In September of 2005, four new faces found themselves stumbling through the hallowed and aged halls of Bridge Commander Universe, Scripting Division. One had been there before, done some bits of work, and only recently returned, with little hope of particular amusement. Another was a new player who had not yet beaten the single player campaign (three years later, he still hasn't) and was compelled to join after being horrified by the cancellation of ATP: Dimensions. To this point, his only programming experience had come from writing math aids on the TI-83 calculator, in BASIC, on a screen with only eight lines and no tab. Yet a third member had never coded a day in his life, but his curiosity and courtesy initially earned him at least the non-rejection of his peers. Finally, there was a fairly experienced coder who had never used Bridge Commander before, but found some of the work quite admirable, and seemed to like the company it kept.
In mid-September, the veteran, named USS Sovereign, and the newb, Wowbagger, posted radically different scripts for the same idea by Tuvok1101. They did so simultaneously, and simultaneously went to work on each others code to improve and combine their almost equal wisdom. The non-coder, CaptainKeyes, jumped in, offering all sorts of suggestions that led the 57-line script to evolve into what became an 1800-line monster. The coder new to BC, Lost_Jedi, couldn't help but join the fun, and, with his infectious humor, soon became an accepted and critical part of the team. Within a month, the four coders had given themselves a name. "Team EarthFX" was born.
Two weeks later, someone realized what a dumb name that was. "Bridge Commander Scripters: The New Generation" was born. ("Team EarthFX" was dragged to the side of the road and beaten to death.) Dedicated to a rebirth of scripting, which by late 2005 was becoming the lonely and unloved stepchild of BC modding, BCS:TNG immediately commenced doing whatever the hell it wanted.
Scripts started popping out the wazoo. Emergency System Repair, Advanced Core Options, the revolutionary WalkFX, and more than a dozen others were produced, in rapid succession, in disturbingly collaborative late-night cross-continental coding and taunting sessions. Within a few months, BCS:TNG knew that it had stumbled into something remarkable.
In March 2006, just six months after the team members first learned each others' names, BCS:TNG released its landmark scripting pack, BCS: The Beginning. BCS:TB introduced enough new functionalities into enough different parts of the game to completely upset the humdrum balance that BC had been worn into. Borg Cubes began sporting Assimillation Beams. Kiska started beaming torpedoes through gaps in enemy shields, destroying target vessels minutes faster than had once been thought possible. And, of course, who could forget the arrival of tribbles on every bridge in the fleet?
Two years later, BCS:TB surpassed ten thousand downloads. It then became one of a handful of mods to be incorporated into the largest modification of them all, Defiant's Kobayashi Maru, thereby ensuring that BCS:TNG's contributions to the scripting community will never fade away.
BCS: The Beginning encapsulated BCS:TNG's main philosophy of modding: anything is possible. The script pack took its name from BCS:TNG's motto: "The modding adventure is just beginning...", which was taken, in turn, from a favorite saying of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. In the coming years, BCS:TNG would live up to its ambitious philosophy, launching projects on scales hitherto unrealized by scripters while attempting to live up to its name by training and coaching the next generation of scripters.
In the heady days since 2006, BCS:TNG has gradually changed from young upstart to established force in the modding community, with an online presence trailblazed and largely maintained by USS Sovereign. (More recently, the team has owed a further great debt to other members of the staff, especially Blackrook32, Elminster, JimmyB, Highlord Emperor Mendez, and Sam the Cat.) Following the release of The Beginning, BCS:TNG settled into a long pattern of hard work at odd hours while maintaining its burgeoning community. Project goals became even more ambitious than the ones followed for The Beginning, with projects like EarthFX (fka Project Goat), Immersion, and The Armada Project springing up all over the place.
It took more than a year for BCS:TNG to make its next major release, but the long wait was indicative only of the Herculean effort that was put into giving the product a stunning high quality. Deep Space Nine FX 3.0: In the Service of the Prophets, under Project Lead USS Sovereign, took the modding world by storm, introducing a full-featured layer of Deep Space Nine-themed functionality into BC, complete with functioning wormhole and a whole new campaign. Within months, DS9FX and its updates would be recognized by the BC modding community as Mod of the Year for 2007.
Other projects continue. Other releases pop out from BCS:TNG from time to time. Other players continue to follow BCS:TNG's example by finding proposals dismissed by the modding community at large as impossible and then successfully writing them--just to show them. Even as some of its membership finds less and less time to script these days, BCS:TNG goes on. And, to step into the narrative for a moment, I think we always will. Perhaps one day, we as a group will cease to be. I hope not, but I know that could happen. But the idea, the absolute unshakable conviction that the modding adventure really is just beginning, with an ever-more glorious future just around the corner... I don't think that philosophy will ever die. I don't even think it can.
And as long as modders hold onto that belief, BCS:TNG lives.
Welcome aboard, and happy modding.
11 July 2008