Massively: Congratulations on your new position as Executive Producer of Star Trek Online! Of course, this isn't your first time in the command chair. What's the first challenge you were faced with when you finally took the seat, and how is it different from the challenges you faced the last time you were at the helm?
Stephen D'Angelo: Any time there is a change in leadership, there's a period of learning how the team operates. This time it was a pretty smooth transition, with no significant challenges. I've got a great working relationship with the team, and because there was nothing eminently shipping, I was able to ramp up at a reasonable pace. The last time was much more challenging. I was given the team without warning, and it was only weeks before converting the game to free-to-play. That was a pretty mad scramble.
Star Trek Online is still growing. Every year we have had more players, more content, and more financial success. 2013 was a fantastic year for STO, and Cryptic is increasing, not decreasing, the investment in the game.
That is the plan. For each release, I will be having the team identify key bugs and problems and get them fixed. I had this same policy when I was on STO last time, and in Season 5 we fixed hundreds of bugs that had been in the game since launch. The dev leads meet regularly to choose which area to focus on next. In Season 8.5, we decided to address some early content and to look at starship management. We're currently working on our lists for Season 9.
There is always a tension between building straightforward story content and building content that is designed for repeated play. Story content takes more dev time to develop. It is very popular, but it is consumed very quickly and has less "replayability." Content designed for repeat play is generally lighter on story, but we work hard to fit these pieces of content into support roles or backstory for the main storyline. We are striving for a balance here that keeps the story moving forward, while providing players replayable content. Reputations are a way to reward players for playing the content, so we do plan to continue having them for most content.
I can't promise when we'll get to them, but some items being looked at closely include improvements to tooltips and gear comparison, maps and navigation, and the game flow in Earth Spacedock. Personally, I've always found that ESD isn't laid out well to make playing there a fun experience, so that's one area I'd like to try and improve. Going to ESD should be a fun experience.
Definitely. We have already started looking at ways to expand the number of slots as well as ways to make it easier for players to manage larger inventories.
For the first time in years, PvP players got a new arena where they can beat each other senseless in shuttles and other small craft. What plans are there for the future of PvP beyond that arena?
Just this week, I had some data analysis done on PvP game play. I'm not ready to make promises about PvP investment at this time, but it is something the STO team definitely will be paying attention to.
A tool that's near and dear to my heart is the Foundry. What do you foresee for the Foundry's future?
At this time, Foundry improvements are being tracked as part of the "fix and improve" strategy. We have a list of highly requested changes and are working to get some of them into each update. I don't foresee any major new features for Foundry in the coming months, however.
My favorite show is Star Trek: The Next Generation and favorite captain is Jean-Luc Picard. This show told real stories using the Star Trek universe as a setting. My favorite episode is The Inner Light because it exemplifies how TNG had great writing, and it showcases Sir Patrick Stewart's acting. My favorite ship is the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture because it holds that original Star Trek look while having a little more style than the original. When it comes to species, Vulcans are my thing.
One thing you didn't ask about was events. I'm a believer in having a variety of events for players to participate in. I had our first Winter Event put together and followed that up with the hourly events and some others that were built after I left the team. I want to continue this trend, adding new events to the game on a regular basis. The hourly events are being reworked to hopefully serve the players better, and I'll give you a scoop that we have a new large event in the works for March. Details won't be released until after the anniversary event ends, but I'm hoping players will enjoy it.
Finally, I would like to thank the Star Trek Online community for supporting the game and Cryptic through the past four years. This game has been a labor of love for the dev team, and every one of us is thankful for the opportunity to add to the Star Trek universe.
And we would like to thank Stephen D'Angelo for taking the time to answer our questions!
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.