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ARTICLE

A year of Star Trek Online

Star Trek Online celebrated its first birthday a few weeks ago, so we grabbed the game's producer Daniel Stahl to discuss Hortas, the future and Free To Play...


First of all - congratulations on your one year anniversary! How does it feel? How are you celebrating, both in the game and at the office?

Thank you very much. Reaching one year in Star Trek Online feels great! MMOs are different from traditional games in that shipping the game to market is only the first step. We spent many late night hours and weekends to get Star Trek Online to market last February, but our work hasn't slowed down or stopped since. We have spent the last year continuing to develop new features, add more content, and improve the game.

Star Trek Online
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Hitting our one year anniversary is not just about thinking back to launch, but instead thinking back to everything we've worked hard to achieve in this first year.

We've had some great in game and out of game celebrations to commemorate the moment. Now that we've had our little party, we're all back to work making sure year two is just as productive as year one.

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The first year has seen you iterating on stuff that the game launched with, like the crafting system. Any other older systems you are looking to improve and how?

One big benefit of working on an MMO is that you can change or update pretty much anything in the game as you see fit, so long as you have the resources to do it. So in addition to the new content and features we continue to add, it is nice to have some time left in the schedule to go back and update features such as crafting, allowing it to grow into something more useful to players.

Star Trek Online

This benefits both players who have asked for changes as well as new players coming into the game. We've balanced our manpower to allow us to address parts of the game we feel need some love, while moving forward with the new features and content players want.

Ground Combat, Exploration Sectors, Deep Space Encounters, and Special Task Forces are at the top of our list of older systems we want to improve.

Players have been able to walk around in their ships for a while now, but there's not really any functionality to it. Any plans on using the sickbays, the warp core or engineering for something productive?

Adding functionality to what is essentially player housing is a bit tricky, but something we have already started to do add since the release of Season 3. Players can go to the Ready Room off of their bridge to select episodes they would like to replay, and at least one of the missions in our newest Feature Episode series requires that you utilize the computers on board your ship to investigate issues and report on progress.

We get a lot of requests for functionality that would add solo friendly features such as crafting or injury removal and we have to look closely at whether or not adding these features are good for the game, or just good for the player. There is a reason why most MMOs place functionality in "Towns" or hubs. They want players to socialize and see one another, and by limiting the locations where player can bank, craft, or otherwise do specific game functions, you ensure that at the very least players get to see one another.

So there is a balance to be met between adding functionality that makes your solo game experience easier, and keeping the game social. We will continue to look at ways we can make your ship interior useful, while maintaining the social nature of the MMO gameplay.

Star Trek Online

As the game moves into its second year, what kind of new content can the players look forward to? Any new races, like the Horta, either as player races or bridge officers?

In year two, players can look forward to several new Feature Episode series each featuring a distinct story arc, and in some cases new species that have not been seen in Star Trek Online yet. We've openly discussed our desire to see new enemy species such as the Tholians and Iconians in the future, and while we don't want to spoil any future plots, we can say that both of those species are in the works.

Players who have completed the recent "Enemy Mine" episodes will have had their first encounter with a Horta in STO. As far as seeing Horta as bridge officers or player species, we have opted to leave the Horta as NPCs that are not tied to any specific faction.

Do you plan on continuing the weekly "Feature Episodes" that you have been releasing and that are reaching Season Three now?

We will absolutely continue to make Feature Episodes. Seeing as each series can last between 5 and 6 weeks, our goal is to release at least 5 Feature Episode series per year.

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As players have noticed in our most recent series, we continue to raise the bar on these episodes. By allowing more time for their development, we can ensure these episodes push closer to our dream of having an ongoing, TV-like series of content in STO to look forward to every week.

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Since launch, players have been able to play as a captain of either the Federation or the Klingons. Any plans of introducing more options and factions, like for example the Romulans?

While players can play as both members of Star Fleet or the Klingon Empire, we certainly don't make it easy for players to start a Klingon character. You must first complete 6 levels as Federation captain before you can even create your first Klingon which leads to an imbalance in the number of players in each faction. Adding a third faction to that mix would be disastrous until we address that issue. So in our next big game update this summer, we will be allowing player to start their first character as part of the Klingon Faction.

In addition, we still have work to do in improving the levelling and content experience for the Klingon Faction. Since the KDF was initially launched as a "monster play"-like PVP faction, going back and adding PVE missions and episodes for them has been a slow going process.

Once we have the Klingon Empire in a state where we feel they have a healthy progression path will we consider adding the Romulan faction and any other factions the players want to see in game.

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The Foundry is a major thing being added to the game, which will allow players to put together their own missions and share them with the community - similar to the Ryzom Ring in Ryzom and the Mission Architect in City of Heroes. The latter had a lot of initial problems when the MA was introduced with players exploiting the system for quick rewards. How have you approached this issue when designing The Foundry?

We programmatically limit the amount of default rewards players can receive in Foundry missions and we do not allow players control over mission drops or rewards in their missions, instead channelling their energy into telling stories instead of building killing fields.

The C-Store has been something of a sore point for some players, adding purchasable content on top of the usual subscription fee (such as races, ships and costumes). Cryptic is not alone in doing this, of course, but what can you tell us about the C-Store business model? How will it evolve in the future?

You are correct in that the C-Store is a sore point for some players. However, for some other players it is a welcome feature that allows a small development team to add fan requested ships, costumes, and species to the game that would otherwise not be on our development schedules. We have weekly meetings where we look at fan feedback regarding micro-transactions and discuss ways to improve the system so that it benefits the game and player's expectations.

Champions Online just went free to play, and it's been mentioned that your team is watching that development closely to see if it would be fit for Star Trek Online. Any initial thoughts about CO's switch?

In the words of Spock, I will simply say that the results are "Fascinating."

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