Captain's Log: Incoming message... from the future

Captain's Log, Stardate 64787.3...

Hello, computer (and players)! Captain Brandon Felczer of the USS Radiance Vesta-class battleship reporting in. While en route to the Gamma Orionis sector block to investigate readings of potential Borg energy signatures, we encountered an unexplained anomaly unlike any we have ever encountered; the computer system could not provide any data to us. As we attempted to break away from its gravitational pull, we lost all control and systems -- the crew lost consciousness. Once we awoke several hours later, we discovered that we had been pulled into its void and somehow propelled 365 Earth days into the future.

While the Prime Directive has required us to stay out of affairs not in our timeline, we managed to record several pieces of data about developments that will happen in the future. There have been some gigantic leaps forward, and I can honestly say I cannot wait for a year from now. After I am finished recording this log, I will send it on subspace frequencies back to Starfleet Command. If you are reading this now, you have received my log one way or another. You must be now asking yourself, "What did we see?"

Ensign, warp 10! Let's report on our findings of what we will see in Star Trek Online soon™...

OK, OK -- a guy can dream, right? Well, dream about being a Starfleet captain who has seen the future. While I have not "seen" the future, Executive Producer Dan Stahl has given us a glimpse into the future of STO in this month's Ask Cryptic and his recent interview with Outpost Gamez.

The Academy

When asked to "tell us something exciting coming up that [he had] not told us before," Dan informed us that Starfleet Academy as well as the Klingon Academy are in development. While no other details have been given on this, speculation has been running rampant in Cryptic's forums. Some say that the Academy will be a new version of the tutorial in which you start out by getting your "required" education in San Francisco's Starfleet Academy. Others are betting that it will be a completely different set of gameplay, similar to taking on a diplomacy route. I would prefer to see something of a mix of the two -- I think it would be appropriate for a new cadet to start out on Earth (or Qo'noS) to learn how to play the game but then be able to continue within the academy.

Klingon faction

As stated in almost every article about the future of STO, Klingons are going to be getting "a lot of love" in upcoming seasons' releases. Some new development ideas, in addition to the Klingon academy, have come to the fore, ideas that truly do shed some light on some of the epicness coming to the Klingon Defense Force. By season four, nearly every sector in the game will be available to the red side, including specific missions that have been made especially for them.

Along with getting more "space" to fly in, the players are going to be able to make a KDF toon right from the start (currently, you must be have a level 6 Federation toon before you are able to roll a Klingon). This has been considered a deterrent to players' creating Klingon toons and has maybe even stopped some fans from buying the game. To help support the leveling of these toons, new missions will also take place on their home planet. If you have not made a KDF toon yet, you may want to wait until some of these updates are in place, as there may be some new species introduced for the faction, as well.

Gameplay updates

Major updates for ground combat are due out in the next few months. These new ground combat changes will include new targeting options as well as weapon enhancements. While Dan recognizes that the first-person shooter-style is something that players have been asking for, he let us know that we will not be getting a "full-blown" FPS system due to the amount of database changes it would require. He does note, however, that the team will be including some popular aesthetics from FPS games. Improvements we can expect to see include reticle-aiming modes (instead of tab targeting) and an increase in responsiveness.

Along with these updates, ground combat powers, kits and weapons are also getting an overhaul -- expect to see changes that include an increase in DPS depending on what type of weapons you are using when (i.e., a sniper rifle from afar or a pistol up close). While you won't be seeing a third weapon slot, anticipate all weapons' tertiary powers to become much more efficient. We will also be seeing an increase in reaction to hotkeys pressed due to system enhancements. Look for more info toward the end of May, including the specifics of when we can test it all out on the Tribble test server.

Ships

One of the best parts of the game is going to be getting even better. Over the next six months, we should be seeing the addition of many new playable ships. While the STO team is looking at adding more variations to existing ships, expect to see new additions like the Vesta-, Ambassador-, Andorian-, Freedom-, New Orleans- and Niagara-class ships. The winner of the Design the Next Enterprise contest will be making its appearance shortly after the winner is announced. The Klingons are also included in this, as they too will be getting new variations of their existing ship classes.

Since the introduction of new missions that require the use of a shuttlecraft, one of the biggest complaints is that you must return to starbase to switch into it. The developers are currently looking at a way to allow you to go to your shuttlebay and actually launch one of your acquired shuttles. They are looking at introducing this at the same time they bring in more interior functions -- maybe then we can walk out to sickbay to heal our injuries or visit the engineering lab to craft items.

PvP

In all honestly, PvP has had little to no love since the launch of the game. While this sounds hard to believe, it is true, and the developers have not denied it. While Dan argues that the ground combat updates will improve PvP, he does note that PvP will have a bigger focus in the future, including new maps that will tie into future feature series.

Future missions

To ensure that content growth is continuous, the development team has been working at bringing more missions into the game. A current goal set by Dan is that after Season 4 has been pushed, there will be a new featured episode each week with "little to no downtime." This will mean that players will be able to log in nearly every Saturday and play a new episode -- think of it as watching a series unfold on television each week. As of right now, expect to see three to five more five-episode story arcs before we ring in 2012.

For months now, players have been asking the team to put the more familiar places in the game. With the upcoming addition of the nine (yeah, Cryptic is including Pluto) planets of the Sol System, there will be new "in the neighborhood" missions available by traveling to the other celestial bodies. Stahl and company also plan to add in places made popular in some of the franchise TV series. He tells us, "One of the upcoming Feature Episode series will be based around Deep Space 9 and we intend to have several of the missions take place in locations seen on that show. This could mean venturing into the Gamma Quadrant, or going to some of the planets seen during the Dominion War. Look for this series to start in the Fall."

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. As you can clearly see, there are some amazing things coming around the bulkhead's corner. While a lot of this will take months to develop, it is a true testament to how an MMO is an evolving creature that can get better over time. I invite you all to tune into my STO livestream this week as we spend an hour running through the first of the Borg STFs, Infected -- tune in live this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. EDT. If you think you have what it takes and would like to join me for the live run, email me at brandon@massively.com with your credentials -- you must be willing to use Ventrilo and be available at the time discussed in my email back to you. Until then, buckle up; it's going to be an amazing ride.

Computer, terminate recording.

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Brandon Felczer transmits Captain's Log through Subspace right to your PADD every Thursday. Join him as he discusses the latest news, gossip, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Hailing frequencies are always open to his bridge through brandon@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.