Earlier tonight, The Game Awards ventured into space, the final frontier. Developer Dramatic Labs, comprised of former Telltale Games developers, is about to take players into the sci-fi realm of Star Trek with the newly-revealed Star Trek: Resurgence. It was an exciting reveal, but one with a few questions. Exactly what can players expect out of this new setting? What time period will this game cover? And, from a development standpoint, how will Dramatic Labs build on the approach they've taken with their previous Telltale titles?
For the answers to these questions and more, Shacknews went to the source. Shortly before The Game Awards, we had a chance to chat with Cinematic Director Kent Mudle and Lead Writer Dan Martin, both formerly of Telltale Games and now currently part of Dramatic Labs. We asked about Resurgence's development, what it means to work on Star Trek, what it means to follow Starfleet ideals, and how Dramatic Labs represents an evolution from Telltale.
Shacknews: My first question to you both is, can you tell me how Dramatic Labs first came together?
Dan Martin, Lead Writer: The team at Dramatic Labs was built specifically to make Star Trek: Resurgence. Many of us have a long history of working together, and when Star Trek came around, it felt like the right opportunity to get the band back together. I know I jumped at the chance to work on this storied franchise – one I've been a fan of for as long as I can remember. We started small, but have grown along with the needs of the production.
Kent Mudle, Cinematic Director: I was both excited to work on Star Trek and to work with people I knew for many years making games previously. There's a lot of shared knowledge and language built up over time that made me confident this team could get it done.
Shacknews: Many of you are Telltale Games veterans. How does your time spent at Telltale make you, and also Dramatic Labs as a whole, uniquely suited to take on this new Star Trek project?
Martin: It's difficult to make a good licensed game – you have to do some "forensic" creative work to understand what makes an IP special and then reinterpret what that means in the context of interactive storytelling. We had a few things working in our favor when engaging with Star Trek. First, we're all fans, so we already came in with ideas for what we wanted out of a Star Trek game. Second, some of the best and most beloved Star Trek stories feature exactly the kinds of tough choices with no "right" answer that make for compelling interactive stories, so the license is a great fit for what we do best.
Shacknews: We've seen a lot of post-Next Generation lore play out over the past few decades, whether it's been through the TV shows from Paramount Plus or through Star Trek Online. What are you looking to add to this era of Star Trek history?
Martin: We chose this time period specifically because it gave us the space to tell our own original story, but still had connections to the ongoing world of Star Trek. And for me, Star Trek: The Next Generation is where my fandom was born, and it's hugely popular with fans, so it was a natural setting for Star Trek: Resurgence. But the most important thing we want to add to this era – and to Star Trek as a whole – is the feeling of being in control of the action in a grand adventure that stands alongside these other stories we've seen on screen.
Mudle: Watching a story unfold is very different from leaning forward, controller in your hand, making the hard decisions for yourself.
Shacknews: In what ways are you combining Epic's Unreal Engine and your own proprietary engine to build this game?
Mudle: The game is written and designed in our proprietary narrative engine, Beanie. Our engineers have connected Beanie to Unreal, allowing us to manage a huge branching story in one convenient place, and then use Unreal to do all the fancy visuals and gameplay.
Shacknews: I would be remiss if I didn't ask about the U.S.S. Resolute's crew. I know we'll be taking on the roles of First Officer Jara Rydek and Engineering Crewperson Carter Diaz, but what can you tell me about some of the other crew members we'll be meeting over the course of the story?
Martin: We'll be revealing more about the crew of the U.S.S. Resolute closer to the launch of the game. But I can tell you that Jara will interact with a fully fleshed out senior staff, where she'll find rivals and supporters alike, and a captain with a lot on his shoulders leading the mission. Carter will have his own group of friends and detractors among the enlisted ranks, and a pretty tough boss in our Chief Engineer, too. We've worked to give a distinctive feel to our "upper decks" and "lower decks" crewmembers, and you'll get to see different sides of certain characters when they crossover from one POV to the other.
Shacknews: How would you compare your lead characters with some of the most memorable leads in Star Trek history?
Martin: That's largely up to the player to decide. We hope to offer choices where the player might ask themselves, "What would Captain Picard do?" or "What would Kirk do?" That said, there were other characters to draw inspiration from. At times, Jara can be logical and calculating, like Number One from the original series episode "The Cage," (and once again in the upcoming Strange New Worlds on Paramount+); she can use charm to her advantage like William Riker; or she can be more of a renegade like we've seen from Michael Burnham. And Carter would probably have a good time working through a problem (or a Romulan Ale) with Miles O'Brien or Montgomery Scott. But he's still at the start of his career in Starfleet, which we don't see as often, so the characters of Lower Decks the show, as well as the TNG episode of the same name, would be closer to his contemporaries.
Shacknews: With decision-making a central component of this story, will players be put in a position where their decisions may potentially clash with Starfleet's ideals? Thinking about Next Generation, Captain Picard had some moments where he had to choose between Starfleet's directive and what's right, so is there a chance players in Resurgence will be put in the same position?
Martin: Absolutely! Beyond our own affection for Star Trek as entertainment, those classic tough decisions are a perfect fit for the ways we invite the player to engage with our stories, and one of the reasons we wanted to make Star Trek: Resurgence. We put the challenges of command on the player through choices large and small, and that goes for both of our POV characters.
Shacknews: Lastly, by the end, it felt like Telltale Games had settled into a formula with some of its titles. However, now that you're all getting a fresh start at Dramatic Labs, it feels like you have an opportunity to both carry on the Telltale legacy and also challenge yourselves in new and exciting ways. In what ways would you like to evolve the storytelling formula established at Telltale?
Mudle: We put a lot of value on the work we did at Telltale and what we learned from it, but it's important to evolve and grow with Dramatic Labs. And while there will certainly be elements familiar to fans of the Telltale games, we're bringing new types of gameplay to Star Trek: Resurgence such as tricorder scanning and shuttle piloting.
Another evolution is that we're releasing the entire story at launch, not episodically. That gives us more flexibility in how we structure the story and tell the most compelling narrative. As mentioned above, we're also building Star Trek: Resurgence with Epic's Unreal Engine, which allows for greater visual fidelity, and the story was developed and written with Beanie™, our proprietary narrative engine. It's a very powerful tool for authoring interactive stories, and has given us a lot of flexibility in how we tell our story.
Star Trek: Resurgence will release in Spring 2022 on PC (as an Epic Games Store exclusive), PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. For more on this and all of the other reveals from tonight, be sure to catch up with our full coverage from The Game Awards.
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, How Star Trek: Resurgence pays homage to the series and evolves the Telltale formula
I'm looking forward to this.