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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 gaming.

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 have been.

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 Game



 


Last Update - May 10, 2013 19:51:09
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