MMORPG.com: Congrats on releasing Legacy of Romulus. How important was it to get the Romulans into the Star Trek Online universe?
Daniel Stahl: When we conducted research polls, playing as Romulan was the number one most requested feature. We put a lot of faith in our player’s feedback and believe that they generally have a great feel for what would take the game to the next level.
Thus, it has been very important as we were building the expansion to ensure that we were delivering a unique experience that raises the quality bar for the entire game and exceeded our fan’s expectations. If feedback from open beta is any indication, Legacy of Romulus is set to be the most important update we’ve made to the game since we launched in 2010.
MMORPG.com: What role do you think they play as a possible third faction in the game? How does it shift the gameplay?
Daniel Stahl: The biggest shift for the game is that when creating a first character, there is a choice where there previously was none. Up until now, all first characters were required to be Federation captains. This meant that the majority of characters in the game were, obviously, Federation captains.
Now, there are three distinct choices. You can create a Federation, Klingon, or Romulan as your first character and have a different starting experience depending on which faction you choose. This could represent a major shift in zone population as more players choose to play as Romulans or Klingons. All of this was necessary before we could seriously begin looking at what the future of the End Game would look like for Star Trek Online.
MMORPG.com: Since players may start in any faction of the game: Federation, Klingon, and Romulan: what was it like building out the starting experiences for each?
Daniel Stahl: It was a rewarding experience because it allowed the development team the opportunity to improve upon our previous Federation tutorial. The Romulan and Klingon starting experiences are in many ways a superior way to learn Star Trek Online because the pacing is more gradual and the story is more cohesive than what we created for the FED back in 2010.
MMOs can be challenging to learn because they are rich in features and broad in scope. The learning curve for STO can be steep for those who’ve never played this type of game before. If someone was returning to the game or starting out for the first time, I’d go so far as to recommend they start by playing a Romulan. It is a great experience.
MMORPG.com: Can you give players some insight into what is going on the in the Beta quadrant?
Daniel Stahl: The Beta quadrant in Star Trek is traditionally the home of both the Klingon and Romulan Empires. With the destruction of Romulus in the 2009 movie, the Romulan people are trying to rebuild their cultural base and reestablish themselves as a major player in the galaxy. The character Sela, played by Denise Crosby, has declared herself Empress of the Romulans and assumed complete control over the government and military.
When creating a Romulan in STO, the character starts as a citizen living on the fringe of Romulan space. The story is personal and thrusts the character into the conflict between the Romulan military and the Romulan people. Romulan citizens join with a newly formed band of rebels who seek to restore the government and citizen control over the military. As with most Star Trek series, Legacy of Romulus has many reflections to events happening in the world today.
MMORPG.com: “Legacy” brings some updates and changes to the UI. How do these changes impact players?
Daniel Stahl: The biggest change to the user interface is that it has been redesigned with an inspiration from the LCARS UI found on computer panels in all of the various Star Trek series. The change is dramatic when first loaded up and can feel like a bit of a shock from what was there previously. However, it provides more contrast and clarity while playing the game and we’ve found it to be a vast improvement over our previous HUD.
This expansion also introduces great customization options by allowing most of the HUD to be resized, moved, and color-shifted to fit individual tastes. We’ve also moved and resized the default positioning of many screen elements to aid new players. Overall we’re very happy with the end result.
MMORPG.com: The introduction of the Warbirds to space combat is epic. What was it like designing these ships?
Daniel Stahl: Romulans have few iconic ships, but the ones they do have are memorable and fierce. The D’Deridex is representative of the might and fury of the Romulan Empire. We wanted to introduce a new combat mechanic that represented the raw power that these ships wield.
We found inspiration in the engine that drives these massive Warbirds. Unlike most other warp-capable species in Star Trek, Romulans developed a singularity-based engine instead of a warp-plasma drive. By harnessing the power of a black hole, these ships are both deadly and dangerous to operate. The Singularity mechanic allows characters who fly Warbirds a power meter which can be unleashed to devastating effect.
Having made hundreds of Federation starships thus far, it was a joy to work on something so unique and iconic.
MMORPG.com: How will the expansion affect the Foundry, if at all?
Daniel Stahl: This update has very little impact on the Foundry other than it opens the door for future updates where Foundry authors will be able to create mission designed exclusively for Romulan characters. We will be updating the Foundry later this year with this ability along with other Romulan assets.
MMORPG.com: Are there plans to launch any content aimed at tying into the movie sequel this summer?
Daniel Stahl: We like to think that anything is possible in Star Trek Online. We continue to work with our licensor, CBS, to find ways in which we can collaborate with the Paramount movies.
MMORPG.com: How important was player feedback when you were designing Legacy of Romulus?
Daniel Stahl: The entire Legacy of Romulus expansion itself was developed based on player feedback. When we conducted product research we determined that a playable Romulan faction was the number one most requested feature that Star Trek Online was missing. In many ways this entire update is based on giving our fans what they feel has been missing since launch.
For those that have been waiting to play a Romulan or Klingon, this expansion was made with passion and conviction as a gift, and yes it is free.
MMORPG.com: What will you begin working on for 2013 after the expansion?
Daniel Stahl: There is plenty more Star Trek Online to go. For the last three years it has felt like we’re just getting up on our feet. With this expansion it really does feel like we’re just getting started. We’ll be moving forward to expand End Game, improve the Foundry, and Explore more parts of the Galaxy over the next several years. Once we get past the expansion launch, we’ll start sharing our plans for the future.
Thank you for taking the time to send us these questions. We look forward to seeing all the new Romulans starting May 21!