Much like the Star Trek movies, the Star Trek games have been a bit uneven. You had the great Interplay games in the nineties follows by some truly horrific titles that did absolutely nothing with the franchise. That all changed a bit a few years back when the fine folks at Bethesda Softworks purchased the rights to the games and started cranking out fairly solid games. Later this year they are releasing Star Trek: Conquest and our resident Star Trek guru was able to ask a few questions of the developer.
Can you introduce yourself and describe your role on the project? How long have you been in the gaming industry and what drew you to your current position?
My name is Frank Arnot and I am the Game Director/Producer on Star Trek: Conquest. I started in the games industry in 1994, working at DMA Design. I was a Programmer/Lead Programmer for a number of years before moving into Design and Production. What draws me to the Game Director/Producer position? It allows me to shape the product and give input on all areas of the game – who wouldn’t want that!?!
How will Conquest compare to previous Star Trek strategy games, like Armada, Bridge Commander and Legacy?
Conquest is closest to a hybrid of Legacy and Armada. It’s less combat simulation, like Bridge Commander, and more space action combat with a strategy wrapper.
What different modes will be in Conquest? You’ve announced that it’s solely a single-player experience, but will there be multiple options, like campaign and skirmish modes? Why did you decide to not include any multiplayer modes?
Conquest is single-player only. We decided not to implement a multiplayer game, instead choosing to focus on creating a better single player experience.
Conquest has two modes of play: Campaign and Skirmish.
Campaign Mode is the main mode of play – here the player must try to eradicate all other players from the map and achieve galactic domination.
Campaign Mode can be played against a variable number of opponents, which allows players to set up preferred battles (i.e. Federation Vs Dominion) and also affect the map layout. Variables such as AI difficulty, fog-of-war, and starting credits can also be changed.
Skirmish Mode allows the player to set up one-off Arcade Battles. These battles can be fully customized, allowing the player to choose the opposing races, their fleet sizes and composition, whether or not Starbases and defensive turrets are included, and in which of the 38 game levels the action takes place.
There are six playable species in the game. Could you explain each one, and their strengths and weaknesses? Do you have a personal favorite?
The Federation is the most well-rounded of all the Races but because of their central map position, can be hard to defend.
The Klingons have the toughest ships including excellent Scout ships - these are cheap to buy and have high Hit Points. Expect to face many squadrons of these smaller, faster ships from the Klingon Empire. The Klingons are the most aggressive of all the enemy races in terms of quickly expanding their empire.
The Romulans are much more cautious and tend to construct larger ships and fortify their systems well. They can construct their Dreadnoughts for a relatively cheap price. The Romulan turrets also have a high Hit Point value.
The Dominion have a great location on the map, with only one entry point to their Home World. Like the Romulans, the Dominion also prefer to build Cruisers and Dreadnoughts and have expensive, but tough Starbases. They also make good use of their Wormhole Generator super weapon.
The Breen like to build larger ships and are equally balanced in terms of seizing and defending systems. They also have cheap Cruisers and turrets compared to the other races.
The Cardassians have two movement Admirals allowing them to really move around the map. They have cheaper, yet weaker ships and Starbases.
My favorurite? Probably the Cardassians or the Klingons.
The title Conquest makes it sound like the concept of the game is to gain control of the galaxy. Will Conquest have any of the political or diplomatic elements that Star Trek touches on, or is the galaxy engulfed in an all-out war?
All out war! There just wasn’t enough room to squeeze in some politics and diplomacy!
What kind of story is in place? Will there be different endings for each playable species? Who is writing the story?
The game has the simple starting scenario of all races being in conflict and battling to achieve galactic dominion.
We've heard that the game takes place during the Next Generation era. Will famous ships and characters make appearances, like Captain Picard and the Enterprise D, or Captain Cisco with the Defiant? What about important players from the other species in the game?
We have used a selection of ships from the Next-Gen era, but are not focusing on all of the Star Trek characters.
Is any high profile voice talent signed on for the game? Legacy had all five captains in their respective roles. Is anything like that planned for Conquest?
No. Conquest does contain voice talent, but there are no well-known Star Trek actors involved.
Each faction within the Star Trek universe has a wealth of ships and units at its command. How many different ships will each species have, and will many of them be playable?
There are six playable and three unlockable races. Each race has three ships: a Scout, a Cruiser and a Dreadnought class.
The Breen are still a mysterious race in the Star Trek canon. Did your team have to develop a lot of their background and technology for the game?
We did have to flesh out each of the races for gameplay purposes, but we don’t really delve into the history of the Breen - we delve more into their war machine. What you really need to know about the Breen for Conquest is how to best play as them or against them.
From what I’ve read, Conquest’s gameplay sounds a bit like Star Fox Command on the DS—pre-battle strategy followed by action oriented combat. Is that an appropriate comparison?
Not really, a better comparison would be to Axis and Allies or the classic Archon. It’s got a light, but engaging conquer the galaxy/build your empire element followed by a full-on space battle fest. The bigger your empire, the bigger your fleets, the more territory you conquer, the bigger your empire and so on…
How will the strategy portion work? Will a good strategy be the difference between victory and defeat? Could you give us some details on how the player will plan battles and coordinate attacks?
Actually the strategy starts even before the game begins. The first major decision is which race to play. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses and their starting location will also provide a unique set of problems/advantages. The next major decision is who will be your starting Admiral. Each race has a different set of Admirals and you get to pick which one you’ll start your first fleet with.
As for planning an attack, I’ll share one of my favorite stories.
As the Federation, I built a small, but fast shock-attack fleet with lots of Scouts and a few Cruisers. They were designed to go in first, take heavy casualties and retreat before annihilation. I then built a Heavy Invasion Fleet, led by an experienced Movement Admiral and stocked him with the most powerful ships I could afford - four Dreadnaughts, two Cruisers and some Scouts for fodder.
I launched a surprise attack on the Breen, and after a few well played battles, I was ahead of schedule. I had conquered two systems, wiped out one of their fleets and cut off another. Much better results than I expected.
But before I could deliver the killing blow with my Heavy Invasion Fleet, Earth was invaded and taken by the Cardassians. The problem was I sacrificed Earth’s defenses to pour more resources into my invasion fleet. I gambled and lost.
Then things got really strange. Before I could react, the Klingons also invaded Earth. They were able to wipe out the Cardassian fleet and claim Earth for themselves.
Luckily, I chose my experienced Movement Admiral to head my Invasion Fleet. I just didn’t plan on them invading my Home World. In one turn, I was able to move them halfway across the map to launch an all-or-nothing bid to retake Earth. The battle wound down to each side having just one heavily damaged Dreadnaught. After about 5 minutes of intense maneuvering, I finally was able to take him out with my own ship at only 5% hull left. I had to go outside and take a break after that one.
Following on the last question, will the player be able to command a team of ships in battle, like in Legacy?
Each Admiral can command a fleet of up to 7 Starships and issue standing orders and formations. You can also take direct command of any ship at any time.
How does the real time combat work? Is it more arcade style, or can the player perform more complex actions? Will missions be primarily action oriented, or will they include objectives and goals?
In arcade combat, the player has full control over his ship and can issue formation orders to the rest of his fleet. It definitely has an action bend to it, but keeps a healthy dose of the tactical ship combat elements you expect in Star Trek, such as shield facings and weapon loadouts.
You can set your own objectives such as destruction of a key enemy installation, annihilation of an Admiral and his fleet, or defense of your Home World.
Conquest is being released simultaneously for the PS2 and Wii. Does the Wii version have any enhancements in terms of graphics or controls? Does the Wii port take advantage of the Wii remote in any unique ways?
The Wii version utilizes the additional power of the Wii. The game runs at 60 FPS on the Wii and has larger textures with a greater color depth than the PS2.
Control-wise, the game feels very slick on the Wii, with the Wii Remote being the perfect point-and-click device for the strategic map gameplay.
We'd like to thank Frank for taking the time to answer our questions and to Erin for helping to coordinate the interview.