There are some developers that, for whatever reason, were just able to strike gold time after time. One of those was the British studio Bullfrog, famous for the Theme Park games, Syndicate, Magic Carpet, Populous and the Dungeon Keeper titles. But the studio was bought by EA, the culture completely collapsed, and by 2001 the studio eventually closed. However, some of those staffers founded up their own joint which has always held a special place in my heart.
That studio was Mucky Foot Productions, founded by four former Bullfrog developers. (Fun fact: one of those founders was Mike Diskett, who would go on to be the tech director at 5 Lives Studios, the Brisbane-based developer responsible for Satellite Reign and more recently, Windbound.)
Mucky Foot wasn’t around for long, and they ended up cancelling more projects than they released. But two of the games they did ship were absolute bangers: Urban Chaos, a third-person martial arts cop adventure, and Startopia.
Startopia is basically what you’d get if you said, “Hey, what if we took Bablyon 5 but made it less about high sci-fi drama and dressed it up as a management sim inside a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy parody?”
Yeah, you’re right, that does sound awesome. And all that experience making Theme Hospital, Theme Park and Dungeon Keeper was worth it. You had different levels of the spacedeck to manage. One was a straightforward industrial level, one was a “pleasure” level which was basically the social hub for all the aliens that would come onboard, and another was a biodeck that let you warp the climate, adjust the ecosystem, change the terrain, fauna and flora any way you want.
You could legitimately spend hours in the biodeck just fucking around. That level alone made Startopia worth it. There was also a weird, RTS-like expansion system where you hired security to go shoot your neighbours so you could expand your space deck, but it was a bit turd and not that much fun.
Still, Startopia was great. And it’s on my mind because Spacebase Startopia, a spiritual successor to the original, is getting released next week. I’ve got a review code, so I’ll definitely be spending some time with that.
So, I’ll be mucking around with that on the weekend. What about yourselves – what will you be playing?