Star Trek: Starfleet Command
|Release date(s)||July 31, 1999|
|Genre(s)||Space flight simulator game, Real-time tactics|
|Mode(s)||Singleplayer and Multiplayer|
Star Trek: Starfleet Command is a computer game based on the table-top wargame Star Fleet Battles. It simulates starship operations, and ship-to-ship combat and fleet warfare in the Star Trek universe.
The game's design and rules are drawn largely from those of the tabletop wargame Star Fleet Battles. The playable races match those from Star Fleet Battles, as do many ship functions and ship classes, as well as many aspects of gameplay.
The player can play as one of six races:
- United Federation of Planets
- Klingon Empire
- Romulan Star Empire
- Gorn Confederation
- Hydran Kingdoms
- Lyran Star Empire
It is divided into three main parts: a "Campaign" game, "Skirmish" games and a "Multiplayer" game. The "Dynaverse" campaign resembles an adventure in which the captain of the ship (the player) earns prestige by successfully completing missions. These prestige points can be used to 'purchase' new ships, as well as repair and refit them and assign crew members. The "Skirmish" and "play-and-forget" games are fast and self-contained and help the player become familiar with the game and the high number of missions available in the "Dynaverse". In multiplayer mode, the player connects via IP or using a game matching service (e.g. GameSpy) to challenge other human players instead of game artificial intelligence.
Actual gameplay tends to consist of ships circling each other, waiting for various weapons to recharge and waiting to fire until one can fire upon the weakest shield of the enemy ship. The actual gameplay is very similar to the age of sail naval combat game Broadsides by SSI.
Starfleet Command is an 'open world' game, where your actions will have an effect on the world at large (do well and you and your empire would prosper and vice versa). No two campaign playthroughs were exactly alike, owing to the large number of general missions that could be played, as well as unique, non-story missions that would only appear once per campaign. Players generally dealt with convoy escorts and raids (depending on ship count), as well as base defense, simple combat (on a variety of maps), escort missions, and the like. As the game was set during the 'General War' period of the Star Fleet Battles timeline, alliances between empires would shift between missions at regular intervals (for example, it was not unheard of to see the Federation and the Klingon Empire allied at times). Players also have to contend with the Orion Pirates, who cause trouble where ever they go.
The 'true' storyline of the game is only accessed by joining an empires elite organization, and most of the campaigns revolve around (or have at least one mission that deals with) the fallout caused by the disappearance of the Organians, and the effect their absence has on known space:
United Federation of Planets (Starfleet Special Task Force) - After confirming that the Organians have departed for parts unknown, the player has to deal with the forces of the Terran Empire (though it is not referred to as such in-game) crossing over from the mirror universe and attempting to take over the Federation.
Klingon Empire (Black Fleet) - After confirming the Organians have departed, the Klingons attempt to use the increase in political tensions to their advantage before discovering that a much larger threat exists. This campaign is notable for not only featuring a crossover with the Federation storyline, but also for the mission 'That Which Must Die', where the player embarks on a quest to rid the Klingon Empire of one of its greatest threats: Tribbles.
Romulan Star Empire (Tal Praiex, Tal Shiar) - The outbreak of a plague sees the Romulan organizations hunting down the Orion Pirates before the political machinations of the leader of the Tal Shiar throw the future of the Empire into question.
Lyran Star Empire (Red Claw, Iron Fang, & Mountain Watchers) - The political machinations of the clans of the Lyran Empire take a back seat to the realization that an old enemy is attempting to conquer from within. Note: the Mountain Watchers are listed in the game's instruction as an elite organization, but they cannot be joined by the player.
Hydran Kingdom (The Keepership) - The Hydrans attempt to corral the 'Star Beasts' (their name for the game's space monsters) before discovering that other Hydran factions have other plans. Note: While three Hydran cults are listed as elite organizations in the game's instruction manual, only the Keepership can be joined. The other two cults serve as antagonists throughout the campaign.
Gorn Confederation (The Kings Guard, the Defenders of the Egg, & The Guardians Errant) - The rivalry between the 3 Gorn organizations must be put on hold when it is discovered that Gorn eggs have gone missing, and the thief turns out to be the last party anyone expected.
The Gorn and Hydran campaigns were not included with the game upon initial release, and had to be downloaded from the Interplay website; the 'Gold' edition of the game saw them included. Interplay also released follow-up missions for the Federation, Klingons, and Romulans that book-ended some of the events of each campaign (for example, in the Federation missions, the player embarks on a quest to find the Organians). However, these missions were programmed so that they appeared regardless of whether or not the player had joined the elite organization(s) of each empire.
Release and reception
|Part of the article series on
Star Fleet Universe
|Star Fleet Battles|
|Federation and Empire|
|Prime Directive (role-playing game)|
|Star Fleet Battle Force|
|Star Trek: Starfleet Command|
|Star Trek: Starfleet Command II: Empires at War|
|Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates|
Starfleet Command was developed by a team led by Erik Bethke at a time when the gaming franchise for Star Trek was at an all time high. Previously, Interplay had released Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, which placed Interplay on the top position with regards to the standings of the 3 main publishers at that time.
The release of Starfleet Command is considered in the Star Trek gaming community as the start of the "Golden Age" of Trek video games. This was a period in time between 1999 and 2001 when Interplay and Activision produced a number of games that were perceived as being of higher quality than what had come before. In 2001, Interplay bowed out of the franchise, and Activision took over as the most prominent developer of Trek-themed titles.
The success of Starfleet Command came as a surprise to Interplay, and as a result, Erik Bethke formed Taldren, Inc. together with 9 members of the original Starfleet Command team to create additional titles for the series.
To this day, Starfleet Command is one of the longest running serials of Trek games, which are widely considered to be classics and are still being played years later. Starfleet Command was followed by three sequels, Starfleet Command II: Empires at War, Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates, and Starfleet Command III.
Gameplay consists of maneuvering one's ship to approach enemy ships and assault them in the areas where various systems and ship's shields are vulnerable. It also consists of achieving various other objectives specified in mission assignments, which are provided at the beginning of each scenario. This can include interacting with various ships, aliens, planetary bodies, and other objects in space, depending on the specific assignment.
One important point to note is that gameplay is not continuous; i.e., players do not do a variety of missions within a single game scenario. Players are given a specific mission to accomplish within a scenario. When the mission is completed, the scenario ends. After a set of screens for refit and repair, the next scenario begins with a new mission. This is different from earlier games of this category, in which players might be given the ability to warp around the galaxy in order to continually fight enemies and achieve various objectives in a single session.
Controls and functions
One major part of gameplay involves managing various ship systems which are accessed via an interface running up and down the left side of the screen.
In this screen shot, a Federation battlecruiser is facing an enemy frigate. In the upper left of the screen is the main control window, with various symbols up and down the right side which bring up various sets of controls. The player has clicked the helm symbol to bring up the helm function. This displays multiple buttons labeled with arrows for maneuvering the ship, in various special maneuvers. (Standard maneuvering occurs simply by clicking the image of the ship in the main part of the screen.)
Below this is a schematic of the player's ship, with buttons on the left side for bringing up various ship systems. The function displayed is Weapons, displayed here by weapons type (the other view is by firing arcs). This view can be used to fire the weapons and to track their recharging status. Other functions which can be shown in this window section are shields, electronic counter-measures (ECM) and electronic counter-counter-measures (ECCM), tractor beam, transporters, and shuttles.
The function which is clicked on in the ship schematic will define the controls shown in the screen directly below the schematic. Since a weapon is clicked in this example, the screen shows controls for firing and related functions. This screen shows the button used to set photon torpedoes to "overload."
Below this is the tactical schematic, which will display any target or object which the player clicks on. In this screen shot, it displays the approaching enemy vessel, a Klingon frigate.
The top and bottom of the screen displays various aspects of the status report for the player's ship (and the target ship). These include speed, hull integrity, power available and used, alert status, weapons recharge status, and mission timer.
In this game, ships are treated as complex entities, with a variety of tactics and resources. Players spend less time aiming and shooting, as they might in simpler games, and spend more time managing various resources and allocating power. Starships are complex vessels which take a while to maneuver and to attack.
During a battle, various weapons and resources play differing roles, such as beam weapons, missiles, shuttles, marines, and tractor beams. All of these must be used to maximize power availability. They also change in importance, based on the type of enemy faced.
One key aspect of ship combat is targeting the enemy's weaker shields, and also using the opportunity available when specific systems are damaged.
In other scenarios, objectives may range from defeating aliens, guarding artifacts, rescuing other ships, and a range of other scenarios. Each requires unique use of ship systems. For example, the tractor beam may be the only way to rescue other ships, or move items, while marines may be the only option when the player is assigned to capture another ship or a base.
Starfleet Command spawned a massive new community, due to the "modding" (a term used for fan made add-ons) ability of the game. Now the ordinary gamer was able to create his/her own ship and add it into the game.Multiplayer games are conducted over servers which are referred to collectively as the "Dynaverse."
Players have set up websites which provide player-created scenarios and mods for the games. It is also possible to download a variety of patches and supplemental programs. one example is alternate "skins" which can be used to alter the appearance of ships in the game.
Many new sites evolved around Starfleet Command itself just to cater for the ever growing numbers of new gamers which Interplay's latest game had brought into the Star Trek gaming community fold. Some "modders" of that time would later go on to work full-time in the gaming industry.
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Orion Pirates
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command II: Empires at War
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command III
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command Instruction Manual
- Official Star Trek: Starfleet Command game webpage
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command at Memory Alpha (a Star Trek wiki)