“It has to fit in. The themes have to be right,” Disruptor Beam CEO Jon Radoff tells me. Behind him is a cardboard recreation of the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise, complete with Spock and Kirk standees. People file through, strike poses, take photos and try to fit in.
The game he’s talking about is Star Trek Timelines, the next from the upstart company that recently released the extremely popular Game of Thrones: Ascent on iPad. Much like Ascent, the just-announced project has been a labor of love so far. Disruptor Beam is made up of fans of geek series, from Game of Thrones to Star Trek to everything in between. Anything they create is rooted in respect for the subject matter, and they aim to be as true to properties as possible.
But even then, fans of a series might still have a bone to pick. “Fans of Star Trek games have been let down. We understand that. We have to make sure that we do our best to maintain the right themes of the show,” Radoff says. Ship maneuvers are important, but dogfights aren’t, which was one failure of previous Trek games. Controlling just one or two people in a game is minutia compared to how the entire galaxy works. That means not focusing on action elements as much as the characters and the worlds.
In fact, Star Trek isn’t really about action anyways.[pullquote_right]Conflicts are hard to resolve with just phasers.[/pullquote_right]
“Gene Roddenberry created this universe based on exploration, on science.” You can’t always explore new worlds with guns blazing, and you can’t understand warp drives with one-on-one battles. “Conflicts are hard to resolve with just phasers.”
“The fans are understanding. They get it,” Radoff says when I ask about what will make this game different. “Star Trek is about optimism.” In Timelines, the principle plot line revolves around a mega-crisis in which timelines are collapsing and merging. Optimism may not be enough for the crew of the Enterprise to survive.
But wait, which crew will it be?
“Potentially any of them, and at the same time.” The crisis allows Disruptor Beam to mix characters from virtually any Trek era, whether it’s from the television shows or books or cartoons. Want a young Spock with the Deep Space Nine crew? You got it. Data, Janeway and Spock working together? You know it. The combinations are endless, and should make any fan swoon. But could it get a little too much?
“Our team passion is guided through the series’ history, and making sure the universe stays consistent is vital.” Players will be able to create the Trek crew of their dreams, and it’ll all fit in.
That’s why character interaction will be key. Much like Ascent, the game mechanics will include sending crew members out on missions to improve scientific methods, enact diplomacy, or even get into the occasional battle if needed, developing them along the way. It all depends on how players want to resolve situations. Missions can take place in space, aboard ships, or on any of the numerous planets that are being generated for the game. Exploration. That’s a huge part of the experience, of finding the cause of the crisis. Landing on known, canonical planets may not yield the same results as discovering and exploring new ones.
And they’ll all fit in. Disruptor Beam is taking plenty of time to develop the game and make sure every detail is on point with the series and that nothing feels out of place.
The social aspects from Ascent return as well, in a way. “We want to make sure people are interacting with other people, not just the game,” says Radoff. “There’s a huge amount of value to fans working together with other fans. That not only provides a positive experience, but it will keep them enjoying the game far longer.”
All of this is why CBS decided to work with Disruptor Beam in the first place. The team is passionate, they’re fans, they want to be true to the material. CBS wants to make sure its property is treated with respect, is able to capture players’ attention, and it can create new fans. Whether all of that happens is yet to be seen, though Disruptor Beam certainly has the experience and success of Game of Thrones: Ascent to back it up.
Don’t worry, it’ll all fit in. We have that feeling, too. And so does the fan dressed in a Spock outfit posing on the bridge for his picture.
Star Trek Timelines will arrive for iOS, Android, and web browsers at some point in the fuuuuuutuuuuure.