How does one create a game based off of the most popular franchises in science fiction history? Very carefully and with great thought! Tracey Johns with MTV Multiplayer interviews Cryptic Studios' Craig Zinkievich who touches upon cross platforming and carving Star Trek Online's place in the Star Trek franchise.
MTV Multiplayer: Do you feel its possible for Star Trek Online to have cross-platform compatibility?
Zinkievich: I think MMOs are all about people playing together, people making friends, and having that community online. Anything you can do to make people play together is good. From the technical side there is nothing keeping us from having console and PC players on the same servers. Right now, its all from a business and first-party issue as to whether or not people will be able to play in the same universe. Theres nothing technically keeping us from doing it.
MTV Multiplayer: Speaking on cross-platform compatibility, I recently spoke with the developers of DC Universe Online and they were concerned about communication issues between PC and console gamers. Do you think there could be issues as well?
Zinkievich: I think there could be issues, but if you look at any MMO, you can just sit down and go, Okay, theres the PvPers, theres the carebears, theres the people who like to roleplay. You have those schisms in an MMO already. Im a console player too, but I dont think I fit what you mean by console player. You think the guy sitting with his buddies playing Halo on a Friday night; I dont think console players are one type of gamer either.
MTV Multiplayer: Okay, but more specifically, PC players have their friends on TeamSpeak, but console players are used to jumping in match to match with voice chat to anyone. Do you think players will have to learn how to communicate with each other?
Zinkievich: Maybe? MMO players already know how voicechat works and fits in an MMO. Its an interesting question but I dont know what the learning curve for a typical console player will be in an MMO.
MTV Multiplayer: Is there an issue in regards to PC gamers used to having macros or mods, how is regulating that with consoles?
Zinkievich: Its an interesting question that we even have debates within the company on. I think what to do is to get stuff out there and see what happens. Its the type of thing where its new ground, so who knows.
MTV Multiplayer: Who came up with the story?
Zinkievich: We were working really close with CBS, which owns the license. With their licensing team, they know the universe really well. A lot our team is just crazy fans. When we got the license, people just came out of the woodwork saying, Ive got to work on this project! I have a uniform at home. Look, heres my 3D chess set! So, we have a lot of people who are really familiar, and its a universe and a franchise that the fans have provided so much history and so much input for us. I think the resources from the internet alone can get anybody up to speed on whats going on.
It takes place in 2409, 30 years after the last movie, Star Trek: Nemesis. We picked that for a couple of reasons. We think deep-down that people want to play in that universe. People want to be a part of that universe, but they dont want to replay stories they already know. They may be a part of it, but they want to change the story and they want to participate in the story, its not just, Okay, Im going to go play that episode. Setting it in the future allowed us to provide that new and yet familiar experience to people. And at the same time, at the end of Nemesis everyone was kind of happy, peace was there but peace never stays long in any place. Even in the Star Trek universe. The Khitomer Accords has broken down, the Klingons are at the Federations throat, and theyre on the verge of all-out war. The universe is a much more dangerous place with a lot more conflict 30 years in the future.
MTV Multiplayer: Is the story in Star Trek Online part of the official canon?
Zinkievich: What is the official canon is really an argument that anyone can have. For us all the shows and movies are canon. But you can get in an argument with any of the fans about how even some of the shows may have small contradictions in them. We want to make sure that we follow that timeline, and were true to that timeline. We see the shows and movies as canon. Were reading the novels now; the novels are considered soft canon with a lot of more conflicts in there. You can never call yourself canon, but we cant take a 90-degree angle and go its all totally different.
MTV Multiplayer: How much are you consulting with authors or fans, besides CBS?
Zinkievich: We talked to a lot of people about the storylines, but CBS is kind of the brain trust. They know whats going on in the novels. They know the shows really well. Its great to have that knowledge base to be able to go to them. They also know whats coming out so we can stay true to that.
MTV Multiplayer: In terms of fan feedback, how much do you incorporate and how much do you have to just turn off?
Zinkievich: The community that we have is awesome. I think the Star Trek fan base is one of a kind and they are amazing to work with. They are nit-picky, but even people on the team are nit-picky saying things like oh thats not the right color. We have guys like that on the development staff. Your community is your core audience; they are going to be the ones playing the game you cant tune them out. You have to make your decisions, and you have to go with what you think is the right thing to do. But at the same time, their feedback is invaluable. If we didnt have a driving community, first off, you wouldnt have a game, but youd never know if you were doing the right things. You have to listen to your community.
MTV Multiplayer: Has there been any involvement with people working on the movie, like J.J. Abrams?
Zinkievich: Weve talked to [J.J. Abrams' production company] Bad Robot a little bit. We worked with CBS to make sure anything theyve been doing matches up with what were doing, but there arent massive tie-ins. Star Trek Online isnt going to come out with everybody looking exactly like in the movie. Its not a movie game; its really continuing the franchise.
MTV Multiplayer: Have you spoken to Leonard Nimoy or William Shatner lately?
Zinkievich: We actually had Leonard Nimoy with us when we announced Cryptic Studios had the game. We worked with him on that. Were going to continue to work with him. Weve been in contact with a number of people who have been involved with the franchise, and its really cool to talk to those guys.
MTV Multiplayer: Are we going to see Captain Kirk resurrected in Star Trek Online? I only ask because he was reportedly angry that he wasnt asked to be involved in the new movie, even though he died in Star Trek 6.
Zinkievich: [laughs] You probably will not. I think youll see events and settings, and relatives of the known characters. But were in the future where the majority of the known characters have passed on.
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