Captain's Log Supplemental: STO's Stephen D'Angelo speaks

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Captain's Log Supplemental: STO's Stephen D'Angelo speaks
STO Defiant Bridge
Last week we reported on the announcement that Star Trek Online has a new Executive Producer. Daniel Stahl, who held the position for the past several years, has moved on to another "secret" project at Cryptic Studios. The game's new (and returning) EP, Stephen D'Angelo, has taken the chair once again and has already posted his first blog outlining a few of his desires for the future of Star Trek Online. We had the opportunity to interview D'Angelo and ask him a few more questions about the game and what direction he sees the ship heading.

Massively: Congratulations on your new position as Executive Producer of Star Trek Online! Of course, this isn't your first time in the command chair. What's the first challenge you were faced with when you finally took the seat, and how is it different from the challenges you faced the last time you were at the helm?

Stephen D'Angelo: Any time there is a change in leadership, there's a period of learning how the team operates. This time it was a pretty smooth transition, with no significant challenges. I've got a great working relationship with the team, and because there was nothing eminently shipping, I was able to ramp up at a reasonable pace. The last time was much more challenging. I was given the team without warning, and it was only weeks before converting the game to free-to-play. That was a pretty mad scramble.

STO Dilithium Mine
When changes like this occur, it's not uncommon for many of the so-called "doomsayers" to pull out their It's the End of the World banners and ring their bells crying "maintenance mode." A lot of this concern arises from the understandable frustration being exhibited by the players of Champions Online who feel their game is being swept under the carpet since the release of Neverwinter. Is STO also being put on the back burner in favor of the new "secret" project to which Daniel Stahl has been assigned?

Star Trek Online is still growing. Every year we have had more players, more content, and more financial success. 2013 was a fantastic year for STO, and Cryptic is increasing, not decreasing, the investment in the game.

STO Intrepid Class
You recently posted in the game's forum some of your hopes for the future of the game as you move forward, including your desire to "fix old bugs, clean up existing content, and otherwise look for ways to make existing play better." This statement will make a lot of people very happy in that there have been calls for extensive bug squashing for years. Will players begin to see future patches that will address some of their bug complaints?

That is the plan. For each release, I will be having the team identify key bugs and problems and get them fixed. I had this same policy when I was on STO last time, and in Season 5 we fixed hundreds of bugs that had been in the game since launch. The dev leads meet regularly to choose which area to focus on next. In Season 8.5, we decided to address some early content and to look at starship management. We're currently working on our lists for Season 9.

In the same post you mentioned that "story and new content" in STO is one of the few resources for keeping the Star Trek universe alive. Is there much hope we'll see more story-based missions that won't be associated with reputation systems?

There is always a tension between building straightforward story content and building content that is designed for repeated play. Story content takes more dev time to develop. It is very popular, but it is consumed very quickly and has less "replayability." Content designed for repeat play is generally lighter on story, but we work hard to fit these pieces of content into support roles or backstory for the main storyline. We are striving for a balance here that keeps the story moving forward, while providing players replayable content. Reputations are a way to reward players for playing the content, so we do plan to continue having them for most content.

STO ESD Shipyard
Some of the new items that will be implemented with Season 8.5 are quality-of-life changes that include on-the-fly ship and set-up swapping. What other potential ideas is the team working on that you think will add convenience and fun to the game?

I can't promise when we'll get to them, but some items being looked at closely include improvements to tooltips and gear comparison, maps and navigation, and the game flow in Earth Spacedock. Personally, I've always found that ESD isn't laid out well to make playing there a fun experience, so that's one area I'd like to try and improve. Going to ESD should be a fun experience.

STO Undine Battleship
On a related note, is there any hope that we'll see a feasible expansion to inventory, ship, and bank slots to make room for the new ships and other items that are being produced?

Definitely. We have already started looking at ways to expand the number of slots as well as ways to make it easier for players to manage larger inventories.

For the first time in years, PvP players got a new arena where they can beat each other senseless in shuttles and other small craft. What plans are there for the future of PvP beyond that arena?

Just this week, I had some data analysis done on PvP game play. I'm not ready to make promises about PvP investment at this time, but it is something the STO team definitely will be paying attention to.

A tool that's near and dear to my heart is the Foundry. What do you foresee for the Foundry's future?

At this time, Foundry improvements are being tracked as part of the "fix and improve" strategy. We have a list of highly requested changes and are working to get some of them into each update. I don't foresee any major new features for Foundry in the coming months, however.

STO Romulan Ships
Many players probably may not remember when you were temporarily in this position a few years ago, so this last question should let you declare your "Trek cred." What's your favorite show, captain, ship, species, and episode?

My favorite show is Star Trek: The Next Generation and favorite captain is Jean-Luc Picard. This show told real stories using the Star Trek universe as a setting. My favorite episode is The Inner Light because it exemplifies how TNG had great writing, and it showcases Sir Patrick Stewart's acting. My favorite ship is the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture because it holds that original Star Trek look while having a little more style than the original. When it comes to species, Vulcans are my thing.

STO Gingerbread Village Invasion
Anything else you our readers should know about the changes at Cryptic and Star Trek Online?

One thing you didn't ask about was events. I'm a believer in having a variety of events for players to participate in. I had our first Winter Event put together and followed that up with the hourly events and some others that were built after I left the team. I want to continue this trend, adding new events to the game on a regular basis. The hourly events are being reworked to hopefully serve the players better, and I'll give you a scoop that we have a new large event in the works for March. Details won't be released until after the anniversary event ends, but I'm hoping players will enjoy it.

Finally, I would like to thank the Star Trek Online community for supporting the game and Cryptic through the past four years. This game has been a labor of love for the dev team, and every one of us is thankful for the opportunity to add to the Star Trek universe.

And we would like to thank Stephen D'Angelo for taking the time to answer our questions!

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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