Last summer, Playmates Toys hired me to design the logic system and write the script for a Star Trek toy based on the latest film. It’s called the Starfleet Command Mission Utility Belt, and it comes with a phaser, a communicator, and a belt that sends the wearer on away-team missions for Starfleet. I just saw it on the shelves of our local Toys-R-Us last week, so apparently it’s available all over the place now.
When Playmates approached me about the project, they gave me all the parameters, which included a sound chip that could hold about 90 seconds worth of sound. As a parent, I knew that if I had to listen to the same 90 seconds of sounds over and over again I’d be tempted to find the toy making those noises a new home in the nearest trashcan. So, being a game designer, I decided to complicate things a bit by creating a random mission generator for the belt.
To activate the belt, you press either the Kirk or Spock button, and Starfleet Command greets you. You then wave the communicator over the belt to interact with it. (A magnet in the communicator trips a switch in the belt.)
There are four missions each for Kirk and Spock, each with a fixed starting and ending. To give you constantly new opportunities for play, the belt also selects three to five mission complications picked from a fairly substantial list. Once you play through these, you reach the end of your mission, and Starfleet Command picks you up.
As part of working on this project, I got to read the script for the new film in J. J. Abrams’s offices on the Paramount lot, right in the middle of Comic-Con 2008. I knew then what a great movie it was going to be, and I’m thrilled to have this toy I worked on be a part of that.
The Mission Utility Belt has already gotten a pair of excellent reviews at TrekMovie.com and Trek Nostalgia. I’m glad to hear people like it, but the biggest kick I got out of it so far was showing my kids how to play with it and then watching them have a blast pretending to be Captain Kirk and Mister Spock.