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Star Trek Online: AGC Interview

DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member

We tracked down three of the most influential developers behind Star Trek Online at AGC in Austin. Executive Producer Daron Stinnett, Lead Designer Glen Dahlgren and recently hired Lead Systems Designer John Yoo met with us and discussed the progress of their title.




image There are dozens of other basic assumptions that the team plans to examine before they really get their game down.

“We need to understand our gameplay before we build content around it,” Stinnett explained.

The first is the interaction between characters and ships. How do you go from one to the other? How do you combine them in missions? How does this affect exploration and discovery? All of these are major hurdles that they need to get just right if they want the game to feel like Star Trek.

More is available here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

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Comments

  • EnigmaEnigma Lancaster, PAPosts: 12,184Member

    hey

    The news link from the STO interview takes you to mmorpg.com homepage and not to this thread.

    Just wanted to give ya a heads up

    People who have to create conspiracy and hate threads to further a cause lacks in intellectual comprehension of diversity.

  • StraddenStradden Managing Editor Halifax, NSPosts: 6,696Member
    Thanks Enigma, it should work fine now.

    Cheers,
    Jon Wood
    Managing Editor
    MMORPG.com

  • EnigmaEnigma Lancaster, PAPosts: 12,184Member
    sweet thanks

    People who have to create conspiracy and hate threads to further a cause lacks in intellectual comprehension of diversity.

  • AmatheAmathe Miami, FLPosts: 1,657Member Uncommon

    I still have a question about the screenshots.

    Are they screenshots of an in game movie?

    Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?

    Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?

    EQ1, EQ2, SWG, SWTOR, GW, GW2 CoH, CoV, FFXI, WoW, CO, War,TSW and a slew of free trials and beta tests

  • WoodenDummyWoodenDummy -, WAPosts: 208Member
    Something that worries me is travel.  I mean I want space to be big, SWG was just a joke, space is BIG and not just about a few planets we saw in the movies.

    EVE has a huge amount of space to travel in but jump gates in EVE make travel instant, warp drives are not instant taking hours, days or more to get about so what I'm wondering is are they going to make space big and if they do make it big how are they going to get travel to work?


    image

    image

  • kasirakkasirak Montreal, QCPosts: 5Member

    Great interview / preview Dany,

    I haven't followed much on Star Trek Online development, but from the sound of it, it seems as if space combat will be from a third person ship perspective. This surprises me since from what I understood, they were looking at populating a ship with many players. If that's the case, you'll have one player taking care of the entire battle while the rest manage repair duties and calibration? Well, in way, considering the Star Trek universe doesn't have manned turrets or fighters, it makes sense that one person is really controlling most of the action, but on the flip side, you are going for a co-op system if you have many people on one ship.

    In reality, a ship in Star Trek is much closer to a player city in most MMOs. As such, the rules of space combat should definitely be quite different than other space MMOs. Going with the spirit of the brand, the co-op perspective and the RPG elements, each role should bring something concrete to a battle.. While a captain could do the whole battle by himself, he should be unable to manage the entire complexity of every system. Fluctuations, Re-Calibration, Timing Weapon Sequences, Programming Complex flight maneuvers and whatever complexity they can imagine should be the tasks for the specialists. But while the universe of Star Trek is very technical and scientific in nature, complexity needs to be adjusted for the player base. Too simple and a single person can do everything, too complex and players get lost and disinterested.

    As for space travel downtime, well every MMO with player cities has the same problem, so perhaps we'll finally have some major advancement in that area. Like in the TV series, I expect research, crafting/experimentation, upgrades and most repairs will take place at this time. You have the recreational activities such as lounge, poker and holodeck which offers developers unlimited possibilities to keep your mind occupied, but in addition, the creation and testing of new strategies and training would probably be done at this time as well. I'm certain there are other things that will be added to make the downtime meaningful and amusing

    Well sorry to have went off on a rant, but I hope they manage to surprise us and keep the spirit of the universe.

  • kopemakopema St. Louis, MOPosts: 263Member

    I still don't see where they're going with this.  The percentage of time the players will spend on ships as opposed to away missions doesn't really tell me anything.

    It's like the old saying goes:  "If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes."  That's why the TV shows all focused on about 6 characters, even if there were hundreds on board a ship.

    I suppose you could be on a star ship and there could be a big board of potential away missions you get to choose from.  That would be a bit of a stretch from military discipline, but it might be workable.  Still, that doesn't really explain what else you do while you're on the ship.  Any job that doesn't involve choosing the course or picking targets would seem like a dull one.  An ensign on a star ship (or any kind large ship for that matter), doesn't pick targets, and has nothing to do with deciding where the ship goes or when it goes there.  I don't really see how they can make a photon torpedo loader or wharp conduit maintenance engineer's job very adventuresome.

    Don't get me wrong, I had no problem with Yeoman Rand or any of the "red shirt" suicide patrols; but I don't particularly have any interest in roleplaying any of those characters.

    I assume the PC's will start out on small craft, then work their way up to larger ones?  Or maybe soloers or small groupers will control survey or small scout vessels, and huge guilds will control things like Galaxy Class star ships?  But if the latter is the case, how do the people in the guilds get together in the first place?  It's tough enough deciding on one person at a time you want to group with; in STO, would clumps of players be epxected to "merge" together" when they go from smaller ships to bigger ones.  Will there be a lot of 'bots involved? 

    I'm pretty happy the lady said that stuff about wanting to capture the "feel" of the series.  Note that she said the screenshots were from working rendered clients (and they look pretty detailed to me).  And she indicated the combat system is well underway.

    But then she said this:  "'We need to understand our gameplay before we build content around it,' Stinnett explained.  The first is the interaction between characters and ships. How do you go from one [ship] to the other? How do you combine them in missions? How does this affect exploration and discovery? All of these are major hurdles that they need to get just right if they want the game to feel like Star Trek."   

    Shouldn't these decisions be around the FIRST ones you should make for a game like this -- a LONG time before your graphics client is fully running and the combat system is in final development?

    I don't claim to be the biggest Trekkie in the world, but even if this game ends up having the best graphics and combat system of any game out there (which is always unlikely), I still might not be able to stomache it if it turns into another run-of-the-mill MMORPG kill-a-thon.  That's ok for some vague Orc-infested world, but not for Star Fleet.

  • mandrak66mandrak66 deltona, FLPosts: 5Member
    sounds like they are coming along well just hope they stay away from instances and everything quest driven.
  • kopemakopema St. Louis, MOPosts: 263Member


    Originally posted by kasirak

    While a captain could do the whole battle by himself, he should be unable to manage the entire complexity of every system. Fluctuations, Re-Calibration, Timing Weapon Sequences, ...
    As for space travel downtime, well every MMO with player cities has the same problem, so perhaps we'll finally have some major advancement in that area. Like in the TV series, I expect research, crafting/experimentation, upgrades and most repairs will take place at this time. ...


    Unless you're talking about a guild, how the heck will you decide who gets to be the "captain?"  Typical MMORPG time logged on?  Yeah, I'm going to be an assistant fluxuation re-calibrator for some pimply 13-year-old control freak with way too much time on his hands?  Sounds like a load of fun.

    And the problem with a travelling city in space is that everyone would have to log on during the same time frame if they want to do away missions.  Both of these might please the heck out of the hard-core MMORPG-aholics.  But what about the 99.99% of the population who don't consider MMORPG's a full-time job?

    I'm just poking fun here but like I said, from the interview, it looks like the designers themselves haven't yet thought these things through.  It looks like they've spent millions of dollars on graphics and other systems so far, but they don't seem to have much more of a handle than we do right now how these kinds of critical gameplay elements will work.

  • keltic1701keltic1701 Baltimore, MDPosts: 1,162Member

    <<Yeah, I'm going to be an assistant fluxuation re-calibrator for some pimply 13-year-old control freak with way too much time on his hands?  Sounds like a load of fun.>>

    With this sentence I just had vision of an MMO version of "Turnabout Indruder" A pimply 13-year old screaming, "I'M THE CAPTAIN!! I'M THE CAPTAIN YOU HERE!! I'M THE CAPTAINNNnnnn....."

  • DanaDana Halifax, NSPosts: 2,415Member


    Originally posted by Amathe

    I still have a question about the screenshots.
    Are they screenshots of an in game movie?
    Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?
    Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?


    You guys really should read the articles!

    I addressed that towards the end. Those are actual in-engine screenshots from a demo they did at an IGDA conference.

    Dana Massey
    Formerly of MMORPG.com
    Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  • paranoidpvpparanoidpvp Saskatoon, SKPosts: 539Member


    Originally posted by Lepidus

    Originally posted by Amathe

    I still have a question about the screenshots.
    Are they screenshots of an in game movie?
    Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?
    Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?

    You guys really should read the articles!

    I addressed that towards the end. Those are actual in-engine screenshots from a demo they did at an IGDA conference.


    Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.

    image

  • kopemakopema St. Louis, MOPosts: 263Member


    Originally posted by paranoidpvp

    Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.


    Um, actually, a "novelist" is a guy who WRITES novels.

    The people who READ novels (let alone short articles) are simply called "literate."  I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of gamers fall into that category.

  • paranoidpvpparanoidpvp Saskatoon, SKPosts: 539Member


    Originally posted by kopema


    Originally posted by paranoidpvp

    Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.


    Um, actually, a "novelist" is a guy who WRITES novels.

    The people who READ novels (let alone short articles) are simply called "literate."  I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of gamers fall into that category.


    Leave me alone.

    image

  • nevliknevlik Fremont, CAPosts: 2Member
    Assuming the STO people are going to be reading this, here are some thoughts:

    You can have a team of 6-8 players. This will be the bridge crew. Each of these members is an officer of some type, and either has a team of NPC underlings beneath him (medical, science, engineering, security, etc) or is in charge of some unique aspect of ship command (nav/helm/captain).

    How does one decide who is captain/helm/etc? The same way people decide who is tanking/healing/blasting, by having high levels in that character class. Of course, one should be able to move between professions at their whim, or have multiple characters with these classes.

    Ship combat: Each player has their view of the space battle and a console specific to their own task, which should include a text-based chat. Captain has command functions that will a) send orders to PC players, b) send orders to NPC characters, and c) set alert levels. Helm can fly the ship in all sorts of awesome ways, nav can alert players to things on scanners, tactical can read out shield/hull/etc as well as divert power inside that grid, etc etc. Again, this is a set 6-8 player group. One players performance can most certainly be the deciding factor in life/death, as well as how functional the ship and crew are afterwards.

    Ship life: This is sweet. Captain can allocate resources to different departments, the various officers can expend time in repair, research, and upgrade based on said resource allocation, plus the awesome pasttime games.

    Away missions: Anywhere between one and 6 people and a good support team of Red Shirt NPCs. Away team leader or Security Officer (in an hostile environment) would choose how many and what kind of Red Shirts to bring with. Security Officer would probably get better access to higher numbers and more powerful pets. This can be an important strategic factor considering the difference between a 'diplomatic envoy' and a 'search and rescue  mission in an unknown, hostile alien environment'.

    Discuss!

    nevlik


  • sweethingsweething springfield, ORPosts: 15Member
    umm other browser didnt post my message lol, but anyways what ever way they go with it hope its fun to play but allso hope theres grate crafting otherwise games going to be another boring game to play!
  • KaratakusKaratakus CardiffPosts: 14Member

    Now I'd have thought it would have gone in a different direction to that, with the server being likened to a large ship. Characters on the server can then choose quest like missions to go and complete. Space combat would be handled on "NPC" ships that require a commander, or being allocated a runabout/shuttle to take u to the location of ur "mission". Lets face it, all the fun in space combat is deciding what tactics to use in it, not just monitoring 1 thing that u can't do anything about (whats the point of informing the captain of a ship that the shields are down to 10% if he's intent on doing a Leeroy Jenkins anyway?)

    The only thing I think would be a bit of a problem is if a character wanted to grind instead of do missions. The only thing I could imagine then would be either holodeck time, or getting some leave time and a shuttlecraft, should they want to do ship to ship combat or explore.

  • kopemakopema St. Louis, MOPosts: 263Member


    Originally posted by nevlik

    You can have a team of 6-8 players. This will be the bridge crew. Each of these members is an officer of some type, and either has a team of NPC underlings beneath him (medical, science, engineering, security, etc) or is in charge of some unique aspect of ship command (nav/helm/captain).

    ...Away missions: Anywhere between one and 6 people and a good support team of Red Shirt NPCs. Away team leader or Security Officer (in an hostile environment) would choose how many and what kind of Red Shirts to bring with. Security Officer would probably get better access to higher numbers and more powerful pets. This can be an important strategic factor considering the difference between a 'diplomatic envoy' and a 'search and rescue  mission in an unknown, hostile alien environment'.


    This would seem to fit with the flavor of the TV shows.  I don't know if anyone would need to stay on the ship while the away team is running a mission - those are usually treated as separate activities on the show.

    I'm not sure how a typical MMO community would fit with the whole "going where no man has gone before" thing.  Some missions might be in crowded spaceways, but it would be weird to be "exploring" a new world and see that five other ships beat you to it.  Communication should be easy enough, but I wouldn't want to SEE many other ships in "unexplored" space.  I wouldn't mind stretching the genre to include a convenient way of "beaming" crewmembers to and from starfleet - regardless of how far away - whenever they wanted to log off or join another "crew."

    A single ship might have some space encounters included along with a series of missions.  The STO equivalent of a "raid" might be a combat fleet of ships, each with a small "crew" of PC's, and this might be where PVP combat could come in.  I'm not sure if there would be a need for a large-scale ground war - that doesn't really fit in with the show that much.  And a limited scope for the away missions (maximum number of players) would tend to fit with an exploration and mission-based set of encounters.  There were just no such things as 50-man away teams on the show.  And I think keeping raid activities and awards completely separate from group or solo play activities is a good idea anyway.

    Have any of the developers listed what kind of classes the game might include?  It would be fun to think about that aspect too.

    Command (skills that aid fellow players), Engineer; Computers; Medicine; Security; Scientist; Diplomat; Xenobiologist; etc., for away team missions.

    Pilot, Navigator, Weapons station, etc. skills that aid in space flight and battles.

    Picard was what?  Command and Diplomacy, with a minor in archaelogy?  Spock was science and computers?  Riker was command only?  Kirk was command and combat?

    Have the developers said whether there would be more than one "faction?"  That seems like a huge deal.  Space battles between different races might be fine, and PC's could be any number of different races, but do we really need to do Romulan or Cardassian away team missions?

    EDIT:  Turns out there's a lot of information here:  http://startrek.perpetual.com/index.html looks like it's shaping up to be a potentially interesting game.  The FAQ talks about capital ship "hubs" that cruise a sector of the galaxy.  Each player will be able to have quarters on the hub ship, and also have his own personal ship (ranging from warp-capable shuttlecraft to Defiant-class ships.)  Players can either go on away missions from the hub, or take their own ship out on exploratory missions - taking crew members along with you.  Even if the others are higher "rank" (i.e., level) than you, whoever owns the ship will always be the "captain" of the mission.

  • BeeryBeery Boston, MAPosts: 184Member
    Jeez!  From this interview it seems like this thing is still like three years away.
  • BeeryBeery Boston, MAPosts: 184Member


    Originally posted by mandrak66
    sounds like they are coming along well just hope they stay away from instances and everything quest driven.


    There's nothing wrong with instances.  In fact they give the developers a lot of freedom that they don't get with a seamless world.  A seamless world has to be a simpler world due to lag concerns, whereas an instanced area can be much more complex.

    As for quest-driven, please no.  I don't want STO to be telling me where I have to go to advance my character.  I avoid WoW like the plague because of this.  Linear and MMOG should be mutually exclusive terms.  Sandbox is where MMOGs should go.  This whole quest-driven nonsense is a cheap way to make an MMOG, but it's a step back for the genre.

  • afraser2kafraser2k GlasgowPosts: 14Member
    I guess one of the major problems that they'll have with the space travel is that the casual gamer doesn't usually want to spend a lot of time travelling to the mission destination, like one of the criticisms that WoW faces (as every MMORPG is going to be compared with WoW now).  You could use personal shuttles/small transport ships for near-instant travel with a possible combination of the transporter, though I don't know how it would work if the player wanted to travel to Vulcan from Earth for example.

    Character customization is also going to be a problem like they said in the interview due to the uniforms of Star Fleet so we should see lots of options in the character generation screen to give everyone a more unique look.

    Making the STO game is going to be very difficult for them to make it a commercial success as they'll have to fight off criticism from Star Trek fans wanting to live in the ST universe and casual gamers who are just wanting a fun MMORPG.

  • BeeryBeery Boston, MAPosts: 184Member

    "They started from a basic assumption that players would spend half their time in space and half as characters..."

    This is the key phrase.  Clearly when you're on board your ship you 'become' the ship - you're able to take charge and use certain attacks no matter what your character's rank.  As your character advances through the ranks, he/she will be more able to do new things with the ship as he/she advances.  You'll also be able to learn new skills while on board and during away team missions.  I think this is the way they intend to do it.

  • BeeryBeery Boston, MAPosts: 184Member


    Originally posted by afraser2k
    Making the STO game is going to be very difficult for them to make it a commercial success as they'll have to fight off criticism from Star Trek fans wanting to live in the ST universe and casual gamers who are just wanting a fun MMORPG.

    I don't understand why anyone would buy a Star Trek game if they were against living in the Star Trek universe.  But then I don't understand why people who play SWG want to play jedi in a period when jedi are not supposed to be around, or who want LotRO to feature a mage class when wizards were very rare.  I mean if players want to play a game based on Star Trek they should accept that it's going to be based on Star Trek.
  • erikeneriken SurbitonPosts: 96Member
    I had a look at the official website and it seems like all players will own a ship. Then you can either go boldly where you have not gone before on your own or recruit some people to come with you, sign up to another player's crew and follow them.

    So EVERYONE can be a captain if they wish... :0)

    Seems kinda cool.

    I am looking forwarding to meeting all the "Dr Boner", "Spook" and "Kiirk" out there :)


  • kopemakopema St. Louis, MOPosts: 263Member


    We were surprised to see ground combat rank so low. At first we thought this might be because it is a feature that people take for granted, but its low rank was confirmed by the follow-up question that asked people to select their least favorites with the same list. Again ground combat showed up as a marginal feature. The away mission is a core component of Star Trek so it is a bit of a mystery why it ranked so low. My thought is that the answer lies in the how the feature is expressed. Perhaps if we had said "Away Missions", the feature would have ranked higher. Of course, this theory illustrates one of the challenges we face in making a Star Trek MMO: combat is a basic activity that is central to a fun MMO. Yet combat is on the periphery of most people's conception of Star Trek. This of course has been a challenge faced by all Star Trek games. Even with an MMO, a genre that is ultimately more about community than combat, we will always struggle to balance the needs of the interactive medium with the ethics of Star Trek.  http://startrek.perpetual.com/2005/11/customer_survey_results.html

    I was reading over some of the market survey information Perpetual gathered and came across the above.  I re-read the chart three times and still had no idea what the heck they were talking about.  Then I read the paragraph over again.  As near as I can tell, they were using the term "ground combat" as synonomous with "away mission."  I too would have marked "ground combat" as among the least favorite facets for a Star Trek MMO.

    Apparently, Perpetual have resigned themselves to the fact that a Star Trek MMO will "need" to consist largely of stereotypical MMO-style MOB slaughterfests. 

    I don't know what "ethics" has to do with anything.  I have no problem whatsoever with going to alien planets and killing lots and lots of stuff.  The problem is that what they're talking about has nothing whatsoever to do with Star Trek - nothing.

    People who like Star Trek don't just like the TradeMarked names and images - we like Star Trek.  Remember?  "...to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations" - not to exterminate them all.  The people people who like Star Trek will have to grit their teeth and try to get past the fact that Starfleet have suddenly turned into xenocidal maniacs, and the people who don't like Star Trek won't be attracted to the TradeMarked images in the first place.  So what is the point?

    Do they think people will want to buff, tank, heal, and nuke all day long -- oh, but this time with a character graphic that looks like a Vulcan(TM) with a phaser(TM) instead of an elf with a magic wand?

    Why?

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