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Star Trek Online Interviews: Lore Interview

By Jon Wood on December 29, 2009

Star Trek Online's Christine Thompson answer Jon Wood's questions about the lore in Star Trek Online and how the STO team managed to keep up with so many different sources of information.

MMORPG.com:

We know that your writing and lore staff is familiar with all of the "official canon" from the Trek license, including films and TV series, but how do you handle incorporating non-canon aspects of the franchise like novels and comic books into your stories?

Christine Thompson:

We look at the soft canon like novels and comics, but we don't feel compelled to use everything from them. Some things, like the "Countdown" comic series, fit perfectly, so we incorporated it. Other things don't work as well.

Also, since our game is set in 2409, we're decades ahead of the novels and the comics. We were always prepared to go our own way storywise because of that, and I think what we've done has worked.

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MMORPG.com:

There is still some confusion for people regarding the current reality of STO. Why, in your version of the universe, does Vulcan still exist while Romulus was destroyed?

Christine Thompson:

Romulus was destroyed in what we call the "Prime Universe" - it's the universe that the shows and the series are set in. That event was what prompted Nero to what he did, and also why Spock used red matter to create an artificial singularity - he was trying to stop the chain reaction that destroyed Romulus.

Spock and Nero were sent to the "Abramsverse" through that singularity, and that's where the events of the movie (including the destruction of Vulcan) occurred.

For a full explanation, check out http://www.startrekonline.com/startrek_xi.

MMORPG.com:

What advantages are present in setting the game 30 years after the last movie?

Christine Thompson:

We picked 2409 for a few reasons. It's in the future of the timeline, so we get a chance to add new stories, new technology, new looks for some of the ships, etc. But it's close enough that we can have a lot of things that are familiar to fans of the shows and movies.

Also, Star Trek Online is the story of the players. They're the heroes in this time. Moving forward means that Starfleet isn't always looking to Jean-Luc Picard or Benjamin Sisko to fix things. They're asking YOU to save the galaxy.

MMORPG.com:

What disadvantages present themselves in setting the game so far removed from any known Trek series or movie?

Christine Thompson:

I think the biggest disadvantage of moving ahead is the universe isn't exactly like fans of the show remember it. A lot of the personalities have retired or moved on. Earth Spacedock has been rebuilt. Some of the ship designs have been revised.

That could be a problem, but it's also an opportunity. Any universe, whether it's Trek or the Champions Universe or even something set in the "real world," needs to grow and change or it will stagnate creatively.

When TNG first launched, it was so different from TOS! A Klingon was on the bridge! The captain was bald! What was up with that?

Ultimately, moving the timeline forward re-energized the Trek universe, and we got three amazing series in that time period. I can only hope that we'll have the same experience in STO.

MMORPG.com:

In the grander scheme of Star Trek lore, do you believe that the events of Star Trek Online will become official canon, or will it sit on the fringes in much the same way that many of the novels do?

Christine Thompson:

I think that's up to the fans. They're the ultimate judge of what they accept and don't accept in the Trek Universe.

CBS has been great about working with us and we've tried to craft a story that fits in well with what's already there. As to what happens in the future ... being accepted as "canon" would be great, but being able to tell good stories and make a fun game for the players is more important to me.


MMORPG.com:

Your "Road to 2409" lore series contains a great deal of political exposition. How will you make all of these subtle nuances obvious and known to players when they pick up the game?

Christine Thompson:

That's tricky. It's an MMO, so we don't have the sheer mass of text that a novel or TV series does. Some episodes of the different series are 47-48 minutes of solid dialogue, and you just can't do that in a videogame.

We're trying different ways of storytelling to get the nuances across, and we have ideas about how to supplement what's in game with web content or additional stories.

Fans of the Path to 2409 should be looking out for "Needs of the Many" by Michael A. Martin, which is the first novel set in the STO timeline.

MMORPG.com:

Why the decision to pitt the Federation against the Klingon Empire again? Surely there were other opposing factions that could have been considered?

Christine Thompson:

We considered a lot of different factions, or even creating a new one. But the Federation-Klingon conflict is classic Trek, and it's also a whole lot of fun.

In addition, when we looked back at the end of DS9, we could see the cracks forming. The Federation and the Klingon Empire are different. They think differently, they react differently to stress, they respond differently when being challenged. Take the end of the fighting on Cardassia Prime as an example - Martok and Sisko had very different reactions to it. I think we took what was there and followed it to a logical place.

That's not to say that Klingons are space orcs. They're not "evil," and we don't want to portray them that way. There's no right or wrong side in the Klingon-Federation conflict, and that's what makes it really interesting to me as a writer.

MMORPG.com:

What, in your opinion, are the basic elements and over arcing themes of Star Trek that you have tried to incorporate into your lore?

Christine Thompson:

When you look at more than 700 hours of Trek, you start to see a lot of themes and commonalities emerge. We've tried to use as many of those as possible to create a Trek experience for the players.

Because this is an MMO, we're telling more than one story. Some stories blend into others. Others stand alone. This has given us the change to hit on a lot of different themes, rather than "this is about diversity" or "this is about humanity."

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