Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Homeworld is a computer game released in 1999 developed by Relic Entertainment and published by Sierra Entertainment. Unlike most of the Real-time strategy games that precede it, Homeworld allows for movement of units in all three spatial dimensions.
Homeworld's storyline is complex and highly detailed. It is delivered through an introductory manual explaining the game's universe and backstory, short animated films between game levels, and cut-scenes which take place in-game. This method of storyline presentation is popular in modern Real-time strategy (RTS) games.
The game tells the story of a humanoid race, the Kushan, living on a desert planet called Kharak. Its so inhospitable that they could settle only in the polar regions.
Throughout its known history, the population of Kharak was divided into independent political entities known as "Kiiths". Each kiith embodied unique racial, religious, and cultural traits, and most kiiths were constantly at war. Most notable of the warring kiiths were Kiith Gaalsien and Kiith Siidim, whose conflict was started over a disagreement about whether Sajuuk (The equivalent of God in their religion) had placed the Kushan on Kharak as an act of mercy or an act of vengeance. Many smaller Kiiths, such as Soban and Paktu, were eventually drawn into the fighting. The war finally ended when the reclusive Kitth Naabal entered the war and easily defeated both sides using explosive-based weaponry (up to that point, the other Kiiths were very technologically primitive).
The extremely inhospitable Kharak climate led many Kharakians to question how they evolved on it in the first place. The revelation that the Kushan genetic makeup was highly unlike any other life-form on the planet, and the eventual discovery of a huge alien ship, the Khar-Toba (First City) in an extremely remote section of desert, would lend final proof to this 'xenogenesis' hypothesis. Within the Khar-Toba, the Guidestone was discovered - an artifact revealing the location of the Kushan's homeworld, simply named Hiigara (Our Home).
The Kushan (otherwise known as the Hiigarans) eventually managed to unite all but the most extreme kiiths towards the goal of reaching their true homeworld and discovering the reasons behind their exile. To this end, a giant colony ship, the Mothership, was constructed. Construction of the ship took 60 years and required entirely new disciplines in macro-engineering to be developed. It was also made possible by the discovery of new technologies within the Khar-Toba, including the 'quantum waveform generator', or Hyperspace Core as its called in-game, capable of moving a ship between two points faster than the speed of light by bending and manipulating spacetime, circumventing relativity's speed of light limit. Their spacefaring fusion rocket engines were back-engineered from the Khar Toba, and the actual technical principles governing the waveform generator's operation are poorly understood by the Kushan, specifically they only know how to activate/deactivate the generator as well as crudely control direction. Karan Sjet, a young female scientist, made the ultimate sacrifice by permanently integrating her physical body into the Mothership to serve as its living CPU, after calculations and trials indicated the data load would overwhelm even their most advanced computers.
After the departure of the Mothership, Kharak was attacked by the Taiidan, a large interstellar empire who now controlled the planet of Hiigara and viciously opposed the exiles' attempt to reclaim their homeworld owing to the exile's contractual details, which by now were several millenia old and completely forgotten. The remaining surface population of Kharak was eliminated in this attack. The attack, however, provided dissenters within the Taiidani Empire a tangible reason to begin open and hostile rebellion against their existing Imperial government.
Over remaining levels of the game, the Kushan encounter other alien races, including the benevolent group of traders known as the Bentusi (The Unbound), and the hostile, fanatical and enigmatic Kadesh (plural Kadeshi). They eventually succeed in reclaiming their home planet, and discover the reasons for their exile.
Homeworld is best known for its single player campaign, although the game also contains a multiplayer option. Gameplay, both single and multiplayer, is complicated by the addition of a third dimension. Homeworld's user interface, while initially difficult, allows players full control of their ships in this new setting.
The single player game can be played either as the Kushan or the Taiidan, with the side you don't choose becoming the main adversay, but the story remains otherwise identical. Kushan players will fight the Taiidan and Taiidan will fight the Kushan. There are some small differences between the sides(some ships are only available to one side or the other), but mostly the difference is cosmetic(the two sides ships look rather different).
The general flow of gameplay resembles other RTS games, such as StarCraft and the Command and Conquer series. The player scouts the map, harvests resources and builds units. Since the game takes place in space, there are obviously no 'structures' as in most RTS games - However, the Mothership, carriers, and research ships essentially serve the same purposes, allowing the player to construct and upgrade units.
Ships in the game range from agile strike craft to lumbering capital ships such as the heavy cruiser. Each unit serves a particular function and represents a trade off in strength, offensive power, speed, and cost.
In the single player game, Homeworld uses a unique fleet inheritance concept (aka persistent fleet), in which all ships from a previous mission remain in the next. Therefore, it is theoretically possible for a ship built in the first mission to still be present at the end of the game. This feature, coupled with the limited availability of resources in each level, forces the player to make hard decisions on the make up of their fleet.
With the exception of a song by the rock group "Yes" entitled "Homeworld", most of the music in the game is ambient, matching the lonely but beautiful environment of deep space. Also worthy of note is the of Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei, the choral version of his Adagio for Strings.
Influences and context
Homeworld was undoubtedly influenced by the many RTS games, books, and movies which preceded it. The epic storyline is reminiscent of titles such as StarCraft and Dark Reign. Homeworld's battles, involving dozens and sometimes hundreds of small swarming ships were inspired by George Lucas's famous Star Wars. The voice of the game's narrator also appears to be identical to the narrator from the animated Sci-Fi series Robotech, further reinforcing the game's space-opera atmosphere. The concept of a large mothership carrying exiles back to their homeworld after their colony was destroyed by an evil alien empire has much in common with Battlestar Galactica. The idea of the Strategic interface, which allowed a commander's view of the playing field instead of the standard up and close tactical view, is similar to the battlefield simulator spoken in Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game.
Many of the starship designs were inspired by the Terran Trade Authority books, published by Hamlyn Publishing Group in the 1970s, and illustrated by artists Peter Elson and Chris Foss. Both are honored by getting special credit mentions in the game, while defecting Taiidan character, Group Captain Elson, is named after Peter Elson.
Homeworld revolutionized the RTS genre and paved the way for games such as Hegemonia: Legions of Iron and Far Gate .
There is also a strong Middle-Eastern/Islamic influence to the feel of the game. This is evident in the music, as well as the culture of the Kushan. There is some good evidence that the Kushan practise a religion very similar to Islam. Especially notable is the Kushan name for their Homeworld, Hiigara, which strongly resembles the word Hegira, which refers to the Prophet Muhammed's historic flight from Mecca. However, a lot of what is apparently an Islamic/Arab touch may in fact be secondary influence filtred through Frank Herbert's Dune series.
Reviews and recognition
Homeworld was given high marks by most of the gaming community, and earned numerous awards, including IGN's game of the year award for 1999. The game was praised for its eye catching, movie like graphics engine, large battles, appropriate soundtrack, and its revolutionary 3D interface.
In September 2000 a stand-alone expansion was released, Homeworld: Cataclysm.
The sequel, Homeworld 2, was released in late 2003. In the game, the Hiigarans (Kushan) must defend their newly recovered home from the Vaygr, a powerful nomadic raider race led by a man named Makaan, who managed to rally his normally warring race after recovering the second of the three hyperspace cores (quantum waveform generators) in a remote region of the galaxy.
Relic released the source code to Homeworld in late 2003 from which unofficial ports to different platforms like Linux were made.
- Official homepage
- Complete story at Relic website
- Homeworld SDL
- Homeworld Shipyards: Fan run information site
- a Homeworld Fansite
- A news site following Relic, the developers of Homeworld
- Yet another site following the developers of Homeworld
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