To know where you are, first you have to know how you got here.
After Cryptic secured the Star Trek license, Jack Emmert asked me to write up some ideas of what happened in the Star Trek Universe before our game begins. Star Trek Online begins in the year 2409, which is about 30 years after the events of Star Trek: Nemesis. So there's a big gap in the history that's not covered by any of the canon sources.
Starting with "what happens in a 30-year span in the Star Trek Universe" was just too big. There's so much history, and so many different races and factions … it was a lot to wrap my brain around all at once.
So I started breaking it down. I took one race or group of races at a time, and started working on their stories. What happened to the Klingons? How were the Cardassians recovering from the Dominion War? Where were Laas and the missing 98 changelings, and what did they want? What was the Federation doing when all of this was going on? What about the Gorn, or the Orions? And so on.
Then, once I had all of these individual stories down, I started seeing how they would interact, and what changed from the interaction. When the Klingons and the Gorn start fighting, what would the Federation do? How would that change the situation?
We knew the story would be fairly Romulan heavy in the first years after the events of Nemesis, because there was a leadership vacuum and multiple characters that could fill that void. But we didn’t want the story to be "Romulans, Romulans, Romulans" all the time, so there had to be a point where it could move aside and let other stories step into the spotlight.
I had a solid idea of what could happen by the time we started discussing the story of Star Trek Online. There are plotlines that run throughout the game, and we wanted to lay the groundwork for those in the Path to 2409 history.
Our work on the plot for STO was a big help for the timeline. We had the beginning (with all of the series and movies); now we had an end. The question was what happened in the middle?
The best writing is a collaborative process, and we've got a great team here at Cryptic. We have story meetings were a group of designers and producers talk about everything from the plot of a specific Episode to how everything is going to fit together over hours and hours of gameplay. Can we add a reference to one or more of the shows here? What should we do with that character? Hey, what about that loose end from TNG? Can we work with it?
The day we figured out that "Race X" was behind everything was a breakthrough. (Nope, I'm not going to tell you who Race X is. Play the game and find out.) Now we needed to drop hints about their influence on events. Another afternoon, Al Rivera (STO's lead designer) and I took over a conference room and filled the whiteboards with notes as we worked out all the moves that the different factions would make. Now you'll find hints to many of the Episodes and stories that you'll see in STO in The Path to 2409.
We work closely with CBS, and some of their team has been up here at Cryptic several times to help us brainstorm and work out the detail of the Path to 2409 and the stories in the game. Also, they've helped us get in touch with some of the other licensees working on Star Trek such as IDW, who produces the Trek comics. We're trying to make STO fit in with what's going on in the Trek Universe as much as we can. Events that happen in other media will have an effect on the game.
So I went back and revised the timeline, changed some of the players, dropped some ideas and added others. And then I did it again. And again.
As another part of my research, I started reading the Trek novels. I'd been a Trek fan for years and I had seen all of the shows and movies, but I'd never read any of the books. Now I was reading at least one a week, and we were finding characters and situations in them that translated well with what we wanted to do with STO. I did another round of revisions to the master timeline, and now there are nods to the novels. But I always knew that there would be a point that the STO story would diverge from the novels, because I was always looking toward 2409 and the beginning of STO.
The result of all of this writing and re-writing is a massive document that has notes about everything that happens in 30 years in the Star Trek Universe. When I'm writing The Path for 2409 updates for the web site (www.startrekonline.com), I use this document as my guide. I know there's no way I could do it all from memory now.
That's the story behind the story. Keep watching for more updates to The Path to 2409 – the best is yet to come.