Stahl was able to drop a few hints about the future of Star Trek Online in his responses, so join me past the jump as I deliver the highlights from their conversation!
This is the only the second time I've personally missed E3. Since I used to work in downtown LA, I was attending E3 long before it became the "pros only" convention that it is today. Be that as it may, I never saw Cryptic Studios exert a formal presence at the expo and was surprised when last year Neverwinter showed up and wowed the attendees. I was even more surprised to find out that this year, although the game did not have a booth at this year's gathering, Star Trek Online sent Dan Stahl to represent the game.
We asked his about is appearance at the convention and what he hoped to accomplish with his time at the megacon. He told us that he was attending the conference to talk about Star Trek Online's recent successes, like that of the recent expansion, The Legacy of Romulus. He said that although STO did not have a booth at E3, he spoke to many people about the expansion and how it had been a "real eye-opener for the company to show just what a positive impact [the larger updates] can have on the game."
He was quick to jump back to talking about the updates that are on the near horizon, namely the update set for this week, June 20th, which will include much-needed bug fixes as well as the first fleet holding project the game has seen in months.
I was pleased to hear Stahl confirm that later this month we will see the implementation of the new summer event to act as a companion to the game's popular winter event held every December. He stated that the event's scope will not be much different from that of the winter games, but it will celebrate the season. It also is a great reason to use a social zone that has been in existence in the game since its original launch but is very rarely ever used since no missions involve the area. Risa had become a place a player went to escape and dance while she spoke with her friends on the chat server.
Duty officers on the Gateway?
We asked Stahl about whether or not there are any concrete plans to include the duty officer system in the little-used Gateway portal, much as the Professions system is now being used in Neverwinter. Stahl stated that he wouldn't use the term "concrete"; instead, he said things were "a little slushy right now" in terms of integrating the DOff system into the Gateway portal. He stated that while Cryptic had "poured the concrete," it's "definitely not set," and he is hopeful they will be able to make their target of getting the DOffs on gateway by the end of the year.
However, Stahl stated that the team is looking to bring a "different type" of duty officer gameplay to the portal, that they are looking at using a players current duty officer roster but in a different way from what a player can do in-game now. Regardless of whether the Gateway integration takes place this year, Cryptic will still be expanding the current duty officer system with "probably [the] biggest duty officer update ever, this year."
Stahl told us that Cryptic was very happy with the results of the expansion as well as all of the positive feedback the teams are getting. He was also very forthcoming with the statement that the expansion was made with the intent of drawing in new players as well as getting less-active players to return. He argued that the devs designed the expansion with an idea of what it would take to draw not only a new STO player to the game but a new MMO player to the game.
He explained that the game's new tutorial is designed to ease a new player into the game without it feeling like a lesson, that the players are now "eased" into the new content without the tutorial interfering with the story progression. In fact, the new Romulan and Klingon faction's content was so successful that they are currently looking into ways they can integrate the idea into a revamp of the Federation tutorial.
However, Stahl doesn't believe it is just the new "learning period" of the game that is drawing back old players and bringing in the new players; he thinks that it was the "higher-quality" content the team was able to create and implement for the expansion has just as much if not more to do with it.
Given the recent announcement that Cryptic Studios is creating a new subdivision in Seattle, Washington, called Cryptic North, we asked Daniel Stahl what affect this new company may or may not have on Star Trek Online and whether or not he is expecting to increase the team's head-count or use the personnel in Seattle in any way.
Stahl replied by saying that his team is very much looking forward to working with more experienced MMO builders in Seattle. He reiterated that many of the new company's employees come from Flying Lab, the team responsible for Pirates of the Burning Sea. Many of those team members are already familiar with the Cryptic engine as there was a time Flying Lab was "interested in using the [Cryptic] engine" for itself. In fact, he said, "one of the unknown parts of that story is that [Cryptic has] actually been working with them for quite some time."
Be that as it may, Stahl did note that the new company opens numerous avenues for new game development and maybe even Gateway development for Cryptic's existing games by utilizing the talent already in place in Seattle.
Thanks so much to Stahl for taking the time to speak with Massively during E3!
But don't go away yet! If you have a question for Daniel Stahl, lead designer Al Rivera, lead writer Christine Thompson, or artists Thomas Marrone, Ian Richards, or Nick Duguid, post them in the comments below or email me at email@example.com. Next week I'll be traveling to Cryptic Studios to personally visit with the STO team members and ask them your questions! There will be no Captain's Log next week, but beginning in July my deep-dive interviews with the Cryptic team will begin. Until then, live long and prosper!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.