Interview with Anthony Keen from the Star Trek Freedom PBEM
Star Trek PBEM games on the web
Star Trek makes up a vast amount of PBEM games, mainly due massive scifi universe in which it is set, giving the chance to have an unlimited number of possibilities for different starships, and an infinite amount of locations your characters can explore.
Star Trek Freedom
Star Trek Freedom , a network of PBEM games which all take place in the Star Trek universe.
There are many Star Trek PBEM games around, but Star Trek Freedom stands out for two reasons, it has a very detailed website (http://www.startrekfreedom.com) which is always kept up to date, and a strict training process before you’re even allowed to join a ship.
Star Trek Freedom has five ships, with an average of ten people onboard each. The ships make up the “52nd Fleet”
Interview with Anthony Keen from Star Trek Freedom
Anthony Keen is the webmaster for Star Trek Freedom. He has been involved since 1997 and has played characters who have started at the bottom and worked their way all the way up to Captain of a ship. I’ve interviewed Anthony about Star Trek Freedom.
Hi Anthony, how did you get involved with Star Trek Freedom?
Hi there David, thanks for inviting me along for this interview.
Star Trek : Freedom became its own entity when our group broke away from another organisation when several aspects of our needs weren’t being met. I was a CO of one of the ships and had skills and aspirations in website design, so I constructed a site and together, the management team comprised of the Council and COs defined the game’s new structure and outline.
I’ve occupied every position on the board, from Ensign to Admiral and up and down again!
What are your duties within Star Trek Freedom?
At the moment, I am the Fleet CO, basically head of our Council and I play a character on one of the ships but not a CO, I did that for many years, I am afraid I can’t commit to a CO position at the moment, it’s a full on second job! I am also the webmaster but the site is now onto its 12th incarnation and pretty much runs itself. I developed a backend for COs to edit their rosters etc, a member admin section so members can edit their bios and upload photos and so on. I tweak the colours from time to time!
How long has Star Trek Freedom been running?
In its current form, STF became its own entity in 2003 but Freedom Squadron was developed in 2001 and I started PBeMing in Dec 1997.
Could you briefly explain how a Star Trek Freedom game is played?
We don’t think of the ships individual games as much as it’s the whole fleet working together, so all the ships play in a PBeM format with forums and wikis supplementing the knowledge base. We all use the same format, keep to the same rules and try to keep on the same timeline.
So the CO will have an idea for a story and kick it off, the crew of the ship write their part of the plot and together, the story unfolds. Often, the outcome isn’t what the CO had in mind, but that’s great, there is no wrong or right outcome.
How much control over the story do your players have?
Almost total; the only rules are, don’t kill another character or post for another character. Putting words in other’s mouths isn’t allowed. Beyond that, it’s a free for all. You want to produce a killer plant? Go to it! COs love it when members take the initiative and run with a subplot idea. COs are GMs for their ships, with FOs backing them up and sometimes Second Officers helping.
We try to avoid the superhero mentality and discourage simple solutions and single action problem solving, if an Engineer can fix the warp engines with one adjustment, what fun is that when the CO may have a plot to have the ship float away and crash into a planet! However, if that was written, there are other ways to get to a plot point!
How do you go about recruiting new members? And do you have a quality control process to make sure those new members don’t ruin the story?
It’s a black art for sure; we were lucky when we got our site onto Yahoo back in the day, as soon as Google became big, we were there and on their radar very early on. Also, we offer rewards to other sites in our award program. We have a small team that reviews other sites and offers feedback and a rating, in exchange, our award is posted… that helps us with Google, the more links it has to your site, the higher rated it is.
The COs run their own ships so they have total control over what crew of their ships know and don’t know. The CO will not tell the crew what is happening with their mission and it unfolds as they together explore the possibilities. Members, new or old can’t be definition, ruin the plotline unless they post using the incorrect time, which is easily corrected.
Our Academy ensures that new members are ready to play when they complete their training period. Let me explain that process.
When someone applies to the game the brakes are applied at once; it sounds like we take the fun out but what we don’t want is someone who is all about action and instant posting replies, that isn’t what PBeMs are about.
The Academy FO reads the initial application and if it passes the initial tests, so no Borg, or superheros, no Kirks or other characters from the show, the applicant goes to a Holodeck and an Instructor.
An instructor is a member of the game who has experience and time to train one on one, or more, with the new application. Guiding them through a few situations and teaching our format, rules and what we are about. This can take 6 weeks or more!
Then, if they graduate, they are sent to their ship as an Ensign JG and they begin their career.
We take out people who don’t want to play, since 2003 we’ve had around 2,800 applications to the game, the site gets 500,000 hits a month and we get 20 gig downloaded from the site… but we have 60 members, all emotionally mature and wanting to play and who are in for the long term.
We may not be the biggest but we strive for quality and stability.
The Star Trek Freedom website is well maintained and updated frequently. How important is the role of your website to your game?
It’s vital, I can’t understate the websites importance for our game. It not only shows what we are about, it’s a place for all the ships to update their information, for you to see crew bios and apply to the game. The forums and wiki are also important to us, the wiki has 1000s of pages, all member developed.
It shows the world that we’re active, with plenty of compiles of posts on the site… a place where you want to apply and become a part of.
Do you play any other kind of games (Xbox, Playstation etc), if so what are your favourites and what do you like about them
For sure but PC games and usually strategy based and we get into larger games like WOW but so far I’ve resisted Star Trek Online, I want to see where it goes in the next few months.
If you want to know more about or join Star Trek Freedom, visit their website at http://www.startrekfreedom.com