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Home on the Border(lands): On Gearbox owning Homeworld

One of the most heated discussions I saw on the internet last week was about Gearbox buying the Homeworld IP. Some people didn't quite like it. I think it's the best thing to happen in a long time for fans of the classic space-based naval command RTS.

I wrote this for the Homeworld fans.

Last week, it was announced that, after a long stay in limbo, the venerable Homeworld IP was snatched up by Gearbox Studio.  Sure, there were other acquisitions, notably the Darksiders and Red Faction IPs by Nordic Games, but it was Homeworld that had everybody talking.  It seemed like such an unusual move by the studio best known these days for the Borderlands series.  Needless to say, the fan reaction was immediate and swift.

"They better not F%@& this up." seems to be the general consensus, perhaps not unwarranted. Other sentiments include lamenting the purchase by Gearbox istead of another studio like Paradox or Relic proper, wishing heinous death upon the people who orchestrated the purchase, and a defeatist sense that any new Homeworld game to come out of Gearbox would be accompanied by a drowning dubstep soundtrack.

Homeworld is a property very nearly on the level of X-COM, perhaps more beloved than X-COM.  Many people still remember Homeworld fondly and the unique sci-fi unvierse it created, and knowing that the fate of that series is in the hands of the studio that gave us Aliens: Colonial Marines has caused no small amount of worry to show itself.

What people seem to be missing is that, despite their recent scandals, this should be a moment to rejoice, and in fact something that gamers would do well to hope for more often.

Fleet

Homeworld was dead, trapped in the mire of right holder politics.  For all we knew, Homeworld was goign to languish forever, always valuable in its legacy, but never really worth the risk in making a sequel for.  And let's face it, if Gearbox wanted to create a game set in space, they could do it.  If they wanted to create a 3D RTS built around Motherships and fleet combat, they would do it, with or without the Homeworld license.  There's a rumor that the only reason Gearbox bought the license at all was because high up in the command chain loved the series and wanted to save it from obscurity.

There's obviously a business incentive as well, just mention the name Homeworld in an article's title and you'll get 200+ comments on RPS or PC Gamer, so that doesn't count for nothing, but still.

It's always been fascinating to see people get up in arms when studios take over projects from others.  A studio isn't just a writer or a director, it's dozens if not hundreds of people working in conjunction to bring a unified vision to life.  Sometimes that can cause a studio's design philosophy to stagnate.  I can't be alone when I say that I'm tired of certain games not because the actual property is bad, but because the studio has not evolved.  I love the Legend of Zelda franchise, but I wish another studio, any studio other than Nintendo's, was allowed to try their hand at making a Zelda game.  There are dozens of studios I could imagine taking Zelda and turning it into something amazing while still making it feel like a Zelda game.

Sometimes this doesn't work, just look at Metroid: Other M for proof of that.  Team Ninja should have been able to do an amazing job, and yet they failed.  I thought it was a terrible shame that more people didn't give Ninja Theory's DmC a fair shake over Devil May Cry, because that game did everything in its power to try and breath new life into a series that was, frankly, stale.  A new take on the classic formula from a fresh young studio is exactly what the Devil May Cry series needed.  The fans killed DmC.

The same goes for Homeworld.  I played Homeworld and Homeworld 2, I loved both of them, but I'm also looking to to the future, and the maybe, just maybe, Gearbox, if they even have the faintest inkling of a plan, is exactly what Homeworld needs right now.

H@sierra 

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