Star Trek: Online Designers Promise Wide Open GalaxyBy Michelle
October 12, 2005 - 8:51 PM
Executive Producer Daron Stinnett, Lead Designer Glen Dahlgren and Art Director Ken Henderson, the main developers of the Star Trek: Online at Perpetual, spoke about the support they have received from the gaming community and their plans for the implementation of ideas for the online role-playing game.
"It has been a unique pleasure to have the community's support and feedback on our ideas," Stinnett told StarTrek-Online.net. "I think that when you are staring at so much variety and complexity, the hardest part is narrowing the field down to something that is reasonable. When I started, I felt more than a little overwhelmed with the extensive Star Trek universe - on all levels."
Over time, he said, the producers had to make hard choices about what to build as central areas of the game. "As a MMORPG player, I consider myself an explorer, so I'm really excited to be making a persistent world that has exploration as one of its prime directives," noted Stinnett. "Unlike most MMORPGs, we can't simply divide up a continent to determine our square footage. Our play area can effectively hold any number of planets, and each planet can hold just about any amount of playable terrain." They ended up deciding on the square footage of playable game area, then divided it over the galaxy. "Most alien planets will have a relatively small playable area, with a few having sprawling terrains," he explained.
Dahlgren said that his team planned "to cram our ships full of content and interactivity" including consoles, lifts, hatches and equipment, plus customizable quarters and, eventually, ships. "Previously, the design insisted that a player would lock in his department," he noted. "His progression path would be defined early on and limited to the options contained within that single department." Because crewmembers on Star Trek frequently are more versatile, it was decided that a broader set of skills needed to be introduced. "So, in a slight nod to canon, we've decided to start with three major departments instead of five minor ones...Science, Security/Tactical, and Engineering. A major bonus of this system is that you can pursue multiple specialties, notably different ones for away and space combat missions."
Thus, players can now become red-shirted ensigns. They begin with a brief stint at the Academy, are assigned to a training vessel, choose a specialty and eventually receive a commission. "Your reflexes may be involved (and honed over time), but equally important are your critical decision-making skills when presented with more and better options. So we're shooting for an extremely approachable and strategic staple experience seasoned with some twitch-based elements," Dahlgren added.
"The greatest challenge that I see is delivering on the diversity and scope of the experience we're creating," said Henderson, who wanted to be certain to impress a distinct style on a game that already has so many visual cues from previous franchise productions. "We want to deliver the most visually compelling MMO to date and believe we have just the property to do that...we believe that we'll be able to utilize next-Gen tech to create a vision of Star Trek never seen in games with a level of immersion and diversity that hasn't been seen in MMO's."
Henderson was also pleased to be able to innovate. "I'm excited to introduce non bi-pedal, non glowy or furry orb species to the franchise," he said. "The existing races, sparks of light etc. are all exciting to recreate because we're all such fans. But creating new Aliens that no one has seen before that get to interact in the Star Trek universe... that's exciting. Granted, I'm stoked to be building Klingons." Customisation will be key, with players being able to manipulate their characters' body types and acquire new gear and uniforms.
The full set of interviews is at StarTrek-Online.net.