The most important part of Spaceward Ho! is its simplicity. Controlling every aspect of an alien race could be complicated and could get in the way of the fun of the game. Fun is our number one goal, and we have sacrificed realism for fun everywhere we could. If you want realism in space exploration, play "Let's Cut NASA's Budget" like they do in Congress every year.
Spaceward Ho!'s name has gone through a lot of changes. When we first thought of the game, we wanted to call it Star Command. It turned out that name was taken by Farallon -- Star Command is software that controls Star networks. Peter called it Space, an abbreviation for what the rest of us called Frontier MacSpace. John Lade hit upon the cowboy planet idea somewhere along that time, and we liked it. The week we had to know the name for printing reasons, we all brainstormed, and came up with several creative names. Feel free to pick the one you like best: Corral the Stars, Space Cowboys of the 21st Century, Stellar Conquest, Stars and Spurs, and, of course, Spaceward Ho!
The original version of Spaceward Ho! shipped in 1990 and is purported to be the primary reason Apple's System 7.0 shipped late. It went through a major revision about once a year or two after that until version 4.0 shipped in 1994. Despite being voted into the MacWorld Game Hall of Fame, no updates have been provided until now.
Since we started making Spaceward Ho! we've been answering lots of questions about why we chose a western theme for a game involving space exploration. Apparently these people haven't watched enough Star Trek to know that space is "the final frontier."
There's a lot to say for a frontier theme: Your race has a manifest destiny to control the galaxy. You'll gradually turn barren outposts into bustling economies. You'll engage in border skirmishes and territorial disputes, just like in the Old West.
In real life, we just needed some way to identify the friendly from the unfriendly planets. If we were to give a different color to each player, we'd run out of colors darned quick, and we'd baffle people on black and white machines. What's more, we'd be hard pressed to handily identify your own planets among all the others, or the uncolonizable from the good ones. Somebody came up with the brilliant idea of just putting hats on the planets to tell them apart, and that led to the frontier theme. Of course, the mechanics of the game are pure "Galactic Strategic Conquest," not "Cowboys and Indians in Space."