We recently had the opportunity to ask Star Trek Online's Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl, some questions regarding the update. We were also given a lot of screenshots of the new material, and all are included in the new gallery below. There was a lot to cover, so let's get to it!
Daniel Stahl: The benefit is that the Romulan story has more depth and conviction. It is much easier to build an attachment to a Romulan character and crew. The story makes more sense and is easier to follow as it unfolds due to the interactions between the characters. While we have also improved the Klingon starting experience, the drawback is that we've set a higher bar than what we were able to ship for the Federation back in 2010. It makes us want to go back and redo the entire Federation tutorial and early story missions. Once we see how Legacy of Romulus is received, we can decide when and if that is in our future.
The next lock box that will be released with the expansion is the Tal Shiar lock box, and it will contain some very special Romulan/Borg hybrid ships that look absolutely amazing.
Certain rumors were buzzing around the community that the expansion may hold a surprise or two. Did you hold anything back from the open beta for a surprise at launch?
We held back most of the surprises as long as we could, but in order to ensure a smooth launch, all of those surprises ended up on the open beta shard before the launch. For example, there were specific missions and cutscenes from the Romulan and Klingon story lines that we wish we could have saved until launch day. We waited until the very end to put them in, but a few people saw them.
Hopefully, those who wanted the spoilers were able to get them, but most of those who've waited will get to experience all of the surprises starting May 21st.
Nimbus III is a new type of zone for Star Trek Online, but it's also the most traditional type of open world combat zone that is a staple of MMORPGs. Featured in Star Trek V, this planet was a perfect fit and located next door to where the Romulan story unfolds. It has a history as a place where peace and prosperity were supposed to reign, but instead it turned into a zone filled with fugitives and pirates.
In Legacy of Romulus, Nimbus represents a neutral zone where characters of all factions can see each other in combat and socialize in a seedy, backwater town, sort of way. The missions that take place on Nimbus add depth to both Romulan and Klingon progression.
Legacy of Romulus represents the most VO work we've ever done for an update, but as you point out, it makes us wish we could go back and add VO to all the other missions. Eventually we'll get there, but we will wait and see how the VO is received in the expansion before we make that call.
The Legacy of Romulus expansion was released virtually simultaneously with Cryptic Studios' new venture, Neverwinter. What are some of the potential downfalls to a side-by-side release with a sister game? What are the benefits?
The downfalls are few. We're a different game that is physically located on different machines than the Neverwinter game. The biggest cost comes in network engineering manpower because of the need to monitor both games simultaneously. The benefit of Neverwinter's launching prior to Legacy of Romulus is that they were able to iron out some of the network traffic issues that might show up in our data center. We believed we were in good shape for launch, but the unexpected can always happen.
As in all good science fiction, it was rewarding to draw inspiration from the real world and reflect what is happening in our society through the Romulan story. It allows the team to add a depth to the game that goes beyond combat mechanics and spaceflight. The Romulans haven't been seen that much on film compared to the Federation or Klingons, so our art team was overjoyed to find inspiration in the iconic reference materials and then expand on those themes.
There are now three distinct factions to look forward to. For three years the only character you create when you started was a Federation captain. Now anyone can create a Romulan, Klingon, or Federation captain as his or her first. This is a monumental shift in how the population of the game will be impacted moving forward. We have also redone the user interface to be more in the style of Star Trek LCARS and introduced new contact mission windows that provide an enhanced way to interact with the mission givers in the world.
For the last three years it has felt like we were trying to catch up to where we needed to be, but with the Legacy of Romulus, it feels like we're now ready to get started and move forward.
Numerous players are still asking if old bugs are ever going to be addressed. Can you respond to them about bug squashing?
We squash bugs with every update, and our weekly release notes list out all the bugs we fix in addition to the new features. If anything, creating the Romulan faction and revamping the early Klingon levels has given us the desire to go back to the Federation faction that shipped in 2010 and bring them up to date with what our team and our engine can do now.
The LoR expansion will also come with an overhaul to the look of the UI. What were some of the toughest challenges for the team to bring this together?
The UI has rested on the capable shoulders of our software and interface engineers. Together they were able to address many of the longstanding concerns with contrast, color, and usability that players have sent us feedback about. The challenge has been in the sheer amount of work it takes to redesign an entire game's worth of buttons, icons, window frames, and interactions. It is not unlike rewriting an operating UI from scratch. The team members put in a lot of late nights to make it happen, and they deserve credit for overcoming this challenge.
Creating a new Klingon captain is a much more fulfilling experience now. It was very important that starting as a Klingon made the character feel like a Klingon. There is a rich history and culture that needs to be conveyed in the course of the gameplay. We feel that what we've done for the Klingon faction is give them the PVE starting experience they've always needed. It is the unsung feature of the Legacy of Romulus update, but those who choose to roll a Klingon for the first time will find that we've added in the level 1-20 experience in a way that is just as compelling as the new Romulan story. We hope Klingons everywhere will rejoice at this news. Thank you so much for these great questions. We look forward to all of the new Romulans and Klingons in game!
And we thank Daniel Stahl for taking the time to answer our questions. Until next week, live long and prosper!
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