the hell is the STAR TREK STARSHIP TACTICAL COMBAT SIMULATOR, anyway??
Well, for those not familiar with the game, the original STSTCS was produced by
role-playing game manufacturer FASA back in the early to mid 1980's, in
the time period between the release of the motion picture Star Trek II:
The Wrath Of Khan, and the release of the motion picture Star
Trek V: The Final Frontier. The STSTCS was a dice, paper, and
cardboard playing piece game that had nothing at all to do with computer
simulations. The game was in its heyday when the
original Apple Macintosh and the Commodore 64 were considered the 'hot'
machines, and the industry as a whole was still a long ways away from attaining
the graphics, computational power, or mass digital storage necessary to make
modern space battle and role-playing simulators possible. Essentially, the
STSTCS was (and still is) a marvelous game fueled primarily by the imagination
of the players. And little else. No flashing lights, no blaring
klaxons, no "'Dat blowed up real good!" explosions, no
first-person shooting galleries, no wire-frame Indiana Jones rip-off women
with bra cups the size of watermelons, and no Trent Reznor soundtracks.
Basically none of the ADD-inspiring kid's stuff that you see dominating
computer desktops and Playstation or Xbox consoles today. Just the players, their
brains, some paper, pencils, and a few ten-sided dice.
Man, were those good times or what?
Sadly, they were not to last forever.
By the time the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted--riding on the success of the most popular Star Trek feature film to date, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home--communication had faltered between the game creators at FASA and the powers-that-be of Star Trek. Following a policy that angers me to this day, the television and film producers of the Star Trek franchise pretty much ignored or overlooked the STSTCS, just as they have ignored or overlooked most of the hundreds of Star Trek novels that have been written over the last thirty years.
The game producers at FASA tried hard to make the STSTCS jive with the films and with the new TV series, but it was awfully difficult considering that the TV and film producers ignored everything FASA put out, and didn't seem to give a damn about FASA to begin with. In the Star Trek world, TV and film have never been expected to support, uphold, or validate any of the books, manuals, novels, or other materials that benefit from tie-ins with the large or small screen.
Moreover, there is evidence to support the claim that Gene Roddenberry himself was behind the death of FASA's Star Trek license. Always the proclaimed pacifist, and never comfortable with the military aspect that his self-created "star fleet" implies, Gene apparently became unhappy with the "militarized" nature of the FASA role playing universe. (Side note: how Gene expected to film a whole SF television series set on an armed star vessel--populated by folks with titles like "Captain" and "Lieutenant", doing galactic battle in the name of the Federation--and not have it seem "militaristic", is truly beyond me.)
In any case, by the end of the 1980's, FASA's entire Star Trek empire had fallen from grace. Disdained by the franchise creator and wildly out of step with the rapidly developing and prospering ST:TNG television series, the STSTCS soon went out of print along with the rest of the FASA Star Trek RPG books. There would be not me a 3rd edition of the STSTCS.
As the 1990's progressed, the manuals for the now out-of print STSTCS became increasingly rare and difficult to find. As many of you have already found out, about the only place you're liable to find any FASA Star Trek books for sale is at an on-line auction. This means that stock and quality are constantly in flux, while prices can sometimes soar in comparison to the relatively bargain basement pricing at the time of original printing.
My own collection of FASA Star Trek material is horribly dog eared. Especially the STSTCS manuals. Everything is falling apart, and in 1998 I started wondering if I should not try to find a way to preserve my books; or at least preserve what is printed in them. I started toying with my computer scanner, loading in some of the images from the STSTCS and running OCR on the text so that I could load it into my word processor. My initial plan was to scan in as much of it as I could and store it on CD-R as .JPG and .TXT files. That way I could make copies that would be easily moved and that could be kept in safe storage in case of a fire or other disaster.
Very quickly, however, I discovered that I was unhappy with the storage format. Jumbling the text and images together in a file folder made it damned hard to look up information in a coherent, structured manner. I tried using Microsoft Word to turn it into .doc files, but even then things felt too clumsy. In some desperation I realized that my best bet would be to assemble the text and images in .html format, with all the powerful graphical and hypertext tools of the Web Browser at my command. I built a few rudimentary pages and an index on my hard disk, struggling to maintain the images and text on-screen as they had appeared on paper. Before long my local .html database of STSTCS material began to grow rather large and, I hate to say, rather lonely.
You see, I don't like working on big projects without being able to share the results. Especially something like the STSTCS, which by its very nature requires multiple participants. I started to feel like I was assembling all this material for no good reason at all, and at one point I almost chucked the whole project on account of waning interest, until I was struck by the idea that I ought to open my files up on the internet and really share them.
I was not too sure that anybody still played or knew about the STSTCS, but I reasoned that perhaps a handful of die-hard fans were out there somewhere and might appreciate the database I was assembling.
I've been building web pages since 1996, slowly sharpening my skills from horrible to average to, I hope, a little above average. Being an inveterate graphic artiste I seized upon the notion that I ought to really dress up my STSTCS files and create a whole new web site dedicated to the STSTCS. The site would be an archive for old material, yes, but it would also be an active clearinghouse wherein I could post new ships of my own creation, new ships from the evolving movies and new television series, other fan designs, new rules, general rants, et cetera, et cetera.
So in summer of 1999 I set to work on the rough draft of what was then called the STSTCS Millennium Update & Archive. Yes I know the title is terribly unwieldy (and still is!) but it's perfectly descriptive just the same! This is indeed an archive of old and hard to find STSTCS information, along with continually revised and updated material concerning Star Trek's more recent developments--developments that FASA never had a chance to explore, such as the bulk of The Next Generation, all of Deep Space 9, and even the oft-debated and somewhat apocryphal series Voyager and Enterprise.
The MU&A took on two different and significant cosmetic revisions, first in 2001 and again in 2004. In late 2005, the site title and URL changed to those which you see now, followed by an ongoing and complete site overhaul. All ship schematics and ship pages are either in the process of being re-scanned and cleaned up, or have already been re-rendered in a new, leaner, hopefully more user-friendly format. Fan-submitted material has been retained, especially the Jaynz listings and rare classes from the 1st Edition game sets. Most importantly for me, the directory and link structure is being cleaned up so that if the OLD&A ever has to hop to a new URL again, such a move can be done relatively painlessly, with few bumps or bruises along the way.
So there we are. I'm trying to preserve a piece of the past, and at the same time I am trying to bring it into the future. As hobbies go, there are much worse ones out there. And if you're one of those rare few who used to have or play the old STSTCS and loved it as much as I do, I hope you appreciate this web site. Fire me e-mail, chip in with ideas and what not, maybe a fanship perhaps? This is a work in progress after all. And even if the official companies that gave us the STSTCS in the first place don't care about it anymore, we the fans still care. And that is ultimately all that matters. Power to the fans!!
---Brad R. Torgersen