Star Trek Generations
by Al Giovetti, 10/21/96
Genre: animated graphic adventure
Release: May 21, 1997, (March 1997)
Lead Programmer: Greg Blaha
Music Composer and Producer: Steve Scherer
Game Designer and Lead Artist: Earl Otis
Producer: Simon Ffinch
Requirements: 90MHz Pentium compatible or faster, 16MB RAM, Windows 95, Quad-speed CD-ROM drive, Hard drive (75MB free), High color graphics for 640 x 480 x 16-bit color (2MB video RAM minimum and must be compatible with DirectX), Mouse, DirectX-compatible sound card
History: The Star Trek license has yielded some unnamed computer game mutts and some real show pieces, like the graphic animated adventures of Star Trek 25th Anniversary, Star Trek Judgment Day , and Star Trek TNG A Final Unity (STTNGAFU). STTNGAFU sold 500,000 game copies. Of course with the movie success of Star Trek Generations, Paramount could not wait to leverage their property with a game, and many game companies vied for the enviable license, which Spectrum Holobyte, now called Microprose, won. The newest Star Trek, Generations, is giving into the Doom craze and will be in first person perspective real time, but will resist the temptation to be a kill everything game without puzzles, conversations, and other interactivity features normally seen in the graphic animated adventures that have dominated the good Star Trek games.
In 1995, Microprose West, the game company formerly known as Spectrum Holobyte, brought us a great game called Star Trek: The Next Generations: A Final Unity. It was the best Trek game since Interplay's Star Trek: Judgement Day. Most games up until the Current games were third person exploration games called animated graphic adventures in the trade. This will be a departure from that format, an attempt to do a graphic animated adventure in first person perspective.
At E3 we had a chance to catch up with Star Trek Generations producer Simon Ffinch, and his wife Karen, who incidentally both work at Microprose. The interview has aired on The Computer Show. Simon shared some information with us about the upcoming computer game.
Company line: Join forces with Captains Kirk and Picard and the rest of the NEXT GENERATION crew to defeat the obsessed scientist Soran in this immersive action adventure game based on the internationally successful feature film STAR TREK GENERATIONS.
Soran must be stopped before he destroys millions of innocent beings in his ruthless quest to reunite with the Nexus. The story line unfolds through a mix of first-person, point-of-view action levels, challenging ship-to-ship space combat, strategic clues in Stellar Cartography and cinematic sequences, all featuring the voices of the movie cast.
Assume the role of your favorite Star Trek characters in 12 first-person, point-of-view action
game away missions
Fly and defend the U.S.S. Enterprise in a true 3-D space combat environment
Plot your strategy to defeat the obsessed scientist Soran in Stellar Cartography
Experience original music and sound, featuring original voice-over performances from the entire movie cast, including Patrick Stewart, William Shatner and Malcolm McDowell
View original video sequences developed exclusively for the game and not seen in the movie Follow the epic story line based on the movie
Plot: Like the 1995 movie of the same name, Star Trek Generations is peopled with Bill Shatner reprising his role as Captain James Tiberius Kirk, Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard, Malcolm McDowell as the evil and mad Soran. The central feature of the game is the time rift energy ribbon gateway that travels through space. While in the ribbon or rift, you do not age or die and anything you can imagine or wish for becomes real. You can relive your youth and past. With the Generations plot, Star Trek writers return to a plot similar to the original Star Trek pilot, where Jeffrey Hunter played Captain Christopher Pike in a world where what you dreamed became your reality.
The movie plot will provide the backdrop for space combat and the many away missions and other small side plots that taken together will comprise the nonlinear game. The game itself does not resemble the movie beyond this background. Due to the Doom-like interface the away missions will be one person only, which completely ignores the ensemble cast requirements of the television and movie plots. And while the single missions will require you to use the particular talents of each crew-member, from Troi to Kirk, you will be dismayed at the single crew-member format.
The interactive planetarium that made such a big hit with fans in the movie is recreated to provide the plotting of Enterprise courses that we have enjoyed since the first adaptation of Star Trek to the IBM 360 with APL language back in the mid 1970s. The Enterprise space combat may be the downfall of the game, since in prior games, many people have begged off and complained that the ship to ship combat with Cruisers and Battleship size ships has been very unweildy. Interplay is also taking on the ship to ship combat in their Star Trek: Star Fleet Academy title due out soon.
Game play: Over one-half the game will be played in first person three dimensional perspective and look like Doom, Ultima Underworlds or one of a myriad of other adventure games that were not arcade which preceeded Doom. The first person continuous interface of Doom was done before as a graphic adventure and even a role playing game, Doom simply added the true three dimensional aspect to the game and was very popular due to multiplayer aspects that turn people on, but they did not create 3D perspective or 3D worlds.
The game play is time dependent and balanced to kill you unless you are careful. There is no time to search the ship carefullyand think about what to do next, you must run through the missions in order to complete them in time. In the Armargosa Science Station the area is overly dark and hard to see. Some things are just put there to make you fail, like the fact that you cannot hit Soren with your phasers unless you step across the threshold in the Armargosa space station where he has built the star inverter.
There are thirteen missions in ten star systems. Upon arriving at a star system you scan with short range sensors as we have seen Star Trek crew perform since The Cage over three decades ago in the 1960s. Time will play a role in this game as a race against the clock, so that if you choose to travel to the wrong star system, later on in the game you may loose and never know it was your choice early in the game to travel there. This is distressing because time dependent plots are often frustrating since the game player never knows what action or inaction lead to the failure of the mission. These time dependent elements are therefore often devisive in getting game players to play the game over and over with no real added play value just to say the game took longer to complete, thus confusing length of play time with play value. Game players often become angry when forced to replay parts of the game just to get it right.
Most of the away missions will feature Picard, Troi, Riker, Worf, and La Forge and Data. Only one away mission will feature Kirk. These missions are different from the team approach seen in the series and movies, since there will be only one character on each of the away missions. The plot will exploit the weaknesses of the characters on the away mission, such as Data's inability to swim, and Geordi's sight. Troi will get to disguise herself again and infiltrate a Romulan vessel.
Killing characters in the first person exploration version of the game will be discouraged by vaporizing the essential items carried by the non player characters along with the character. Destroying essential items is another devicive way to increase game length and frustrate game players. Once the essential item is lost the game becomes unwinable and the game player will have no knowlege of which character carried the essential item, what the item is and therefore, what caused the failure of the mission. Finch intends to force the game player to stun every evil character in the game, search them for items, interogate them or vapoize them while helpless on the ground. Brutal but bound to frustrate both Doomers and adventure gamers alike.
Interface: The exploration interface will superficially resemble that of doom with a three dimensional world at the top of the screen only distinguishable from Doom by the Star Trek sets and equipment. On the lower half of the screen you will find a graphic of your character on the left part with bar coded statistics needed normally for role playing, a display in center with a graphic of your location on a larger map, and an inventory screen showing up to 12 inventory items at a time. The interface is different from the full screen first person perspective of Doom. Alternative to the character display in the lower left corner will be the automapping system of the game, showing your position on the map in overhead view in Star Trek colors of light blue and royal blue.
Ship controls:The interactive planetarium will play a big role in the game, by plotting courses and ship to ship strategy. The third person perspective planetarium interface, like the film, will feature Data sitting at a console and Picard standing on a round platform with a railing suspended over a holographic projection of an area of space that can be continuously zoomed, although the version I saw used the same scale throughout. Planets have away missions to send teams to or groups of warships to fight.
You can also use long range sensors to check out nearby star systems and then command the ship to travel there from the third person interface.
Commands: When in combat with other ships the display will shift to combat mode which will essentially be a view out the front view screen with a first person perspective. On the left below the first person window will be a damage view of the targetted ship and mirrored on the lower left of the combat interface will be a full ship system view of the Enterprise D. In the center will show a tactical display and weapons readouts. The space combat flight simulator model will resemble arcade style combat.
Graphics: The entire interface and the game will use a generous helping of bright primary and secondary colors reds, blues, greens, and yellows in the game displayse with the environment mixing the same colors with grittier textured backgrounds with various shadings of colors to make the window on the world more realistic.
Animation: Originally, the game designers fealt that the scenes from the movie Generations would make up a good portion of the full motion video from the game. What happened? Generations supports most accelorators, including MMX which can increase game speed by 20%.
Voice actors: Bill Shatner will provide the voice of the irrepressable Captain Kirk. Malcolm will reprise his role as Soran the mad doctor bent on returning to the Nexus. Jean Luc Picard will be portrayed by Patrick Stewart. Others from the original cast portray Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Troi (Marina Sirtis), LaForge (LeVar Burton), Worf (Michael Dorn), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Ship's Computer (Majel Barrett), and Data (Brent Spiner).
Music score: The music score is from the film and was composed and produced by Steve Scherer.
Sound effects: The sound effects of phasers, disrupters, turbolifts and the transporter are all there from the movies to the television shows. Fans will love the sound.
Utilities: Another annoying feature is that when you save you only can save to the beginning of a sequence of events and only nine save games are allowed. Doomers may be willing to accept console game like saves, but in a PC game there is no excuse for not allowing gamers to save whenever they would like and as often as they would like. The lack of incremental saves forces you (the gamer) to repeat your actions over and over again to the point of boredom. Many gamers will refuse to repeat themselves over and over again. To force gamers to repeat themselves does not add play value it only angers the gamers.
Multi-player: There are no multi-player features in this game. Some would have liked the game to be Doom-trek.
Journalists: George says, "Let's get one thing straight, Star Trek: Generations is not Doom Trek."
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Summary: What could have been a great game has been devicively marred by time dependent mazes coupled with a lack of incremental save games which keep you racing through the level from beginning to end over and over again until you get it right. Many gamers will be frustrated and angered that Spectrum Holobyte and Microprose did not return with the same award winning and popular graphic animated adventure interface that was used in Star Trek The Next Generation: A Final Unity.
Rebecca B. Anderson, Game Spot Preview
Alfred Giovetti, Star Trek: The 25th Anniversary, Genie Game News, 1992
George T. Chronis, PC Games, volume 4, number 3, March, 1997, pg. 47 - 50.
Elliott Chin, Computer Gaming World, issue 153, April, 1997, pg. 44.
A Review of the Star Trek Generations Movie
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