Captain's Log: Preparing for launch (and farewells)

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Captain's Log: Preparing for launch (and farewells)
Star Trek Online screenshot
Hello, computer (and players)! As we are all now aware, the development team at Star Trek Online is busy making its preparations to re-launch the game with a hybrid, free-to-play model. Currently, the Tribble test server has been taken down as a beta build is being prepared for testing. In the meantime, Red Shirt, originally a Closed Beta test sever, has been opened up to current subscribers to continue testing new releases that will occur between now and the F2P launch. While there is still no date set for when this will be happening, many signs point to an October or November launch period.

To add to the craziness that must be going on at Cryptic's headquarters in Northern California, on Tuesday, Dan Stahl, Executive Producer of STO, publicly announced that he would be vacating the Captain's Chair as he moves on to a new endeavor in his career. Effective immediately, Stephen D'Angelo, Cryptic's CTO, will be taking temporary command as the search for a new EP begins. While this came as a shock to many and was completely unexpected even by me, it may not be the "end of the world" as some players are calling it. Let's explore more.

Ensign, warp 10! Set sensors to maximum range as we explore a little bit more about this change...

Before you continue reading, let me note that as a columnist, I opine by nature -- my job is to present an opinion to you, as all of my non-news posts are categorized, with as many facts as possible to back it up. While I am often told through your comments on my work that I'm "blinded by the light" and am "drinking the Koolaid," please know that I decide my own opinions by taking a step back, looking at the entire situation, and carefully gathering my thoughts. While you are absolutely entitled to have a different outlook, remember that I am too!

The gaming industry

For those who do not work in the gaming industry or are not familiar with it, I would like to point out that turnover at many studios is extremely common and that tenure is often rare. Since this is one of the hardest industries to break into, many companies look to their competitors to find their next team members. Because a current project is portfolio material, you will see many people take up an opportunity at Studio A so they can build up their resume to get into Studio B. It's really a game of Chutes and Ladders: You are constantly climbing up ladders, but sometimes have to take a chute down to get to the next big ladder.

Many times, players are not aware of this turnover because most studios are not as transparent as, say, Cryptic. Of course, everyone pays attention when an EP leaves, but what about when a lower-ranked developer leaves? This usually goes unnoticed and has little impact on what is in development. Luckily, we know when someone leaves on the STO dev team because he is usually present in the forums or in-game.

Star Trek Online screenshot
Dan's goodbye

While Dan made his official goodbye letter public on the front page of the game's site, players have been giving him "goodbye" messages in a forum thread. He made a late night post in that thread that many of you might have missed, thanking loyal fans and expressing his confidence in the "STO team, Cryptic Leadership, and Perfect World." He also dismissed conspiracy theories about his departure and explained that his "new opportunity" brings him closer to family in a different city. We wish him the best of luck and sincerely look forward to seeing his future work.

Stephen's hello

Instead of just telling you about Stephen's background (because let's be honest, all that matters for us is the here and now), I would like to share part of a post that he made that tells us where his unwavering love for STO stems from and why he will be able to successfully carry on until an EP is found:
So who is this guy stepping into the vacuum left by Dan's absence? I'm one of the team that worked alongside Craig Zinkievich and Dan Stahl in the original development of the game. As the lead programmer on the game, I helped design and implement nearly every aspect of the game present at launch. After launching the game, I left the team to take over as the CTO of Cryptic Studios as a whole, but I've been working hard to drive STO forward from that seat as well.

Coming back to the STO team this week was like coming home. I put a piece of myself into the making of this game, and it feels so right to be working with the team once again. My tenure as EP will only last until we can identity the right person to drive the game forward, but I promise this won't be a half-hearted effort on my part. I'm wholly invested in finishing off the amazing free-to-play plans that Dan has put into motion, and then delivering more great content and features to you all for the game.
As you can see just from that statement, we have someone taking the helm that is as dedicated to the game and its progress as anyone who is currently on the team. From what I hear, he is a die-hard Trekker with toy models of Trek ships spread throughout his office.

Star Trek Online screenshot
The team

The backbone of the development of STO is not just made up of one person; it is the culmination of the entire team. From systems designers to content developers and mission writers to producers, everyone has to come together for a game to develop. To say that "Dan Stahl leaving means the end of STO" is almost a kick in the face to the rest of the team. One thing that we all must remember is that Dan was not making content; he was setting the direction for content development. Sure, his vision is what ultimately drove the development the way it did, but we should not discredit the team, which I can guarantee was involved in almost every meeting.

Another important thing to note is that Dan did a great job of having a development schedule that was upwards of six months out, so while it may take a while for a new EP to come onboard, the development team already has goals and projects that it is, and will continue to be, actively working on. And when Cryptic does name a new EP, we may have another experience similar to when Dan took over Craig's role: a new direction that will further enhance our playing experience and deliver new and exciting content.

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. As you can see, there are going to be differing opinions on the matter, and only time will reveal what this will truly mean for the game. In the meantime, I hope that everyone takes a step back and allows Stephen, the future EP, and the entire team to show us what they have in store. Next week, I am going to be livestreaming STO on Tuesday, September 27th, at 10 p.m. EDT. I hope you tune into our Livestream channel for this special evening edition as I dust off my escort and jump into some PvP matches with some friends.

Until next time, let me know what your thoughts are on Dan's departure and the future by commenting below or sending me an email to

Computer, terminate recording.

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Brandon Felczer transmits Captain's Log through Subspace right to your PADD every Thursday. Join him as he discusses the latest news, gossip, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Hailing frequencies are always open to his bridge through
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