Before JJ Abrams irreverent reboot turned the franchise into a plot thin, special effects heavy generic sci-fi movie, Star Trek was the thinking mans science fiction series. Loved by nerds but often mocked by the mainstream, the adventures of the Federation star ships have inspired several computer games over the years. Star Trek Bridge Commander is one such game, a simulation title that allows wannabe star ship captains to take the helm of their very own Federation vessel. If you are a fan of the pre-Abrams Star Trek universe (or as I like to call it, proper Star Trek) you will find much to enjoy in this extremely detailed simulation and strategy game.
Bridge Commander should install without any issues. Simply insert the CD-ROM and follow the on-screen prompts. If the autorun window does not appear for the CD, you can manually run it by browsing to the CD-ROM and running the “AUTORUN.EXE” file on the root directory of the CD-ROM.
During installation you will be asked where to install the game. You should consider installing the game to a different directory (e.g c:\games) from the default one. Tightened security settings on modern versions of Windows mean that regular programs are not permitted to change the contents of any file or folder within the program files directory. This can cause problems when installing mods for the game later, for instance. If you do install the game to the default directory, you may need to manually reconfigure the games folder permissions. See this tutorial for details on how to configure folder permissions.
Before playing the game you should install the 1.1 patch. This can be downloaded here. Install the patch simply by double clicking on it.
Tweaking visual quality
To change visual options, start the game and then click on the “Configure” button. Choose “Graphics” from the sub menu. If your PC is fast enough, you can enable all options on this menu for the best visual quality. You should also choose a Display Device that has “T&L” (an acronym for transform, clipping and lighting). Screen resolution should usually be 1280×1024 unless your monitor does not support this.
Bridge Commander is a 4:3 (non widescreen) aspect ratio game and should play with black borders at the sides of the screen on a widescreen monitor. The Kobayashi Maru mod, which we will get to later, includes a facility to run the game in widescreen (although some of the games graphics are stretched out of proportion) but the stock game and the Bridge Commander Ultimate mod do not.
Remember that for an older game, Bridge Commander can be quite demanding on your computer. If you experience slowdown during gameplay, you may need to dial some of these settings back.
Tweaking sound quality
Like many games from this era, Bridge Commander supports enhanced sound effects via the old EAX sound system. EAX no longer works directly on modern versions of Windows, but if you have an EAX sound card you can use the Creative ALchemy software to restore EAX capability to the game. To do this, simply start the ALchemy tool and click on “Add”. In the “Game Settings” window that now appears, choose “Use Game Path” and then click on the browse (…) button. Browse to your Bridge Commander and click “OK”. Leave all the other settings as the defaults and click “OK”. The next time you start Bridge Commander, you will be able to enable EAX sound from the Sound menu (under “Configure”).
The process of modding Star Trek Bridge Commander is a little confusing, but definitely worthwhile if you plan to trek through the game. The two modifications that are most worthy of a captains attention are the Bridge Commander Super Mod and the Kobayashi Maru mod. Bridge Commander Super Mod is designed to enhance the single player campaign, while Kobayashi Maru is designed for multiplayer skirmishes (including skirmishes against bots or computer controlled players). It is not possible to install both mods at the same time. Bridge Commander still has a huge fan-following online and a further modification for the single player game is due to be released soon. When that happens, we’ll have details of how to install it.
Before installing any mods, keep in mind that heavily modding the game pushes up the system requirements significantly. If you only have a basic PC, you may need to turn down some or all of the graphical effects.
To get started with mods, we need to install a package called “Foundation”. To get the latest version of Foundation, download and install the “Bridge Commander Universal tool (BCUT)” from this website. The file is downloaded as a .rar compressed folder, so you may need to install 7-zip in order to open it. Tutorials for 7-zip are available here for anyone who has never used it before.
Extract the BCUT_1.7.6 archive to a temporary folder on your PC. Inside this folder there should be three sub-folders. Open the folder labelled “Auto” and click on the “BCUT” file inside. This should now start the automatic installation process. You can install BCUT to the same folder as your main Star Trek Bridge Commander.
When BCUT is installed, run the program. From the window that appears, click on “Foundation” on the left hand side of the window, then click on “Install Foundation…”. You’re now all set to install any other mods.
At this point, it’s a good idea to create a copy of your Star Trek Bridge Commander game folder. Keep a copy of the game folder with no mods installed (except Foundation and BCUT) as a backup and you can switch between Kobayashi Maru and Bridge Commander Super Mod. If you are interested in checking out both mods, it’s possible to have multiple copies of the game at the same time. For instance you could make one copy of your game folder and call it “Bridge Commander (KM)” and another called “Bridge Commander (BCSM)”. You would then install the Kobayashi Maru mod to the first folder and the Bridge Commander Super Mod to the second folder. Remember that the shortcuts on your Start menu/screen will still point to the original installation folder, so you will need to create new shortcuts for your different versions of the game. If you decide to add more mods later, always keep a backup copy of any of the Bridge Commander folders you modify in case of conflicts.
Installing Bridge Commander Super Mod
Bridge Commander Super Mod can be downloaded here. The mod is downloaded as a zip file. There is a readme file that accompanies the mod that explains how to install it, but it refers to several outdated tools. To install the mod, follow these steps:-
1) Make sure that you installed the Bridge Commander Universal tool and that you ran the tool and installed Foundation.
2) Unzip the files from the bcsupermod3.zip file you downloaded into a temporary folder. Run the BC_PREPARE.exe file within this folder. Make sure to specify the correct directory to install to as the installer will not automatically detect the correct folder in most cases.
3) BC_PREPARE.exe will place a file called BC_PREPARE.bat into your Bridge Commander game directory. We found however that this file did not work correctly. You can either open up the file in Notepad and edit it (correct any paths that are wrong) or download our pre-fixed version of the file here and replace the existing file with it. Our hosts have now started demanding we store all batch files inside zip archives, so you will need to download and extract the file.
4) Run the fixed BC_PREPARE.bat file. There should be no errors reported after it runs, if there are, triple check that the paths in the batch file are correct, or simply download our replacement file.
5) Now, run the BCSuperMod3.exe from the temporary folder containing the zip file you extracted earlier. Again, Make sure to specify the correct directory to install to as the installer will not automatically detect the correct folder in most cases.
Installing the Kobayashi Maru mod
The Kobayashi Maru mod can be downloaded here. Note that installing the Kobayashi Maru mod will prevent the single player campaign from working correctly. The file is packaged as a 7-zip archive. Just as with the Bridge Commander Universal tool you may need to install the 7-zip program in order to extract it. Installing this mod is easy, simply extract the 7-zip archive to a temporary folder, then copy all the files and folders from the temporary folder into your Bridge Commander game directory. Remember you cannot install Kobayashi Maru and Bridge Commander Super Mod together, so create a fresh working copy from the clean Star Trek Bridge Commander folder if necessary.
Windows 8.1 mouse pointer problems:- This is applicable to Windows 8.1 users only. If you find that your mouse pointer moves erratically in the game, try this fix. First of all, make sure that you have the very latest Windows updates applied. Run the game again after updating Windows and see if the issue is fixed.
If the issue is not resolved, unfortunately we are going to need to do a little registry editing. Firstly, to make the process as easy as possible, open the Star Trek Bridge Commander folder and find the STBC.exe file. Right click on the file and choose “Properties” then choose the Compatibility tab. On this tab, set the game to run in compatibility mode for Windows 8. This is just to help us find the correct registry key. Click on “OK” when you are done.
Now, open up the Regedit tool by searching the Start Menu or Start Screen for “Regedit”. Using the Registry Editor is a lot like using Windows Explorer, but remember that incorrect edits in the registry can have catastrophic effects on your system, so be careful to only edit the keys as instructed. Browse to the key “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AppCompatFlags\Layers.
In the right hand side of the Regedit window, you should now see a registry key containing the path to your Bridge Commander installation directory (e.g C:\Games\Bridge Commander). Right click on this key and choose “Modify”.
An “Edit String” window will then appear. In the bottom half of this string, under “Value data:”, delete anything presently in this box and enter the text NoDTToDITMouseBatch (copying and pasting this in is the easiest way).
Click on OK and exit the registry editor. We’re almost done now. For the final step, open up a Command Prompt window with administrator privileges. To do this, search for “cmd” on the Start Menu or Start Screen, but instead of clicking on the icon that appears, right click on it and choose “Run as administrator” instead.
Enter the following command into the Command Prompt window. Again it’s easier to copy and paste it in:-
Close the Command Prompt window and try to run the game again. If you followed the steps correctly, the mouse pointer should now function as normal.
Multiplayer and other notes
Bridge Commander supports multiplayer gaming, however the Gamespy service that facilitated easy multiplayer matchmaking has now closed down. Despite this, when we tried scanning for multiplayer servers we were able to find one server still active in the list. Star Trek Bridge Commander still has a very active fan community so if you are interested in setting up multiplayer games across the internet, head on over to the Bridge Commander Central forum to find out more.
If you have two or more copies of the game and two or more PCs connected to your home network, you can also play games in LAN mode against opponents in your home.
The popular PC gaming utility Xfire supports Bridge Commander, allowing you to take screenshots and videos and chat to your friends while playing. This can be invaluable for arranging multiplayer matches, for instance.
A big thank you to the kind posters on Bridge Commander Central for their invaluable help and advice while writing this article and also for the Windows 8.1 mouse fix.