Captain's Log Supplemental: An exclusive interview with STO's Daniel Stahl

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Following up on our exclusive look at the new fleet starbases and fleet advancement system due to arrive with Season Six of Star Trek Online, we've asked STO's Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl, a few questions about how the starbases will work and how they might affect different kinds of players.

One thing seems certain: Season Six might very well contain the most drastic changes the game has ever seen. So join us as we ask Dan some of the questions that came up after reading about the new system!


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Massively: "Making fleets a more central and fundamental part of the Star Trek Online experience" will probably sound a bit foreboding to players who do not currently belong to a fleet or are in a small one. Will this game be turning away from play that will interest them, or will they feel pressured into either joining a fleet or larger fleet just so they can continue to play?

Daniel Stahl: It is not our intention that endgame be based solely around fleets. That said, whether players are in a fleet of one or 500, we hope that they will find something to enjoy about the new fleet system. Some of the missions in Season Six are specifically designed to be played by fleets, but all players will have access to them either through invites or through personal queues. In addition, there are several new missions that are open to all max-level players to play whether they are in a fleet or not. As we move into future seasons, you will see us continue to expand the fleet system while also introducing more gameplay focused on solo gameplay.

Will all assets, including Operational Assets and other required items to build the fleet starbases, be obtainable through gameplay?

Yes. Progressing your fleet and earning rewards will require items and currencies that may be earned through gameplay. For example, you may be asked to donate a variety of existing items such as weapons, energy credits, dilithium, or new items such as Fleet Marks that drop specifically in the new max-level content that is being released with Season Six. As you donate these items, progress is made toward completing projects, which will provide your fleet with both status and rewards. Fleet leaders decide which projects the fleet should be working on next.

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The outline states that "as a fleet develops its starbase, it will face continued challenges and be forced to defend it against attack from an increasing selection of enemies as the starbase's importance increases." Will these be game-generated enemies or cross-faction fleets, or will same-faction fleets be forced to fight against one another? If so, do the victors retain spoils of conquest?

The challenges being released this season include an assortment of enemies that will be assaulting your faction's starbases (and in some cases, maybe even your fleet's starbase). While these challenges are not designed to have negative impacts (for example, your base can be temporarily disabled but not destroyed), the challenge comes by needing to perform well in order to earn the most Fleet Marks. Without Fleet Marks, it will be impossible to advance your Fleet's Projects. We are not releasing cross-faction or PvP fleet challenges at this time, but we reserve this as an option for future fleet holdings. Rumor has it that the Tholians will be making their first appearance in Fleet Starbase Challenges.

What sort of losses can occur?

While we discussed at length all sorts of nasty losses that could occur, in general we feel it is more fun to provide a positive challenge to perform well than have fleets lose progress. The only real loss that occurs is when you don't perform well in a challenge and thus earn fewer Fleet Marks for that run.

Is there a limit as to how many fleets will be allowed to build, or can any fleet undertake the process? When fleets turn into themselves to begin building their respective starbases, will the need for the game-wide social zones such as ESD, Academies and DS9 be moot?

Any fleet of any size can participate. All fleets can begin construction of their starbases immediately after Season Six releases. While we do expect that some fleets will use their own starbase for social events, there will be some features and services that are available only at social hubs such as Earth Space Dock. If you imagine a starbase as a cool guild hall, then looking at other games as an example, there will still be a need for large social zones where players can congregate.

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What support or tools can a fleet expect to find in order to recruit new members without spamming the general social zones? What advice can you give in this regard?

While we do intend to make some updates to the Fleet UI, there is little we can do to prevent chat spamming other than the checks we currently have in place. One of the nice additions is that fleets will now have a Fleet Level, which will allow prospective fleet recruits some idea of how much progress a fleet has made before they join. Fleet Level will be obtained through completing Fleet Projects. Another cool feature will be the ability for fleet members to invite non-fleet members to their starbase, which may also help with recruiting.

The outline reflects that there will be three categories a fleet must focus on to improve its base development tier. Will the individual player's career path determine what categories she is able to contribute to, or will a tactical officer be able to assist in science category goals, etc.?

While the names of the categories are similar to those of player classes, there is no limitation or benefit to what projects fleet members may contribute to. The fleet categories do correspond to different assets and rewards you can contribute to on your starbase but are generally themed so that there is some symmetry with the types of items that need to be contributed.

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With the advent of required defenses for the starbases, many casual-playing fleets will be concerned over their ability to be in-game when potential strikes occur. What assurances can you give to casual fleets that their efforts will not be useless? Will attacks be scaled to the number of fleet member in the instance? Besides building the bases and defending them, will fleets be able to pick up any other type of assignments from the area?

This is another reason we chose not to have negative consequences for Starbase Challenges. In some cases, an alert may pop up asking you to defend your starbase, but if you choose to ignore it (or aren't online), then nothing bad will really happen. You will simply lose out on the ability to earn more Fleet Marks. In most cases, players can choose when they want to play in Fleet Challenges by queuing to participate. Fleet Challenges are set for a specific number of players from five up to 20. There is also a new ground zone that will allow many more players to participate at once in order to earn Fleet Merits together. Once your starbase is established, it will have the opportunity to open up new missions and Duty Officer assignments in the future.

Is there any social aspect between fleets? Will visitors be allowed to enter the fleet instance without being a member of said fleet, or is it a members-only club?

Fleets may invite non-fleet members over for a visit; however, they may not have access to all of the amenities that have been unlocked for Fleet Members only.

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So there you have it! Season Six is bearing down on us all, and it looks like starbases will be a great focus for players in both the Federation and Klingon factions. More information about the fleet advancement system and starbases will be found on the STO site and forums in the coming days, so keep your eyes peeled. And many thanks to Dan for chatting with us!

Until next week, live long and prosper!


Incoming communique from Starfleet Headquarters: Captain's Log is now transmitting direct from Terilynn Shull every Monday, providing news, rumors, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Beam communications to terilynn@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.