This week I continue the series of interviews I conducted with Star Trek Online
personnel during my recent trip to Cryptic Studios
. Star Trek Online
Executive Producer Daniel Stahl
and I sat down to discuss the game's past and future as well as the business challenges of making an MMO in today's market. Join me past the jump as I reveal what Stahl had to say!
Our conversation began with a review of the game's recent expansion, the Legacy of Romulus
. Stahl told me that the expansion really came about as a challenge from publisher Perfect World Entertainment
, which felt that Star Trek Online
could be performing better and wanted to see an expansion to the game. Stahl said that Cryptic looked at its resources and told PWE that an expansion would be possible... if
he could add the right resources and talent in order to pull it off. He said that PWE invested into STO
and its resource needs without really knowing how an expansion would do and that its ultimate success showed both Cryptic and PWE that STO
is "far from a game on maintenance" -- that "it's growing, and that if Cryptic can continue to put more resources into it, it can continue to grow."
Stahl told me that the team has been experiencing the opposite of what many other MMO development teams are currently facing. Instead of a reduction in the size of the work-force, his team has only expanded in size since STO
went free-to-play. Stahl admitted that it's been refreshing to be able to have the seats filled, which in turns allows the team to "bite off even bigger goals for the game." He said part of the goal with the expansion was to draw in new players as well as bring old players back to the game because it takes something big like an expansion to do that. As he explained it, the regular "season" updates were really targeted at existing players and to expand the endgame material, but they didn't really do a whole lot to draw in new players. The expansion and the new faction, on the other hand, were specifically focused on the outside market, and in the end, Stahl argued, the LoR
expansion proved that it paid off.
I asked Stahl about the ever-evolving relationship between PWE and Cryptic since the company's purchase. We talked a little bit about the community's skepticism over the purchase and discussed how difficult it can be to deal with a new "company culture" when a merger or buy-out occurs. Stahl told me that he's actually looking forward to strengthening the relationship between PWE and Cryptic, pointing to his recent trip to E3 as an example of how the two companies are forging ahead together. The conference, he explained, gave him the opportunity to see that there aren't many companies making PC-only massively multiplayer games anymore, that the market shows more people are interested in online multiplayer games that are available on multiple platforms.
"Platform was the big word that everyone was talking about at E3," he told me. And when it comes to PC-based games, "It's really the people in China [and other Asian markets] who still see a value in [the STO
-type] of product" and their place in a global market-place. He said that what happened with BioWare
and Star Wars: The Old Republic
showed that it's possible to spend a lot of money on a game and not have it pan out the way it was initially expected. Stahl believes that reflects the idea that the MMO "market has changed, that it has shifted, and that subscription-based MMOs have a big challenge ahead of them."
He said that what's ultimately paying off for the Cryptic team in its relationship with PWE is that PWE still believes that there is a strong market for STO
and the other Cryptic MMO titles in Asian markets as well as in North America and Europe; accordingly, PWE is willing to invest into Cryptic in order to make it an MMO developer that can stand the test of time. PWE came into the relationship with a preexisting knowledge of the kind of games that Cryptic was making, Stahl explained, and the company did its homework in finding a company with similar goals. In fact, he said that it's been relatively easy to talk to PWE about making STO
even more successful and that PWE has been eager to support the game.
I asked Stahl whether or not he thought that STO
has the legs to move into other platforms in order to expand and access new players who might not want to be tied to a PC. "It would be somewhat challenging to get the game onto consoles," he told me, simply because of the complexities inherent in the game's UI and operating controls. However, he did suggest that there's an opportunity to "take the core components of Star Trek Online
and see what works on Gateway
, what works on tablet, and what works on mobile devices." With the advancement of video graphic capabilities in mobile devices, Cryptic is always wondering what it can do to take advantage of other platforms to enhance the game.
In that vein, Stahl told me Cryptic is already "in negotiations" to get STO
onto Mac as soon as possible. He believes that it's very possible we will see Mac accessibility by the end of the year and seemed excited about the potential for a number of different and creative ways STO
players could utilize multiple platforms because the sci-fi nature of the game could lend itself well to multiple platforms in the future.
There is a lot more to come in the weeks ahead as I continue on with my discussion with Daniel Stahl, including some of the questions that were sent in by our loyal Massively
readers! Don't forget, Daniel Stahl will be one of the Cryptic developers appearing at the Star Trek Online
panel at the Creation Star Trek Convention
on Saturday, August 10th! It has been confirmed that Trek Radio
will be recording and broadcasting the panel, so if you have any questions, feel free to send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
! 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.