ZAM.com recently sat down with Star Trek: Online Executive Producer Craig Zinkievich to discuss details about the expansion, Season One: Common Ground and future updates to the game.
Zinkievich first talked about Season One and its patch saying that the people at Star Trek: Online thought the their first expansion and patch “went well,” but expressed concern for them to “continually get better and better.” Zinkievich felt that the first expansion and subsequent patch “addressed players’ concerns and [they] got new fresh content in the players’ hands.”
When asked what the development team learned through the release of Season One, Zinkievich said, “We’re still tabulating, really. The initial reaction was very positive, but of late some people have expressed reservation because our Special Task Forces have been too difficult. My read on that is the folks who really live for that super-challenging content ate it up and had a lot of fun, but people not especially used to that style of gameplay are running into some trouble. We really did challenge our max-level players here, and we’re still figuring out what’s an appropriate difficulty level for everyone.”
Zinkievich then answered questions concerning the “death penalty” and “difficulty sliders” features currently being applied on the public test server saying, “We found that a lot of people are looking for more of a challenge. So the idea with the difficulty slider is that if you want more of a challenge you can crank the difficulty slider up and you may have a death penalty but you also may get better rewards. When you’re playing with a death penalty, you accrue injuries upon death. Different injuries provide different debuffs to your character or ship. They’ll fade over time, but you can use special items to remove them immediately. We opted to develop the difficulty slider and death penalty because our players asked for it. People wanted to increase their feeling of risk in the game, and we reacted to those demands. We’ve been working closely with our community on our test server to make sure it’s something that satisfies the players interested in a more challenging experience, but doesn’t infringe upon the people having fun now.”
Zinkievich commented on the success of the “Tribble” public test server stating, “We get great feedback on the forums but the nice thing about the test server is that you can give something specific to the players and allow them to play through it. Then you get really focused feedback in which they can go into detail about what they liked or what they didn’t like.”
Zinkievich also discussed Memory Alpha and gathering and crafting mechanics in general when he said, “We’re always looking at ways to improve Memory Alpha and to broaden crafting to make it more appealing to everyone. We’re making headway on Memory Alpha and are looking forward to releasing a preliminary update on it soon.”
Next, the “mini-game” rumors circulating forums were discussed when Zinkievich mentioned, “We are working on a Dabo mini-game. What’s been great about that is it’s a part of Star Trek lore, but no official rules exist on it. We know it’s a casino game that resembles table games you’d find in Las Vegas, but that’s about it. So we’re looking at a ground-up mini-game to share with players. Mini-games aren’t easy to design, so it’s been a fun challenge for us.”
Zinkievich then discussed getting new content to the fans on a schedule of 45 to 90 days as discussed at the game’s launch stating, “This is something we are shooting for. We’re going to try to get new content to our players as soon as possible. We learned that instead of waiting and doing one major update every so often that it would be better if we got smaller content updates more often. I would say 90 days would be the longest that we would want to go without doing an update. Of course if we release something much larger in scale then that might take a bit longer but we do want to get new content to our players as soon as we can.”
Season Two was then brought to the table when Zinkievich said, “ We just released a sneak peek of what’s coming in our Engineer Reports section of our forums. Some of what we’re working on is Klingon Episode missions, a new skill point cap, more high-end Episodes, a Federation diplomatic corps, and so on. July is going to be very exciting for our players and us.”
Zinkievich elaborated on this concept of Episodes and Seasons when he said, “We like terming our big updates” Seasons,” like a TV show. Most everyone understands what it conveys. It’s a significant addition to the game, but not a world-shaking event. Seasons are natural progressions. Something huge, like an expansion, would need another name.”
“Non-combat” missions and “diplomatic” and “anthropological” gameplay was then brought up and Zinkievich responded saying, “We’re still ironing out the details, and I don’t want to give away too much because we don’t have anything set in stone yet. We’re still at that point in development where things are very fluid, so anything I say now could change tomorrow, and I’d rather not confuse people by mistake. We’ll have more information on this soon.”
Zinkievich next answered questions concerning the Special Task Force missions adding, “The reception has been very positive from some players, but other players have expressed concern over their difficulty. That’s something we’re constantly tweaking. And we plan on releasing new STFs as often as we can. We want to continue telling the Star Trek Online story, and these special missions are one way of doing so. We’ve also got more Episodes—and more high-end Episodes—planned in the future, as well.
Adding to this sentiment, Zinkievich talked about special live-events and GM-led events mentioning, “We try to do community events, so I’m sure we’ll set something up in the future. We’ve also done a “play with the devs” event not so long ago. We really enjoyed that, so I wouldn’t be too surprised if we did that again.”
To round out the interview, Zinkievich was then asked some general questions concerning MMO’s overall and the constant need to update games saying, “I think with most MMOs players are going to get through content faster than you can make it. Making new content takes time. The key is us adding more content throughout the game that is fun and re-playable so that it gives players something to do while we make more content.”
Finally, class definition was gone over, asking if there will be more differences in the three major archetypal character’s: Tactical, Engineering and Science. Zinkievich said, It’s something we may take a look at eventually. We feel that the different class types stand up on their own. We wanted to make them similar enough where you didn’t have to be grouped up with other players outside your class. For example, if I am a Tactical officer, we wanted where I can play with other Security officers. We don’t have to have a Science and Engineering officer with us to do the mission, even though it’d probably help. You want each class to have their own distinctions and we’ll continue to look at these and make adjustments if need be.”