The History of ACTD
The current form of Star Trek: A Call To Duty has evolved greatly since its original inception in 1995. Once a fledgling organization on a private online network, ST:ACTD grew to over 400 members around the globe on numerous ships in three of the major gameplay styles, wrapped into an immersive game that many players (including players that are members in other online Trek RPGs) hailed as The Best On The Net.
Star Trek: A Call To Duty was formed out of its parent organization, Virtual Trek (vTrek). vTrek was founded in May of 1995 on the since-discontinued proprietary content area of The Microsoft Network (MSN). Its co-founders were Chad Morrett and James Perry. During the course of its operation from 1995 through 1997, vTrek operated in two gameplay styles: The 5th Fleet, a chat-based group akin to ST:ACTD’s Chat Division, and The 7th Fleet, akin to ST:ACTD’s Newsgroup Division. At its height, vTrek boasted 100+ members across 10 ships, and a special-event Klingon ship.
In October 1996, Paramount Digital Entertainment (PDE), the online media group of Paramount Pictures and Viacom, entered into a partnership agreement with MSN to begin developing official Star Trek content exclusively on the MSN network. PDE expressed interest in operating a game that allowed Star Trek fans to be a little interactive, and play out lives of Starfleet officers. PDE, therefore, entered into an affiliation agreement with Chad Morrett to evolve Virtual Trek into such a game. Thus was the beginning of ST:ACTD itself, helmed by Chad as its owner and Game Manager, with the game to become the first – and for a long time, the only – online RPG officially affiliated and endorsed by Paramount Pictures.
Between October 1996 and the end of the year, vTrek continued to operate under the management of James Alan Young, while Chad and a select group of staff members and players concentrated on the development of ST:ACTD’s documentation and management structure. Much of that original structure and documentation remains today, especially in the Chat Division Player’s Handbook.
vTrek officially discontinued operation on December 31, 1996. A few days later, on January 5, 1997, Star Trek: A Call To Duty opened its doors to members of the MSN 2.5 network with four IRC vessels: The USS Seleya, USS Geneva, USS Callisto, and USS Griffon. But time constraints forced Chad to step down. In May, 1997, James Alan Young signed his Game Management contract with PDE, to become ST:ACTD’s 2nd official Game Manager / Owner.
The game immediately flourished in the public, mostly due to its prominent position on the front page of StarTrek.com, which gained large amounts of traffic from the recently-released movie Star Trek: First Contact, and the address advertisement on Deep Space Nine and Voyager television series. At one point during 1998 & 1999, ST:ACTD had over 300 people in its training program. A rapid-fire expansion program was enacted in the fourth quarter of 1997, resulting in no less than 6 expansion ships being commissioned in the course of two months, including the USS Scimitar, USS Delphyne, and USS Orion.
Because of high recruitment numbers and the problems associated with training so many new recruits, the Information Gateway database website was developed and launched in August 1998. It served ST:ACTD’s base record-keeping functions for three years until it was released from operation in May 2002.
The end of 1999 brought frustrations, as PDE was rocked with technical difficulties in managing its IRC chat network. It was thereafter announced that, at the beginning of the New Year, PDE would cease the network’s operations. ST:ACTD’s affiliation with PDE as the official Star Trek RPG also ceased, a side-effect of PDE’s closing of chat network operations. Neither side was unhappy with each other. PDE simply no longer had interest in an affiliation, and rather wanted to focus on developing boxed-set games and a possible subscription-based RPG (which developed into the Star Trek: First Duty and not-released Star Trek: Prime Directive cell phone MMORPGs). On January 9, 2000, ST:ACTD began operations on a self-run independent chat network as a public Internet Star Trek RPG. It retained the ability to call itself the only Trek RPG ever endorsed by Paramount, a title which has brought awe and mild disbelief among passers-by.
While membership recruitment numbers were nowhere near as high as with PDE, ST:ACTD continued to grow at a medium pace, averaging 60 new members a year. The slowdown in the overall number of incoming recruits gave the game, as a whole, the much-needed ability to provide gameplay experience to its newer officers, and further time to embellish their character development, compared to the frenetic cycle of quick promotions and ship launches every three months.
July 2000 brought another milestone to ST:ACTD’s player community, with the holding of the first official ST:ACTD player convention in Gurnee, IL outside of Chicago. Since then, ST:ACTD held conventions in various North American cities in July, giving members the chance to place faces to names, meet new people, and enjoy conversation with everyone. Other player-coordinated unofficial mini-conventions have been held all over the world, ranging between completely informal dinner get-togethers to parties held at a player’s house.
In October 2000, James Alan Young stepped down as Game Manager, turning management and ownership rights over jointly to Cheryl Blaney-O’Quinn and Kris Hooks. Under Cheryl and Kris’s tenure, projects such as the ESPC Guidelines and updated multiple character/NPC policies were begun.
In September 2001, the Newsgroup Division of ST:ACTD was launched after months of testing. This brought a second avenue of gameplay to ST:ACTD, paralleling the original vTrek setup of IRC and BBS-style gameplay.
Cheryl and Kris continued to serve at the game’s helm for one year, until they stepped down from Co-Game Management in October 2001 and returned management and ownership rights back to its previous, and current, holder James Alan Young.
Immediately, in November 2001, James ordered a large staff restructuring and public image reconstruction effort. The staff was restructured into the present â€œdivisionâ€ tree setup, and numerous projects such as the ASDB Technical Specifications Group, ODN Personnel and Member Information Network, new public â€œbrochure-likeâ€ main website, and others were begun. A dual focus on both player communication and enhancing the game’s outside marketing image, was begun, and continues today.
Later, in early 2002, the PBEM Division was opened, adding the highly popular email-based gameplay style prevalent among most other online RPGs. This brought ST:ACTD to three gameplay divisions, covering all major forms of online roleplaying, save for the MUD/MUSH/MUSE style of online turn-based roleplaying.
Game ownership and management passed on from James Young to Scott Balmos, the primary code-writer behind ODN, to Tim Nunan, to its current owner/GM, Bob Baldwin, who is now the longest continuing member of the game. Bob assumed the game in October 2009 and since then has been working on various projects, including the consolidation of ships and fleets, a new logo contest for the game, hiring a Special Events Coordinator, and encouraging players to develop suggested concepts like Identification Badges for active members and podcasts. Eventually, a new, modernized set of core game sites will be developed and implemented.
Today, ST:ACTD stands at around 200 members and staff across 26 vessels in three different gameplay style divisions. The game may have evolved and changed size up and down dramatically, but many aspects of the game’s core operations continue to be overseen by some of the same people who built them six years ago. Despite continual growth, none of the focus has been, or ever will be lost, from ST:ACTD’s philosophy: The characters are what make the game, not the ship.
Many tidbits from various Star Trek episodes, movies, games, and books may have been inspired by ST:ACTD events, a possible uncredited tip-of-the-hat from Paramount due to the game’s previous affiliation. At least one episode of Voyager has been noted to parallel an ST:ACTD ship’s mission arc. Korok, the Klingon Borg shown in Voyager’s Unimatrix Zero, is highly believed to be based off of Kuroc, a Klingon Flight Control, and later Executive Officer, of the USS Scimitar, played by ST:ACTD alim Conrad Tulk. Numerous ships and stations have appeared in such games as Star Trek Armada, Armada II, and Dominion Wars. For example, the USS Scimitar, Avalon Station, and USS Geneva. Aspects of ST:ACTD continued to sneak into Trek movies, with the namesake of ST:ACTD’s USS Titan in Star Trek Nemesis. Such is a testament to ST:ACTD’s previous affiliations with Paramount, a fact that can be proven by many current and former staff members, who still hold copies of their expired PDE contracts.
Star Trek:A Call To Duty has a rich and storied past, written by countless hundreds of members who have all continued the Starfleet charter of boldly going. Come and be the next person to forge part of that history. Heed the call to duty.