of those
conversations worked out.

I suppose it might be possible to come up with some kind of deal,
either to fund having us finish the project, or to buy out our rights
to the code, but I haven't given any thought to it for quite a while.
Personally, I'm more interested in Stars! 3, although I don't know
if/when it might ever be finished, either. Not soon, anyway.


Jim Lane

Nats

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Aug 28, 2005, 7:00:39 PM8/28/05
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"RJLadd" <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in message
news:ccavg1tk1tqhm8utg...@4ax.com...
> On Tue, 09 Aug 2005 19:17:22 -0500, Aldaron <ald...@charter.net>
> wrote:
>
> Mare Crisium still exists.. But as one of the developers of SN, I'm
> quite certain that Jeff would not prosecute anyone for breaking the
> Supernova NDA at this point, at least as long as nobody posts slander,
>
> In my Copious Free Time(tm), I'm still working on the "Stars 3" that
> Jeff and I started after Supernova. Its very slow going, though, since
> my day job takes most of my time. No idea if or when I'll ever be able
> to finish it.
>
>
> Jim Lane

Thats was very interesting reading. I would say then that the easy part ie
the graphics are the things that are mainly missing from the SN game if they
are owned by Empire. Im sure there would be loads of people who would be
willing to put in time to get new graphics done. If the two main developers
could actually agree to arrange a select group of interested talented
modders to finish off the game Im sure the game could be finished quite
easily with a possible commercial result at the end for all involved.

You've just got to look at Falcon 4 Allied Force and the Rome Total War
Realism Mod to see what a talented modding fraternity can quickly do with a
game.

Nats


Morten Lassen

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Aug 29, 2005, 4:12:30 AM8/29/05
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Very interesting reading.

I hope somthing good happens some day :)

/Morten


Russ Lewis

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Aug 29, 2005, 12:56:19 PM8/29/05
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RJLadd wrote:
>>Next question, also out of curiosity: Since you and Mare Crisium co-own
>>the code, would it be possible to open source it? I can understand
>>if you don't like to, but again, an unfinished open source code would
>>be better than no game at all.
>
> Possible? Sure. Not likely, though. A large fraction of the code is
> specific to the particular graphics that were done. Either all of that
> code would have to be rewritten, or new grahics would have to be
> created to match. Both would be hard. Also, Jeff and I each invested
> quite a bit of money into the project. Speaking for myself, although I
> realize that not releasing it at all means not recovering any of that
> investment, I would still be reluctant to give it away.

How about a ransom? Perhaps you and Jeff could work out some dollar
amount that you would consider a reasonable recouping of your losses (or
part of them); then you set up a Paypal account with the note "We'll
open source the code when the total reaches X."

The RDL would be worth a significant ransom, all by itself. And the
battle model was quite nice, as well.

Patrick Holthuizen

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Aug 29, 2005, 5:01:12 PM8/29/05
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Dear Jim,

It has been a long for this news to come. Thanks for sharing the
story!!! Oh oh my hopes are up again... ;-)

Gandalf Parker

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Aug 29, 2005, 6:03:28 PM8/29/05
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RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in
news:v7b4h1966bd2o6h19...@4ax.com:

> The market for indie games has gotten much worse since the SN project
> ended. It would be nice to find a publisher, but it isn't realistic to
> think that its possible. Jeff and I were planning to go back to
> Stars!' roots and self-publish Stars! 3 via a web site.

Please look into Shrapnel Games. I no longer work for them.

Its a publisher started by a strategy game programmer who didnt like the
choices out there. So instead of boxed shelfware and lots of money in
marketing, they love indie programmers and do web-site sales with lots of
publicity.

The publishers they have now seem very happy with their support and the
only ones Ive seen leave were ones willing to put up with long waits for
profits trying the shelfware thing.

www.shrapnelgames.com

Gandalf Parker

RJLadd

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Aug 29, 2005, 11:05:45 PM8/29/05
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SN had a full-time art director. Trying to replace all of that art
(there's a LOT of artwork) and make it all fit the requirements of the
code would be a very large job. Even assuming that all of the itself
art was free, someone would need to put a many months to coordinate
the effort. I don't think that anyone who was not directly involved
(or who has not worked on another AAA game title) can really
appreciate the scale of the effort.

Then there's the question of compensation for the artists. If Jeff and
I were to earn money from a completed SN, artists might reasonably
feel that it was unfair for them not to earn something, too. But that
would be another complicated issue to deal with.

Then there's the fact that Jeff and I are both very busy, and could
not commit to any particular schedule, or even to finishing at all,
would could also lead to hard feelings from artists who did work which
might be delayed for a long time, and might never be published at all.

Ideas like these was discussed after Empire bailed, but Jeff and I
have seen too many well-intentioned pro-am efforts turn into major
disasters. A disaster would not be a certainty, but its a big risk.
After the risk that was taken (and lost) over SN, another risk seemed
to be too much.

Better to start over. Stars! 2 was done by two people (Jeff and Jeff),
working part time. The original concept for a sequel was relatively
modest, but Empire persuaded Jeff to aim for a triple-A title. Going
back to the original concept of a smaller, simpler (than SN) game that
can be done part time seems like a better idea. If/when it is finished
(don't hold your breath; my progress has been pretty slow, given that
I have a more-than-fulltime day job), there could be opportunities to
add the fancy stuff later.

As for modding communities...yes, we were well aware of them. A great
many SN modders would likely have come up with things that we had
already considered, tried, and discarded, but there's no question that
some fraction of a SN modding community would have developed ideas
superior to anything we had time for. That was the major purpose of
the RDL - to allow modders to invent new game ideas that we would not
think of during the course of the project. There was quite a bit of
flexibility in certain parts of the artwork, too; things like race
portraits and emblems could be replaced by players. The UI specific
art is different, though. Much of it is very tightly tied to the UI
code, and vice versa. Jeff created a fairly unique UI paradigm for SN
that imposed very strict requirements on the UI related artwork.

Perhaps its just because I'm a software engineer, not an artist, but I
think a better route is a better-than-SN game engine, even with
inferior-to-SN graphics. User replaceable skins within the framework
of a comparitively simple UI would not be too hard, though.

But the appeal of Stars! to the long time players seems to have been
much more the gameplay than the (complete lack of) eye candy.

Jim Lane

RJLadd

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Aug 29, 2005, 11:36:10 PM8/29/05
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Re "ransom": Its a nice idea in theory, but it would be a nightmare in
practice. Not to mention that SN is a large body of code, so some
group of people would end up co-owing a unfinished work that would
take two or three (at least) professional software engineers a few
months to finish. I have a compiler background. (At one point, in the
early 1990s, I worked on a port of MS' Visual C/C++ for the DEC Alpha
chip, and I've worked on a number of other compiler projects.) The
technology used in the RDL is pretty simple by commercial compiler
standards, but it would probably take someone with a Master's in CS or
equivalent experience to work on it. People would feel they'd been
ripped off when they realised that they'd put up money for something
that needed significant work by experienced engineers to complete.

Sure, there are some very talented engineers in open source, and some
of them may be willing. But in practice, it might be easier and better
for any such group of people to start from scratch with their own
ideas, rather than trying to finish ours. There have been a few open
source attempts to write a Stars-like 4x game, but AFAIK none of them
have (yet) gotten very far.

Writing a 4x game is a major commitment of time. Few people are likely
to be able to afford to donate that much effort for free, Landlords
and mortgage bankers don't generally accept open source fame for rent
(although if you find one who does, let me know :-)

---

The RDL was a somewhat late addition to the SN game engine, and never
quite fit as well as it could have. The newer Stars 3 game engine
concept is built around an "RDL 2" from the ground up. Stars 3,
if/when (emphasis on "if", please), has a less ambitious scope than
SN, but is more extensible.

Jeff and Jeff and I (and Jeff...the inside joke was that your first
initial had to be "J" to work on SN, and the various Jeffs weren't
always too sure about letting in a "Jim" :-) are not the only people
who can write a sequel-in-spirit to Stars! 2. I happen to think that
Jeff and I have a deep understanding of how to do a good 4x game, but
since SN didn't ship, I could be wrong. Perhaps we would have blown
it. A number of people have tried to produce 4x games; some have
succeeded brilliantly, others haven't. And some that released very
fine games later did less fine sequels. There's no proof where Jeff
and I, et al, would have ended up on that scale.


Jim Lane

RJLadd

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Aug 29, 2005, 11:38:40 PM8/29/05
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I've bookmarked them. If/when there is a Stars sequel, and if they
still exist in that far off time, I'll talk to them.


Thanks,
Jim Lane

send_an...@hotmail.com

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Aug 30, 2005, 10:46:55 AM8/30/05
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Hi,

RJLadd wrote:
>
> Mare Crisium still exists.. But as one of the developers of SN, I'm

<snip>

> Empire owned (and still owns) the artwork for SN. Mare Crisium and
> Novelty Hill Software (i.e. me) co-own the code. Too much of the code

<snip>

> At one point, I think it was in 2003 (2002?), Jeff and I started work
> on a 32 bit update to the original Stars. The original code base,
> though, is VERY Win16 specific, so the project morphed into a largely

What about the code for Stars 2.6 itself? There's a handful of
well-known bugs/nuisances that look as they could be easily
patched/overcome. Is there anyone who could do it?

Thanks & good luck!

Gandalf Parker

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Aug 30, 2005, 11:52:00 AM8/30/05
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RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in
news:tgh7h1plmce68p5sk...@4ax.com:

> SN had a full-time art director. Trying to replace all of that art
> (there's a LOT of artwork) and make it all fit the requirements of the
> code would be a very large job.

Just a thought...

Space Empires IV has had a long and fruitful run. Still going also. What
I find amazing is that now when I look at what is on the disc it seems
like a demo. It came with 8 races and a small galactic map. But it was
majorly setup for modding. The player went nuts on it. Now my copy has
over 300 races available, 10 times as large a galactic map with many more
randoms, more techs, more ships, better AI, etc etc etc. Like I said, the
original looks like a demo.

Anyway, with a good game base and as much of the game as possible in bmp
or txt files and a mindset to allow the game to read in 100 times more
files than you ever think it will need, you might be surprised.
Just a thought

Oh and you can get on board with Shrapnel while in the development stage.
They can be quite helpful. Their community has artists and writers and
dedicated beta testers etc etc

Gandalf Parker

Nats

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Aug 30, 2005, 5:05:44 PM8/30/05
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Yeah surely at this point with such an old game the original Stars code
could be released to the community to work up couldnt it? It would keep the
fans happy, get more interested in your game franchise (possibly!) which at
the moment is dying a slow death and enable modders to upgrade the graphics
and resolution of the game. That would satisfy most of us in the short term!
And it may just turn into a full blown sequel in the future just like Falcon
4. You never know how these things can take off.

At the moment the Stars! game's going nowhere, the community is drifting
away and all it will probably take will be a great new 4x game to lose the
fans entirely. Arent you interested in your game's future?

Nats

<send_an...@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1125413215.4...@o13g2000cwo.googlegroups.com...

RJLadd

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Aug 30, 2005, 11:01:50 PM8/30/05
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I have an ownership stake in the SN code, but not in the Stars! 2
code. I've got the Stars! 2 code, but I can't release it.

Jeff and I had intended to at least release a version of Stars! 2 with
no copy protection, but I don't have the right to do that myself,
either.

Stars! 2 requires Visual C version 1.5 to compile. If there is a ghod,
Jeff and I should be the only people left on the planet who still have
VC 1.5 available. You might think that it would be easy to modify the
source to compile under a more recent version of VC. From personal
experience, I can assure you that you'd be mistaken. Very mistaken.

Stars! 2 is not and never was my game; that was Jeff and Jeff's. I
came in some time after the SN project started.

Agreed that its a shame to see the community disbanding. OTOH, the
main reason that I'm still doing anything at all with Stars 3 is
because I WANT TO PLAY IT. If someone else comes up with a great 4x
game that preempts S3, they'd be saving me a lot of work...

I figure there's a reasonable chance that I could earn enough off a
Stars 3 game to justify the time spent on it. Maybe not at my usual
hourly rate, but good enough. You're right, of course, that the more
time goes that goes by, the less likely that is. Not much I can do
about that. Worst case, I would still get to play it myself and
perhaps with a few friends.

Jim Lane

RJLadd

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Aug 30, 2005, 11:20:02 PM8/30/05
to
I tried to do that at one point. You'd find it hard to believe how
difficult it is to fix those bugs.

Stars! 2 was a Win16 game. Yup, Win16, with all its segmented memory
glory. 64K segments. Nowadays, a 64M segment sounds small. S2 was
written originally as a part time fun project by a couple of people
who were bored by their work on the guts of Excel, and who were
experts are wringing the last tiny bit of performance out of the
segmented Win16/8086 architecture. Shoehorning a universe the size of
a S2 game into Win16 took a great deal of skill. When they started,
they never expected that it would become a product, and didn't care at
all about code maintainability.

You've heard of Cthulhu? The more you know, the more insane you
become? I think Lovecraft had a premonition of what the Stars! 2 code
would look like. :-)

The bugs that are still there are mostly still there because they
would require a major rewrite/rearchitecting of substantial parts of
the code to fix. That may not seem plausible, given the apparently
simple nature of some of the bugs, but I've seen what it would take,
and I value what sanity I have left.

The Stars 3 project actually began as an effort to rewrite Stars! 2,6
to be native Win32. Jeff was always dubious about that idea, and it
didn't take too long for me to agree that starting over from scratch
was much easier.

I *do* have idea that might perhaps maybe work to convert S2 to Win32,
but it would be hard, and the result would still not be a good base
for future development. S3 is easier to work on, and is designed to be
extendable and moddable. And besides, Cthulhu isn't the only nasty
lurking in there...


Jim Lane

Ken Reed

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Aug 31, 2005, 6:08:59 AM8/31/05
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What a nice thread!

I discovered Stars! quite late in its life but really enjoyed playing it. A
true classic. It's been good to hear the history of why it never progressed
further.

I'd love to see an updated version but I think Jim has nicely explained the
practical problems as to why that hasn't happened. By the way, if you forget
about the "eye candy", putting together a clone isn't hard these days. I
wanted to learn C# and used Stars! as a learning project. Two or three
weekends when the weather was nasty let me put together about 25% of the
original game. I picked up the various algorithms (such as population
growth, ship fuel consumption, etc.) from the Google newsgroup archive and
put together the basics of the game. No combat, but you can design and build
ships, mine, colonise, explore, transfer cargo, etc.

You can find a screenshot here:

http://www.lakotamcc.co.uk/ken/screen1.jpg

By the way, I find the resolution to be very poor when I pop this page up in
IE. Hitting the zoom icon seems to fix the problem though.

When winter rolls around again I may get some time to take it further.
However, if there are any budding programmers out there who would like a
copy of the source code, I'm happy to pass it on. However, you'll need
Visual Studio 2003.

Ken

MSCHAEF.COM

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Aug 31, 2005, 9:36:56 AM8/31/05
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In article <4j6ah197bivrcf8e4...@4ax.com>,
RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote:
...

>Stars! 2 requires Visual C version 1.5 to compile. If there is a ghod,
>Jeff and I should be the only people left on the planet who still have
>VC 1.5 available. You might think that it would be easy to modify the
>source to compile under a more recent version of VC. From personal
>experience, I can assure you that you'd be mistaken. Very mistaken.

I'm assuming that this is because there are a bunch of 16-bit dependancies
in the code? The very little I've heard about the 16-bit Stars 2 code base
indicates that is full of structures with layout specified down to the
bit level, etc.

Can you comment more on this? Perhaps it's a theoretical exercise only,
given the current state of licensing/ownershihp, but it'd be interesting
to hear more from an insider.

-Mike
--
http://www.mschaef.com

MSCHAEF.COM

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Aug 31, 2005, 9:38:46 AM8/31/05
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In article <nd7ah19hejf8nk00t...@4ax.com>,

RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote:
>I tried to do that at one point. You'd find it hard to believe how
>difficult it is to fix those bugs.
>
>Stars! 2 was a Win16 game. Yup, Win16, with all its segmented memory
>glory.

Did it ever run in real mode?

-Mike
--
http://www.mschaef.com

send_an...@hotmail.com

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Aug 31, 2005, 11:02:46 AM8/31/05
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Ken Reed wrote:
>
> I discovered Stars! quite late in its life but really enjoyed playing it. A
> true classic. It's been good to hear the history of why it never progressed

100% agree.


> original game. I picked up the various algorithms (such as population
> growth, ship fuel consumption, etc.) from the Google newsgroup archive and
> put together the basics of the game. No combat, but you can design and build

It looks pretty! :-D

You might want to go to AH's forums for up-to-date algorithms, for
example:

http://starsautohost.org/sahforum/index.php?t=thread&frm_id=4&rid=625&S=4b0043785cd1bbf28cd3bcd65ff80c07

http://starsautohost.org/sahforum/index.php?t=thread&frm_id=54&rid=625&S=4b0043785cd1bbf28cd3bcd65ff80c07

About your source code, it would be interesting, lest your HD blows
up... ;-)

C U!

send_an...@hotmail.com

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Aug 31, 2005, 11:09:34 AM8/31/05
to
RJLadd wrote:
>
> The bugs that are still there are mostly still there because they
> would require a major rewrite/rearchitecting of substantial parts of
> the code to fix. That may not seem plausible, given the apparently
> simple nature of some of the bugs, but I've seen what it would take,

Uh oh. I was kinda hoping it would not be so bad. :-(

OTOH, that might be a good reason to open-source the beast. If ID
Software got away with it...

In any case, please count me in when/if betatesting of Stars3 starts!
:-D

C U @ the Board!

Gandalf Parker

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Aug 31, 2005, 12:56:15 PM8/31/05
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RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in
news:nd7ah19hejf8nk00t...@4ax.com:

> You've heard of Cthulhu? The more you know, the more insane you
> become? I think Lovecraft had a premonition of what the Stars! 2 code
> would look like. :-)
>

I heard one programmer say that the problem with his code is that it was
not designed, it was not developed, it evolved wildly in spurts of
spontaneous mutations :)

Gandalf Parker


Ken Reed

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Aug 31, 2005, 2:56:34 PM8/31/05
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Piratelord

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Aug 31, 2005, 3:00:33 PM8/31/05
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Just like to add (now that I can) that a collegue and myself have a work in
progress clonish stars! game.
We are going to make it open source soon to get some speed on it, as at the
moment time is one problem.
It's in Visual Basic 6, since this is a language we both know the best and
we've got a fully working race design interface and game setup interface,
and are just starting the first turn files being produced.


Gandalf Parker

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Aug 31, 2005, 3:10:34 PM8/31/05
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"Piratelord" <stua...@btinternet.com> wrote in
news:df4uog$4cv$1...@nwrdmz01.dmz.ncs.ea.ibs-infra.bt.com:

Is it going to be good for solo play or good for multiplay?

Gandalf Parker

Piratelord

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Aug 31, 2005, 3:23:52 PM8/31/05
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Multiplayer only. Only "AI" to worry about then are battle instructions

"Gandalf Parker" <gan...@most.of.my.favorite.sites> wrote in message
news:Xns96C37BDBE93...@208.201.224.154...

Loren Pechtel

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Aug 31, 2005, 4:45:30 PM8/31/05
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On Tue, 30 Aug 2005 22:05:44 +0100, "Nats"
<nst...@nstutt.freeserve.co.uk> wrote:

>Yeah surely at this point with such an old game the original Stars code
>could be released to the community to work up couldnt it? It would keep the
>fans happy, get more interested in your game franchise (possibly!) which at
>the moment is dying a slow death and enable modders to upgrade the graphics
>and resolution of the game. That would satisfy most of us in the short term!
>And it may just turn into a full blown sequel in the future just like Falcon
>4. You never know how these things can take off.

The problem is that passwords are obviously security by obscurity.
Release the source and you bust the password system.

RJLadd

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Sep 1, 2005, 3:00:47 AM9/1/05
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VC 1.5 supports the Win16 features that the Stars! 2 code depends on.
It isn't just 16 vs 32 bit ints (although that's a significant issue).
There are the different kinds of pointers for near and far data, the
different memory models, etc. Not to mention the Win16 API itself,
which newer versions of VC do not include. (Windows continues to
support the Win16 API via the compatibility box, but the VC compiler
no longer supports writing to that API.)

You're right about the bit-mapped structures. In addition, since
everything had to fit into 64K segments, larger data structures are
very carefully packed into 64K. Some of the game limits (16 players,
max number of ship designs, etc.) are due to the bit packing in
structures, and some (like the limited number of fleets or minefields
that can exist) are due to packing arrays of structures into 64K
segments.

All of these limits can, in theory, be releaxed. But the code, by a
couple of young and foolish Microsofties, was not written to be
maintainable. There are places where bit packed structures are packed
or unpacked by code that uses shift-and-mask operations with immediate
constants, i.e. "(foo & 0x1C) >> 2". That's a lot of lines of mostly
uncommented code to go through, finding, understanding and replacing
mysterious constants. There's a lot of implicit retyping of data via
pointer abuse. Also, given the extremely tight memory constraints (no
more than 640K available in the entire machine), there are global
variables that are used and reused many times for many different
purposes.

Understanding what the code is trying to do is hard enough. Changing
it without breaking things is harder. Much of the code makes very
little sense unless you remember the oddities of the Win16
environment.

Keep in mind, again, that Jeff & Jeff did not start writing Stars!
intending it to be anything more than a part time diversion for
themselves and a few friends. Stars! 2 was hacked together, not
engineered.

Over time, as Stars! evolved from the first demo for J&J and friends
through Stars! 2.6, the game design reached a remarkable level of
quality. IMNSHO, Stars! 2 is the best multiplayer 4x game ever
written, and its quite good for single player, too. No 4x game has
good AI, although some cheat enough to make their AI look better than
Stars! 2. (AFAIK, with one small exception, Stars! 2 AIs don't cheat
at all. SN AIs cannot cheat; they have exactly the same access to
exactly the same info as any other players. No Stars 3 AIs have been
written, but they would also be incapable of cheating. Really good
strategic AI is incredibly hard to write; perhaps impossible.) But the
code, frankly, is a nightmare.

The code in the SN engine (written in C) is quite a bit better than
Stars! 2 (also in C). The Stars 3 code (in C++), what there is of it,
is very clean and maintainable. But Stars! 2 has the minor advantage
of being complete and available. :-)


Jim Lane


On Wed, 31 Aug 2005 08:36:56 -0500, msc...@eris.io.com (MSCHAEF.COM)
wrote:

send_an...@hotmail.com

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Sep 1, 2005, 5:09:54 AM9/1/05
to
Hi,

RJLadd wrote:
> VC 1.5 supports the Win16 features that the Stars! 2 code depends on.

There's bound to be some museum, library or scrapyard where that
ancient VC can still be found.

<snip>

> maintainable. There are places where bit packed structures are packed
> or unpacked by code that uses shift-and-mask operations with immediate
> constants, i.e. "(foo & 0x1C) >> 2". That's a lot of lines of mostly
> uncommented code to go through, finding, understanding and replacing
> mysterious constants. There's a lot of implicit retyping of data via
> pointer abuse. Also, given the extremely tight memory constraints (no
> more than 640K available in the entire machine), there are global
> variables that are used and reused many times for many different
> purposes.

Well, it sounds bleak enough. However, all is not lost. I remember
FreeCiv (of Linux fame) undergoing a similar stage. It took **years**,
but in the end the deed got (mostly) done. =:-O

Also, I bet I'm not the only ASM jockey out here that's been there and
done that, bitpacking and abusing bits to cram outrageous programs
inside arcane machines with 8, 16 or 32 kbytes of *total* RAM, MSDOS
TSRs, drivers, and the like. It's a dirty job, but someone's bound to
love it. ;-)


> Understanding what the code is trying to do is hard enough. Changing

Some of us have done extensive black-box testing on many of Stars!2
workings just for fun. Having a peek to the real source code of our
favorite game would be a boon. And there would be no lack of testers
for broken things.


> IMNSHO, Stars! 2 is the best multiplayer 4x game ever written

100% agree. :-D


> strategic AI is incredibly hard to write; perhaps impossible.) But the
> code, frankly, is a nightmare.

We know/suspect several of Stars!2 AIs are "broken". There's no lack of
people wanting to waste endless hours improving/fixing them, either.

By the way, Blizzard seems to be doing a nice work of making "dumb" AIs
be competitive and even fun to defy. Time for making true AI
competitors later. ;-)

Though I would agree Stars 3 is the sanest way to use all that free
time, some would argue that Stars!2 is still alive and kicking, already
there, and still keeping an enthralled fan base which is, by many
accounts, highly intelligent as well as mostly insane.

If there was a way to pool all our resources to the task at hand, what
could we not accomplish?

Just my 3 cents.

Piratelord

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Sep 1, 2005, 1:44:37 PM9/1/05
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Sounds like Stars! developed in the same way as my Xtreme Borders.

First version was just Borders, and to make it better I had to basically do
a rewrite to make Xtreme Borders.
Still a bit of a nightmare to understand what is exactly going on in the
code.....

"RJLadd" <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote in message
news:mu6dh1pneqqpjj9c5...@4ax.com...

MSCHAEF.COM

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Sep 1, 2005, 2:20:44 PM9/1/05
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In article <mu6dh1pneqqpjj9c5...@4ax.com>,
RJLadd <nos...@mouse-potato.com> wrote:
...

>(Windows continues to
>support the Win16 API via the compatibility box, but the VC compiler
>no longer supports writing to that API.)

They gave that one up a long time ago.

>There are places where bit packed structures are packed
>or unpacked by code that uses shift-and-mask operations with immediate
>constants, i.e. "(foo & 0x1C) >> 2". That's a lot of lines of mostly
>uncommented code to go through, finding, understanding and replacing
>mysterious constants.

That and the reused global variables are the scariest part, IMO.

>Understanding what the code is trying to do is hard enough. Changing
>it without breaking things is harder.

And hard to test, to boot.


Thanks for the information.

-Mike
--
http://www.mschaef.com

PricklyPea

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Sep 1, 2005, 7:13:07 PM9/1/05
to
I don't mine the shift/mask ops since it doesn't look too different in
assembly anyway. But the reuse of variables is a real PITA. :(

I think I might have the old VC somewhere, but doesn't Empire own the
code now anyway?

RJLadd

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Sep 2, 2005, 2:41:48 AM9/2/05
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On 1 Sep 2005 02:09:54 -0700, send_an...@hotmail.com wrote:

>RJLadd wrote:
>> VC 1.5 supports the Win16 features that the Stars! 2 code depends on.
>There's bound to be some museum, library or scrapyard where that
>ancient VC can still be found.

My comment about VC 1.5 being gone was mostly wishful thinking.

>We know/suspect several of Stars!2 AIs are "broken". There's no lack of
>people wanting to waste endless hours improving/fixing them, either.

I don't know the S2 AI code at all, but I don't recall any of them
being broken in a strict sense; they do what they are designed to do.
Some of them are broken in the looser sense of being designed to do
stupid things, though.

>Well, it sounds bleak enough. However, all is not lost. I remember
>FreeCiv (of Linux fame) undergoing a similar stage. It took **years**,
>but in the end the deed got (mostly) done. =:-O

Of course its possible. But:

>Though I would agree Stars 3 is the sanest way to use all that free
>time,

Exactly. Working on the new code is more fun, and the result (if/when
there is one) will be better.

>some would argue that Stars!2 is still alive and kicking, already
>there, and still keeping an enthralled fan base which is, by many
>accounts, highly intelligent as well as mostly insane.

True on all counts. :-) I agree that a 32 bit S2 would be good for
the Stars! player community, and I wish it could be done with a
reasonable effort. I don't believe that it will ever be open sourced,
though. Remember that Jeff McB only half-owns the S2 code; Jeff J
co-owns it. Jeff J lost interest back in the 90's.

I don't have rights to the S2 code (I might be able to argue the
point, but I'm not very interested), and even if I did, its a dead
end.

The first step in Stars 3 was originally to be a 32 bit port of S2.
Not for release; just as a base for the next stage. Jeff McB had no
interest at all in trying to wade into the S2 code again, until I got
it about half working. Unfortunately, that was the easy half. Porting
the rest would have been too much work, so he convinced me to change
course and we started a something-like-50% rewrite. That effort faded
in the press of earning of living. I went back and removed the last
remnants of Stars! 2-isms, and have been puttering with it since.

On 1 Sep 2005 16:13:07 -0700, "PricklyPea" <Prick...@gmail.com>
wrote:


>I think I might have the old VC somewhere, but doesn't Empire own the
>code now anyway?

AFAIK, Empire owned the trademark, "Stars!". There was a bit in the
contract where the rights to that TM reverted some period of time
after they ceased selling it. In effect, some period of time after
Jeff and Jeff received their last royalty check. That time has passed.

And AFAIK, Empire never had any rights to the Stars! 2 code or
graphics.


Jim Lane

iztok_...@yahoo.com

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Sep 2, 2005, 3:01:01 AM9/2/05
to
Hi!

> Release the source and you bust the password system
I'm affraid fhe password sistem is already busted. Ther's an utility
that allows any person that has access to M file to read it regardless
of password. This is the reason you have now the PWD check to _downlad_
M file from AutoHost.
BR, Iztok

Russ Lewis

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Sep 2, 2005, 12:31:36 PM9/2/05