G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 6 – JHeinig
G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 6 – JHeinig is now available to download. Check it out here. Mike recently visited Cryptic Studios and had the opportunity to sit down with the Star Trek Online team for several interviews. The final interview in our series is with one of Star Trek Online’s Content Designers and Systems Engineers, Jesse Heinig. Be sure to check out this interview and the others from Mike’s trip by visiting our G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip Round Up page.
He uses the episode, Uneasy Allies, to illustrate this. After providing the General beats he received from Christine for the episode, the Content Designer takes that outline and breaks them down into the individual story beats and game elements. It was his decision to go to Nopada after meeting up with Sela because there is another Iconian gate there. Go through the Nopada map, Get back into Hakeev’s lab, and use it to reach the Iconian Invasion Sphere. That break down gives them an idea of what kind of assets they will need, and the artists will have to make. He decides on the pacing of the mission and illustrates the pacing by describing the various activities and the pay offs that the player receives for completing each stage of the story, such as meeting Sela, or activating the Iconian gate, seeing the Heralds and the invasion fleet for the first time, confirming everything Sela had said to be true.
Content Designers are responsible for a large portion of the story that the player sees and interacts with. Jesse says that it can be true and goes on to explain that Christine gives them specific notes such as it has to be Sela because it is going to effect something that happens later on, but they have a lot of creative freedom to other secondary elements if they want to create some interesting or dramatic twists, such as someone you’ve trusted and been on several missions with suddenly turns on you and you don’t know why. That wasn’t part of the initial story, but it was included to add a dramatic twist and had themes about who do you trust, who is telling you the truth, and how serious things are really. Jesse looks for stories that deals with themes like that in consistent ways, or how they will affect us as people, and what have we learned about ourselves and what we’re committed to today. Other designers may have other impetus, and latitude to focus on what they are interested and create a new dilemma. Some designers may want to start the pacing down low by showing elements that everyone is already familiar with such as a battle between Romulan Republic and the True Way, before picking up the pace with custom story beats. Designers decide where they want to spend most of their time.
Mike confirms that Jesse is a fan of Star Trek and asks about his favorite series. It varies over time, because he’s been around long enough that new series have come out during his lifetime and tastes change over time. Right now, his favorite series is the Original Series, because they took risks with their storytelling. He does have favorites that span all of the series. His favorite character comes from Voyager, some of his favorite story beats comes from DS9. It’s a tough question for someone who is immersed in Trek, because each one has its own unique flavor and charm. He compares the question to having to pick between apples and sausages.
Mike asks what other varieties of Science Fiction does he like from books to films and tv shows. He consumes all kinds of science fiction. He’s watched Star Wars and read a lot of the expanded universe. He names Babylon 5 and Farscape, Lexx, and Red Dwarf. Books that he’s read and likes include Isaac Asimov’s The Foundation Series, The Empire Triology, and Lord of Light (which he recommends to any Sci-Fi readers). Star Trek epitomizes Science Fiction from the Rocket age in that it is hopeful and says that in the world of tomorrow: first, there’s going to be a tomorrow; and second, it’s going to be better than today. We’re going to travel in space, have amazing new advances in medicine, psychology, food production, and industrial machinery and more; and we’re going to be living in a better world and making things better. He really appreciates that hopeful underpinning. He also likes the post-apocalyptic sci-fi genre, but for different reasons. He’s a fan of the literary classics of science fiction.
Mike has known Jesse for some time now, and knows that he’s also into fantasy, LARPing, and other similiar activities and wonders what is about all of these different genres and he finds fascinating. Science Fiction and fantasy are about stories that examine how the world might have been or how it could be different. They engage the imagination and get people thinking about people, or events, or themes that might not be real but under different circumstances might have been and allow for elements of the real world to be explored in a different context. Returning to Trek for an example, he talks about how class struggle was put forward in the Cloud Miners, or racism by dealing with people that are white on one side and black on the other. It’s about exploring the world not as it is but what it could have been or what it could become, or other worlds. Through these stories, you can say that nothing is inevitable, nothing is impossible, and there a myriad ways to look at the world, to look at life and to approach it and find the things that speak to you, that are great ideas and take those ideas with you.
Star Trek heroes are aspirational heroes designed to inspire and give hope to people. He recounts as an example the famous story of Nichelle Nichols wanting to quit after the first season of TOS and how Martin Luther King Jr. came to her and asked her not to because she was inspiring a whole generation of people to look beyond race and sex. He shares another story of Whoopi Goldberg finding inspiration in Nichelle Nichols role on Star Trek. Science Fiction and Fantasy are great avenues for us to explore these what ifs and for them to inspire.
Mike agrees with him about the importance of these genres to inspire and shed light on who we are. Jesse goes on to say that Sci-Fi and Fantasy have a responsibility to show us new things. There’s a trap that people will fall into where they want more of the same — another sequel, a new remake of this story, but we need new things, new stories that people have not thought about, because different ideas can open up new ideas and create new opportunities that no has thought about. Yes. We want the familiar, but there’s also room for new things that people have never seen or thought about before.
Mike asks if he’s not a fan of the current trend of endless reboots and sequels. Adrianne chimes in stating that there’s decades of good ideas and great material out there, but they choose to shoe-horn into something that we are already familiar with rather than creating something new that can stand on its own. A lot of original content came out of the 80’s and 90’s. Aspects or moments from those stories have been recycled to the point, where it seems that one moment is enough to please some audiences.
Jesse says that he’s not opposed to reboots and remakes, but there are cases where people will miss the boat. He cites Watchmen as an example. The creator of the comic did things that were unique to the medium. The unique things that Watchmen did on the pages of their comic are not easy to replicate on the big screen. Fans that want an exact replication of what they had seen in one medium transferred into another medium are sure to be disappointed because of the inherent differences in those mediums. In regards to reboots, Jesse says that the messages that we get out of the stories are relevant to the cultures and times that we live in. Its difficult getting the younger generation to connect with the original Star Trek, because they don’t live in the Cold War, where the computer is a brand new device, space travel is brand new, and technology will either save us or destroy us. The technology came and went, space travel was too expensive, and instead we decided to make our cell phones smaller, faster, and better at showing pictures of cats. With Star Trek, some things are still relevant today, but there are some things that are not. Those are the stories that are hard to sell to people today. So, developing a new Trek series or reboots of an old property, requires their creators to be mindful of that and tell stories that are meaningful today and gives people new ideas. He mentions a sci-fi novel by Jack Vance, Planet of Adventure as an example because in the story, he’s flying around from system to system at faster than light speeds and firing ray guns, but has to do all computations with a slide rule because the computer was never invented. There is room for reboots and remakes, but a keen eye for what is the underlying message and how to get it to resonate with people is required.
Adrianne talks about the tendency of some modern reboots to change the message because it was thought to be not relevant today, and end up changing the heart or the personalities of the characters to the point where they are no longer recognizable. Sometimes, the changes are so extensive that it becomes a parody of itself.
Jesse decides to take a risk and discuss indirectly some of the Star Trek fan productions without naming names. If our listeners have not seen them, they should go look for them. There are tons of them. There are a number of projects that have amazing fidelity, because the resources required to make the special effects are available to almost everyone with modern computers. The communities that produce these films and shows are able to pick and choose what they want to focus on and what sort of stories they want to tell. He praises the productions and the actors. He poses the question that if a production chooses to tell a war story, are they telling a Star Trek story? Trek has had war stories in DS9. Is that the hopeful future that Star Trek is known for? What does the characters get out of it? What does the viewer get out of it? For the Federation of the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th century, war is not something they glorify and seek out. What is the message and how does it go with the medium. If stories are being told about a black ops team trying to save the galaxy, if their morals are compromised in accomplishing this, then what’s the point of having that moral code and are they going to have a future at the cost of not being the people they were meant to be. These are the interesting questions that the producers of some of these fan productions should be asking and answering over the course of that production. The fundamental thing in Star Trek stories is exploring what is the right thing to do and reaching that destination.
Adrianne says while growing up, Star Trek and the Twilight Zone were big in her life. She noticed similarities in both shows in getting people to think about things over the course of their episodes. TNG was much the same way. DS9 didn’t go as far into it, but it still had the moral dilemma or see what it looks like through another culture’s eyes. She hopes that the new film will capture some of that. She felt it didn’t capture those things that are relevant to our interests, our dreams, or our fears. Mike has heard some good things about the third film, but Jesse wants to see what happens. Simon Pegg and Justin Linn have to deliver. Mike says that when he heard that Linn was a fan and grew up watching Trek, it gave him hope and kind of helps make up for JJ not being one.
Jesse talks generally about a mission coming up later this year. In design they had planned it so that the player is presented with a difficult choice to make. He goes on to say that instead of giving the player a choice, they are going to show the player what the consequences of making the wrong choice will be so that there is only one real choice for the player to make and it will be the right choice. Jesse believes that is what sets them apart from other game franchises.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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