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Star Saga

Entry updated 8 May 2015. Tagged: Game.

Videogame series (from 1987). MasterPlay. Designed by Andrew Greenberg, Rick Dutton, Walter Freitag, Michael Massimilla.

Star Saga is a series of paragraph-system Board Games, in the manner of Tales of the Arabian Nights (see Board Games), which are distinguished by the use of computer software to perform the necessary housekeeping tasks (an approach resembling that employed by a number of other early Videogames such as Tanktics [see Computer Wargames]). Each turn begins with the players entering their actions into the game software; depending on the results generated by the system, they may then move across a flat map of the galaxy, read paragraphs of narrative from the included books, or talk to and trade with one another if they have arrived in the same region of space.

The first game in the series, Star Saga: One – Beyond The Boundary (1987 MasterPlay, DOS; 1988 AppleII), begins after humans have colonized the planets of several nearby stars using a Faster Than Light drive. After suffering a devastating plague of extrasolar origin, Earth and its nearest colonies have isolated themselves from the rest of the galaxy. Each of the players selects a predesigned character with their own reasons for escaping this confinement (from recovering a sacred artefact for the Final Church of Man to performing a vital mission for the Space Patrol), and goes on to explore the universe and uncover its many secrets. The second game, Star Saga: Two – The Clathran Menace (1989 MasterPlay, AppleII, DOS), is a direct sequel in which the players continue to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos while struggling against an armada of genocidal Aliens. A third game, which would have resolved the series' many tangled plots, was never released.

Both games succeed in capturing something of the atmosphere of such early Space Operas as Jack Williamson's Legion of Space (though uneasily combined with moments of undergraduate humour), and in enabling players to participate in an excellently constructed multilinear story (see Interactive Narrative). The approach taken to their design, however, is essentially an artefact of the available technology. Contemporary Computer Role Playing Games such as Starflight (1986) were already presenting interactive Space Opera narratives without depending on physical media when the Star Saga games were released, a path followed by all subsequent Videogames with similar aims. [NT]

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