MMORPG: Hey Daniel, it’s been a while! Can you tell us what you’ve been up to on STO? How’re things going in the world that Roddenberry created?
Daniel Stahl: We had a great Holiday and turnout for our annual Winter Event. Even though the team has been hard at work on our next big update, we are also preparing the Holodeck for our Three-year Anniversary Celebration.
MMORPG: It’s been a long and storied road with STO, and you’ve been there for most of it. Looking back now, what have been your favorite moments in the game’s first years?
Daniel Stahl: It is a blessing to be able to work with Star Trek. The brand is rich in characters and history. STO is truly a game made by Star Trek fans for Star Trek fans. But we also work closely with the story gurus from our licensor at CBS, the folks who make sure that everything from what you see in the television series and films, to what you read in novels and graphic novels feels “Trek.” Because of this, we’ve been able to dive deep into the world of Star Trek, exploring unanswered questions and creating wonderful new moments in the game for fans.
The most recent addition of the Tholians is a great example of being able to expand on an otherwise obscure species and add more depth to their background and motivations. This is what helps keep this game Trek.
MMORPG: Now the tricky one: the not so favorite moments.
Daniel Stahl: There have been some very difficult decisions that have kept me up at night. Make no mistake. The games industry is a competitive place – and it is my responsibility to make sure that we are making responsible decisions as we continue work on updates, new features, and additions to STO.
As a fan and a captain myself, I wish I could snap my fingers and instantly give everyone everything they’d like to see added to STO. So my least favorite moments are situations where what I want, what my team wants, and what our fellow fans want conflicts with what is best for the health and future of the game. That sometimes means putting great new feature ideas and personal pet projects on the side burner to focus on critical issues that ensure the ongoing growth and success of the game.
Fortunately, those tough decisions have paid off. STO has come a long way and that’s why each anniversary following our initial launch is such a big deal to us. We really appreciate the community that has helped us forge ahead towards building the best Star Trek game ever made.
MMORPG: What do you think of the direction of the MMO industry these days? STO is one of many games that have made the switch to the F2P model, why do you think it’s so prevalent in our gaming culture these days?
Daniel Stahl: When I look at all the games sitting on my shelf that I purchased and then never really played because I was unsatisfied with the game, it makes me wonder if the shift in attitude comes from having a better option.
When you can play a game without an up-front cost, it helps to determine if that is the game you want to play and invest your time and money into. It gets rid of instant buyer remorse because instead of trusting some third party to tell you whether to buy a game or not, you can play it for yourself and make the decision if it is worth you interest.
If all games were free to start playing, then the focus becomes entirely on the quality of the game experience. If you paid $60 for a title, you may feel obligated to put up with it for a while to get your money’s worth. In a free-to-play world, the consumer decides if a game is worth their investment after they’ve played it for a while.
This is the winning scenario for consumers because the more games that go free-to-play, the more competition there will be to make a solid gaming experience and those games that only offer a subscription will have to have one heck of an offering just to compete.
MMORPG: The Foundry in STO is one of the game’s most under-appreciated features (at least by those on the outside). How do you feel about its accomplishments and the direction of UGC (user-generated content) in general?
Daniel Stahl: We feel that we have just started to scratch the surface because from what we’ve seen thus far, the Foundry has huge potential.
Much like what YouTube has done for video content, the Foundry and other systems like it, could become a huge source of content for up and coming MMOs. The challenge comes in successfully identifying, rating, and integrating the best content into the game.
As we move forward with the Foundry we will be looking to improve the integration of user generated content with our own. We invision a future where entire zones and sections of the game are user generated and just as awesome as anything we could ever build.
It could happen sooner than you think. The community authors working on STO are very talented and very eager to see this feature grow.
MMORPG: What’s in store for Star Trek Online in the next three years? What do you see us talking about down the road? I mean, there is that new movie coming out, hint-hint.
Daniel Stahl: Star Trek seems to be doing really well across the board. Online streaming has given new life to the TV series, a new generation of fans is being born, and the new movies are offering fresh take on this amazing IP. If what we are seeing in our game is any indication, this is going to be a great year for Star Trek fans.
As we move forward, we want to continue expanding the game so that we can have the most comprehensive Star Trek experience ever made. We want to see the Delta Quadrant and let captains retrace the route of Voyager. We want to see the Gamma Quadrant and let captains explore the regions controlled by the Founders and the Dominion. We want organized Fleets of players to explore into new parts of the Galaxy and discover new species and new opportunities. We want to see the Federation and the Klingon Empire determine if they will remain at war or if there is a chance for peace.
And then there are the Iconians…
We could really go on for years. The galaxy is a pretty big place. There were at least 727 missions represented in TV shows and movies. We have a lot of work to do just to catch up to what has come before.
MMORPG: STO is one of a few true sci-fi MMOs out there, with more on the way. What words of advice would you give to others looking to brave the science fiction realm with their game? Not everyone can have Star Trek as the IP, you know!
Daniel Stahl: A few random pointers: Stay true to your vision of what the experience should be. Focus on what is fun and let the beauty of space speak for itself. Capture both the serenity and the chaos of the galaxy. Not everyone wants to fly inverted. It is more fun to be a Captain than to be the guy on deck 17 watching the hydroponics bay.
MMORPG: What parting words do you have for our readers on the year ahead for STO?
Daniel Stahl: Thank you for joining us for our Three-year Anniversary celebration. We appreciate the years of feedback and constructive criticism. The game continues to improve year after year thanks to the passion of our fans. We look forward to the years to come and look forward to seeing you in game.