SFC Orion Pirates
Trekke1170: First off, thank you for your time and this opportunity; it is greatly appreciated by Starfleet Universe. These questions were assembled by Starfleet Universe and a few from the community that have gone unanswered. Sorry for the large number of questions, feel free to pick and choose those you want to answer. First off, tell us about yourself. Can you give us a background on your career in the gaming business?
Dan: In August of 1996, I started at Activision as a tester in the QA department. Eventually I moved my way up to Senior Tester and then QA Project Lead. I worked on dozens of titles, in a lot of capacities, but my crowning achievement in that department was being the Project Lead on Quake III Arena. After leading a few more projects, I transitioned to production as a Game Designer on Call To Power II in the spring of 2000. In addition to typical design responsibilities on that title, I had the extraordinary opportunity to write all of the text in the game, including the Great Library, a huge, 75,000+ word in-game resource. As I am a writer, it was a job perfectly suited to my skillset. After CTP2 shipped, I became an Associate Producer. My first duties centered primarily on launching the Star Trek Gaming website (http://gaming.startrek.com) but in the summer of 2001, I began work on Starfleet Command III. So, I've been in the industry for almost 6 years.
Before Activision, I worked
a lot of crappy jobs, mostly in record stores. :)
Trekke 1170: Did you ever play Star Fleet Battles? If so, what 'race(s)' were you? Do you still play?
Dan: No, I've never played
the SFB board game. Before I played SFC, I'd never even heard of it.
Dan: I don't know of any offhand.
Trekke1170: What was it that attracted Activision to the Starfleet Command (SFC) franchise?
Dan: That's a tough question. I was not one of the people responsible for inking the SFC3 deal, so I cannot say for sure. But I know what attracts ME to the SFC franchise: it's a fairly unique gaming experience. The combat is highly tactical, and decidedly non-twitchy. You have to plan several moves in advance, like chess, but it's in real-time, so you need to think even faster. The Star Trek setting is great, and, in many ways, I think that SFC and SFC 2 are the best Star Trek games out there - it's about ship-to-ship combat, exploration, career building, tactics and war. The game never gets old, and if you ever find yourself getting a little bored, you can pick another ship, or another race, or another weapon class and figure out how to master it. It's a deep game.
Plus, the chance to work with Taldren and take SFC to a new level - that's the best part. And, of course, the franchise has been successful - one of the most successful in ST gaming history.
Trekke1170: Have you played Starfleet Command II: Empires at War or Orion Pirates?
Dan: Yes, I've played both. I'm a huge fan of SFC 2 in particular.
Trekke1170: What is your favorite new feature in SFC3?
Dan: Ship customization. Like what I said about what to do when you get a bit bored in SFC2, you'll be able to do the same in SFC 3. Only now, you'll have even more options. There are some pretty wide tactical choices available just with your choice of heavy weapons alone, not to mention primaries, shields, sensors, engines, etc.
It adds a lot of depth to the game.
Trekke1170: Now the hard questions, right up front, not going to mess with you =) Is Activision concerned that by making the game The Next Generation (TNG) and abandoning the SFB rule set, that they may be alienating a large portion of the SFC community? If so, what is being done to address this, if not why? Has Paramount voiced any concerns in this area?
Dan: We're not really concerned. With regards to TNG, it is a rich universe. We define TNG in a broad sense - encompassing the entirety of TNG, DS9 and the Voyager shows. It's set as "current" as the Star Trek universe can be.
As for Starfleet Battles, it is a separate and distinct product, based on the Star Trek Original Series. When Taldren came to us, we had the TNG and Voyager licenses. Interplay still had the TOS license, and Simon & Schuster still had the DS9 license. As Taldren has indicated, they came to us with the idea of a TNG-based SFC. We liked it. They also expressed very strong desires to take SFC in a new direction - away from the SFB rules set. We took a look at the whole picture - SFC, the franchise, SFB the game, how the two were intertwined, what the dependencies were, whether the two could be separated. Paramount supported the move away from SFB, and loved the idea of a SFC set in the TNG era.
As for whether or not we're going to alienate a significant portion of the community - we don't think we will. Although there will be a few died-in-the-wool stalwarts who will never buy SFC 3 in allegiance to SFB, I think that if the SFC community - as a whole - is willing to give SFC 3 a chance, they might find that the core of SFC gameplay is, in fact, not only retained, but refined and enhanced.
A lot of people bought SFC, SFC 2 and OP. Hundreds of thousands of people. We know, for a fact, that the vast majority of them are not SFB players. Taldren knows this, too. It was originally their recommendation to step away from the rules set and we saw no reason to get in their way.
Trekke1170: What are the chances for a return to the current SFC storyline in a future SFC product from Activision?
Dan: I'm not going to make any predictions about this right now. All I can say is "anything is possible."
Trekke1170: Would sales be the only determining factor in order for Activision to produce another SFC? If not what other factors are taken into account?
Dan: In other words, "if SFC 3 sells well, will Activision find that a good enough reason to release another SFC title?"
The answer is "sure." If SFC 3 does well, we'll very likely make more SFC games. I also think a compelling reason to keep the SFC franchise alive is because it's cool and fun.
If your asking whether or not strong sales of a TNG-based, non-SFB-reliant SFC 3 would compel us to make a TOS-based continuation of the old SFC storyline, I can't answer that. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.
Trekke1170: If SFC3 does well, will Activision look at reinstating some of the more in depth systems, and complexities, of previous SFC titles, or will it be looking into "streamlining" things even further?
Dan: Well, one of the fundamental misconceptions about SFC 3 is that it is NOT complex or in depth. This is not true. There is still plenty of depth and complexity in ship control. We're taking a different approach - interface-wise - and improving the methods in which the player gets to control things.
It's hard to predict how future titles will shape up, though. I would be extremely surprised if subsequent products returned to the old interface and some of the old systems. As for streamlining further, it's too early to tell. We're currently consumed with our current efforts to predict future endeavors.
Trekke1170: Ok, on to questions about the game in general. First off, there have been many questions about different races from different area and all answers have involved licenses. So can you please give us the details on your licenses? What licenses do you now hold and until when?
Dan: Complicated stuff, isn't it? :)
We currently are the licensees
for the following:
We have these licenses through the year 2008, but I cannot remember if that's an exact date.
Later this year we'll get the Original Series license from Interplay, and will then hold all the licenses.
Trekke1170: Why was it decided to use the OP engine and not build a new one? And on that subject, since Interplay is no longer involved, will SFC 3 still use Interplay's q3 format for the sprites file, or will an Activision proprietary format be used?
Dan: Taldren's original proposal involved using the OP engine. That was the original scope of the project, and, for a variety of reasons I won't go into, we stuck to that scope.
We purchased the parts of the SFC:OP engine that Interplay owned, so, apart from the modifications Taldren has done to the engine since the project began, file formats and such are essentially the same.
It must be said that Interplay has been extremely supportive in handing off SFC to us. The transition was smooth.
Trekke1170: Will the events of "Endgame" be taken into account for the Borg (i.e., no Queen, no transwarp)?
Dan: There are no "story elements" surrounding the Borg in SFC. They don't have their own campaign. They are playable in skirmish mode, single-player non-story mode and Dynaverse. We don't go into the hows and whys. They're just there, with, initially, a very small corner of the Alpha Quadrant.
As for the special armor and super-powerful weapons the USS Voyager employed in their final confrontation with the Borg - those will absolutely not be in SFC 3.
Trekke1170: Will SFC 3 have any cutscenes?
Dan: We plan to have a few CG cutscenes, yes. They're currently in production.
Trekke1170: Will you be able to name your ship and/or add your own registry number and if so, will it appear on the model?
Dan: Yes, you can name your ship. You cannot add your own registry number. It will not appear on the model, unless you wanted to skin it yourself.
Trekke1170: Are there any changes in the ranks? It has been stated that there is no longer the commanding of more than one ship, so it is therefore not plausible that an Admiral or Commodore would command only one ship.
Dan: We're still in the process of fine-tuning the ranks. As for the statement "there is no longer the commanding of more than one ship" - that's just not true. Fleet commands will not function like they did in previous SFCs. Instead, you will command other ships through a whole new fleet command system.
Trekke1170: Will there be realistic sized planets and suns along with solar systems, as in a ship is the size of 2 continents?
Dan: The planets and suns are very, very large in the game. Larger than in previous SFC games. They're pretty impressive.
Trekke1170: Will there be a delay between warp jumps like in Klingon Academy where you had to align your ship out of any other ship's path before making a jump to make doing it successfully not very easy?
Trekke1170: Will there be nebulas and solar coronas in a solar system that you can fight in, but also move out of, unlike the endless nebulas in SFC2?
Dan: Right now, I cannot comment on this.
Trekke1170: Will you receive orders from a virtual AI admiral to go and accomplish a certain mission?
Dan: I'm going to reserve comment on this one, too.
Trekke1170: Will weapon/systems/hull facts & statistics, along with recommended tactics (around which the races were designed) be available? And not in a second 'strategy guide' you need to buy in addition to the game?
Dan: Absolutely. We have absolutely no vested interest in withholding crucial information from someone who buys the game. We will have a whole range of documents to support the game - a paper manual, a PDF version of the same, supporting electronic documents and web-based resources. It is our intention that
Trekke1170: There is just one SFC "era" in SFC3? There is not early/mid/late era? If there is just one era - I presume the D3 ship production/availability will mean you will be able to buy any ship you want as soon as you have the available cash? Will weapons tech be released on a time table, or is it going to be a mad rush to gain prestige points and rank in order to gain access to weapons?
Dan: I'm not going to comment on this right now.
Trekke1170: I noticed it mentioned that if a captain rolls into a remote ship dock, he will have more options available to him than a lieutenant. Is there any significance to the phrase "remote", meaning are there different options available at different docks, or is it universal, also will two players of the same rank be given the exact same options, or do they see options that are given to them exclusively, not effecting the other players options at that dock?
Dan: It'll be a pretty simple, straightforward system. That's all I can say at this time. What we mean by "remote" is "far from their home planet."
Trekke1170: Can players place bases, and if so are they playable, and customizable as well?
Dan: I can't comment on this either.
Trekke1170: Any chance for voice communications? Or voice command capabilities? (just as a side note, voice commands may be a way to make the complexities of previous SFC titles while making it easier for newer players)
Dan: People should be able to use voice command hardware, just like they would with any other game with customizeable hotkeys.
Trekke1170: What are the things still being debated on for inclusion into the game that fans might want to have a say on.
Dan: There isn't much left that we don't already have in the game. At this point, we're tweaking, refining, and debugging what's already there. We don't have any time to implement new features.
Trekke1170: Will there be a 'ship's history' like in SFC 1?
Dan: Can't comment on this right now.
Trekke1170: Will the Borg be able to 'adapt' to weapons and shields, or was this not included for the purpose of game balancing?
Dan: Can't comment on this right now.
Trekke1170: This has been asked before, but in the previous SFC series, ships would 'fly over' each other and in the case of starbases, fly through them. Is there any collision system in place in SFC 3, even if only in certain cases and would it be possible to implement it to prevent flying through starbases?
Dan: I can only say that there is a collision system in the game. As for details, I cannot reveal them right now.
Trekke1170: On the topic of starbases, will ships be able to fly in starbases like a few user models have allowed?
Dan: We don't plan to allow that right now.
Trekke1170: What is being done to ensure racial distinctiveness in a TNG universe where everyone has phaser and torpedoes?
Dan: A lot of things. Each race will have distinct weapons available to them. They will also have race-specific tactics at their disposal. There's more to this, I just can't reveal anything further.
Trekke1170: Will there be a launch escape pods option to prematurely die and risk your ship being taken over before your self destruct activates, but say you save 4/5ths of your officers?
Dan: I can't comment on this right now.
Trekke1170: Can you tell us anything about the music for the game like who is doing the scoring?
Dan: A guy named Danny Pelfrey is doing the music. You can find out more about him at, oddly enough, www.dannypelfrey.com. He's done a lot of the music for our Star Trek games and he's very good.
Trekke1170: Ok, There are some questions about Dynaverse 3:
Dan: I cannot answer any of the D3 questions right now. We will release more details about the system at a later time.
Trekke1170: Understood, we'll move on to questions about the ships then. Will there be advantages to selecting ships that aren't the biggest (i.e. picking an Akira instead of a Sovereign)?
Dan: Yes. I cannot give specific details of how this is going to work at this time.
Trekke1170: Like above, will there be advantages to not selecting the biggest and "most powerful" weapons?
Dan: Same as above answer .
Trekke1170: Will enemy ships be permanently capturable, meaning being able to use them after they are captured and keeping them into the next mission?
Dan: No comment right now.
Trekke1170: Will Scout class vessels, with special scanning equipment onboard, have a real usefulness in SFC3?
Dan: No comment right now.
Trekke1170: Ok, tell us more about the officers, alot of improvements have been mentioned. What kind of character development and role playing can we expect from the campaigns?
Dan: You won't have a character for yourself to play. You'll be you. Your officers, though, will gain experience and levels. Each level will bring them new skills and enhancements to existing skills.
As for role-playing, there won't be much. This is, after all, a combat-oriented game. You will be able to engage NPCs in dialogue in the campaigns, and a lot of the dialogue will give you choices of what to say.
Trekke1170: Will the officer's names come from actual episodes? Like will the legendary officers be Worf, Geordi, Data, etc?
Dan: I can't reveal that at this time.
Trekke1170: Ok, on to modablility. Modibility seems to be the lifeline of the SFC series, continually adding content and new interest to the game. With each new release, Taldren promises even more modibility than before. So a few questions on that. Are weapons still hard coded into the exe, or will they be moddable? Even though this could be used to cheat, the file with the weapon settings, (ie damage, range, etc) could go through the same check as the shiplist does.
Dan:We'll be revealing this at a later date.
Trekke1170: What kind of new mapping model mapping will there be? Bradley W. Schenck mentioned the new damage textures and specular lighting, will there be any other special additions like bump mapping or animated textures for blinking lights or rotating ramscoops?
Dan: What Brad has revealed so far is all we're prepared to reveal at this time.
Trekke1170: In the previous series, Ship Configurations changed through new designations, for instance, a CA to a CA+. Users could make a CA+ a different model from the CA. In SFC 3, we have the same ship that can be upgraded, but with no extension, a CA remains a CA. So in laymans terms, will replacing the CA model replace ALL CA ship models, or will the original SFC designations like CA+ and CAD remain?
Dan: I can't answer this right now.
Trekke1170: Will you be supportive of the modding of Starfleet Command 3 as you are for Bridge Commander, or is that more of an issue for the individual developers?
Dan: SFC 3 will be the most moddable SFC game to date. That's not an accident. We look forward to seeing what the SFC community comes up with when they get their hands on the game and the new tools available.
Trekke1170: On another note, there are a few talented individuals in the community who model ships and add them to games. One such individual Rick Knox (Pneumonic81) was hired by MadDocSoftware. Any tips for these modelers and how would they go about getting jobs at Activision or another game company?
Dan: I'm not the guy to ask
about how to get a job in the art field. My general advice to people
wanting to get into the game industry is:
Geez, I'm starting to sound like my Dad! :)
Trekke1170: Thank you Dan,
that is all the questions we have. I'm sure the whole community is just
waiting for all your little 'secrets' to be revealed after E3. Good
luck to you guys at Activision and Taldren on Starfleet Command 3.
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