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Postmortem: Raven Software's Star Trek: Voyager -- Elite Force
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Postmortem: Raven Software's Star Trek: Voyager -- Elite Force

February 7, 2001 Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

In the summer of 1998, Activision had acquired licensing rights to make games using a number of Star Trek franchises. Their goals from the beginning were to create a broad selection of games and show the gaming community that Activision could take the Star Trek brand and make high-quality games with it, better than other publishers had in the past. The preliminary game slate was set with a first-person shooter as one of the initial titles.

Raven Software had been an external studio of Activision for a year, finishing up work on Heretic 2 and diving deep into the development of Soldier of Fortune. Heretic 2 was near completion, and we would soon need another project to work on. With our experience developing shooters and a reputation for making quality games, Activision handed the Star Trek first-person shooter project to us.

The game started out being based on an unknown Star Trek crew within the Next Generation franchise. For two months work was done on the plot and story line, with a test level of a Defiant-class ship made using the Quake 2 engine. The main factor in designing the plot of the game was that it had to be an action game, despite the fact that Star Trek isn't known for action. To give meaning to the action, the idea for a Special Forces team soon emerged to drive the action for the game. Ultimately, because Activision already had two other games using the Next Generation license, the setting for our game changed to the Voyager franchise. Our excitement level was low at first, with the team feeling that Voyager was the least popular of all the Star Trek franchises. We soon realized that Voyager's plot allowed us not only to make our game with much more creative freedom, but also to create from something no one else had used. This inspired us to open the floodgates, continue on, and eventually realize that Voyager was the best setting for what we wanted to do. We quickly adapted the plot we had at that point into the Voyager setting. This was much easier than we thought it would be, and the Elite Force, or the Hazard Team as we called them, actually seemed to make more sense as a by-product of Voyager's situation. In January 1999, full production on Elite Force began with a small team of 15 people that would grow to about 25 core team members, with additional support from the Soldier of Fortune team.

Voyager's Hazard Team, created by Raven to help accentuate the action for the game.

Our main focus during production was not to think about the game as a Star Trek product per se, but rather an action shooter that borrowed from the Star Trek universe. This helped us focus more on what would be fun for players. To our surprise, the Paramount approval process was much easier than we anticipated. We had heard many horror stories regarding Paramount's strictness with their licenses, things like, "You can't do anything new," and, "It's hard to get things approved because they're so protective of the license." What we experienced was the exact opposite. Paramount was more than accommodating in helping us create a fun game, and we were able to bend the rules a little along the way to help accomplish our goal. We created new Starfleet weapons, a Voyager SWAT team, used the Klingons, and even added "classic" Star Trek to the Voyager setting. As long as an element made sense to the story and its presence could be explained, it was no problem.

One of the biggest obstacles we had to overcome was that we would be making an action game that had to appeal to both the hardcore FPS player as well as the average Star Trek gamer and fan. This was no easy task, and we spent a lot of time debating over the game style being too much of an action game or more of a Star Trek game. Balancing these two aims was a constant battle during the course of production. We knew we had to walk a fine line blending a shooter and a Star Trek experience if we were going to both make a successful game and overcome people's perceptions that Star Trek games are not good games.

Article Start Page 1 of 5 Next

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