Gamescom 2012: Star Trek Preview - Boldly Going
Written Monday, August 20, 2012 By Lee AbrahamsView author's profile
”The first thing that came to our minds is that movie games are usually not very good,” says Paramount Game Producer Brian Miller with a wry smile, as he talks about the impending Star Trek title that he hopes will lay to rest the ghosts of movie tie-ins past. Aside from voicing exactly what a lot of gamers have known for a while now, he also went on to say that Paramount and Digital Extremes were keen to avoid the same fate. “There are a lot of reasons for that, a lot of disappointing reasons. I love a lot of this stuff, whether it’s a superhero movie or a big action film, you’d think you would want to play as those characters and relive those moments but they just, for whatever reason, didn’t seem to work. We tried to figure out why that was the case.”
Sitting down to discuss a console version of the most recent Star Trek reboot MIller and his team quickly identified why most tie-ins failed, “You never gave the developer enough time to actually make the game. By the time this game comes out we’ll have been working on it for three years.” He goes on to say that the team were not interested in just making a quick buck, as most of them were long time devotees of the show. “We could have got a product out for the last movie but we decided not to as it wasn’t the right move for the brand, and we knew the fans would know we were just trying to sell out and cash in and we didn’t want to do that.” Instead they wanted to make a game that they and the fans would actually want to play and that the team could be proud of. The number one rule according to Miller was simply, ”If we’re going to do this then we are going to do this the right way.”
While making sure the game got the time and attention it needed is clearly vital. The developers also wanted to make sure this was a title that resonated with fans. “We wanted to make sure that if we made the game then we made the most authentic version of Trek that we could, which really meant that we had the filmmakers on board to do that,” Miller explained. “This was an unbelievably collaborative process, so we have worked with every department that was on the movie. Whether it’s the costume designer, to the special effects to all the assets for the Enterprise so that when you play the game it’s all exactly what you saw in the movie. Down to even the smallest, most important details, like the composer on the movie, Michael Giacchino came on board and is writing original music just for the game. We think those kind of details will really separate this game out and show the audience that we are trying to make something more than a lunchbox, T-shirt or a hat, trying to make something people can be proud of.”
Also onboard are the entire cast of the films, who were more than willing to lend their likenesses and voice talent to the game. Miller talked about Zachary Quinto coming to the recording studio and having a blast going through the script before suddenly saying, “Brian. Spock wouldn’t say that,” and promptly rewriting the dialogue on the fly. This kind of interaction with the crew is what he is hoping is going to make the game look and feel exactly how fans want it to. Showing off the game, with Kirk and Spock dashing through a crumbling space station to save trapped crew members. it's easy to imagine that they are heading firmly in the right direction so when Miller states that the team, “wanted to make a really cinematic event. To make it feel like you had gone through a really great episode, or really great movie, of Trek,” then you have a hard time thinking this isn’t going to be exactly the case.
As the demo rolls on we get a glimpse of the reptilian Gorn, who act as the games primary antagonists, a role Miller said they’d thought about since day one. “They are one of the most iconic Trek villains of all time, based on just one episode. So if they can be that popular based on a one hour show, what could we do if we reinvented them?”. Certainly the answer seems to be quite a lot, with a variety of the critters waiting to stand in your way throughout your mission. However, Miller was also keen to negate fans fears that this would just turn into another run and gun shooter, “A lot of what Star Trek is, isn’t about shooting and killing, that isn’t what Star Trek was created to be so our game picks up on puzzles, discoveries and exploration that is Star Trek.” He highlights this in the video, as Spock uses the ubiquitous tri-corder to scan the environment for clues in order to solve a mechanical dilemma, before later using it to interact with the ships sprinkler system to douse a nearby explosion. It plays out rather like the detective mode in Batman: Arkham Asylum which Miller readily admits to, though he quips that Star Trek got there first, “as (the tri-corder has) been around since the sixties”.
While the story is firmly a standalone title, it will weave in and out of the events of both the rebooted original movie and the upcoming sequel. The now homeless Vulcans are striving to create a new home with the help of Starfleet and have built the ominous Helios Machine to speed up their goal. However, the device is not all that it seems, cue disaster, enter the Gorn, and from then on it's down to Kirk and Spock to pick up the pieces and find out what is going on. With help from the film's actual scribe, plus the talents of the writer from the God of War series, they're hoping to fuse film and gaming into one tidy package. Miller boldly states, “It’s a really interesting and intricate narrative that I think a lot of games don’t do.” Though whether that will be the case or not remains to be seen. Oh, and will we get to see a glimpse of perennial British favourite Benedict Cumberbatch in the game? (The actor is rumoured to be playing Khan in the next movie). “No comment,” says Miller, with a chuckle.
It’s obvious from the video that this game is a full on co-op title, with you taking on the role of Kirk or Spock and being backed up by a friend or some clever AI, Miller believes that taking the co-op route wasn’t just a matter of choice but one that tied in with the whole ethos of the story. “If you look at what Star Trek is, it really is a story about Kirk and Spock. It’s a story of two different personalities that make up one, with Kirk as the rash cowboy that jumps into danger, doesn’t think it through and always gets the girl, whereas Spock is much more logical and thoughtful. That kind of fighting and banter between the two is what made Star Trek work, so when you realise that is what Star Trek is it became obvious we had to make a co-op game.”
Three years is certainly a long time for a movie title but Miller thinks that if more people felt the same way then maybe there would be a better quality of game, and on this evidence it is hard to disagree. Certainly that time seems to have been well spent, with our glimpse of the current build displaying a game that happily jumps in and out of a number of genres with aplomb, allowing you to solve puzzles, leap through space, take on enemies and even call on the Enterprise itself as a weapon to bombard enemies. There are so many obvious influences at work here and all of them seem to be coming together at the right time. As Miller himself notes, “We’d be lying if we didn’t look at Uncharted and say what a great game, how can we make a game that compares to that? Or Arkham? Or Gears of War? Or Mass Effect which is a great example, as those guys have been on record saying they were heavily influenced by Star Trek.”
So how do you compare to a list of some of the greatest games of recent times? Well, you use them as your starting point, a fact made slightly easier by the resurgence of the sci-fi genre in games according to Miller. “I’d be lying if I said this game wasn’t influenced by Mass Effect. I don’t think we’d be able to make a game like this unless some of those guys, like Dead Space, Mass Effect and Halo hadn’t really made science fiction gaming fun to play again. It’s a weird sort of circle.”
Asked about the notorious thorny issue of fan reaction to the project and Miller takes it all in stride, saying that they have been blessed with some great feedback while noting the difficulties of working with such a well loved franchise. “We want everyone to be able to walk in and play this game and not have to know everything about Trek,” he says, “The more we show and the more we open up about the game, I think fans will be very pleased with the result. That said you are never going to make everyone happy and there will always be someone who has a problem...but we can only do the best we can do.” So here’s hoping that the ship looks just like it did in episode 42, and the Gorn don’t have slightly darker scales than they should or we may face a fanboy style revolt.
Even at this early stage the ambition and intentions are clear, with a multi-faceted game that hopes to take all of the best elements of Star Trek and fuse them together into one supremely authentic package. Miller and his team are certainly passionate about the property and if that kind of love and care can shine through into the final product then it could well be in safe hands. If this is the future of movie tie-in games, then you can happily count us in.
Star Trek will be beaming down to retailers in early 2013, so set your fingers to stun as it may well be worth the wait.