The new Star Trek Video Game is due in just two days. TrekMovie sat down with Paramount producer Brian Miller for an exclusive talk about the game and the future of Star Trek gaming. Read the full interview below plus we share some more game play and behind the scenes video for the game..
Interview: Brian Miller Talks Star Trek: The Video Game
TrekMovie exclusive interview Paramount’s Brian Miller who is the producer for the new Star Trek: The Video Game.
TrekMovie: The history of licensed game – including Star Trek games (with notable exceptions) – is not always stellar. What are you doing with Star Trek: The Video Game to break that pattern?
Brian Miller: It all boiled down for us to a very early meeting we had with the filmmakers for the 2009 movie and we knew they were going to open up Star Trek in a big way. Any time you do a movie you look at what you can do with it–books, games, toys, etc. To your point, movie-based games don’t have the best reputation so we tried to look at it differently. We tried to pinpoint why they didn’t work and how do we avoid that and make a really good game. Forget that it was Star Trek, we just wanted to make a really good game period. Star Trek was the icing on the cake.
So once we decided to make a game we thought about what kind of game we wanted to make and so we looked at Star Trek–what is Star Trek at its core and for us that was Kirk and Spock and that lead to it being a co-op game. And from that it kept rolling along, we would do a co-op game where you can play as Kirk or Spock. No other Star Trek game had done that before. But if we are going to do Kirk and Spock then we need to get Chris [Pine] and Zach [Quinto], and if we are going to get them we might as well get everyone else, so it then it turned into: we must make the most authentic Star Trek game that we can.
We then thought about what kind of game we wanted to make and we are all fans of the third-person shooters and a big reason for doing that instead of first person is because we have these amazing actors. I want to see Kirk and Spock and how they banter and if we are seeing through their eyes I miss out on the great performances we are going to get from our actors. But then you say ‘but Trek has never been a shooter.’ So we realized that we need exploration and discovery and that leads to having the tricorder in the game and how it is a great way to interact with the world.
We then though through who will be the enemy and the majority of the people in the room said ‘let’s do Gorn.’ Which leads us to doing a new story. That is the problem with some movie-based game is that it isn’t a new experience. I want to go someplace I haven’t seen, and if I am going to do that it has to be canon, because otherwise it is just a throw-away. So we absolutely want this to be seen as canon.
New Video: Developing the story of Star Trek: The Video Game"
TrekMovie: So being an official Paramount production and not just something licensed to a 3rd party, should this game be considered as canon as the films and not ‘canon-lite’ or ‘B-canon?’
Brian Miller: Absolutely. It was important for us early on to work with Bob Orci and the filmmakers to make sure that this fit and was part of the canon of their universe. Like we have New Vulcan in the game, which is clearly something that picks up from the last movie. On the flip side we didn’t want to get too cheeky. Like ‘oh there is a nod to the new movie and there is a nod to the last movie.’ It is a complete story with a three-act structure that isn’t trying to leave you with a cliffhanger leading you to the next movie. We wanted it to end as its own story. There are fun little hints and Easter eggs to the previous film and stuff in the original series, but we wanted to make sure it wasn’t a marketing ploy for the game being directly tied into the new movie. It was never meant to be that because we wanted it to stand alone.
TrekMovie: Talk about how you decided to not just use the Gorn, but to expand the mythology of the Gorn.
Brian Miller: The Gorn started with one of those first meetings. It is such a testament to that amazing show to have a character – an alien – that was just in one episode, but people still talk about it. That was a great opportunity for us. As great as the one rubber-suited guy was, the great thing that was done with the 2009 movie is that it allowed us to re-introduce characters in a new way. There is never been much of a discussion about what the rest of the Gorn culture is. We never saw who their leaders are, what are their motivations, etc? We have a very clear version of the "Arena" Gorn – which you saw in the Shatner video – you could see the version of that character in the game in that video – the "Gorn Champion." We wanted to find a way to fill out the Gorn species and sub-species. So go from the lowest guys, a kind of animalistic kind of pit-bull lizards, through the brutes who are like gladiators and enforcers, to our female Gorn, all the way up to
lieutenants and the big commander.
William Shatner battles classic Gorn in promo – look closely in video and you see the classic Gorn from the game
TrekMovie: Let’s say you are a Trek fan but not that into gaming, and not that interested in shoot-em-ups. Is this for them?
Brian Miller: Absolutely. We want to tell that story. We wanted to tell a real adventure for these characters. Getting back to that issue of canon–that mattered to us. The best compliments we have got to date is that people came out of the demos and said ‘I feel like I was watching Star Trek.’ And that is the hardest thing to do in gaming is to make it feel right. I can make it look right scans of the actors and get the music and sound effects, but if they aren’t bantering the right way and if the story doesn’t feel like Star Trek then people are going to tune it out. So we wanted to tell a Star Trek story that mattered. So if you aren’t a big gamer, we think this is game that you will really want to experience as a Trek fan. Or even if you are not a gamer at all, then sit back and watch someone else play to experience the story.
TrekMovie: From the demos we can see people running around the Enterprise. They never released the kind of detailed blue-prints like there were for the original Star Trek, so how was it decided how all these parts of the ship looked and were connected together? – again being that you are aiming for this to be officially canon.
Brian Miller: We have been collaborating with everyone from the art department, the filmmaking team, with Bad Robot, with ILM. You are going to see places you have been before like the bridge, the shuttle bay, the transporter. So we made sure those all looked right, but we also wanted to go to places that we couldn’t or didn’t go to in the film. Like we go into the crew quarters or down in to the turboshafts. Part of the game has a Gorn loose on the ship and there is a moment like in Alien where our guys are trapped in the Jeffries Tubes chasing the Gorn.
TrekMovie: How different is the experience as Kirk or Spock.
Brian Miller: Very different. We wanted it to be so that after you finish the game you turn over to your friend (or the computer) and want to play again and get that experience through the other character’s eyes. There are unique weapons, such as Kirk’s captain’s phaser–modeled after an Old West six-shooter since Kirk has a bit of cowboy in him. Spock has this Vulcan ‘repeater’ weapon. But since Star Trek isn’t all about killing things, it is about discovery and learning. So the more you use your tricorder, such as scanning things around you–plants, animals, creatures, things, weapons and other things you find–you get more experience. And the more experience points you get the more you can upgrade your tricorder to do new things and you can upgrade your weapons too. For example you weapon can do ricochet shots or your tricorder could heal your partner from a greater distance.
But they also play a differently. So if you are trying to take down a Gorn, Kirk’s takedowns are much more aggressive whereas Spock can go up and use his neck-pinch. And an idea that came from Bad Robot was to have Kirk have the ability to call in an airstrike from The Enterprise in orbit. And then Spock has the ability to mind-meld. For example in the game the Gorn use this venom to infect and control some of the crew and some of the Vulcans on New Vulcan. Firstly we reward you for not killing them by using stun, but we wanted to tell that story through so there is a scene where Spock uses a mind-meld and you get the back-story on that and it is an experience you only get through the Spock character.
TrekMovie: How linear is it? Can you take different paths or come up with different solutions to move forward?
Brian Miller: Well this isn’t an RPG because we are telling a story so there aren’t a million different choices. So there are moments where yes you must do a certain thing like a mind-meld to get past, but there are other moments where there are many different solutions. You can take out a Gorn being very aggressive or you can do it in stealth to get around things and maybe not even engaging. If you manage to get through something without harming any of your crew or sneak past the Gorn you get extra experience points you can use for upgrades.
TrekMovie: Let me turn around an earlier question. What if you are a hard-core gamer with only a passing interest in Star Trek. Can this game appeal to the guy who wants this game to compete with the latest "Gears of War" or "Call of Duty," etc titles?
Brian Miller: I think we face the same challenge as the 2009 movie which is you need to appeal to a very large audience but also make sure your hard-core fans don’t feel betrayed. We were never trying to be "Call of Duty" or "Gears of War." It isn’t running around in military way and shooting a bunch of bad guys. We want to stay true to Trek. On the other hand we are gamers and we play all those games. We play "Uncharted" and "Arkham Asylum" and "Gears of War." We needed to make sure the gameplay–particularly co-op gameplay–was at a level that can compete so that a Star Trek game could sit on the same shelf as those games.
TrekMovie: I know there is the "elite-officer" pack, will there be more DLC [Download Content] options?
Brian Miller: You want to make sure you make a great game and sometimes there are games that try to do too much. Personally I sort of get a game–which are not the cheapest things in the world–and a week later ‘oh buy another level’ or the ending of the game is left open so you buy the DLC. We talked about it and we know Trek fans will buy our stuff to fill out their collection but we wanted to make sure we were putting everything we had into our game. Maybe in the future? We will see. If fans react the way we hope they react to the game there are lots of things we can do. We can do another game or other levels or another story or downloadable packs or costumes. But everything we can put into it for now is in this game, we didn’t hold anything back.
TrekMovie: How did having the original actors influence the development of the game?
Brian Miller: We knew that if we did this game and it got to the point were say Scotty was supposed to be there and it was a sound-alike or he ways mysteriously sent on an away mission, that the fans would say ‘something is fishy.’ So we knew we wouldn’t do the game unless we got everybody. And they were all enthusiastic about doing it, but the surprise was they all said they would do it if everyone else did it. For us that was important because it mean they really were a crew. Their performances were great. That banter is so dead on. Like we were recording with Zach and he stopped and said "do you mind if I made some changes because Spock wouldn’t say it that way" and we were like "of course, are you kidding?" Same with Simon. He had a ball with it and he said "do you mind if I just come up with some stuff?" Simon Pegg doing ad-lib, like with Keenser his little buddy, he just game up with this great stuff. So we called up the developer and said "The good news is we
have some of the greatest lines recorded for a game, the bad news is that you better find a way to get them into the game because they have to get in there." They heard the lines and put a team on it working over night. Zoe also added to it. There is this Vulcan female character that Spock knew called "T’Mar" and Zoe was like "who is this girl?" and Spock can’t lie his way out if it and Zoe took it to a place we weren’t expecting it to go but was absolutely the place to go based on the relationship of those two characters. It allowed us to do something we couldn’t do if we didn’t have the original actors.
Actors voicing "Star Trek: The Video Game"
TrekMovie: For the sake of argument let’s assume the next Star Trek movie comes out in 2016. What is the likelihood of a new game by them?
Brian Miller: We would love to make another game. There are a million stories that could be great sequel to this game, and other characters we would like to re-visit.
TrekMovie: So you are more likely to stick with original story games instead of adaptations of the movies?
Brian Miller: Well you don’t really know what fan reaction will be. But it was important for us and I think the right decision for this game to tell an original story. That is what I want to see as a game. I would love to repeat what we did with this one. But it isn’t all about the next movie. For this one we didn’t know when the next movie was going to come. So in this case we will get through this we will do a post-mortem and hear back from the fans. And we will take it from there. I would love to keep making games. I would love to keep Star Trek up on that top shelf. It belongs in gaming in a big way. The Trek fans have always wanted that. We deserve to be treated like some of those other properties.
Watch First 30 Minutes of Star Trek: The Video Game
IGN has three new videos that show the first 30 minutes of the game.
Game Arrives April 23rd – PC Download Now Available for pre-order
The new Star Trek game arrives on April 23rd for XBox 360, Playstation 3 and PC download. You can pre-order the Xbox and PS3 version at Amazon.