These Are The Voyages...
Posted on Friday November 19, 2010, 17:08 by Edmund Ward in Infinite Lives
Star Trek has never had particularly good representation in videogames, repeatedly having suffered the indignity of having inappropriate genres awkwardly thrust upon it; a mediocre RTS
, an action-focused space shooter
. While there have been some reasonable attempts to make Star Trek point-and-click adventures, none of them really succeed in providing an experience that conveys the true essence of the franchise - they don't make you feel like you're in the show
Of course, this is partially due to the nature of the source material. Star Trek's high-minded philosophical musings don't seem to translate easily to existing modes of play. Star Wars, by contrast, lends itself very much to the kinds of power fantasy that video games thrive on: the X-Wing space shooter, the 'be a Jedi' FPS, even pod-racing - all commonplace genre games that the Star Wars skin fits naturally upon.
Artemis - Spaceship Bridge Simulator
is not a Star Trek license game but it is Star Trek in spirit and it is Star Trek that has taught us how to play it. Artemis is a social game where you and your friends can turn your living room into the bridge of the Enterprise. It's played by networking up to 6 computers together locally. One of them runs the simulation and displays the main view screen. The others run workstations that control major starship functions like helm, weapons and engineering. Of course, one player has no computer at all - the captain. Collectively, players must cooperate to run the ship and defend several space stations in a sector from attack. If you're still reading this then there's a good chance that you're grinning and wondering why nobody thought to do this earlier.
Indeed, no major company has thought to do this yet; Artemis is an independent project by Thom Robertson. The idea is clearly born of a person who wants to command a starship and boldly go where no one has gone before, and not just a big company looking to cash in. One can scarcely imagine any game company (short of perhaps Nintendo) launching a game that requires players to gather 6 players and their machines into one room in order to play. But like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, this is about creating an experience in the mind of the players. As geeky as the concept is, it's an eminently social experience; far more so than the likes of Halo or even an MMO (like, say, Star Trek Online). Verbal communication is key as there is only limited information on each player’s screen; engineering, for example, has a lot of power over the ship’s systems but can’t see what’s actually going on outside of the ship and helm will need help from science or comms to point it in the right direction for warp, so it’s up to the other crewmen or captain to relay pertinent information to these stations.
As the player base of video games as a whole broadens and grows there will be an ever increasing demand for games that can function as undeniably social experiences, experiences that yield shared stories –
like the time my weapons officer lowered shields mid-fight and got us killed or the time we lured enemy ships into a minefield. In recent years, the PC, Xbox and PS3 have tended to focus on online multiplayer over local. This is, of course, fine and online multiplayer has opened up an incredibly array of possibilities for play, but personally, I find myself constantly on the hunt for games that can be played when my friends are visiting
; I don't have the time to play sprawling single player games and when I play games online I feel, well, lonely. For me, play should be a social activity - working with or against my friends, and being able to see them as we share the experience.
Now, perhaps coming to terms with the Kobayashi Maru isn't everybody’
s cup of tea but the model has huge potential - a multiplayer cooperative experience, where each player is contributing to one component of a single entity's survival, with the groups collective fate displayed on an additional screen, is a setup that for social gaming that we haven't seen before and may have legs. The starship bridge is the obvious choice because we have hundreds of hours of TV and movies that have been training us how to play…
What about something more ‘
along the lines of a game where everyone plays a different part of the same character's body?
The game itself is very basic at the moment, particularly for the $60 asking price; some of the stations feel a little light. Comms, Science, and even Weapons have less to do than you might expect. But despite the simplicity of the game, the mode of play keeps it surprisingly fun. The potential for increased depth and complexity is huge and one can’t play it without thinking of a thousand little and not so little tweaks and enhancements. Robertson has already made it clear the game will be receiving support going forward. Indeed v.1.1 will include support for multiple bridges in the same sector to cooperate or fight as each captain sees fit. The most glaring omission is any real options for hailing other ships and finding a diplomatic alternative to a photon torpedo in the face. A fully fledged story mode to progress through over a series of sessions (episodes, if you will) would obviously be ideal.
re interested, but unable or unwilling to gather together 5 friends and laptops to build a crew then you should check out some of these videos
of other people playing the game. They certainly don’
t do justice to the experience of playing the game with friends and a beer in your hand but some of them are pretty funny, some of them are fairly dull, all of them are very geeky.
If you’re thinking about giving Artemis a go then stop thinking and “Make it so!” With the obligatory Star Trek quote jammed in at the end there, this post is officially complete. Enterprise – one to beam up.
Posted on Saturday November 20, 2010, 03:42
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Posted on Sunday November 21, 2010, 11:11
This sounds potentially wonderful, though these days I seem to lack the stamina to pour into learning a strategy game. I still remember being convinced I could build a starship bridge in my dad's attic, and getting as far as spray painting a couple of cardboard boxes white!
Posted on Monday November 22, 2010, 11:41
@herbertwest1701 Well, the learning how to play the game element is not too big a time investment - the game itself is very basic at the minute. What takes the stamina is gathering and networking all the computers together in a comfortable play environment.
Perhaps you could use your dad's attic and make use of those cardboard boxes?
Posted on Monday December 13, 2010, 17:09
Posted on Monday December 13, 2010, 17:10
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