Star Trek Into Darkness Exclusive Producer Robert Orci Interview On Apps And Games

Star Trek: Into Darkness producer and writer Robert Orci discusses transmedia strategy for franchise.

For some reason, even after spending three years in development, Star Trek the video game turned out to be yet another bad Star Trek Hollywood licensed game. The Namco Bandai published title from developer Digital Extremes and Paramount Pictures received a Metacritic rating of 39 on PC, 46 on PlayStation 3 and 43 on Xbox 360.

Fortunately, the JJ Abrams Star Trek Into Darkness movie is getting rave reviews from mainstream press and positive buzz from fans. And the free companion app has also been well received. So there’s plenty of Trekkers to be happy about.

One of the visionaries behind the game, app and movies is producer and writer Robert Orci, who has worked with Abrams on Lost and Fringe. The sequel to the Star Trek reboot offered a very different challenge.

“Oddly enough the biggest challenge was the freedom that we had... With the first movie I felt like there was only one way to do it and that was the only story that I knew how to bridge the gap between what came before and the new version. Frankly, if Leonard Nimoy had said ko to that script, I’m not sure where we would have been. I’m not sure that I would have felt that we could have gone forward. Having established our freedom with the first movie, then it was all about how do we tell an equally, seemingly inevitable story out of all the stories we could tell.”

Gamers who were able to get past the shoddy controls, poor aim and the onslaught of glitches that marred Star Trek were able to experience the first adventure of the new crew of the USS Enterprise. The film builds off of that.

“They’re still not the characters that we fans knew from the five year mission and they don’t know each other that well yet, but they’re also not strangers anymore. They’re still learning about each other. So on a character level, that was a challenge.”

Living up to the expectations of fans was also a major challenge for the second film, especially considering how great the original Star Trek II was in theaters when that debuted (after a very long and boring Star Trek The Motion Picture almost sunk the franchise).

“How do you surprise and audience with a space opera that doesn’t go over whatever we did in the first movie? We blew up planets in the first movie, so how do you raise the stakes in a way without resorting simply to mass destruction. The way we did that was by making sure that the stakes were super personal.”

While the new game brought back the Gorn alien race as the antagonist, the second film serves up a human terrorist in the form of actor Benedict Cumberbatch. He ends up being a lot scarier than the aliens in the game. I’m not going to reveal spoilers about the film so we’ll leave it at that.

Orci has watched as games have become more like Hollywood productions, especially with a focus on character development and storytelling. Ironically, it was the gameplay, not the story, that killed the Star Trek game.

“I have several game-playing friends who can’t play a game unless it has a story. That didn’t used to be the case. We were all happy to just shoot Space Invaders and now the stories are a pre-requisite for actually being a bestselling game. In terms of the evolution of the story itself, games can be a little bit more immersive in the world because there’s more time to actually unfold the story. It can be more of a challenge to write a game story, which can be more complicated, because you can explore more than within the confines of a two-hour movie.”

In addition to the free app, which includes back story that also bridges the three years between the two films, fans have a new comic book, as well.

“The comic book delves into the back stories of some of the characters that you haven’t seen. The game, app, comics and movies are all very tied together in a story.”

That story is currently on the big screen in 3D from Paramount Pictures. The success of what that director has done for Star Trek bodes well for Star Wars fans. And with Electronic Arts enlisting DICE, BioWare and Visceral Games to create the new games, hopefully we won’t have another Star Trek video game debacle.

Featured Columnist

John Gaudiosi has been covering the video game business for over 20 years for outlets like The Washington Post, Reuters, Fortune, AOL and CNN. He's EIC of video game site Gamerhub.tv.

Published Jun. 5th 2013

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