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Video Game / Startopia

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Startopia is a 2001 simulation game where the player is tasked with the administration of a toroidal space station in the aftermath of a galactic war. It met mediocre reviews, but became a Cult Classic. The developer, Mucky Foot, was founded by ex-Bullfrog Productions employees.

The game is known for its Shout Outs and references to a numerous popular science-fiction shows and their respective tropes.

The singleplayer mode is essentially one large tutorial, with each mission focusing on one key element of the gameplay. The Kasvagorian Proud Warrior Race Guys will want you to violently attack and disperse squatters, while the profit-oriented Gem Slugs will want you to get rid of some opponents economically, for example.

Startopia is a surprisingly complex game, with the developers programming things to happen that the player might not realize. An extremely thought-out game guide online that details many of these, and many of the tropes below.

For those who prefer their info in wiki form, the is also the Startopia wiki

This game is now available on The game recently released on steam.

Realmforge Studios announced a re-imagining of this game, Spacebase Startopia and is scheduled to release on March 26, 2021 for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, and Linux. View the announcement trailer here.

This video game provides examples of the following:

  • Accidental Art: The creator of the Turraken's 'racial statue' wants everyone to know that it's just the casing of an old anti-matter conducer. The 'creator' is simply an art researcher.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Crimes vary from 'attempted extermination of all sentient life in the galaxy' to 'appeared in terrible low-budget sci-fi film'. The jail time is the same for all of them too.
  • Artifact Title: "Black Market Goods" were named because the Galactic Empire banned them. Even though the Empire is gone, people still call them Black Market Goods, despite being legal again.
  • Artificial Stupidity: If a rival administrator is kicked off the station many guests will simply wait around for everything to start back up again. Unfortunately this means that many of them will die as their needs increase rather than simply leave the station.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: If one gets 12 Zedem Monks and 12 Penitents, an Ascension ritual is performed. It looks flashy and has the benefit of ridding you of those annoying penitents at no cost. It's also required for the eighth mission.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Skrashers, giant bugs bigger than many of your buildings, with the instinct to smash up everything. Fortunately, if you keep the place tidy, they won't appear that often.
  • Bowdlerise: In the data files, the Oroflex was originally called the Orophux. Given that its a thing that gives massive stat gains in 'Love'...
  • Creative Sterility: The Greys' racial statue is simply a small collection of basic shapes. The description points out that while the Greys are intelligent and hardworking, their culture is very strict and unbending, completely opposed to creativity.
  • Crying Indian: Karmaramans lose a little bit of happiness and spiritual happiness if they see you harvest a plant on the Biodeck.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The Zedem gods.
  • Deadpan Snarker: VAL, the station's AI.
  • Development Hell: In-universe: the Salt Hog's racial statue took ninety years to finish, because they kept being told to do other things.
  • Energy Economy: The energy that the base runs on is used as a medium to buy and sell furniture, rooms, and cargo.
  • Excuse Plot: There was an interstellar war that smashed up the vast network of space stations, and now you're rebuilding them. That's all the detail you get.
  • Expy: Arona Daal, of CMOT Dibbler, with elements of Minder's Arthur Daley.
  • Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: The Memau, in a not-so-subtle Shout-Out to the Alien movies. One random event even name checks the Nostromo as it brings aboard a lifeboat full of sick crew members who will all explode and release Skrashers if not treated quickly enough.
  • Flavor Text: Many entries in the hand book, opened by pressing F1 with your cursor over a relevant object, contain both their actual function and some extra fluff such as the laboratory microscope doubling as a TankZone arcade cabinet.
  • Fictional Geneva Conventions: The handbook mentions the "Cronenblum Treaty" if you open it with your mouse over the deck of an opponent's segment, this explains why you're unable to beam up or down objects in an enemy's segment and vice versa.
  • G-Rated Sex: The Dahnese Sirens run G-Rated brothels: they hover in the air and beam sparkly love magic to their clients, who levitate during the encounter. Then there's the Oroflex, a sort of Tilt-O-Whirl with tentacles that looks alarming and disturbing, but the customers appear to enjoy it, having their "love" and "fun" stats boosted.
  • The Greys: One of the in-game races. They're employed as your medical staff. VAL says they're sorry about that abduction and cattle mutilation business, and they hardly ever do it now. Several of Greys appear to have had relatives who died during the UFO crash-landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.
  • Holodeck Malfunction: Less so by malfunction and more by Serious Business. Kasvagorians take the Holodrome simulations too seriously sometimes and wind up taking a massive hit to their health, sometimes in the rare case in which they can die inside of the 'drome.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Arona Daal, whose goods are high priced, but who carries the largest selection of merchandise.
  • Horny Scientist: The Turakken have one of the highest needs for "Love" sessions from the Sirens.
  • Hover Mecha: Scuzzer Mk. IIIs run on hoverjets versus their treaded and legged predecessors with even faster building, cleaning, and repair speeds but their batteries drain incredibly fast.
  • Human Aliens, Winged Humanoid: The Dahanese Sirens, effectively.
  • Humanoid Aliens: All species save the Polvakian Gem Slugs.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: Although not in the strictest sense. Energy is used to make synthetic food and you can recycle anything you can teleport into energy: crates, litter, bombs... corpses...
  • Incredibly Obvious Bomb: The bombs planted by spies. This is lucky, since you have to hunt for them.
  • Killer Rabbit: The irresistibly adorable memau resemble a cross between a kitten and a raccoon. They sneak aboard the station through docking ports and wander around looking for trash to eat. Visitors and residents can't stop themselves from giving the cute little critters a skritch on the head. Unfortunately, if they encounter a memau that has eaten enough litter, they'll be given a Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong and become infected with skrasher spawn. Unless they get immediate medical attention, you can expect a huge mess.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Arona Daal claims this in the ending sequence. Which is rather odd, when you consider VAL effectively implies the player's home planet is Earth. Most likely a Star Wars parody.
  • Matter Replicator: In the game any non-living, non-moving mater (no droids) can be replicated, but doing so is less efficient than buying it from a trader or manufacturing it.
    • An alternate form of it exists in laboratories which the hand book describes as being used to simulate chemical reactions in a manner that won't reduce the lab and the scientists within to space junk.
  • Misblamed: The Karmaraman racial statue may not have actually made the thing. None of the designers remember doing it, and there's rumors that another alien race designed the thing when the Karmas went off after getting the munchies.
  • The Monolith: The introductory sequence is lifted from 2001: A Space Odyssey, but with a donut replacing the bone.
  • Neutrals, Critters, and Creeps: There are Memau which board your station through the docking port and are harmless until they eat enough trash and infect someone with a Skrasher egg which becomes dangerous if not immediately treated. Vermin start appearing in areas with a lot of trash and debris and any peep that interacts with them will get sick. Finally, be it through rival players or by chance depending on the mission or sandbox settings, you can have an agent infiltrate your station either as an obvious tip-toeing spy or an undercover agent disguised as a regular alien (there is a difference between criminals which are normally detained/deported and agents which are always hostile, your cursor changes to the attack crosshair when moused over) which can either murder visitors and residents or plant a bomb.
  • New-Age Retro Hippie: Karmaramas all the way and, to a lesser extent, the Dahanese Sirens.
  • No Biochemical Barriers: Downplayed, all aliens breath the same air without complaint and synthetic food can be eaten by all species. However, some species will find certain biodeck environments highly unpleasant and specialist food can cause problems if eaten by some species. There are also diseases that can be caught by any of the aliens races, but hit some races harder than others.
  • Nobody Poops: Yes they do, and if you don't provide the facilities they may embarrass themselves at best or die of kidney failure at worst. Excepting the Polvakian Gem Slugs who just do it anywhere if they're pampered enough, though their droppings are valuable energy-rich Turdite.
  • Non-Entity General: The only clues to your identity are VAL's comments that suggest you're a contemporary human. (Well, you are.) Doesn't explain how you come to be in charge of rebuilding an alien space station, though. Or the fact Arona Daal claims to be your father.
  • One-Gender Race: Apparently all of them, besides the Dahanese Sirens.
  • Our Angels Are Different: The Dahanese Sirens. The only race with sexual dimorphism in game. Dressed in swimwear and specializing in providing Love Nest service.
  • Pause Scumming: Pause freezes all the action, but navigation between decks and all camera controls are still on. This allows to look for Time Bombs left by stray saboteurs, for as long as it takes.
  • Planet of Hats: Every single race, including the race that occupies the role of spies and saboteurs. The work is clearly delineated by their hat: Greys are doctors, Karmaramas are gardeners, Salthogs are engineers and mechanics, Kasvagorans run security. Also somewhat averted, as any race (save the enemy agents) can be terrorists or criminals, and Salt Hogs, Greys and Targ will take up lasers along with the Gors when called or attacked.
    • It's implied that, back before the galaxy went to hell, the Empire engaged in deliberate social engineering to make each race specialize, forcing them all to depend on each other, as an attempt to prevent interspecies wars from breaking out. It didn't exactly work. (Though it seems to working now.)
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Kasvagorians. Apparently none of the others survived the war according to their intro.
  • Punny Name: The names of the aliens' homeworlds in their details. Many of the Turraken come from worlds in the Opray Ting System.
  • Real-Time with Pause: While you can't interact with anything while paused (including viewing alien details), you can still move the camera move around the station to hunt for that hidden bomb or saboteur.
  • Recycled In Space: Bullfrog's game design synthetised IN SPACE!
  • Saintly Church: The church of Zedem is old-fashioned and moralistic, but is run by non-violent ascetics who seem to be genuinely concerned with the well-being of others.
  • Shout-Out: Tons. From 2001: A Space Odyssey to Monty Python to Star Trek to Spy Vs. Spy to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
    • Arona Daal is basically CMOT Dibbler. He even uses the 'cutting my own throat' line occasionally. His name comes from Arthur Daley, a similar character from the British TV series Minder.
    • "Scuzzers" are a pretty obvious play on "Scutters", the maintenance robots on Red Dwarf.
    • The game itself was released in 2001
    • The ring like station could be a reference to Wernher von Braun's concept of a toroidal space station, using centrifugal force to generate Artificial Gravity through spinning.
      • Though the shape seems right, the fact that the gravity is relative down, instead of relative outward is not consistent with von Braun. It could also be a reference to the Stanford Torus that was proposed in 1975.
    • One random event references Alien as a Nostro class Lifeboat calls to receive medical aid. If you let them aboard and don't get them treated in time, they turn out to be infected with Skrashers.
    • Two of the aliens hobbies are listed as "Screaming in space" and "Listening for people screaming in space" (see above)
    • And their criminal records involve such gems like "Invented nine ridiculous plans from outer space" and "Pretended to be a phantom and menaced people".
    • The security control building screen often shows games of Pong and Asteroids.
    • Sometimes laboratory computer terminals show blue screens, guess the future has windows. It's notable that this isn't a background thing, they visibly smack the keyboard when it occurs.
      • Also the terminals sometimes show a variant of the old Beziers Screensaver that was avalible in Windows.
  • Single-Biome Planet: The garden-like Biodeck can be set for a range of moisture and heat settings. Each race prefers a different one and some even take hits to their health if it's the exact opposite of their preference, though they all get along with the median state and all of them enjoy swimming, even the Zedem Monks will get a thrill walking ontop of lakes.
    • Patchwork Map: Sure this is nanosoil and such but it's odd to see The Greys preferred frozen tundra enviroment exactly next to the Kasvagorian's preferred blazing deserts.
    • More importantly, anyone who interacts with them has a very high chance to get ill.
  • Solid Gold Poop: Energy-rich turdite.
  • Speaking Simlish: A different-sounding form for each race.
  • Starfish Aliens: The Oroflex. A giant tentacled plant/animal hybrid that eats people, giving them strong feelings of love and happiness in the process, and spits them out.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: The Scuzzer Mk. II runs on tank treads rather than waddling and they repair, clean, build, and move faster than Mk. Is but require more frequent charging
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Your station is equipped with a teleporter allowing you to either move non-organic items (such as furniture, tradegoods, Scuzzers) around or store them indefinitely within the "Pattern Buffer". Alternatively, you can use it for litter picking.
    • There are also teleporters between floors, rather than lifts.
  • The Missionary: Zedem monks, they occasionally convert others to their faith, which result in them becoming Penitents, who wander around being useless. You get a nice cash bonus for this.
  • Time Bomb: Criminal visitors and saboteurs can drop one in your station. If allowed to go off, it can damage nearby facilities and kill peeps nearby. It's a small object that can be relocated or recycled as common trash if found in time. With proper security, security droids will seek it out themselves and defuse it.
    • Recycled? Nah, beam it on top of the saboteur or use it to stop an enemy player's invasion.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: In-universe, Polvakian art and sculpture is only 'incomprehensible' if you're one of those classless poor people.
  • Universal Ammunition: Actually Universal Consumables; certain cargo can be used for significantly different purposes. Specifically, 'Food Supplies' can be used to feed your people, or used as raw materials for a simple 'general store'. Luxury Goods supply Leisure-related or music-related stores... and are harvested from plants.
    • It's implied that the luxury goods from plants are materials for creating designer clothes and other equipment that would be sold from a Leisure Store. The matter replicators on board the station are able to use said materials to create the desired product. This can apply to other cargo crates as well. Particularly with the Dine-O-Mat, raw energy is only able to conjure up synthetic fast food while it can use materials from nutritious plants converted into food crates or minerals from mineral ore crates.
  • Your Head Asplode: Visitors and residents can become infected with a disease called "Blastycephalis". Without immediate and proper medical attention, the victim's head suddenly expands until the pressure causes it to pop leaving behind a large spatter of the victim's skin polygons with their skeleton intact.
    • Skrasher eggs also have this effect on their unwitting victims.