Eurogamer.de recently had a change to do a text interview with Craig Zinkevich, Executive Producer for Star Trek Online.
Originally posted in German, Sarevok has worked tirelessly to translate the interview into English and it Reveals some interesting information for us all.
Translated by Sarevok of st-online.nl, Cleaned up by Zach of Hailing Frequency - EG = Eurogamer / CZ = Craig Zinkevich
Editor’s log, Stardate 09012008. Long before the announcement of Star Trek Online, I wondered why no one had yet turned that huge universe, which, after all spans 5 series and 10 (almost 11) movies, into an online RPG. Trek Fans have had to wait long for it and at one time, fear for it, when Perpetual gave up on the game.
Luckily for the community the experienced men of Cryptic Studios jumped in and are busily building the Universe.
With this, of course many things have to be kept in mind: in hundreds of hours of entertainment, a lot can be done wrong. In this regard, Cryptic's decision to move the game nearly 30 years into the future after Star Trek Nemesis, seems logical. Here one can write one’s own stories and discover new, unexplored worlds.
Of course Star Trek Online also offers everything the fans have seen over the years: away missions, space battles, exploration, diplomacy and much, much more. To get a general view, we have opened the hailing frequencies to Cryptic Studios and talked to Craig Zinkevich about several aspects of the game including story, individualization and battles.
EG: Describe your feelings when it became clear that you would be working on this very large and popular franchise. A Star Trek MMO is definitely something many people want to see.
CZ: We’re enthusiastic that we got the Star Trek universe. Everyone in the team is a fan and we can barely wait to share our creation with you.
EG: Do you ever get scared when you think about the project? There are many fans that would be enraged if you did something that doesn’t fit into the existing universe.
CZ: We want the fans to be passionate about Star Trek online. Passion is great! It means people are interested and have an opinion. We also like feedback from our community.
Star Trek Online is however not really like you’ve seen it in the series. Our game takes place about 30 years after the events in Star Trek Nemesis. The universe has changed, technology has developed further. As long as we explain why we do what we do and involve the fans in the process, I hope they will be enthusiastic over the end result.
EG: Most MMOs feel like they have been forced into a corset. They create an illusion of much freedom, but in reality that’s not the case. While people complete quests and such, there are no changes. One logs off one day and returns a week later and everything is still in the same place – without any consequences. How will you do this in Star Trek Online?
CZ: We have some exciting exploration content planned, which is both complex and tempting. It will be added to the universe while you’re playing. We also have ideas to shape the universe through PvP and iPvP. We won’t tell you more details about that till later. Keep an eye on our website.
EG: Can players white their own story, which would be relevant to the whole universe?
CZ: We encourage players to come up with stories and background for their characters. There are already great examples of this in the official forums.
EG: With Star Trek Online you revive the old conflict between the Federation and the Klingons. Did that seems more appropriate to you that creating a new race full of bad guys that no one has ever heard of?
CZ: When we designed the story for Star Trek Online, the conflict between the Klingons and the Federation just offered itself. It guarantees a lot of possibilities for that players who will play in both factions.
It also opens the door to the expansion of the universe, while the story is changing. What would happen if there were an enemy that’s powerful enough to pose a threat to both sides?
We explain the events up till the year 2409 and the reasons for the renewed conflict between the Federation and the Klingon Empire with regular intervals on out website.
EG: I have read that new content will be offered in the form of "episodes“ which originally where barely an hour. At what intervals will you publish them?
CZ: "Episode“ is not our designation for the new content, but more of a description of the way that content is being produced. We have some quite interesting ideas for what the live-updates for Star Trek Online will look like, but nothing has been determined yet.
EG: Will we be seeing more the species that haven been getting as much limelight as the others? The Tholians or Xindi for example.
CZ: We consider every race that’s appeared in the series and movies and also some that have appeared in books or comics. You can expect to find both the fan’s favorites and less well-known species.
EG: How does that leveling system work? Will one reach that next step by completing assignments, kill enemies or also by exploring space?
CZ: We don’t use a traditional level-based system. You will however gain rewards and the skills to develop your character further by finishing episodes, complete mission and explore space.
EG: Can you tell us more about individualizing characters? I saw somewhere that one could, for example, combine a klingon-forehead with the ears of a Vulcan and a Bajoran face?
CZ: We are very enthusiastic which regards to the potential for individual shaping of the characters. One can either choose from a series of known Star Trek races or use the „Alien Creator“ to build one’s own species. With this, one can combine several parts of a collection for one’s creation.
Some of them stemm from known races, others just look cool. Finally one is allowed to name it and choose specific skills from a pool of bonusses.
EG: Does the same hold true for ships? How does customization work here?
CZ: You will be able to change the appearance of your ship, but it will still resemble starship from the faction you’ve chosen (Federation or Klingon). You can also install technologies to improve, for instance, performance or strength in battle.
EG: Are there naming restrictions on ships or characters?
CZ: Of course. We will have normal filters for obscene words and to protect the IP, so there won’t be millions of Jean-Luc Picard's flying around. However, I can barely imagine any other restrictions.
EG: Tell up more about space battles. Will they be action-oriented or more strategic like the old Starfleet Command games? How much control does the player have over single systems? Could one for instance transfer shield-energy from the stern to the bow?
CZ: Space battles are slow and strategic. One should consider things like the position of the ship, energy distribution or the best use of weapons and skills, to use the weak points of the opponent.
Energy distribution for example: One can transfer energy to different systems to raise it’s effectiveness. When weapons are made stronger, phasers can fire longer and do more damage. If you send more energy to propulsion, the ship will move faster. To obtain these speed boosts however, some other area will have make do with less energy. It’s up to you to balance ship systems during a battle.
EG: How does the maintenance of the crew work from this angle? Are they a kind of extension on the player character?
CZ: The player is the captain of a ship and needs a crew! During your career you will gain access to a number or player-controlled NPC "Pets“.
These can be individually modified with regards to name, race, gender, appearance and skills and will improve over the course of the game.
A bridge crew will help you move the story forward, grants the ship special skills and goes with you on away missions.It’s all very cool.
EG: The first trailer shows a skirmish inside ships. Can one board an enemy starship during battle, or is that only possible in specific quests or situations?
CZ: We’re still working out the details, but the episodes will take you to the inside of space ships and space stations, onto planets and into space.
If you look at the series, many episodes take you to a number of locations. The crew may start their episode on the ship, beam down to a planet, return again and it ends in space. We want Star Trek Online to mimic exactly that.
EG: Ships are being classified as "cruisers“, "escorts“ and "science vessels“. Can one also take the helm of smaller ships? For instance a shuttle or even a fighter, like we’ve seen in Next Generation or Deep Space Nine?
CZ: There are smaller ships in the game, but not all of them can be controlled by players. Some places my only be reached by shuttle, but you won’t be flying it through the atmosphere yourself.
EG: Is there also a chance to control older ship classes, like the Constitution- or NX-classes?
CZ: There will be many ships and you can modify their appearance to you like. So although it may not be a really Enterprise NX-01, you can still create something that looks a lot like her, but is nevertheless unique.
EG: When will you reveal the first ship classes?
CZ: We will shoot more ships when we get closer to the launch. Are there any classes you’d like to see?
EG: How will ground battles play out? Traditionally like Ever Quest 2 or World of Warcraft, by picking a target and push the usual buttons? Or like in Tabula Rasa or Star Wars Galaxies, which feel more or less like a third-person-shooter?
CZ: It’s a very action-oriented "Run and gun“-battle experience, which includes both long-rang and close combat weapons and also Martial arts.We have a targeting system that supports this kind of fast play.
EG: Time Travel has often been used as a theme for the series and movies. Will you be keeping this up in Star Trek Online? How would that work?
CZ: Time Travel plays a large role in the Star Trek universe – and they’re really cool! There is already content in production that includes time-travel
EG: Since Star Trek II we know the notorious, "Kobayashi Maru“ test. Will players in Star Trek Online be able to take it on and manipulate it?
CZ: Yes, the Kobayashi Maru scenario is part of the game. However, more details about that we won’t tell you until later.
EG: Will there be things like achievement or collections like Star Wars Galaxies or EverQuest 2, to keep players busy when they’re not on quests?
CZ: Apart from missions one will be able to do several thing to spend some time. Exploring, collecting, crafting, all those possibilities allow the player to develop his character comparable to the episodes.
EG: The official website speaks of development for PC and console. What console are you planning for? Xbox 360 or PS3?
CZ: We’re programming the game for PC and consoles. At the moment, however, we don’t want to be more specific about this.
EG: What do you think about the new Star Trek film that will be in cinemas on 7 may? Will it play a role in the development of Star Trek Online?
CZ: We have followed the production closely and can barely wait to finally see it! There has been some contact with the crew of Bad Robot, the game isn’t based on the new film.
EG: Finally the mandatory question... Do you have a general schedule for Beta and the release of the game?
CZ: Yes. Yes, we have that. Oh, you want me to tell you? I can’t do that! :)
Thanks to Eurogamer for the Interview, to Cryptic for Answering all their questions and to Sarevok for Taking the time to translate it!