Exclusive Interview: Digital Extremes Creative Director Steve Sinclair Discusses Star Trek, The Video Game

Steve Sinclair, Creative Director of Digital Extremes sat down with us to discusses aspects of the highly anticipated Star Trek video game slated for 2012. Sinclair discusses how the game adds to the Star Trek universe, collaborating with Roberto Orci, and responsibility to fans.

What’s the storyline for the game and how soon after does it follow the events of the last film?

Can’t give it away, but I can tell you it takes place between the last Star Trek movie and the one that is in development. It’s being written by Marianne Krawczyk (God of War series) in collaborations with Bob Orci, who is writing the next film. The game story isn’t recreating events from any film – it stands on its own.

Why did it take until now for a game tie-in to the film to be announced, as many people expected it to be announced within a year of the release of the film?

The game isn’t a “tie-in” for a movie… this is a piece of the Star Trek universe, an awesome single player & Co-op Action-Adventure with an original storyline that stands on its own. We didn’t cannibalize any film for this game. The goal is for it to be an additive experience rather than riding on the back of the franchise.

The Star Trek game falls between the two movies. We’ve been fortunate to have a long development cycle for the game that we hope will remove the stigma of a’movie game’ with this one.

What types of weapons will be available?

Crazy cool alien technology, but we’re not talking about that yet. The cooler things we showed in the demo was Kirk and Spock have their own character-specific weapons that evolve as you play through our skill system. In the demo Kirk gets this amazing Vaporize attack that suits his play-style whereas Spock’s weapon gets more efficient – fully automatic at the same energy cost.

We also showed an example of Co-op weapons – Kirk grabs a Federation Rifle which has this nice defensive mode: a deflector shield… it has this great sum-is-greater-than-parts moment where Kirk raises the shield and Spock fires his Vulcan pistol into it… the deflector actually banks and concentrates that energy! Kirk turns around and clears a room full of enemies in a crazy discharge.

What enemies will players face and will there be vehicles that players can use?

We’re keeping the enemy under wraps right now, but I can’t wait to talk about it. I think Star Trek fans will love it and those who don’t know the universe as well will find them super intriguing. For vehicles – it is an action adventure – so I don’t want to promise too much, but there is definitely a lot of variety in the game. In the demo we showed our take on the Star Trek LSPU (Life Support Propulsion Unit), with Kirk and Spock flying through space, dodging debris as they raced toward the most amazing vehicle ever made: The Enterprise.

How will puzzles and problem solving be handled in the game?

Without revealing too much, we did show an awesome example of Co-op variety in the demo during the Medbay sequence. Leading up to it, Kirk and Spock were finding dead crew around the ship… if they scanned them with their Tricorders they’d collect a sample of an alien parasite. Later on, Kirk is hit by that same toxin and is crippled. Spock carries Kirk to Medbay (Kirk blasting a few aliens with his one good arm) and places him on a Medbay bed… now Spock has to use a Medbay beam to surgically remove the parasites using this custom computer interface. Of course enemies start pouring in so Kirk has to cover him while he does it: very tense!

What can you tell us about the gaming engine and what it will bring to the table?

We call it the Evolution Engine, something we’ve been building here for several years. For Star Trek, we’ve had to build a ton of flexibility into it to support how much gameplay variety we have. From the reaction we got to our pre-alpha demo, people said the game looks and sounds amazing… so hopefully that means the table will be set with an amazing Star Trek game!

What are some of the locales gamers will see in the game?

Strange new worlds of course! The great thing with such a close collaboration with filmmakers for this game is that we’ve been given unprecedented access to their Star Trek archives. We have the blueprints, set photography, ILM’s CG assets – everything we need to make this the most authentic Star Trek game possible.

Will players be able to explore and roam or are missions linear in nature?

I would say it’s a mix – the opening of the game is pure pandemonium but as Kirk and Spock unravel the mystery they end up seeing amazing spaces that players will love exploring.

What type of multiplay will the game offer?

Right now we’re just talking about my favorite form of multiplayer: Co-Op!

Blending action with a detailed plot can always be tricky, how have you attempted to create this?

We showed a great example in the demo: when the enemies surprise Kirk and beam in, Kirk stumbles but gets to his feet – players immediately have control, even though it’s a crazy cinematic moment, players can aim and fire as Kirk runs for cover. We also have the iconic aspects of narrative that Star Trek created – the Captain’s Log, the First Officer’s Log… these work so great for the game because the can underscore more pensive moments of the game, delivering narrative without taking control away from our players.

What are some of the biggest obstacles you see in creating the game, and what are your biggest goals for the game?

In my mind, they are one and the same – not making a great Star Trek game… but making a great game that happens to be set in the most incredible science fiction universe. I loved the film reboot so much, it brought back the heat to Star Trek, and I want to do right by it… but more than that I want to make a great game in and of itself.

With the huge fan following of Star Trek, how much pressure is there compared to other titles you have worked on and is it restricting working on a property like this in terms of what you can and cant do?

The responsibility to Star Trek fans is huge – at the start of the project we went through the entire series – that’s a lot of Star Trek! What jumped out at me was how well the original cast still worked… I loved the friction and the camaraderie between the crew. I loved how the values of equality and race were tackled in the show and how it was often a morality tale. As far as restrictions go, I am happy to say that we’ve actually been pushed to stretch the boundaries. It is incredible how much freedom we have considering this is Star Trek we’re talking about!

Can you tell us about who is doing the voices for the game and the music and what they bring to the production?

It is still early for us to announce such things — Stay tuned for more on that and much, much more!

Preview footage courtesy of IGN.

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