There's a lot going on with Star Trek Online
at the moment. Not only does the game have a major update fast approaching
and the occasional microtransaction controversy popping up
, but it's also recently been given a new executive producer
. Daniel Stahl
has had the reins for a little under a month, but that's still enough time to have a notable influence on both the direction of the upcoming update and the overall direction of the game.
We recently had a chance to sit down and talk with the new executive producer about his work on Star Trek Online
, the game's strengths and weaknesses, and where development is headed for the future. There's a new direction in store for the game, or perhaps it'd be more apt to say a new focus. If you're interested in the game's past and future, or even just in the various rumors that started flying about the game going free-to-play, take a look past the break for the full interview.
Massively: Before we get into the meat of discussing the game, can you tell us a little of your history as a fan of the franchise?
My history dates back to my father watching the original series
. He would watch the series when I was little, so I remember Star Trek from there. Then when I got into my teen years, The Next Generation
was on, so that was a big family event. And the movies -- I was a big fan when the original motion picture came out. I remember it was Burger King that had the toy set for the movie, and I remember getting those and being really interested by them. So I was becoming involved and interested in Star Trek at that time, and by the time it was the early 90s, I was regularly going to cons myself, starting with Creation Con down in Southern California. I was also a big fan of other sci-fi shows, but I just really enjoyed Star Trek -- Deep Space Nine
and The Next Generation were both shows I was very much in love with.
From there, I've loved playing Star Trek games -- there have been many Star Trek games; I don't think people realize how many of them there have been. The games that I remember growing up with [were] the Starfleet Command
series on the PC. I always loved the tactical space combat. I pretty much tried anything and everything that was out there, but I was always a huge fan of what Star Fleet Battles
did to represent space combat. There was a whole lot of maneuverability, there was a lot of mission flow -- those are the games I look back to when working on STO
What do you think are the big changes between you and former executive producer Craig Zinkievich? Do you have similar or different views about what to focus on for the game's development?
When I came onto the project, the vision of what the game would be at launch was pretty well-established. Early on in the process, there [was] a very small group of people who were doing demos, figuring out exactly how the game would work in the engine, and what would be the big technological hurdles to overcome. They spent a lot of time defining elements -- the game's going to have away teams, space combat, stuff like that. A lot of that was really well-defined early on in the project. So when I came on, when we started making content, that was when production was really ramping up.
I think the first year or so was really a lot of R&D work. When we actually started making the game, it was pretty well-established. From my perspective, there were some things that I wasn't necessarily a huge fan of, but I certainly worked with. Now that I'm the executive producer, I feel there are some parts of the game -- and to the focus in the game -- that I'd like to take a step back and examine.
There are ideas here that we started to explore and didn't really [fully] explore, and it's more about changing focus. Things like exploration, and cleaning up the sector map, and Memory Alpha
, PvE for both sides, what we're doing with endgame, the loot -- there are a lot of things that [I] wanted to be there for launch that didn't have time. Now I have time, and so I'm looking back and asking "What do we want to focus on?" There's some unfinished things that I want to flesh out.
The leveling path for all captains is pretty fixed as it currently stands. Are there plans to expand options, so that leveling alts doesn't involve the exact same missions each time?
We have an idea about that, and one thing that I think will work -- obviously [if] it doesn't work, we won't do it -- are weekly episodes. If we make them playable at any level by any faction, and we stay true to delivering these on a weekly basis, then if you play the game at any level there's always new content and new things to do.
For example, let's say you're playing for six months and you level a character, and you're able to play through several of these episodes. Now let's say you create a new character -- not only is there all of that content to play, but there's also all this new content coming
that is level-agnostic. The more you play, the longer you play, there's always more content available for you at any level. There is a level path -- you go to the Klingon sector, you go to the Romulan sector, you go to the Cardassian sector. But by adding this other content that happens at any level, you really have more options at any given point.
Are weekly episodes going to be archived, or will they only be available for a given week?
No, they're a permanent part of the game. Let's say that six months from now you're a new player to the game -- you'll have all of this backlog of content that's been added to the game. We hope that people actually will go back and replay these weekly series. That's something where instead of just adding a new zone that's just for a specific level, where you can just play that content at a certain level -- by doing it this way, we make that content available to everyone, and you decide how you want to level. And if there's a lot of that content, with each character you make, you can take a completely different path through the game in terms of how you want to level.