Relicnews: the definitive source for all things Relic

Homeworld FAQ


1.0 – Introduction

1.1 – About this FAQ This FAQ lazily directs its beam of focus over Homeworld, an upcoming computer game from Relic Entertainment and Sierra Studios.

1.2 – Where can the latest version of this FAQ be found? The latest iteration of this FAQ can be found at Relicnews somewhere on the sidebar. Consider it a scavenger hunt of sorts.

2.0 – About Homeworld

2.1 – What in the name of Gluecifer is Homeworld? Homeworld is the first fully, completely three dimensional real time strategy (RTS) game. It also happens to be the debut release of Relic Entertainment. Your evil, adhesive master would love it.

2.2 – What sets Homeworld apart from the zillions of other RTS games already out there? Did you even read 2.1? It’s 3d for Nyarlathoep’s sake! And everyone knows three dimensions are better than two. Plus, it has killer graphics, a revolutionary sound engine, an intuitive interface, a beefed up plot, addictive gameplay, and it’s being developed by Canadians.

2.3 – Who’s developing Homeworld? Homeworld is being brought to us by the folks over at Vancouver based Relic Entertainment. In a necessary deal with the devil, Homeworld will be published by the corporate entity known as Sierra Studios. The driving force behind Homeworld is one time shiftless vagabond, Alex Garden. Interestingly enough, Vancouver is one of the major gateways for pot in North America.

2.4 – When does Homeworld hit the shelves? Homeworld is scheduled for a concurrent worldwide release date of September 1, 1999. Barring an apocalypse, of course.

3.0 – Game Engine

3.1 – What engine lurks beneath the surface of the hot rod that is Homeworld? Homeworld uses a proprietary engine developed in-house by Relic. Let’s call it the “Homeworld Engine” for lack of a better term.

3.2 – What are the system requirements? Straight from the official site:

Pentium 200 32-MB RAM 4x CD-ROM Sound Card Windows 95/98/NT 4.0

Keep in mind that those are the minimum system requirements. If you don’t want the game to chug like a Yugo, I’d suggest something with a little more speed. Like your neighbourhood speed dealer, for instance.

3.3 – Graphics

3.3.1 – Are those really the graphics? Yes. Muy bueno, si?

3.3.2 – Will Homeworld require hardware acceleration? Nope, but let’s be realistic (if only for a very brief moment): the graphics will be uglier than a baboon’s ass without 3d acceleration. Actually, they won’t be that bad but a baboon’s ass is pretty damn ugly. Suffice it to say, you will want a 3d accelerator while playing Homeworld.

3.3.3 – Which graphics APIs will Homeworld use? Homeworld can be played using either Direct3D or OpenGL as the renderer. And that’s it. There is no Glide support.

3.3.4 – What about 3d scalability? Yes. As you zoom away from ships, their polygon counts will decrease lessening the load on your hardworking 3d accelerator, the poor bastard. Here’s the specifics:

…there are 5 LOD levels for each ship (some may only have 4). And these automatically scale based on distance from the camera.

- Shane Alfreds, Relic Sound Guy

3.3.5 – How much detail will ships have? Due to the 3d scalability mentioned in 3.3.4, polygon counts will vary anywhere from 15 polys (zoomed out) to 900 polys (zoomed in). Just to give an idea of the graphical touches in Homeworld, turrets on ships will track targets and exhibit visible recoil when fired (as opposed to invisible recoil).

3.3.6 – Will Homeworld utilize CPU acceleration through AMD’s 3Dnow! or Intel’s SSE instruction sets? Yes and yes. These Relic folk are really on the frickin’ cutting edge.

3.4 – Audio

3.4.1 – What audio features does Homeworld support? Homeworld supports so many audio features, it’s mind boggling. Here’s a small list of audio terms incomprehensible to me that are present in Homeworld:

But we do about 32 channels of audio, we’ve got Dolby, we’ve got Doppler shifting, we’ve got 8 to 1 compression on all of our effects at 44Khz with almost no loss, we’ve got mixing in the frequency domain, not the time domain, we’ve got… The list goes on for quite a while. Real time speech ditching, multiple streaming channels off multiple devices.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

3.4.2 – Which audio APIs will Homeworld use? Homeworld does not use Creative’s EAX or Aureal’s A3D, but uses its own unique audio API. Here’s what the master of all things aural, Relic’s rupract, had to type:

No Homeworld doesn’t support A3D, D3D or EAX. The reason is that when we started developing the game we decided to write our own audio engine. Unfortunatly by the time these standards became more supported it was too late for us to change, and our audio architecture is too different to allow us to integrate.

But, our audio engine is 3D and is supported by all audio hardware out there. I prefer headphones to get the greatest 3D effect, but 2 and 4 speaker systems do sound good too.

- Shane Alfreds, Relic Sound Guy

3.4.3 – What type of music does Homeworld feature? Homeworld features two varieties of music. As I understand it, during gameplay, the soundtrack will be classical in nature. However, ’70s psychedelic supergroup Yes has agreed to create a track for the game. Where the track appears is uncertain although I’m leaning towards the opening sequence. Psychedelic rock and spaceships, truly a match made in hallucinogenics.

3.4.4 – What about unit chatter? Unit chatter exists but in a more advanced form than any previous implementation. Dependent on the situation, units can string together various sound samples to update the player on their condition. It’s quite dynamic:

For every sample you can set envelopes for the sound, you can set the variable effects that are allowed to be applied to it under what situation, what sound effects are applicable to pilots that are excited, what speech events are applicable to pilots that are excited, when things can happen.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

3.4.5 – What about subtitles/text for the hearing impaired? Here’s the info, straight from the Big Q himself:

We have implemented subtitles during briefings and cutscenes after we got some email from a hearing-impaired individual. This seems to be something that is often overlooked and, I have to admit, I hadn’t thought about it. Mission briefings are delivered with voice but there is a text mission recap that can be brought up at any time in the game.

- Quinn Duffy, Homeworld Designer

Thanks to Lynx for the info.

3.5 – Multiplayer

3.5.1 – Is Homeworld multiplay limited to the internet? Homeworld can be played through the internet (TCP/IP) or through a LAN if you’re fortunate enough to have access to one. Unfortunately, there is no modem to modem support.

3.5.2 – How is internet matchmaking handled? I prefer the anonymity of chat rooms where you can pretend to be a 20 year old lesbian regardless of gender or age (not that I’ve ever done that). Homeworld’s internet matchmaking is handled by Sierra’s WON.net.

3.5.3 – What’s the maximum number of players in a game? The maximum number of players in a game at any one time is eight even if it’ll lag more than Bob Hope’s orgasm. I apologize for the exceedingly nasty mental image that comment conjured up.

3.5.4 – Can players ally in multiplayer? How extensive are the alliances? Players can ally during multiplayer. Although you can’t control your ally’s (or allies’) units, you do receive their field of vision. RUs are not shared but transfers of RUs to and from allies are possible.

3.5.5 – Are there any multiplayer variants? With a guy like the SpankMaster3000 working on Homeworld, you know there’s gonna be some variations. Known variants on the traditional gather resources/kill opponent include Bounty Hunter (wherein you receive RUs for killing opponents), I Hate Harvesting (wherein you receive periodic injections of RUs in place of harvesting resources), and Chess (wherein you receive a set amount of ships at the beginning of the game – tactics baby!).

3.6 – Interface

3.6.1 – Won’t Homeworld be impossible to control? What’s the interface like? Nope, Homeworld’s interface is remarkably smooth and intuitive. Alex Garden explains it best:

We got it down to so that you can control 80% of the game without touching the keyboard. We’ve got a task bar along the bottom of the screen, we’ve got right click menus for all the ships. You can rotate the camera by just holding down the right mouse button and moving the mouse and you can zoom the camera by holding down both buttons and moving the mouse and you can still select your units with the left mouse button.

-Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

3.6.2 – Will there be keyboard shortcuts? Yes. For instance, groups of units can be bound to specific hotkeys for instant access and many interface commands are directly accessible through the push of a single key.

3.6.3 – Can the “camera” be moved anywhere? No, but this isn’t necessarily a problem:

You can move it only around a ship or a group of ships. The thing is, you can see anything, anywhere, in the entire universe at any time. Because you can also zoom out, I could be twisting around a ship but be so far out I could see the whole fleet.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

This is actually slightly erroneous as you can only zoom a certain distance from any one ship.

3.6.4 – How are ships moved large distances? Ships can be moved large distances through the use of the Sensors Manager. The Sensors Manager is essentially the complete map that is usually miniaturized in other RTS games. Ships can be told to move anywhere on the map from the Sensors Manager in the same fashion as regular movement.

3.6.5 – Will players be able to set waypoints for their ships? Unfortunately, no. If you can’t trust a raving lunatic like me, trust a raving lunatic like Erin Daly:

No, We haven’t axed any major features. We simply decided not to do certain things, even though we wanted to (like waypoints).

- Erin Daly, Homeworld Designer

3.7 – Customization

3.7.1 – Will Homeworld ship with a mission editor? Yes, Homeworld will ship with a mission editor. It’s supposed to be very similar to 3dStudioMax:

…it’s a fully 3d space mission editor, looks a lot like 3dmax actually. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s very cool. It’s designed, actually, to be a generic editor for a 3d world. But not in the same quake one, you don’t have to define walls, you can just fill it up with stuff.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

3.7.2 – How versatile is the mission editor? It seems that scripting functionality within the editor is somewhat limited. Here’s a post from the Relic boards by Athexx:

Supposedly you can script certain events on the players like Pirate raids from NPC races. Let’s hope this wasn’t one of those axed-for-time features!

The wording in the official response is somewhat ambiguous so who knows what could happen besides the omniscient Cookie God?

Uhh… sorry Athexx. :) I don’t know how you came up with it, actually, since it never existed in the multiplayer game at all. :)

- Erin Daly, Homeworld Designer

3.7.3 – What about custom, user created units? The word from Relic is nope although you gotta think some enterprising hacker’ll figure some way around it. Anywho, here’s the official word:

As far as adding new units, the truth is that one of the first things that we build into the engine was the way ships were stored and it became a very integral part of the program. And then TA was released , shortly after that, that had the ability to release new units. We looked at what it would take for us to add that and decided it wasn’t worth for two reasons. One, it would require a really big re-write of that portion of the engine and two unit balancing in Homeworld is much more complicated then unit balancing in TA. due to the fact that the ships are able to maneuver completely in 3d and also to the fact that they maneuver with a great deal of AI involved in how they fly it.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

3.7.4 – What about editing existing units? There are two ways in which existing units will be editable. While the textures on ships won’t be editable, players can mess around with what colour the jet trails and markings are on ships. Secondly, various aspects of the ships will be editable:

And the other thing that we’re doing is that the game is going to ship with this one humungous data file. But what we’re going to do, sometimes after the game is released, we’re going to release the un-encryption software for that big file and give people access to the contents of it. All the tuning files for the game, the AI, flight dynamics, scripting everything is stored in there in a very easily editable format… So we’ll release that after the game is released and we’ll give a chance to people to actually start modifying how it works and we’ll see where we go from there.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

4.0 – Game Content

4.1 – The Story Homeworld’s story, while fairly complex, can be summed up in quick order. One spacefaring race got its ass kicked back to one planet by another spacefaring race and has now discovered an artifact which points the way to their homeworld. Now, they’re out for blood in an edge of your seat psychological thriller. With spaceships, lots and lots of spaceships.

4.2 – Game Structure

4.2.1 – How is Homeworld’s singleplayer component structured? Like most RTS games, Homeworld is divided into individual missions. Unlike most RTS titles though, in Homeworld you can exit a mission at almost any point provided you’ve accumulated enough fuel/energy to make a hyperspace jump.

4.2.2 – Won’t this allow players to burn through the game rather quickly? Nope, for a few reasons. First of all, you have to accumulate enough resources to make a jump. Secondly, some missions will require the player to have obtained something in an earlier mission. Lastly, if you do burn through missions, you’ll eventually run out of resources leaving you open for devastating attacks which will be virtually unstoppable. That would be bad.

4.2.3 – Will fleets be carried over from mission to mission? Yes, Homeworld will have persistent fleets making it the first RTS game with this feature. This is great if you have a huge armada built up but on the flipside, if your forces are decimated, you’ll be SOL next mission.

4.2.4 – What if the building of a ship is started before entering hyperspace, than a jump is performed? The amount of the ship’s construction will depend on the amount of time spent in hyperspace. So, your ship could be finished or it could still be under production.

4.2.5 – How big is a Homeworld map? Keep in mind with a Homeworld map, it’s more about volume than surface area. Taking that into consideration, here’s the specs on the largest known map: a cylindrical area 430 km by 90 km.

4.3 – Units (not that kind)

4.3.1 – How many sides to the conflict are there? There are six different races involved in Homeworld’s conflict. Whoa! Put those pants back on – only two are playable.

4.3.2 – What are the races called? Which ones are playable? The two playable races are called the Taiidan and the Kushan. Three of the four remaining races are pirates and are referred to as the Turanic Raiders, the Protectors of the Gardens, and the T-Mat. The remaining race is a group of mysterious intergalactic traders known as the Bentusi.

4.3.3 – Since two races are playable, are there two single player campaigns? Yes, both the Kushan and Taiidan have their own campaigns. However, they aren’t unique. Essentially, depending on which race you select, the roles will reverse. So, if you elect to play as the Kushan, the Taiidan will be the bad guys. And vice-versa.

4.3.4 – How many units per race? How similar are the units? The playable races have around thirty units each. Approximately five of these units will be unique to each race. Its unknown how different the pirate races are from each other. The traders basically fly around in a huge city/ship called the Bentusi Exchange which is unique to them.

4.3.5 – What are the unique units to each side? The known unique units for the Kushan are the Cloaked Fighter and the Drone Frigate. The unique units revealed for the Taiidan thus far are the Field Frigate and the Defence Fighter.

4.3.6 – If a unit has multiple weapons can it attack multiple targets simultaneously? In a word, yes.

4.3.7 – How similar do the two main races look? Are they immediately distinguishable? The Kushan and Taiidan look quite dissimilar:

The Kushan have a more bulky, military, “big-tech, low-tech” feel to them, while the Taiidan are a sleeker, more colorful race. Both races have a plethora of special effects and sounds that distinguish them.

- Alex Garden, Relic Head Honcho

4.3.8 – What about refueling? Which ships have to refuel? The only classes of ships that have to refuel are Fighters and Corvettes. There is one exception to this:

Repair corvettes don’t require fuel. Originally they did but it seemed kind of silly to have your fuel ship run out of fuel. They’re the only corvettes that don’t require fuel.

- Quinn Duffy, Homeworld Designer

4.3.9 – Which ships can refuel others? Throw another burger on the Q:

Repair Corvettes can fuel/repair fighters but not corvettes. If you want to refuel your corvettes you have to do so at a Support Frigate (10 fighters, 4 corvettes) or the carrier/mothership/ You can also refuel at resource controllers.

- Quinn Duffy, Homeworld Designer

4.3.10 – Will minelayers have a finite number of mines? Good news for those of you thinking up devious minelaying strategies – minelayers have unlimited mines at their disposal. Here’s some more minelaying info:

Mines are somewhat limited. Minelayers don’t have a limited mine supply but they do have to ‘recharge’. Mines are visible in the game, but barely. You have to get really close…and by then they’ll start tracking you down. Mines will also have a limited lifespan, otherwise the world fills up with them and the game slows down. The mines are real polygonal objects so adding an thousand of them does have detrimental effects, despite the power of the engine.

- Quinn Duffy, Homeworld Designer

4.3.11 – Will new units be made available for download similar to Total Annihilation? Nope, downloadable units ain’t happening:

…unfortunately it is too late to add new units.

- Erin Daly, Homeworld Designer

Also, see 3.7.3.

4.3.12 – Is refuelling handled automatically? What about repairs? Nope, they’re both completely manual processes:

I can clear this up: auto-refuelling/auto-repairing was definitely slated to go in the game. The feature was axed for time. Sorry! :)

- Erin Daly, Homeworld Designer

4.3.13 – Does the AI cheat when building ships? I was hoping to use the phrase “dirty bastard” in this response but the AI does not cheat — it will skate on this technicality (plus the fact that it’s supposedly been changed):

As for the computer player building things instantly, this is how it works: the computer player builds ships slightly differently from a human player. It puts in an order for a team of ships (say, 3 ion cannon frigates), waits for the alloted time that is required for those 3 ships to be built, then builds them all at once. Technically, it isn’t really cheating… Unfortunately people interpret it as cheating (instant building, as mentioned above), and therefore I’ll have to change it.

- Falko Poinker, Homeworld AI Guy

4.4 – Resource Management

4.4.1 – Will there be resource management in Homeworld? Love it or hate it, there are resources in Homeworld and thus, resource management.

4.4.2 – What types of resources are there? Resources in the game include asteroids, dust clouds, gas clouds, and nebulae. A nifty feature of Homeworld’s resources is the fact that they are dynamic. For instance, an Ion Cannon Frigate can ionize dust clouds, turning them into deathtraps for Resource Collectors.

4.4.3 – How do the multiple resources work? Are they all unique? Although there are multiple resources, they all contribute to a generic pool of Resource Units, or RUs.

4.4.4 – Does each resource require a different unit to extract it? Nope, the ship known, appropriately enough, as the Resource Collector can extract from any of the various resource pockets.

4.4.5 – How are resources distributed throughout the maps? Is it predetermined or randomized? It is your destiny to accept somewhat randomized resource distribution:

One thing to note though is that the asteroids are randomly distributed within the asteroids volume that we place in the layout tool. So there should be some variance there…

- Erin Daly, Homeworld Designer

4.5 – Research

4.5.1 – Will Homeworld allow players to research new technologies? Uhh, yeah. There probably wouldn’t be a section for it in the FAQ if there wasn’t any. Unless, of course, I was feeling saucy which, admittedly, happens quite often.

4.5.2 – How does research work? Contrary to most RTS games, in Homeworld one type of vessel can perform all of the research. Its name is (strangely) the Research Vessel. Once a Research Vessel is built, the player can select one of the available techs to research. After the appropriate amount of time research will be over and the tech will be yours. If you have more than one Research Vessels, you can assign them to different topics or the same topic to speed research.

4.5.3 – How extensive is the tech tree? Is it like Civ2′s or closer to Starcraft’s? It actually falls somewhere between the two, closer to the Starcraft side though. Players won’t just be researching improved weapons and armor, but new special abilities as well. Expect to be researching a little more than you’ve done before in a RTS game.

4.5.4 – Will research be persistent? Will players have to re-research techs each mission? Similar to 4.2.3, already researched technologies will stay researced. Also, like 4.2.4, techs will continue to be researched while the player is in hyperspace.

4.5.5 – What about research in multiplayer? Research will be present in the typical RTS gather resources, kill opponents style multiplay game. However, it will be greatly accelerated as the player has several missions to go through it in single player but only one in multiplayer.

5.0 – Credits

5.1 – Who’s responsible for this travesty of an FAQ? Anyone? This FAQ is handled/fondled by Relicnews’ own Pax. Ah, so that explains it. I deserve all of the credit because I am a deity and selfish bastard to boot. So there.

5.2 – Don’t you have to be completely anal to be maintaining an FAQ for a computer game? Heh… you said anal.

6.0 – FAQ History