Gearing Up in Star Trek Online – An Exclusive Interview with Cryptic Studios

Posted Mon, Nov 30, 2009 by Dalmarus

You 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.

Ten Ton Hammer: How exactly does gear work? Are there slots for your character's gear such as a chest slot, leg slot, etc?

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.

Ten 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 that equipment?

Dan 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.

Ten 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?

Joe: Yes.

Dan: 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.

Ten Ton Hammer: Cool. Are there armor types for the different careers, such as heavy or light?

Joe: 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.

Dan: 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? Yes.

Joe: 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.

Ten 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?

: 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.

Ten 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?

Joe: 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.

Dan: 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.

Ten Ton Hammer: So you mentioned earlier different items will affect different stats. Can you give an example as to the sort of stats they would affect?

Joe: 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.

Dan: 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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