The history of Stargate - Empire at War
Or: How to outlive your own franchise
Stargate - Empire at War is one of today's best known and liked mod (modification) for the real-time strategy game Star Wars Empire at War and its expansion Star Wars - Empire at War: Forces of Corruption. It is also one of the most successful fanmade attempts to create a game based on their beloved Stargate universe based on the franchise, to keep it alive after the cancellation of all TV productions.
But how could a simple modification outlive the franchise it is based upon? Here is the story how:
- 2006 -
The world was all right for Stargate fans in 2006, at least until the 21st of August. On this day the SCI FI Channel (today Syfy) announced that Stargate SG-1 would not be extended with another season after 10 years and 10 seasons on air.[-1]
Around this day began the development of Stargate - Empire at War by a thrilled Stargate fan who went by the nickname Rommel2k.
We cannot say for sure today why he started working on Stargate - Empire at War - but it is fully possible that he wanted to continue the series with the help of this modification.
On the 7th of November the same year the modification was ready to be released for the first time:
Beta 1 was published.
Included in this first version was only the space part and a few new models and textures which based on the Star Trek: Bridge Commander Stargate Pack and some music but for Rommel2k the mod was “99% done".
The Stargate Modding Group
After this sneak peak a small team of German Stargate fans gathered around Rommel2k within a very short amount of time. This newly formed group named itself the Stargate Modding Group (SGMG).
With this team Rommel2k published the Beta 2 on the 23rd of December 2006 and a short while after the Beta 2.33 on the 8th of January 2.33.
These enhanced and improved beta versions contained, apart from the first few self-made maps, new inhouse developed graphics shaders of which one is still used today for the event horizon of the Supergate.
- 2007 -
Following the latest releases the Beta 3 was published on the 23rd February 2007 which was the first version of Stargate - Empire at War for the addon Star Wars - Empire at War: Forces of Corruption.
In this version ground battles were introduced into the modification even if it just included some models for the Tau’ri.
The next release was on the 3rd of June 2007 with the Final 0.7 , yet again for the base game Star Wars Empire at War this time. Versions between Beta 3 and the Final 0.7 had been created and scrapped together with the port of the addon back to Star Wars Empire at War.
Apart from many bug fixes this version also contained the first ground models for the Goa’uld.
The founder disembarks
The SGMG had faced several internal restructurations in its early days but the release of the version Final 0.8 was special as it was the first release without the founder of the SGMG, Rommel2k.
This version, which was published on the 21st if of September 2007, included apart from some new effect and maps also many units known from the series for the ground battles.
The long way to a final Empire at War version
- 2008 -
Originally it was planned to release a version called final 0.9 in February 2008, however after a number of problems this plan was scrapped.
The decision to jump directly to a version called Final 1.0 and not a Final 0.9 version was announced just a day after the sad announcement that Stargate Atlantis would not be extended for a sixth season.
This news was horrifying for the team as it seems like the end of the fifth season of Stargate Atlantis would mark the end of the Stargate franchise itself.
But as the producer of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis Joseph Mallozzi announced that this would not be the case just yet as the end of Stargate Atlantis would mark the beginning of Stargate Universe.
Therefore with new hope for the franchise the Final 1.0 version was published on the 1st of December in 2008.
It contained, besides remade units, buildings, animations, effects, sounds and maps also the first self-made scripted events for galactic conquest and a completely new game mode. This mode was called Base-Build-Strategy mode (BBS) and should grant the ground part much more dynamic as the player was able to place buildings by himself.
- 2009 -
Sadly this version was not free of bugs so a first patch was published on the 6th of January 2009 as a consequence.
Shortly afterwards the last episode of Stargate Atlantis was aired.
At the end of this eventful month a news post was published from the team which hit the community like an artillery shell: Because of several basic errors in the Final 1.0 development of this version was discontinued.
However, it was announced simultaneously that the team would continue working on another Stargate mod for Star Wars Empire at War.
Several members of the community took over the development of the Empire at War version which resulted with some help from the SGMG in versions 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3.
Stargate - Empire at War Pegasus Chronicles
Contrary to the first announcement the development of this new and yet nameless version moved to the expansion for Star Wars Empire at War, Star Wars - Empire at War: Forces of Corruption, shortly afterwards.
“But switching to FoC does not mean that it will take more than a year to release a finished mod".
The name of the new mod and the third playable race was announced on the 13th April 2009. “Stargate - Empire at War Pegasus Chronicles“ was chosen as a name and as the story should relate to the Pegasus galaxy the Wraith should become the new playable faction.
Originally it was planned to just do a port of the latest Empire at War version with a new version built up from the scratch to avoid the unsolvable basic errors of the old versions.
While working on this port the Team had more and more ideas on how to improve the gameplay of Stargate - Empire at War: Pegasus Chronicles which resulted in a gradual move away from their original goals.
- 2010 -
Sadly things did not go well for Stargate Universe in the meantime. It was cancelled by Syfy on the 16th December 2010. With this the last TV production from the Stargate authors was lost and the franchise was no longer supported from an official side of things.
With this, Stargate - Empire at War outlived its own franchise.
- 2012 -
Exactly two years after this announcement the space skirmish part of Stargate Empire at War: Pegasus Chronicles was published by the Stargate Modding Group, now a team of international Stargate fans, on the 16th of December of 2012.
At its first release the modification offered three playable factions, lots of other, independent species, new ships and battlegrounds, new and completely reworked sounds, animations, effects, models, textures, scripts and code, new and unique multiplayer maps and a completely reworked AI.
Additionally a mod launcher was published to keep the new versions updated in an efficient and available way.
- 2013 -
In early 2013 the Stargate Modding Group focused on fixing the bugs reported after the inital space skirmish release. Also the launcher was improved with proper support for the Steam version of Star Wars: Empire at War.
On the 29th of June 2013 patch 1.1 was released for the space skirmish mode of Pegasus Chronicles. This patch contained bug fixes, new maps and a new Supergate "dialing system".
With the summer special in August 2013 some more details of the levels for the ground part of the mod have been revealed.
In October 2013 the Stargate Modding Group announced that the focus of development has been changed from space skirmish to the galactic conquest and ground part of the project.
The 24th of November marked the day the first details about planets present in the galactic conquest have been revealed.
With patch 1.2 which was released on the 16th of December 2013 several more bugs have been eliminated from the space skirmish mode like the indestructible Supergate bug. Also two new maps have been added to enhance the experience of the players.
- 2014 -
The year 2014 started of with another launcher update on the 19th of January which introduced a version control system to make the setup of online matches easier.
Another ground level has been presented to the community on the 29th of March 2014.
The Gamespy shutdown
The message that Gamespy will shut down their game servers which reached the Stargate Modding Group on the 4th of April 2014 was quite a shock to everyone involved in the project as with that the possibility to play the mod online would be gone.
Not willing to give up on the multiplayer aspect of the project the Stargate Modding Group reached out to the team developing the developers of the P2P-VPN-Client Tunngle in May 2014. This resulted in a new partnership and the release of the Tunngle integration for the launcher on the 1st of June 2014. Also new hope for the Stargate franchise came up with the announcement of a Stargate reboot from Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.
With a great deal of support from the community the Stargate Modding group was able to announce the support of Czech, French, Spanish and Russian language on the 26th of October 2014.
On the 28th of December a new Asgard ship named "Sleipnir" was was announced as Christmas present to conclude the year 2014.
- 2015 -
The "Sleipnir" was finally released together with the new skirmish map "The Might of the Asgard" and other improvements with patch 1.3 on the 11th of July 2015.
Patch 1.3.1 which was released on the 27th of September 2015 fixed various isses of his predecessor. Furthermore more details about the ground part have been releaed with the corresponding news.
A Goa'uld themed news arrived on the 9th of November 2015 introduced among others the different types of Jaffa and their purpose in the ground part of Pegasus Chronicles.
On the 5th of December 2015 the Stargate Modding Group announced the wave mode for the space skirmish part of the project. This horde-like mode with its first map "Battle over Antarctica" marked another addition unique to Pegasus Chronicles. Additonally it was announced that Stargate Atlantis author Mark Haynes will publish an official comic series dealing with the events of the never-released Atlantis Season 6 and Stargate Universe season 3 which let the heart of every Stargate fan beat a bit faster for a moment.
Following the Christmas present tradition the second wave mode map "Fight for Aurora" was released on the 25th of December 2015.
- 2016 -
The goal to release the first galactic conquest map in 2016 was announced on the 17th of January 2016. This galactic conquest map was detailed to be space only.
On the 8th of May 2016 the first visuals of this yet nameless galactic conquest map have been released.
A Tau'ri themed update on the ground part of the project arrived on the 4th of June 2016.
Following up on the announcement and first details of the first galactic conquest map the application phase for the closed beta test of this addition to the mod was opened on the 19th of June 2016.
The 7th of August 2016 marked the day of the official announcement of "Stargate Empire at War: Pegasus Chronicles - Pegasus Prelude". Not only the name of the space only galactic conquest map was announced but also that it can be played both as Ancients and Wraith to relive the rise of the Ancients, their war against the Wraith and finally their demise. The first release target was "before October".
On the 1st of October the Stargate Modding Group had to announce a delay of the release of Pegasus Prelude to "later 2016".
Several improvements to the mod launcher have been introduced on the 23rd of October 2016.
To have a single source of information for details of Stargate Empire at War and especially Pegasus Chronicles a new wiki was announced on the 30th of October 2016.
To celebrate the 10th birthday of the project the Stargate Modding Group announced on the 7th of November 2016 to have an open beta phase for Pegasus Prelude and other future addtions to the mod.
- 2017 -
While working on fixing the reported issues of Pegasus Prelude the Stargate Modding Group began the year of 2017 with a series of ground related news which started off with the Tau'ri.
July 20th 2017 was a day of hope and joy for the fans of the Stargate franchise...Stargate Origins was announced. Sadly the new mini series was not able to deliver the experience the fans hoped for.
Meanwhile the team continued it's series of ground news with the Goa'uld.
Yet the 1st September 2017 was a day of true joy and happines for the Star Wars Empire at War community. Petroglyph released a patch via Steam to enable users of the Steam version of the Empire at War Gold Pack to use Steam multiplayer infrastructure just about three years after the orginal multiplayer components went dark.
While this first part of the patch alone already had a massive impact the second part had an even bigger one: Steam Workshop was enabled for the Empire at War Gold Pack.
The team moved fast and released the stable version of the project on Steam Workshop only two days after.
Having the possibility to play multiplayer back balancing became much more important again. Therefore the team published a balancing and bug fixing patch based on community and things that the team noticed during online sessions.
The Wraith concluded the cycle of ground related news on the 23rd of September 2017.
The open beta followed to Steam on the 29th of September with additional fixes for both stable and open beta version.
The Replicators as one of the non-playable factions got an information update in December presenting their ground forces for the first time.
Shortly afterwards it was once again Christmas time and this time the team got several fixes and the new wave mode map "Attack of the Replicators" in store for the community.
- 2018 -
On March 1st the website of the team went dark and marked the start of an internal project to rebuild the website and to migrate the forum to a newer software.
The year 2018 was started for real by the team on the 5th of March with a review of the past year and the release of a large scale update to both stable and open beta version.
March 2018 was a very busy month for the team with several patches for both mod versions and for the launcher published.
On June 16th the website was finally ready for the public again.
After releasing several much needed fixes for Pegasus Prelude, updates for our launcher and the re-launch of our website the team needed a small break to focus on other business. This break was officially over on September 26th with the release of a big update for the Open Beta to prepare Pegasus Prelude for a release to the stable version.
To be continued...