We were able to touch on his hopes for the game's user-generated content tool, The Foundry, and he also shared a lot of his thoughts on the potential market growth for STO as well as Cryptic's new subsidiary Cryptic North. Join us after the cut as we discuss what all of this might mean for the future of the studio and for Star Trek Online.
He acknowledged that in its current form the Foundry is a self-contained system that "sidesteps all the power that comes from the modding community," including the ability to upload and share resources. He told me that those who have worked on a mod will understand that sometimes it "takes a village" to bring together something really special because the project benefits from the diverse talents of more than one source.
Stahl said that the steps they are looking at with regard to the Foundry in STO include a shared library where players can create and save items and maps that other Foundry users can access and utilize in their own mission projects. While he can't say when we might be able to see such functionality, he reiterated that the idea is something they are actively looking at.
He said the process is being driven by Neverwinter simply because the number of people using the tool in game game is "humongous." He acknowledged that those numbers are also partially due to the fact that the Neverwinter tool is far more advanced and its integration into the game is more seamless than it is in STO. Still, he told me the process was underway and he was hopeful that the review would reveal what could and couldn't be achieved for the Season Eight release later this year.
I asked him how Perfect World Entertainment viewed the Foundry tool. He said that it was an interesting question because the idea of community-authored content is perceived as "extremely fascinating" by PWE corporate. He also reminded me that the toolset doesn't exist at all in any of the other Perfect World MMOs. He said that while he hasn't personally been to the headquarters in China, those who have traveled there have been barraged with questions regarding the Foundry.
The conversation moved back into the discussion of the MMO business and I asked Stahl directly if he thought that Star Trek Online had already tapped its markets. He emphatically denied the idea and said that the team is actively pursuing localization in Brazil and Turkey and is also beginning to look to Russia and Japan. He said that expanding into new markets is very time-consuming because localization efforts are large and intricate processes that require a lot of manpower. He also admitted that Neverwinter is taking up a lot of the publisher "mind share" as they look to capitalize on its success and push it into multiple markets as quickly as possible.
He was quick to say that Star Trek Online had not been left behind, and that Cryptic is definitely looking at expanding into other markets by improving their localization efforts, including the existing French and German efforts they have already committed to. He said there is currently a two-to-four week lag in localization of their existing content to French and German, and he would prefer that they focus on improving that turnaround time so their updates could be concurrent with North America.
I asked him if they were able to determine if there was a pop in players that might be attributed to the theatrical release of the new Star Trek films. He said that was very difficult to tell, mainly because the Legacy of Romulus expansion was launched at the same time the latest film came out. He said that although there was no real proof that the film contributed to the increase in players, he informed me that in the weeks leading up to the LoR launch there was a significant uptick that was most likely caused by both the film as well as anticipation of the expansion. He said that he personally had no doubt that the films were a positive benefit for the game but he also felt that 2013 had "just been a really good year for Star Trek in general." He said that he was very much looking forward to this year's Star Trek convention and to have STO represented once again with another panel.
Stahl said that it takes a long time to train people on their proprietary tool system and to have a new team with those skills will be (and already has been) a boon to the company on the whole. He told me that they also have ideas as to what they want to do, and what games they would like to create, and that CEO Jack Emmert is currently entertaining those ideas. This sums up my conversation with Daniel Stahl and I would like to personally thank him for his time and hospitality during my visit to Cryptic Studios!
Also, for those of you who will be in the area, if you would like to meet the STO devs in attendance, we will once again be co-hosting the Hangin' with the Devs mixer at the iBar in the Rio Hotel on that same Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m. EDT (that's 5:00 p.m. local!). Due to my involvement at the convention, just be aware that there will be no Captain's Log next week but I'll send off any reports of breaking news to the capable team here at Massively! Until next time, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.