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File:StarTrekGame 8718.png


I've seen the sources to dozens of Star Trek computer games that various people have written, and I have to believe it's some kind of law. In all of these games, for many different systems, written in many different computer programming languages, and all written independently of each other, all have one thing in common. The variable used to count the number of remaining Klingons - the enemy - that haven't been killed yet, is always K9.
—Paul Robinson

The first Star Trek computer game [1] is a Turn-Based Strategy game written by Mike Mayfield in 1971 on a Sigma 7 mainframe, using the BASIC programming language. It became one of the big hits of the early home computer era in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Klingon warships have invaded Federation space and it's up to the Enterprise to hunt them down. Federation space is divided into a grid of 8 by 8 quadrants, and each quadrant is a grid of 8 by 8 sectors. The Enterprise starts in one quadrant, which may have Klingons in it. If not, use long-range scanners to determine the contents of nearby quadrants. Quadrants may contain Klingon warships, friendly starbases, and/or stars. Once you find the enemy, warp to that quadrant.

Combat is turn-based. You have phasers and photon torpedoes, and the Klingons have phasers. Your phasers automatically target the enemy, but may take several shots to destroy them. Torpedoes will kill an enemy in one shot, but you have to aim them by typing in a shot angle. The ship's computer includes a calculator to help you set up the shot. Meanwhile, the Klingons are shooting at you and moving around, and stars can get in the way of the fighting. The Enterprise takes Subsystem Damage, so a lucky shot can cripple you until repairs are made.

The Enterprise runs on a Power Source of energy units. Warp drive, shields, and phasers all cost energy. (In some variants, taking a hit to your shields consumes energy.) Dock at a starbase to replenish your energy and torpedoes.

The game ends when all the Klingons are destroyed, or you run out of energy (destroyed by enemy fire or out of warp fuel).

BASIC was a very common programming language in the '70s, so the game was ported to minicomputers, and distributed in books and magazines as a type-in program. Later versions deepened the gameplay with exploration, mining missions, and (in some cases) "real time" play where the Klingons acted once every few seconds instead of once per turn. It became one of the most popular games of the pre-PC college minicomputer era. In 1978, it was ported to Microsoft BASIC, the emerging standard for microcomputers. Versions appeared for the Apple II and IBM Personal Computer, and it was one of the most popular games on those platforms too. Derivatives with graphics and sound started appearing, in particular Star Raiders, and the original faded into history.

Star Trek the text game provides examples of:

  • Captain Ersatz: Since the Star Trek franchise was copyrighted and trademarked, any company that wanted to sell a variant of the game had to file all the serial numbers off. For example, when Radio Shack wanted to sell the Sol-20 variant "TREK 80" for its TRS-80 microcomputer, they renamed it "Invasion Force", and had it feature the starship U.S.S. Hephaestus firing its masers and triton missiles at Jovian warships.
  • Deflector Shields
  • Enemy Detecting Radar: Long-range scanners. Possibly the Ur Example in video games. You could tell how many klingon warships were in a neighboring quadrant, but not precisely where they were in the quadrant.
  • Flip Screen Scrolling: Moving from quadrant to quadrant.
  • Freeware Games: It was released into the public domain shortly after it was written.
  • Game Mod: Since it's a type-in BASIC program, you can change it any way you like.
  • Game Over: Possibly video gaming's Ur Example:

 THE ENTERPRISE HAS BEEN DESTROYED. THE FEDERATION WILL BE CONQUERED

 THE ENTERPRISE IS DEAD IN SPACE. IF YOU SURVIVE ALL IMPENDING ATTACK YOU WILL BE DEMOTED TO THE RANK OF PRIVATE

Notes

  1. The original version used teletype for output, so it was a few years before it became a "video game"!
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