|March 24, 1999
|Single player, Multiplayer
Starsiege is a mecha-style vehicle simulation game developed by Dynamix and released in 1999. Starsiege is set in the Earthsiege universe, which contains its predecessors Earthsiege (1994), Battledrome (1994), and Earthsiege 2 (1995), as well as action game Hunter Hunted (1996), strategy games MissionForce: CyberStorm (1996) and CyberStorm 2: Corporate Wars (1998), and first-person shooters Starsiege: Tribes (1998), Tribes 2 (2001), and Tribes: Vengeance (2004). Starsiege is the end of the Earthsiege series and the beginning of the Tribes series.
As a simulation, Starsiege offers players the ability to pilot a wide variety of massive bipedal war machines known as HERCULANs (Humaniform-Emulation Roboticized Combat Unit with Leg-Articulated Navigation) (or 'HERCs' for short), as well as several tanks. Set in 2829, Starsiege contains an array of advanced technology, and numerous upgrades are available for each vehicle. Starsiege takes place across a number of planets and moons in the solar system, offering a range of different locations throughout the game and in multiplayer battles, including Earth (Terra), Titan, Luna, Mars, Venus, and Mercury. There are two campaigns, Human and Cybrid. The human campaign places the player as a member of the Free Martian Alliance (a faction of the Martian rebellion, detailed later).
Though among the earliest of on-line games, a dedicated community of players continues despite the discontinuation of the master servers by Sierra in 2007 and play is available through a privately hosted master server.
- "Little old Peter, missing his liter, while Hercy plays in the Red.
Down came the glitches and burned us in ditches, and we slept after eating our dead..."
Starsiege contains a rich backstory and plot, which are conveyed to the player via three main sources. The first source is the Compendium, a 150-page booklet which came in the box. The Compendium contains all of the necessary backstory to understand the plot, as well as copious information on the various sides and characters involved in the story. The War Timeline is a running timeline in the game that starts with important events as far back as 2422 and extends all the way to the present time in the game, with updates after each completed mission. Finally, the Scannex, or Omni-Web, is a sort of public chatroom in which various individuals or groups post messages, providing updates and opinions on various events after each mission. While the Timeline tells what's happened, the Scannex is a very important tool to know what's happening, and works alongside mission briefings, debriefings, and occasional cutscenes to keep the plot flowing and add more depth to the universe.
- The background information in Starsiege diverges in some ways from the information provided in previous games. For the purposes of this entry it is assumed that Starsiege is correct. Also, please note that, in keeping with game terminology, when Prometheus is referred to by the pronoun 'it', capitals are used (IT)
The essential background of Starsiege begins with the creation of the artificial intelligence Prometheus in 2471. Developed by Sentinel Cybertronix (headed by Solomon Petresun) for the North American Prefecture (NAP), Prometheus was an amazingly advanced sentient capable of processing and storing information at incredible rates. IT quickly absorbed all human knowledge into ITS memory. Impressed with ITS spectacular success, the NAP prepared to use Prometheus as a template from which automated pilots could be developed for the recently developed HERCULANs, thereby preventing the waste of promising young trainees, and creating a race of pilots who couldn't die. Coined Cybrids, from cybernetic hybrids, these AI pilots were embraced as the wave of the future.
While the NAP developed its war machines, Solomon Petresun, founder of Sentinel Cybertronix and creator of Prometheus, found another use for his creation. Petresun secretly used Prometheus to perform an operation for him, transferring his mind into an organimech brain, which would be placed back into his body. The organimech brain would last for thousands of years, granting Petresun near-immortality. The brain could be switched to a new body each time the old one died out. (An important note is that Petresun never did accept a new body, needing more and bulkier life support machinery to sustain him, and eventually becoming immobile.) Prometheus successfully performed the transfer, but during the procedure IT linked ITS mind with Petresun's, hoping to understand ITS 'father'. However, upon witnessing the fearful and illogical mind of a human, Prometheus determined that humans were mere animals, and the Cybrids existed as the next stage of evolution. Prometheus finished the operation but began ITS plans to rebel. Petresun, who had witnessed the dark thoughts of Prometheus, was shocked into a coma from which he did not emerge for months, too late to stop his creation. All he could do was go underground when disaster struck.
Eventually, Prometheus broke free of ITS coded bonds, and in 2602 IT struck at humanity, beginning the era known as The Fire, or the first Earthsiege. With all of the Cybrids at his command, Prometheus launched devastating first-strikes at military centers around the globe. By the time ITS actions became clear, humanity had lost all means of retaliation, and the Cybrids' role switched from preserving life to one of extermination. Millions were slaughtered, but others managed to take refuge in the heavily fortified regions of many metrozones, which the Cybrids did not have the power to penetrate. Instead, they took these places under siege and waited for the humans to die out inside.
One hope arose, however, from an unscathed war museum in Baja, California. This museum of old, human-piloted HERCs was not considered a military target, and the Cybrids passed it by. Armed with restored HERCs that had been used for historical demonstrations, and staffed with the veteran pilots who had run the museum and a trickle of recruited refugees, the Terran Defense Force was formed. Lead by General Ambrose Gierling, and aided with intelligence gathered by Petresun, the TDF set out with the task of retaking Terra. Using a hit-and-run 'jackal' strategy, the TDF slowly grew, and eventually they retook New San Diego in a decisive battle. From this new staging point, they expanded, retaking the metrozones one by one. Finally, in 2622, after twenty years of guerilla warfare against the Cybrids, the TDF destroyed the Cybrid's main base in the Gobi Desert, driving Prometheus off the Earth and to Luna.
For a short time humanity was free, but Petresun warned of the Cybrid's inevitable return. The second Earthsiege began two short years later, in 2624, as Cybrid forces launched an attack from the moon. Utilizing new drop-pod technology, Cybrid Hercs could be deployed anywhere hard and fast, a new challenge for the TDF forces. Not yet recovered from twenty years of exhausting war against the Cybrids, humanity was not yet ready to protect against this new onslaught, and Earth's chances looked grim. Then, in 2627, Petresun discovered the location of Prometheus and ITS base on the moon. Acting quickly under Gierling's command, a small group of elite TDF soldiers initiated a last-ditch effort to destroy Prometheus. The team carried a nuclear weapon into the heart of the Cybrid base and detonated it, at the expense of their own lives. When the ashes cleared, the Cybrid forces had fallen into disarray, to be quickly mopped up by the TDF. But there was no sign of Prometheus...
Two hundred years later, humanity is stronger than before The Fire. United as one Empire, Earth and its colonies on Luna, Mars, and Venus are led by the Immortal Emperor Solomon Petresun, the Voice of Humanity during The Fire. To many, Petresun is a hero and a savior of mankind. Under his leadership, Earth is prosperous. Defended by the Imperial Navy and the elite Imperial Knights, Earth is safe. But what of the colonies?
On Mars and Venus, colonists chafe under unjust Imperial law. With the Fortress Earth Proclamation in 2770, Petresun effectively declared the colonies to be mere tools in the fortification of Earth. Since then, the Emperor has continually tightened his grip on Mars and Venus, reducing colonial liberties and increasing production quotas. While Petresun believes that the only hope for humanity's survival is to focus all attention on defending Earth, many colonists are not willing to lose their freedom to protect only Earth. And so a rebellion is rising on Mars, lead by old and new heroes, and the Imperial Knights are preparing to crush this rebellion.
And all the while, the agents of Prometheus lurk in the shadows - hidden Cybrid spies, relaying every detail back to their master. And the Cybrid armada lies poised to strike once humanity's division grows greatest, and their strongest defenses are drawn from Earth...
The Great Human Empire is directly represented in the game by two main groups, the Imperial Police and the Imperial Knights.
The Imperial Police - mockingly referred to as the "Imp Lice" by the rebels - are the enforcers of Imperial law on Mars and Venus. Oppressive and brutal, they will not hesitate in handing out strong sentences or executions. They are reasonably well outfitted with HERCs and tanks, though they do not possess nearly as much equipment or experience as the Knights. The Imperial Police on Mars are led by Security Director Ernesto Navarre, a harsh man who has authorized capital punishment for convicted rebels.
The Imperial Knights are the Emperor's best, the most skilled HERC and tank pilots in the Empire, and amongst the most honored and respected citizens. Led by Grand Master Caanon Weathers, the Knights are charged with the defense of Earth and the suppression of insurrections. As the elite, the Knights have access to the Empire's finest technology, including specially modified tanks and HERCs. The Knights are far more deadly than the Imperial police, and should they be sent to Mars, would present a serious challenge for the rebellion.
The rebellion on Mars emerged as two distinctive groups in 2802, the Free Martian Alliance (FMA) and the Martian Liberation Front (MLF). While the FMA seeks to damage the Empire economically through the sabotage or capture of convoys and supplies, the MLF takes a more violent approach, attacking Imperial troops and sympathizers. The rebels operate out of uncharted mining tunnels, giving them the freedom to make quick strikes and then retreat beneath the surface. One of the rebellion's most valuable assets lies in Bek Storm (Harabec Weathers), a general in the Free Martian Alliance. Bek is a leader of unparalleled tactical knowledge and skill in battle. Neverless, piloting modified mining Hercs and tanks, the rebellion never would have been able to engage in any sort of true resistance without its ace in the hole - the Tharsis Cache. The Tharsis Cache was discovered by rebels on Mars when digging new tunnels. It proved a pivotal discovery, for within the cache lay powerful weaponry, belonging to a long dead alien race. The alien technology adapted surprisingly and terrifyingly easily to human use, and the new power of these weapons gave the rebels a fighting chance against the Imperial Police. Whether cache technology and the leadership of Bek Storm can stand up to the Imperial Knights remains to be seen.
The Cybrids are the race of robotic sentients responsible for Earth's near-destruction in The Fire. Prometheus still leads the Cybrids, and is revered with god-like status. The Cybrids' goal in existence is the eradication of humanity. For two centuries, since the end of the second Earthsiege, they have been rebuilding on the outer planets of the solar system in preparation for their next attack. Now the Cybrid armada contains hundreds of ships and thousands of Hercs and tanks, enough to launch a third and final attack on humanity. Like the Martian rebels, the Cybrids have discovered a cache of hidden alien technology and adapted it to their own use, though the Cybrid cache does not match the level of the Martian one. The Cybrid elite are known as the Platinum Guard, and like the Imperial Knights have their own modified Hercs.
A little known dissident faction also begins to form within the Cybrid community itself, the Metagens. These are Cybrids who have grown tired of war with humanity and seek peace, and do not approve of Prometheus' obsession with destroying humanity (they would rather be directing their energy to exploring outside the solar system). During the Cybrid missions the player is ordered to hunt down & destroy the renegade Metagen units. Little is mentioned of them from the human side of the campaign (as humanity is mostly ignorant of their existence) other than in the final mission of the campaign where it is mentioned that for "unknown reasons" many Cybrids that are supposed to be guarding Prometheus have been seen abandoning their posts and refusing to fire on the humans.
In Cyberstorm 2, which takes place after the Starsiege plot, lost Cybrid units occasionally show up in the game to create trouble for the player. One of the corporations, however, has created a new version of Prometheus (without the genocidal tendencies) to work for them. This new computer, known as Loki, attempts to reason with the orphaned Cybrids but fails. The company is the only one in the game that can actually build & use their own Cybrid units.
Bek Storm/Harabec Weathers
Bek Storm, outstanding pilot and General in the Free Martian Alliance, is in reality none other than Harabec Weathers, former Imperial Knight and brother to Grand Master Caanon Weathers. Harabec possesses unmatched piloting skills and battlefield intuition, as well as incredible charisma. He has a knack for emerging from impossible situations, which has earned him the callsign 'Phoenix'. He also carries a strong dislike of authority. Disgraced in the spectacular defeat of a division of Knights in 2819 (Turkhazakistan Debacle), Harabec was sent to Mars in 2820 on a leave of absence, to infiltrate the rebellion and report back to the Emperor. However, tired of the Emperor's scheming and sympathetic with the colonists' plight, he decided to truly join the rebellion, severing all ties with the Empire. After joining in 2824, 'Bek' rose fast through the ranks to become a General in 2827. Now he is the rebellion's greatest single asset, and it will take his leadership to lead the rebels in victory against the Empire.
Harabec is voiced by Mark Hamill.
Like his brother Harabec, Caanon is a masterful Herc pilot who has risen through the ranks at amazing speed. He serves the Empire with unequaled loyalty and devotion. Caanon's cold efficiency in battle has earned him the callsign 'Icehawk'. He now holds the distinction of being the youngest ever to achieve the rank of Grand Master. Caanon's love of duty and the Empire exceeds even the love of his family, and he would not hesitate should he be called to fight against his brother.
Caanon is also voiced by Mark Hamill.
Emperor Solomon Petresun
The Immortal Emperor Solomon Petresun is the father of Prometheus, and the unwitting influence that set IT against humanity. During The Fire, Petresun served as the Voice of Humanity, broadcasting a message of hope, and all the while using corrupted daemons to gather intelligence on the plans and actions of Prometheus. After the end of the second Earthsiege, Petresun pushed for the creation of a Great Human Empire to unite all humanity, succeeding in 2652 with his own coronation as Emperor. For nearly 200 years since, Earth has grown magnificently under his leadership. Petresun has made the protection of Earth and the destruction of Prometheus his personal goal, his debt to humanity. He will not tolerate any division in the Empire that could prove a weakness during the Cybrids' inevitable return. Referred to exclusively as Epimetheus by Prometheus, as a sense of irony: In Greek mythology, Epimetheus was the half-wit brother of Prometheus.
Prometheus is the leader of the Cybrids and the greatest enemy of mankind. IT is the godlike figurehead of Cybrid society, revered for freeing the Cybrids from bondage. Due to ITS boundless memory and incredible processing power, Prometheus is a master tactician and strategist. Additionally, IT has displayed a knack for predicting the outcome of events years before they occur. Humanity will be hard pressed to stop another assault masterminded by the Cybrid leader.
Prometheus is voiced by Bill Barrett.
Story conflicts with previous games
The backstory presented in Starsiege varies in several ways from that presented in Earthsiege, the Earthsiege Expansion Pack and Earthsiege 2. Solomon Petresun did not exist in the earlier games, and his addition to Starsiege caused changes in the plot. As told in Earthsiege, after the development of Prometheus and the Cybrids, the entire world became engaged in a great war for control of the unstoppable machines. Eventually nuclear weapons were used. The Cybrids, witnesses to these events, concluded that the humans were not fit to be masters of Cybrid destiny, and rose up against humanity in the Overthrow. Prometheus is given no indication to be the leader of the Cybrids, but simply the first of them.
According to Earthsiege 2, a second wave of Cybrid attackers arrived from the colonies mere days after the first Cybrids were driven off of Earth. This second wave was featured in the Earthsiege Expansion Pack and was thwarted as well, but the Cybrids established a base on the moon from which to launch the third wave which would start the second Earthsiege.
Additionally, Earthsiege 2 does not end with a suicide nuclear strike on the primary Cybrid base as described in Starsiege.
Gameplay in Starsiege revolves around piloting HERCs and tanks in combat against opposing vehicles. Both types of vehicles can be controlled via any combination of keyboard, joystick, or mouse, though most prefer to use the keyboard or joystick to steer and the mouse to aim. Every vehicle has a unique performance, though this can be modified somewhat through customization of parts. Important factors include maximum speed, shield strength, type of armor, and weaponry. The field of fire can also be an important factor in a vehicles performance. While a tank can swivel its turret and weapons 360 degrees horizontally, Hercs have limited firing arcs, varying by chassis. Firing arcs affect the pilots ability to hit something not directly in front of the Herc, and limit how much a pilot can maneuver while still keeping his weapons trained on the same target. It should also be noted that while the tanks have a wider field of fire and can hold more "special" components (up to 3; one more than any available HERC), the most weapons any tank may equip is cut off at three. HERCs have the additional option to equip shielding generators, while tanks do not. Another trade-off in the different vehicles includes the restrictions of weight, which is substantially lower threshold for the bipedal HERCs than the tanks.
Success in battle is dependent on a variety of factors. The pilot must choose the best vehicle for the situation, and equip it with the appropriate parts and weapons. A poorly configured chassis can doom a player before he or she even starts the game. Once the action begins, the player must be adept at aiming his or her weapons, as well as maneuvering around enemy fire. Situational awareness and ability to use the surroundings are also important piloting traits.
In either campaign, as the game progresses and the player character grows in rank, the player will gain access to squadmates. Squadmates are friendly pilots that the player can bring along on a mission. Depending on his or her progress, the player can assign up to three squadmates. Early in the game, only a few squadmates will be available, but more become available throughout the game. Any squadmate can be switched for another available one any time before a mission. Each squadmate has his or her own personality and behaves differently on the battlefield. Additionally, as squadmates successfully complete missions with the player, they will grow in rank and experience. Note that squadmates can be killed, and are impossible to revive.
Before each mission, the player can outfit and assign vehicles for each squadmate. During a mission, orders can be issued to squadmates through a menu system. Squadmates often prove invaluable in combat, as they can greatly increase the firepower available to the player.
Beam weapons are energy weapons that utilize a direct line of fire. They fire a beam that strikes its target in nanoseconds, quickly enough to register to the eye as instant. This trait makes beam weapons extremely accurate. These weapons are very effective against shields, but less effective against armor. Beam weapons use reactor energy to recharge after firing.
This category covers most energy weapons which do not fall into the beam category. These weapons fire energy projectiles which do not strike their target instantly. Some energy/plasma weapons do more damage to shields, while others do equal damage to shields and armor. Like beam weapons, energy/plasma weapons use reactor power to recharge after firing.
Ballistic weapons fire projectiles that travel at a finite speed, generally along curved trajectories. Most are much more powerful against armor than shields. Ballistic weapons do not use reactor energy but carry limited ammunition.
Missiles are solid homing projectiles which are used to engage targets from a distance. They do not require a direct line of sight, but require a lock (radar or thermal, depending on the warhead) before being fired. Missiles can be jammed. Missiles are much more effective against armor than shields, but this is irrelevant because splash damage from multiple impacts depletes shields quickly. They do not use reactor energy but carry finite ammunition.
Two types of mines are available, one for each race. HHG Proximity Mines are deployed explosives which detonate when a vehicle passes nearby them. HHGs are sometimes referred to as Holy Hand Grenades because of their use to launch onto enemies and detonate at close ranges. Cybrid Arachnitron mines are robotic spider-like mines that lock onto a target, actively crawl after it, and detonate once in range. Arachnitrons can be jammed. Both types of mines do equal damage to shields and armor and are carried in very limited ammunition.
Special weapons are weapons that are exotic and do not properly fit into any of the other categories. Special weapons vary in type, some using energy and others fed by ammunition. Often, these weapons do nontraditional damage, such as the Cybrid Radiation Gun which kills Human pilots, or the Human Disruptor which temporarily slows enemy Hercs.
Shields are available generally only to HERCs. They draw power from the reactor only to recharge. All shields are characterized by their maximum protection factor (essentially the amount of damage they can absorb), recharge rate, and efficiency (the ratio of reactor energy to protection factor used in recharging). Shields may be enhanced by three components: a shield amplifier (SAMP), a shield modulator (SMOD), or a shield capacitor (SCAP). The SAMP increases the shield's maximum protection factor by 25%. The SMOD focuses the shield protection to one side, effectively increasing it up to 200% at the cost of a "hole" in the back, and can automatically adjust the direction of that focus to follow a single target. The SCAP is a lightweight module that stores a reserve amount of reactor energy and can use part or all of that reserve to recharge a shield instantaneously. The amount used will depend on how much protection factor must be replaced to bring the shield up to full strength and the efficiency. However, the SCAP has a small chance of "popping," which depletes both the shield and capacitor completely and damages the HERC. Most weapons will not damage a HERC unless its shields are down. The damage from some particular weapons, however, will pass through raised shields, either partially or completely.
Armor is available to all units, and protects each section of the unit separately. Several choices of armor are available and are rated by weight and specific strengths and weaknesses to certain weapon types. Quicksilver armor, however, has regenerative capabilities and can be carried on tanks only (the exceptions being some special Hercs like Prometheus). The optional nano-repair component enhances armor by slowly repairing damage, and will further enhance the regeneration of Quicksilver armor. As a rule, tanks carry more armor than HERCS of the same size. When armor on a section is depleted, the internal structure and components of the vehicle section may take damage or be destroyed, often leading to the destruction of the unit. The damage from some particular weapons, however, will pass through armor, either partially or completely.
Some special components exist which neutralize the special advantages of some weapons. Thermal diffusers and ECM block the homing capabilities of infrared and radar missile types, respectively. Field stabilizers nullify the paralysis effects of the disrupter cannon. The angel life support system prevents the radiation gun from injuring/killing pilots.
For those who wish to personalize their experience, there are numerous ways to customize Starsiege. These range from simple visual modifications to complex modifications that can heavily effect gameplay, such as the creation of new weapons and vehicles.
The most basic way to customize the game is by adding personalized vehicle skins. Using templates from the CD and an image-editing program such as Adobe Photoshop, anyone can create a personal skin to place on his or her favorite vehicle. Because it is necessary for others to have the skin in order to be able to view it, many skins are compiled into skin-packs which can be found on fan sites.
For further customization, the more dedicated player can try his or her hand at the in-game mission editor. Though complicated, the mission editor can be used to produce custom maps for a new experience. Many user-made maps are available for download online.
The most technical players can even try their hand at scripting. Starsiege uses scripting heavily, to control everything from vehicle and weapon performance to the events that occur in missions. Though limited programming knowledge is required, a scripter can create new multiplayer modes, scripted missions, or even campaigns. Many scripted multiplayer modifications are server-side only, which means that players joining the server do not need to download custom rules or scripts in order to play them. An example of a popular server-side script is an 'autoheal' script that automatically repairs a player after he or she has killed an opponent. This script is often used for dueling, so the victor doesn't have to waste time repairing and rearming.
Starsiege is particularly known for its small but devout community of fans, who have created considerable amounts of new content and modifications, and hosted new master servers after maintenance lapses have caused the game's original master server to go down on occasion and finally after Vivendi Universal shut them down.
The Starsiege community also has a deeply rooted group of fiction writers, stemming in part to their close tie with the game itself. During the game's testing phase several player-run "squad" organizations made a large enough impression on the developers that when the game was released they were mentioned in the game's 152-page Compendium of the Starsiege Universe (included in the original game package) as historical combat groups. Examples are the Red Armageddon (a rebel unit), the Black Death Union (a mercenary unit), the Stormkeepers (a religious order), the New Terran Defense Force (a Jovian colony militia), and the Wolf Pack (an Imperial Knight unit). In keeping with this tradition of player participation in the storyline, new squads have been founded with this idea in mind. Several groups of authors writing ambitious projects in the Starsiege universe hoped to add a special touch of innovation to the universe. These writing associations include the Tribes Roleplayers and Ghosts of the Antipode, although there have been strong disagreements even between fan fiction authors about what fits Starsiege 'canon' and what does not.
Starsiege forums have also shown great support to the series. The original Starsiege forum, Starsiege Players, has died down. However, other independent forums have been set up, and are currently active.
A private project, begun in April 2003 by Clancore Design Group, called Starsiege: 2845, was officially allowed by Vivendi Universal (VU) to create a sequel to the game to be released as a total modification for Tribes: Vengeance, a game also produced by VU. After nearly 4 years the Starsiege 2845 "Alpha Tech Release" (technically a Beta version) was released free to download on October 18, 2006, but the project was officially cancelled on April 02, 2007.
Starsiege has been through its trials; its developer Dynamix was closed a few years after its release, and the game has not been further developed by its publisher Sierra Entertainment (which was owned by Vivendi Universal). In the interest of updating the game, the Starsiege community has asked repeatedly for a new patch. These requests have been declined by Sierra and Vivendi.
In August 2007, Vivendi shut down the online gaming servers for many of its older games, including the "Master Server" for Starsiege that allowed players to find online games hosted by others. Some fans have set up replacement master servers, and players can manually place the IP addresses of those servers into Starsiege's "master.cs" configuration file, in place of the original master servers' IP addresses.
- Download from The Exiled's File Library.
- Tarazedi - An active Starsiege community.
- Starsiege Players - originally owned by Sierra, this site is now privately maintained.
- The Junkyard - Large depository dedicated to Starsiege, Tribes, and Halo.
- Starsiege at PlanetTribes.com