Star Trek: Bridge Crew [official site] was one of the games which caught my eye this E3. It basically looked like Artemis Bridge Simulator in VR and I figured that would be really fun. Also Levar Burton was on my screen being enthusiastic about things and that's always infectious. Well played, Burton.
But then I was a bit hazy about the specifics (because: wine) and I got distracted by all manner of other things in the days since so it wasn't until reading the Ubiblog about Star Trek: Bridge Crew this morning that I learned a bit more of the fine detail.
So the idea is that you and your virtual chums are staffing the bridge of the USS Aegis, exploring a largely uncharted area of space called The Trench in search of a new Vulcan homeworld and completing missions/having encounters as you do so. That's the story mode. There is also intended to be a mission generator if you don't fancy or have finished the other mode.
The Ubiblog features an interview with David Votypka, creative director at the Ubisoft studio, Red Storm Entertainment. Here are a few choice quotes from that which helped flesh out the game to me but obviously you can read the full thing over on their site if you had other blanks you wanted to try and fill in.
The basic idea was that the studio has been interested in social multiplayer stuff for a while and then when VR came back around as a medium people were excited about they started looking at ways to combine the two. Crew-based VR was one of the logical focuses of those discussions.
As per Votypka:
"One of the core fundamental elements of Star Trek – and where so much of the films and the shows happen – is being on the bridge. The bridge crews, the personalities, and the social dynamics of how these people relate to each other. It really makes up the heart of the show and the films in many ways. Social is already in the DNA of Star Trek, because of how the bridge crews need to rely upon each other and interact with each other. It’s a team, which is one of the core things that makes Star Trek such a great fit for social VR."
Red Storm's other VR project - Werewolves Within - had actually completely passed me by but it looks interesting. It's a version of Werewolf/Mafia for VR where villagers are trying to out the werewolves amongst them without accidentally killing innocent villagers. I've been watching the trailer and other footage and it puts you in the game as this villager avatar, making gestures and able to interact with other people in some ways, leaning over to whisper to them and so on. The learning on that project informed the work on Star Trek Bridge Crew but the latter obviously ramps things up in terms of the developmental ask because of things like full-body avatar hand-tracking and so on.
In terms of the look of things the Star Trek of this game will be the reboot universe you'd know from the 2009 and 2013 movies, although you won't be playing as
lovely Chris Pine Captain Kirk or lovely Zachary Quinto Spock.
"We’re using the look of the bridge, the ships, uniforms and all of that. I always felt those [reboot] movies did a great job of re-energizing Star Trek and bringing new fans into it, making it a good start for this game. But we’re not tied to any specific storyline or setting. We want it to be about players, about you being an officer in Starfleet, so it’s got to be your own story. You can’t really be on the Enterprise, playing as Kirk, but your voice doesn’t sound like Kirk’s. It’d be odd. And if you’re on the Enterprise with the rest of the main characters, it just gets complicated. We wanted to allow players to tell their own stories and be their own officers."
The roles cover four positions in the bridge: Captain, Helm, Tactical and Engineering. It's not in the game yet but it looks like you'll pick those roles while you're in a briefing room at the start then move to the bridge.
The way Votypka was talking started to make me think about the no-win-unless-you-cheat-because-you're-not-in-the-business-of-learning-how-to-face-impossible-odds-and-not-win simulation of the Kobayashi Maru - Star Trek's own in-universe VR mission simulation.
"We want to give the captain and the crew decisions to make – even moral and ethical decisions. We don’t want to say this is the binary yes-or-no way to solve this mission. Rather, it’s about how you go about it. Your actions will have different consequences and varying degrees of success, [for example] if you have to choose between saving two groups of different people in two different areas of space. How do you want to go about that? How do you prioritize? How do you deal with enemies? We definitely want a relationship between the crew and NPCs."
The person doing the interview for Ubi actually asked about a Kobayashi Maru mission and got a "stay tuned" response. God, can you imagine the state of some people's friendships after an intense Kobayashi Maru experience?
Oh, and it sounds like CBS have been involved, but far more on the aesthetic side, letting Red Storm move terminals around and rejig job descriptions in the service of gameplay.
"One thing they’ve been focused on is [the design of] the Aegis, for example. They gave us a lot of feedback and tweaks. It’s really about how the game looks and feels, and being faithful to Star Trek, but the gameplay side of things has been up to us. It’s in our interest to make sure it feels like Star Trek as much as possible."
I'm still not sure how the reality of this will work but I'm glad it exists as a project. By reality I'm not meaning the implementation of virtual reality. What I mean is the reality of whether you will have up to three friends with VR headsets to play with. That's a significant financial outlay four times over for a full crew.
I could do it because I'm friends with enough fellow game journos who have access to work headsets and there are also a bunch of habitual early tech adopters amongst my non-work friends, but I'm wondering how common those situations will be. Maybe it will foster a dedicated LFG community? Looking at the signoff on the article the game will be for Oculus Rift, Vive and Playstation VR. I have no idea if cross-platform play will be an option (I'll send them an email to ask) but perhaps IF it is and IF the PSVR gains traction that might help.