From the pages of the past! Ads of yesteryear – Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury

Interplay did a good job with bringing Star Trek into the adventure genre with Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Judgment Rights. For their next game, however, they wanted to aim much higher and use the latest technology to make the it even better. And that’s when they started running ads like these in ’97 on a game they were working on called Secret of Vulcan Fury.

Developed by internal house, Tribal Dreams, Secret of Vulcan Fury would boast a lot of things to get fans excited as the details trickled out from interviews, previews, and ads like the one below.

Star Trek alum, DC Fontana, would be writing the story. Kirk’s face would be made up of “thousands” of polygons to make it lifelike and the same would go for every one of the mocapped virtual actors portraying the original crew who would also be voicing their roles. The “One-Click” interface would keep the screen devoted to the fountain of youth graphics of the game, a wheel of options popping up when players could click on something or someone.  It would also be directed by John Meredyth Lucas, who also worked on the original series and directly with Fontana on a few of them.

But I was more interested in what the game would be tackling, namely the split between the Vulcans and the Romulans. Things start out as as a diplomatic mission with the Enterprise taking a Romulan ambassador to Vulcan for a high profile talk until he’s found murdered. Spanning four parts, it will be up to the player to take the crew through the mystery and uncover truth behind Vulcan Fury.

When I read that D.C. Fontana was going to be working on this, I had high hopes for a fantastic adventure game that would go on and explore a piece of Star Trek history that none of the series’ episodes or that of the Next Generation had really gone to. And it was from Interplay! They’d proven that they could do Star Trek right. Yet, it would remain vaporware for reasons that literally only became clear many years after the last ad pushed the release date for the final time.

GameSetWatch notes that the Retronauts had Thom Robertsons on in 2009, the former lead engineer for Interplay, who spills the beans on a very troubled development atmosphere. In reading some of the quotes taken out from the interview, it’s no wonder that Secret never made it out thanks to an unfinished script and an incredibly over-ambitious technology plan. “They were looking at four to six hours of created video, and they were planning on doing it at maybe a 1/20th of the budget of a Toy Story movie.” Robertsons recalls.

A thread on Lost Levels also drops a few tidbits of info including what may or may not be an actual email from  3D artist who had worked on the game citing issues with producers and pointing to Interplay’s money problems. That last part, at least, can be confirmed since Interplay’s finances weren’t exactly healthy, something that would get it into even more trouble in the next few years. Cutting an expensive production like Vulcan Fury, as sad as it is, would make sense.

Fontana was interviewed years later and asked about the game with the last word from her being that she hoped to get the rights to write a book based on the story. Unfortunately, she also goes on to say that she hasn’t heard back leaving this piece of Trek lore in the dust demonstrating how a game’s failure can have repercussions even years later on something else that might seem completely unrelated.

Star Trek fan site, TrekCore, also has a lot more on the production including a deal with Quaker Oats to feature shots of the game on their cereal boxes, screenshots, and demo footage among other bits and pieces that they have been able to scrounge up. The only other fragments of the Star Trek game that never was would be the trailers and the ad below showing off the kind of visual candy that the game boasted.

Leading off with a quote from Star Trek creator, Gene Roddenberry, the three-page ad below is almost a sad tribute to the hard work and potential that the game teased everyone with in those days. Star Trek does have a lot of stories it can tell and Interplay seemed to be one of the best at telling them.

Star Trek: Secret of Vulcan Fury ad 1997

The original cast, high-end graphics, and participation by D.C. Fontana and the original actors? It was almost too good to be true. And in the end, that’s exactly how it turned out. The ad promised the game by Winter in ’97. In ’98, it would be Spring…and so on.

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