STO: Klingons and PvP Q&A with Cryptic Studios

Any game risks the wrath of rabid fanbois every day, but take an IP with a fanatical fanbase like Star Trek, and you've got the perfect tinder for flamefests around every virtual corner.

game risks the wrath of rabid fanbois every day, but take an IP
with a fanatical fanbase like Star Trek, and you've got the perfect
tinder for flamefests around every virtual corner. The recent
announcement that Klingons would be PvP-only on set the boards alight
in record time so Ten Ton Hammer Executive Editor, Benjamin J. de la Durantaye sat down with Lead Content Designer,
Zeke Sparkes, to get some answers surrounding this controversal subject. style="font-weight: bold;">

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Ten Ton Hammer: How PvP centric is STO? Will federation players who choose not to participate miss out on important parts of the story? style="font-weight: bold;">

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Zeke Sparkes: No. We actually
just wanted to make sure that it was an alternate source of character
progression. If you don't want to PvP, you don't have to and if you do
want to PvP, that option is there for you pretty much from the

Ton Hammer: Ok. So PvP is instanced. How do you enter these
instances to get into the PvP combat? Can you choose your foes?

Some of it is instanced, not all of it is. There are several PvP
maps that are static maps so you can go there by physically going to
the location and beaming in like you normally would for any sort of
fleet action type map.

For the instanced ones, we have a queue system that you can enter and
it will wait until it has enough people on each side and then launch
the map for you. We also have a challenge system where you can set up a
request for somebody else to enter a PvP instance with you. Unlike most
dueling systems, it doesn't happen where you're currently at, but
targets one of the instance maps. You get to pick where you're going,
who you're going against, and hit the instance from there. So you can
wind up doing either.

You can hit the queue and much like what we did with Champions Online,
when you're queued, it'll send you to the location and when you're
done, put you back to where you were. You don't have to go to a
specific place to PvP. You can queue up where ever you are. All the PvP
maps have physical locations. They're actual locations in our universe
so you can go to that location if you want to and queue directly
through that link as well.

Ton Hammer: So is the matchmaking suited to appropriately leveled

Yeah. We actually band by rank. So we make sure that if you're
just trying to find a PvP match to get into and you're a lieutenant,
we're not going to put you into a PvP match with a bunch of admirals.

Ton Hammer: That makes sense. Do you plan on having PvP-only equipment

That's kind of a tricky question to answer. Technically, yes, but
probably not in the way that most people think. There is a set of
rewards that you gain only through doing PvP that are not part of the
same rewards you get through doing normal quests things. But they are
not really PvP-centric. We don't have a division in the gear. So while
the items might be unique to that avenue of advancement, they're not
going to gear you in such a way that you are only good at PvP and that
you're not good at doing PvE. We wanted to make sure that you could
sort of switch tracks and do whatever kind of character advancement you
wanted at any given time. style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">

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Ten Ton Hammer: So PvP
leveling up and ranking up is sort of separate from the PvE levels

It's the same levels, it's the same progression system, but you
can level yourself up. You can get new ranks and make it to Admiral
just by doing the PvP gameplay if you want.

Ton Hammer: Cool. So will there be PvP Leader Boards?

There certainly are within the match so you get to see who did
the best within each individual game that you're playing. At launch,
the full sort of worldwide boards won't be there. Having individual
matches actually impact the gameplay is something that we're targeting
to try and get going for the next update or the one after that. We want
to make sure that it's cool and that it's meaningful, and that it's
just not a color on a map that switches or something like that. We want
to make sure that we do the system right when we get it in.

Ton Hammer: Right. So how does Klingon versus Klingon or Federation
versus Federation PvP work? Is it sort of like war games? What's the
story behind that?

Yeah. For the Federation, it's war games. You're just testing out
your ships versus the other ships, just trying to figure out good
tactics. The IP wrapped around that is that it's just a training

With the Klingons, it's actually a House battle. There's a lot of
strife and conflict inside the Klingon Empire and there always has
been. You wind up fighting on the side of one or the other major House
when you go into a Klingon versus Klingon map.

Ton Hammer: If Klingons can only be played after you reach a
certain level within the Federation gameplay, and Klingons are
primarily geared for PvP, are there any concerns about having a healthy
Klingon population? Do you foresee players wanting to PvP primarily
with their Starfleet characters since that's where they'll probably
spend most of their time since it has the most content?

style="font-weight: bold;"> Zeke:
I think what we've tried to do is
make sure that the Klingon play captures that sort of element like the
conflict and direct engagement. Do I think we'll have a healthy Klingon
population? Absolutely. We think that the Klingon play is geared
towards that kind of a population and we don't think we're going to
have a hard time captivating that subset of players. style="font-weight: bold;">

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And just to be clear when you
say you have to unlock the Klingons through Federation gameplay, it
happens fairly early on. It happens within about the first five hours
or so of gameplay that you're able to unlock and play Klingons. So it's
not like you have to advance deep into the Federation storyline in order to
get to play a Klingon.

Since Klingon gameplay is PvP-focused and that's more demanding skill
wise than PvE, we wanted to make sure that players are comfortable with
how ships, space combat, and ground combat work before jumping straight
into the really PvP-focused gameplay. I think it's a really attractive
style of gameplay and that we're going to have a plenty-big Klingon

Ton Hammer: Are there any sorts of special perks or rewards in PvP,
apart from playing as a Klingon?

Oh yeah. Absolutely. They have their own set of perks. There's a
lot of overlap with the Federation perks, but there are
Klingon-specific perks as well.

Ton Hammer: Going into the story a little bit, what's the Klingon
motivation? Can they capture areas and pursue objectives other than
hunting Federation players?

Yeah. The entire universe has several stories that run through it
and towards the higher end, Klingon players are involved in those
stories. The Romulans are right on their border and reeling from having
just lost their home planet and are becoming more aggressive. There's
also the Cardassian area where the Dominion is trying to reestablish a
presence. Some of the True Way Cardassians [a Cardassian terrorist
group – Ed.] are trying to sign up with the Dominion to sort
of take back their territory, so they're getting more aggressive as
well. The Klingons can wind up getting involved in those things as

But again, the primary focus of the Klingon play is definitely the PvP
and the Klingon versus Klingon play or the Klingon versus Federation
play focuses that. So most of what Klingons will be doing is engaging
other Federation or Klingon players in PvP combat. The other story
elements do touch what's happening in the Klingon Empire, but the focus
of the advancement is definitely on the war with the Federation.

Ton Hammer: So will other races be able to join the Klingon
faction, or is it a Klingon-only club?

The Klingons are actually allied with several other races and as
always, we love our character creator so you'll be able to make your
own aliens that can join the Klingons. You won't be locked into just
playing a Klingon. They're allied with the Gorn, the Nausicans, and the
Orions as well. So when you make a Klingon, you have multiple preset
options for species that you can pick as well as the "build-your-own"

Ton Hammer: So when you make a Klingon, you're not necessarily
making a Klingon? You can make one of the other races?
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Zeke: Yeah, you're making a
character in the Klingon Empire. There's a big story involved in it.
They sort of bore down on the Gorn and brought them into their fold
more or less forcibly and there's kind of a story with how they wound
up getting all of the allies they have.

Ton Hammer: How will PvP affect PvE balance and vice versa?

We always try very hard to balance the game with PvP in mind from
the beginning. The powers are meant to work the same way in PvP as they
do in PvE. As a player, you wind up wanting to focus more on certain
powers because they're more useful in PvP than PvE. PvE is kind of a
safer environment because you're opponent is not as smart. So there are
definitely powers that are more advantageous in PvP than they are in
PvE and vice versa. But we built it so it operates the same. So you
don't have powers that function differently on your enemies depending
on what style of gameplay you're choosing.

Ton Hammer: What else can you tell us about the PvP in Star Trek Online?

One of the things we want to make sure people realize is that PvP
is open from the get-go, rather than being an end-game feature like in
some other games. It's rank-banded throughout. It's some thing that you
can do at any time. It's a full advancement track on its own, so if
that's the style of gameplay you like, we really tried to make sure
that you could play that way.

We've got different kinds of maps depending on what it specifically is
about PvP that you like. There are different options for you. We've got
arena maps, which are just kind of the one side versus one-side battles
where all you really care about are kills.

We have our war zone maps. They're actually kind of competitive PvE
environments where when you get in, it's a static map and there's an
objective that is mostly PvE focused. You're trying to finish the
objective and get more points than the other team but it's on a map
where PvP is enabled. So if you decide that the best way for your team
to finish before they do is to start PvPing with them, that's a
perfectly viable strategy. That's kind of a nice step for people who
aren't hardcore PvPers but are interested in getting a look at what
it's like. It gives them a map where even if no opponents show up,
there's still something for them to do. They can still complete it. And
when the opponents are there, it's not necessarily a full-on PvP
battle. It just kind of depends on the attitude of the players and the

And then we have full-on scenario PvP
maps where there are certain objectives you're trying to go after.
You're mostly going against other players although there are some
computer mobs on the map as well. They're more direct conflict oriented
than the PvE maps.

We've got an assault map
where you've got to take forces from your side and deliver them deep
into the enemy side. The further into the enemy location you go, the
more points you get for delivering them.

We've got an area control map where you are trying to lock down key
locations for your side. It's sort of a ticket runoff system where each
side has a score at the beginning and when one side is controlling more
of the locations than the other side, they're removing points from the
other team. So you're trying to get the other team down to zero for
control of the game.

Those are the two big ones that objective based, but really
PvP-focused. And then we're also working on bigger and more epic
fleet action sized maps for our launch. So what we get in at launch
isn't the end of PvP. It's sort of leading up to a bigger and more
grandiose map for the next patch.

Ton Hammer: Are the different game mode maps available for both space
and ground maps?

The arena maps are available for space and ground. We have space and
ground versions for the war zone maps. The PvP scenario maps are only
in space for right now. That's sort of the type of thing that once it
goes out to the player base, we'll see which maps they're really
sinking their teeth into and really like and sort of support that going

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One of the things that we really like to do is see what the player base
really wants and support those later. So if they end up wanting to have
the scenario maps translated down to ground, we'll certainly do that.
And if they want more space maps, then we'll do that too. We're more
than happy to make sure that the players have what they want. style="font-weight: bold;"> style="font-weight: bold;">

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any sort of AI mobs in the maps at all?

Yeah. The arena maps are pure, straight up, once side versus the other
side rumbles. So there are no NPC mobs in those maps. But all the other
ones do have AI critters running around and depending on whether or not
it's a war zone, PvE focused map, or one of the scenario-based PvP map,
that sort of sways how many computer opponents there are.

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So like with the area control scenarios, you can't just waltz up and
take the area right off the bat. There are things there that you have
to disable first. But they're meant more as a delay so that you can't
just blitz the other side and take your opponent unawares. They're not
really meant to be the primary challenge. They're just there to kind of
slow you down a little bit so that the other side can react to what's
going on. And in the PvE (the war zone maps), they really are the
objective and are difficult encounters that you have to work through
like you normally would while you’re kind of watching out for
the other team making a PvP run at you.

Ton Hammer: One last question before we go. Would you consider most of
the PvP to be more strategic or more like a brawl?

It winds up being really strategic, especially the maps that have
objectives on them. It's kind of funny. What we've found internally is
that the maps themselves are really strategic but the combat is really,
really compelling. So every now and then, you wind up catching yourself
concentrating more on the brawling elements that you were talking about
than the actually strategy of the map and then you're like, "Oh, wait!
Wait! I've got to make sure we're actually winning instead of me just
killing people!” So the maps themselves really offer multiple
objectives for you to do, especially the scenario ones. You have to
kind of weigh which objectives you want to do and how much straight-up
fighting you want to do.

So far, there's been a really good balance where if you just focus on
one or the other, the other team can exploit that pretty well so you
need to have a good mix in there. Definitely, I would say they have a
more strategic feel. The arenas are for when you just want to get in
and fight other players and not worry about objectives. That's where
you go for that and those are definitely big tactical-fests as opposed
to strategic combat.

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