Admirals Only - An STO Endgame 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)

The launch of Star Trek Online is approaching quickly and one question on everyone's mind is "what about the endgame?" Cryptic hasn't spoken much about what awaits players at maximum level, and what carrots are going to be dangling to keep players interested pas the level cap. This week we spoke to Zeke Sparkes of Cryptic Studios who was glad to tell all about STO endgame.

Ten Ton Hammer: What is the level cap in Star Trek Online?

Zeke Sparkes: The level cap is Admiral Grade 5. Through normal progression youÂ’ll be able to get into Admiral and a little into the Admiral rank so that you get to play with some of the cool big ships and big abilities.

Each rank has ten grades for a total of 45 grades in the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: After players reach Admiral 5 can they still earn skill and officer points that they can distribute?

Zeke:  They can still earn bridge officer points. Once they hit that cap they wonÂ’t be able to earn any more skill points for themselves. So what theyÂ’ll be focusing on is getting new bridge officers, building those bridge officers up, getting new equipment, getting new ships, that kind of thing.

Ten Ton Hammer: What is waiting for players at the end game?

Zeke:  WeÂ’re actually doing a rolling release for the endgame stuff. First, youÂ’ll go through the regular content. Shortly after launch weÂ’re going to unlock the Borg hub, which is where the end game is focused.

When we do that first unlock there will be a new exploration star cluster that youÂ’ll be able to do dailies in. There will be a bunch of Borg deep-space encounters in that new sector. Since itÂ’s a new presence for the Federation there is a whole lot of new enemies there. Then there are several episodes that lead into the real Borg storyline. We touch on the Borg periodically as you go through the game and then it sort of starts culminating here at the end.

Then we’ll be releasing really, really tough episodes that are locked in to be five-man team specific content. So if you do the ground missions, for instance, you won’t have your away team make up the rest of the team; you’ll have to have a total of five players to get in there and really do it. And they’re just kind of ‘cranked to 11.’ These are the really tough ones.

WeÂ’ll be unlocking three of those and then the end show piece is an even bigger, even tougher episode where you wind up going against the Borg Queen.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are these episodes all repeatable?

Zeke:  Absolutely. Depending on how far into the progression they are and how difficult they are, they have different lockout times for them. You wonÂ’t be able to do the Borg Queen daily, but most of the others you will.

We also have daily missions for the Star Clusters and PvP for endgame. All of those will give you access to endgame rewards.

Whether you want to do the really heavy instance-focused content, the PvP content or the exploration content, youÂ’ll be able to advance and get the endgame rewards through that.

Ten Ton Hammer: These episodes include ground and space combat?

Zeke:  Absolutely. Like I said too, they are locked in as five-man. You could try it with less, but youÂ’re going to have a hard time.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there a level requirement for them? Do you have to be Admiral 5 to access them?

Zeke:  You can try them earlier, but they are geared towards being Admiral 5 and many of them are actually leveled higher than that. So you really will need to have gotten some of the endgame progression under your belt before you can handle the tougher ones.

But, weÂ’re really keen on letting you play with your friends no matter what the circumstances are. So you will be able to get into them earlier; itÂ’s just going to be really hard.

Ten Ton Hammer: In some previous games weÂ’ve seen epic quests which take a long time to complete. How do the endgame episodes compare to those?

Zeke:  We kept the same philosophy when it comes to the unit length for most of them. We really want you to get in and get something cool done in an hour or so. The Borg Queen is a little bit longer but she has a couple of break points that are really easy to stop at. That is probably the biggest one. I would expect that once you figure it out and get it going, to do the full episode will take somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours.

We like that time unit. ItÂ’s a good amount of time so that youÂ’re involved, but itÂ’s not tiring.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the rollouts of the endgame episodes be free updates or part of the in-game microtransaction store?

Zeke:  Yes, they'll be free.

Ten Ton Hammer: When will the episodes be introduced to the game?

Zeke:  WeÂ’ll start rolling them out shortly after launch. Within the first week or so weÂ’ll unlock the first bit and let players get further and further into the advancement. We want to introduce the feeling of probing deeper into the Borg menace and unlocking more and more of whatÂ’s happening there.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will raids be in the endgame?

Zeke:  The three episodes and the Borg Queen is the largest of all the episodes. TheyÂ’re geared towards five-man, not ten or 20-man episodes but they are more similar to what people expect out of raids than regular episodes. TheyÂ’re really tough. You have to figure out what the tricks and schticks are for the bosses. Going in there and doing just straight up damage probably isnÂ’t going to get you through. YouÂ’re going to have to figure out what their tricks are. So we expect there to be sort of a learning curve for those where you need to coordinate really well with your team to get it taken care of.

Ten Ton Hammer: So are there any 20-man episodes in the game at all?

Zeke:  Not for launch, but we do have Fleet Actions. ThatÂ’s where you get multiple teams going together. The endgame episodes, however, do not require you to get multiple teams, go to a planet and pick which teams are going in.

Ten Ton Hammer: When can you start doing Fleet Actions?

Zeke:  Those are available as early as level four, so theyÂ’re not exclusive to endgame.

Ten Ton Hammer: What else can players do apart from the hard episodes to progress their character at endgame?

Zeke:  ThereÂ’s sort of an equal progression in either the really heavy five-man episodes, the PvP rewards, and thereÂ’s a special endgame exploration star cluster. There are also deep space encounters like in the rest of the game that are very Borg specific in that hub. All of those will have rewards of the really awesome endgame progression loot.

Ten Ton Hammer: Does the endgame have different PvP content than the rest of the game?

Zeke:  Not at launch. Basically you will be in a bracket of the high level characters and then you will get a different reward system, still based on the medals system like before, but a different caliber of medal that you get for competing against the other admirals.

Ten Ton Hammer: What kind of gear can players get from the endgame content?

Zeke:  YouÂ’ll be getting some advanced high-tech stuff like anti-proton beams and tricobalt devices, which are all lore driven; all the high-end big powerful scientific mojo.

Ten Ton Hammer: How long do you expect it will take the average player to get to the endgame?

Zeke:  ItÂ’s roughly about 80 hours I think for the average player.

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