The Homeworld Universe is the world of the computer game series published by Sierra Entertainment and created by Relic Entertainment in 1999 and of its various fans' works of art and fiction. It is a unique universe and the games it belongs to are so far the only successful 3D space RTS games in the entire gaming industry. Heavily influenced by popular science fiction and the history of the Middle East and Central Asia, it is one of the best examples of space operas in gaming.
The only official work produced in the Homeworld Universe is that of the games and the material associated with them (i.e., strategy guides and manuals). The first of these games known simply but definitively as Homeworld details the journey of the Kushan, a race of humanoids who have spent all of their known history on an inhospitable desert world known as Kharak. With the discovery of an artifact in the desert the Kushan now know themselves to be native to another world, known by the ancient word Hiigara "home". The ensuing journey home brings them into danger and reveals the origin of their mysterious exile and ends in their confrontation with the powerful Taiidan Empire.
The second game, Homeworld: Cataclysm, developed by Relic Entertainment's associate, Barking Dog Studios, follows one of the small factions known as a kiith within the Kushan. This kiith, known as Kiith Somtaaw plays a small part in the role of the galaxy until they stumble upon a dangerous and ancient alien lifeform, known simply as "the Beast" which they accidentally unleashed on the galaxy. No longer just a minor part in interstellar affairs the Somtaaw must confront the enemy that is their responsibility and rid the galaxy of it. In this sudden crisis enemies become allies and allies enemies as the Somtaaw search for a way to stop the Beast.
The third game follows one hundred years after the events of Homeworld: Cataclysm, which seem to have little bearing on what has happened since. Again developed by Relic the third game was simply titled Homeworld 2 and again follows the Kushan, this time as they try to preserve the empire they've built up since the fall of the Taiidan against the nomadic space raiders known as the Vaygr. This event, which seems but a political and military struggle at first, will eventually lead them to the greatest weapon known to the galaxy and show the Kushan the way to their destiny.
Motifs and Common ThreadsEdit
The games show several common threads. One is that they all follow one race, the Kushan, who apart from all other races seem to have a way of shaping history. In the first game they rise from small beginnings to victory against the greatest power in the galaxy. In the second game they contain an enemy so horrible that more powerful races abandoned hope of fighting it. In the third game they try to preserve their old order and despite losing everything they recover majestically and from the ruins bring an era of peace and justice.
In addition, the games also seem to all be connected in that the future comes from the past. In Homeworld the Kushan rediscover their original world of origin from an ancient rock known as the Guidestone and recover their lost technology from the ruins it was buried in. In Homeworld: Cataclysm the Beast is found in an ancient derelict and its flagship is all that remains of an ancient species from another galaxy. In Homeworld 2 the Kushan discover that their hyperspace technology owes itself to another ancient species and that the most powerful warship of all requires three ancient cores to awaken it.
Finally, another motif is that hyperspace seems to play a great role than simply transportation. The Taiidan decimate Kharak for no better reason than the violation of a treaty signed by the Kushan guaranteeing that the Kushan would not develop hyperspace technology. The Beast is thought to have originated in hyperspace where it latched on to the Naggarok. The three great Progenitor hyperspace cores needed to awaken the Sajuuk are more powerful than regular ones and can jump greater distances through hyperspace.
Composed by Paul Ruskay, the music of the Homeworld series has long been acknowledged as some of the best presented in gaming. The original soundtrack for Homeworld was even released bundled on CD for the Game of the Year edition and included most of the songs of the game including the the main theme song. This was Agnus Dei, the choral version of Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings.
The popular credits song Homeworld by music group Yes was not included on this CD, but is easily extractable from the game files. Unfortunately, the credits song was removed from the Remastered editions due to licensing issues.
The music of Homeworld: Cataclysm is less spectacular but it is still of some quality. The music of Homeworld 2 by contrast was also, though unawarded, spectacular and included long and complex vocals and thunderous Esraj instrumental music.
The crew working on the Homeworld games are certainly responsible for their great success. Not only did Relic provide an amazing game but many voice actors were applauded for their work at voicing various Homeworld characters.
The original idea for Homeworld actually came from Relic's desire to design a game around the original version of the cult science fiction show Battlestar Galactica which has a similar storyline about a species searching for a world after the destruction of another and facing off against an evil empire. When Relic Entertainment was not given the rights to make a game based on the series they went ahead and made a new game based around a custom storyline inspired not only by the original series but also from references to Dune, Star Wars, and Middle Eastern history and mythology.
They assorted funds from electronic games manufacturer Sierra Entertainment. The result was a brilliant success and Homeworld won several Game of the Year awards upon release as well as the Best Music Award for computer games. When Sierra decided to go ahead with a sequel Relic initially passed them off considering instead to work on their new project with Microsoft known then as Sigma and later to be released as Impossible Creatures. So Sierra instead went to Barking Dog Studios founded by several game designers who had worked with Relic in the past.
Barking Dog then released Homeworld: Cataclysm as a "stand-alone expansion pack" to the original game. The game, which used the same engine as Homeworld with a few modification but did not require the original game to function was not really an expansion or a sequel and was acknowledged as neither officially. The game, which pleased many fans due to its more complex gameplay and excellent storyline of a lifeform that "took over" other ships and bent them to its will, sold well enough for Relic to be brought back on in early 2001 and start working on the sequel.
Interestingly enough Relic had already developed concepts of a sequel during the release of Homeworld in 1999. Known alternatively as Homeworld: Empire (amongst the designers) and Dust Wars (amongst fans) the early concepts called for a more character-oriented storyline and intense gameplay including giant stations called "megaliths" which held trenches reminiscent of the Death Star trench run in Star Wars. The E3 video of 2001 caught the eye of Homeworld fans and Relic seemed to be off to a good start.
Within a year however Relic and Sierra temporarily broke contact and production halted over arguments between the two companies. Production did not restart until later and this delayed the game's release by two years and ended in the complete restructuring of the game. The storyline barely resembled that used in the original concepts and the character-orientation was gone along with the megaliths and trenches. This immensely disappointed fans and led to a quick drop in sales following the release of the new blandly known Homeworld 2.
Since then Relic and Sierra have split permanently and Sierra tumbled into bankruptcy and was incorporated into VU Games completely leaving little chance of another official addition to the Homeworld saga.
Despite this, loyal fans have long since poured their own efforts into expanding the universe of Homeworld and dozens of fan fictions have been produced along with fan art and modpacks. These fan attempts at continuing the series and the information contained in the manuals have led Homeworld to be just as in depth as many other science fiction franchises and shows remarkable devotion on the fans' part.
Influence of HomeworldEdit
Despite what some would call the death of Homeworld, the series has played an immense influence on gaming. The original Homeworld was the first ever attempt at producing a fully three-dimensional real-time strategy (RTS) set in space and it along with its sequels were for the longest time the only ones to attempt this and succeed.
In recent years some games have again attempted this hazardous trial and succeeded, though some might argue they do not in the strictest sense belong to the RTS genre. These are Nexus: The Jupiter Incident and EVE: The Second Genesis. Both games act in real-time combat and are set in three-dimensional space. The influence Homeworld's success has played in their development is disputable but probably present.
Influence swings both ways though and Homeworld has been greatly influenced by other series. Battlestar Galatica played a great part in its development but so did several other science fiction series. The desert world Kharak in Homeworld is quite similar to both Tatooine from Star Wars and Arrakis/Dune from Dune. The name Kharak even bears resemblance to that of Arrakis though this might be stretching the comparison, more likely resembling that of the medieval fortress of 'Karac' in 'The Holy Kingdom'.
In addition Homeworld follows the story of a small but heroic group of survivalists fighting against the evil empire, an empire that then falls to rebels in a single dramatic battle ending in the ruling despot's death and giving way to the birth of a republic. This storyline bears all too much resemblance to that of the both the Star Wars and Foundation original trilogies to be dismissed and are likely linked.
Homeworld's influences also draw from the real world. The Kadeshi, a race of religious fanatics guarding a rich nebula, take their name from the ancient Levantese city of Kadesh, now known properly in history texts as Qadesh. Qadesh was the location of a major battle between the Hittites and the Egyptians, two competing forces in the region at the time.
The name Hiigara bears much resemblance to the Arabic word hegira which refers to the flight of the Muslim founding prophet Mohammad from his original home of Mecca to his future home in Medina. With more Muslim ties the Kushan culture and religion seem to have similarities to Islamic and ancient Jewish culture though these might be secondary influences, filtered through the influence of Frank Herbert, author of the Dune books. These are but a few of the references tied to the real world with other names popping up such as Elohim, Tanis, etc.
Perhaps the most interesting and least apparent influence is that of the Terran Trade Authority books by Hamlyn Publishing Group in the 1970s and illustrated by Peter Elson and Chris Foss. These books greatly influenced the art style and designs for ships in the Homeworld series. Another small influence on the art of the game was possibly that of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game which detailed of a battle simulator whose description is not dissimilar to the game's "sensors manager".
Though characters hardly play a large part in the Homeworld series with the exception of one major protagonist and one major villain in the first and last games, they are a major part in fan fiction. In addition the character of Karan S'jet survives throughout the entire canon timeline of the series and her journey is parallel to that of the Kushan species as a whole, going from naivete to semi-divinity. And plenty of secondary characters abound to build on in fan media.