Captain's Log: Star Trek Online in Las Vegas

STO Las Vegas Header
This weekend, Massively, along with Trek Radio, hosted the formal Star Trek Online Discussion with the Devs panel at the official Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. And if I judge by the personal feedback received and the unanticipated (yet much appreciated) turn-out from players who attended the panel, all seems to have been very well received. Join me past the jump to learn more about what the STO developers said in response to questions posed by Massively and those in attendance at the convention and on the game's forums.

Risa and Terilynn STO Panel in Vegas
Massively and Trek Radio were proud to co-host the first of what we hope will be a regular panel at the annual Star Trek convention. In attendance from Cryptic Studios were Community Manager Brandon Felczer, UI Designer Thomas Marrone, Content Developer Jesse Heinig, and Executive Producer Daniel Stahl.

After the crowd was shown the uplifting trailer from the game's free-to-play launch, a brief poll of the audience was taken, revealing that while a majority of attendees had played the game, many had not, and a few had never heard of it before discovering it during the convention. In order to aid the newbies, the four Cryptic staffers began answering some basic questions about STO. Then Stahl addressed more specific questions about the health of the game and its future.

sto DANIEL STAHL
Stahl was asked about the success of Season Six and what could be anticipated for Season Seven. Stahl responded by giving the audience a sneak-peek of some of the screenshots of the Season Seven material, which as he reiterated, will include a new sector of playable space focused on Tholian play. He also stated that the new release will be story-intensive.

Stahl was once quoted as saying that Season Seven will be "bigger than" Season Six and that Season Eight will be "bigger than" Season Seven. Then he was asked about any potential hints he could give us about Season Eight; he said that Cryptic, and the STO team in particular, is doing very well -- that when he first started working on STO the team consisted of no more than 20 people, and since that time, the team has grown exponentially. He confirmed with the attendees that the team now well exceeds 40 people, and the studio will be looking to hire several more to make Season Eight the success he envisions.

One thing he said piqued everyone's interest: He said there will be a focus by the STO team in the future on more featured episodes. Featured episodes were thought dead by many STO players, especially after the free-to-play launch, as the company seemed reluctant to produce story-based missions for endgame players. The featured episodes' virtual disappearance from the game since the release of the five-part series called The 2800, which launched in early spring of this year, left many players disappointed. Stahl seems hopeful that the game's resurrection of the beloved format will be well-received, and he asked for patience, since these episodes will not be seen until at least the launch of Season Eight, which appears to be set for some time in late spring or summer of 2013.

STO Cryptic panelists
The team was also questioned about the user-generated content tool known as The Foundry. Without really committing to any sort of timeline, Stahl told us that additional assets and improvements are en route to the Foundry in the coming months. But he did say that the team is actively looking for ways to improve the user interface for the Foundry; Cryptic is hopeful that there will soon be a way for players to tag their favorite Foundry authors as well as receive notices when their favorite authors release a new mission. The devs are seeking ways to improve or overhaul a search feature, which would make it easier for players to locate the types of missions they most like to play.

When asked the inevitable question about when the game might see a third playable faction, Stahl replied that there have always been plans to bring in another playable faction, presumably Romulans, but once again, he would not assign any time-frame to its appearance in the game.

But Stahl did confirm that the game will be seeing the Vesta-class ship in game, maybe as soon as Season Seven, once the final legal hurdles have been jumped by CBS Studios and the ship's designer, Mark Rademaker.

STO Hanging with the Devs
Another audience member asked Stahl about the current state of PvP in the game. As noted in this month's Ask Cryptic blog, Stahl admitted that PvP had never really been STO's strong suit, and since the developer responsible for the anticipated overhaul departed the studio, his replacement has his work cut out for him as he learns the new systems and moves forward with the project. One way or another, Stahl says Cryptic has no intention of pushing a product that isn't ready. As a result, it looks like the progression of the PvP overhaul will show small improvements between Seasons Seven and Nine, "with the end goal of having an awesome and fun PvP battleground-like map by the time Season Nine ships."

Finally, the big day ended with a follow-up event called Hangin' With the Devs, a two-hour casual meet-and-greet for those who weren't able to get their questions answered during the panel due to time constraints. Co-hosted by Massively, Trek Radio, Priority One Podcast and Subspace Radio, the chat seemed to be a great way for players to chat with the four developers.

I would like to take this moment to extend my personal thanks to the editing team here at Massively, to Monica and Adam from Creation Entertainment, and to Risa from Trek Radio for her extraordinary efforts to help bring the first Discussion with the Devs panel to the Creation Star Trek Las Vegas convention. I hope this will be the first of many!

Until next time, 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.