Calling all Trekkies: Game on


After a three-year drought, gamers can again boldly dive into a new series of "Star Trek" games now out from Bethesda Softworks.

Bethesda enlisted Dorothy "D.C." Fontana, a veteran "Star Trek" scribe, to guide these new adventures. She worked on the original 1960s series and wrote the story lines for Bethesda's first titles, "Star Trek: Legacy" for Xbox 360, and "Star Trek: Tactical Assault" for PSP.

"Game technology grows more and more innovative, more and more able to match the look of film and high-definition TV," Fontana said. "With the quality visuals now available, it puts the game experience on par with watching a movie or TV episode with the added benefit of being interactive."

Fontana became familiar with the video game realm after working on a previous "Star Trek" game, Activision's "Star Trek: Bridge Commander." In 1998, Activision signed a 10-year exclusive video game deal with Viacom for video game rights to all things "Star Trek." Two years ago, Activision sued Viacom over the license, claiming that the studio was not supporting the property with new films and TV series.

After the lawsuit was settled last year, Bethesda Softworks stepped in with a new multiyear deal to bring "Star Trek" video games to multiple platforms. The deal includes all "Star Trek" licenses, TV shows and films up to the present, but it does not include new properties like the new feature film J.J. Abrams is developing for Paramount Pictures.

Fontana worked on the game stories with writing partner Derek Chester, who also worked with her on the "Bridge Commander."

"Dorothy and I both have suggested things at times that the designers have found to be an interesting idea, and they will occasionally take those and flesh them out to add to the gameplay experience," Chester said. "As a writer, it's fantastic to add onto the 'Trek' mythology with a respect and adherence to canon."

"Legacy" makes full use of the next-generation capabilities of Xbox 360, bringing high-definition graphics to the "Star Trek" franchise. The game introduces a new Vulcan protagonist and an original story that spans 40 years and all five TV shows. All five captains from the TV series signed on to provide voices for the new game, which allows players to take command of various starships from the shows and engage in space combat.

But even with that kind of star power and next-generation visuals, games still must abide by the age-old rules of showbiz. If the script doesn't work, no amount of graphics power can help. As a result, Fontana always concentrates on the story first.

Fontana believes the advances in game technology that next-generation systems are introducing will attract more Hollywood creative talent to the gaming realm.

"As video games proliferate more and more, more writers may become interested in being involved," Fontana said. " 'Pac-Man' was an amusing game, but it had no story. Today, the games have to have more going on in them -- story, character, crisis or conflict, goals. Because of that, I believe writers will begin to see the possibilities in this form of storytelling."