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doesn't end with the cosmetic in STO.

the most part, character customization in MMOs is a one-shot deal
that happens up front, allowing players to tweak a few options and
hopefully create a character with a moderate amount of individuality.
Unfortunately this tends to get washed away once you obtain your first
few pieces of armor. Worse still is effectively erasing the effort
involved in getting facial details style="font-style: italic;">just
right the moment you don that shiny new helm handed out as a quest
reward in your first five levels. Brandishing that really cool sword or
bow that can only be obtained deep within a dungeon may allow players
to briefly enjoy standing apart from the crowd, but it’s only
a matter of time before the things are a dime a dozen and
you’re back to square one in terms of any unique visual
elements to your character.

There’s certainly been a wealth of href="" target="_blank">recent
information detailing the ins
and outs of race creation in href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online,
which has the potential to shatter the confines of more traditional
character creation tools featured in many current MMOs. This should
come as no surprise, as cosmetic customization is one of the hallmarks
of developer Cryptic Studios’ previous titles, href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
and href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Villains.
When you take into account some of the intriguing options available to
players in upcoming href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online,
which allow players to go so far as to alter the color of power effects
and even such small details as what part of a character’s
body those powers emanate from, the implications of what that could
mean for customization in STO have certainly piqued my interest.

Although ship customization had been touched upon in a recent Ask
Cryptic, I’ve been itching to dig beneath the surface and
discover just how deep the customization rabbit hole truly goes in style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online.
In our href="" target="_blank">exclusive
GDC ’09 style="font-style: italic;">Star Trek Online
interview with executive
producer Craig Zinkievich, while I may have initially intended to learn
a bit more about ship customization options, I walked away more eager
to dive into the game than ever thanks in large part to the potential
impact of ships and bridge officers on overall character advancement.
As more details were revealed about the symbiotic relationship between
ship, captain and crew, it’s hard to avoid blurting out
“OK, now style="font-style: italic;">that’s
cool!” as I contemplate the potential for depth and immersion
in STO.

Designing an MMO with meaningful character advancement throughout the
leveling experience has been one of the biggest challenges developers
face. In many cases the concept of casual gameplay is synonymous with a
title light on mid-level details meant to simply steer a critical mass
of players towards ‘endgame’ content. While this
approach has obviously proven successful in the past, there are many of
us currently drifting through MMO space in hopes of touching down in a
game that offers an intriguing, immersive experience straight out of
the gates.

While I’d initially envisioned that bridge officers in STO
would function in ways similar to the NPC heroes in the href=""
target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars
series, it sounds as though that base concept was analyzed, expanded
upon and ultimately given a massive overhaul to the point where
advancing your bridge officers will no doubt become its own wholly
unique mini-game. Not only will bridge officers play a pivotal role in
ship combat, either earning or learning new skills to improve your
ships overall effectiveness, but they’ll advance and level up
with your character, creating a type of bond with NPCs never really
seen before in an MMO.

style="font-weight: bold;">Craig
Zinkievich: You’ll
pick up different members as you play, or you’ll run across
unique alien races that have unique, cool skills that you
can’t get any other way. And whether or not you take one of
those guys and recruit him into Starfleet or whether you ask him to
train one of your bridge officers in those skills is really up to you.
I mean, you don’t want to start off with Spock and then have
to cut Spock loose just because you found some phat loot. So
you’ll be able to train up your bridge officers. Some people
don’t care, but personally I do – the attachment to
the bridge officers is a big part of the game.

This relationship makes perfect sense within the Star Trek universe, as
captain and crew create a cohesive unit in all previous iterations of
the televised franchise, as does the concept of discovering interesting
new races during your travels, and then either recruiting one of them
into Starfleet as a member of your crew, or obtaining new skills for
your officers to use based on those interactions.


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in STO extends beyond the player to encompass thier ship and crew as

As new details begin to emerge about STO such as the above information
pertaining to bridge officers, it’s certainly apparent that
Cryptic is intent on creating an MMO that not only offers a lot of
depth, but one that stays true to the Star Trek IP in the process.
While I generally try to avoid getting overly hyped about a new title
until I’ve spent some quality time scampering around
it’s virtual confines, in the case of STO it’s
become more a matter of how could I not
be hyped about the project?

If you haven’t done so already, I thoroughly encourage you to
read through the full GDC '09 STO href="" target="_blank">interview.
Do you think the bridge officers will
add a new layer of depth to character advancement? Are you looking
forward to slowly building up a unique and powerful ship
that’s an excellent reflection of your career choices?
Disappointed that you can’t build the Oscar Mayer Weiner Bus
for that awesome new alien race you’re itching to create? Let
us know in our forums, or you can always feel free to send a virtual
carrier pigeon to href="mailto:[email protected]">my inbox.

Until next time dear readers, this is Captain Sardu, signing off!

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our City of Villains Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 13, 2016

About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.