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Star Trek Online Interviews: F2P Interview with Dan Stahl

By Garrett Fuller on September 12, 2011

MMORPG.com:

What changes can the current players of Star Trek Online expect when the game goes Free to Play?

Dan Stahl:

Our goal is that existing subscribers shouldn't notice any big changes to the way their game has been since launch. There will certainly be more players and we have set aside time to make improvements to the game, but for the most part, it should feel like the same Star Trek game they know and love. In other words, it's very important for us that we do not devalue their subscriptions.

Some of the improvements players can expect include a mission journal upgrade, a new event calendar, and an improved instanced mission team finder tool. We will also be adding new tooltips, updating our tutorial and smoothing out some of the rough spots in level progression. All of this is aimed at making the game more accessible and helping new players learn the finer complexities of STO.

In regards to our in-game store (the C-store), we also plan to adjust prices and in some cases make some items that were previously micro-transactions available through other means in-game. For example, several species such as the Ferengi, Pakleds, Tellarites and Rigelians will now be free. Any previous purchases will still stay with your account.

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MMORPG.com:

Are there new events planned for the game when the switch is made, how can players take part?

Dan Stahl:

Part of the mission journal overhaul involves adding a new event calendar which will highlight the daily events we are adding to the game as well as a monthly calendar that shows you when the next Feature Episode Series or QXP Weekend is coming. Events are something I've enjoyed in other games, especially those in Perfect World's titles.

While most of our events will be new repeatable missions, we also plan to put in new random and timed events. Similar to our recent release of the Borg "Red Alerts!", we plan to introduce a new zone where the Borg are invading a planet surface. When the event is active, players will be able to help fight back the invasion and complete multiple solo or teamed objectives in the zone.

MMORPG.com:

How will the Free to Play model work in the game, will there be ways to purchase ships or technology?

Dan Stahl:

We strongly believe that there should be no barriers to content in a free-to-play game. You will be able to play through the entire Star Trek Online experience without spending any money. While free players will have fewer starting inventory and character slots, there will be little to no changes to the current game experience. Players will still be able to earn ships or craft items in-game. We will still sell premium costumes and ship variants, but those are purely optional to players and will not prevent anyone from reaching max level.

MMORPG.com:

Will there be changes coming to the faction system giving players more options in the new model?

Dan Stahl:

At F2P launch players will be able to start a career as a Federation Captain. Once they achieve level 25 as a Federation Captain, they will unlock the ability to create a Klingon Character. We recognize that the Klingon faction currently has fewer episode missions than the Federation. To help with mission progression, Klingon characters will now start at Commander level so that there is a solid PVE progression path to hit max level.

In terms of new options for the factions, there will be new ships and events that are unique to the different factions.

MMORPG.com:

When can players expect the changes to take place?

Dan Stahl:

While we haven't announced the F2P launch date yet, we do plan on starting up our F2P beta in the near future and players will be able to begin checking out some of the new journal and event features. So stay tuned for that announcement!

MMORPG.com:

How does this decision impact the development of the game does it give the team more freedom?

Dan Stahl:

The decision to go free-to-play is in some ways liberating and in other ways daunting. Since we do not plan to limit content in any way, the team will be able to focus on Feature Episodes, new PVP maps, and additional end-game mission content. In order to increase our release and production schedule, the team has been hiring up and our team size is increasing in order to ensure that there are plenty of new items as well as new missions. Ultimately, we also plan to begin focusing on what our first big post-F2P expansion may be.

What makes F2P daunting is all the work we've had to do to the game in order to support the influx of new players. We've had to evaluate our game and recognize that ground combat wasn't as fun as it should be. We had to spend time to improve it before we could launch F2P. The last several months have been grueling on the team as we go back and adjust things that will improve the game.

MMORPG.com:

Will this model give more optins to Klingon players?

Dan Stahl:

What this model does is help move the Klingon players closer to being on par with the Federation. It means more ships, more costumes, more content that they can play. By increasing their starting level, it also means improving their leveling progression and ensuring there is a good PVE experience for Klingon players who do not want to PVP.

MMORPG.com:

With this change on the horizon what are you excited to tell players about the new approach to Star Trek Online?

Dan Stahl:

Going F2P is going to be a big win for Star Trek Online players because it is going to bring in more people to the game who may have been holding off due to the mandatory subscription or retail key requirement. The game will be just as good and if not better than it has been recently. If players haven't played since the game launched, they will be pleasantly surprised to see all the work that has been done over the last Four Seasons. I'm excited that everyone will have the opportunity to log in and check out what we've been doing in the game. It is going to be a lot of fun!

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