Like the Ferengi, corporations can justify nearly anything in the name of potential profit. Today’s fan-casualty is Stage 9, a virtual recreation of Star Trek’s Enterprise-D to walk around – less a game, more a virtual Star Trek museum piece. After two years of work, it was issued a cease-and-desist by TV network CBS earlier this month, and lead developer Scragnog formally announced its demise yesterday, in a video below and on Twitter. We all know that making fan-games runs these risks, but Stage 9’s fate feels inconsistent with how Trek fan-works are normally handled.
It’s no secret that Star Trek fans love building stuff, specially the Enterprise or parts of it. Sometimes, these fans even create films, so many of which are in circulation that CBS and Paramount even struck a truce of sorts. So long as fan-film makers remain within the neutral zone of their community guidelines (keep thing short, non-profit and non-professional), no projects get torpedoed and nobody’s lives get disrupted. Unfortunately, no such guidelines exist for digital works such as games. Perhaps it’s time there were.
Here’s a comprehensive trip through Stage 9’s Enterprise-D courtesy of YouTuber “bcbotkillerpresents”, created after word of the cease-and-desist began circulating. It’s genuinely impressive stuff, and while the dead-eyed NPC crew milling around do seem a little sinister they help complete the bustling image of the Next Generation’s Enterprise that most us are familiar with. Stage 9 also boasted full VR support, and its detailed texture art meant you could lean in to ogle every detail on every control panel and read every last detail, even if most of it was just static images.
Things like this have happened before, and will happen again, but they don’t need to. Sega have been famously chill with Sonic The Hedgehog fan-works, even hiring fan-game authors to produce Sonic Mania. Similarly, Capcom don’t seem to mind Mega Man fans making stuff, even licensing one fan-game at one point. Valve are so permissive that even the jankiest (and best) Half-Life works can be sold on Steam. If CBS can have an official policy on what filmed fan-works can do without lawyers beaming down on top of everyone, why not games as well?
The official Stage 9 site is now sadly gone, but I’d be very surprised if download mirrors of the last released version weren’t breeding faster than Tribbles at this point.