Starbase 118 – serious Star Trek simming
Star Trek is one of the most popular genres of play-by-post games, some having been played way back since the 80’s when PBEM games really started. If you want to roleplay in the same universe as Captain Kirk, and Captain Picard, you’ve got plenty of choice of games to join. Many of these Star Trek games have organised themselves together over the last few decades into fleets, allowing many games to be run in parallel sharing the same resources, members and sometimes sharing the same stories.
One of these fleets is UFOP: Starbase 118, which is a fleet of 7 games, each game set aboard a different starship or starbase, and one set on a planet.
I interviewed Miles Unum from Starbase 118, asking him about the fleet.
How long has Starbase 118 been running?
UFOP: Starbase 118 was founded in June 1994 and has been ongoing since then. The group started with just a few Star Trek fans, and today, it’s grown to one hundred and twenty members. At this time, our individual groups are specifically related to the prime time line of Star Trek, and our stories are written after Star Trek: Nemesis.
The group was started by Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf as a way for Star Trek fans who enjoy writing to get together and cooperatively create new and interesting stories based on the guidelines established by Gene Roddenberry.
How is your game played?
SB118 started as a chat-based game, but when Yahoo Groups was introduced, we switched to that for many reasons. Yahoo Groups allows us to easily send a writer’s sim to all group members instantly, and it gives us a repository for past stories. I can go to any of our individual ship’s/base’s Yahoo Group and read posts for stories from several years ago.
How much control over the story do your players have?
The members of SB118 have a lot of input into the stories that are written their group, which is a starship or base. The captain of each group will set up the mission for the members, and the members add to the story. Mission ideas can be submitted by any member of the group, and mission-specific characters, written by group members, are created to fill out the overall story and to give each primary character someone new with whom they may interact. The missions usually last about six to eight weeks on average, and then we take a shore leave for about two weeks before the next mission. Shore leaves are a blast because you get to write more about your character’s personal life, interact with all of the crew for parties and promotion ceremonies, and show off more of your character’s hobbies and relationships. You can do these things during the missions, but there are more opportunities during shore leave.
How do you go about recruiting new members?
We actively recruit new members though posting advertisements on Star Trek websites and through talking with fans of Star Trek in person and using social media. We have a quick application process that requires the applicant to submit a short story to make sure that they can meet the requirements for our sims. Academies begin each Monday, and they usually last for one week. During that week, our instructors teach cadets about our simming format and style through example sims and through tutorials. From day one, cadets are brought into a scenario story, and they participate in the outcome of the story. The cadets are required to sim at least three times during the Academy, which is our minimum standard for being a member of one of our ship/bases.
Starbase 118 comprises many individual games, do you ever have any crossovers?
We try to create a summer blockbuster story each year to allow the individual ships/bases to write together. The blockbuster is a large story, and each individual group participates with one mission that ties into the overall story. We have written this in a couple of different ways. In the past, we have created a special Yahoo Group where all of the individual groups can post their parts of the story, but that would become overwhelming sometimes due to the numbers of sims each individual group submits. This year, we used our forum to post mission updates, and those updates influenced the outcomes of the other group’s stories. Sometimes, two Captains may decide to work on a mission together during other times of the year, which gives the members a chance to write with others whom they normally would not have a chance to write.
When a cadet graduates from our Academy, they are assigned to a ship/bases where there is an opening. If a cadet has a friend on one of those ships/bases, we try to assign them to the same group. Any member can request a transfer to another ship or base for any reason. This allows our members to sim with new writers and to join a different assignment. Some writers might enjoy simming a character only on a starship, and others might like to sim on a base like our starbase or our embassy on Duronis II.
I think that the resources and ability to transfer between assignments are the greatest benefit. Add to it the fleetwide chats, and you know that you’re part of a greater community. Our resources include news stories about the fleet and Star Trek in general and a Wiki where information about past and present groups are available for viewing. Each character is given their own page to tell as much about their character’s background as they like with text and graphics. Our fleetwide chats each month allow members from every individual group to talk about anything they want, and it helps with that feeling of community.
The Starbase 118 website seems to be well maintained and updated frequently. How important is the role of your website to your game?
Admiral Wolf is very proactive in keeping the SB118 website up to date, visually appealing, and doing so with the help of every SB118 member that can volunteer the extra time. I think that a website with great graphics and detailed information about the group is very important to recruiting new members. Even though we are a mostly text-based group, seeing a well-maintained home page is an important recruiting tool.
How important is the wiki to your website?
I mentioned before about the in-character and out-of-character participation of our members for promotions. In-character activities include writing quality and quantity sims each week. The out-of-character activities are the ones that really help our groups flourish. Members can help by mentoring new members, submitting mission ideas, keeping certain Wiki pages updated, writing news stories, advertising the group, and working on the Species Development Team, just to name a few. Without people who are willing to help in these areas, we wouldn’t have a great looking website and Wiki.
How useful has social media (Facebook/Twitter) been to the fleet?
Facebook, Twitter, TrekSpace, and StarTrek.com forums are just a few of the social media websites where we advertise SB118. We have recruited several new members from these outlets, and many of those were through direct contact with Star Trek fans who saw our posts about SB118.
Do you run contests or writing challenges within Starbase 118?
We have Simming Challenges and Writing Challenges on our forum. Members can submit a favorite recent sim to be considered by other members as the best sim during the current round. We have twenty rounds, which gives us time to allow members to vote for the their favorite round winner to win the Annual Award. Writing Challenges are held every two months. A theme is chosen, the entries can be no more than three thousand words long, and different judges for the challenges are chosen throughout the fleet each challenge.
If you’re are interested in joining Starbase 118, see their website here. They also have a very comprehensive wiki with a lot of detail about the expanded Star Trek universe. You can see their wiki here.