Star Trek Film Q&A with STO’s Craig Zinkievich

Boldly going where few have gone before, the latest installment of the hugely popular Star Trek film series as brought a new surge of interest in what is easily one of the most recognized...

going where few have gone before, the latest installment of the
hugely popular style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
film series as brought a new surge of interest in what is easily one of
the most recognized sci-fi IPs on the planet. The recent talk of all
things Trek-related inspired by the film’s release naturally
got us thinking about Cryptic Studios’ upcoming href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online.
In a brief Q&A, Ten Ton Hammer discusses the latest style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
film with STO’s executive producer Craig Zinkievich, touching
on some of the possible links we might see between the two with the
MMO's launch.

style="margin: 2px; width: 210px; float: right;">

href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;"
alt="Star Trek Online screen 1" src="/image/view/68225">

Ton Hammer: The new
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Star
Trek style="font-weight: bold;"> film has certainly
breathed new life into the IP, managing to appeal to both long time
fans as well as people who were aware of the style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Star
Trek style="font-weight: bold;"> universe but might not
have considered themselves ‘fans’ previously. Do
you feel that style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Star
Trek Online style="font-weight: bold;"> will have this same kind
of universal appeal once it’s launched?

: Although the game
is rooted fiercely in the style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
universe, we’ve always tried to make sure that the setting is
not a barrier to entry for players who aren't hardcore style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
fans. Our hope is that you don’t need to know anything about
Trek to enjoy the game, but that if you are a Trek fan, you'll find
lots of references to the series and movies that you'll enjoy. We want
STO to be another way to introduce Trek to people who otherwise
wouldn't call themselves fans.

Ton Hammer: In the film, the crew of the Enterprise came together
somewhat organically, with key characters essentially being "picked up"
along the way based on either circumstance or their natural affinity
for a given role. Would you say that the bridge officers in STO are
obtained in a similar manner - through missions etc?

: That’s an
interesting comparison.

The crew is such an important and central part of what style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
is about; the way that a Captain meets his or her crew, the way
they’re selected and how they interact is essential to the
Trek feel. We want to make sure that players in style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online
get to be part of the history of building their crews. They should
remember where they met their science officer or when and how their
best tactical officer joined the crew. All of these things allow
players to build a connection to their crews in the gaming world.

I hadn’t thought about it before, but the movie's setup is
building that history for the viewer as well.

Ton Hammer: The alternate reality plotline offered up a pretty
compelling bridge to the known style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek

universe established in the original series while still allowing for
the material to be handled in new and interesting ways. While STO is
clearly grounded in the known timeline, might we see any mission
content that tackles the concept of alternate realities in a similar
fashion as the film? style="font-weight: bold;">

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: left;"
alt="Star Trek Online screen 2" src="/image/view/68226">

There are definitely “alternate reality” missions
in Star
Trek Online
. I
don’t think it would be a very strong style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
game without time travel or the Mirror Universe!

Ton Hammer: In the film, space combat remained true to form in that it
was equally tactical and epic, while ground combat took on a much more
immediate, kinetic feel. Based on this, how would you characterize
combat in STO at this point?

That is how we’ve always described the two different combats
in STO. Space combat in style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
is tactical, paced and larger than life – it has to do with
timing and positioning. Ground combat is faster and more action packed.
We're happy that the new movie identified these traits in the license
as well.

Ton Hammer: While the overall tone of the film could have remained
fairly dark, instead there was plenty of comic relief to break some of
the building tension. Will we be seeing more of this lighthearted,
humorous side of the style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek

universe in STO?

Craig: It’s a fine
line to tread.

When I met Leonard Nimoy last summer for the announcement of STO, I
asked him what was the one thing that we should address in the game
that we’re probably were not thinking about yet. What is the
one, essential thing about Trek that isn’t obvious?

His answer was humor. Blew me away – it was right there all
along. All the best shows have the crew bantering back and forth, and
all of the best movies humanize (Forgive me Spock) the characters by
putting them in humorous situations.

Of course, we talked a bit about how difficult it is to pull off that
“banter” humor in an environment where the player
is one of the main characters. We won't put words in the player's
mouth, so we have to be careful to make sure that humor isn't
misconstrued as satire of the universe. That's a place we don't want to


It’s hard – but we’re trying.

Ton Hammer: I’d imagine there’s been a lot of
positive buzz around the office since the film hit theaters. Has this
had any direct impact on the development process? Any new gameplay
ideas that might not have been previously considered being tossed

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href="" target="_blank"> style="width: 200px; float: right;"
alt="Star Trek Online screen 3" src="/image/view/68227">

Don’t know if there are any mechanical changes that
we’ve “discovered” after viewing the
film. We’re looking at more ways to make nods to the film
– gotta find a way to get Keenser (or at least his race) into
the game!

Ton Hammer: It’s been stated previously that the entirety of style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek
cannon has been taken into account with STO; will there be any direct
reference or influences from the film seen in STO that you may not have
previously been able to discuss? Or perhaps even elements from the MMO
that might influence future installments of the film series?

We were aware of the major influences on our timeline (Romulus being
destroyed in our universe, no Spock, etc.) before the movie came out.
We’ve been working with CBS and the other licensors since we
started on the project to make sure that what happens in the Trek
Universe is well represented.

Ton Hammer: With all the renewed interest in the IP, there’s
bound to be dozens if not hundreds of variants on prominent character
names running around in STO come launch day – you know,
Sporks and Quirks (I call dibs on Kirque de Soleil) – will
there be any character naming policies in place to keep this kind of
thing to a minimum?

: Sure –
we’ll have name filtering so you don’t see 120,000
U.S.S Enterprises around, and we’ll probably put in some
variants as well (although style="font-style: italic;">Kirque de Soleil
is awesome). But we don’t want to be overly draconian with
name filtering.

To me, part of the excitement about building a roleplaying
universe is giving players freedom to come up with things that we could
never have imagined. It’s not about closing doors, limiting
options and policing what people name their characters.

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