Following news of Bethesda getting into a fight with the biggest Star Trek Gamers site over the bad reception of Legacy and STG's open criticism of the game and Bethesda consequently blacklisting the site, we at NMA decided this is as good a chance as any to both help another site that's (allegedly?) being maltreated by a publisher, remind people who forgot about RPGCodex being blacklisted that this is what Bethesda does and possibly get some hints about our own future.
Thankfully, Star Trek Gamers' webmaster Victor was willing to answer our question:
NMA: Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your site and the Star Trek game history.
Victor: Hmmm, where to start. My name is Victor, I've been in the gaming scene either as a gamer or in "the business" having worked for a few small and not so small game publishers in my time, finally quitting work due to health reasons in 2001/2. As for the site itself, it traces its heritage back to 1998/1999 with a small Star Trek gaming site done in frontpage 98 in a horrible framed table format. The original site was made by Katherine's (one of the staff) late sister and I helped her along with it since at that point in time I was doing some freelance work for a gaming magazine while at the same time juggling my main job. When she died a year later we were closing the site down and Katherine pointed me towards a small folder with a new site she was going to co-run with me. That became the first of the clan directory line of sites which ended in 2004 with the merge of the network into one big site. Nowadays the content of the STG is based on the previous sites with clans, mods, news, downloads, patches and all the other "stuff" based in one single site, much easier to manage. :)
Star Trek gaming history, now THAT'S a toughy, there's over a decades worth of my views on that subject. Suffice to say it went from one of the most lucrative franchises in the world (PC Gamer Magazines words...not mine) to a blatantly mismanaged mess. For more details have a look at http://www.startrek-gamers.com/history2.htm. It's my ongoing attempt to chart the rise and slow fall of Trek gaming from its official inception by Interplay in 1992 to the death of the franchise in 2003 with the Activision lawsuit, the history stopped there but a new section from 2003 onwards is in the works.
NMA: Legacy has not met with positive reactions from your site. Could you sum up what you feel is wrong with the game?
Victor: Originally it was met with open arms. This was the first game in 3 years and the fan sites were all over it, STG being the one that got the most interviews with the makers of all 3 games (there was Tactical Assault and Encounters being made as well). It was directly leading up to the release in December when things started to turn sour. It started to become obvious that a lot of the features which were hinted at being in the game weren't going to be there, which is the usual case in Trek games. I for one thought it was a bad omen and then when the PC version of the game was released at the end of December we all saw it for what it was...a cheap port of a console game.
As for what is wrong, well, this should sum it all up, they shipped the game with virtually no multiplayer capability for the PC and released a patch on the day of release. That should tell you about their so called "Quality Control" team, they couldn't control their way out of a wet paper bag with a pair of scissors. The game's control mechanism on the keyboard is locked in place, there are numerous bugs with single play and multiplay. So much infact that multiplay has already died off with very few people playing the game online, that hasn't happened since Simon & Schuster released Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Dominion Wars, and that game was an utter disgrace...much like Legacy is today. They based the game on what looks like several seperate game engines, one of them being the age old Armada 2 engine, and that game is now more than 3 years old. Thats what happens when a publisher gives a game to a 3rd rate developer (MadDoc) and then the same publisher (Bethesda) has a non existant QC department and ships the game out as an ALPHA.
NMA: Where do you fit Legacy in the series? Is it canon? Is it a step backwards or forwards? Where do you see the Star Trek games going?
Victor: As a stand alone game (not counting the decade and a half's worth of history behind it) Legacy itself has a good premise. It was the first (and probably the last) time in the entire Star Trek franchise that the voices off all the leading captains were in the same project, Scott Backula (Archer), Avery Brooks (Sisko), William Shatner (Kirk), Patrick Stewart (Picard) and Kate Mulgrew (Painwa....sorry...Janeway) all gave their voices to this game. Legacy as a game fits into the role of the Bridge Commander/Starfleet Academy type game, the space shooters cause thats basically all the game is, a space shooter. Now if the game was done right and released as an actual final version (instead of an alpha release) it would have been a FUN space shooter. Trek gamers (unlike popular myth) don't dress up in Klingon outfits or make funny hand signals all the time, Trek gamers are just that...gamers.
The same folks who play Legacy play games like the Half Life series, Battlefield series, Quake series and the rest, we don't ALWAYS like the deep strategic Trek games like the classic Starfleet Command series, we like the shooters as well...the sales of Activisions Elite Force and Armada 1 proved that. As for Legacy itself, it was a step forward in the franchise when we first heard about all the goodies that were in it, but then they got removed...and unfortunately we have ended up with a repeat of the DS9 - Dominion Wars game fiasco in 2001 and went 2 steps backwards again.
NMA: Do you feel it is the right time for a company to move the Star Trek games forward? If so, how?
Victor: That might already be happening but it's not Bethesda Softworks that is moving it forward. It's Perpetual Entertainment who have the chance to move this franchise forward with Star Trek: Online, the new MMO for Star Trek hopefully coming out round about the same time as Stargate Worlds (another MMO) is due for release...round about 2008 I think. Bethesda as a company now has a lot of damage control to do, blackballing the biggest Trek gaming site out there aint helping their cause one bit, I'm going to continue reminding them of that.
NMA: Why is sticking with the setting is important in your opinion? Don't you think it limits the developers' creativity and vision?
Victor: Game developers in Star Trek are not limited. You have to think of Star Trek in its entire franchise. The franchise is now 40 years old with a stack of films and 5 seperate series to it's credit. The world of Star Trek is massive. What limits publishers and developers like Bethesda is they are simply too scared to take a risk or they are too incompetent to do something groundbreaking with the franchise like Interplay did with games like Starfleet Command and Klingon Academy...hell even Activision took a risk with releasing Star Trek: Armada a game which for all intents and purposes was Starcraft with phasers...but it was a massive success.
NMA: How would you compare the anticipation to Legacy amongst Star Trek game fans to their reaction after the release?
Victor: Legacy was different. For 3 years Trek was under the rule of law of Activision, and at the end of those 3 years people were wishing they just left, and they did. However Activision being Activision, they decided to file a lawsuit which basically shut down the franchise for 3 years. So what was left of the community by the time Bethesda was introduced to us in 2006 was clamouring for a new game. Legacy, Tactical Assault and Encounters were going to be those games. The anticipation for TA and Legacy was massive. Tactical Assault got released and to QuickSilver's credit they done a fantastic job brining Star Trek to the handhelds. However when Legacy got released things changed.
The PC version of the game was a half done port from the XBOX360 version, the PC gamers got ripped off in plain public sight by Bethesda Softworks and we got lied to.
NMA: What would you say was Bethesda's role in the mistakes Legacy made?
Victor: They brushed over the massive incompetency of MadDoc software for a start. They had the chance of handing Legacy over to a better developer within the first few months because from what I heard there were many heated discussions on what MadDoc Software was incapable of doing with the game, but Bethesda decided to push on knowing full well that MadDoc was having difficulties with the game. Then there was the release date fiasco, 3 cancelled dates spanning September to December yet when the game was released in December it was made apparent to everyone that the game still wasn't finished.
The PR Department, namely Mr Pete Hines and Ms Erin Losi are also 2 of the problems within the company. Pete himself didn't bother to chat with the rest of the Star Trek gaming community but his lordship was more than happy to appear for the Oblivion fans and fans of other franchises, hell, he even appeard for the Fallout fans as well. Did he show up in any of the interviews with the major Trek gaming sites? Did he hell. Before the games release the PR Department was more than happy to work with the gaming sites of Star Trek, STG being the largest we got most of the interviews. The minute the game was released that PR Door was slammed shut. PR of Bethesda used and abused the gaming sites for their own advantage, and then they get all worried when one of them has the balls to bite back...that's their problem...not mine.
The problems Bethesda is facing now in the PC Gaming community could have been solved by Bethesda forcing Pete Hines to take 10 minutes of his precious time to answer an interview from STG. But instead they take that idea, shelf it and blackball STG for being "too critical". Seems to me Bethesda are scared of the truth, they released a half finished game and they are running scared.
NMA: Star Trek Gamers has been officially blacklisted by Bethesda. Why, do you feel, did Bethesda do this?
Victor: They did it for several reasons. One of them being that one or two other major fansites haven't officially come out in public on their front page and panned Legacy, only the STG did. The second reason is one which is more...worrying. Some of the official "volunteer" moderators in the Star Trek Bethesda forums have ties and links to one of the STG competitor fansites...STGU. ChessMess who is the lead of that site doesn't see eye to eye with me and therefore both sites do not get along. This has filtered into Bethesda's way of thinking. Bethesda Softworks had the chance to close down a hateblog on Google's blogger site that was running flame stories about myself and the staff of my site. The blog was being fed information and screenshots by one of the moderators of the official Bethesda board, we know that cause one of the screenshots which the blog displayed had the moderator controls on the screen.
We emailed Bethesda about this...no reply.
We emailed Bethesda about the state of the game...no reply.
We emailed Bethesda about the interview with Pete Hines which Erin Losi PROMISED us...no reply.
This happened the day Legacy was released.
Now, people who know me know what I am like. I speak my mind. If I dont like something I say it right on the front page of the site, screw the consequences. It got to the stage where Bethesda Softworks' silence was getting beyond a joke, and that's when The Argus Array, the STG's Star Trek Gaming podcast (which gets about 100,000 listeners) went on the record and listed the flaws of the game in a constructive manner. Argus 13, 14 and 15 all discussed what was wrong with the game and then Lindsay Muller (some kind of artist in Bethesda) came on the official Bethesda boards and said that the Argus Array must follow Bethesda Forum policies...basically Bethesda was now trying to dictate what i should put on my own podcast which I pay the hosting for.
...needless to say I wasn't happy. They didn't want criticism, but I gave it to them full bore. I told them exactly what I thought of Legacy. All the while another particular "fansite" remained silent. It got to the stage where official "volunteer" moderators in the Bethesda boards were allowing any topic made by me to be flamed, but at the same time they banned any of my staff in the forum for the slightest misdemeanor.
The Bethesda Forums were taken over by the asylum, thats when things started to go downhill.
NMA: Do you feel Bethesda intentionally played the major Star Trek sites out against one another?
Victor: Bethesda inherited a gaming fanbase where a few of the major sites was already at each others throats. The 2 biggest (STG and STGU) haven't seen eye to eye for more than 4 years now since STGU went down the "rose tinted glasses" road and we didn't. We called out Activision in public in 2000, done the same in 2001 but myself and ChessMess (leader of STGU) was still invited by Harry Lang (former lead of Paramount's gaming section) to lead a novel idea, the Star Trek Advisory Board, that eventually fell apart as well.
Bethesda didn't help matters when they apparently didn't bother to lift a finger when I informed them that one of their OWN "volunteer" moderators and possibly a developer from inside MadDoc was helping to run or at least send info about STG and it's staff to the hate blog that was (and still is) giving out personal info about myself and the staff who run the STG. Bethesda Softworks didn't even bother to contact me with regards to any info I had as to who was running that public hate blog against my site, they just let it, and the moderator/developer responsible for running the blog continue to this day.
It is also now starting to appear that Bethesda's own board's are becoming pro STGU and anti STG due to the questionable actions of some of the STGU supporting moderators of that official board whom Bethsoft themselves invited to moderate, knowing full well the 4 year ongoing history between STG and STGU. At this point in time I would like to point out that not one of the STG affiliates or STG staff have been asked to moderate in the official boards, only STGU people since Bethesda deem STGU a "safe site" which falls under Bethesda's own rules...basically Bethesda is trying to control the fansites, they never guessed on one thing though...that STG has outlasted the 4 previous publishers...possibly contributed to the downfall of Activision as publisher and STG will still be around when CBS eventually decide to not renew the contract with Bethesda...making them the 5th publisher STG as a site has outlasted.
STG's central forum gets more guest users than Bethesda's own official forum per day. It's a PR war between STG and Bethesda. Activision tried the same trick with STCD in 2001/2 to get us to "tow the company line"...they lost.
NMA: Do you feel Bethesda or Mad Doc gave an honest presentation of what they were doing with the game during development
Victor: Nope, they are both staffed by inherent liars, I'd go deeper than this but I'd probably get sued :)
NMA: Do you feel Bethesda is fit to publish more Star Trek games? Do you think those games by Bethesda would be a commercial success?
Victor: I think that Bethesda need to either hand this franchise to a more competent publisher, or do something which Activision and Interplay used to do...listen to the fans.
Legacy has seriously damaged Bethesda credibility in and outside of the franchise. It's going to take one hell of a Trek game from Bethesda before the Trek gamers...and my site...start to talk nicely about them again.