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Captain's Log: Incoming messages from the devs... again

Photo from the event
Captain's Log, Stardate 65131.6...

Hello, computer (and players)! I seem to mention this all the time, but I believe it to be true: The developers working on Star Trek Online are more transparent with their work than the devs of most other games. Whether or not this transparency has been always been a good thing is debatable, though. Still, no matter what one's thoughts on this are, I think we can all agree we like to be "in the know" when it comes to new things in development. This past weekend, a select group of STO players was able to attend another Dine with the Devs event, hosted by yours truly, where transparency was taken to the next level.

As I let you all know last week, the second-ever Dine with the STO Devs event coincided with some STO devs' visit to the Star Trek Las Vegas convention. Over 50 players gathered at a local Vegas restaurant to eat, drink and bombard Cryptic's developers with their most burning questions. Because 99.99% of the game's players were unable to attend, I captured the entire event on audio and would like to present you with a basic transcript of the evening's events. So make some food, grab a drink, and get ready to fire up the Holodeck for another edition of Captain's Log.

Ensign, warp 10! Auxiliary power to the Holodeck matrices and brace for impact...

The evening started out last Saturday when I met up with some players, including players representing over a dozen fleets, and devs at a local restaurant in Las Vegas, Nevada. After overcoming elevator problems at the hotel where all the devs were staying, Dan, aka Cryptic_Gozer, was the first of the devs to arrive; he is a Content Designer for Cryptic who is currently working on remastering the STFs. Jesse, aka JHeinig, arrived next and is a Systems Designer who is working on the in-game economy revamp. Last but not least, Thomas, aka ThomastheCrypticCat, and Maria, aka ZeroniusRex, arrived; they are STO's UI artist and QA lead, respectively. The following information is presented in the same order that we discussed it, lead by the question that was asked.

Can we make it easier to see that a Borg has adapted to one of our weapons?

The team let us know that there is going to be an adaptation icon that will appear over the shoulder of our characters. This visual effect will allow us to easily tell that we will need to remodulate at least one of our weapons.

When are we going to be able to play the Poker minigame that has been discussed?

Thomas, being the one who developed the waveform minigame, let us know that minigames take quite a bit of time and resources to create. While the team definitely wants to get it in-game at some point, the current focus is on some of the bigger things in the production schedule. Jesse also noted that Cryptic is hiring programmers, which may speed up the development process of these.

When are we going to be able to feed Tribbles to our Targs?

Maria thinks that this may affect the ESRB rating since the Tribbles are named after developers (and would be fed to "animals"). Whether or not this is true, Jesse mentioned that the Lead Designer of STO would like to see something like this in-game but thinks that your Targs will give your Klingon toon bonuses as they mature in life.

Are there any plans for the Tricorder to have more function during ground missions?

The entire panel threw around some ideas, including one about a map popping up when you activate your Tricorder that shows you important locations nearby and additional minigames that could go along with it.

When are we going to see more fleet actions?

The answer we got was pretty direct: "Very soon, like, very soon." My guess is that we will be seeing a new fleet action within the next few patches.

Photo from the event
Can we have any ship be available at any level?

This topic is often brought up in discussions, and there have been ideas that have flown around about allowing us to upgrade our ships to be used at a higher level. Some of the delay in this has been due to CBS not approving some ships to be used at a higher level (i.e. a tier 5 Constitution) along with the fact that getting in different versions of the ships with alternate layouts is a detailed process. That said, Jesse did let us know that many variants of existing ships will be coming out for both the Federation and Klingon factions.

Would it be possible for the officers we see on our ship interiors to have speech bubbles?

While Maria took note of this to bring back as an idea, Dan and Jesse let us know that it can be either fairly easy to do or extremely hard. Adding random speech bubbles would be easy, while adding specific type of speech, based on a set personality type, would not be.

When can we expect to see the new STF, Into the Hive?

While this is on the schedule to be released by the end of the year, there is still a bit of development that needs to be completed before we can play it. Dan, being the main content designer for this area of the game, did mention that the Borg Queen confrontation and the maps are complete. He also mentioned that there are going to be new loot drops for the remastered STFs, including a ground set (personal shield, armor, and weapon) that ultimately unlocks a special costume set. Lastly, we learned that the STFs will be split up into two different sections, space and ground. This will allow us to run one part, or both, with the same or different teams -- this includes cross-faction teaming.

Can STO use some of the stories from the books that have been published?

Due to these stories being considered "soft-canon," the team has to be very careful about what it includes in the game. It can be difficult to get some things in-game due to legal rights dealing with the multiple companies that own the story. Many times, you will see the writers going back to the stories and the movies since they are easier to approve. Jesse also mentioned that it is difficult to reference other video games' assets due to the same reasons -- this would include an infinitely remodulating weapon that many have asked about.

When is more functionality coming to social-zones like Andoria?

While the devs are working on getting the ground-combat PvP zone working there, Dan mentioned that there is a new zone being created, and we are going to be seeing it fairly soon.

What type of revamp to exploration is on the way?

Right now, this is not currently being worked on. Jesse did tell us that this is definitely something that is going to be done; some ideas about exploration areas being persistent after you visit them were mentioned.

Are there any changes coming to the pop-up UI so that it becomes less annoying?

Thomas mentioned that he is going to work with some of the UI programmers on allowing more options to customize this. Maria told us that this is in place because STO has brought to the game many players who have not played many games before; having the big pop-ups help ensure everyone sees important text.

Photo from the event
What are the devs' favorite Foundry missions?

Thomas loves Animations with Helna, by Havraha, which allows Foundry players to see all of the different animations available for NPCs. Maria really enjoys a mission by RogueEnterprise but could not remember the name. Dan mentioned that he does not play in the Foundry that much since he works on the game most of the day and would rather play other games when he gets home. Jesse's favorite mission is The Longing by Rachel Garret.

What about the Tholians and the Iconians?

While the Tholians will be seen during one of the future Featured Series, the Iconians will become more present once the level cap is raised to Fleet Admiral, the devs let us know.

What are you most looking forward to see in-game coming in the next 30-45 days?

While Thomas is thrilled to see the Duty Officer system finally make it in-game, Maria is looking forward to more stability fixes for the Foundry and the STF revamps. Dan can't wait for us to see the new loot drops for the STFs, as they will include a much larger and better table of loot, including all of the items from the Valor and Emblem store. Jesse is excited for us to see the new quad-cannon update to the Defiant class.

What is going to happen to the Terradome STF?

Dan mentioned that this mission will most likely not be an STF in the future. He also dropped an exclusive tidbit, noting that all missions will have their level requirements removed so you can play them at any level and that the enemies will scale their levels to the player's current level.

When are we going to see more merchandising that players can purchase from Cryptic?

The entire panel would really like to see more gear that players can get, including models of your ship. The problem with the models is that they are very expensive and break easily. Thomas let us know that rapid prototyping would be the most optimal way to create them, but they are more fragile and cause the model to look a little "off."

At the end of the night, I hosted an interactive game that allowed attendees to participate and win prizes. Those who participated were shown a random, in-game emote, which they had had to mimic using their own bodies. Among the autographed game posters that were given out, there was a special poster given out to one winner, a poster personally created by Thomas and featuring a shot of the newly revealed Enterprise-F flying over a planet. As the icing on the cake, the poster was autographed by most of the STO team.

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. As you can see, there was quite a bit of interesting information and many new things we can look forward to; please bear in mind that any of this information could be changed at anytime, be developed in a different matter, or wind up scrapped entirely. If you feel strongly about a certain matter, please make sure to voice your opinion on the STO forums. Also, a special thank you to Dave Hicks for taking the photos used in this column.

Until next time, let me know what you think about some of the subjects that the devs spoke about by commenting below or sending me an email to brandon@massively.com.

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.