Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bridge Commander High Points


I always wanted to be in games, ever since I was a kid.  However, when I was a kid, there weren’t any jobs in games.  Games were made by one or two guys in their garage on their own time.  Even when you did get a job with a company, as my brother put it, your boss would frequently say “Great work on that game!  You’re fired.”  It was just that unstable.
This was one of the best games of that era.  Honest.
Undeterred, I started studying programming on my own.  Back then, programming had line numbers and GOTO statements that would jump the programs to specific lines.  Not understanding the logical organization of code, I wrote code like I wrote stories.  My programs looked like a tangled knot of yarn and ran about as well.
Alexander the Great had the right idea.
Undeterred, I took a programming class in high school, and still didn’t get it.  Undeterred, I took a programming class in college, and still didn’t get it.  Undeterred, I took classes at work, read more books, and tried on my own.  Finally, I was deterred.

Okay, I had some success with Flash and ActionScript 2.  Then Adobe redid everything with ActionScript 3 and I was deterred again.  Programming was not for me.

I dove into writing and designing games, which worked well with my English degree and technical writing background.  I had a few jobs as a game designer, which are stories for another day, but the longest I worked on a game was at Totally Games on Star Trek: Bridge Commander.
Or, as my brother called it: "Oh. Mah. God!  It's, like, Totally Games!"
Bridge Commander was groundbreaking for a number of reasons: the ships were incredibly detailed, the interactive bridge made you really feel like you were in command of a starship, and it sold like deep fried poo.  That last part was inevitable; most players didn’t understand a game where you sat back and watched your crew play for you.
"No, guys, you go ahead and fight that ship.  I'll just watch."
As a designer, I tried my darnedest to make the game more fun.  I fought for making the game more strategic, but was overruled; to make ship management more intricate, but saw it turned into something confusing; to add missions that were more than just combat, but saw them removed from the game.  It was a wholly frustrating experience and punishing to my mental and physical health.  It was still one of the best experiences in my career.

Why?

Because I was frigging writing for frigging Star Trek!  I got to do research on how photon torpedoes moved by watching the shows and movies.  I wrote dialogue for Picard and Data that were performed by Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner!
This was the day he said I was his favorite writer.  Honest.
The writing was some of my best work, but Activision didn’t agree.  They hired D.C. Fontana and Derek Chester to come in and help revise the story.  I was upset with their decision at first.  Then I realized something: I was working with Dorothy Fontana!  She worked on the original Star Trek.  She worked on Star Trek: the Next Generation.  She worked on Babylon 5.
These guys would be talking about how great a writer I was, too.  Um, if they weren't busy.
So, as bad as the experience was, I still cherish this picture.
Could I look any more uncomfortable?
This is a picture of the Bridge Commander writing team.  That’s me right next to the D. C. Fontana.  And, yes, that’s her hand on my butt.

I like to think she meant to put it there.

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