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A stunning "Full Screen Display" of your quadrant, not available in the original teletype version

I've seen the sources to dozens of Star Trek computer games that various people have written, and I have to believe it's some kind of law. In all of these games, for many different systems, written in many different computer programming languages, and all written independently of each other, all have one thing in common. The variable used to count the number of remaining Klingons — the enemy — that haven't been killed yet, is always K9.
— Paul Robinson

The first Star Trek computer game note  is a Turn-Based Strategy game written by Mike Mayfield in 1971 on a Sigma 7 mainframe, using the BASIC programming language. It became one of the big hits of the early home computer era in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Klingon warships have invaded Federation space, and it's up to the Enterprise to hunt them down. Federation space is divided into a grid of 8 by 8 quadrantsnote , and each quadrant is a grid of 8 by 8 sectors. The Enterprise starts in one quadrant, which may have Klingons in it. If not, use long-range scanners to determine the contents of nearby quadrants. Quadrants may contain Klingon warships, friendly starbases, and/or stars. Once you find the enemy, warp to that quadrant.


Combat is turn-based. You have phasers and photon torpedoes, and the Klingons have phasers. Your phasers automatically target the enemy, but may take several shots to destroy them. Torpedoes will kill an enemy in one shot, but you only carry a limited supply of them and you have to aim them by typing in a shot angle. The ship's computer (usually) includes a calculator to help you set up the shot. You can also maneuver using impulse drive. Meanwhile, the Klingons are shooting at you and moving around, and stars can get in the way of the fighting. The Enterprise takes Subsystem Damage, so a lucky shot can cripple you until repairs are made.

The Enterprise runs on a Power Source of energy units. Warp drive, shields, and phasers all cost energy. (In some variants, taking a hit to your shields consumes energy.) Dock at a starbase to replenish your energy and torpedoes.


The game ends when all the Klingons are destroyed, or you run out of energy (destroyed by enemy fire or out of warp fuel). In most versions, the game imposes an arbitrary time limit in which you have to destroy all enemies.

BASIC was a very common programming language in the '70s, so the game was ported to minicomputers, and distributed in books and magazines as a type-in program. Later versions deepened the gameplay with exploration, mining missions, and (in some cases) "real time" play where the Klingons acted once every few seconds instead of once per turn.note  It became one of the most popular games of the pre-PC college minicomputer era. In 1978, it was ported to Microsoft BASIC, the emerging standard for microcomputers. Versions appeared for the Apple ][, TRS-80, and IBM Personal Computer, and it was one of the most popular games on those platforms too. Derivatives with graphics and sound started appearing, in particular Star Raiders, and the original faded into history.

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    Tropes used in most versions of the game 

  • Abandon Ship: Doubling as Video-Game Lives. Some variants of the game allow you to abandon the Enterprise; you're then given command of a weaker ship, which you can't abandon.
  • Boring, but Practical: Energy weapons (phasers, lasers, etc.) require a lot of energy to fire, drop off in effectiveness at longer ranges or when damaged, overheat if used excessively, and can take multiple shots to eliminate an enemy ship, although the last two depend on the skills of the player. At the same time, however, energy weapons never miss the target.
  • Captain Ersatz: Since the Star Trek franchise was copyrighted and trademarked, any company that wants to sell a variant of the game (rather than distribute it for free) has to remove all overt Star Trek references.
    • When Radio Shack wanted to sell the Sol-20 variant "TREK 80" for its TRS-80 microcomputer, they renamed it "Invasion Force", and had it feature the starship U.S.S. Hephaestus firing its masers and triton missiles at Jovian warships.
    • Similarly, EGA Trek began with Klingons, the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Federation, and Star Trek ship designs, changing them into "Mongols", the U.S.S. Lexington, the "Union", and somewhat redesigning the ships.
    • Sears Telegames' exclusive release for Atari 2600 was called Stellar Track. Interstel's Star Fleet series had the United Galactic Alliance fighting off "Krellans" and "Zaldrons".
    • An Apple II variant renamed the Enterprise the Endeavor, and the Klingons the Klarnons. This allowed the game to keep using "E" for the player's starship and "K" for the enemy ships.
  • Critical Existence Failure: While the Enterprise itself will suffer from system breakdowns as it takes battle damage, processing limitations of the time prevent the same from applying to all of the enemy ships. Instead, enemy ships gradually wear down as they take damage, generally dealing less and less damage to the player's vessel. Once cut down to no Hit Points, they promptly explode.
  • Deflector Shields: A staple of Star Trek, these are a powered armor system that serves to absorb damage before it can impact the ship and cause structural and Subsystem Damage. Like the phasers, they are entirely reliant on the ship's main reactor to function.
  • Distress Call: Starbases, planetary settlements, and other starships can send these out at random times if they have enemy ships in their sector; planets may come under attack without any ships in their sector. Successfully rescuing whoever sent the call adds a bonus to the player's score. Then again, if two or more of these calls come up with short deadlines and in opposite directions, it becomes a Sadistic Choice as to which one you think you can help and which one you will allow to be destroyed.
  • Enemy-Detecting Radar: The Ur-Example in video games. The Enterprise has both long-range scanners and short range scanners: the long range scanners can tell how many Klingon warships are in a neighboring quadrant, but not precisely where they were in the quadrant, while the short range scanner is used to aim and fire at specific targets within a quadrant.
  • Evil Only Has to Win Once:
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: Moving from quadrant to quadrant, the layouts of which are randomized on every visit.
  • Freeware Games: It was released into the public domain shortly after it was written.
  • Game Mod: Since it's a type-in BASIC program, you can change it any way you like.
  • Game Over: Possibly video gaming's Ur-Example:
  • Gotta Kill Them All: The objective is to clear all Klingon ships and bases from that sector of the galaxy.
  • Hope Spot: When responding to a Distress Call from an allied vessel, the player needs to work very quickly in eliminating the surrounding Klingons, Mongols, etc., as the allied vessel scarcely has a couple of turns in combat (sometimes only one) before the enemy vessels destroy it. Also, if you take too long getting there, you will only get a message about debris present in the sector, and then face combat against the enemy ship(s) that are still there.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: In most versions of the game (including the original) enemy ships do not have the ability to pursue the Enterprise at Warp Speed. As a result, it can be a good idea to escape at warp if overwhelmed. Some versions also allow Klingon, Mongol, etc. commanders and scout ships to flee into neighbouring quadrants if heavily damaged but still intact, necessitating pursuit later on for cleanup.
  • Interface Screw:
    • Damage to the Main Computer results in the loss of data on the long-range sensor map, meaning the player has to fly around to scan it all again, or reconstruct the last known tactical situation from their own memory.
    • Damage to the short-range sensor subsystem causes objects to disappear from the map of the current quadrant, starting with vessels and space stations and progressing up to planets and stars. At 0%, the sector simply shows as blanknote , which can be especially problematic if the quadrant contains a black hole or two for the player to blunder into when moving at impulse.
    • Damage to the long-range sensors renders the player's vessel unable to accurately scan adjacent quadrants, either leaving them with just the number of stars or the presence of a starbase, or at higher levels of damage the nearby quadrants will simply show as blank on the in-game star chart.
  • Invisible Wall: You'll run into one of these if you try to leave the 8x8 quadrant playfield. In some variants, your engines automatically shut down and you get the message "Sorry, edge of galaxy in that direction." In others, you crash into the energy barrier surrounding the galaxy and get damaged.
  • It's Up to You: In most versions of the game, the Enterprise is the only armed ship in the entire sector.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: In the Star Trek universe, Photon Torpedoes are matter-antimatter warheads with a miniature warp drive. This game treats them as unguided projectiles to prevent them from being overpowered. The onboard stock of torpedoes is extremely limited, and they have to be aimed manually. They also destroy enemy ships in one hit.
  • Luck-Based Mission: Largely based on the difficulty selected by the player. Higher levels tend to have fewer starbases, or at least useful ones where the player can recharge, rearm and repair their ship, and those that are present can, if you're really unlucky, all be surrounded by enemy ships, leaving you with no safe haven until one calls for help. Subsystem Damage is also random, so in one mission it might end up occurring only rarely, while in another mission, you might have to spend plenty of time following one battle after another just repairing systems to keep the ship capable of taking on the next fight.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: Running out of fuel. Probably the Ur-Example.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The fact that it takes some time to warp anywhere on the map means that a Space Station, planetary settlement or allied ship that called for help may have been enduring combat for days on end by the time the player's ship arrives. Usually, when the player is in combat, it's over within a fraction of a stardate.
  • Press X to Die:
    • You can shoot your own starbases! Another probable Ur-Example. Depending on the version, torpedoing your own starbase will either merely warn you and dock your score, or destroy it — thereby making it impossible to refuel there again — or even cause the starbase to destroy you in retaliation.
    • Some versions also allow the player to self-destruct their starship, which can be a means of Taking You with Me.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The numbers and locations of Klingons, starbases, and stars are randomized at game start. Additionally, the layout of each quadrant randomizes when you enter it.
  • Ray Gun: Phasers (or their renamed substitutes). They draw energy directly from the ships' power supply and never miss.
  • Resources Management Gameplay: Managing your time, power, and ammunition are all critical to success.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: In this case, it's gamemakers who have no sense of scale. The asterisk symbols are typically used to represent stars, of which there can be up to nine in a given quadrant. One strategy in combat is to maneuver around stars to get clear shots at the enemy ships, since if an enemy ship is behind a star from your vessel's position, a torpedo will just get absorbed by the star instead (though energy weapons will pass right through). In real life, all of these stars are light-years apart, even in a setting like a stellar nursery in a nebula. The concept would be far more plausible if the asterisks represented planets, moons, or asteroids.
  • Subsystem Damage: Another Ur-Example. If the Enterprise takes a hit without her shields protecting the hull, one of her subsystems will take damage and operate at a reduced level. Additionally, the ship can experience random system breakdowns. The player can either attempt repairs in deep space, or dock with a friendly starbase (which completes the repairs quicker). You don't have to stay stationary to do this; you can order repair crews simply to focus on a particular subsystem, and they will still fix it while the ship moves within a quadrant or warps from one quadrant to another.
  • Turn-Based Strategy: Combat alternates between the Enterprise and the Klingons.
  • 2-D Space: The game has a strict X,Y coordinate system with no Z-axis.
    • Micklus's Star Trek 3.5 downplayed this by representing the galaxy as an 8 by 8 by 3 three-dimensional grid of quadrants.
  • Unique Protagonist Asset: The Enterprise is substantially stronger than any individual opponent that it faces, and can fire torpedoes, which no allied NPC vessel is able to do.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: If the player sees on their star chart that an allied starbase has enemy ships in the same quadrant, it's usually a better idea to go around cleaning up enemies elsewhere until the starbase puts out a Distress Call, and only then moving to that quadrant to clean up. Or if an enemy ship moves into a quadrant with a starbase, it can be worth warping away and attacking the enemy elsewhere until the call for help arrives. Both allow the player to get credit for destroying the enemy ships and bonus points for saving a starbase under attack.

    Tropes only appearing in specific versions 

  • Awesome, but Impractical: Mongol plasma bolts in EGA Trek. The player has to take time actively raiding enemy supply ships and planetary supply bases to find any, and even then, they're relatively rare. Even though the player's ship can fire them repeatedly without incurring counterattacks, plasma bolts have a fairly high chance of failing to detonate (although the NPC ships never seem to have any problem hitting you). The player is generally better off relying on their torpedoes and energy weapons unless the situation really calls for the extra firepower, and even then having a backup plan in case the bolt(s) end(s) up doing nothing.
  • Badass in Distress: Allied starbases and ships sometimes put out Distress Calls if enemy ships are in the same quadrant, whereupon the player can come to their aid for bonus points in their game score. Starbases tend to last a fair while in combat but deal no damage to the enemy, while allied ships tend to be fairly fragile but they do chip away at the enemy ships' shields with their energy weapons.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Mongol Bases in EGA Trek scarcely look any more intimidating than their usual array of ships — until the player gets anywhere close and has to deal with the ungodly amount of damage that they quickly dish out, which usually causes a whole mess of Subsystem Damage since they only show up on higher difficulty levels. If the Lexington is not at full strength confronting one, and there are multiple Mongol ships around it (which is usually the case), it's often a good idea to pull a Tactical Withdrawal, go find a friendly starbase and resupply or repair, or keep on fighting elsewhere until a Mongol supply ship or planetary supply base yields a Plasma Bolt or two, and then come back and crack the Stone Wall.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Of a sort. In EGA Trek, the player is warned whenever a Mongol ship in the quadrant fires a plasma bolt at them, whereupon they have one combat turn to respond before it hits and deals a substantial amount of both direct damage and Subsystem Damage.
  • Cloaking Device: EGA Trek also included "Vandal" ships with this ability. The Zaldrons of "Star Fleet I" had this ability as well.
  • Death-or-Glory Attack: One frequent addition to the game is to equip a superweapon on the player's ship, like the Death Ray from EGA Trek or the E-ray from TREK 80. If it worked, it killed every enemy in a quadrant. When it didn't work, it could do enough damage to destroy or cripple the player's ship, cause Black Holes to appear all over the current quadrant, or in EGA Trek, temporarily mutate your crew and leave them drawing smiley faces on the interface while ignoring your orders and speaking nonsense.
  • Dirty Coward: In EGA Trek, "Mongol" Scout and Commander ships have the ability to flee into neighbouring quadrants if damaged and not destroyed, necessitating time-consuming pursuit sooner or later for cleanup.
  • Elite Mooks: In EGA Trek, these come in the form of Mongol Commander battleships, and on higher difficulty levels, the occasional Mongol Base; both are significantly tougher than the average battlecruiser of their faction.
  • Epic Fail: In EGA Trek, whenever a Mongol Plasma Bolt fails to explode, since they're usually a One-Hit Kill or even a One-Hit Polykill if employed against an enemy base or vessel.
  • Exploding Barrels: Stars can explode if a torpedo is fired into them in some versions, destroying anything in the surrounding sectors. The game penalizes players for stars destroyed to discourage the use of this as a tactic. Some versions, like EGA Trek, also have the risk of stars going supernova, destroying the entire quadrant and damaging the player's ship as it's violently thrown out.
  • Explosive Overclocking: The player's ship usually has a cruising speed of Warp 6, although Warp 7 simply costs a lot more power to get anywhere, and Warp 8 can be attempted in emergencies at the cost of damage to the warp engine subsystem.
  • Fragile Speedster: In EGA Trek, Mongol scout ships are capable of repeatedly retreating to adjacent sectors when attacked, but ultimately they pack somewhat less offensive power and defensive resilience compared to standard Mongol battleships in a straight fight.
  • From Bad to Worse: Some versions, particularly at higher difficulty levels, allow enemy ships to warp in from adjacent quadrants to your own to Gang Up on the Human. That said, if the player is defending a starbase at the time, it becomes a case of Too Dumb to Live and/or Suicidal Overconfidence. It can also be exploited to reduce the time spent flying around seeking out the enemy.
  • Guide Dang It!: The game generally doesn't mention that the player has to manually reset their warp factor from 1 up to the desired speed upon starting up a new missionnote . This can result in an incautious or unaware player blowing a massive amount of time and ruining their score right off the bat, if they forget to call up Engineering and change the warp factor before they try to leave their first quadrant and take the fight to the enemy.
  • Hyperspeed Ambush: Some versions allow the Klingon, Mongol, etc. ships to warp in from surrounding quadrants to join in a battle against the player's ship, or the same enemies are capable of using a Tractor Beam to intercept the player's vessel and pull it into a quadrant where they weren't intending to go.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: EGA Trek has Lieutenant-Commander, Commander, Captain, Commodore and Admiral.
  • Immune to Bullets: Vandal ships in EGA Trek, being cloaked, automatically dodge all torpedo attacks. The only way to take them out, short of setting off a nova nearby or having a plasma bolt on hand, is to fly up to close range and pour a large amount of "laser" energy into them until they explode.
  • Insistent Terminology: The galactic grid is usually said to be composed of 64 quadrants in a standard game. A quadrant is actually a fourth of something. So it would be more proper to call them sectors, and their divisions subsectors. The Star Trek universe does properly divide the galaxy into four quadrants, but these games were made decades before that development appeared. It may be an understandable mistake, as the original series was sometimes erroneous and inconsistent in the use of the terms "quadrant" and "sector".
  • Interface Spoiler: In EGA Trek, at least, a player can enter orbit around a planet to be told there is a "destroyed settlement" there, which can be confusing if the planet has never sent a Distress Call during the mission. At some later point, the planet will call for help, and if the player arrives in time, it will now have a settlement on it (or a destroyed one again if the player arrives too late).
  • Kill Steal:
    • Can occur in EGA Trek, when the player has damaged one or more enemy ships nearly to destruction and a "Vandal Death Pod" or two just happens to enter the quadrant and deal Scratch Damage to everybody, barely affecting the player's shields but putting the enemy ships over the edge to a Critical Existence Failure. Particularly frustrating if the enemy ships in question were supply ships that were almost at the point of surrendering.
    • Allied ships can also pull this off when you come to their rescue, as unlike starbases, they do chip away at the enemy ships with their energy weapons. They can also invert this trope, however, as they don't last long in combat, so the player can warp into a sector to attempt a rescue only to see the allied vessel become debris the next turn.
    • Supernovae, which can randomly occur in any sector without the player's ship ever disturbing a star, also destroy NPC ships and space stations instead of throwing them free. This denies the player credit for eliminating the ships in question, although this can actually help the player's score by not requiring spending time to go to the sector at all.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Barring a Distress Call or two to answer elsewhere, it is generally always worth inspecting any planet the player comes across in the event that it yields spare Power Crystals for emergency power reserves, or better yet, an enemy supply base that may hold useful equipment. The same goes for space combat in the games where enemy supply ships spawn, which can be beaten down into surrendering their cargo. It can make the difference against heavy odds later on, or allow your vessel to stay out and hunting enemy ships for longer without having to spend time returning to a starbase to resupply and/or repair.
  • The Load:
    • Research stations do not recharge your ship's energy, do not reload your ship's torpedoes, and give the player's vessel absolutely no benefit in terms of subsystem repairs or shield protection, though you have to go and help them anyways when they send out a Distress Call due to enemy ships in the sector. About the only thing they do is refill life support supplies, if that subsystem is damaged.
    • Supply depots are somewhat similar to research stations, but they at least reload the player's torpedoes. They still do nothing to shield the player's vessel in combat or improve repair times.
    • Allied ships scarcely do any Scratch Damage in combat, and last a turn or two before promptly getting blown into debris. But if you're going for that high score, you've got to help them anyways.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The answer to an incoming Mongol plasma bolt in EGA Trek is generally to raise a plasma bolt shield right away. These are generally obtained from raiding planet-based Mongol supply bases, or getting their supply ships to surrender in combat.
  • Negative Space Wedgie: Black holes. In EGA Trek, for example, they will redirect any fired torpedoes that come near them, and if the player flies their ship into one, it can act as a wormhole and dump them out into a random quadrantnote  — or it can just One-Hit Kill the player's starship and end the game.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • Torpedoes usually achieve this in most versions, if they make contact with the target at close to medium range.
    • EGA Trek takes this Up to Eleven with Mongol Plasma Bolts, which are capable of safely taking out the Mongols' hostile starbases — or damaging the Lexington severely if deployed by the Mongols.
  • One-Hit Polykill:
    • The Mongol Plasma Bolts in EGA Trek. If used by the player on tightly grouped Mongol ships, the Splash Damage will kill not only the target but usually all Mongol or Vandal ships immediately adjacent to the target. Even then, they tend to deal at least some Scratch Damage to enemy ships throughout the current quadrant.
    • The antimatter pods in TREK 80 and Invasion Force. When detonated by the player, they erase the sector of space they occupy and all 8 of the surrounding sectors. Anything in those sectors is wiped from existence, including the player's starship if he's stupid enough to detonate the pod next to himself. (The sectors also stay erased, so you can't fire beams or torpedoes through them; and if you enter one of them, your ship is instantly destroyed.)
    • Supernovae also instantly destroy all vessels or bases in their quadrant, friendly or hostile, with the sole exception of throwing the player's ship into a neighbouring quadrant. Of course, in this case, everyone present is facing a case of There Is No Kill Like Overkill.
  • Photoprotoneutron Torpedo:
    • "Photon Torpedoes" in any Star Trek game that kept the original terminology.
    • "Triton Missiles" in Radio Shack's "Invasion Force". (TREK 80, which Invasion Force was based on, did have Triton Mines, which would destroy everything in the quadrant including the Enterprise.)
    • "Energy Torpedoes" in EGA Trek, which also featured "Plasma Bolts", though the latter were rarer and more deadly.
  • Piñata Enemy: EGA Trek sometimes spawns Mongol supply ships, which are much weaker than the usual battleships, and if the player batters them merely to the point of surrender (not destruction), they hand over their cargo to the player's ship before vanishing from the map. This loot can vary from emergency life support supplies to Mongol power crystals (i.e. dilithium), plasma bolts, and plasma bolt shields.
  • Power Source: Your energy. In some versions, it is finite; in others like EGA Trek, it replenishes very slowly — and guess which subsystem tends to fail the most?
  • Press X to Not Die: From EGA Trek:
  • Sorting Algorithm of Evil: In EGA Trek, on lower difficulty levels, the Mongol fleet consists of standard battleships, while higher difficulty levels add variety in the form of Scout ships, Supply Ships, Mongol Commanders, and eventually Mongol Bases.
  • Space Station:
    • Friendly ones of varying types are encountered frequently, where the player can repair and resupply their ship.
    • EGA Trek adds hostile Mongol bases that serve as immobile Elite Mooks.
  • Stone Wall:
    • Vandal ships in EGA Trek never move, and they don't attack the player's vessel, but they No-Sell any torpedo attacks (due to a Cloaking Device), and generally require much more laser energy damage to destroy than standard Mongol battleships or even Commander vessels can take in the same game.
    • Allied Union starbases in EGA Trek serve the same function — if the player docks with one while in combat with Mongol warships in the sector, its shields will then protect the Lexington from return fire, although the starbase itself is still an obstacle to torpedo shots aimed at the enemy.
  • Underground Monkey:
    • EGA Trek had a variety of Palette Swapped "Mongol" ships as Elite Mooks, scout ships or supply vessels.
    • EGA Trek also had the possibility to explore planets, sending either a landing party either via transporter or shuttlecraft to get the stuff detected by the Lexington's sensors. These attempts can frequently end in failure, as the landing party would often be attacked, resulting in the loss of crew members and no beneficial resources gained.
    • Supertrek has a use of shuttlecraft where you would mine for dilithium crystals on planets. This was an alternative to refueling at a starbase.
    • Supertrek also had Romulans that were more of a nuisance than a threat. If you entered a Romulan quadrant, they'd simply politely ask you to leave. They didn't attack unless you attacked them first. And their attacks were weak.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: Zigzagged; black holes will redirect torpedoes that come near them onto random vectors, but energy weapons can be fired through them unaffected, and if the player's ship enters one, it may get harmlessly ejected into a random quadrant, or just destroyed outright. In some versions, the player can actually generate black holes for various reasons, such as covering a quadrant with them when the Death Ray from EGA Trek misfires.
  • Up to Eleven: Spare energy crystals (i.e. dilithium) obtained in EGA Trek are a crapshoot when used, but the player can luck out with one and boost their energy reserves over 100%, though of course the effect is temporary until the excess energy is used up.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Later versions of the game, like EGA Trek, feature weaker enemy ships (generally supply ships) that will surrender once damaged to minimal health instead of stubbornly fighting to the death.
  • We Have Reserves: Higher difficulty levels (usually "Admiral") can allow the random (if rare) appearance of Klingon, Mongol, etc. reinforcements as the game progresses. Even if they show up on the other side of the quadrant map, you still Gotta Kill Them All.


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