Star Trek: Starfleet Command is a video game based on the table-top wargame Star Fleet Battles. It simulates starship operations, ship-to-ship combat, and fleet warfare in the Star Trek universe.
The game's design and rules are drawn largely from those of the tabletop wargame Star Fleet Battles; the playable races match those from Star Fleet Battles, as do many ship functions, ship classes, and aspects of gameplay.
The player can play as one of six races:
- United Federation of Planets
- Klingon Empire
- Romulan Star Empire
- Gorn Confederation
- Hydran Kingdoms
- Lyran Star Empire
It is divided into three main parts: a "Campaign" game, "Skirmish" games and a "Multi-player" game. The "Dynaverse" campaign resembles an adventure in which the captain of the ship (the player) earns prestige by successfully completing missions. These prestige points can be used to 'purchase' new ships, as well as repair and refit them and assign crew members. The "Skirmish" and "play-and-forget" games are fast and self-contained and help the player become familiar with the game and the high number of missions available in the "Dynaverse". In multi-player mode, the player connects via IP or using a game matching service (e.g. GameSpy) to challenge other human players instead of game artificial intelligence.
Actual gameplay tended to consist of ships circling each other, waiting for various weapons to recharge and waiting to fire until one could fire upon the weakest shield of the enemy ship. The actual gameplay was very similar to that of an older `age of sail' naval combat game called Broadsides by Strategic Simulations.
Release and reception
Star Trek: Starfleet Command was released by Interplay lead by Erik Bethke at a time when the gaming franchise for Star Trek was at an all time high. Previously Interplay had released Star Trek: Starfleet Academy which placed Interplay on the top position with regards to the standings of the 3 main publishers at that time.
The release of Star Trek: Starfleet Command is considered in the Star Trek gaming community as the start of the "Golden Age" of Trek video games. This was a period in time between 1999 and 2001 when Interplay and Activision produced a number of games that were perceived as being of higher quality. In 2001, Interplay bowed out of the franchise, and Activision took over as the most prominent developer of Star Trek-themed titles.
The success of Star Trek: Starfleet Command came as surprise to Interplay, and as a result, Erik Bethke formed Taldren, Inc. together with 9 members of the original Starfleet Command team to create additional titles for the series.
To this day Star Trek: Starfleet Command is one of the longest running serials of trek games, which are widely considered to be classics and are still being played years later. Star Trek: Starfleet Command was followed by three sequels; Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Volume II - Empires at War, Star Trek: Starfleet Command - Orion Pirates, and Star Trek: Starfleet Command III.
Gameplay consists of manoeuvring one's ship to approach enemy ships and assault them in the areas where various systems and ship's shields are vulnerable. It also consists of achieving various other objectives specified in mission assignments, which are provided at the beginning of each scenario. This can include interacting with various ships, aliens, planetary bodies, and other objects in space, depending on the specific assignment.
One important point to note is that gameplay is not continuous; players do not do a variety of missions within a single game scenario. Players are given a specific mission to accomplish within a scenario. When the mission is completed, the scenario ends. After a set of a screens for refit and repair, the next scenario begins with a new mission. This is different from earlier games of this category, in which players might be given the ability to warp around the galaxy, and to continually fight enemies and to achieve various different objectives in a single session.
Controls and functions
One major part of gameplay involves managing various ship systems which are accessed via an interface running up and down the left side of the screen.
In this screen shot, a Federation battlecruiser is facing an enemy frigate. In the upper left of the screen is the main control window, with various symbols up and down the right side which bring up various sets of controls. The player has clicked the helm symbol to bring up the helm function. This displays multiple buttons labelled with arrows for manoeuvring the ship, in various special manoeuvres. (Standard manoeuvring occurs simply by clicking the image of the ship in the main part of the screen.)
Below this is a schematic of the player's ship, with buttons on the left side for bringing up various ship systems. The function displayed is Weapons, displayed here by weapons type (the other view is by firing arcs). This view can be used to fire the weapons and to track their recharging status. Other functions which can be shown in this window section are shields, electronic counter-measures (ECM) and electronic counter-counter-measures (ECCM), tractor beam, transporters, and shuttles.
The function which is clicked on in the ship schematic will define the controls shown in the screen directly below the schematic. Since a weapon is clicked in this example, the screen shows controls for firing and related functions. This screen shows the button used to set photon torpedoes to "overload."
Below this is the tactical schematic, which will display any target or object which the player clicks on. In this screen shot, it displays the approaching enemy vessel, a Klingon frigate.
The top and bottom of the screen displays various aspects of the status report for the player's ship (and the target ship). These include speed, hull integrity, power available and used, alert status, weapons recharge status, and mission timer.
One central question for Star Trek games of this type is the dynamics which define ship control and action, and what type of overall experience is created.
In this game, ships are treated as complex entities, with a variety of tactics and resources. Players spend less time aiming and shooting, as they might in simpler games, and spend more managing various resources, and allocating power. Starships are complex vessels which take a while to manoeuvre and to attack.
During a battle, various weapons and resources play differing roles, such as beam weapons, missiles, shuttles, marines and tractor beams. All of these must be used to maximize power availability. They also change in importance, based on the type of enemy faced.
One key aspect of ship combat is targeting the enemy's weaker shields, and also using the opportunity available when specific systems are damaged.
In other scenarios, objectives may range from defeating aliens, guarding artifacts, rescuing other ships, and a range of other scenarios. Each requires unique use of ship systems. For example, the tractor beam may be the only way to rescue other ships, or move items, while marines may be the only option when the player is assigned to capture another ship or a base.
Star Trek: Starfleet Command spawned a massive new community due to the "modding" (a term used for fan made add-ons) ability of the game. Now the ordinary gamer was able to create his/her own ship and add it into the game.
Players have set up websites which provide player-created scenarios and mods for the games. It is also possible to download a variety of patches and supplemental programs. one example is alternate "skins" which can be used to alter the appearance of ships in the game.
Many new sites evolved around Starfleet Command itself just to cater for the ever growing numbers of new gamers which Interplay's latest game had brought into the Star Trek gaming community fold. Some "modders" of that time would later go on to work full time in the gaming industry.
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command - Orion Pirates
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command: Volume II - Empires at War
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command III
- Dynaverse.Net - the Official Star Trek: Starfleet Command Site
- The Dynaverse Gaming Association - The non-profit organization that runs the SFC Directory services
- Official Star Trek: Starfleet Command game webpage
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command at the Star Trek Gaming Wiki
- Starfleet Universe, Your #1 source for Star Trek: Starfleet Command
- Star Trek: Starfleet Command at Memory Alpha, a Fandom Star Trek Wiki