The History Of Star Trek PC Gaming
2000 - Part 1: The Fight
By the beginning of 2000 the star trek gaming franchise
has changed beyond all recognition. The year 2000 seen
Activision officially gain all the licenses and one of the original license
holders, Microprose, go bankrupt. It also proved to be a year of two
parts. The first half of the year 2000 seen the old license holders of
Interplay and Simon and Schuster release the first two games of the new
millennium. The second half of the year 2000 leading into 2001 scene
Interplay and Simon and Schuster finally leave the Star Trek gaming scene
altogether and Activision finally taking the place. However at the
same time Activision and Interplay started a massive battle still remembered
by a lot of Star Trek gamers. Interplay was leaving, but they wanted
to leave a legacy behind. 2000 is a year that a lot of serious trek
gamers remember as being the year that a lot of the now classic Star Trek
games were released.
No sooner had January of 2000 past and as Interplay was
still riding high on the success of Starfleet Command they released the
sequel, Starfleet Command 2 - Empires At War.
Starfleet Command 2 - Empires At War, the second game in the SFC Series.
Interplay's Starfleet Command 2 was the second game in the
SFC series, By this time Interplay as a company was starting suffer badly
through several deals they had going one of them was with a company known as
BioWare which would ultimately prove the downfall of Interplay.
Starfleet command 2 was now being developed out house of
the Interplay by a company made up of former employees of Interplay and a
few other companies. The new company was called Taldren and it
basically took over most of the aspects that Interplay was supposed to be
doing. SFC 2 was released in an unready state, the game itself was
stable enough but one of the game's selling points, the Dynaverse 2,
basically didn't work. It took several patches and fixes before the
game was made playable online and Empires At War took it's place as another
of Interplay's big hits in the community.
Between SFC and SFC 2 there wasn't really much difference
between them. The engine was still basically the same but the UI and
the AI and some parts of the old SFC engine was updated. New races and
better missions plus a more stable product (after the patches) made SFC 2 a
top seller for Interplay and got them more money in for one of there last
project which was discussed between Interplay and Taldren and would
ultimately lead to one of the last games being made by Interplay before
there bankruptcy in 2002 due to the BioWare incident. Starfleet Command 2
was received well by the community however something was "missing" for the
modders and kitbashers who liked to make there own ships, something that
would be resolved in 2001.
However, even though Interplay was now nearing the end of
there term for the franchise they still had a lot of fight left in them and
they knew a good business opportunity when they seen one. Less than a
month after the release of SFC 2 EAW they repackaged the old Starfleet
Command 1 game, added some new bits and pieces and released it in April 2000
as "Starfleet Command Gold Edition" making it the second game for Interplay
to release in 2000. It showed that even though Interplay knew they
were starting to get into financial trouble and were losing the license to
Activision in 2001 that they still cared about the community which they
basically started all those years ago with the release of Star Trek 25th
Anniversary in 1993.
While Activision and Interplay was busy getting ready for
a battle people wondered what S&S was up to after there announcement in 1999
of them making and releasing a game for 2000...enter one of the best Deep
Space 9 games made for the Star Trek franchise...The Fallen.
S&S's critically acclaimed game, DS9: The Fallen
The Fallen was an action FPS style game that took the trek gamer to a
place they had NEVER been before...Deep Space 9...
Fans of the now defunct television series may recognize some of the
plot's key elements: the Pah-wraiths, a race of all-powerful aliens exiled
from the wormhole (or the Celestial Temple, as the Bajoran religious sect
refers to it) by the Prophets, are on the verge of returning. The keys to
unleashing and harnessing their power are three ancient red orbs. Playing as
Sisko, Kira, or Worf, you must race to find the orbs against a host of
opposing forces that would abuse their power to dominate the Alpha Quadrant
and all of its inhabitants.
Of note is the fact that your three player choices do not merely give you
the option to change the character skin. There are separate levels and
unique mission objectives for each character. Of course, the events
portrayed in each of these three character's levels are interrelated. For
example, in the course of one of the Sisko missions, you contact Major Kira
and coordinate a plan whereby she will sabotage security systems to allow
you access to a certain area. When you get there, this has been accomplished
for you. If you later go back and play the Kira missions (and I assume you
will), however, you will receive the message from Sisko ordering you to
disable the security systems for him and, playing as Kira, you must complete
this task as your mission objective. There are similar connections between
the Sisko/Worf missions and the Worf/Kira missions. These three separate
"chapters," while not necessarily complete games in their own right, provide
a fair degree of additional longevity to this single-player only game.
Visually, The Fallen is rather impressive. It sports an enhanced Unreal
Tournament engine under the hood, which adeptly supplies delectable
character skins (with beautifully sculpted facial features and expressions),
expansive exterior environments and meticulously detailed interiors
(including extensive maps of the DS9 station, the U.S.S. Defiant, a Bajoran
monastery, a secret Cardassian military base, a hostile alien jungle, a Jem
'Hadar internment camp, and more), and some nicely textured effects with
considerable amounts of eye candy.
Some of the enhancements to the Unreal Tournament engine include a
custom-designed inverse kinematics and bones animation system that provides
fluid character movements and ambulatory dexterity. Although The Fallen is
presented Tomb Raider-style in third-person, it doesn't suffer from many of
the problematic perspective and control issues common to this genre. The
most significant distinction between The Fallen and Tomb Raider is an
improved "over the shoulder" camera technique that avoids disorienting
camera shifts in mid-manoeuvre. This sophisticated system also prevents the
character's head from obstructing the view (a much needed feature,
particularly since Sisko's substantial bare pate would block the entire
screen at times without it). Whenever you back into a corner or against a
wall, the camera zooms forward and your character becomes transparent
(similar to a technique used in Indiana Jones & the Infernal Machine or more
recently, Rune), allowing you to maintain visibility at all times. This
feature is especially helpful since, although The Fallen is not your average
shooter, shooting still plays a significant role in the game play.
Even today, S&S's The Fallen has a massive following for a game which
didn't have a multiplayer capability which is a testament to the thought and
preparation which went into this epic game of the now new era of Star Trek
Even while S&S was basking in the glory of there latest full blown game,
Interplay decided to put a halt to there party by releasing there third game
in 2000, unfortunately the game had mixed reviews...
New Worlds, the 3rd game in less than 6 months released by Interplay in 2000
New Worlds was going to be the first new style RTS genre game for Star Trek
that dealt with the spreading out of a colony on a new planet. The cut scenes of
the previews of the game were astounding, full 3D rendered cut scenes from
inside the game was released to the Gaming world and the pre release reviews of
the game were praising Interplay for yet another masterpiece.
Then it was released and things went from bad...to horribly worse...
New Worlds was up against some other stiff competition for the RTS genre,
this, coupled with the clunky menu system and the over techness of the games
system of playing got the game panned by ALL game reviewers...even GameSpy, who
are pretty lenient...
The biggest gripe about the game was the workings of it, camera angles were
counter productive, the menu system was hellish to get to grips with and the
final aspect which had killed so many other trek games cropped up here...bugs.
New Worlds was in desperate need of a patch from Interplay, but it was never
produced, and New Worlds was chalked up as another one of the Trek games that
COULD have been a belter, but wasn't planned or thought out the way it should
Still, even though New World's wasn't the best of efforts by Interplay it
did prove to Activision that RTS games could be done for Star Trek, and less
than 1 month after the release of New World's, Activision fought Interplay
back with a game which is still considered one of the best games made by
Activision in the year 2000. The fight between Interplay and
Activision was heating up, the end game of the fight was played out over the
last 5 months of 2000.
2000 - Part 2: End