Last week TrekMovie reported on E3 first impression of the exciting new video game tied to the new Star Trek movie universe. Gameforge was also at E3 showing off a pre-alpha build of their free to play multiplayer browser game Star Trek: Infinite Space. See below for first impressions, plus exclusive gameplay video and interview with game consultants Mike and Denise Okuda.
First Impressions of Star Trek: Infinite Space
Gameforge, who are Europe’s biggest online game publisher, is developing a new free-to-play browser game set during the Dominion War of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Gameforge was at E3 showing off a "pre-alpha" build for "Star Trek: Infinite Space," which is now set to be released in the fall of 2011. Gameforge are working with award-winning developer Keen games and they have also brought in Star Trek screenwriter Lee Sheldon to develop the story and Star Trek design veterans (and overall Treksperts) Mike and Denise Okuda as consultants.
The game is played entirely through your PC web browser, which requires you to download the Unity3D plug-in to play the game. At the start of the game you can choose between two factions – the Federation or the Klingons. Players can create their own personal avatar and choose from a range of races (such as Human, Andorian, or Bajoran). You can also individualize your outfit and equipment. After a tutorial you enter a starbase and you start picking up missions. Each player is issued their own ship at start, with the ships getting better as you progress in the game. You can choose to play on your own or cooperate with up to four other players at a time. From what I saw of Gameforge’s approach, everything is designed to make it easy to get started playing Star Trek: Infinite Space.
The first thing that strikes you about Star Trek: Infinite Space is how intuitive the game is. Once you exit the social environment of the starbase, the game takes you and your ship into space where the bulk of your time will likely be spent. Movement is based in 2-dimensions which is easy to grasp for casual gamers. You move your ship with the mouse or keyboard, and movement was very intuitive. Gameplay is simpler than MMORPGs like Star Trek Online, but that is the point as this is more of a casual game. The focus from Gameforge is to make the game accessible to as many people as possible.
However, Star Trek: Infinite Space is not overly simplistic. There are lots of options on modifying your ship, something important to do before missions to make sure you have the right systems for the mission at hand. And just like in real Star Trek, you need to pay attention to the weapon and shield arcs while you are playing the game to protect your ship and target your enemies. While the emphasis of Star Trek: Infinite Space is combat, however the game includes an ongoing storyline and parts of each mission includes non-combat as well as combat.
Another thing that was impressive about the E3 demonstration was the look of the game. It was hard to imagine that this was a browser-based game not requiring a big download. Also at the demo the mission loading screens were very quick – hopefully that will be the case when the game is out in the wild of the Internet. And while we have seen it before, Gameforge has also done a good job enhancing the Trek experience with using the TNG era LCARS interface for the game navigation, no doubt helped by LCARS designer Mike Okuda.
Star Trek: Infinite Space even comes with its own custom score by veteran game composer Chris Hülsbeck. While it is original music, it is still evocative of Star Trek, especially the music of Deep Space Nine. One curiosity for the pre-alpha build shown at E3 was that it didn’t include standard Star Trek sounds, but more generic video game sounds for things like phasers, photons, etc. Gameforge said that was something they should be addressing as they get closer to release.
As you progress through the game you move up levels and get more equipment and systems and of course bigger and better ships. Star Trek: Infinite Space is a free-to-play game, which means exactly that. You can play the game and not pay a penny, but you also have the option for micro-transactions in the game. However, Gameforge are adamant that you cannot buy an advantage in the game. Gameforge’s Product Director Holger Zimmerman explains:
You cannot buy anything that gives you an advantage. Free-to-play is not about paying to get anything you want. If you invest money into the game you might be able to level up a little bit faster, when you get loot you might get a little bit more loot or some things might be a little bit easier, but we really care about the balancing. Paying money should not take away the fun of leveling up. You cannot buy yourself success in the game.
Overall the E3 demo of Star Trek: Infinite Space was a delight. The game looked great and was easy to jump in and have some fun. Much has been said on if this game competes with Star Trek Online, but these are really two entirely different types of games, possibly calling for different types of gamers. Infinite Space is likely for more casual gamers who just want to have fun. There is no commitment to a monthly fee and you can play as little or as much as you like. Of course the tradeoff is that it is a simpler game. I could even imagine some gamers enjoying both, depending on their mood.
Like with Paramount’s upcoming Star Trek game, the final determination will be made once we see the final game and get a better sense of the story and how it fits into Star Trek. But Gameforge appear to be on the right track.
E3 Demo of Star Trek: Infinite Space
While Gameforge wanted to limit video of their pre-alpha build of Star Trek: Infinite Space, they did let TrekMovie shoot a couple minutes at the beginning of our demo.
Mike and Denise Okuda on Infinite Space
Veteran Star Trek designers (and keepers of the canon) Mike and Denise Okuda are consultants for Star Trek: Infinite Space. The spoke to TrekMovie at E3 about the contribution to the game and how they are keeping it Trek.
Stay tuned to TrekMovie for more updates on Star Trek: Infinite Space.