This year not only marks the Star Trek franchise's 40th anniversary, but it will also see the return of Trek gaming after an absence of several years. Star Trek: Legacy is the upcoming starship combat game from Bethesda and Mad Doc Software, and it will appropriately tie together all the various Star Trek television series. In Legacy, you'll not only command a Federation starship in battle, but you'll also lead a small task force in action. Legacy's story begins in the Archer era with the NX-01 seen in Enterprise. It then moves on to Kirk's era with the classic Enterprise, before ending in the Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager eras. The game is being developed for both the PC and the Xbox 360, and we caught up with Mad Doc associate producer Gary Conti, who gave us some more details.
GameSpot: Aside from the quick glimpse we saw at the Electronic Entertainment Expo, it's been a few months since we've gotten an update on Legacy. The game's in full development, but can you give us an update as to where it is in the process?
Gary Conti: I'm glad you ask that, because we've been making a ton of progress on the game lately. Right now, we're closing in on alpha--meaning the game is almost feature-complete. Things are really coming together nicely, even more so than what everyone saw as recently as E3.
GS: How will the single-player campaign play out? Will you just play through a linear series of missions, or will you have some control over your destiny? Or is there an open-ended campaign that allows you to go around the galaxy on your own?
GC: The single-player campaign in Legacy follows a linear progression. We love the idea of building a very strong story for Legacy, and linear mission progression has allowed us to do what we've wanted in that regard.
GS: Tell us more about the command point system. We learned at E3 that you earn command points that you can then spend on upgrades and new ships. Can you go a bit further into detail on this?
GC: Command points are your "resource" in this game. You earn them by completing objectives, winning engagements, and progressing through the storyline. So, say that during one mission, you capture an enemy star base, embarrass a few Klingon scouts by unceremoniously loosing a volley of quantum torpedoes on their backsides, then rip through a minefield and destroy a fleet of battleships, leaving a wake of destruction and charred corpses in your wake. Through these actions you've most likely earned enough points to upgrade the hull rating and weapons systems on two of your big battleships. You've also earned enough to scrap your old Ambassador-class starship and commission one of those shiny new Nebula-class ships.
GS: What sort of upgrades are there in the game? Can you make your ships faster, more powerful, more maneuverable? Can you boost their shield output? How do you keep things in balance? And how hard will it be to say goodbye to your upgraded vessels when the game transitions to another era?
GC: Between missions you'll be deciding on upgrading your hull strength, shields, sensors, engines, and weapons. Each ship will have a starting stat in each of these areas, and a maximum you can upgrade. For example, let us say you've purchased a fresh-off-the-line Constitution-class heavy cruiser. You choose to upgrade the weapons and shield systems. By upgrading the weapons, your phasers increase in range, recharge faster, and do more damage. By upgrading your shields, they can absorb more damage before dropping and will recharge faster after battle. Also, you can purchase specific weapons upgrades and install special weapons on your ships.
It may be painful to upgrade when the better ships become available, especially considering that a maxed-out Constitution class may be more powerful than a stock Galaxy-class ship (maybe not, but lets say it is for the sake of argument). The real draw for moving on to newer ships is their stats will max much higher than older ships.
Phasers on Destroy!GS: How exactly will you transition from one Trek era to another? Will it automatically happen no matter what, or can you stay around in one era for as long as you want and then move on when you're ready?
GC: You'll transition from one era to the next as a natural part of the storyline. After you complete all the missions in the Original Series era, your next mission will take place during Picard's time. New technologies and ships will become available, and you'll encounter different captains, crew members, and situations relevant to the timeline.
GS: One of the criticisms of many space games is that they play out like arcade games even though you're dealing with huge vessels that have mass. It's clear in Legacy that starships move more like starships and less like nimble fighters. Is there a physics model in the game? Will starships drift through space if they're crippled?
GC: We spend a lot of time tweaking the physics for our ships, making sure that they behave like the hulking juggernauts that they are. If you're crafty enough to disable your friend's impulse engines, he'll be lazily drifting in space, spouting curses at you over Xbox Live.
GS: We saw in the E3 demo that, with Kirk's Enterprise, you'll have to constantly maneuver because the weapons are all oriented toward the front and rear of the starship. Will that change with Next Generation-era vessels, which have weapons systems that are designed to provide global coverage?
GC: Absolutely. Different ships have different firing arcs due to the positioning of weapons on their hulls. You'd tend to see these more powerful ships in the Next Generation era. In the distant future, someone finally realizes, "Hey, how cool would it be to shoot at people who are next to us?"
GS: Will you be able to target certain systems on enemy ships, such as shields or engines? Can you cripple targets this way, or is combat more general in terms of damage? In other words, pummel their shields down to nothing and then unload on their hulls?
GC: You'll be paying attention to the strengths of your enemy's specific systems. It may be wise to knock out the engines of that pesky destroyer that is harassing your scouts. With their engines out, they'll easily fall prey to the big guns of your battleship.
GS: The primary weapons shown in Star Trek are phasers and photon torpedoes, but will you have other weapons as well? Latter Trek series featured fighters, for instance. Or will you be able to lock onto targets with a tractor beam to fix them in place?
GC: We're having fun designing some special weapons that you can unload on your enemy that will change the course of battle. Or maybe you're the type who likes to play with your prey and tractor beam a crippled enemy ship into a sun.
GS: Finally, how large can the battles get in the game? The E3 demo showed off a Romulan task force attacking a Cardassian space station (that looked like Deep Space Nine) defended by Klingon warships. Then the Federation task force appeared, and then the Borg. Needless to say, it looked like a fairly large and involved battle. Is that typical of the game?
GC: Absolutely. Ever watch the Dominion War from Deep Space Nine? Do you remember seeing the culmination of a combined fleet converging on the enemy and watching it descend into a beautiful dance of destruction, death, and huge freaking explosions? Yeah, we remember too. Legacy aims to please with lots of different mission types, and you can certainly expect some epic battles.
GS: Thank you, Gary.