Phasers Set to Beta - A Star Trek Online Q&A with Craig Zinkievich

The course is set, and it’s time to engage with Star Trek Online. Cryptic is turning up the volume as the closed beta phase of the game approaches, set to begin at the end of this year. So how is the game coming along, and how can you get into beta? And what are some of the challenges the development team has faced? Craig Zinkievich, Star Trek Online’s Executive Producer was gracious enough to tell us about how to get into beta, ground combat, and some of the challenges Cryptic has dealt with.

Questions by Benjamin J.
de la Durantaye, Executive Editor, Ten Ton Hammer

Answers by Craig Zinkievich, Executive Producer, Star Trek Online
(Cryptic Studios)



The course is set, and it’s time to engage with style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online.
Cryptic is turning up the volume as the closed beta phase of the game
approaches, set to begin at the end of this year. So how is the game
coming along, and how can you get into beta? And what are some of the
challenges the development team has faced? Craig Zinkievich, style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online’s
Executive Producer was gracious enough to tell us about how to get into
beta, ground combat, and some of the challenges Cryptic has dealt with.



style="background: transparent url('http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/75187') no-repeat scroll 100% 0%; vertical-align: top;">
style="font-weight: bold;">Ten Ton Hammer: So how is Star
Trek Online coming along?



Craig: It’s coming along really well.
We’re moving into the home stretch now and looking at what we
have, and figuring out where we think the holes are, and plugging those
holes. We’re really starting to polish it; taking a step back
and realizing we’ve got the core of everything in. Now what
do we have to do to get this game out?



Closed beta is right around the corner, and we’re all
chomping at the bit for it. PAX was a lot of fun. It was really amazing
to finally get people from outside the company and friends and family
to play the game and give us feedback. We’re all anxious to
get the game out and get feedback in as soon as possible.



Ten Ton Hammer: So when
is beta happening then?



Craig
: Definitely in 2009.



Ten Ton Hammer: What
would be the best way for fans to get into the beta? href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/75188"> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 250px; height: 157px; float: right;"
alt=""
src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/75188/preview">



Craig
: Go to startrekonline.com
and apply. Get on the list. Feel free to get involved in the community
as soon as possible. Go to the forums and start talking there. Really,
register. That is probably the best way to get in right now.



Ten Ton Hammer: Is it a
manual selection? Are you looking for people who are more active on the
forums than others?



Craig
: We will go out to the forums and look for a certain
type of player. Often too, we’ll go to the demographic data
collected when players apply for beta. For instance, we may be looking
for people with specific hardware, or we may be looking for the type of
player who plays a lot of MMOs, or someone who only plays a few.
It’s not just going to the forums and looking for people that
stand out. There is a whole lot of different ways that we manually
select people.



At other points, we also do random selection. We want to make sure we
get some people in who we wouldn’t otherwise select. So
it’s a combination of both – shotgun random, and
specific demographics.



Ten Ton Hammer: With such
a large IP,
many Star Trek fans are pretty specific as to what they want and do not
want in the game. How has this affected development?



Craig
: It is a whole lot of work, but it is a whole lot of
fun too. When I initially came to Cryptic Studios before we launched href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/140"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes,
I thought I was a comic book fan. I thought “I can do
that.” When I got in here, though, it was more:
“ok. I guess I’m style="font-style: italic;">not a comic book
fan.” It’s the same thing with the Star Trek
license. You get into it and you realize “I’m not a
Star Trek fan.”
There’s always somebody deeper; there’s always
somebody who knows so
much more than you. It’s really about being open to that, and
getting
as many of those guys as you can on your team, and going to the
community for as much advice as possible.



To be totally honest,
we were scared too when we got the license; looking at the community,
looking at the fans, and thinking of the fan base as people who are
really, really rabid, and not accepting of certain things. But
I’ll be
honest, having been really steeped in that community, and having gone
to the cons, and  talked with the fans a lot, they are really
an
accepting fan base. Now, they love to argue, and they love to talk, and
they love to really experience the universe, but in terms of sharing
their knowledge, they’re there. So they’re not
really as rabid and as
scary as I thought they would be. They’re really accepting,
willing to
hear arguments, willing to discuss things. They’re really
just a cool
bunch.



Ten Ton Hammer:
It’s
refreshing to hear that you’re making an active effort to get
involved
with the community, and have the community get involved in the
development process. Not all studios will do that sort of thing.



Craig
:
I’ve always been disappointed to hear that about other MMOs.
The
coolest thing about an MMO, for us, is to release a game, and then work
with the fans and audience to make a cooler game. They’re as
invested
in it as you are after launch.



Ten Ton Hammer: In
addition to staying true to the IP, what would you say are some of the
other major obstacles you’ve recently overcome in developing
the game?



Craig
: Ground combat.



We did a lot of fast iteration early on with space combat, to make sure
it felt right, and make sure it was cool. We probably got lucky with a
couple of choices we made. Pretty much anyone who’s tried it
has said “wow. There’s nothing else like it.
It’s amazing.” We’re really proud of
that.



I think the ground combat was something that was much harder to get
right, looking back at the project. It was much harder to get the
ground combat to feel cool, feel fast paced, feel Star Trek, and really
satisfy all of the things we need out of ground combat. At the same
time, we needed to live up to the really cool space combat; making sure
that when you’re on the ground, you’re not thinking
“when can I get back in my spaceship?”



I would say within the last few months we’ve tuned and
tweaked and got ground combat to the point where it’s good,
and it’s fun, and something we want to do. When you get into
the game, you’re not thinking “I want to do space
combat,” but rather “I want to do some of this, and
some of that, and I want to do some of that, too.”



But
it’s also really going to be one of the shining parts of the
game – the content flow, the moving back and forth between
space and ground and how our episodes our constantly going to be moving
you from environment to environment. That feel alone is totally
different from anything else that’s out there. We knew we
really had to really make two games when we started out.




Things sound to be shaping up in the Star Trek universe, and we're
anxious to see the game for ourselves. We bet you are too, so be sure
to register for beta at startrekonline.com.
Join us next week for another Q&A with Cryptic Studios and find
out more about the universe and lore of style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online
coming soon to a PC near you.




To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Trek Online Game Page.

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