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Captain's Log: Starship interiors and hints of the future

Ryan Greene

Oh, hi there, readers! You'll have to excuse me; I was just enjoying a little quiet time in my quarters. My starship quarters. Inside my starship. Because I have those now.

Yes, among many other features, Season 2: Ancient Enemies introduced starship interiors to Star Trek Online. Continuing from last week's discussion of diplomacy, one of Season 2's other big additions, I thought we'd spend this edition of Captain's Log examining ship interiors. Plus, we'll take a special side trip into the future to consider what else STO fans can look forward to -- in the future!

A longish time coming

Alright, so STO's only been out for six months, so it's hard to say any feature has been a long time coming, per se. But next to the much-awaited diplomacy factor, starship interiors have probably been the super most-wished-for feature among players and Star Trek fans.

Even at launch, if my abacus is correct, the possibility of playable interiors was the talk of the town. Players longed for them, and the developers at Cryptic Studios wanted to implement them.

I was pretty skeptical at the time. Adding playable starship interiors -- and by the way, I dearly wish I could find a way to write this column without using some variation on the phrase "starship interiors" 97 times -- seemed like an awfully tall order. The folks at Cryptic, be they developers or bean-counters, had kinda sorta shoved STO out the airlock without even a spacesuit with which to, like, survive the harsh reaches of bad metaphor.

Craig Zinkievich, the game's executive producer at the time, seemed bent on promising the moon, the stars, an asteroid belt and that nice summer home on Baku that you'd been eyeing. New player factions! Starship interiors! Et cetera and so on!

Side note: If my writing seems worse than usual to you, my dear, sweet, nonjudgmental readers, I think it's because I just started reading Justin Cronin's The Passage, and already I want to swallow a photon torpedo. The written word and I are not on very good terms this week. I miss Lisbeth Salander already.

So at any rate, I kind of wrote off ship interiors as something cool that would take too many resources to really, fully implement. I figured the feature might turn out like the promise of new factions, which was shelved, quite rightly, in favor of more important content.

Take a look inside

Imagine my surprise, then, when the cool kids at Cryptic announced that my ship, the U.S.S. Bob Wiley, would soon be more than just an awesome floating avatar with a pointless bridge. I discussed interiors in my roundup of Season 2's features, but that was pretty cursory. Let's delve a little deeper, shall we? Or at least we'll delve as deeply as possible into a thus-far trivial, purely cosmetic feature.

First of all, both Federation and Klingon ships now have interiors. Happy day! Now players are one tiny, tiny step closer to enjoying a fully realized Klingon Empire. (The introduction of the Fek'ihri helps, too.) In my opinion, which you have no choice but to tolerate mwa-ha-ha, Klingons actually one-upped the Feds on this one. My Bird of Prey looks hecka sweet, with all the grating and the moody lighting. Nicely done, Cryptic.

Secondly, as far as I'm aware, every ship interior of each faction looks the same. So every Federation hallway is identical, as is every Klingon sickbay. Drag.

Thirdfully, players so far can't do much inside their starships. They're great for screenshots, and you can invite other players onto your ship for roleplaying bonanzaramas. But neither questing nor minigaming yet exists.

Step into my parlor

So what actual interiors do our ships actually now have, actually? Great question, self! Again, everyone appears to receive the same basic layout.

Captain's ready room -- This room is adjacent to the bridge for Federation players, and a little down the hall from the Klingon bridge. Here you can plan the defense of Wolf-359, or admire the fish, so juicy sweet.

Turbolifts and hallways -- I don't think I need to explain how awesome these are. Their awesome is self-evident. A new turbolift connects your bridge to engineering and to the crew deck. And to hallways, so sleek, so fair!

Crewpeople -- The perfect accessories for your fab new hallways! Members of your crew constantly bustle about, checking readouts and looking busy. I wish they'd stop barging into my quarters, though. A captain needs his beauty sleep, amirite?

Crew deck -- This deck contains a lounge (with a tender-less bar, oddly enough), sickbay, and the captain's quarters. On the Federation side, the skipper's digs consist of a spacious, tastefully decorated sitting area and desk, and an adjoining bedroom. Klinkos, meanwhile, sleep in much more spartan environs -- but their crew deck includes a bonus brig, which will really help the resale value when the market turns around in a year or two.

Engineering -- Down here, you'll find the transporter room and main engineering. The Federation side looks like the main engineering room from the Borg-zapping tutorial, while the Klingon's version features a cool, giant, red, pulsing reactor core. What are Klingons using nowadays, dilithium? Trilithium? Dodecalithium? Anyway, whatever, it's bright and it's red.

A glimpse of the future

What, all that's not enough? No, I suppose not. Ship interiors as they stand are a faithfully designed cosmetic feature and a simply superb building block, but the developers need to treat them as such. And that means expanding the feature into something truly playable.

Lately, Executive Producer Daniel Stahl has made the rounds to discuss STO's direction in the near future. He has more or less promised some major improvements to different systems, including ground combat, exploration and Memory Alpha (again).

But the real kicker, as far as we're concerned this week, appeared in the August 9th edition of Ask Cryptic. In response to players' questions, Stahl revealed that STO's developers are working to launch user-generated-content tools in beta form with Season 3! A few questions later, he added that one long-term goal will allow players to use those tools to fully customize their starship interiors.

Obviously, that's huge. When I mentioned starship interiors two weeks ago, some of you expressed interest in on-ship holodeck missions and the like. With user-generated content, that sort of thing would be a snap, and we could exploit the building block of ship interiors to its fullest extent of awesome.

And that's why I made such a big deal earlier about my skepticism that ship interiors would see the light of day. When I had looked at the possibility as pessimistically as many players and passersby view STO's future, I figured ship interiors were a little too pie in the sky. So while I know the future of interiors and user-generated missions are matters of almost pure speculation at this point, fans should have a little faith. The fine folks at Cryptic have plenty of surprises up their sleeves -- even if they take a while to materialize.

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