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Star Trek Online Developer Blog

The folks from Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online have started this exciting new developer blog here at MMORPG.com.

Author: Awenyddion

Going Someplace New by Daniel Stahl

Posted by Awenyddion Friday June 12 2009 at 8:03PM
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Hello, my name is Daniel Stahl and I’m a producer on Star Trek Online.

Ask any Star Trek fan to quote the opening to the TV show and you’ll hear the words “…to boldly go where no one has gone before.”

It’s a defining characteristic and mission statement in Star Trek. Explore. Go out there and see what you find.

As a producer, it begs the question, “How?”  How can you explore someplace new in an MMO where there are zones and maps and contacts and missions that everyone seems to have access to over the course of their character’s career? Most game content is hand created by a staff of designers and artists who spend time placing things where they should be, making sure that there is a natural progression to what you do. It is a lot of work just to make a single planetary system.

In order to make a game universe where players can go somewhere no one else has gone before, we’d have to make more maps than we physically have time for and we would have to keep making them until the end of time. So how can we deliver on this concept?


To answer this question we turned to the Star Trek movies for inspiration and found the Genesis Program.

In the movie cannon the Genesis program used technology to convert nothing into something. “Life from Lifelessness.” This was the Creation device that Khan threatened to destroy the Enterprise with and what eventually spawned the Genesis planet.


Star Trek Online has embraced the concept of Genesis as a method to generate planets and systems that no one has seen before. But as with any technology it requires a lot of brainstorming, engineering, and testing to make it work right.

The core concept of Genesis in Star Trek Online is to create places for you to go without requiring hours of art and development time for each location. In a lot of ways, when we think of Genesis we think of the Holodeck computer.
 
On the Next Generation TV show, when a character wanted to go someplace on the Holodeck, they would describe to the computer the locale.

“Computer, load up a beach on the shores of Risa” is all the character would have to say, and then a few seconds later, they are standing on the beaches of Risa.

But it often didn’t end there. Sometimes the characters would further iterate descriptions to the computer to fine tune the Holodeck program.

“Computer, add a cabana and a mariachi band. … Oh and set the local time to sunset.”

A few seconds later there’s a holographic band playing music next to your cabana.

Describing what you want in real terms is the key to the Genesis System in Star Trek Online.

“Give me an M class planet with a Federation complex set up in the mountains where some scientists are milling about ...”
“… Now add a bunch of Klingons attacking the complex …”
“... Oh, and make sure the Klingons brought some Targs!”
“… Now make sure one of the Klingons is a badass Dahar master”
“… And how about a really funny looking Ferengi running around screaming!”

I can keep on going for days like this. But that’s the point.

By building tools that automatically create what comes out of our designer’s brains in descriptive words, it allows us to use Genesis to generate locations that are in essence the direct results of our imaginations.

This is the technology that will allow us to generate the thousands of unexplored worlds that no one has ever been to yet without requiring a small nation of artists and designers to make.

It is a testimony to the spirit of Star Trek that the technology we are using to create these worlds is a direct inspiration from the show itself.

It only begs the question, “I wonder what is out there …”

ameese writes:

Woot! Great news about the Genesis creator. How about

1500 planets and 200 galaxies to start our explorations.

Fri Jun 12 2009 9:51PM Report
Otiro writes:

Great read!

Exploration is going to be fun.

Fri Jun 12 2009 10:45PM Report
Misscreant writes:

1500 planets?  Is that all?? :P

I would also like loads of interesting phenomena that advances the knowledge of mankind.  And species at different levels of evolution that we can observe, of maybe make contact with.  Oh, and loads of baddies attacking said civilisations so that we can kill 'em/save 'em!

Should be easy for you according to what you said! :P

So... um, when's the release date exactly??? ;-)

 

Fri Jun 12 2009 10:58PM Report
Eryxx writes:

I guess I'm confused.

Does the Genesis Program create new worlds/locations "on the fly" as players explore them, or are they created by human devs ala the Holodeck using a "menu system" oulined near the end of this article?

Very interesting article, but it seems a little contradictory.

 

Sat Jun 13 2009 12:25AM Report
tamgros writes:

From everything I've read it sounds like it will be a little bit of both 'on the fly' and created by the developers.  It's unclear how persistent it will all be though.

We can also expect to see more than just solar systems. We'll also be seeing spacial anomolies, starbases, etc.

Sat Jun 13 2009 12:44AM Report
sadeyx writes:

It sounds like an interesting tool.  But I doubt it will be as good as they make it out to be.. 

Every planet should be different,  but looks like the genesis generator will just be making worlds out of a bank of textures, so the worlds may be configured differently but prepare to see massive copy/paste.

Hey this mountain looks exactly the same as the mountain from the last planet, it must be his brother!

Sat Jun 13 2009 12:24PM Report
OddjobXL writes:

Actually, from that description, it sounds like this is a developer tool not a game mechanic.  Which is kinda depressing.  I admit I got my hopes up for a dynamic sense of exploration out there but it sounds like, while there will be a great deal of variety, the actual exploration will be the usual 'get a mission from NPC X'  quests just on a larger number of environments. Not free ranging, open world, anything can happen out there stuff.

Maybe one day.

Sat Jun 13 2009 3:09PM Report
AikenDrum writes:

wasn't it "...to boldly go where no man has gone before.'?  No offense to the opposite gender, but a quote is a quote...

 

 

Sat Jun 13 2009 7:23PM Report
burntfish44 writes:

i realize that with more experience you get more advanced and bigger ships.... but for the love of god don't make it a level-type game. anyone with common sense knows that all leveling games share the same similarity - that whoever has the most money and/or time is the best player..... that would make this game not as fun....

Sat Jun 13 2009 7:36PM Report
tango209 writes:

It sounds like they are using procedural generation, so I wouldn't expect to see much, if any, cut and paste environments.

As far as persistance goes, it usually takes a small amount of data to define procedurally generated content.  The dynamic stuff (bad guys, installations, etc) will take a bit more, but there's not reason it can't be done. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procedural_generation

Sat Jun 13 2009 10:20PM Report
bulwark writes:

AikenDrum, you're right.  A quote is a quote, just depends which is being referenced.  Both are correct.

TOS is 'where no man' and TNG is 'where no one.'

To comment on the Dev Blog, I think it's a great concept they have for creating different worlds, and almost endless space.  Definitely adds near unlimited depth and a very real feel to the ever expanding universe.

Sat Jun 13 2009 11:22PM Report
Crayghe writes:

Will systems and planets, once generated by Genesis, be available for players to return to? How about the player's friends or fleet?

Will be interesting to see in action...

Sun Jun 14 2009 4:17AM Report
elocke writes:

I think I read a few months ago, that once you discover a new planet, you might be able to name it as well as visit it again or have friends visit it now that it is "discovered".  May want to research that more.

Sun Jun 14 2009 11:28AM Report
TavisMacRait writes:

It does sound and look a heck of a lot like a modified procedural engine; even if they do have  a lot of "go here and get mission from NPC-X" missions, there's likely still going to be a lot of "just wander around the edges of known space and see what you find" stuff, too. With any luck, the planets will feel new and unusual, but still like they've been around for as long as Earth; just that we (Starfleet) haven't been there yet. The dev's did already mention an antient enemy making a comeback; maybe we'll stumble uppon some of their planets at some point.

Sun Jun 14 2009 1:55PM Report
Flatfingers writes:

A few quick comments:

1. It's important to distinguish between "random generation" and "procedural generation." Procedural generation only takes existing data and turns it into models and behaviors -- it's not about creating that data in the first place. Random generation of data (which gets procedurally generated later) is usually what gamers are really thinking of when they ask, "but how can that look and play as good as developer-crafted content?"

2. From Daniel's description, it sounds like Cryptic's plan is for their own content creators to use the Genesis system to generate thousands of worlds before Star Trek Online goes live. Then, when a player discovers a new world, the game randomly grabs one of the worlds out of the database that was pregenerated by a developer.

3. If my point #2 is correct, then I have a suggestion: make the Genesis system available to players. Not only does this tool become marketable gameplay similar to the Mission Architect of City of Heroes, it can be used like Spore's Creature Creator to allow players to generate massive amounts of content for use by other players instead of relying on developers to produce it all. Obviously both the Mission Architect system and Spore point out some issues that would need to be addressed in making the Genesis system available to Star Trek Online's potential players, but I assume Cryptic's developers are capable of learning from both the mistakes and successes of others in this area. :)

Sun Jun 14 2009 3:03PM Report
Crayghe writes:

Another interesting thought... Does this mean that an available play style is for players to race around the galaxy discovering planets and naming them? If Genesis content remains once it is found, will fleets be carving out their own sectors of space?

Starting to see some possibilities here...

 

Sun Jun 14 2009 5:33PM Report
UnSub writes:

I'm hoping that a lot of content will be procedurally generated or else STO is going to run out of content pretty quickly for the player base as a whole.

Sun Jun 14 2009 10:40PM Report
Sololo writes:

Genesis to create planets hmmm remember what happen to that planet.

I like to see the planets that are already part of Star Trek be placed.

I also like to see player developed planets (if part of the plan) be placed in STO Database.

When playerr develops a planet then  message from that player's command is  issued to just that command' players i.e. Federation, or Borg or klingon - Romulan. about that planet.

Now, If  players are allowed to created planets -- They must be allowed to created systems for the planets to be in.  Other player can not be allowed to creat worlds atop of worlds.  You must also make STO as real as possible  there must be distances between systems.

There is only  so many  worlds that can be inhabited  in the galaxy.

The Devs should try to maintain  some sort of order to the creation of  said worlds  or systems.  When there is a battle over a world it is not just for the world it is for the entire system.

Mon Jun 15 2009 11:30AM Report
krityc writes:

 Sounds like a fancy way of saying we're going to have zoned content. No surprise considering the game will be on cosoles and they can't handle the open world concept.  I applaud your effort to wow fans with the description none the less.  In your deffense current technology does make it near impossible to create unlimited content to be explored, but at least make the "zoned content" a place you must warp to . . . that would make sense because nobody would sit there and travel for hours/days on end /w out using warp.

Mon Jun 15 2009 3:19PM Report
shane910 writes:

 I must agree it does sound interesting but at the same time, it sounds like it may be alot of copy and paste.  

 I hope that the naming of planets is kept a bit more realistic than players naming everythign they come across.  I mean would you really expecta inhabited planet to allow some strangers they just met to name their home?

  Lastly, I hope they have considered placing restrictions on just how far you can go in space before you need to stop to refill antimatter and other supplies. Would help to make space seem that much larger if you cant just go and go tagging everything allog the way.  If they do nothing we will have 100,000 planets in under a week, as thats all people will be doing.   

  Make it a challenge to discover not a cake walk.

Mon Jun 15 2009 6:13PM Report
Crayghe writes:

Given that the Alpha Quadrant is supposed to be about 25% explored, there might be quite a lot of room for exploration. I guess it just depends on how the mechanics of travel work as well. If a ship can travel (almost instantly?) to any point in the quadrant/galaxy, then it is possible for players to eat up the space quickly. Will it be like abother space faring game where 'core' areas are relatively safe, but areas farther away are more dangerous? Do player ships have to maintain some connection to supply lines in the core areas? The United Fedeartion of Planets may have no use for 'money', but they must at least understand the principals of 'trade' and 'commerce' to acquire resources.

OK, so I'm starting to ramble, and it's all speculation. As I've mentioned before, I'd like to see how it turns out...

Mon Jun 15 2009 7:34PM Report
Stellos writes:

To make such claims is one thing, to make it come to life is another.  Good luck, you'll need it. 

Mon Jun 15 2009 7:57PM Report
LinaInversa writes:

In theory, some of the unexplored planets would be generated but what about the long term existance of those planets for other players coming about them? Would they still have the same struncture to them every time, or would they be diffrent every time?

Mon Jun 15 2009 10:14PM Report
Zerocyde writes:

""wasn't it "...to boldly go where no man has gone before.'?""

 

Yea, in the original series, but when Star Trek became GOOD (ala Next Generation) man was changed to one.

Mon Jun 15 2009 10:28PM Report
Spitt writes:

"…to boldly go where no man has gone before."

Tue Jun 16 2009 12:43AM Report
chiefarchon writes:

My question is this....

Will the scenery break down into 10 or so standard scenes that you just keep going to again and again with just different vilains etc. in them.

I've played in games like that and it soon gets very boring indeed. so my question is if you are doing what is effectively Random Generation for encounters. Just how varied will the scenery be?

Tue Jun 16 2009 4:51AM Report
Elikal writes:

I just say "Daggerfall Dungeons".

Tue Jun 16 2009 5:37AM Report
Eridanix writes:

It sounds great and amazing as it is, despite of the unclear description a procedural creation, so we will have a lot of good content coming out as exploration, i hope endured exploration goes on and on ~not ease the big discovers please~.  I hope this game bring something new to the scifi MMO panorama.

Anyway, we will be watching You.

Tue Jun 16 2009 10:00AM Report
dave2hosford writes:

YAY ! There was much rejoicing :)

I really like the sound of Genesis Program and generating lots of disoverable content.

Best Regards,

DavidStarr

Tue Jun 16 2009 10:34AM Report
garry writes:

I am an avid gamer and a former game designer for TSR (D&D stuff). I am also 63 years old and retired and love on-line games. I watched Star Trek the original series in person and I have a framed certificate, signed by James T. Kirk and Gene Roddenberry saying I am an appointed flight deck officer aboard the USS ENTERPRISE NCC 1701.

Must not be a very bright officer since I never heard about a promotion. Oh well at least I wasn't issued a red T-shirt and stunner. (DOA). I am certainly looking forward to the game as I presently have played WOW for a couple of years and enjoy it, but I want a couple of other games to join me in retirement. As I drift away into senility I want it to be before a computer commanding a last starship, especially ST.

The procedural design system sounds fine and as a designer I can think of several ways to use it. Since I have no problem with 'zoning' or 'instances' I feel that when a player encounters this type of planet the the subsequent existance of that planet and its connection to the game and other players is the primary factor. Basically they (devs) will generate the planet/system  with the 'Genesis' system then add the additional touches that make it both unique and inline with the games storyline. What happens to this 'instance' after you press on seems undetermined as yet.

Yes I am looking forward to this game, will buy it and play it and hope it comes across like I have heard so far. On another note the contributors to this forum are certainly keen with observations and gaming knowledge. Less of the 'flaming' and more real solid questions, comments and some insightful suggestions. Nice work fellow trekies.

Tue Jun 16 2009 10:45AM Report
Andromedan writes:

I like the Genesis creator concept, because it symbolizes a kind of freedom, even if its just for developers. Its really up to them how refined that tool is, and how unique the content will be for us.

It does spark some ideas. Well...the possibilities do. If they can create a universe like that, maybe we can have our own settlements. A planet, or a whole solar system where we can build, mine, industrialize etc. Possibilities are endless. Then such an owned solarsystem can be part of a massive star system/galaxy where everyone has his own place, can travel, explore. With jump gates to a central place where quests can be done, or anything similar. I can see that being realised. But thats just my voice, I only speak for myself.

Anyway, I like your innovative thinking. Maybe there's still hope for mmo's evolving : ). That we don't have to be all in the same small universe, doing the same quests, grinding the same nonsense.

I do hope my voice will be heard : )

Tue Jun 16 2009 2:00PM Report
sadeyx writes:

The one big problem is that cryptic are making it! - which, given their previous games you would think isnt a problem.

But with CO they have adopted the 'console' style gameplay.  much like DC have, and im sure they are intending sto to be an action console styled game too...

Speculation of course but a worry for me, im 30 and fast paced action mmo doesnt really suit me.

Tue Jun 16 2009 6:45PM Report
tuzalov writes:

Yah cause you know much COH sucked -_- do you even know what company Cryptic is.

They already stated more times then I have fingers that STO will not be a fast paced mmofps type game,it's combat will take a slower tactical approach with emphasis on manevours and custom tactical arrangements.

I can't wait to see the Armada formations and Galactic combat pitting Klingon's and allies against the United Federation.

Wed Jun 17 2009 8:41AM Report
Gel214th writes:

It's about bloody time that they started developing these procedural generation systems.

There should be standardised systems for all game types and assets by now.

I believe we have the technology.

Wed Jun 17 2009 10:27AM Report
Nirwyl writes:

Sounds cool, but I hope it doesn't end up like Anarchy Online missions. And while some people here have suggested giving this tool to the players I think that is a bad idea. Sure it will bring in more players short term, but long term it will ruin the game. You shouldn't be able to choose what planet/enemy/situation you're going to explore as that just ruins the whole thing, it should unfold as an entire mystery. At least if you must give players access to this generator, please please include the ability to not choose and have randomly and hidden ((IE: No idea what will be there.)) content.

Only time you should be able to choose what you will face should be on the holodeck.

Wed Jun 17 2009 11:41AM Report
Crayghe writes:

I'm not so sure it will be a matter of 'player choice'. My impression is that either as a 'set mission' or 'random encounter' the players toon will go to a planet, and then the game will generate the elements required for the location. ('Set mission' = player is sent to the location by an NPC. 'Random encounter' = player finds the location while exploring.) The player might have no other information than the type of mission, or (in grand Trek tradition) just happen to find a situation.

Have I read the details of the Genesis system incorrectly?

Wed Jun 17 2009 7:17PM Report
Sarbocabras writes:

 Interesting concept can't wait to play it

Thu Jun 18 2009 3:57PM Report
Wizardry writes:

It is a cool and needed idea as long as it it does not end up like EVE.Players want actual explorable planets/systems,not just a simple planet that shows up on the screen.

Sat Jun 20 2009 11:57AM Report
55memo55 writes:

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Sun Dec 13 2009 10:02AM Report
Daily writes: In June of 2010 I requested that my subscription of Star Trek Online be cancelled. I like many was having a hard time in our economy and needed to cut back cost. I went to the website and logged into my account and pressed cancel. It showed canceled. Since I had already been charged for June I figured I would at least get to play one more month. However within 3 days my account would no longer allow me to log into the game. I figure ok and went about my way. Then come to find out Cryptic decided to keep charging me the monthly subscription fee all on their own. They stole money that I need to buy food and pay bills for my family of four. Did they care, NO! They stole food from my wife and sons mouth and they could care less. I CANCELLED MY SUBSCRIPTION! WTF! WHY did they keep charging me for a game I could not even play anymore? I don’t know why either. When contacted about it they refused to refund the wrongly acquired 2 months of fees. So now all I can do is post how horrible they treated another human being in these times, wherever I can. I am sure my family and I will make it because we have each other, but I hope Cryptic and all theirs goes under. I hope that one day they find themselves in the same situation. On top of that the game is par at best. Star Trek had ok playability; the game stagnated by level 20 and the PVP side of the game sucks. All and all the game barely rates. The only reason I played for as long as I did is because of the content being Star Trek. In the end that wasn’t enough. To keep playing and I would not recommend playing it ever. If you do, and decide to stop they will probably just keep charging you anyways. DON’T PLAY CRYPTIC MMO’s Also as far a City of Champions goes you really want to wait for DC UNIVERSE online in November. Wed Aug 04 2010 7:37AM Report
graphology52 writes:

Hello,

very nice post, I can't wait to play this game very nice theme. and wating for your next blog.

Thanks for your post.

 

Regards

 

Calligraphy
 
Wed Oct 17 2012 2:56AM Report

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