Erin Prince has been a lifelong fan of video games and is now a Product Owner at Disruptor Beam Inc.; the studio behind Game of Thrones Ascent. Prince was awesome enough to allow me to interview her about her career and Disruptor Beam’s game, Star Trek Timelines.
Nicholas Yanes: Growing up, what were some of your favorite video games? Are there any from your childhood that you still enjoy playing today?
Erin Prince: My very first video game was the original Golden Axe, and impressively it still holds up today. I loved being a powerful Amazon! Another game I really enjoyed was Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego, for the NES with its giant extra encyclopedia for when you had to look things up.
But growing up, the most influential game for me was The Sims. That was the first time I realized that I could put things INTO a game, and my life was forever changed. Putting things into games is now my career!
Yanes: When did you know that you wanted to have a career in video game production?
Prince: My original college major was theater production and after giving a speech in one of my classes about how video games are so much better at creating catharsis than the overall theater experience, well, that was it. I then decided that I needed to study how to make games. I changed colleges and moved to Arizona where I studied video game development at the University of Advancing Technology, graduating with a Masters in Game Production.
Yanes: You have professional experience working in the MMO, F2P, Mobile, and Social spaces. Which sector of the video game industry are you interested in the most? Additionally, which gaming sector are you most excited to see developed in the next few years?
Prince: I personally get most excited about MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online Games) and their impact on the mobile game space today. The social features, connectivity, and real-time multi-player aspects of MMOs are now making their way into mobile games, which we’ve experienced and strived for in Disruptor Beam’s games. Star Trek Timelines is moving even more towards helping to build social connections between players with expanded Fleet functionality and timed events. Disruptor Beam’s upcoming game, The Walking Dead: March to War, will also incorporate social features in a big way and players will be working with and against other players to succeed in the game.
Yanes: Prior to working on Star Trek Timelines, what was your first encounter with the Star Trek franchise? On this note, which is your favorite Star Trek series?
Prince: These things go hand in hand! My first encounter with Star Trek was watching The Next Generation when I was a kid and to this day, it is my favorite series. Watching the progression of the characters in Next Gen and seeing them build deep ongoing relationships with one another really resonated with me. Next Gen was my first real adult show and, as a kid, I thought that the crew of the Enterprise were what all grownups were like. It seemed important that I should grow up ready to join Starfleet and serve on the Bridge Crew. And now, I’m on the Bridge of the development of Star Trek Timelines!
Yanes: What was the inspiration for Star Trek Timelines? Was there a specific set of characters you wanted to play with?
Prince: Being able to tell a new story for Star Trek was really compelling for the Disruptor Beam team. There is such a broad history with 50 years of Star Trek – it was really ripe for a new game experience. Bringing together all of the Trek fandoms across all of the movies and series into one united story was a huge inspiration for us. In addition, it has helped in development to have so many real Star Trek fans at Disruptor Beam who have and continue to work on the game – myself included.
Were there specific characters we wanted to play with? Sure. We knew from the start we needed the basics, but over time we’ve expanded to include over 350 characters in the game! No matter how obscure your favorite character is, we probably have them…or will someday. We are still adding new characters every single week.
Yanes: How did the story for Star Trek Timelines develop? Did Disruptor Beam go into its development knowing it wanted this game to be focused on time travel?
Prince: There were a lot of experiments to start, trying to figure out how to authentically fuse characters from throughout Star Trek history into one coherent story. If you sit down and start watching Star Trek form the very beginning, there are major themes that are hit on in every series: the mirror universe, the founding of the federation, and time travel. Every series touches on these in some way. So, we have made these important themes in Star Trek Timelines as well.
Jessica Sliwinski, our Lead Narrative Designer, led the charge in developing the story of the Temporal Anomaly explosion that combined 50 years of Trek into one game. As we approached the launch of Star Trek Timelines, Jessica also worked closely with John de Lancie himself (Q) to fine-tune the narrative concept.
Yanes: Star Trek Timelines has fantastically balanced game play. How was the game play developed?
Prince: Thanks! We’ve gotten to this point through lots of iteration. We’re constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the game and listening to player feedback, and then fine-tuning gameplay, as a result. We play the game as fans of Star Trek. And, sometimes we say to ourselves, “You know, wouldn’t it be great if more missions dropped that item.” This process is critical to the success of building a game that doesn’t just look great, but that is fun to play.
Yanes: Star Trek has a rich history. Were there any elements of this franchise you wanted to include but just weren’t able to fit into this game?
Prince: We don’t have as much of the Animated Series as I would like to see in Timelines. But, we are exploring what it would be like to try and fit more of that content into the game. One day we will have some animated characters in the game.
I’ll also add that Star Trek is not slowing down. We are as excited as other Trek fans about the expansion of the franchise with a new series. No matter what happens with that series, we have plans to continue to discover more of the galaxy inside of Star Trek Timelines and add all sorts of new Trek content over time.
Yanes: When people finish playing Star Trek Timelines, what feelings do you hope they take away from the game?
Prince: I hope that players feel that they just finished watching an episode of one of the shows. I hope they had a moment of connection with the story and some of their favorite characters, and I hope they are looking forward to what happens next time. We want players to feel like they’ve had a victory and have emerged with a sense of triumph and of waiting for the next adventure. We hope that people feel as though they have left their mark on the Star Trek universe, and that they want to go tell their friends about the cool things that they have done in Star Trek Timelines.
Yanes: Finally, what are some other projects Disruptor Beam is working on that people can look forward to?
Prince: We are really excited about our upcoming game, The Walking Dead: March to War. It’s another story-driven franchise we are passionate fans of and it’s a chance to explore a new type of gameplay compared to other Disruptor Beam games. It’s based on the comic and has a really exciting look and feel.
As mentioned above, we’ll also continue to work on Star Trek Timelines for years to come! The game will soon be out of your pocket and onto your PC with our forthcoming launch on Steam for Windows. We also plan to keep developing new, large-scale content like the recently concluded Process of Assimilation Mega-Event. We’ll continue to bring our passion for Trek deeper and deeper into the Alpha Quadrant for fellow fans.