Rivera also explained that he believes the current DOff system lacks clear goals. While chain assignments do exist, Rivera would like to see changes implemented to the way assignments allow players to choose to complete specific objectives. He would like to see players be able to, for example, build a ship and see all the steps the player needs to do in order to complete that task. When asked whether he sees DOffs becoming a more integrated part of the crafting system, Rivera replied, "I would love to see DOffs and the reputation system merged into a greater DOff system that involves crafting, but as much as I want to see it built up, I also want to see it simplified."
To prove his point, he turned the question around on me. "Right now the duty officer system allows people to make ship consoles. Terilynn, how do you make ship consoles using your duty officers?" I admit it -- I was silent. I had no clue. He smiled and said, "Exactly." He wants it to be easier for players to identify the types of assignments that are available to achieve more specific goals, like building a console or similar items. He said that it was a "failure on [their] part" and that he wants to ensure that if a player wants to make a console, she has what she needs to make it the way she wants it.
He admits that some of the Tal Shiar lockbox ships have a Narada (Nero's ship in the Abrams' film Star Trek) style, but that's only because the Narada was technically built in the Prime Universe, as was Spock's uniquely styled Jellyfish shuttle. Rivera told me that the most likely ship we might see is the Jellyfish for that reason alone, but the team just can't simply move forward; approval would still need to be sought.
Rivera explained that the team did a lot of math to determine what the actual costs, based on odds, to obtain a purple duty officer in a duty officer pack versus how much it cost to "grind one up." He said Cryptic realized it was "way undercharging" for the grinding missions, and he believes the studio is still undercharging, but previously the costs were off "by orders of magnitude." He said that before the changes were implemented, the game risked losing duty officer sales because the cost-differential was so vast.
Rivera admitted that there are very few canon ships that can be made for the game, and the ones that haven't been used yet don't have the most exciting designs. We perused a gallery of unused canon designs and agreed that many of them looked like bad "kit-bashes" and likely wouldn't hold up under the scrutiny of the STO community. If anything, many of the designs might be used only as costume designs or "skins" for ships that already exist in the game.
When I asked him what Cryptic planned to do to keep up with the demand for new ships, he stated that the devs got "a lot of breathing room" when they were able to focus on creating so many ships for the Romulan Republic faction in the Legacy of Romulus expansion, and they will likely get more breathing room in the future if the next expansion (which they are "seriously considering" and may contain another new playable species!) provides them with ample opportunity for new ship designs. He also said that they could do a lot with "alien" vessels like the Caitian, Ferasan, Lethean, and Xindi.
Now, for all of you who didn't see the comment section after last week's column, the STO art team sent me a bunch of wonderful screenshots of two new ships that are coming into the game. Two of them have been used again in this column. The shots depict the two new Romulan faction veteran ships. The small vessel that resembles the Romulan scout/science vessel is what is being worked up for the Romulan version of the Captain's Yacht, which is the 400-day veteran reward. The larger, sleeker ship will be the Romulan version of the 1000-day veteran's destroyer. I got to see her moves a little bit while I was visiting, and I have to say (since I also fly my Chimera on my Federation character) that I'm looking forward to seeing it in action in the game.
I'd like to thank Al Rivera for his time and hospitality and being such a gracious host during my visit to Cryptic Studios.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.