A few weeks back, StarTrek.com offered a First Look at Star Trek Battlestations, the new community gaming video slot machine from WMS Gaming, including game specs and a two-minute preview. Well, the game goes live this week, and so we’re going to boldly take readers far deeper into the creation of Battlestations by talking with WMS Design Team members Peter Flemming and Jamie Vann. In a joint conversation, Flemming and Vann excitedly point out the game’s innovations, share their excitement about finally being able to watch players engage each other in the game, and reveal that TOS legends William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy recorded new dialogue for it. You can also check out the "Transporter Wilds" feature in the video above.
First, for the people out there who don't yet know about community gaming, how would you explain it to them in layman's terms?
Flemming: The idea behind community gaming was to get the excitement of a craps table onto the slot floor. Slots are usually an independent event, and we want to get people communicating and create the “high fiving attitude” you see at the table games.
To you, what is unique about Star Trek-style community gaming?
Flemming: With Star Trek, we evolved the vision. Everyone enters the bonus together, but you control your own outcome.
Vann: So, we are taking that “high fiving attitude” and bringing it to battles between the Federation and the Klingons. Every player is the commander of their own fleet of ships going into battle, and the bigger your ships, the more you can win.
Heading into Star Trek Battlestations, what was your "mission," so to speak? What were you hoping to achieve?
Flemming: We were trying to advance Star Trek (gaming) into another space on the casino floor. We wanted to create a really large product that people would be drawn towards. The two 52-inch monitors and Battle Bonus definitely do just that.
Vann: Yeah, this is a pretty great spectacle on the casino floor. There are four players side-by-side on the bank with a really massive display overhead showing the battles play out. It’s incredible when all four players are firing on the Klingon fleet at the same time. Our mission with a brand like this is to give the player an immersive experience and give them the excitement of a story intertwined with their gambling experience.
Give us a sense of how the two of you and the rest of the team worked together.
Flemming: Jamie has the creative vision of the project. My job is to make sure he and the team has the time and resources they need to make the best product we can. I will give my suggestions, but they are just that, suggestions.
Vann: We start with an idea for a game – not necessarily a Star Trek game, but a game that would be compelling and fun to play. For a while, I’ve had this idea of a community game where you could take things from one bonus round to the next, and when I started working on this title, it hit me that a fleet of Federation ships was a perfect match for that previous idea. Then I wrote that idea up and presented it to my team of artists, programmers, mathematicians and producers, and we drew up a plan to create the product. Projects like this are really huge in scope and there are a lot of people who work on it at some point in the process.
What, speaking as objectively as you can, are the freshest, newest, most original and exciting elements of Star Trek Battlestations, elements that perhaps haven't been seen before either in other games and/or specifically in Star Trek?
Vann: Like I mentioned, I really love the concept that you can have a ship survive one Battle Bonus, and it gets promoted to higher rank -- and a higher win multiplier -- and you then have it for the next Battle Bonus that gets triggered. And I do like the “Transporter Wilds” feature that we have in the game (shown in video above). The game has two side-by-side sets of reels and if you get a WILD on the left set of reels, it gets transported to the right set of reels and fills an entire reel with WILD symbols. It takes a cool element from the Star Trek universe and makes it an exciting part of the slot game. Oh, and we got William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy to record new dialogue for this game. That is as cool as it gets when working on a Star Trek game.
The game will go live this week. How ready are you for people to finally get to play it?
Flemming: It is always an exciting time. We have been working on it for months and I can’t wait for it to get out where our players can enjoy it. It is one of the best parts of our jobs.
Vann: Really looking forward to it. Sure, I think all these things are exciting and fun, but it doesn’t mean anything if the players aren’t excited by it. And I can’t wait to see players playing the Battle Bonus.
One StarTrek.com reader described a previous Star Trek game as the most fun they'd ever had losing money. Is that music to your ears?
Vann: I love it when I hear that Star Trek fans love our games when they don’t normally play slots, and I love it when I hear slot players say they normally wouldn’t play a Star Trek game, but they really love the ones we’ve made. We really do try to make the game entertaining for both of those players.
Flemming: It is great to hear the Star Trek community enjoys the product. We make an effort to balance the brand vs. the gaming experience. For our products to be successful it needs to really hit on both fronts.
How do you top it? If WMS sets you loose to do another Star Trek game, what is the next final frontier for Star Trek community gaming?
Flemming: That is always the challenge. I am not sure what it will be, but it will continue to push our technological envelope.
Vann: This is an industry that is continually evolving, and new technologies are being introduced all the time. Whatever new gaming models or technologies we develop, we’ll probably do a Star Trek game to feature them.