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.

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interview
Disruptor Beam’s David Heron and Elicia Basoli.

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.

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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.

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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.

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  • Michael

    Money grubbing company. Look at the reviews on the App Store and the Google play store. The game is impossible to advance unless you pay large amounts of real money to get the best crew and items. It’s a disgrace to the Star Trek name.

    • Archer

      I have to agree, unfortunately. It’s basically like Marvel’s Contest of Champions, but with a Trek skin IE unimaginative, repetative “gameplay” that requires paying to win the further you go. A shame, as it’s been a while since we’ve had a truly great Trek game. I think the last ones I really enjoyed playing were Bridge Commander and Elite Force. Indeed, I remember upgrading a PC with a Voodoo graphics card I order to play the latter.

      Now I feel old….

  • One of the worst Star Trek games….ever

  • Havenbull

    Wow, I downloaded the game, but have yet to play it. Is it really that bad?

    • Michael

      It’s bait and switch. The game itself is decent, but it’s fully designed for you to progress only so far, then make it impossible to advance without paying large amounts of real money. Don’t take my word for it – read the detailed reviews on the App Store or the Google play store.

      • jstimson

        Although to be fair, that’s pretty much true of every mobile game. There are very few games you pay for up front and don’t have to keep doling out cash for.

        • Michael

          But this one is far worse than most of them. Go to the App Store and read the complaints about the $1,000 IAP. Yes, you read that right.

          • jstimson

            Um, what? The largest IAP is $139.99 (that’s CDN, so I suspect under $120 US) for a pack of 8200 crystals. People that go that route have either no patience or are not concerned with cash. If you have patience, a monthly card can be bought for about $7 CDN which lets you collect 100 crystals a day for 30 days, for 3000 total. So unless you are intent on doing everything in a short period of time, you can collect the same amount of crystals for $20 over a period of time instead of $140 for all at once.
            And seriously, this is not far worst than most of them. I have about 5 or 6 freemium games that I cycle through and pretty much all of them have a similar pricing structure. The only one I actually have spent any money on is for Timelines since it is also one of the few that has a low cost way of getting credits if you play it patiently.

          • Michael

            What I am talking about was a special one time only event that got messed up and and some people were taken advantage of. You sound shockingly like a Ferengi.

          • jstimson

            So you cherry-picked a one time incident and present it as normal operation, then you throw a little ad hominem into the mix. But hey, don’t let my actual playing of the game and use of facts and figures factor into anything.

          • Michael

            It’s people like you that pay for schemes like this that have ruined video games almost completely.

          • jstimson

            So you chose to ignore my statement “The only one I actually have spent any money on is for Timelines”.
            Or should I also add that I actively seek out full blown games without IAP that cost more up front because I want to support that segment? There are a number of full games sitting on my mobile devices precisely because of that.

          • Michael

            Good man.

  • grandadmiralbinks

    I’m actually enjoying the game very much.

  • scotchyscotchscotch

    visually it’s a beautiful game. but the space battles are just, ok press buttons semi-randomly, and it’s not as fluid of a game as i had been hoping. I recently deleted it.. just doesn’t compete with the two big star wars mobile games out right now.