can create the greatest game in the universe, but if it
isn’t full of more loot than players can imagine,
you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle with your
playerbase the moment it releases. We managed to track down Star Trek
Online Producer, Dan Stahl, and System Designer, Joe Harrington, and
convinced them to
enlighten us on the importance gear plays in this upcoming title from
Cryptic Studios. style="font-weight: bold;">
Ten Ton Hammer: How exactly does gear work? Are there slots for your
character's gear such as a chest slot, leg slot, etc?
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Joe Harrington: Yeah. You
already know there's space and there's ground gameplay. On the ground,
your captain avatar has multiple slots like a shield slot for a
personal shield, a body slot for things like body armor. It has a kit
slot for the various types of kits your class can use. It has a weapon
slot with a primary and alternate so you can switch back and forth.
You also can equip your away team members. They have similar slots but
not quite as many. They have a single gun slot, a shield slot, a body
armor slot and a weapon slot. We also have consumable slots where you
can slot up consumables so you can use them even though
they’re in your inventory.
In space, your ships have some of the expected slots. You'll have
weapon slots in space. You'll have a slot for impulse engines, shields,
and deflector dish.
Ton Hammer: Okay. You mentioned that the away team has some slots as
well. What happens if a member of the away team dies? What happens to
Stahl: It stays on them. Most
of your away team members don't actually die. They become incapacitated
and so there's no permadeath in our game for your bridge officers
because it's sucks to rank a guy up to level 30 and then all of a
sudden you lose him and you're really mad.
Ton Hammer: So what would happen if you put one of your really good
weapons on one of your away team members and they became incapacitated?
Would you be able to take their weapon and give it to a different
member of the away team?
While you can do that though, I would say you're not really going to
because combat is so fast in terms of the encounters and most of the
time you have a medic with you. Your medic is probably going to try and
heal your away team member before you could equip his weapon.
Ton Hammer: Cool. Are there armor types for the different careers, such
as heavy or light?
Armor is more generic than that. It will have various statistics that
give you some benefits, various resistances, and some bonuses. The only
thing that's class specific is appearance.
The kits are class specific and that's what actually puts some of the
gear on your character. But is there armor that appears on your body?
One of the things that we're pushing for is that when you equip it,
your class's color should show. So if you're a science officer for
example and you put on the polyweave armor, then it tints blue. There
are different types of armors in the game, but there may be panels on
it that will change color, depending on which class equips it.
Ton Hammer: Is there any sort of cosmetic gear? Some thing that doesn't
serve any actual purpose apart from changing how your character looks?
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For now, we're still focused strictly on gameplay gear. Later on, if we
make cosmetic stuff, it'll be mostly social. So if you're on Risa, you
may have some sunglasses. For now though, we're concentrating on
getting functional gear in the game.
Ton Hammer: That makes sense. So would you classify STO as an
item-centric game? Are weapons and gear going to be the main rewards
for completing missions in the episodes?
It's more item-centric than Cryptic has done in the past, but the
design approach is that character development and away team development
would be the primary focus. So as you get better ships, it improves
your baseline as you go up levels. As you advance and improve your
skills, you become more and more powerful. The items are meant more to
augment and be hooks for that. Items are still very important, but it's
not a design to make them a central focus of the game.
To kind of expand on that, I found that what items do for me is they
help differentiate me from other people in my class. So for example, we
could both be tactical officers and we skill up maybe a little bit
similar because we're both tactical and we have a little bit of
differentiation in our skills, but it's really the items that we equip
that really make us different.
Like I put turrets on my Escort last night and that was freakin'
awesome but not everybody does that because it drains your power
levels. Items really make you different from other players.
Ton Hammer: So you mentioned earlier different items will affect
different stats. Can you give an example as to the sort of stats they
Things like impulse speed in space when you're running around doing
things. Things like turning radius. Some f them impact things like
bonuses to damage types such as more phaser damage. Things along those
lines. The efficiency of engines, etc.
After just having gotten a lot of loot last night, there seems like
there's an improvement for just about everything. It's pretty awesome
the range of stuff you can get. I ended up with a bagful of stuff where
I was like, "Well maybe that will be useful when I want to do this one
mission," It's pretty cool.
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Ten Ton Hammer: That brings up a good point. What sort of storage
capabilities do you have? Is there a bank-type thing or a vault on your
ship where you can store all your goodies? You know, for all the pack
rats in us?
Dan: We've been making some
modifications to that, but the way it is right now, is that you as the
captain have a personal inventory that is shared amongst all your
entities. So, for example, there are a certain number of slots you have
and right now, everything goes into those bags or whatever you want to
call them. We call them transfer bays or cargo bays. Those cargo bays
are shared among all your people. So when you get an item, or pick
something up, it just goes into your cargo bays. You don't have to
switch to a certain person and look at their cargo. It's all shared
amongst the player.
Ton Hammer: That makes sense. What about tiers of gear? Are there
separate tiers up to and including an epic weapon or armor set?
Yes. The gear progresses. It's sort of in a traditional fashion. We
have your basic gear, which is just a baseline item. We'll have gear
that is less common. We're using a color system to differentiate the
rarity of items. The additional rarity adds additional mods.
So like, I have a gun that does 10 points of damage, that's the
baseline item. I have a gun that does 10 points of damage and it has a
2% chance to crit, so that would be less common. As you'd expect, as
you progress through the game, your character will have more and more
of the rare items.
We do plan on having some really high-end stuff in there for players to
Ton Hammer: Cool. When you get bigger and better ships, do they have
more slots where you can attach more upgrades?
Yes, they do. They also introduce some extra characteristics. So the
ship you start the game with is pretty vanilla. I hate to use the
phrase, but it's probably the most accurate. When you get past your
initial beginning and get your first promotion, Starfleet will offer
you opportunities to try other ships that have different
Dan was talking about his Escort ship earlier. It's sort of like a
Defiant in that it's fast, it's aggressive, and it's agile. Maybe a
little thin on some of its defenses, but it's definitely of the good
offense/good defense type. Then you have a science ship that offers a
different type of gameplay where you'll be using different types of
powers and things. And then we've got the classic cruiser which is just
your stalwart, tough ship. It's flexible, capable, lots of people, and
is just a good, tough ship.
I've found that the different classes of ships, because as you progress
you do get more and more slots in your ships, but they're specific to
the characteristics of that ship class. For example, in my tier one
Escort, I have more slots to put tactical gear in. So I can upgrade my
torpedoes, my phasers, and my beam weapons, but I don't have a lot of
options for upgrading my shields, engineering, or my science
That's kind of an interesting dynamic because I may get some really
good gear, but because I'm in an Escort ship, if I get that really
awesome science mod, I've only got one slot to use it in. You've got to
really pick and choose what you put there.
The other thing too is the ships also determine the bridge officers you
assign, so you'll have more seats for more officers and the more
advanced ships open the door for more advanced bridge officers and
powers. So if you have a high-ranking science officer, he won't
necessarily be as capable in an Escort class ship as he would be in a
science vessel. You can also staff more science officers in a science
vessel than you can in say an escort.
Ton Hammer: All right.
We should also probably mention that certain gear is level capped or
rank classed. Like I can't just get that awesome tetryon beam and put
it in my light frigate. It doesn’t really work that way.
Ton Hammer: Right. Are you able to pick up armor and weapons from space
missions and conversely, are you able to pick up ship upgrades from
Joe: Yes. From the missions
themselves, yes. The normal drops are still restricted to their domains
so you'll never see a Klingon warrior drop an impulse engine. With the
missions themselves, we're not trying to restrict ourselves because
frankly, so many of our missions are blended. You don't typically do a
mission that is all ground, or all space. A number of our missions have
a ground and space component to them. So I guess we should say that
mission rewards you get for complete the mission could be a ground or
Ton Hammer: With the rewards for these episodes and these missions, do
you have an option to select and choose your reward?
Yes. We're trying to make sure that that's the case.
Ton Hammer: Is that an intelligent system where it will recognize what
your ship or class is and hence, offer an appropriate item or will it
list out everything, whether you need it or not?
At the moment, the system isn't so intelligent it can say, "Oh. You're
this class and have this type of ship so I'll offer you these items,"
It's much more generic. So we've been trying to make offerings that
provide some real choice.
So for example, let's say you get a kit for completing a mission. There
are three types of kits because there are three types of officers. So
we'll give you a choice of multiple kits. Like one for each class.
But there are also cases where the choice is more generic, like an
engine. So we'll give a choice of the high efficiency combat engine,
the high-speed engine, or the balanced engine. We try to have a mix of
both to try and make sure we keep it interesting.
I find myself always spending time trying to figure out what loot I
want which I think is good. Because it means I really have to make a
choice. I want it all, but I can't have it all, you know?
Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to let our readers know
about the gear in STO?
Joe mentioned it earlier, but I think this is the first time that
Cryptic has really pushed heavily to make gear an important part of the
game. Cryptic's known for being able to customize your character and
altering your appearance, so this is really exciting for us because not
only are we allowing you to do that, but we're now allowing you to get
gear that then supplements that costume. That's something that we've
worked really hard to sort of find the right balance between allowing
you to look the way you want to look and yet let the gear also kind of
define your character.
Ton Hammer: Very cool. Thanks a lot for taking the time out to talk
with us today.
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