A Christmas stocking would be pretty bare without some games so to fill your stocking to overflowing, here is information and resources of nine types of games. We have everything from Chess to online multiplayer gaming, From eBooks to free give-aways by licensed gaming companies
Early last year there was an article in Wired magazine by Clive Thompson entitled "Forget Film, Games Do Sci-Fi Best" where, after bagging the Star Wars movies, Thompson mused ...
...games have an inherent affinity with sci-fi and fantasy. Those genres are based on what-if premises; they're the literary version of the Sim, the author as world-builder. Part of the fun of watching a sci-fi movie is mentally inhabiting a new world and imagining what it feels like to be inside. But now there's a medium that actually puts you in.The great phenomena of TV over the last few years has been "reality TV". Cynics have said that their rise is due to the fact that they are so much cheaper to produce than drama, and this is especially so with CGI intensive drama like most Sci-Fi. However I believe it goes deeper, that it represents a shift in the very makeup of society's idea of entertainment.
Put simply, people want to be involved and how better to be involved than by the traditional role-playing elements of gaming augmented by the increasingly sophisticated immersive and realistic environments that computer technology can give us?
For today's 'presents' I'm taking a broad definition of gaming and aiming it at people who have had no experience of gaming as well as those who who might only have an expertise in one area. I've tried to cover a wide spectrum of games and each present is meant to cover a specific subset. I've not played many games myself, although my two teenage kids are avid gamers, so I've got a Noob's outlook on it. Who knows? Given some spare time, I might find a game that suits my own style.
As a general principle I want to make each present something that is self-contained rather than a free expansion on a hundred dollar game. The exceptions to this are the mods - you obviously can't play an Elite Force II mod without having a copy of EFII, but there is just no way that you could talk about fan involvement in gaming without mentioning mods!
Speaking of modding, along the way, I'll be pointing out some of the great commercial games that are available in the same vein as the fan produced ones. Take my word for it, the game licensees have a very enlightened attitude towards how the fans use of their products and they deserve your support. Besides, with the best will in the world, fan produced media are rarely as good as the commercial products and we would be deceiving you to say otherwise .
Although I have done extensive research myself and drawn on the knowledge of experienced gamers, I must admit to relying heavily on Memory Alpha's exhaustive listings of obscure Star Trek games and can think of no better introduction for the curious than to browse their extensive listing of Fan-made games.
- The Board Game - I'm old enough to remember a time when there were no electronic games! A little study shows that board games go back beyond ancient Egyptian times and in the past there have been Star Trek versions of such popular games as Monopoly, which had a TOS and TNG version, and Trivial Pursuit. There have even been Star Trek versions of chess and checkers, but the game that stands out in the public's mind - I'd go so far as to call it a cultural icon! - is Star Trek 3D Chess. The beautifully sculptured half-scale Franklin Mint replicas no longer appear on the online Frankline Mint catalogue but you're sure to still be able to pick one up on eBay. The good news is that those of us who are, uh, 'financially challenged' can still play 3D chess!
- Practise on a virtual chess set, such as Parmen by Doug Keenan or the new Vulcan by Marco Bresciani for Linux. I've had Parmen on my computer for a couple of years, neat program, and I'm going to update to the new version Doug has online.
- There are building instructions on line, originally from David E. Rutan in 1988, of how he made his full sized chess board from ballpoint pens, bolts, plexiglass, copper pipe, dowel and a lamp stand. Unfortunately no plans or pictures.
- If your skills are not exactly artisan class a much easier solution lies with the 3D chess set on Jens Meder's comprehensive website. His instructions are precise yet flexible, based on the height of the playing piece, with plans and materials lists. It might not look as elegant as the original but it is practical, easy to build, sturdy and has the advantage that it can be disassembled for storage and traveling. Jens site also has a picture gallery of home-made chess sets and authoritative tournament rules making it an invaluable resource.
- If you are interested at all in the idea of 3D chess - which has been around in various forms for a hundred years this year - the place to find out more is the 3-d-chess Yahoo group.
- The Customizable Card Game - Card games are another traditional form and have merged with modern fantasy and Manga culture to give us runaway mainstream media successes like Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh! and Magic The Gathering. Decipher, who seem to have something new in the pipeline, announced earlier this month that the 13 year run of their Star Trek Customizable Card Game will end with the release of their next expansion pack which by all accounts will round off the game. Amarillo still offer their card game Star Fleet Battle force.
- The Constructable Card Game - These could perhaps be merged with the last present but I think they're sufficiently different to warrant their own category. The most popular of these is "Pirates of the Spanish Main" which is like a cross between a trading card game and tabletop wargaming. There is no Star Trek Constructable Card Game as such, but Wiz Kids had a retro-SF style game called Rocketmen.
- "Pirates of the Federation" is a fan made game that, instead of using slot together models, which are laser-cut from styrene sheet, has small printable card models that can be used in a similar game play style to the "Pirates of the Spanish Main"
- The Starship Sim - Tabletop wargaming and board games have morphed with RPG's to form the space battle simulation. Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc (ADB), originally part of Task Force games, have a long history in this type of game, and their newest offering, Federation Commander (FC) is the next stage in evolution of Star Fleet Battles (SFB), the classic Trek board game designed by Steve Cole back in 1979. Amarillo seems to be incredibly stable in a volatile market and works on the philosophy that when you buy one of their products, it does not require any other products for use. There are no “boosters” that force you to buy more cards in the hope of finding that one “killer” card that will win every game for you. Their in-house designers regularly create expansions that provide new ships, new enemies, and new situations, but NOT complicated additional, expansion, or optional rules that require the purchase of new rulebooks.
- The Star Trek: Starship Tactical Combat Simulator is a fan produced game based on the 1986 game sold by FASA. Not only are there new fan-made materials available for the board game, there is a multiplayer online game that emulates the board game. Zach of Hailing Frequency was ecstatic in his praise of this game. "While the game is not as graphically advanced as some people might like, you have to remember that this game is not so much about graphics and more about giving you a realistic rendition of a Star Trek combat situation ... just giving it a 10/10 doesn't seem to do it justice! ... I can only hope that one day, the Star Trek gaming licence-holders will realise that this is the sort of game that a Star Trek fan wants."
- Amarillo have released a freely downloadable starter pack that introduces their board game Federation Commander. They also have a free starter subscription for Starfleet Battles Online (SFBOL), their multiplayer online game environment. For all questions about FC, including setting up games locally and 'Play By Email', see the Federation Commander forum.
- The Role Playing Games - To the mainstream market, the most famous Star Trek RPG would have to be the Star Trek: The Next Generation version of the How To Host A Mystery" game created by Decipher. Over the years, a number of companies have done Star Trek RPG, most noticably Last Unicorn Games or LUG (1998-2000) and Decipher (2002-2005). One company that is still in the market is Amarillo, with their Prime Directive RPG extension of the long-running Star Fleet Battles wargaming series for the GURPs and D20 systems, two strong and popular gaming systems.
- If you own an old copy of one of the Last Unicorn Games RPGs it's not a dead end, Memory ICON has a number of Fan Produced netbooks available for free download. Checkout the other game resources whilst you're there.
- For general discussion of Star Trek RPG's checkout TrekRPGNet
- The Text-based Computer Game - OK, so this might be only a historical curiosity to most but there is still a small core of retro-gamers out there! These are probably of more interest to real programmers - the guys who talk to computers rather than people like me who talk to programs that talk to computers!
- Super Star Trek - Written for BASIC-PLUS in 1973
- Classic Super Star Trek, a 1977 Fortran version in portable ANSI C by Tom Almy
- Apple Trek - this one is from the DOS 3.2 System Master disk of 1979
- Video Trek 88 - the very first commercial PC game based on Star Trek series—released in BASIC back in 1982
- Quadrant - Written in 1984, in GWBASIC, playable on a modern machine.
- ... and for those of you who really and truly have to have a graphics interface, there is OpenTrek, a 3d open source update of the classic "Super Star Trek" game.
- The 2D Games - The next two presents were nominated by Zach Nicodemous of Hailing Frequency. The earliest computer games dealt with gameplay in only two dimensions, either as if you were looking down from the top - "top-down" - or from the side - a "side-scroller".
- Star Trek Final War II is made by Racoon Software which is based in the Czech Republic. "It's a top-down, realistic battle simulator, with the most fun being found in the game's skirmish mode. It has a range of features that make it well worth a play
- Star Trek: Red Alert is another top-down, tactical combat simulator, whilst a more 'polished' production with a better interface and graphics it falls short of Final War II in terms of game-play. See also Red Alert: Apocalypse
- Flash Trek: Assault is part of a series of games created by Vex Xiang, the previous ones being Flash Trek, Flash Trek: Romulan Wars and Flash Trek: Broken Mirror . Because they are Flash-based they can be ported to windows-enabled cell phones. "It's a cross between a point & click side scroller and a strategy game. For a game that seems outwardly simple, we were pleasantly surprised with this game".
- Star Trek: 'Badda-Bing Badda-Bang' an arcade game created in the style of the retro-classic Asteroids whose only flaw according to Zach is that it is too hard to complete! Sounds like a challenge to me!
- The 3D Games - This is what we have come to expect in an a modern computer game, an immersive environment that we can move around in and interact with. However it is immensely more complex to create and besides, if you could make 3D games, would you be doing it for free?
- The Mods - A much more doable way of creating new games material is to mod (modify) an existing, commercial game. The way that the game manufacturers, the owners of the copyright, not only allow but encourage their fans to mod their products speaks volumes for their relationship with them. Perhaps it is because, if you think in terms of "added value", modding extends the lifespan of a game far beyond the commercial resources of the game's makers! There are far too many Mods for me to list here, I've simply picked one Mod from each gaming engine to feature. Checkout what is available for the old games that you have floating around in the bottom of the drawer at the Modding forums of Hailing Frequency, Space Station K-7, ST Gamers
The free downloads linked from here are all fan productions.
The trademarks and copyrights of Star Trek lie with CBS / Paramount and
no profit can be directly or indirectly made from fan productions.
Any attempt to sell, rent or otherwise make a profit from any of these
projects will be reported to the copyright owners or their licensees for