What is Star Trek? That question is extremely hard to answer with one word. What can you put into a Star Trek game? Just about everything: Captain's Logs, Starships, Aliens, Humanity, Neutral Zones and everything in-between. If I were a developer I would have trouble figuring out where to start...at first.
When talking about Star Trek, to me, it's pretty simple where to start. It is the basis of every sitcom, movie and cartoon that you can probably even think of: People. We especially like people who can drop kick some major tail like James T. Kirk, or people like William Riker who can just about sweet talk any lovely female he comes across with his Lumberjack beard. Call me a Cryptic fan boy, but from what I can tell, it's pretty clear they are answering the call in this area.
Let's explore this just a little; When Perpetual had the IP, I liked the fact you could act as a certain part of the crew such as Tactical, Security or even a Medical Doctor. All of your friends working together to defeat a common foe all on one ship. Wow, on paper and explaining this to a Star Trek fan or any Sci-Fi enthusiast, you think this could be the greatest game ever made. However, I found it hard to possibly try to make this work with each individual person working as a crew - on different parts of ship's operations and everyday work. You can name as many ways as you want and make this happen, such as players all logging on at the same time and manning your vessel, but in the end, for people who have things to do, it won't work. I can only imagine while fighting the Borg, your Security Officer says "SORRY GUYS GOTTA GO WALK THE DOG!" Now unable to fire phasers at the Borg Cube at the right time, you get hammered! Your bridge crew fall to the ground from damage to your ship, your ship blows up in the biggest epic fail possible and the next thing you know everyone has to respawn and then travel 100 light years back to a shipyard, blah, blah, blah you get my point.
Let's look at Cryptic's approach to people. You start as a “Captain” of your own ship, or at least acting Captain, with a possible lower rank such as Ensign (from what we know details on ranks are bit iffy). Granted everyone does not want to be a Captain, they understand that. I understand that. I'm sure it was a difficult decision to make while taking over Star Trek Online, but using the various Star Trek shows, it's pretty clear they are based around people of command. In addition to the people in command, they have a "supporting cast" which usually consists of the bridge crew or others in a position to command. In STO, are you in command? Check. Do you have a bridge crew at your side? Check. Can you customize your bridge crew? Finally, the most important character of your supporting cast, you ship. Can you customize your ship and gain greater ones? Check.
The rest is icing on the cake. Cryptic, at least from what I can see, understand that people are the most important aspects of making Star Trek Online work. In saying this, I'm not meaning they are making a Star Trek TV series into a video game. What about exploration? One of Star Trek's greatest feats has been exploration. Has Cryptic expressed interest in making exploration a big part of the game? Check. However, I'm a tad skeptical on how this will pan out. I've heard reports of randomly generated planets and/or systems, but I don't know how it will all come together. Another question that lingers in my mind is the "end game". Let's say, for example, you max out your character and ship to the highest levels possible. Then what? I can see exploring, but not all the time. PvP will be huge, understandably, but I'm not sure if that will keep everyone hooked. I wish I could comment on the player economy or the way it works, but we don’t know much about that yet. What we do know is that there will be a galactic economy using some form of money or something else of value, but we don't know to what extent or how it works yet (insert Ferengi comments here). I really wish some crafting information were available, unfortunately we don't know too much about that yet either. One thing to be really, really excited about will be episodic content in patches or updates that will be released. I can only imagine some of the missions you could be sent on, such as commandeering the newest edition of the Enterprise, or doing a mission with Data's brother, B-4.
An observation I have made reading the boards is the amount of people stating negative things about the graphics/game engine used by Cryptic. Huh? Have you seen the screenshots?! If not:
Have you seen the trailer?! I don't need my eyes checked, but to me they look pretty good. Granted it's an engine they have used before, but it works. It's a smart business move to make STO work on a wide range of computers (Insert Mac/Linux complaints here). I would say a good way to find out how STO will generally look is to look at Cryptic's upcoming product, Champions Online, which to my knowledge is the same game engine that will be used in STO. I can only imagine the individual wanting to buy STO, saying "I heard the graphics are way too intense for my PC, I'll pass" I'm going to bet a lot of gamers pass up Crysis for that exact reason, I know I have. I would even argue graphics have a part in Word of Warcraft's success, because it runs on a wide variety of systems.
More details are to come about STO, so stay tuned to MMORPG.com for the latest updates and rants from yours truly!