Going Klingon - A Star Trek Online Q&A with Zeke Sparkes

Questions by Benjamin J. de la Durantaye, Executive Editor, Ten Ton Hammer
Questions by Benjamin J. de la Durantaye, Executive Editor, Ten Ton Hammer
Answers by
Zeke Sparkes , Star Trek Online (Cryptic Studios)

Klingons have been the hot topic of Star Trek Online for the past couple of weeks and it has sparked a lot of discussion. The recent announcement that Klingons will be PvP centric has the community posting furiously. Some love the idea, some hate it. Ten Ton Hammer wanted to get to the grit of the topic, so we spoke with Zeke Sparkes of Cryptic Studios. If there's one man that knows about Klingons in the game, it's Zeke.

Ten Ton Hammer: In regards to Klingon versus Klingon PvP, will players be able to vie for power in the empire with this type of combat?

Zeke Sparks:  The fiction behind the combat is that there is always inter-house rivalry going on within the Klingon empire.  The player created houses function like fleets do for the Federation.  All of the rising to power, titles, and responsibilities are determined by the players. There are two major reasons (two houses) for the  Klingon versus Klingon PvP, namely House Martok and House Duras due to the current High Chancellor Gempock being backed by house Duras.

When a player jumps into PvP there will be two sides and those sides will be in support of one of the two major houses. There are no long-term ramifications for the sides and the effects on the players but provide the reason for the two sides during this time of war.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will players be able to do content for both of the houses or will they need to pick a side?

There is really no mechanic for picking a side; their position will be more influenced by which side of the PvP conflict is in need of players.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there any sort of faction rewards for that kind of action?

There is a set of PvP rewards but there are no specific rewards for either of the two houses, you won't be completing quests for House Duras or Martok. Players get ranks and medals for their efforts which are used for rewards.

Ten Ton Hammer: So what would happen to a Klingon if they could get into Federation territory, or can they even get there?

At launch the only place they can co mingle is the Warzone near Eridani Sector Block and that is in Deep Space K7 by Sherman's Planet and where the Klingon's outpost is located. That is where the combat is the heaviest. And while there can be both Klingon and Federation ships, no combat happens in sector space, so challenges would have to be issued or go to the PvP maps for that area to engage each other.

Ten Ton Hammer: Klingons will still have to accept challenges then; they won't be open game?

 Yes, in sector space the combatants will have to issue and accept challenges. There are open world PvP maps where there are fleet actions and it is open PvP.

Melee combat - Klingon style

Ten Ton Hammer: Martial combat is a large part of Klingon tradition. Will we see more melee weapons for Klingons than on the Federation side?

You can bet on seeing Bat'leth at launch and we have other weapons in the game and we're working on players being able to use them. There is a big difference between just putting weapons in the game and incorporating more mechanics. We tend to add more attacks along with weapons which creates something of a combo system. Depending on what order you execute your attacks will determine what powers become available and you'll unlock more moves. The Bat'leth has an entire series of moves, not just the weapon. This is just one example of how it's more complicated than just adding weapons. We want to make sure it's cool and exciting and not just another weapon in your hand.

Ten Ton Hammer: How does a new Klingon start? There has been discussion of no tutorial. Where do they go to begin and what's available to them to start progressing?

There is no tutorial for how the ships fly or the ground combat works, but there is a tutorial of the Klingon gameplay and you get introduced to the backstory and different functional areas of Qo'nos great hall. It's a beautiful and immense hall, and the artist has done a great job with it. Your first mission will require you to prove yourself prior to the people of the hall even speaking with you. Then the people will walk you through the areas and introduce you to the different styles of missions that are available. Some will be deep space incursions for example and then you'll also be introduced into the warzone that we discussed last week.The goal is show you all of the various options.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are there other differences from the Federation side, that are more Klingon, like honor and family?

You definitely gain honor to earn favor and loot which is different from the Federation side.

Ten Ton Hammer: And this honor will be gained by PvP kills, and completing missions?

Zeke: Yes.

The Qo'nos Great Hall

Ten Ton Hammer: Do Klingons have a separate list of accolades (achievements)?

Zeke: Yes, we have a different set for them. A lot of them are similar but others are completely different because they don't make sense for non-Federation players.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there any shared content between the Federation and the Klingons?

That is a bit of a tricky question because our primary focus is to make sure the Klingon PvP kicks butt, however we are also looking at getting the high end content to work with the Klingons. The opportunity is there, the story makes sense, and we certainly want to make that content available for them both. The desire is there, time is the only question for us right now. Whether that is available at launch or comes in later is still to be determined. 

Ten Ton Hammer: So, the question on everyone's mind: Is there a way to progress a Klingon without ever doing and PvP?

Yes, you can. PvP is certainly the focus of the content but if you want to just do the PvE, that is certainly possible.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there a sufficient amount of PvE content to spread through all of the level ranges?

Yes, you wind up facing bigger and badder forces depending on what rank you are so you'll be fighting Federation forces and then Romulan forces and winding up with Borg forces. Again though, the focus really is on the PvP play for the Klingons.

Ten Ton Hammer: Initially Klingons were not going to be a playable race, at what point did you bring Klingons in as an option and decide that they did need to be available for launch?

The choice to include them as a playable race and the choice to include them at launch are two different things because we've been working on them since they are such a large part of the IP. We've always been working on them, and how they would be different from the Federation. The question really was whether or not we could make it fun and get it all done prior to launch. It makes sense for players to be able to be the super awesome Klingon Warrior. I'm sure the team working on it knew they would be ready for launch, but for me it was the ability to play a PvP match and de-cloaking right behind a Federation ship that had no idea I was there. From there I knew we had to get this into the game, it was a matter of working with the team project management and getting it in.

A Klingon Bird of Prey in the Qo'nos System

Ten Ton Hammer: Speaking of the ships, can you tell us about the Klingon Carrier?

 Sure, the carrier is the largest ship in the Klingon progression, the thing is huge. It is an internal design, and we wanted to make sure the Klingons had something completely different from the Federation. The Klingon ships are all forward facing, fast attack, so we used that to make them feel different from the Federation. The general idea is that while it is big and tough, its main role is to launch smaller ships that are more strategic. You will get configurable bays for different kinds of ships you can launch.It flies completely different than any other ship, it is so massive that you have to be very conservative when you fly it. You have to think much further ahead because when you cut your engines to stop, it does not stop right away, it takes a while.

Ten Ton Hammer: What are some of the other perks for playing a Klingon that you won't get as a Federation player?

Speaking of ships, one of the best perks is the ships you'll be able to fly. They are awesome. All of the Klingon ships have cloaks, however, not all have the ability to cloak while in combat (except for the Bird of Prey that can re-cloak during combat). Cloaking is a dangerous affair though, as your shields will be down so if you get caught it can hurt a lot very fast.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there a way for enemies to detect cloaked ships?

Yes there is, but there a careful balance. If we give every ship the ability to be cloaked but every enemy the ability to see through cloaking then it doesn't work. The Federation ships have different ways to try to detect cloak so Klingon players will have to learn how to stay away from those detections. It brings up a cool cat and mouse game prior to the combat starting. Cloaking gets more interesting after the early levels when we're less nice and start coordinating cloaking traps and things like that..

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about the Klingons today?

The Klingons are ridiculously fun to play.  In addition to making your own custom race, you also have access to two more races when you join the Klingon Empire. The history that Christine Thompson has written highlights the very involved storyline as to why the different races are allied with the Klingons. Some of them are more strong-armed into working with the Klingons and others are more like allies, regardless they are all definitely working together.

Ten Ton Hammer: Great, thank you very much for your time.

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