Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy
Preview by Al Giovetti, 11/15/96
Genre: starship combat flight simulator
Release: March 1997 moved back to April 1997
Producer: Rusty Buchert
Requirements: DOS/Win 95 version requires a 75 MHz Pentium with DOS or Win 95, 16 MB of RAM, 560K free base memory, 20 MB of hard drive space, double-speed or faster CD-ROM drive, and SVGA support. Joystick supported. (Subject to change) Mac version requires a Power PC Mac, 16 MB of RAM, System 7.1 or later and a double-speed or faster CD-ROM drive. (Subject to change)
History: After the lack luster success of a small time, low budget science fiction show, privately dubbed "Captain Horatio Hornblower in Space," a substantial cult following revived the ailing and almost expired show idea and brought it to rerun and movies heaven. In all this time few people have dared pilot the Starship enterprise save the arcade sequence in a hit animated graphic adventure game by, guess who, Interplay. Now Interplay has expanded the optional arcade flight simulator to a full blown game.
Randy Buchert has worked on projects like Star Trek: Judgement Rites which was an animated graphic adventure, and Descent I & II which are Doom-like shooters. As a result of his background and the three year production hiatus, most people are expecting a lot from Randy with this title. The same three dimensional environment used in the Descent series will be used for Starfleet Academy. Rusty Buchert, Producer of the game, was interviewed by Al Giovetti recently for The Computer Show television show.
Plot: What could be more ridiculous than dog fighting with a ship as large as a battleship. In Wrath of Khan, audiences ate it up. So you take the helm of the original Star Trek ships and meet the challenges of the galaxy, and leave reality, reason and physics behind - after all, its only a game. The plot should be good since Interplay has hired Sandy Fries who worked with Gene Roddenberry writing on the first series. Dan Greenberg, who most know from creation of paper based role playing games scripted the original interactive material that Sandy will be bringing into line with the Star Trek Universe.
Start as a Starfleet Academy cadet Confront numerous unique enemy craft Over a dozen different missions to engage Fly the fabled KOBAYASHI Maru scenario Play a Klingon Captain or Romulan Commander. Work your way towards becoming a Starfleet Captain Instruction and feedback from Captain James T. Kirk.
The Klingons, Romulans, and an entirely new race of beings emerge in the game to cause headaches in diplomacy, tactics, science, and other areas. As commander you will be required to participate in the micro-management of your subordinates with multiple selections possible. There will be no generalized right answer and even blowing your stack may be appropriate in some situations.
Gameplay: Here is your chance to attend and graduate from the most prestigious academy of all time, Starfleet Academy. You, along with your cadet class, work your way through more than 30 missions with the objective of graduating first in your class. Filled with subplots and international politics, your decisions and sacrifices affect not only your individual honor, but the honor of your cadet crew and Starfleet Academy. Captain Kirk, Chekov, and Sulu, as your Starfleet instructors, will offer guidance and support.
Federation star ship captains will be expected to live by Star Trek protocols for firing on other vessels and engaging in hostilities. Just like Sierra's Police Quest games, star ship captains will be held accountable for not reading and heading the procedures manual. Rusty found modeling the tractor beam to be a particularly difficult task, since every object in the universe including star bases and celestial bodies had to behave correctly if tractored by a star ship captain.
You pilot: Pilot up to eight different star ships from the famous captains chair, with four Federation ships currently modeled, including the Oberth science vessel (USS Grissom), the Constitution class ships (USS Enterprise), the Miranda Class (USS Reliant) and the Excelsior class (USS Excelsior). Other ships include a Romulan Heavy Cruiser, Klingon Bird of Prey, Kingon Space Station, Federation Space Station, and Querez Cruiser. Take on the Federation's best. Leadership training focuses around the famous SFA bridge simulator where you and your crew will battle over 30 alien ships, including Klingon, Romulan, and more.
Missions and Career: There will be at least two dozen missions. Many of the missions will be science, diplomatic, and or pursuit and containment. Randy could not resist the temptation so there is a terraforming mission. Another mission involves a chase through a nebula similar to the starship battle in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan. You will even get to fly the Kobayashi Maru test in the star ship simulator seen in that movie.
Combat: Combat will pit you against a half-dozen Klingons, Romulans, sabateurs, rebels and other micreants all with the keys to a few star ships. Ship to ship combat will not be as cumbersome as battleships on the ocean and will not be as facile or as nimble as F-16s, but will be somewhere in between. Randy is optimistic that it will not be boring or too unrealistic. Submarine or battleship combat that involved a lot of yelling was immediately rejected by the Interplay team.
Interface: The interface gives you access to many ship systems that you directly control, including damage control, helm, engineering, weapons control, and shields. The team first tried to give you command over stations controlled by others, just like in the series, but this did not work as an interactive game. Rusty calls this the "Yellum Interface", because you are yelling at all your subordinates on the bridge. Liam in his cover article makes the analogy to a submarine simulator, which is the best analogy for what Rusty and his team came up with.
Graphics: Translucent texture mapping will enable effects such as cloaking and transporters where items must remain "see-through" for a short period of time. Characters and environments need to be blended together, which was tried in the original Microprose animated graphic adventures, to prevent the pasted on look characters and objects often get when placed over the background art. The graphics will have real-time color light-sourcing, shadowing, three dimensional, fully rendered graphics will make the graphics high tech enough to properly simulate the familiar Star Trek world. Some scenes apparently use two dimensional graphics mixed with the three dimensional ones which looked pretty good when you consider the clash in styles.
The bird of prey took only 275 polygons to construct, but when it was done, it looked as good as the one on the television series.
Animation: Will be based upon the same engine in Descent and therefore is expected to be smooth as silk with all the additional refinements. The three dimensional engine was not the main reason the title has been so long delayed, but more in working out details of Federation protocol, unusual equipment such as the tractor beam, and how to make the command structure of the large starship fun for game players.
Animated cut scenes were filmed at Raleigh Studios with the original actors as Starfleet Academy faculty and a new crew of young cadets.
Voice actors: The original crew of Bill Shatner, George Takai, and Walter Konig will reprise their roles as Kirk, Sulu, and Chekov, faculty in the Academy, in order to advise students via lectures, briefings and other communications complete with video sequences. There will be an option for personal attention from the stars, although I have no idea how it will be implemented.
Music score: I am tempted to say that the music will be from the original series and movies, but I have no idea.
Sound effects: The sound effects from the extensive Paramount Star Trek sound library will be used to recreate the mood of the original show, so that the game player will feel and believe they will get the sheepskin at the end of their academics.
Multi-player: Head-to-head, null modem, phone modem, and network games are planned. I wonder if anyone even thought of cooperative battles where you may have a friend assist you in the defense of Federation principles. The deathmatch mode can pit up to four enemy ships against up to four federation vessels or any combination.
Reviewers: Jeff has not forgotten that all important date, soon to become a
national holiday with over half the population counting themselves as
Trekkers. September 22, 1966 was the premier of Star Trek TOS, the original
series to those of you who are uninitiated. References
Chris Hudak, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/stacad/index.html
T. Liam McDonald, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 9, September, 1996, pg. 67-68.
Steve Wartofsky, Computer Games Strategy Plus, issue 71, October, 1996, pg. 62.
T. Liam McDonald, PC Gamer, volume 3, number 12, December, 1996, pg. 47-49.
Jeff James, Computer Player, volume 3, number 6, January, 1997, pg. 48 - 51.