Gearbox wins Homeworld Auction


Photo by Johnny Wallker under a CC-NC-ND 2.0 license

I’m cleaning up some open tabs and a story of interest to me is related to the 1999 game Homeworld from Relic Entertainment.

Relic Entertainment was bought by THQ in 2004 and THQ went bankrupt this year, auctioning off a lot of old assets, Homeworld included.  Six months ago TeamPixel, a small studio, started a Kickstarter campaign to gather support to try and win the rights to Homeworld from the bankruptcy court.  TeamPixel had a goal to bring Homeworld to iOS and Android as well as creating Homeworld 3 for Mac, Windows and Linux.

Homeworld was extremely innovative for its time.  Featuring large space battles in three dimensions (and ships you lost didn’t go with you to the next mission), a great storyline and an active mod community, there was nothing else like it.

The auction and Kickstarter had some buzz – after I tweeted that I supported the Kickstarter, I was surprised how many replies I received with other people showing interest in it as well.

TeamPixel did not win the auction for the rights in bankruptcy court.  It was later revealed that Gearbox , a studio known more for first person shooters including Borderlands, Brothers in Arms, finishing Duke Nukem Forever and Counter-Strike did.

Back in August, Gearbox shared their plans for Homeworld in their developer blog, Inside the Box .  They plan to re-release Homeworld and Homeworld 2 for digital release (I’m guessing Steam) updating it to use the latest PC hardware.

The blog post is great – Brian Burleson shares his excitement in winning the auction and some of the challenges ahead in bringing Homeworld to modern technology:

When all the paperwork cleared and the source code was delivered we finally were able to unwrap what had eluded us for so long only to find that… the bike had one pedal, needed a new chain and overall was just missing parts. Granted, we knew this bike was 10-15 years old and hadn’t been touched by the original owner in quite some time, but still!

That’s when the real work started, and boy howdy, did all of those people who reached out to us at the beginning come in handy!

Over the course of a couple of months we were able to find the missing pieces and started to get the bike, erm, game, working again. (I’ll drop the bike metaphor now.)

As Martel mentioned during  our panel at PAX Australia , it’s been a struggle to get all of the original tools working again. Just for comparison, the source drop we got from the purchase of the Homeworld property was 16.8 gigs. The sum of all the additional missing source we got from friends who had worked on the games originally was about 39 gigs. The two have almost zero overlap!

For example, Homeworld 2 was largely developed in a heavily customized version Maya 3. (Something we still haven’t located.) This means that if we wanted to update Homeworld 2 content for an HD version, we needed to turn to different tools.

Give the whole thing a read.  Here’s to hoping Gearbox is successful and can bring this back cross-platform as well – I’d love to play Homeworld again on my Mac!

Paul Cutler
Father. Husband. Vinyl Music Lover. Football fan. Python student. He / him.