The new expansion to Star Trek Timelines is out now, and we had a chance to catch up with David Heron, the project lead at developer Disruptor Beam, at the STLV Trek convention in Las Vegas last weekend to talk about the new online Trek game.
TREKCORE: The title Star Trek Timelines suggests alternative universes. Does the game involve time travel?
David Heron: Well, in Star Trek Timelines, a player plays a captain that’s in the timeline like, Voyager’s returned, First Contact has happened, but… time has sort of collapsed. So, while the players are time traveling, everyone else is!
TREKCORE: Can players choose other than Federation members to be captains of their ships?
Heron: Okay, well, the players themselves are the captains, so they can be whatever they want. But what I think is really important is your crew, your larger crew. You can bring in all different species, all the different cultures, it’s really an amalgamation across time and all of Trek.
TREKCORE: Story and missions are an important part of the game. What about exploration? Can a player ‘seek out new life and new civilizations’?
Heron: [Laughs] That’s a big dream. One of the pillars for Star Trek Timelines was exploration, and it’s probably one of things we didn’t hit as hard as we can, but it’s something we want to put back into the game. So, right now we have several hundred planets that you can take your ship to, and you can look, and there are some really beautiful imagery art.
And there’s some stories that take place specifically in those spaces. And over the next year or so, we really want to start building out and adding some gameplay to that exploration. It’s an exciting thing that we want to focus on.
TREKCORE: Since players are able to explore new planets, are there missions that involve dealing with the Prime Directive?
Heron: Yeah, definitely! I actually think that’s some of our more controversial elements. You know, Star Trek Timelines is a little bit of a role-playing game; what we’re asking the player to do is to take the role of this captain that is trying to solve this temporal anomaly. So we let the player sort of pick, like, are they going to be a Picard or a Jellico?
So there’s going to be these positions where sometimes… you’re Sisko, and you’re going to make the planet unlivable for humans. That’s a thing you gotta do to get the job done. So, I think different captains have different interpretations of the Prime Directive, so we let the players mess around with that; especially when they’re dealing with some of the more controversial factions.
So everything from the Klingon/Cardassian alliance to the Terran Empire, but sometimes… even dealing with the Romulans isn’t the easiest thing.
TREKCORE: What about some of Star Trek’s infamous villains? Will players encounter the Borg or Species 8472?
Heron: Oh man, Star Trek has such great villains! I’m a big Deep Space Nine fan, so I probably have an unhealthy appreciation of Winn and Dukat. And I that Jeffrey Combs’ Shran, and all the Vorta and all that stuff are fantastic. So what we’ve done is that we’ve included [them] as part of this collection.
And maybe if you’re a bit more on the Jellico side, or a little bit more on the rebellious side, you can have Khan, or Dukat. We’re going to have these characters in this game, and you can actually pilot some of their ships.
TREKCORE: The new player vs. player Battle Arena sounds exciting. How did the idea for this evolve?
Heron: We’ve been developing Star Trek Timelines for about two years now and space battles. Once we started developing our graphic engine, we actually got really surprised. Space battles wasn’t originally a thing that we’d originally planned on tackling, but when we saw the graphic fidelity of the ships?
We basically said, “Okay, we have to do something with this.” And we took a swing at it earlier on, and it just didn’t hit the mark from where we were at; like being accessible, like being cinematic. So once we got about six months in, we really took that opportunity to take another pass at it.
It’s an ongoing process, and we want a nice, cinematic, competitive system that can support players playing together and against each other. So over the next year is one of the primary things that we’re working on.
TREKCORE: Are there any ideas to expand Star Trek Timelines beyond the Battle Arena feature?
Heron: Yeah! One of the things we want to focus on is telling stories, but we also want to tell stories with our players. Sort of create a new Trek narrative that’s as much us saying “Hey, here’s this temporal anomaly,” but also for the players to put their thumbprints on the story.
I know a lot about Star Trek, but I think there are way more people who are way more passionate, and we really want to give them the opportunity. So, over the next year, we’re going to be running a series of events and activities both in the game and outside the game. And that’s actually going to start building up a story.
So new missions, new characters, new ships, new modes, new short stories are all going to be generated as part of this interactive experience between us and the community. I think it’s really going to be this exciting thing that I haven’t seen in a Trek game before.
TREKCORE: Currently the game is available for the iOS and the Android mobile platforms. Any plans to bring the game to the PC?
Heron: Yeah. So Disruptor Beam’s roots started in Facebook and on the web… and it’s something we wanted to be accessible. Obviously we want as many Star Trek fans to play as we can. Because we ended up pushing the graphics so hard, we’re still sort of optimizing and working with mobile devices.
So, sort of parallel to that, we’re also working on getting a web version running. It’s a whole different set of challenges for a whole different unity, but it’s something we’re really dedicated to. And later this year, we should have some word on that.
TREKCORE: As fans yourselves, what does Star Trek mean to you as part of the development team?
Heron: Oh jeez! So Star Trek has been a constant part of my life. And during the interview process, we actually talked about it. Like, I know that this is the second Trek game that our engineer has worked on – Paul Segal – this is his second Trek game. So, we’re all fans.
One of the things that makes Star Trek Timelines special is that we bring some of our love and passion to work. So I think that the thing that comes out with our lead writer, Jessica, is that the voices of the characters comes through. But also that the types of stories that we’re telling comes through.
When you look at the characters, it very easily could look that we just have pretty standard characters; and that we just have characters standing there, but when you look at our arc, you see the characters in um… like, the thing that I try to get them to do is ‘Are they (the character) doing their job?’ Sort of mimic their personalities.
Making sure that when we have [for example] Lore, that he’s got that smirk that Data wouldn’t have. Getting the body language right, getting the faces right. Robert Picardo is such a great actor; his facial expressions. Robert Picardo looks different when he is the EMH in “First Contact,” when he’s Pagliacci, when he’s the [Emergency Command Hologram], when he’s playing Lewis Zimmerman, or when he’s playing [Seven of Nine] in his face.
I think that love comes through in our work. It makes work pretty exciting. It’s kind of a dream.