This week saw the release of a new State of the Game blog from Star Trek Online Executive Producer Daniel Stahl. Much of what he said gave players hope for the future of Star Trek Online, including remarks that the game is "thriving at a time when many MMOs have kicked or are about to kick the bucket." The blog also featured some additional comments about the future of the game and how the company planning for 2013 and beyond.
Join me as I discuss his blog post and the poll results that were generated over the past couple of weeks. I'll also take a look at the future of the game, the expanding STO team, The Foundry, and the Klingon Empire.
State of the game
Daniel Stahl's regular letter to the players was released late last week. It contained the usual carefully worded statements but also displayed frankness on some topics. It was refreshing to read. Initially, Stahl addressed the poll that was available to players at the end of the last Ask Cryptic. The poll contained one question: Which features would you like to see most in 2013? The possible choices are shown above.
You will note that of the more that 3500 responses at the time I capped the image above, a full 30% of the responses asked the team to focus on a playable Romulan faction. Almost 20% of the responses asked the team to concentrate on filling out the existing (and not fully fleshed-out) Klingon faction. Still another 17% requested more Featured Episodes.
Not surprisingly, there was less call for improved PvP, additional rare ships, fleet missions/STFs, and improved crafting. (And yes, I voted for improved crafting. I like crafting. I wish there were more!) The remaining votes were somewhat evenly divided between more Foundry improvements, improvements to the duty officer system, and improved exploration in the game.
Essentially, the poll revealed that the STO playerbase wants playable story-based content. Big surprise.
One of the things mentioned in Stahl's upbeat blog is the fact that the team has expanded greatly in the past year. When I had the opportunity to visit Cryptic Studios in March of this year, there were approximately 25 people on the entire STO team. When I met Stahl again in August for the Discussion with the Devs panel at the Star Trek convention, he had mentioned to the crowd that his team exceeded 50 people and still had openings.
Stahl's State of the Game address verified that the team has expanded even more and has picked up talented people from both 38 Studios and Paragon Studios. This means the team has more than doubled in just the past six months! These numbers might be a surprise to some readers, many of whom have been under the mistaken impression that Cryptic Studios, and in turn the STO team, was already as large as some of its competitors.
STO's user-generated content tool has seen its share of ups and downs in the past year and a half. It tends to suffer from what I call "nucoditis" (new-code-itis) whenever a new Season is released. Thankfully, The Foundry QA team was prepared for the disease during the Season Six push last July, and though the tool was offline for a few weeks, I heard no reports of ruined missions after the tool was reopened.
Stahl's state of the game blog, while it was positive and glowing about The Foundry and its users, didn't have concrete future plans. Most STO Foundry users know that the tool is essentially a spinoff of the tool in upcoming Neverwinter and that the sci-fi game gets the "hand-me-down" code when Neverwinter is done with it. Because of this, I personally don't believe STO will see any major changes to The Foundry until well after Neverwinter launches.
However, there is some good news. In an effort to coax players to play Foundry missions, Cryptic has been experimenting with several different ways to reward those who undertake three Foundry missions in a "wrapper." For the past few months, that wrapper mission contained a dilithium reward. After the game released its new Fleet Advancement System in Season Six and during a subsequent special event called Fleet Week, the team added Fleet Marks as a reward. Apparently the test was successful because for the foreseeable future, the three-mission wrapper will reward players with 50 fleet marks. This makes a lot of people happy: the players who earn the rewards, the fleets who love having those marks donated to their expanding starbases, and the mission authors who are finally seeing some new reviews and tips on their missions.
Finally, Stahl's blog skims the surface of the interminable problem that is called The Klingon Defense Force. Although billed as being the game's second faction, the Klingons have never received the same amount of story-based content as the Federation. Some of this was because of the strict time restraints the company experienced when releasing the game, and some was because of a perceived lack of player interest.
In any event, current players cannot even create KDF characters until they first start a Federation toon and play it to at least level 24. I don't know very many people who are suddenly going to drop a character they've spent days leveling in order to create a character of the opposite faction.
I'm not sure that some suits in corporate offices realize the actual emotional connection players have with their characters. By the time we've been leveling a character for half a game, many of us would simply just feel wrong to abandon it. Therefore, it should seem pretty obvious that not very many people would work hard on a Federation main character just to create and play a member of the enemy contingent, and it's why I think it's extremely important to allow new players the choice from level 1.
I hope that Stahl's statement that "the KDF wants to feel established and have [its] own agenda in the game instead of always playing the 'foil' to the Feds. The best way we could tackle this issue is to take a 'build it and they will come' attitude and find a way to let players create Klingons as their first and primary character" is taken to heart by those who are making choices as to where content should be created.
I wouldn't mind giving birth to a KDF character if it means that I'll be able to devote the same emotion that I give to all of my current Federation characters. They all have a story. I wouldn't mind living out a KDF one if it means that I can start from the beginning and see the main arc through the eyes of a Klingon warrior. And if any consideration is being given to a Romulan faction in the future (a faction I actually love more than the Klingons) I think they would deserve the same. 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 email@example.com.