Star Trek: Bridge Crew Now Available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift
Star Trek: Bridge Crew is now available to play on both the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and PlayStation VR. Earlier this year, Chris Early, VP of Digital Publishing at Ubisoft announced that the VR game will have more than 40 hours of gameplay and experiences. And to commemorate this monumental day for Ubisoft, the Oculus team conducted an interview with Red Storm Entertainment Creative Director David Votypka to talk about Star Trek: Bridge Crew.
Let’s cut straight to the chase: Will cross-platform co-op be available at launch?
David Votypka: Absolutely. The game will offer cross-platform matchmaking and cross-platform friend invites as well. This was a goal from very early on, which was actually possible because of the platform-agnostic player credentials that Uplay gives us to use.
What can die-hard fans expect to get out of the experience?
DV: VR lets us immerse gamers more deeply than ever before, so I hope they feel that the game has opened the door to Star Trek.
The social aspect gives die-hard fans all sorts of opportunities to role-play as a crew and operate the ship. In many ways, the bridge experience is the heart of the brand, and the game has been designed to let fans engage with that fundamental aspect.
We included the original Enterprise bridge specifically for the long-time fans of Star Trek. They’ll no longer be limited to just imagining what it must’ve been like to be on that bridge—they can now go and live it themselves.
What was it like to bring the Star Trek universe into VR?
DV: It’s a dream project in so many ways. The chance to not only work with one of the biggest brands in entertainment, but to bring it to fans in VR for the first time ever is really special.
And the Star Trek brand is a perfect fit for VR—specifically social VR, which is what we’ve focused on at Red Storm. The natural synergy between brand, game concept, and technology is a critical aspect that empowered us to make both a compelling Star Trek game and an engaging VR experience.
Is it safe to assume that you’re a fellow Trekker?
DV: I grew up with the brand and have been a fan since I was a kid, but even with all those years of Trek I’m not sure I can put myself at the Trekkie/Trekker level! We do have some on the team, and our collective appreciation of Star Trek helped us determine how to make players truly feel like they were on a Federation bridge and living out their very own episodes of Star Trek.
I distinctly remember getting the first content drop from CBS of assets from the sets of the 2009 and 2013 Star Trek films. It included high-resolution set photos, station schematics they used to build the bridge, and the exact video files they played on the screens around the bridge in the film. It felt like we suddenly stepped through the looking glass and into the world of how Star Trek is created.
One of the biggest thrills was the chance to interact with lots of people along the way who are affiliated with Star Trek, like the folks at CBS, the actors in our announcement trailer, and [Star Trek Lead Graphic Designer] Michael Okuda.
You got to hang out with Michael Okuda?
DV: We got to play a mission with him! Mike has worked on creating and designing many aspects of Star Trek’s bridges and environments over the last few decades, and he was kind enough to provide his guidance to us as we worked on recreating the bridge from the original Enterprise.
He finally got to check out our completed version of the Enterprise bridge in VR, and we took the ship for a spin on a mission to recover an escaped Klingon fugitive. I’ve played the Recover mission type many times, but with the game’s Ongoing Voyages mode—a mission generator with randomized elements—you never quite know what to expect, and events in this mission developed and unraveled faster than I expected.
That sounds ominous.
DV: It all started off fine—we were able to quickly locate a couple of freighters where we suspected the fugitive was holed up. But to my surprise, we suddenly had a mix of Klingon vessels and independent space pirates both converge on our location. Before we knew it, we had taken heavy damage without even having a chance to scan and investigate the freighters. On top of that, the freighters decided to impulse out of the area, so we had to once again locate our target.
Subsequent events can be best described as us impulsing from one location to another, running for our lives as the Klingons continued to pursue us. We focused on trying to buy time for repairs while still pursuing the freighters, and we actually managed to locate and transport the fugitive onto the Enterprise. But as we were making our escape, our hull could take no more—our illustrious advisor had to see his beloved Enterprise get destroyed and take all of us with it!
What was it like to have veteran Star Trek actors LeVar Burton, Karl Urban, and Jeri Ryan play the game?
DV: That day likely falls into the category of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. How often does a developer get to play their game with key actors that helped shape the brand the game is based on? And from three different Star Trek generations, too!
All three of them were so great about doing it. When they first walked in, they weren’t quite sure what they were getting into. But once they were in, they really took to it immediately, and the camaraderie among the crew was great.
How does the game pay homage to the Star Trek universe? Any Easter eggs we should be on the lookout for?
DV: Our goal was to build an experience that truly feels like Star Trek. Rather than including named characters or filling the game with specific scenarios from the shows, we want players to feel like they’ve joined Starfleet and are experiencing their own Star Trek adventures. That said, yes, there are indeed a few classic, historical references in the game to look for.
How did you navigate introducing newcomers to the Star Trek universe without alienating hard-core fans?
DV: At its core, the gameplay is ultimately centered around operating a starship with your friends—your crew. Even for players who know little to nothing about Star Trek, there’s a lot of fun to be had without knowing the difference between a Klingon and a Vulcan.
Casual fans get to engage in the brand elements they’re familiar with, while the hardcore fans will really take in the nuances of the story and the brand-driven details of the stations on the bridge.
How did it feel to experience warp speed for the first time?
DV: Hah, great question as warp is obviously such a signature aspect of Star Trek, and it was actually one of the early features we put into the game. A great part of experiencing it in VR is that it lets your imagination fill in the gaps, to the point where I felt like I was physically moving with the ship as it streaked through space.
Do you prefer playing on the original Enterprise bridge or the Aegis?
DV: Honestly, it varies—after I’ve played one bridge for a while, I find it refreshing to change things up and switch bridges. Going from the Aegis to the original bridge initially feels rather hilarious since you’re now flying a starship using not much more than candy-colored buttons, but it provides a whole new set of interfaces and control mechanics to use. Because the interface is less efficient, the challenge level is higher when playing on the original bridge. And of course there’s also the nostalgia factor of getting to take Shatner’s original vessel for a spin.
Jumping back to the Aegis then feels like going from a first-generation flip phone to a current touchscreen smartphone. Having both bridges really adds depth and replay value to the game’s missions and station gameplay.
What kind of response have you seen while demoing the game?
DV: The first time we showed the game publicly was at E3 last year. We went into the event with a lot of optimism and belief in what we were making, though you never know for sure how everyone else will receive it until you let them play. But at that show and every time we’ve shown the game since—whether it’s a fresh-eyes focus test or at a Star Trek convention—we honestly couldn’t have asked for a better response.
For some people, their appreciation is primarily driven by their love of Star Trek. We’ve seen lifelong fans become really emotional when playing because VR lets them interact with the brand more deeply than they ever could before.
We also hear lots of great feedback on the social aspect. Not only do the crew’s social dynamics add significantly to the mission gameplay, but VR also adds the sense of social presence, the feeling of being in a digital space with other people. For example, one Newsweek reporter was surprised by the visceral experience of sharing virtual space with other bodies, saying, “Several times while playing Bridge Crew, I found myself looking over to a fellow crewmember then looking away so as not to stare.”
Social nuances like that simply don’t happen without VR, and we continuously see incredibly interesting social dynamics happening in both Bridge Crew and Werewolves Within.
What’s your favorite part of the game?
DV: It’s tough to pick a single part, but I really enjoy the additional narrative aspects that the story-driven campaign brings. More specifically, the fourth mission in the campaign is a highlight for me. It’s the most difficult and probably the most intense mission as the Aegis is badly damaged and the crew is running for their lives. Stealth and avoiding detection plays a big role, and the crew really needs to use every system on the ship to survive.
How does the relative freedom of player interactions in co-op mode affect the overall sense of player agency?
DV: Because players are free to interact however they want, their agency is of course very high. But what’s going to be interesting to see is how players choose to manage their crew interactions, operations, and decisions. In the shows and films, the crew is very structured in their communication, and they follow and wait for the Captain’s orders. In an online multiplayer game, that may not always be the case.
This is something we designed for from day one. For example, we purposely ensure that the Captain has valuable mission and objective information that the rest of the crew doesn’t have, so the crew has to rely on the Captain’s knowledge and guidance. We also strove to create situations with multiple dilemmas that the crew needs to face simultaneously, which opens up lots of small decisions along the way.
Ultimately, the level of player agency will be determined by the players on a crew-by-crew basis. Some crews may run a tight ship and adhere very much to the Starfleet way, while others may try to keep it loose. But when tough situations arise, I will say that there’s great value in having a clever and decisive Captain who’s able to effectively coordinate the team to successfully get them through it.
Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
DV: When we were working on the original bridge, I had the chance to visit an amazing recreation of the original series TV set located in Ticonderoga, in upstate New York. The creator James Cawley spent 15 years of his life putting it all together, and what he’s accomplished is really incredible. It was a big help to us. For any fans of the original series that find themselves in NY state, I highly recommend checking it out.
VR & FUN’s review of the game will be coming shortly!