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The History Of Star Trek PC Gaming

The Beginning

1992 To 1994

By the time the 90's rolled on Star Trek: The Next Generation was gaining momentum as one of the top Sci-Fi shows of the early 90's. With a massive following and even larger ratings no one thought of the fledgling PC gaming world as a viable source of income.

Early fan based games like MTrek and NetTrek was making there rounds and gaining a lot of momentum and popularity in the trek fan base who had computers and connections able to keep up with the basic games but no one really tried to make or produce a full out mass market game, the reason was Viacom wasn't interested. Back then in the early 90's the super computers that are now available with gigahertz of processing power was a fairytale to the PC users of the day, if you had a 33mhz processor and 8mb of ram you was considered a god in the world of PC gaming, nowadays modern day Graphics Card processors run 10 times faster than the main processors of PC's released even 5 years ago, how times change.

Gaming back in the early part of the 90's was mostly the domain of the small console world.  Companies like Nintendo and Sega had the market cornered as the new wave of consoles like the SNES outstripped the performance of the large bulky 80386 IBM compatibles that lay in the bedroom of some homes.  Other styles of "Personal Computers" like the Amiga and Atari ST series were based on the same older chipsets of the 80X series but were cut down and mainly used for gaming.  Companies like Activision started out on the Amiga and Atari.  It wasn't until the turn of the 90's when good stable SVGA graphics cards like the Trident Tornado 3D running with 4mb to 8mb of memory was released that things started to change in favour of the PC user.

The gaming industry itself was also fragile. Many companies started out there lives in the early 90's and cut there teeth on the Amiga and Atari systems by making games which ran on the old 2D based scroll system of game play. 1990 to 1995 was basically a blank slate as far as PC gaming goes, this was before the time of the massive FPS hits of Doom, Wolfenstein and Quake, this was the time of the single player games where you complete the game and then shelf it, and no one even thought of making a star trek game to cater for the growing audience of Star Trek fans. All that changed in the latter half of 1992 though.


1992 - Interplay step on the scene as the first game publisher

1992 seen the first stirrings inside the massive company of Viacom as it was quietly announced that the Star Trek franchise would spin off chunks of the new PC gaming section to willing producers. First in line was Interplay. Interplay itself, even at that time was one of the older companies, having first been founded in 1983 they had grown and risen in fame as producers and developers of programs and games. A lot of people started to take notice of the new trek franchise and what Interplay was going to do for there first foray into the world of Star Trek PC gaming. Interplay themselves knew that the first Star Trek mass distributed PC game would set the trend for the gaming franchise for the next few years.

Using the new technologies and pushing the envelope of the old 80386 machines they spent a good few months just altering and adding different parts of code from other games they were developing internally.  This was going to be the first Star Trek game ever officially produced for the franchise and it just had to be a good one.

What they came up within less than a year is still hailed as a timeless classic of early gaming history, and is still one of the top selling game's of all time for the Star Trek franchise...Star Trek: 25th Anniversary.

25th Anniversary
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary - The first produced and licensed graphical PC game for Trek

In the winter of 1993 when 25th Anniversary was released it was given the specs of a 386X machine to run it and 2mb of RAM. Doesn't sound like a lot these days, but back then its was a mid to high end PC needed to run the game. Interplay, before the Titus takeover in the latter end of 1999 was a well known company for there story telling abilities in game, and that's what 25th anniversary was, a TOS episode. Interplay pulled out all the stops for this one single game, voice casting of the original crew and the limit's pushed even further for the old 2d scroll engine that had been used so many times before by other companies. Thought and depth was put into the game play as well so instead of running around shooting things the player had to think of ways to solve a problem, yes, 25th anniversary was top of the game selling list in a lot of countries worldwide.

 

It was also one of the first games produced which pushed the old 2d scroll engines to there limit's.  Other game developers (including Activision who was not a part of the franchise at that time) took what Interplay had done with 25th Anniversary and used it in there own subsequent releases.  25th Anniversary was not just the first Star Trek game, it was the first mile stone of the PC gaming industry.  Even though 25th Anniversary is now more than a decade old the way the story line of the game progressed and the intuitive user interface still makes it a playable classic...if you can get the thing to run on XP that is :)

While all this was going on though 2 other companies had stepped into the Trek PC game market. Simon & Schuster and Spectrum Holobyte (later renamed to Microprose) was busily developing games of there own. However Simon & Schuster had already had over 10 years of experience dealing with Star Trek on personal computers. S&S by that time was part of the Viacom company and had already released games like The Kobayashi Alternative and The Rebel Universe in the late 80's however they were not real graphical games and only really text adventures, and they didn't sell all that well either.

S&S was already a well founded part of the Star Trek franchise.  Viacom used S&S to publish the many volumes of books and small tech manuals that they were producing and by 1993 when S&S officially stepped into the gaming franchise a lot of people already had respect for the work S&S done on the technical side. Both Spectrum Holobyte and S&S announced in 1992 they they were both planning games releases for the following year, however everything got drowned out by the critical acclaim for Interplay's 25th anniversary.

Simon & Schuster went down a completely different path though. S&S are more noted for publishing books and tech manuals rather than games, and they announced something completely different, CD ROM based manuals and tech books.


S&S take the tech manual and interactive CD ROM road

Although not really a "game" the first foray into this new line in the Star Trek game franchise was the TNG Interactive Manual. That was then followed in the mid 90's by Star Trek: Klingon and Star Trek: Borg, both of which was an in-depth manual and tech CD on both of the races with cut scenes from the different episodes which featured both races. Although Klingon and Borg was not big sellers the TNG Interactive manual was, gaining notoriety amongst the TNG fans as the "bible" of canon tech for the TNG series. While S&S was doing there own thing it started to become obvious to some people that Spectrum Holobyte and Interplay was sooner or later going to be at loggerheads with each other for the best selling games.

By the end of 1993 Spectrum Holobyte was already late with the projected release of there first game A Final Unity. Final Unity was supposed to be released in the same month as Interplay's Star Trek: 25th Anniversary but whether due to programming issues or the sheer problem of coding games of that time it was announced in Jan of 1994 that AFU would be released by the fall of that year, however, it was still held back. While S&S was busy making manuals and Spectrum Holobyte was cancelling release dates and changing there name to Microprose, 1994 seen Interplay hitting the same top mark with there second major Star Trek game release...Judgement Rites.


Interplay's 1994 release - Judgement Rites

Less than a year after the release of 25th Anniversary Judgement Rites was basically the exact same game as 25th Anniversary but with a slightly better engine. However, no one really noticed the game play and style was the same and once more Interplay was hailed as a pioneer of the gaming industry as they watched Judgement Rites take the top spot in a lot of gaming journals and media magazines. The game was such a massive success that Interplay went on to develop and release an "expansion pack" which added voice over's to the game as well, bringing them in even more money. Riding high on the success of there first 2 games Interplay decided to go for broke and in 1994 announced the development of what they called "An interactive theatre journey into the world of star trek". The game was called Starfleet Academy, announced for a release at the end of 1995...if only it actually made that release date.

By the end of 1994 the stage was set for an all out fight between Microprose and Interplay with both of the companies saying that they will have ground breaking games out by the end of that year. S&S was still busy producing CD after CD of manuals and all in all, the early trek gamer was a happy person...then 1995 came along...and the gaming world along with the world of PC technology changed forever.

1995 & 1996 - A Time Of Change



 


Last Update - May 10, 2013 19:51:08
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