Captain's Log: Q&A with Star Trek Online's Daniel Stahl

STO Vesta Class Header
It's finally here! Season Seven has finally made its way to Star Trek Online! Months of waiting have produced the game's single largest ground map filled with new activities for veteran players. A brand-new sector of space with 17 new systems is waiting for exploration and patrols. A new strategic task force mission allows captains to take on the Borg Queen herself, and two new reputation systems will fundamentally alter endgame content for the foreseeable future.

On the cusp of the new release, we took the opportunity to ask Star Trek Online's Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl, some questions about the new content and what we can expect from STO in the coming months. So jump past the break to check out what he said and take a look at some exclusive screencaps of the new material!

STo Azure Nebula
Massively: STO seems to be seeing a lot of its story told in other forms of media, most notably Star Trek Magazine and the blogs posted on the game's site. What can players expect for future integration of the game's story into the actual game? How will story be revealed in Season Seven?

Daniel Stahl: As a Star Trek fan, I think it is great to see the story of STO move forward. We made a very conscious effort in Season Seven to ensure that story is woven across the entire update. Players will notice that many of the locations in the new sector are taken directly from the IP and set the stage for missions that are to come in the near future. This season, we're specifically focusing on characters such as the Borg Queen, the Reman renegade Obisek, the New Romulus leader D'Tan, and of course the Tholians. Captains will encounter these characters throughout the missions in Season Seven and will get a sense of how the story is moving forward as they aid D'Tan and the New Romulans. New cinematic scenes and themed missions will unlock as players advance their reputation with the Romulans.

It's also really important that, for a massive brand like Star Trek, there is a consistency between what players experience in games like Star Trek Online, what they read in novels, magazines, and official sites, like www.startrek.com, and what they watch in the many generations of TV shows. Since Cryptic Studios works closely with its partners at CBS, fans can continue to expect to see news about Star Trek Online in places like the Star Trek Magazine. But as always, one of the best places to find the latest news on Star Trek Online will be game sites like Massively and the game's official site.

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Here's a question straight from the playerbase: The new reputation system seems like a good starting point for continued character specialization. Are there any plans to give players the chance to specialize, or do you foresee that players will remain relative jacks-of-all-trades?

As captains gain Reputation with one group or another, they will be presented a choice of new abilities at each tier. While Season 7 introduces two Reputations, Omega Fleet and New Romulans, as new Reputations are added in the future, the plan is that captains will begin to specialize based on the ability choices they've made.
STO New romulus KDF
The KDF faction has always needed more love. Can you address this persistent question once more? What can loyal KDF players expect for the fulfillment of their faction?

What started as a PvP-only faction has slowly been improving over time into a fully fledged PvE faction over the last three years. In 2013, we feel that PvE KDF experience is going to get even better with the addition of new Feature Episodes, new Adventure Zones, and more KDF specific missions. Once we feel that there are enough PvE missions for the KDF to go from level 1-50, we will open up the ability for anyone to create a Klingon as his or her first character. Looking at our development schedule for 2013, I'd say it may come a lot sooner than you'd think.

Crafting has always been lackluster in STO. What plans might there be for the system? Should it just be eliminated, or can it be overhauled to fit in with the new endgame reputation systems?

While some of our very avid crafters may completely disagree with your assessment, we have continued plans to support crafting and integrate it within the other systems within the game. One of those integration points is with a Reputation system as you suggested, but we have not yet announced when that will be released. Also, I'd like to give a big thank-you to everyone who has been submitting constructive feedback about crafting. Our designers are very interested in some of the great proposals that have been posted on the forums, and we do expect to touch this system in 2013.
STO Into the Hive Ground
What can you tell us about the planned evolution of the new reputation system for both Romulans and Task Force Omega?

In addition to new rewards and special gear sets for max-level characters, one of the most exciting unlocks opened up through this reputation system are brand-new captain abilities. This new system also offered us the opportunity to streamline the process of obtaining high-end Special Task Force gear. Now players can earn Reputation with Task Force Omega by running content such as Defera Invasion Zone and Red Alerts.

We expect the Reputation system to evolve into a form of alternate character advancement for captains over level 50. As we move forward, we will be introducing new Reputations that will each come with unique ability choices and rewards and will be tied specifically to unique content within the game.

One of the Reputation systems that we are most interested in doing next is related to PvP in conjunction with new PvP content within the game. There will be more news on this toward the middle of next year.

STO New Romulus Fleet Embassy
In your most recent State of the Game blog, you said that New Romulus will play an important role in Season Eight. Can you give us any insight into what this might entail?

Believe me -- I would love to tell you more about Season Eight. Unfortunately, it's a little premature to start talking about it at the moment. But what I will say is that the New Romulan Reputation in Season Seven will play a big role in what happens in Season Eight, so you'll want to make sure you help D'Tan out.

Can Foundry users plan on seeing any new assets to the tool? What are you most excited to see being added to the Foundry?

We plan to continually release new maps and costumes to the Foundry with each Season, including Season Seven. We are also looking at many of the Foundry features being developed for Neverwinter and opening dialogue with that team on how to carry those features over to STO. We expect to have more details to share after Neverwinter launches.

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From the playerbase: Can you talk a little bit about the Foundry Spotlight system and the "Submit to Spotlight" button?

We have long wanted a way to give credit to some of our amazing mission authors by featuring their missions more prominently within the game. Now, when a Foundry author has a hit mission on her hands, she can submit the mission to be considered as a "Spotlight" mission. If selected, it will be given special status within the game and will be prominently displayed in the mission journal for all players. In addition, it will be qualified as a mission on which players can earn better rewards so that authors are ensured their missions get played constantly. We are very excited this is happening in Season Seven and look forward to playing all the new Spotlight missions to come!

STO Into the Hive Space
A few players have expressed that they feel as if they're being forced to start over with respect to the new Task Force Omega reputation system. Can you take a moment to address the reasoning behind the planned currency lock?

The Reputation system is a new system within the game and comes with new rewards and benefits. While it does incorporate the Special Task Forces rewards, no one will be "starting over." If you've been playing STFs and have your gear rewards, then you'll keep those rewards and don't have to bother with the Omega Fleet reputation unless you want the new special captain ability unlocks at each tier. If you've been playing STFs and have yet to complete your gear sets, then the new system is designed for you. This new system will give you a clear path and timeframe to getting your rewards instead of the randomness that previously existed.

STF gear is arguably the best gear in the game, and previously, players had spent years running STFs and still hadn't received the very rare drops needed to complete their sets. Instead of waiting another year and hoping to get the drop, players can complete the Omega Fleet rep and be guaranteed a way to get the reward. I wouldn't call that starting over. I'd call that finally being able to finish the task.

STO Fleet Embassy
Season Seven brings with it the largest single ground map ever seen in the game. What aspect of this new feature are you most proud of? What do you think might end up needing a tweak or two?

New Romulus has that great feeling of "Trek" to it. It has a great ambience and feels like exploring a strange new world. It also includes some great story moments as you gain reputation with the New Romulans and help D'Tan. The team did an awesome job on this and we're very proud of it. The first thing we're going to be keeping an eye on is performance as we work out exactly how many captains can be in this zone at once. Since we've never done something this large, it is going to be interesting to see how the gameplay feels when there are so many people in the zone.

Epohhs. Whose idea were they, and when can we get a plush version?

Like every famous cute and fuzzy animal in Trek, the Epohhs were born out of a need for something cute and fuzzy and not a lot of time to make it. This is our version of a dog with some antenna strapped on its head, but it sure did turn out great! Big thanks to our art team for kit-bashing this great new animal. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to see some Epohh plushies at the Star Trek Convention next year. In fact, if you see one, pick it up for me!

We'd like to thank Daniel Stahl for his time. You can check out all the screenshots in the gallery, and until next week, live long and prosper!
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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.