Of the plethora of MMORPG titles in development and coming out each year, there’s one based on a certain massive sci-fi franchise that many having be eagerly anticipating for quite some time. That of course, is Star Trek Online, set to release next February and marking Star Trek’s first entrance into the MMO genre.

We recently sent a set of questions to Cryptic Studios about the game and its features, and Daniel Stahl, Producer on Star Trek Online, graciously took the time to answer all of them for us.

From starship vs. planetary gameplay, story elements, fleet battles and social gaming to working with other captains and the benefits of doing so, all of these are discussed below.

With Star Trek Online based in the Star Trek universe with familiar locales, ship designs, lore, etc., will there be any direct ties to specific characters, episodes, events from the different series’ and movies or other nods to the hardcore fans?

Absolutely! As players progress through the game, we expect fans to find numerous references and visual ties to events from past episodes and movies. Our writers have done a wonderful job of incorporating elements from all of the TV series as well as the movies. Players will come face to face with the Guardian of Forever, Alpha Quadrant Dominion, the Mirror-Universe, original series Klingons, and even deal with the destruction of Romulus from the most recent movie.

Will STO be inviting and friendly to non-Trek fans and/or casual gamers and what do you feel will help draw them in?

We hope that casual gamer looking for something new will find a unique and satisfying game experience in Star Trek Online. There is fun and addictive gameplay at the core of STO that doesn’t require you to be a fan or even know who the Klingon are. Anyone who’s dreamed of exploring the galaxy in a starship will find something to love about this game. The beauty of entering orbit around a planetary system I’ve never seen before still makes me smile every time.

In terms of player controls, HUD displays, terminology and progression, will STO be familiar to experienced/advanced MMO gamers?

Our philosophy has been to strike a balance between making the game accessible to fans that’ve never played a game like this before, and the experienced MMO player. The game can be played with minimal control input to help those who aren’t familiar with keyboard gaming. Most of our controls and HUD elements do have varying levels of complexity that can be toggled on or off, and the advanced player will find a rich set of options to alter the control scheme to their preference. For example, all beam weapons are mapped to the spacebar by default, but the advanced player looking for more control can trigger each weapon bank individually through keyboard or UI commands. The complexity is there if you want it.

This game combines both the space elements of games like EVE and ground exploration and combat to more standard MMO fare – what else does STO do to differentiate itself from the competition?

With the game set in the Star Trek universe, many standard MMO conventions take on new dimensions. Economy and wealth take a back seat to exploration and personal development. A player’s career as a Starfleet officer drives their progression to complete objectives and earn ranks. Having control over other officers allows players to build a personal connection to their crew from the very start of the game. Just like Kirk and Spock, the player will develop relationships between their Captain and Officers. My tactical officer Spevak and I go way back and I never go on an away mission without him.

In terms of story elements and the basis for the game’s universe, what made you decide on having the game take place 30 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis?

Setting the game in the timeline after Nemesis allows players freedom to continue the story of Star Trek without being locked into a known future. It provides uncertainty and the unknown as players will need to discover what happens next. Where have the Romulans gone after the destruction of their home world? What happened to the Dominion after the war? Is there another chance for peace with the Klingons? Are the Borg still a threat? If the game was set in the past, you’d know the answers.

Prior to the closing of Perpetual Entertainment, they were developing Star Trek Online for several years. What major elements of the game did you keep going forward and what elements did you change in molding STO to Cryptic’s plans for the title?

The number one element we continued forward was the spirit to make Star Trek Online the game that fans have been waiting for. Perpetual had a beautiful vision for how the game should look and feel.  While we have built the game from the ground up on our own technology, there are game play elements and visuals that will look strikingly similar to the original Perpetual concept drawings. The spirit is there.

We understand that STO will allow each player to command there own vessel. Will there be an opportunity for friends or guild-mates to climb onboard, socialize and/or share one large ship? If not, is that something we could see down the road in the form of an update/expansion?

Every player will have access to the Bridge of their own vessels at launch and can invite friends over to visit and socialize. When we looked at the suggestion of having other players perform duties on another player’s bridge, it was not much fun for those not driving the ship. It was frustrating sitting on a bridge and yelling “go that way… no that way!”  In the end, we found it more fun when everyone can drive their own ship.

Can you walk around the interior of your own vessel?

At launch you will be able to walk around the Bridge of each of your vessels. We are considering other locations on your ship you could visit in future updates, but with so many ships and everyone wanting a different configuration, there needs to be a lot of options to make it live up to Cryptic’s customization standards.

Continue to Part 2 of the Star Trek Online Q&A…

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