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

STO Ambassador class
Huzzah! It's here! Star Trek Online's third anniversary celebration begins today! So while we all await the patch and loosen up our trigger fingers in order to undertake the new mission that will reward players with either an Ambassador class or a Kamarag class ship, you can sit back and read a new interview with Star Trek Online's Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl.

Stahl took the time out his busy schedule to answer a litany of questions about the past year as well as the future of STO. We were also given a few new screenshots and you can view them in the gallery below. There are a lot of questions, so let's get to it!
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STO Kamarag Class
Massively: Daniel, I'd like to personally congratulate you and the entire Star Trek Online team on the third anniversary of the game. At the outset, there were quite a few detractors of STO when it first launched in 2010. What would you like to say to those people who thought STO wouldn't survive the first year, let alone three?

Daniel Stahl: Let me start with this quote:

"Every criticism, judgment, diagnosis, and expression of anger is the tragic expression of an unmet need." – Marshall Rosenberg

As a developer, we must never forget that we are providing a gateway to Star Trek in order to satisfy the wants and needs of our fans. We could not have improved that experience without a constant flow of feedback and analysis of the game. Without the passion of our fans, Star Trek Online would not have progressed to where it is today.

To anyone who has offered constructive feedback, I say thank you. We continue to take your concerns to heart and the game gets better every year.

What festivities are planned for the Third Anniversary celebration?

It wouldn't be an STO Anniversary without Q and some party favors. We'll have several special events taking place including a new mini-game that mini-Q has cooked up. There will be a new party popper and some fun celebrations on all of our primary gathering hubs.

In addition, we also have a new episode that will give players a chance to see the Ambassador class starship in action. Every player who completes that episode during the anniversary event will receive a Tier Three and Tier Five version of the Ambassador if you're a FED or Kamarag if you're in the KDF.

STO Shon
What are you most looking forward to in regards to the anniversary event(s)?

I'm looking forward to the spontaneous celebrations that seem to happen wherever captains gather. STO is one of those rare MMOs where fans will take time out to socialize and celebrate another great year together. Many of the screenshots on my PC are taken during these events because it is just great fun.

We all know that companies don't release numbers, so I'm not asking you to. However, can you shed light on STO's success since it's free-to-play conversion last year?

Cryptic has managed STO with a high amount of fiscal responsibility, taking the approach that the investment into the game should be proportional to its success. This averts risk and allows us to continue development based on how well the game is performing rather than according to some repayment schedule for all the money that was borrowed to make the game. It is shocking how much you could spend on an MMO and never see a dime in return on the investment.

When you look at the increased investment we are now making in the game, it is a direct response to the success that the game is having. We often see comments online about "supporting" Star Trek and in many ways this is true. We have been continually reinvesting in the game since we launched in 2010 and this has led to our growth and expansion. You only need look at how far the game has come since launch to see how this reinvestment is building an amazing MMO year over year.

This next year is going to be more improvement and a year from now we'll be able to look back and see how this strategy is paying off.

STO Tasha Yar
Some players have expressed fears that there might be a bleed-off of personnel from STO when Neverwinter launches. Can you address these concerns?

One of the strengths of our studios is that employees can quickly and easily move between projects due to the similarities in our proprietary editing engine. That said, the teams headcounts are established for most of the fiscal year, so even if some employees went onto another project, we would immediately replace them with someone else.

The past three years haven't been easy for anyone at Cryptic with the sale and the purchase and getting used to a new parent. Have things stabilized? What, if any, changes might we expect in the relationship in 2013?

There were several long months a few years ago where things were very rocky and Atari was attempting to sell Cryptic studios. Ever since we joined with Perfect World, things have been getting steadily better.

They really believe in the core game design behind STO and feel that it has yet to tap its full potential. Together we are investing heavily to expand the game and ensure the game becomes the best Star Trek game ever made. We have a long way to go, but we are on a path that leads to success.

STO Q Anniversary
STO underwent enormous game mechanics changes with the addition of the starbase and reputation systems. Can we expect any additional mechanics changes in 2013 or are you satisfied with focusing on adding new reputation factions?

We are mostly satisfied with the new systems that were introduced over the last year and instead of abandoning them, our plans in 2013 are to expand on both Reputations and the Fleet System. We will be introducing a new Fleet Holding and a new Reputation in our next update and have plans to add more towards the latter half of the year as well.

If we do make some additional system changes it would come in the form of PvP, crafting, or quality-of-life gameplay improvements. For the most part we are focusing on improving the game overall instead of introducing a big new system.

You've stated that you thought that the upcoming Season Eight release would be "big" for the Klingon faction. Do you have anything you can add to that?

We've stopped calling it a season for starters. When we look at all the time and energy being put into this next update, it feels like it's shaping into something much larger. While we haven't shared specifics yet, we will be detailing our plans for the Klingon faction in the coming months.

STO Ship Set
You've stated in the past that we will likely see an expansion of the new reputation system in the game. Can you provide us with any hints as to what factions may open up next? If not, what factions would you personally like to see developed in the reputation system that may not be on the drawing board just yet?

We do plan to release some new Reputations as mentioned and the ones at the top of our list are: PvP, Tholians, and Deferi. We feel that these would add a new dimension to those areas of content in the game and provide a source of cool new gear for captains.

We seem to be eyeing a rather regular pattern of season releases scheduled for 2013: one about every six months, not unlike 2012. Do you think this is a reasonable pace? What would you like to see, ideally?

We would like to release substantial updates twice a year at minimum. Ultimately, it comes down to the requirements for those updates and how much time we need to get the feature set done. My personal taste would be to have two major updates a year along with lots of smaller events to ensure that there is always something new in the game every month. We'll see if we can get there. So far, STO is off to a good start this year.

Recent blog posts and interviews reflect that the playerbase can expect some forward momentum with regards to the Romulan storyline. When might we actually see the new story-based material?

We will start talking about the Romulan story soon, but you may also get some teasers in any events or missions we release over the next few months.

STO Ambassador class Hero shot
There are players who feel the economy in the game has taken a severe hit due to the addition of the Romulan and Omega reputation system now competing for dilithium with fleet starbase and embassy construction. What may need to be done to address possible re-balancing?

We continually balance and adjust drop rates of Dilithium in game to ensure that the economy is going strong. We monitor transactions daily and chart exchanges and rates. We can now say that thanks to all of the balancing we've done since Season 7 launched, players are earning as much Dilithium now as they ever have and the exchange rate is in favor of Dilithium so we feel this is a win-win for captains in the game looking to get the best value for their time.

Have any thoughts been given to possible inventory expansion capabilities (ship and item slots)?

We expect to have increases for both in the next major update, but you'll have to wait and check the patch notes in case we hit a snag.

The Foundry, is it successful? What changes or improvements do you foresee in 2013?

The Foundry is successful in that we have a growing number of amazing authors contributing their stories to the game. We see the Foundry as a great source of new missions for captains. Given the strength of these missions, we are now looking to move into a new phase of development where we begin to coordinate with authors on creating new avenues for hooking up their missions into the game. We think there is a high potential for the future of the Foundry and we plan to support it for years to come.

Finally, just some Trekkie stuff: Who is your favorite Star Trek captain? What is your favorite ship? And now for the tough one: Who is your favorite overall Star Trek character and why?

Kirk all the way. The Defiant Class escort. One of my favorite Star Trek actors was James Sloyan who played such great characters as Admiral Alidar Jarok and K'mtar (Alexander). The Defector and Firstborn were two of my favorite Star Trek episodes mostly because of those two amazing characters.

Once again, thank you so much for your time.

Thank you for joining us to celebrate three years of Star Trek Online. Here's looking forward to a great 2013!

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.