Beam Me Up, Scotty

Beam Me Up, Scotty
Elite Force: The Essence of Trek

Russ Pitts | 1 Sep 2009 12:03
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"I still remember my pitch to Paramount of why we needed them in the game and how we were going to do it. The response was that we were very clever with the idea and that they would approve it."

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"I wrote 800 pages of dialogue," says Gummelt. "I've always been grateful that everyone at Raven and Paramount were onboard with this very ambitious design. I think if we hadn't done that, it would have been a generic, forgettable shooter with Star Trek textures."

In the nearly 20 years since it was founded, Raven Software has carved out its own niche as the go-to developer for reliably excellent licensed shooters, an area where many other developers fear to tread. With a licensee list including Doom, Quake, Star Wars, Soldier of Fortune, Wolfenstein and the Marvel Universe it's easy to see what led Raven to Trek. Yet it's easier to forget that what they make look easy, this business of turning an established franchise into a successful game, is enough to make other developers break out into cold sweats.

"With all the franchises we worked on, for sure Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force was the most difficult," says Pelltier. "It was [the] first franchise licensed game Raven developed; we were treading new territory in franchise games and doing it with Star Trek, one of the most well-known franchises with loyal fans."

"There was no gameplay model with Star Trek that was applicable to an FPS," says Gremmelt, comparing developing Elite Force to their work with the Star Wars franchise. "With Star Wars, we already knew that we had lightsabers, blasters and force powers, and that dictated the gameplay. The same is true for Wolverine - from the comics and movies, we knew immediately what the gameplay was going to be like."

But not with Trek. Prior to Elite Force, there was no road map for Star Trek shooters. Raven was out in the wilderness, the final frontier, some might say, on a "trek" toward a new kind of gameplay, to extend the pun. But all three developers agreed the key lay in the phaser.

"With Star Trek," says Gremmelt, "we had to figure out what weapons we would have, how to make a phaser look right and feel cool in an FPS, what the right amount of action was, how violent it would be, etc., etc."

"The feel of the phaser has to be just right and sound like it should," says Pelletier. "It's a basic weapon in the context of an FPS game, yet it's the quintessential Trek weapon, so it has to be fun enough the player wants to use it."

Yet in spite of the inherent appeal of allowing players to finally fire a phaser, most FPSs have more than one weapon. In the world of Star Trek, where even the ships are mounted with little more than simply bigger phasers, this could be problematic. Says Dorscheid: "FPSs need to have a variety of interesting and different weapons. [In Elite Force] we couldn't limit the player to a phaser and a phaser rifle. Each weapon needs to be powerful and unique."

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