Imagine a time before the modern web browser, when the Internet was mostly confined to AOL and other small dial-up services. It’s there, in 1994, that our community’s story begins with one young man’s vision for entertaining others through a shared interest and fascination of Star Trek. That vision became what we know today as UFOP: StarBase 118 — from AOL chat rooms to a community that now spans almost two decades.
Many people don’t realize that our community was founded by the writer behind Fleet Admiral Tristan Wolf when he was just 13. When asked about the approach he took in getting the group off the ground, he said “… we did what everyone did at the time: we jumped into the official Star Trek chat rooms and invited people over to our room. You just kept doing this until you had enough people to get started. You’d usually get kicked for spamming a channel, so you had to run in and out rather quickly.” Many things have changed since those days. Now our fleet boasts a very comprehensive Academy where our simmers learn the basics of script style and how to properly format their sims, as well as a professional online marketing approach to find, and bring in, those new simmers.
As you’d expect, Admiral Wolf ran into the normal roadblocks any 13-year-old might come up against at that age. “I wasn’t very open with my age at first. I had a bad experience where one of our popular captains became dismissive of me because he found out how old I was. After that, I clammed up for years and only recently have allowed people to know how old I am.”
In the early 90’s and into the beginning of the 2000’s we had nearly 150 members. It took many years to develop things like a website, constitution, and training program. Like many groups, we used trial-and-error to develop our policies and procedures — there just wasn’t many good examples to build from at the time.
The AOL chat room days didn’t last for long before the group switched to a PBEM format. Wolf remembers, “I was originally in a group called ‘Star Trek Sims’ which was one of the larger live action RPG’s on AOL at the time. The person who ran it had begun experimenting with AOL-mail simming, and I was still watching what they were doing and took the idea.” It’s easy to see how, using the PBEM format, the fleet is able to reach more members — without a specific day and time you need to be in front of your computer, the convenience of being able to play at your leisure is clear.
Starbase 118 changed my life. No really, it did!
When I joined the group just over three years ago, I never imagined that I would find so much more than a hobby here. At first I discovered how much fun it was to play the game, but it wasn’t long before I found the community as well. Amazingly, my discoveries didn’t end there! It quickly became apparent that I had found so much more than fun and friendship; I found a window to myself through my character, and I uncovered love. That’s right folks…my soon-to-be-husband and I met right here, at Starbase 118.
They say that great minds think alike; well, an awful lot of those great minds have found their way here, to Starbase 118. Over the past three years I’ve had the pleasure of making friends whom I connect with outside of the game, as well as meeting my fiance, and learning a few things about leading people. It’s been a wild ride that I plan on hanging on to for a great many more years yet to be discovered.
-Commander Kalianna Nicholotti, Starbase 118 Ops
Admiral Wolf has long retired from actively simming on a vessel. One of the questions he’s often asked relates to the need for him to sim to continue enjoying the fleet. Some may view him as a slave to the administrative process, but he responds, “I really enjoy the administrative side, making things work better, and streamlining processes. It can be a burden when I am trying to do things that are hard, and that I have limited knowledge of. But for the most part, I get as much enjoyment out of being the mechanic as others do riding in the car.”
The big existential question: why am I in SB118?
1 – The dynamism of the community, along with its friendliness. There are always plenty of posts to read, which is essential for inspiration.
2 – The writing quality is pretty good, and yet mistakes can be made without getting the impression that it’s the end of the world.
3 – The game can be as light or involving as I want, depending of the free time I have at my disposal.
4 – The Academy was super fast and delivered what it promised: placement in a solid simm.
-Lieutenant Brek, Starbase 118 Ops
The character of Tristan Wolf has served in many different roles, starting on the Phoenix-B as Captain and then — once the group grew to a few ships — the character became an Admiral. When StarBase 118 Ops was added to the fleet, he was the first commanding officer. After a short hiatus from StarBase 118 Ops, he returned as Captain Malcolm Lysander, retiring Wolf as a primary character entirely. You may have also spotted Admiral Luke Reider popping his head onto your ship for a promotion or awards ceremony. Although that character never actually commanded a vessel in the fleet, he is listed as the Admiral in Charge at Ops and is used by Wolf for promotions and ceremonies to this day.
I joined Starbase 118 over ten years ago and for me it has been a way to share my love of Star Trek with others through creativity and writing. Surprisingly it has also been a vehicle for me to learn about myself. The characters over the years that I have created all contains parts of my own personality that I like, that I don’t like, as well as what I strive to become. In my opinion this is what works with this group. It is a way to get personal and to express ourselves while leaving whatever we choose to in the real world behind. To paraphrase Captain Sisko, “…no matter what the future holds, no matter how far we travel, a part of us… a very important part will always be here, at Starbase 118.”
-Lieutenant JG Ra-Uleyra/Captain Mal Avatar, USS Apollo
The community has persevered for 18 years, and Admiral Wolf has been around for the entire ride. He semi-retired in 2009-2010 while trying to launch his own non-profit organization, but still had an eye in the sky on what was happening throughout the Fleet, assisting with the website on a limited basis and monitoring the fleet’s progress from behind the scenes.
When asked if he ever sees himself walking away, he said, “At the time, I thought it would be good to just walk away and hand over the proverbial keys. But when things calmed down the first thing I wanted to do was get back to the fleet and work on some things that had fallen by the wayside. I am 31 now, and so I have been running the group longer than I haven’t been running it. It only makes sense to stay as I really feel like it is an integral part of who I am.” Though he has not totally discounted the idea of retiring one day, he has set some pretty high expectations for anyone who would assume his place as Fleet Admiral.
As the Grateful Dead once said, “what a long, strange trip it’s been.”
When I simmed my introductory piece of Tyr wandering the Vulcan desert, I never dreamed that I’d still be writing for the group 10 years later. When I googled “star trek play-by-email,” I figured I’d toy with it for awhile, probably get bored and quit. Needless to say, that hasn’t happened. UFOP has managed to keep my interest and earn my writing efforts for this long and into the foreseeable future. Sometimes life imitates art, and it’s amazing, looking back, on what the poor Ba’ku has been through. Wounds, broken relationships, the loss of dear friends… it’s almost as if I’d traveled into the UFOP world myself. The thing that never ceases to amaze me (and is probably the primary contributor to me remaining interested) is the creativity and writing prowess of those around me, both on the crew of the Discovery and in UFOP as a whole. I guess when you’re the best, you attract the best people, eh?
Here’s to 10 years with UFOP, and many more to come.
-Captain Tyr Waltas, USS Discovery-C
The popularity of this community continues to grow and draw in new members. Many that were once a part of the group and have departed end up gravitating back at some point! Even though old ships are decommissioned and new ships are added, the group remains one of the best RPG’s in the Star Trek genre.
While new sites like Star Trek Online have helped to reinvigorate the focus within the fanbase, but have also threatened the livelihood of text-based RPGs. Wolf said, “At one point I thought Star Trek Online would be our undoing… that people would seek that visual imagery over writing. But now that it hasn’t done that, I think we can safely assume that our community will survive far into the future as long as the Star Trek vision remains the same.”
With so many people in one place that share one single joy with you…why would you not want to be a part of it? I have found friends, colleagues, and even my fiance here at Starbase 118. The stories we create keep the dream alive. One day the world will realize there are things much bigger than our petty differences. Until then, we will uphold those ideals in our little corner of the Internet and keep moving forward.
-Captain Andrus Jaxx, USS Apollo
That very vision is what has contributed to 18 years of simming. Under Admiral Wolf’s supervision, the members, past and present, have created a community that includes the best traditions of StarFleet. “Equality was definitely a goal from the beginning. As a gay man, I have always had a vested interest in making sure we have a welcoming environment,” he said. That holds true to both the community we are members of, as well as the philosophies we live by on our vessels and installations. Like with any group, you can look at the past and have a pretty good idea about where we are going in the future. As for Admiral Wolf, he simply quotes Chancellor Gorkon: “I offer a toast. The undiscovered country… the future.”
Nobody knows where UFOP: StarBase 118 will be in 18 more years, but sticking to the path that this community has forged, it will undoubtedly continue to be a great ride. As we look back on the last 18 years, we look ahead with a renewed resilience. Whatever the world, or Star Trek Universe throws at us, we will enthusiastically greet it head on.