Captain's Log: Interview with STO's Daniel Stahl, wrap-up

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Captain's Log: Interview with STO's Daniel Stahl, wrap-up
STO Talvath
Late in May I had the opportunity to head over to Cryptic Studios to meet and interview several members of the Star Trek Online development team. This week I will be finishing up my synopsis of my conversation with Star Trek Online' Executive Producer Daniel Stahl.

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.

STO Morn in AU
The conversation began again with a question from reader Justin Lowmaster, who asked if it would ever become possible for the Foundry editing tool to be shared between players. Stahl said that the idea of players being able to collaborate on Foundry missions was a compelling one. He said that when he was working with the team on Neverwinter's Foundry, the ability to collaborate was a "keystone" of their goals. He said the idea is to have a marriage of a modding tool and the current form of the Foundry.

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.

STO Mine enemy risian corvette
We then began to speak about the Foundry in more general terms and I asked Stahl for a "state of the tool". He reiterated that Neverwinter (at the time of the interview) had just gone live, and the code from Neverwinter's foundry was undergoing a review. He said that the devs were looking at Neverwinter's Foundry because it was the "more advanced" version of the editor and had a year's worth of development ahead of the STO toolset. He said they would be closely monitoring how the editor was being utilized within Neverwinter to see what works and what doesn't and once that information was obtained they would be in a better position to see how the STO editor can grow.

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.

STO Rom Temp Sci
He said that he believes that Perfect World is very curious as to how the Foundry might work for other titles and is looking directly at how it is functioning in Neverwinter as well as how the tool might work in China. He admitted there were many hurdles, but he was very curious as to how the Foundry might be received and utilized by those who play other titles in the Perfect World library.

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.

STO Adapted destroyer
I asked him about efforts to improve share within the domestic market. He told me that a lot of that effort "has a lot to do with advertising, platform play, what [they] can do with Gateway, and how soon can [they] get on the Mac." He said they need to look at other promotional opportunities to try and bring new domestic players into the game. He said that no MMO "grows really fast" and that they all have a history of having a foundation of players at launch, then undergo a downhill slope before some find a way to grow again. He said that they're just looking at what they can do in North America to access potential new players and right now the best avenue is to be able to open the doors to Mac users and potentially to other platforms.

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.

STO Rom Vet Ship
Finally, I brought up the recent news about the creation/acquisition of the new subsidiary, Cryptic North. While the company is set to begin work on the seemingly-ignored Champions Online, I asked Stahl what, if anything, we should expect to hear in regard to their involvement in STO. Stahl seemed very pleased in being able to say that there was another team that was working on Cryptic games. He said it has been great to have another "pipeline of talent" as well as another experienced executive producer who is involved in their regular meetings and is able to provide fresh and new perspectives to all of the games being developed by Cryptic. While Stahl wouldn't comment as to what, specifically, the Cryptic North team might be working on, he was able to say that what they have already been able to accomplish has been "phenomenal."

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!

STO 2012 ST con panel
Don't forget, Stahl will be just one of the Star Trek Online developers who will be making an appearance at the Creation Official Star Trek Convention which begins this Thursday, August 8th, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Massively is proud to be co-hosting the Star Trek Online panel on Saturday August 10th, and please note that the time has been changed to 2:50 p.m. EDT (that's 11:50 a.m. local!) in the DeForest Kelley Theatre at the Rio Hotel and Casino. The panel will be carried live on Trek Radio for those who cannot attend in person.

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
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