Captain's Log: Star Trek Online Las Vegas recap

STO Las Vegas
It's been a couple of weeks since my last entry, and to be honest, I'm still recovering. The Official Star Trek Convention was an absolute blast. Thousands of Trek fans descended upon the Rio Suites and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, for four solid days to celebrate all things Star Trek. One of those things, of course, was Star Trek Online.

Contrary to its showing in 2012, Star Trek Online was the focus of not just one but two complete formal panels this year. The first featured two of the STO devs in a discussion with actress Denise Crosby, who voiced the characters of Empress Sela as well as Lt. Tasha Yar. The second panel was co-hosted by Massively and Trek Radio and featured a panel of STO devs who talked about the game and gave us some great sneak-peeks at Season Eight works in progress!%Gallery-196194%
STO LoR panel - AShull
After a small but intense schedule snafu, the Legacy of Romulus panel featuring Denise Crosby went on in the main ballroom. Never seen the main ballroom of the Rio Hotel? It's immense. It holds approximately 7500 people and has a large, raised stage. Star Trek Online Lead Designer Al Rivera and Community Manager Brandon Felczer sat down with Denise Crosby and got to discuss how it was that she came to do voice over work in STO.

Crosby seemed genuinely happy to be there and affiliated with the game (so much so she participated in another event that I'll discuss below). She has a true affection for her Star Trek characters and appears to relish the fact that both of them have been included in the game. In fact, she admitted that she always had hope that the Sela character specifically would experience a lot of growth and gain complexity, she seems pleased that STO is allowing that character development, more so than she could have ever hoped.

STO Rivera vow renewal ceremony at STLV
Crosby has apparently become so close with the development team at STO that she volunteered to act as the officiant for the vow renewal ceremony for Al Rivera and his wife Amy. If there was any question from the STO community that members of the development team weren't Trek fans, the above photo should pretty much dispel any remaining doubts.

STO Dysone Sphere concept art battlegroundThe ceremony took place on the refurbished bridge set of the U.S.S. Enterprise-D saved from demolition after the closure of the Star Trek Experience attraction once housed at the former Las Vegas Hilton. A non-profit organization painstakingly rebuilt the command, operations, and helm positions and transported them all to the convention site so fans could enjoy them once again. The ceremony was, as one fan put it, "the nerdiest thing I have ever been a part of, and I'm proud to say so."

On Saturday, I was once again glad to moderate the Star Trek Online developers panel. In attendance on behalf of Cryptic Studios were Al Rivera, Brandon Felczer, User Interface Artist Thomas Marrone, and Executive Producer Daniel Stahl. The panel was co-moderated by Lisa Guetzkow of Trek Radio, on whose site you can view the recorded version of the panel.

The panel opened by going over the developers' duties and responsibilities. We followed that up with a recap of the Legacy of Romulus expansion and its success. Stahl informed us that we should soon see the release of a new Featured Episode mission in the game that will progress the game's current Elachi/Iconian storyline into the new plot that will become Season Eight, which is set to be released "before the end of the year."

STo Voth concept art
But as you can see from the artwork that graces this column, the cat is out of the bag. The Voth are set to become the new bad-guys beginning in Season Eight! They're not going to be just another enemy set to invade the Alpha and Beta Quadrants. They're up to something pretty sneaky, and the Federation and the Klingon Empire both know that sneaky is not good. It seems as though the Voth have stumbled upon an extremely rare Dyson Sphere and are attempting to wrest control over its interior.

STO Voth creature concept art
Who are the Voth, you ask? Well, for the many of you who might not have seen much of the Star Trek: Voyager series, here's the scoop: The Voth were seen in the episode Distant Origin. They're a unique dinosaur-like species that actually originated on Earth before they evolved and struck out on their own and ended up in the Delta Quadrant. They utilize gigantic city-ships to travel at transwarp speeds. Although a few scientifically minded Voth were amenable to the idea that humans evolved from the same planet, most found the idea utterly repugnant, and their faith in their own mythological origin stories set them at odds with humanity almost immediately.

STO Dyson Sphere Concept
What's a Dyson Sphere? As imagined by physicist Freeman Dyson, it's a theoretical megastructure of orbiting satellites that encompasses an entire star. However, in Star Trek and other science fiction depictions, the sphere isn't made up of satellites but is a solid structure that encapsulates a star. The theory is that a civilization will be able to create an area on the inner wall of the sphere that will be able to maintain an atmosphere and draw all of its required power directly from the star.

The first time a Dyson Sphere was seen and used in Star Trek was during The Next Generation episode Relics. In that episode, Montgomery Scott's stranded shuttle is discovered on the outer shell of a Dyson Sphere.

STO Dyson Sphere concept art 2
In Star Trek Online, the development team has chosen to take the "solid structure" idea to heart and has created an entirely new "space adventure zone" in the game for Season Eight. During the panel, the developers stated that it will be an "enormous area" on the inside wall of the sphere where a player will be able to fly her ship directly. Al Rivera, tasked with discussing the teasers, said that there will be regions inside the sphere that will have ground missions on the surface of the sphere as well as "huge" space regions where battles against the Voth can also be fought.

It was a bit of a challenge to be on stage listening to the panel and keeping notes on the news at the same time, but from the sound of it, the team is trying to put together a form of PvE territory control or maybe even some sort of "capture the flag" mechanic for the new area. Stahl stated that Cryptic is aiming for a type of gameplay that allows players to capture areas of the sphere's interior controlled by the Voth. I also distinctly heard the term "20-captain mission" spoken during the Season Eight discussion.

One thing I am sure of is this: We'll be hearing a lot more about the upcoming Season Eight material in the coming months, and we'll be speculating in the meantime! 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 terilynn@massively.com.

This article was originally published on Massively.