'Voyager: Elite Force'By Jeff 'Koganuts' Koga
Posted at May 26, 1999 - 5:00 AM GMT
As part of my continuing coverage of Star Trek games at E3, I spoke with David Fischer and Brian Pelletier about Activision's Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. Fischer works at Activision as the "QA [Quality Assurance] lead for all of Activision's third person/first person shooters," while Pelletier works at Raven Software as the Project Leader on Elite Force.
Trek Nation: "How much of the game, percentage-wise, has been completed?"
David Fischer: "This game is in only four months of development, so it's slated for release in early 2000, which would be about nine to ten months away. So we've got a little bit of time left to go before this game will be out on the market."
Trek Nation: "How many people are on the development team?"
David Fischer: "Between 30 and 50. That's artists and designers and everything. Now they are only there for a selected amount of time, granted, but it is a big project."
Trek Nation: "But Raven Software is the developer, correct?"
David Fischer: "It's developed by Ravensoft, a developer in Madison, Wisconsin. They are owned by Activision and Activision publishes their games. Raven [has] their own free say in what they're going to do, Activision tests and makes sure that their games go out with quality, and then we put them out on the store shelves."
Trek Nation: "How has Raven Software and Activision's relationship with Paramount been? Has there ever been a time where Paramount's asked Raven Software or Activision to scale back on your 'free say' to do things?"
David Fischer: "It's always been very smooth. It's not so much a scaling back, it's more of just having deadlines. It's all about deadlines in the industry. They're a company that loves creativity, and that's why this game's going to be one of the best games out there. It's because they are a creative force that, [they know] how to do the games they do. The only thing they can be called for is time. They may need two more weeks and we just don't have the two weeks to give them. That's basically where it all boils down to. It's not the... desire to get too wild or whatever. That extra one week designing the extra weapon effects could mean we miss our ship dates. That's where the problems arise. It's not so much with the game, or the designer, [or] anything like that. It all has to do with ship dates."
Brian Pelletier: "Everytime we need something from Paramount, we just call them up, ask them for the resources and they give them to us. They've provided us with schematics and diagrams of Voyager and the rooms on Voyager so we can accurately recreate the exact dimensions. We've been able to visit their reference library at Paramount to get the references we need. So all those are at our disposal. And again, Paramount understands that this is an action game. So they give us the freedom to create an action game. And that's why we can have our holo-multiplayer death match. So you're basically playing on the Holodeck but you can play all the characters from the show, and fight all the characters on the show."
Trek Nation: "I'm quite impressed by the authenticity of the sounds."
David Fischer: "The licenses are through Paramount on the sounds. So when you go through a Holodeck it sounds like a Holodeck, when you go through a door, you go through a door, the sirens are the sirens, the shots are the shots, the Borg sounds like the Borg."
Brian Pelletier: "Paramount has given us all [the] audio assets we need. So we've got all the classic sounds, [the] ambient sounds on the Bridge, the beaming sounds, all the weapon sounds, [the] sounds of the Borg, all the ambient sounds of the Borg cubes, and of course [all the sounds] with all of the other aliens."
TrekToday: "So tell me about Elite Force."
David Fischer: "[It's] a first person shooter, but based more on a co-op mode where you're a lead in a commanding force instead of just being a one-man Rambo versus the whole alien forces. The story is [that] the Borg [have] taken your ship and [have] drained all the power and [have] disabled your ship inside of a ship graveyard, basically with a bunch of other ships. There becomes the levels. There are going to be 30 levels in the game. So while you're stuck your object is to try to find pieces on the other ships that will help you... rescue your ship basically. So during that you're going to find 30 different levels with 30 different kinds of aliens, or at least a good number of aliens -- put it that way. All the races that are in Voyager will be in here. This will be one of the most true-to-life games to the TV series that you will get."
Brian Pelletier: "What we have, first off, is Borg. So the Borg make an appearance in the game. Then we have what we call the Scavenger aliens. Now these are aliens and other characters from the known universe of Star Trek that have also been trapped in this ships graveyard. So what happened is some of these aliens have banded together as nomads so they could survive as a large group. Those aliens are called the Scavengers and they'll include Klingons, humans, [and] Hirogen. Later on in the game, Species 8472 will make an appearance. So Paramount has also given us creative freedom to create new aliens, [and] new weapons. But as far as Voyager, those are the aliens that you'll encounter within the game."
David Fischer: "[The Scavengers] are one of the bigger enemies because of course you're inside of a ship graveyard and they're Scavengers and that's what they're there for. Again while you're on another ship they could be attacking your ship. So there's going to be a lot of, 'What do I do? What do I do?' Kind of a little bit more question instead of just going straightforward."
TrekToday: "So your character is a member of the Elite Force?"
David Fischer: "[You're] a security guard [who rises] in rank as he goes from mission to mission to mission. As he goes from mission to mission he's going to gain experience and points to make himself the commander of the elite forces instead of just an ensign. So as he goes up he'll be able to elevate his own game which makes it more of a roleplaying game where you feel more attached to your character."
Trek Nation: "So you can't switch to different members of the Elite Force?"
David Fischer: "You won't be able to select to a different member of the Elite Force. You'll be able to command them, and with their advanced AI scripting system, they'll be able to react to the system, or to the problems that they're in. If they're being under fire, they'll run. If they're hurt, they'll go find a doctor. The advanced AI in this game makes those decisions for you. Basically you set up the game plan of how you want to attack the battle or fight the battle and then after that if it doesn't go to plan, your AI won't just sit there and stop, they will run for cover."
Trek Nation: "It sounds like the Elite Force reports to Tuvok."
David Fischer: "[You and] Tuvok... will have meetings in the mornings to discuss the overview of what's going on with the plan. You'll sit in there with the cinematics. You'll feel as though you are a part of the crew. You won't be left out as some rogue squadron out there. This is not where they just give you an order. You'll be inside the meetings, you'll be talking with Tuvok inside that little boardroom and you'll be able to go over what your missions are for the day. Discuss the answers, discuss what's going on inside the crew. The whole crew will be there having conversations. It's going to feel more like an episode than it is just you playing the game."
Trek Nation: "Where in the Star Trek timeline is this game set?"
David Fischer: "[There is] no timeframe that I'm aware of. Basically it's an encompassment of the whole series, [and] that's the timeframe right now."
Brian Pelletier: "When the game comes out, it'll take place in the same timeline that the show will be running in. We already have backup plans in motion in case [the] story changes throughout the season, so if something changes in the season we can adapt easily. And the storyline itself is that Voyager in its journey is teleported into this null chasm of space, where this graveyard is. So it can be anywhere. If they make their way to the Alpha Quadrant again, we can still teleport them into our null space and still create the scenario of our game."
Trek Nation: "Will all of the main cast on Voyager be appearing in the game?"
David Fischer: "The actual voiceover work is done through Paramount... because they're under contract to Paramount and since we have a licensing agreement with Paramount then... they have to do what their contract says, which is to do the voiceovers for the game. So the voiceovers will be done by the actors."
Brian Pelletier: "All the main characters in the show make an appearance in the game. We've hired the voice actors to do all the voices of the characters within the game. The actual actors [will] play their characters for the game."
Trek Nation: "So I suppose Kes is not in the game?"
David Fischer: "I'm not real positive on that. My thing is this, is that they're taking a lot of feedback from the Star Trek community. And the Star Trek community seems to be very vocal about what they're looking for. Raven's willing to listen to what's going on with the community, and wants to help and do the best job they can for the community instead of just putting... out and making their own game. So they're really looking forward to Star Trek and is trying to be a part of it instead of just another piece of it."
Trek Nation: "Going back to the Borg, how is their AI going to be?"
David Fischer: "Right now, at the present time, we only have it so that if you shoot at a Borg, the Borg will come alive and shoot at you. During the real game, when you shoot a Borg, the rest of the Borg will light up and come after you. They will [adapt to] your weapons so that your weapons won't hurt them after a couple of times, then you'll have to switch weapons or go find a different one."
Trek Nation: "What else is there?"
David Fischer: "The Borg ship... has a lot of textures on it. It's going to have a lot of curved surfaces with a lot of dynamic lighting going through it. The Borg ships are very very detailed because of the gratings, floor surfaces, where they recharge and get back together, very very detailed. The Borg ships are going to be as detailed on many levels as possible in a game. The curved surfaces right here, this is all based on the Quake 3 engine right here, having round poles and round tips."
Trek Nation: "What kinds of weapons will be available?"
David Fischer: "The weapons that we have are all based on the Voyager series. However Paramount has licensed and told us to have a little bit of free reign on some of the weapons to make some new ones. We're going to have nine weapons involved in the game at the very end. So right now the weapons are still to be announced -- they're very very rough at the beginning. Of course you start out with a phaser and some other weapons but... the weapons haven't wholly been decided [yet]. [But] basically all weapons that are inside of the Star Trek: Voyager series will be inside this game. So what you see on the series is what you're going to get in this game."
Trek Nation: "What multiplayer capabilities will be available?"
David Fischer: "Multiplayer capabilities will be teams, capture the flag, [and] deathmatch. You'll be able to play as some of the alien races and most of the crew members on Voyager."
Special thanks to David Fischer and Brian Pelletier for participating in this interview.
After the interview, I found out from Pelletier that if your character doesn't follow orders or shoots other Voyager crewmembers without provcation, that s/he would be reprimanded by Tuvok and Captain Janeway.
Also, Fischer and Pelletier's demonstrations of the game consisted of your character, in first-person perspective, walking around the Bridge, Engineering, and the Borg cube. And true to "life," if you were inside the Borg cube, the Borg did not consider you a threat until you started firing weapons at them, at which point they'd stop whatever they were doing, approach you, and start adapting to your weapons and attacking you.
They also demonstrated a scenario where the Scavengers beam into Voyager and start an attack in one of the cargo bays. I noticed a few of the weapons included the standard hand phaser, the First Contact phaser rifle, and an anti-Borg weapon which neutralizes the Borg with one shot. And with the phaser rifle, for instance, you can zoom in closer on your target via a "sniper mode" and aim with more accuracy.
In their demonstrations, I noticed that while Chakotay, Tom Paris, and Tuvok were on the Bridge at their stations (I did not see The Doctor, Harry Kim, or Neelix), Janeway, B'Elanna Torres, and Seven of Nine were conspicously absent. I asked Laird Malamed, brand manager at Activision, about this, and he responded that there were simply more male models than female models that they had to program, so they programmed the males first. I countered that since we were at E3, which is a gaming convention that's geared more towards a male audience, that they should've programmed the female models first as eye candy. Malamed laughed at the suggestion. :)
Jeff 'Koganuts' Koga is a regular contributor to the Trek Nation, as well as webmaster of unofficial fan sites for John Woo, Chow Yun-Fat, and Garrett Wang.