After a long struggle to survive, THQ finally belly-flopped and its corpse promptly rushed to the chopping block, where its bits were auctioned off to an assortment of scavengers. Most of the big names went quickly, but until this week a number of these properties still remained unclaimed.
“What happened to Homeworld?”, was a common phrase on forums and the like. And now we know!
For a reported measly $1.35 mil, the Homeworld IP now belongs to Gearbox. I have trouble writing this without gagging a little, but am trying my best not to be too much of a dick about it. Here are my thoughts.
Let’s start with the positive. I tried to buy a downloadable copy of Homeworld 2 about a year ago, since my own box is long gone, and could not find any digital outlets that sold it. Gearbox have said that they will make the original games available again. This is great news. Soon we might see them on Steam or GOG, so us nostalgics will have a chance to experience these great games again. And with any luck they will make the OST available too.
I am also tremendously glad the bid did not go to teamPixel – seriously, what were you fools thinking donating money to that?
They have also created a forum to ask players what they want from Homeworld. Discussions on there range from earnest requests for future Homeworld games, to bile-filled posts telling Gearbox how much they suck and how terrible this new development is.
I’m a cynic, so I’m leaning more towards the dung pile in my assessment of things, but I’d like to think it’s not without reason. Gearbox have made a career out of shooters. Worse, their recent output has included the stinker that is Aliens:Colonial Marines with the abysmal Duke Nukem Forever not trailing far behind. Between those we had Borderlands 2. This game bored me to tears. It just tries so damn hard. For some, the loud and bombastic nature of it appeals, but even so – it’s the opposite of what Homeworld is.
Homeworld is poetry. When you look around you at those magnificent skyboxes, you get a sense of scale that makes you feel tiny. As you send little scout ships out to explore, it feels far away. The story unfolds at a well-measured pace, balancing the epic battles with the desperate reality of being adrift in space, far away from your home – away from anything you know. Underneath it all, you have a soundtrack made up of wailing middle-eastern sounds and an assortment of earthy tones and acoustic instruments. All of this adds up to a sort of melancholy that causes you to empathise with the fleet, even though very few individual characters are explicitly developed.
This is the thing I can’t see Gearbox pulling off, not if they simply stick to what they know. Can they do subtle? Can they do emotion? Or at an even more basic level… can they do real time strategy with good AI? The shitty AI in Aliens:CM tells me no.
I imagine a creative meeting there goes something like this:
“Woah, bro… you know what would be badass!?!? If we make gunships that like shoot 100 missiles that each launch like 100 fucking missiles man. Is this gunna be an FPS? Cuz like maybe we can have gore splatters in zero-G. That’ll rock! Fuck yeah! AI? Who gives a shit about AI… people just want to blast shit, so we give ‘em shit to blast and bigger guns to blast it with. Who’s this chick plugged into the wires? Maybe we can make it so we see more of her tits. This is gonna be awesome… can you pass me another beer?”
I am not optimistic at all, but am hopeful. Maybe they can still do something worthwhile with it, but before they do that they really need to take a step back and discover what it is they bought for $1.35mil.
I leave you with this: