Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 9: Star Trek Gaming


Talk to most people about Star Trek fan productions and they will instantly think of fan films, many of the older fans will identify with fan fiction but other than that, they might have heard of the occasional animation, music video audio drama but that's about all. It might come as a surprise to realise that fan-made games have a history nearly as long as fan fiction and for sheer diversity of content have virtually no equal!

Today we look at the world of Star Trek gaming as for the third year we have the new and improved Twelve days of Christmas "Compendium of Games"!

Gaming is about two things: role-playing and competition. Pretending to be someone or something you are not and then beating the bejaysus out of anyone or anything that looks like an enemy! A good game is no use without people to play it with, so this year, I will be building on the summaries from previous years (see the originals for 2007 and 2008 HERE and HERE) with particular emphasis on links to websites and forums where the interested fan can find out more about a game and hook up with like-minded players.

There can be no denying that gaming is the ultimate form of roleplaying and that modern computer-based games are the perfect way for a sci fi fan to interact with the fictional worlds that fascinate them so much! Although I haven't seen Avatar yet - we chose to see Sherlock Holmes last week instead - the buzz that I have heard about it makes it sound like a science fiction movie that has transcended its virtual reality medium. How much more interactive will the rich visual impact of the alien world, Pandora, be as a visually rich computer game?

It is well past time that Star Trek fans had such a world within which our modern day mythology can play itself out and this year - 2010 - we are going to get it! Star Trek Online - STO - begins it open Beta as I write this on January 12, and launches on February 1st! Thanks to our membership of Starfleet International, The Heir To The Family Curse (my son), got one of the limited number of Beta keys available and will be the eyes and ears of the House of L'Stok in this whole new chapter in Trek fandom! STO is cutting edge, not just in the visuals, the computer graphics, but in its game-play and lore. Although I am not a great gamer, I just don't have the time for it, how could any Trek fan resist the temptation to at least try it out? You can actually be a Klingon, Andorian or Vulcan! You can sit in the command chair and nonchalantly give the command "Engage!"

Does this mean that older games are dead? Not at all! If anything, many older computer games are enjoying a revival as new fans find them. As one gamer said to me, "Good gameplay never goes out of fashion." Not everyone wants the immersive visuals of the computer, many gamers prefers to keep the "special effects" in their heads and battle on table-tops, on boards and with cards in a continuation of hundred-year old traditions. It is worth pointing out that there is also a social aspect to facing down your opponent in person in a role-playing or boardgame group that a disembodied virtual enemy cannot match.

Just to be different, this year I am using the classification of games shown in the rather interesting Wikipedia article on the subject and combined it with my own original research and elements of the informative Wiki and Memory Alpha articles on Star Trek sports, martial arts and recreations as well as the extensive Memory Alpha page on Real Life (RL) games and fan-made games.

Sports

Besides "real" sports like baseball, water polo & racquetball, etc there are very few fictional sports unique to Star Trek, The only three I can pin down are Hoverball, the phaser firing range and...
  • Parrises Squares. Like many things in the fictional 24th century, Parrises Squares is kept intentionally vague, in some cases as just a name. Because of this there is no way of recreating it in the real world although...
    • ...Stephen T. Lavavej used the name for a C++ game back in 2003 that has since been taken down in favour of his later Spacetimewar.
    • ...you can listen to a game in progress during the prologue to episode #S2EB of the audio drama, Star Trek: Excelsior, No One Gets Out Alive .

Martial arts

I'm including martial arts as a sport or game because many of them, although they are based on practical forms of attack and defence are also competative, some so archaic, like fencing and archery, that this is their main purpose even now. Of the fictional ones that are listed on Memory Alpha, the ones that spring to mind readily are Anbo-jitsu, The Vulcan Nerve Pinch, Tsunkatse and ...
  • Mok'bara. The Klingon martial art best known from the class that Worf taught on it on the Enterprise in TNG. The style was created by special effects guru, Dan Curry and has been 're-constructed' by a few enterprising Klingon fans.
  • Bat'leths, "The Sword of Honour", have been made by many Klingon fans both as a prop and real edged weapon. As with any weapon, there are legal and safety restrictions to its construction and use and fans have worked out a responsible way of using them as a true martial art complete with its own tournaments

Tabletop games

Now this is where things start to get interesting! Wikipedia defines these as, "any game where the elements of play are confined to a small area and which require little physical exertion, usually simply placing, picking up and moving game pieces." and gives us a number of sub-classes. I freely admit that my placement of some of these games is a bit random. Pirates of the Federation for example is a card game in name only and although it shares many things in common with board games, it has no board so I classed it as a dice game even though it is a stategy game rather than a game of chance!

Computer games

Strangely enough, there seem to have been virtually no computer-based games in the 24th century! The only one that comes close is "The Game", the addictive holographic game from TNG.

NOTE: ChessMess, the well-known (one might say, infamous?) Trek gaming personality is currently taking nominations for the Players Choice Awards for 2008 on Hailing Frequency, the Star Trek gaming website. This will include categories for most styles of computer gaming, including...

Best, most anticipated and worst Star Trek game
Best and most anticipated fan game
Best new mod and mod excellence award
Best gaming news story, news website, podcast and gaming video cast
Best Star Trek gaming model and machinima
Top Star Trek clan/guild
Top Star Trek RPG/SIM/PBEM
Plus gaming community awards for the funniest, most helpful and most insightful gaming personality.

  • Computer Games, Text-based
    • OK, so this is only a historical curiosity, although there is still a small core of retro-gamers out there! These are probably of more interest to real programmers - the guys who talk to computers rather than people like me who talk to programs that talk to computers!
      • Super Star Trek - Written for BASIC-PLUS in 1973
      • Classic Super Star Trek, a 1977 Fortran version in portable ANSI C by Tom Almy
      • Apple Trek - this one is from the DOS 3.2 System Master disk of 1979
      • Video Trek 88 - the very first commercial PC game based on Star Trek series-released in BASIC back in 1982
      • Quadrant - Written in 1984, in GWBASIC, playable on a modern machine.
      • ... and for those of you who really and truly have to have a graphics interface, there is OpenTrek, a 3d open source update of the classic "Super Star Trek" game.
    Computer Games, 2D Games
    • These presents were nominated by Zach Nicodemous of Hailing Frequency. The earliest computer games dealt with gameplay in only two dimensions, either as if you were looking down from the top - "top-down" - or from the side - a "side-scroller".
      • Star Trek Final War II is made by Racoon Software which is based in the Czech Republic. "It's a top-down, realistic battle simulator, with the most fun being found in the game's skirmish mode. It has a range of features that make it well worth a play
      • Star Trek: Red Alert is another top-down, tactical combat simulator, whilst a more 'polished' production with a better interface and graphics it falls short of Final War II in terms of game-play. See also Red Alert: Apocalypse
      • Flash Trek: Assault is part of a series of games created by Vex Xiang, the previous ones being Flash Trek, Flash Trek: Romulan Wars and Flash Trek: Broken Mirror . Because they are Flash-based they can be ported to windows-enabled cell phones. "It's a cross between a point & click side scroller and a strategy game. For a game that seems outwardly simple, we were pleasantly surprised with this game".
      • Star Trek: 'Badda-Bing Badda-Bang' an arcade game created in the style of the retro-classic Asteroids whose only flaw according to Zach is that it is too hard to complete! Sounds like a challenge to me!
    Computer Games, 3D Games
    • This is what we have come to expect in an a modern computer game, an immersive environment that we can move around in and interact with. However it is immensely more complex to create and besides, if you could make 3D games, would you be doing it for free?
    The Mods
    • A much more doable way of creating new games material is to mod (modify) an existing, commercial game. The way that the game manufacturers, the owners of the copyright, not only allow but encourage their fans to mod their products speaks volumes for their relationship with them. Perhaps it is because, if you think in terms of "added value", modding extends the lifespan of a game far beyond the commercial resources of the game's makers! There are far too many Mods for me to list here, I've simply picked one Mod from each gaming engine to feature here. Checkout what is available for the old games that you have floating around in the bottom of the drawer at the Modding forums of Hailing Frequency, Space Station K-7, ST Gamers

Role-playing games

  • To the mainstream market, the most famous Star Trek RPG would have to be the Star Trek: The Next Generation version of the How To Host A Mystery" game created by Decipher. Decipher (2002-2005).
  • Last Unicorn Games or LUG (1998-2000)
    • If you own an old copy of one of the Last Unicorn Games RPGs it's not a dead end, Memory ICON has a number of Fan Produced netbooks available for free download. Checkout the other game resources whilst you're there.
  • One company that is still in the market is Amarillo, with their Prime Directive RPG extension of the long-running Star Fleet Battles wargaming series for the GURPs and D20 systems, two strong and popular gaming systems.
  • Kapact of House Abukoff Productions, who last year gave us an eBook of a virtual season 5 for Star Trek: Enterprise, still available for downloading and viewing on Issuu HERE, has created what he describes as a PBEMMRPG - a Play By Email Massively Multi-Player Role Playing Game - and I have worked with him to put together a twelve page Quickstart Rule booklet as part of Day 9 of The Twelve Trek Days of Christmas, 2009. You can download a pdf copy from the Issuu webpage.

  • With the release of the D20 Modern RPG rules, a number of gamers have tested the boundaries on this new frontier! Check out the messages, links and files on the Star Trek for the D20 System Yahoo Group .
  • For general discussion of Star Trek RPG's checkout TrekRPGNet

Simulation

To me the term "simulation" is very close to roleplaying (which in fact are sometimes called 'sims') but the Wiki article specifically mentions war games and this would seem to fit the strategy games best.
  • "Pirates of the Federation" (POTF) is a fan made game based on Wizzkids' defunct "Pirates of the Spanish Main" (POTSM), a cross between a trading card game and tabletop wargaming using slotted together, pre-punched models for which POTF substitutes small printable card models. There was no Star Trek Constructable Card Game although WizzKids had a great retro-SF style game called Rocketmen. POTF was thought to have been lost when its website crashed with Geocities but this seems to have given its creator an impetus to work on his game again. It is now at a new website supported by a Yahoo Group.
  • How about 28mm wargaming? There was an interesting thread on the subject on the The Sci-fi Wargames Group in February, '06
  • That thread made me wonder: Could you do a LARP - Live Action Role Play - of a Star Trek space battle? Consider this post by Drew ...
    "You have each player responsible for a specific task, helm, weapons, command, fire control. They make separate rolls and decisions based on the situation before them. Your opposing ship (preferably) in a separate room or behind a partition, does them same. Each set of players has their own 'tactical' display, whether it be ships or counters that YOU as the GM moves around based on actions and results of the encounter. I've only had the space to do it twice, but its way cool. It works with whatever system you wish to do it with (with a little tweaking)."
    The value of this would be on how you interchange the position and damage information between the two "bridges". Mitch Adams had an idea for how to do this with a Wii and some Nintendo DS handhelds in July '08 but, sadly, the concept stayed just that, an idea.

    Just imagine if the Star Trek Experience had run LARPs like this, complete with exploding consoles! They could have called it ... The Kobayashi Maru!
  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Addenda Licensed Games Star Trek: D-A-C - Entertaining tie-in to the new movie. Reviews: Brighthub, Honourable Mentions Starfleet Commander - Not a Star Trek game, but a rather good Facebook game

5 comments:

  1. I have linked to this page from my page on Star Trek Games, Audio, Prose, Comic books, and mixed media productions. (The webpage may be renamed, again, due to the huge variety of fan productions which are not really fan films (e.g. Star Trek: Enterprise Season 5 is a series of photos with Text which tell a story. Sort of a picture book video, but not audio, not just prose, not a comic book because it's not drawings, and also not a game.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Barb! Thanks for the link, again, I'm flattered! I know that production well and it is an excellent continuation on the Enterprise saga! There are no bounds to the ingenuity of how fans can use different media.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello there Kirok..... thanks for the Fantasy Trek plug...... You've done some great work.


    Kapact

    ReplyDelete
  4. FYI, the link to the old game Quadrant has changed. It's now at http://peyre.x10.mx/GWBASIC/index.htm#Quadrant.

    ReplyDelete
  5. FYI, the link to the old game Quadrant is dead--Geocities closed down several years ago. The game is now at http://peyre.x10.mx/GWBASIC/index.htm#Quadrant.

    ReplyDelete