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How to Shrink the Entire Star Trek Galaxy

Talking to the creators of 'Star Trek Timelines,' a mobile game that makes Star Trek’s huge galaxy pocket-sized.

Kirk or Picard? Spock or Riker? Data or Seven of Nine? For some, these questions are meaningless. For Trekkies, they’re crucial. But the franchise’s famous characters are only one small part of the hugeness that is the Star Trek galaxy. With five live action series garnering over 700 episodes, 12 feature films (and a 13th on the way), and pounds of novels, comics, and other ephemera, Star Trek has a lot of galaxy to explore. With Disruptor Beam’s newest mobile game, Star Trek Timelines, players take on all generations of Trek characters to find a temporal anomaly. And with the creation of the game, the goal is to mash together the history of the legendary franchise while creating a huge, but not data-crushing, mobile experience.

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Procedural tests to create dynamic space (planets, nebulae, etc.) in Star Trek Timelines. Photo courtesy of Disruptor Beam.

Allen White, lead artist on Timelines, explains that everyone on the team is a huge fan of the series. Over the two years the game was in development, each team member watched almost every episode of every Trek series to get the feeling right. “Star Trek has such iconic imagery to it. Really it’s about doing your homework and taking all the stuff that everybody already knows and loves.” When talking about one of the biggest challenges inherent in the project, he explains, “How do you fill up outer space and make that visually sumptuous? So we did a lot of work there as well in our universe generation to fill in the space and do it visually.”

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Further fine-tuning of processes allow the team to amp up the visuals (like the orange gas clouds seen above) to bring a deeper richness to the galaxy. Photo courtesy Disruptor Beam.

Timelines’ executive producer Rich Gallup adds that, remarkably, “We only had two artists working on the project at any given time. We have a team that’s super-technically savvy. I don’t like the process of ‘I do a piece of concept art, that goes to a modeler, that goes to a texture-er, that goes to an animator’ in this big, long chain of events.”

White doesn’t mince words about how difficult it is putting the game together, “It takes a couple weeks from start to finish to get a ship right. It’s a lot of much-higher resolution stuff than you’d expect to build for a mobile game. But we’ve taken the approach that we want to have our cake, and eat it, and eat all the other cake, and have it look great every step of the way.”

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Just some of the many components that went into designing the look of the ships. Photo courtesy of Disruptor Beam.

Aside from stunning visuals, Star Trek Timelines also boasts original sound effects, dialogue, and likenesses from the show. Gallup explains the process of securing those assets, “We are extremely fortunate to work with this amazing Star Trek engine that is the CBS licensing team. There are vaults and vaults of assets and established processes that work well. We say to CBS ‘There’s this one episode where Picard says engage in a really emphatic way and the time code is three minutes and twenty-one seconds’ and they say ‘great, we’ll get that for you’ and when it arrives it’s the original dialogue but it’s stripped of all background music and special effects… And they have that for everything.”

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Further components allow for enhanced detail in Timelines’ ship design. Photo courtesy of Disruptor Beam.

Most importantly, how do die-hard Trekkies feel about the game? White says “It’s been overall tremendously positive. But there’s always that guy who’s counting rivets, you know? But you’ve gotta get up pretty early in the morning to out-Star Trek us.”

Star Trek Timelines is available for free on iPhone, iPad, Android, and Facebook.

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