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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"The main goal in all franchise games is that you want the player to feel like they are in that universe," says Pelletier, "and what's difficult with Star Trek is how long the franchise has been around and how many iterations it has gone through. There is a ton of Star Trek fodder to play with, so you have a long rope to hang yourself with."

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For most Trek games, death-by-hanging involves forgetting what makes Trek go. (i.e., the ship). While there have been plenty of games that have glorified the various Enterprises and other Starfleet ships, very few developers have taken note of the fact that, in the TV shows and movies where the ships feature prominently, they're far more than simply static displays. The ships in Star Trek, if you'll forgive the romanticism, are alive.

"In all Star Trek shows, the ship is one of the characters," says Pelletier. "[In Elite Force], Voyager, the ship, had to be prominent in the game, and the player needed to be allowed to explore and see all the locations of the ship they've seen in the show. If the ship itself wasn't an environment to explore it would have been a game killer.

"[But] being on Voyager has to be interesting; the game couldn't get boring while walking around on the ship exploring, so we planned out when the player would have access to the different areas of the ship, and there was always an objective and motivation for the player to explore. ... The player also got the thrill of walking on the bridge or into the Warp Engine room and actually get on to the teleporter pad in virtual reality first person and be beamed away."

"Living" an experience we could never have in real life is part of the appeal of almost every videogame, which makes it all the more frustrating when playing a Trek game amounts to little more than pushing a button every few minutes while the characters on the screen go through the same old routines they do on the TV as if you're not even in the room. Elite Force does not suffer from this problem. The player is thrown into the action immediately, going from loading screen to "oh God, Borg!" in a nanosecond.

"I like the whole beginning," says Gremmelt, "where you're in a Borg mission right off the bat and it turns out it's just a holodeck training simulation for the Hazard Team, then Voyager is plunged into real danger and the credits roll. To me, that made it feel exactly like an episode [of the TV show] and set up the main conceit of the game in one neat package."

To be honest, that's our favorite part of the game, too. Pelletier's favorite? "When one of the Hazard Team members mentions something about kicking Borg butt and makes reference to Seven of Nine's Borg butt."

Raven's status as game creation gods may be secure, but they are, after all, still gamers.

Russ Pitts still owns a complete set of "blueprints" for almost every Starfleet vessel ever "constructed." He does not, however, own a Starfleet uniform.

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