Ready to Launch - A VIP Star Trek Online Q&A with Cryptic Studios
Launch is imminent for Star Trek
Online. As a close to our interview series we asked our Premium Members to
send in their questions for Cryptic Studios and we'd do our best to get
them answered. Ten Ton Hammer met up with Daniel Stahl, Producer of Star Trek Online and Daniel was
happy to answer our readers' questions. We covered plans after launch,
space collisions, the pause feature, and much more in our conclusion
interview for pre-launch Star Trek
The premium members whose answers were selected for this article have their names noted after the question. If you'd like to get your questions answered by devs, VIP interviews are a regular feature available only to our Premium Members. So sign up, and ask away!
Ten Ton Hammer: With the franchise getting major coverage this year due to last year's movie and the announcement of this year's movie, has there been any trouble keeping up with the lore? (Anacche)
Daniel Stahl, Producer: No, partly because we get a lot of information from our licensor, which is CBS / Paramount. They have regular meetings and talk about that kind of stuff, and we get briefs and updates. In fact, because our game takes place in the original timeline, and most of these movies take place in an alternate timeline, there's not a whole lot of overlap that we have to worry about.
But we do get regular updates, and we did throughout the making of the J.J. Abrams movie - that's why Romulus is destroyed in our game.
Ten Ton Hammer: So they'll continue to keep you informed after launch, I take it?
Daniel: For certain. We don't want to just be in our own little sandbox. We're part of the Star Trek universe and really want to be, so we're making sure that all of our lore and everything to do with the Star Trek canon - whether it's books or movies or even other projects - that we're in line with everything. We have regular meetings with CBS to review that kind of stuff.
Ten Ton Hammer: Another reader asks - currently there's no collision damage in space. Do you envision someday that this might be included as an attack of last resort, or maybe a self-destruct option? (Darke)
Daniel: When we first started with the game, we actually had collision damage in the game. But what we found out was: it wasn't very much fun. (laughter) There was a lot of examples where you'd run into something you didn't mean to, and you'd get frustrated because you'd blow up. So we played around with it a little bit and, at the end of the day, it just wasn't fun to have that there.
Instead, we made specific powers deal with collision. We have things like Ramming Speed, which is a high-end power that takes into account collision and physics when dealing damage. We went that route instead of just forcing it on everyone, where whenever you hit something your ships going to explode or take a huge amount of damage. It just wasn't fun.
Ten Ton Hammer: So you do get ramming damage if you allot points into that skill?
Daniel: Yea. There's a certain power / skill line that deals with ramming speed and damage. It's pretty lethal, but it deals a lot of damage to you as well. (laughter) But sometimes as a last resort... it does take into account all that collision damage that we're actually calculating on the backend.
Ten Ton Hammer: Any plans for a self-destruct mechanic?
Daniel: We played around with self-destruct too, but we just felt it was a little bit abusable. The way it is now, we feel it's pretty balanced because everybody knows when it's going to blow up, and we give you a few seconds to get away. Ramming speed sort of handled both of those two things; if you do it right, it's just as good as a self-destruct. (laughter)
Ten Ton Hammer: Other than this being a Star Trek game, what do you think this game offers the player compared to other online games? And what, if any, incentives are you offering to get players to try your game? (Rocqu)
Daniel: If you peel away the Star Trek and just compare it as an MMO with other games, I think one of the big differences is that we are a skill-based game. And also, I was reading on the forums of someone who really enjoys pet classes in other games. I think Star Trek Online sort of takes that concept and runs with it. We have bridge officers and crew that are a part of your character moreso than in any other game I've played. It's very much like a traditional RPG where you have a party that you're with the whole time. You give them equipment and you skill them up. Taking that concept to an MMO, I think, is something that Star Trek Online does very well.
As far as bringing other people on board that may not be necessarily Star Trek fans - just the idea of space and having a starship that you can travel around with, I think that that sort of tactical combat appeals to people that have played other sorts of naval combat games. I think we're doing a lot to broaden the invites that we're sending out for open beta. For the most part, everyone knows what Star Trek is, so we're not too worried about bringing in other people. I think people are going to gravitate to this game.
Ten Ton Hammer: Fair enough. Another premium member asks: are there currently any plans for wormholes in space? (radic202)
Daniel: There are a few wormholes that are in the game right now, and there are a few missions that take place in wormholes. In fact, I can think of three off the top of my head - there's two in Cardassian space, and obviously there's the Bajoran wormhole. But there's also one, I think, in the Romulan sector as well.
Those are things that we've toyed around with, and as far as wormholes as a travel method, that's also something that we look at. We actually have transwarp conduits built, that we may add at certain points in the game to help players get to certain areas. That's something that you're going to see after we go live.
Ten Ton Hammer: Several of the forum posts and reviews they've read describe the Klingon portion of the game as isolated. In one of your recent interviews, you mentioned there might be a merging of Federation and Klingon endgame content. Is this something you can discuss further? (Medeor)
Daniel: Obviously at the high tiers of the game... to say Klingons are isolated is one thing, but PvP requires another faction. In the PvP game, the factions are very much mixed together. In terms of providing that sort-of raid-like content, yes, that is something that we are pursuing for Klingons, so that they have those big instances where you go get your high-end tier gear. That is something they can already do through PvP and their badge system, but also something that we want to make available. We have a team looking at that right now.
Ten Ton Hammer: The pause button is something that our readers aren't used to, so one of our readers asks if you're watching how it's being used during beta - is it being abused, or are you surprised about how it's being used? (Medeor)
Daniel: We do monitor that kind of stuff, and one of the things we've done through closed beta is that we've toyed around with where you can use it, what maps you can use it, and we do have the ability to turn it off for specific missions, down to the mission level. So we can say, it really doesn't make sense in this mission or it's being abused here, so we don't have to remove it wholesale form the game.
We do keep track of it, and for the most part we're trying to make it make sense for you and your buddies who are playing and need a break but don't want to stop the mission. Or if you just want to talk about it - maybe someone's doing something the team leader doesn't like. We think it's a fun feature and something that's a help to players.
Ten Ton Hammer: It's definitely new; it's definitely neat. I've played around with it a little bit. Next question is: are there any plans for incorporating mobile options - using an iPhone to check out their player skills or show off their character at a party, something like that? (Medeor)
Daniel: I think the web team is definitely looking at different ways to integrate the game. We have a platform web team that works on the database integration of the game, so we can put your character and your ship and stuff on the web. I think you're going to see that first, and phone integration isn't very far behind that.
Ten Ton Hammer: So what was one of the greatest challenges you faced during development, and how did you overcome it?
Daniel: The challenges of Star Trek - the one that pops into my mind because I had to deal with it on a daily basis - was the fact that Star Trek doesn't take place in one location. When you look at the episodes or what Star Trek is, it's about travelling all over the place. Given the schedule, how could we make enough locations to actually make missions that take place in all of these different locations instead of just, 'Here's 50 missions on this one planet, here's another 50 on this other planet.'
We actually wanted to make it so you're travelling around in your starship, so one of the big challenges was finding ways to make that content, and to make star systems and make them look different, just so you could feel like there's this big universe. I'm really proud of what the team's done, because they've created an enormous amount of content, which is what spawned the genesis engine. It's strange; the more I play that content, the more I love it. (laughter) It's always new, it's always different. Overcoming the schedule, being able to make this vast universe where you don't necessarily have these big zones where you can stuff a bunch of enemies into, and trying to build a specific star system to put a mission in, that was a big challenge for us.
Ten Ton Hammer: The Genesis engine sounds like a pretty cool concept, can you tell us a little more about it?
Daniel: Genesis is the system that allows us to make star systems and planets quickly. That's what we used to make all of the exploration content. For example, when you go in a star cluster and see an unknown system, that system is generated by the Genesis system, and a designer feeds in variables to come up with something new that no one's seen before.
Ten Ton Hammer: So now after launch, what's the team going to be focuses on? Are they going to concentrate more on fixing any remaining issues with the current release, or are they going to be working on future content?
Daniel: Going live, different parts of the team have different responsibilities. Most of the time, the art department and some of the design teams are moving on to what's going to be the next update, whereas the mission guys and software people are dealing with bugs and issues as we go live. So our team is very spread out, working on various projects. Right now there's three individual teams working on different things. So it's not like everyone's moving on to the next thing and letting live sort of live on its own. We have teams dedicated to each part of launch, whether that be fixing bugs, addressing things we're going to update very shortly after launch, and then people looking long-term at what our first major update is going to be.
Ten Ton Hammer: Maybe it's too soon to ask, but we'll ask it anyway. As far as future content, what areas will your attentions be focused on? Will it be more endgame content, or will you add more to lower levels as well?
Daniel: We are looking at all kinds of things for updates. There's so many things that we want in the game that we're sort of looking both at the resources that we have internally and what we can generate, but also looking at forum feedback, content gaps, and features that we initially planned on putting into the game but had to cut because of time.
So you're not going to see a focus on just one particular area of the game, like endgame. You're going to see endgame, but you're also going to see parts of the game that are going to open up as we have time to make the features. I think that if you take the game as a whole, and all the types of gameplay that are there, you're going to see more of all of it. More exploration, more missions, more endgame content, more PvP action, more ships, more ship options, more bridge officers. All kinds of things like that.
Ten Ton Hammer: Was there anything more that you'd like to share with readers, now that we're on the eve of launch?
Daniel: We're having a blast, looking forward to the head start. Open beta is going really well, people are having fun, and the patch that we put up last night is our best one yet, and we're continuing to fix all the bugs that people are finding. We're looking forward to seeing everyone in game, I think it'll be a lot of fun.