Captains To Your Helm - Star Trek Online Q&A with Al Rivera, All About Ships
Questions by Benjamin J. de la Durantaye, Executive Editor, Ten Ton Hammer
Answers by Al Rivera , Star Trek Online (Cryptic Studios)
Nothing is more iconic than Star Trek space going vessels. In Star Trek Online players will gain access to many of the ships we've grown to know and love from the movies and television shows. From the Enterprise, Discovery and Defiant to the deadly Bird of Prey, players will get to fly them all. This week we discuss the types of ships, upgrades and progression available for ship captains throughout their careers. Al Rivera from Cryptic also answers questions about cloaking and we dive deeper into the Carrier class after learning about them in our Klingon Q&A. Without further ado, on to the interview.
Ten Ton Hammer: After hearing about the Klingon Carrier ships, what are some of the other special ships that will be available?
Al Rivera: They are all special! [laughs]. The carrier is unique in that there is only one tier above it unlike the other categories. For instance there are four types of cruiser, four types of science vessels and five types of Birds of Prey, but there is only one type of Carrier. The Carrier unlocks at the level of General on the Klingon side. You also unlock the battle cruiser and the high end raider and raptor on the Klingon side. The ship tree progression is a bit different on the Klingon side than the Federation side.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any items that you can slot on a ship that will affect its appearance?
Al: There are no items that players can slot to alter the appearance of their ship. We talked about this, but we really wanted people to make their ships look the way they want within the configuration of that tier. We don't want the best engines to affect the look because then everyone's ships would start to look the same. We added the ability to change looks on the ground with kits. As you change out your kits, you change the appearance of your avatar on the ground.
Ten Ton Hammer: Can a ship last an entire career or will players be upgrading ships often?
Al: Players will be upgrading their ships every time they improve in rank. For example, from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander you will unlock options to new ships so you will be changing ships. That is quite a while that you'll spend in that ship. Towards the end of your career the difference between the new ships gets smaller. You could stay in some ships like the Galaxy class but in general you'll want to upgrade. You can keep up to eight ships in your inventory, oh inventory is a bad word, you can own up to eight ships at a time. When you upgrade you don't have to lose your other ships. Also at top tiers such as Admiral, there are six ships that are comparable. You will very easily be able to swap between those six depending on what the mission is. There is an Assault Cruiser, Star Cruiser, Deep Space Science Vessel, Reconnaissance Science Vessel, Fleet Escort, and a sixth ship (escort who's name escapes me) that you can choose for end-game. So there is quite a bit of "alting" available as you swap out ships and load outs. That is a large part of what the end-game is going to be, alting between these different ships.
Ten Ton Hammer: When you upgrade your ship, is it available for purchase only or will there be ship rewards for missions or things like that?
Al: When you get promoted you are rewarded one ship of your choice. You go to the ship requisition office and pick out that ship for free. If you want to purchase additional ships it will cost Energy, which is one of the currencies in the game.
Ten Ton Hammer: When a ship is upgraded can you use the previous load outs on other ships?
Al: Yes, they are all interchangeable so ship items are locked by rank of the captain. Players can put the bigger items on their smaller ships if they like. When you get a new ship, it comes with the lowest grade of items expected for that tier so that it has something in each slot. Chances are though that you've acquired better items for those slots from previous ships and will bring those along. So when you get a new ship you'll bring your favorite guns and shields and put them in the new ship's slots. Likewise as you get new stuff, you can retrofit your old ships as well. Probably what will happen is that you'll acquire some items that will be above your rank and you'll store those until you can use them and then re-load out your other ships.
Ten Ton Hammer: We talked a little bit about cloaking last time, how exactly will cloaking work? How often can cloaking be done, and how can a Federation ship spot a cloaked ship?
Al: Sure, I can tell you a lot more about that. There are two types of cloaking in the game that the Klingon forces have access to, the standard cloak and battle cloak. All Klingon ships have the standard cloak which can't be used in combat. This is typically used when people are sitting in hiding when there are a few decoys nearby. Players will attack the decoy and the larger ships will uncloak and be right on top of them. The Bird of Prey ships for the Klingons also have a battle cloak which can be used in combat. This way they can duck in and out of combat by cloaking. The effective way to deal with cloaking is that when ships cloak their shields drop so it leaves them vulnerable. A smart play against a Bird of Prey would be to hold off on the torpedo salvo until it starts cloaking and then hit it when the shields are down as it goes into to cloaking.
Also, there is a tug-of-war going on between cloaking effectiveness and sensors. Sensors will allow you to see cloaked vessels, so science vessels will have better sensors than other ships. The more power you pump into your auxiliary systems, the more effective your sensors will be and you can increase your sensor range. Cloaking is not perfect, if you get too close to an enemy ship even one with bad sensors, you'll be able to be seen. You're still invisible, kind of transparent, but if you get close enough the enemy will see a wobbly effect and you'll be targetable. As you increase power to your sensors, you'll see that farther away.
On the other side, if a Klingon pumps more power into his axillary systems, he'll improve his cloaking ability which will allow him to get closer without being seen. It really provides an interesting situation, like the Birds of Prey and their strafing runs. The Bird of Prey has guns that are more effective up close but the closer they get the higher the chance they'll be seen before they drop out of cloaking (especially if they are attacking a science vessel). If they want to be more stealthy they have to put more power into axillary but then they'll have less power for the weapons.
There are also a number of powers that will reveal a cloaked vessel. A tractor beam will disable someone's cloak so a science vessel that is really good at both sensors and tractor beams could lock a tractor beam on it or do a sensor scan on the enemy so other players could see it. There is also warp plasma as a defense that if someone flies through it will disable the cloak.
There are a number of counters to cloaking and a number of things Klingons can do to improve cloaks. Skills also improve both of these. If you pump skills into science and sensor scans you'll improve your cloak detection. Likewise if you improve you auxiliary systems, you can improve your cloaking. It should be an interesting balance going between both sides.
Ten Ton Hammer: Was there anything else specific you wanted to mention about ships before we wrap up, or maybe provide more of an overview?
Al: It might be a good time to make sure everyone understands how the ships are broken out into different classifications and tiers.
On the Federation side you start off with a light cruiser. Each type of ship is called a configuration. Those configurations define a ship's shape, profile, and its functionality. When you see a light cruiser it will look like a Miranda class vessel, so no matter what players to do customize it players will be able to recognize it and know what its abilities are.
When you increase in rank, you gain access to one of three types of vessels, Science, Escort or Cruiser. You will have skills that are specific to those vessels. Ship type will have nothing to do with your profession, so you can be a Science Officer and use a Cruiser or any of the three. Science Vessels are supposed to be more like Voyager, Cruisers like Enterprise and Escorts like Defiant. There are then five of each of those vessels. As you increase in rank, you gain access to the next tier.
On the Klingon side, it's a bit different. Each player starts with Bird of Prey. When you increase in rank you upgrade to a Bird of Prey Raptor. When you increase in rank again, you can get a Bird of Prey Raptor Battle Cruiser or Carrier. So it's a little different progression. Bird of Prey is more of a hit and run assault vehicle, while the Carrier is huge and really slow and has two hangers. It starts with fighters in the hangers that you can launch, but you can swap out and launch Birds of Prey or Power Siphon Drones, so there are a number of different ships that you can launch from the Carrier.
Ten Ton Hammer: The Carrier's ships that come out of the hangers, are those controlled like pets or are they on their own?
Al: You have limited control over them. When you launch the healing drones, they will fly around circling your ship repairing your shields as needed so there is no control. If you launch fighters they will attack an enemy that you target and will come back to your ship if you de-select the enemy. You can also have them attack one foe while you attack another. The Birds of Prey are a lot smarter, they will cloak in and out of combat and if you have no enemy selected they will automatically cloak. There is limited control on where you can send them so they are mostly independent and work as support to your mini-fleet.
Ten Ton Hammer: If the ships from the Carrier's hanger are destroyed in combat, can you make new ones?
Al: Yes absolutely you can make new ones, it's not like they are destroyed and they're gone, they are not a consumable. Depending on what you have loaded into your hanger you can launch different things. For instance you can launch four fighters from a hanger, but you can only have four out at a time and then you can't launch more for a certain amount of time. If the fighters die before that recharge time is up you have to wait. If one of the four ships dies you can launch one more after the recharge, so you still have four out. This prevents you from stacking them.
Ten Ton Hammer: That covers quite a bit, thank you very much for your time.