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News & Features Discussion  » Star Trek Online: AGC Interview

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  Dana

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

 
OP  9/18/06 4:00:26 PM#1

We tracked down three of the most influential developers behind Star Trek Online at AGC in Austin. Executive Producer Daron Stinnett, Lead Designer Glen Dahlgren and recently hired Lead Systems Designer John Yoo met with us and discussed the progress of their title.

There are dozens of other basic assumptions that the team plans to examine before they really get their game down.

“We need to understand our gameplay before we build content around it,” Stinnett explained.

The first is the interaction between characters and ships. How do you go from one to the other? How do you combine them in missions? How does this affect exploration and discovery? All of these are major hurdles that they need to get just right if they want the game to feel like Star Trek.

More is available here.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  User Deleted
9/18/06 5:22:52 PM#2

hey

The news link from the STO interview takes you to mmorpg.com homepage and not to this thread.

Just wanted to give ya a heads up

  Stradden

Managing Editor

Joined: 7/08/05
Posts: 6729

9/18/06 6:25:22 PM#3
Thanks Enigma, it should work fine now.

Cheers,
Jon Wood
Managing Editor
MMORPG.com

  User Deleted
9/18/06 6:28:01 PM#4
sweet thanks
  Amathe

Spotlight Poster

Joined: 3/02/05
Posts: 1666

9/18/06 6:42:10 PM#5

I still have a question about the screenshots.

Are they screenshots of an in game movie?

Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?

Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?

EQ1, EQ2, SWG, SWTOR, GW, CoH, CoV, FFXI, WoW, CO, War,TSW and a slew of free trials and beta tests

  WoodenDummy

Novice Member

Joined: 11/08/05
Posts: 210

9/18/06 8:23:18 PM#6
Something that worries me is travel.  I mean I want space to be big, SWG was just a joke, space is BIG and not just about a few planets we saw in the movies.

EVE has a huge amount of space to travel in but jump gates in EVE make travel instant, warp drives are not instant taking hours, days or more to get about so what I'm wondering is are they going to make space big and if they do make it big how are they going to get travel to work?

  kasirak

Novice Member

Joined: 7/24/03
Posts: 5

9/18/06 9:32:51 PM#7

Great interview / preview Dany,

I haven't followed much on Star Trek Online development, but from the sound of it, it seems as if space combat will be from a third person ship perspective. This surprises me since from what I understood, they were looking at populating a ship with many players. If that's the case, you'll have one player taking care of the entire battle while the rest manage repair duties and calibration? Well, in way, considering the Star Trek universe doesn't have manned turrets or fighters, it makes sense that one person is really controlling most of the action, but on the flip side, you are going for a co-op system if you have many people on one ship.

In reality, a ship in Star Trek is much closer to a player city in most MMOs. As such, the rules of space combat should definitely be quite different than other space MMOs. Going with the spirit of the brand, the co-op perspective and the RPG elements, each role should bring something concrete to a battle.. While a captain could do the whole battle by himself, he should be unable to manage the entire complexity of every system. Fluctuations, Re-Calibration, Timing Weapon Sequences, Programming Complex flight maneuvers and whatever complexity they can imagine should be the tasks for the specialists. But while the universe of Star Trek is very technical and scientific in nature, complexity needs to be adjusted for the player base. Too simple and a single person can do everything, too complex and players get lost and disinterested.

As for space travel downtime, well every MMO with player cities has the same problem, so perhaps we'll finally have some major advancement in that area. Like in the TV series, I expect research, crafting/experimentation, upgrades and most repairs will take place at this time. You have the recreational activities such as lounge, poker and holodeck which offers developers unlimited possibilities to keep your mind occupied, but in addition, the creation and testing of new strategies and training would probably be done at this time as well. I'm certain there are other things that will be added to make the downtime meaningful and amusing

Well sorry to have went off on a rant, but I hope they manage to surprise us and keep the spirit of the universe.

  kopema

Novice Member

Joined: 9/18/06
Posts: 265

Take THAT, subspace!

9/18/06 10:24:26 PM#8

I still don't see where they're going with this.  The percentage of time the players will spend on ships as opposed to away missions doesn't really tell me anything.

It's like the old saying goes:  "If you ain't the lead dog, the scenery never changes."  That's why the TV shows all focused on about 6 characters, even if there were hundreds on board a ship.

I suppose you could be on a star ship and there could be a big board of potential away missions you get to choose from.  That would be a bit of a stretch from military discipline, but it might be workable.  Still, that doesn't really explain what else you do while you're on the ship.  Any job that doesn't involve choosing the course or picking targets would seem like a dull one.  An ensign on a star ship (or any kind large ship for that matter), doesn't pick targets, and has nothing to do with deciding where the ship goes or when it goes there.  I don't really see how they can make a photon torpedo loader or wharp conduit maintenance engineer's job very adventuresome.

Don't get me wrong, I had no problem with Yeoman Rand or any of the "red shirt" suicide patrols; but I don't particularly have any interest in roleplaying any of those characters.

I assume the PC's will start out on small craft, then work their way up to larger ones?  Or maybe soloers or small groupers will control survey or small scout vessels, and huge guilds will control things like Galaxy Class star ships?  But if the latter is the case, how do the people in the guilds get together in the first place?  It's tough enough deciding on one person at a time you want to group with; in STO, would clumps of players be epxected to "merge" together" when they go from smaller ships to bigger ones.  Will there be a lot of 'bots involved? 

I'm pretty happy the lady said that stuff about wanting to capture the "feel" of the series.  Note that she said the screenshots were from working rendered clients (and they look pretty detailed to me).  And she indicated the combat system is well underway.

But then she said this:  "'We need to understand our gameplay before we build content around it,' Stinnett explained.  The first is the interaction between characters and ships. How do you go from one [ship] to the other? How do you combine them in missions? How does this affect exploration and discovery? All of these are major hurdles that they need to get just right if they want the game to feel like Star Trek."   

Shouldn't these decisions be around the FIRST ones you should make for a game like this -- a LONG time before your graphics client is fully running and the combat system is in final development?

I don't claim to be the biggest Trekkie in the world, but even if this game ends up having the best graphics and combat system of any game out there (which is always unlikely), I still might not be able to stomache it if it turns into another run-of-the-mill MMORPG kill-a-thon.  That's ok for some vague Orc-infested world, but not for Star Fleet.

  mandrak66

Novice Member

Joined: 5/14/06
Posts: 5

9/18/06 10:26:40 PM#9
sounds like they are coming along well just hope they stay away from instances and everything quest driven.
  kopema

Novice Member

Joined: 9/18/06
Posts: 265

Take THAT, subspace!

9/18/06 11:15:55 PM#10

Originally posted by kasirak

While a captain could do the whole battle by himself, he should be unable to manage the entire complexity of every system. Fluctuations, Re-Calibration, Timing Weapon Sequences, ...

As for space travel downtime, well every MMO with player cities has the same problem, so perhaps we'll finally have some major advancement in that area. Like in the TV series, I expect research, crafting/experimentation, upgrades and most repairs will take place at this time. ...



Unless you're talking about a guild, how the heck will you decide who gets to be the "captain?"  Typical MMORPG time logged on?  Yeah, I'm going to be an assistant fluxuation re-calibrator for some pimply 13-year-old control freak with way too much time on his hands?  Sounds like a load of fun.

And the problem with a travelling city in space is that everyone would have to log on during the same time frame if they want to do away missions.  Both of these might please the heck out of the hard-core MMORPG-aholics.  But what about the 99.99% of the population who don't consider MMORPG's a full-time job?

I'm just poking fun here but like I said, from the interview, it looks like the designers themselves haven't yet thought these things through.  It looks like they've spent millions of dollars on graphics and other systems so far, but they don't seem to have much more of a handle than we do right now how these kinds of critical gameplay elements will work.

  User Deleted
9/18/06 11:37:35 PM#11

<<Yeah, I'm going to be an assistant fluxuation re-calibrator for some pimply 13-year-old control freak with way too much time on his hands?  Sounds like a load of fun.>>

With this sentence I just had vision of an MMO version of "Turnabout Indruder" A pimply 13-year old screaming, "I'M THE CAPTAIN!! I'M THE CAPTAIN YOU HERE!! I'M THE CAPTAINNNnnnn....."

  Dana

Novice Member

Joined: 1/07/04
Posts: 2425

 
OP  9/18/06 11:43:47 PM#12

Originally posted by Amathe

I still have a question about the screenshots.

Are they screenshots of an in game movie?

Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?

Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?



You guys really should read the articles!

I addressed that towards the end. Those are actual in-engine screenshots from a demo they did at an IGDA conference.

Dana Massey
Formerly of MMORPG.com
Currently Lead Designer for Bit Trap Studios

  paranoidpvp

Novice Member

Joined: 5/14/06
Posts: 544

Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death.

9/18/06 11:46:10 PM#13

Originally posted by Lepidus

Originally posted by Amathe

I still have a question about the screenshots.

Are they screenshots of an in game movie?

Are they screenshots of an in game cut scene?

Or are they screenshots from the point of view of a character exploring the world while playing the game?



You guys really should read the articles!

I addressed that towards the end. Those are actual in-engine screenshots from a demo they did at an IGDA conference.

Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.

  kopema

Novice Member

Joined: 9/18/06
Posts: 265

Take THAT, subspace!

9/19/06 12:01:19 AM#14


Originally posted by paranoidpvp

Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.


Um, actually, a "novelist" is a guy who WRITES novels.

The people who READ novels (let alone short articles) are simply called "literate."  I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of gamers fall into that category.

  paranoidpvp

Novice Member

Joined: 5/14/06
Posts: 544

Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you are scared to death.

9/19/06 12:03:39 AM#15

Originally posted by kopema


Originally posted by paranoidpvp

Yeah, but reading the articles would involve reading. For the most part we are gamers, not novelists.


Um, actually, a "novelist" is a guy who WRITES novels.

The people who READ novels (let alone short articles) are simply called "literate."  I hate to break it to you, but the vast majority of gamers fall into that category.


Leave me alone.

  nevlik

Novice Member

Joined: 10/13/04
Posts: 2

9/19/06 12:31:10 AM#16
Assuming the STO people are going to be reading this, here are some thoughts:

You can have a team of 6-8 players. This will be the bridge crew. Each of these members is an officer of some type, and either has a team of NPC underlings beneath him (medical, science, engineering, security, etc) or is in charge of some unique aspect of ship command (nav/helm/captain).

How does one decide who is captain/helm/etc? The same way people decide who is tanking/healing/blasting, by having high levels in that character class. Of course, one should be able to move between professions at their whim, or have multiple characters with these classes.

Ship combat: Each player has their view of the space battle and a console specific to their own task, which should include a text-based chat. Captain has command functions that will a) send orders to PC players, b) send orders to NPC characters, and c) set alert levels. Helm can fly the ship in all sorts of awesome ways, nav can alert players to things on scanners, tactical can read out shield/hull/etc as well as divert power inside that grid, etc etc. Again, this is a set 6-8 player group. One players performance can most certainly be the deciding factor in life/death, as well as how functional the ship and crew are afterwards.

Ship life: This is sweet. Captain can allocate resources to different departments, the various officers can expend time in repair, research, and upgrade based on said resource allocation, plus the awesome pasttime games.

Away missions: Anywhere between one and 6 people and a good support team of Red Shirt NPCs. Away team leader or Security Officer (in an hostile environment) would choose how many and what kind of Red Shirts to bring with. Security Officer would probably get better access to higher numbers and more powerful pets. This can be an important strategic factor considering the difference between a 'diplomatic envoy' and a 'search and rescue  mission in an unknown, hostile alien environment'.

Discuss!

nevlik
  sweething

Novice Member

Joined: 3/17/04
Posts: 15

9/19/06 2:54:50 AM#17
umm other browser didnt post my message lol, but anyways what ever way they go with it hope its fun to play but allso hope theres grate crafting otherwise games going to be another boring game to play!
  Karatakus

Novice Member

Joined: 3/08/04
Posts: 14

9/19/06 3:08:25 AM#18

Now I'd have thought it would have gone in a different direction to that, with the server being likened to a large ship. Characters on the server can then choose quest like missions to go and complete. Space combat would be handled on "NPC" ships that require a commander, or being allocated a runabout/shuttle to take u to the location of ur "mission". Lets face it, all the fun in space combat is deciding what tactics to use in it, not just monitoring 1 thing that u can't do anything about (whats the point of informing the captain of a ship that the shields are down to 10% if he's intent on doing a Leeroy Jenkins anyway?)

The only thing I think would be a bit of a problem is if a character wanted to grind instead of do missions. The only thing I could imagine then would be either holodeck time, or getting some leave time and a shuttlecraft, should they want to do ship to ship combat or explore.

  kopema

Novice Member

Joined: 9/18/06
Posts: 265

Take THAT, subspace!

9/19/06 3:16:12 AM#19


Originally posted by nevlik

You can have a team of 6-8 players. This will be the bridge crew. Each of these members is an officer of some type, and either has a team of NPC underlings beneath him (medical, science, engineering, security, etc) or is in charge of some unique aspect of ship command (nav/helm/captain).

...Away missions: Anywhere between one and 6 people and a good support team of Red Shirt NPCs. Away team leader or Security Officer (in an hostile environment) would choose how many and what kind of Red Shirts to bring with. Security Officer would probably get better access to higher numbers and more powerful pets. This can be an important strategic factor considering the difference between a 'diplomatic envoy' and a 'search and rescue  mission in an unknown, hostile alien environment'.


This would seem to fit with the flavor of the TV shows.  I don't know if anyone would need to stay on the ship while the away team is running a mission - those are usually treated as separate activities on the show.

I'm not sure how a typical MMO community would fit with the whole "going where no man has gone before" thing.  Some missions might be in crowded spaceways, but it would be weird to be "exploring" a new world and see that five other ships beat you to it.  Communication should be easy enough, but I wouldn't want to SEE many other ships in "unexplored" space.  I wouldn't mind stretching the genre to include a convenient way of "beaming" crewmembers to and from starfleet - regardless of how far away - whenever they wanted to log off or join another "crew."

A single ship might have some space encounters included along with a series of missions.  The STO equivalent of a "raid" might be a combat fleet of ships, each with a small "crew" of PC's, and this might be where PVP combat could come in.  I'm not sure if there would be a need for a large-scale ground war - that doesn't really fit in with the show that much.  And a limited scope for the away missions (maximum number of players) would tend to fit with an exploration and mission-based set of encounters.  There were just no such things as 50-man away teams on the show.  And I think keeping raid activities and awards completely separate from group or solo play activities is a good idea anyway.

Have any of the developers listed what kind of classes the game might include?  It would be fun to think about that aspect too.

Command (skills that aid fellow players), Engineer; Computers; Medicine; Security; Scientist; Diplomat; Xenobiologist; etc., for away team missions.

Pilot, Navigator, Weapons station, etc. skills that aid in space flight and battles.

Picard was what?  Command and Diplomacy, with a minor in archaelogy?  Spock was science and computers?  Riker was command only?  Kirk was command and combat?

Have the developers said whether there would be more than one "faction?"  That seems like a huge deal.  Space battles between different races might be fine, and PC's could be any number of different races, but do we really need to do Romulan or Cardassian away team missions?

EDIT:  Turns out there's a lot of information here:  http://startrek.perpetual.com/index.html looks like it's shaping up to be a potentially interesting game.  The FAQ talks about capital ship "hubs" that cruise a sector of the galaxy.  Each player will be able to have quarters on the hub ship, and also have his own personal ship (ranging from warp-capable shuttlecraft to Defiant-class ships.)  Players can either go on away missions from the hub, or take their own ship out on exploratory missions - taking crew members along with you.  Even if the others are higher "rank" (i.e., level) than you, whoever owns the ship will always be the "captain" of the mission.

  Beery

Novice Member

Joined: 7/05/06
Posts: 184

"Dear Buddha, please bring me a pony and a plastic rocket".

9/19/06 3:35:11 AM#20
Jeez!  From this interview it seems like this thing is still like three years away.
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