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Star Trek Online - Interview With Glen Dahlgren

MMORPG.com: First of all, MMORPG.com would like to express our thanks to you and your staff for this opportunity. Can you tell us who you are and your position on the development team?
Glen Dahlgren: I'm Glen Dahlgren, lead designer of Star Trek Online from Perpetual Entertainment. While I'm happy to discuss the design for our game, you have to remember that we're still very early in the development process. What I'm describing are intentions, rather than realized features. Things can and likely will change. With that out of the way, bring it on!
MMORPG.com: Ever since the realization of Star Wars Galaxies, many people have whispered about the hopes of one day having a Star Trek multiplayer game available to them. How long have you and your development team been in the "works" to make this happen?
Glen Dahlgren: For a number of years, Perpetual Entertainment has been in discussions with Paramount to bring Star Trek to the Massively Multiplayer Online landscape. The folks at Perpetual are died-in-the-wool fans of the franchise, and the Star Trek universe lends itself particularly well to an MMOG; it represents a galaxy ripe for exploration rather than a single, static, pre-established storyline.
MMORPG.com: There's been a recent debate about graphics in a mmorpg. Some like the extreme graphic realism that only a high end computer can yield while others like a cartoonish, colorful look that isn't so hard on a computer. Have you all established a graphic "medium" in which to work on? For example, are you going for a realism approach, a colorful approach, or a more industrial look?
Glen Dahlgren: Star Trek brings with it an established "look and feel" that is more realistic than cartoony. That said, I don't believe that the possibilities are limited to high-end realistic or colorful cartoony. We're focused on making the game as beautiful as possible without bringing your computer to its knees, and as WoW has proven, beautiful is as much about content and art direction as technology.
MMORPG.com: CCP, who created EVE worked with a rather small development team, yet produced incredible results. Will there be a rather large amount of developers working on this project or will it be a handful of dedicated people?
Glen Dahlgren: Right now, STO has a small dedicated core group. I think most of us at Perpetual like the small team approach, although I'd be kidding myself if I claimed that this group will be able to create all the content STO is going to require. I expect that, by release, we'll have grown to be a fairly large team.
MMORPG.com: Many Star Trek fans often enjoy a strict form of adhering to the rules of Star Trek Canon while some often enjoy a good surprise when it comes to story twists. Will all of your starship designs be strictly based upon Star Trek canon or will you be creating new federation ships alongside the established ships already known in the Star Trek Universe?
Glen Dahlgren: Canon drives everything in this design, from the story to the weapons to the starship designs. Since the game is set some time in the future, we have some freedom to create new material, but I always want players to know where this material originated. Hopefully nothing should shock the players outside of the Star Trek universe.

And, that said, one of the great things about this license is the wealth of raw material. There's tons of great source for all aspects of the game. It's wonderful that we have such an unparalleled license that can draw on everything Star Trek put on screen.
MMORPG.com: The ability to live and work aboard a starship is exciting to many Star Trek fans. Oftentimes, the Star Trek games released in the past hasn't fully captured the "awe" of working aboard a ship. The simple things like walking from Mess Hall to Engineering or taking the turbo lift from the Shuttle bay to the Bridge without zoning is an exciting hope for many of your new Star Trek Online fans. Do you know how the layout of your starships will be designed? Will the design of your starships enable the players the freedom to explore the starship in great detail or will the starship themselves only have limited areas in which to explore?
Glen Dahlgren: I absolutely empathize with this concept, and I can tell you that the starship is a big focus of this game. Star Trek has always been about living and exploring in a ship with a talented crew; this game captures that. We're making lots of areas aboard the ship important, such as the Bridge, Quarters, Sick Bay, Recreation Area, Holodeck, Transporter Room, Engineering, and a lot more. Feel free to explore! :

I won't go into detail, but the player's progression really takes advantage of this ship-centric view. A character with command aspirations starts as a crewman on an NPC commanded vessel, graduates to temporary command assignments (where he can start recruiting his own bridge crew), then eventually obtains a permanent commission of his own ship. Of course, those who don't want to focus on command can hone their skills in the various departments: engineering, flight control (conn), medical, science, and tactical/security.
MMORPG.com: Weapons usually weren't the forefront in the TNG episodes. Diplomacy always saved the day versus blasting everything in sight. However, we know through novels and other Star Trek games that the Federation does indeed have an impressive ground force (the marines if you will). Will you have a separate skill system for marine type soldiers for combat or will each profession such as medical, science, security, engineering, flight be given a certain freedom to skill up on specific weapons?
Glen Dahlgren: All Starfleet officers are given a certain amount of combat training. Some departments will be better suited to learning such skills, but all departments will be well equipped to handle themselves in combat situations; they just have different and interesting things to do. To mention just the simplest options, science applies new technology (sometimes derived from alien sources), engineers build and fix things, flight controllers pilot and drive, medics heal, and security has access to the most powerful weapons. Also, many characters will be able to train (at least somewhat) in cross-departmental skills-especially if their combination of racial and departmental affinities include them.

As we saw in the Deep Space Nine episode "Siege of AR-558", we don't need a separate military arm to deal with combat situations. Normal Starfleet officers are quite capable.
MMORPG.com: At release, how big of a galaxy are you hoping to utilize for specific zones? Will they be large, enormous systems as comparable to EVE or will they be smaller zoned space like Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to LightSpeed?
Glen Dahlgren: I don't like to compare STO to either of those games, because the design is quite different. Understand that your home is often the ship you're stationed on, and it takes you to the content-whether it be ship against ship combat on the bridge, or an away mission on a nearby planet. I will say that we are focused on exploiting the potential of dynamic/instanced zones to provide more compelling content. Our missions will be quite a bit deeper than hunting rats.
MMORPG.com: Will players have the option to switch professions if they feel like their current profession isn't right for them?
Glen Dahlgren: No, but they can train in skills other than those of their chosen department. It's very possible to have significant overlap between a few departments-although if you want to maximize your skill affinity (the rate in which you advance those skills), you may want to start a new character in another department.
MMORPG.com: How many classes of starships will be ready for launch?
Glen Dahlgren: Not certain yet.
MMORPG.com: Everyone has been asking this question so I'll ask : What are the playable races going to be? Does Perpetual Entertainment have any plans for allowing a playable Klingon Empire or Romulan Empire in any future expansions?
Glen Dahlgren: Our FAQ states that the player will be able to choose one of three Federation races: human, Vulcan, and Klingon. This was done to make those choices significant, rather than provide a ton of purely cosmetic choices.

Since we released the FAQ, fans have raised good points about how this would potentially skew the racial makeup of Starfleet. They also asked for more variety-even if that variety doesn't impact game play. Personally, while I like the idea of playing a Klingon, I dislike not being able to explore their independent culture as much as if they were an ally rather than a member of the Federation.

So, the new plan is to have three types or dispositions of races: analytical, versatile, and aggressive. The differences between the types are significant, but the races within each type are very similar. Here are the current playable races:

Analytical:
Vulcan
Bolian

Versatile:
Human
Trill (non-joined)
Bajoran

Aggressive:
Andorian
Tellarite

With this change, Starfleet becomes much more of an equal opportunity employer, crews are more diverse, and it becomes easier to distinguish your character. While we might not be able to go quite in depth with an individual race as we could before, we can make gameplay generalities about a racial type.

And, of course, this leaves the Klingons as a possible expansion empire (as well as the Romulans, both of which we're seriously considering).
MMORPG.com: What is the highest rank attainable for a player in Star Trek Online?
Glen Dahlgren: Currently, I plan for players to rise no higher than the rank of Admiral (although I'm not sure yet how many stars).
MMORPG.com: Will the content in Star Trek Online be player driven, GM/Company created, or a mixture of both?
Glen Dahlgren: Both. Crafting is not a huge part of this design, although engineers will be able to modify weapons, tools, and ships. In addition, the holodeck will provide tools to create and customize significant content; as well, it offers lots of flavors of PvP.

Mission content (outside of the holodeck) is all pre-authored.
MMORPG.com: For years many fans of Star Trek have hoped for a game like this to be developed. The ability to play within a persistent world and to "live the Federation way" has often been the day dreams of many fans. Currently, there are many offline and online text-based Star Trek role playing games and I am sure they are longing for such a game to exist. Are you and your developers ready for such a remarkable undertaking?
Glen Dahlgren: There's no question. From my perspective, no other design has been flexible enough to provide what players really want-to experience the kind of ongoing adventures as they've seen on Star Trek-and this team is incredibly passionate about bringing this game to life.
MMORPG.com: Thank you for the interview and I wish you and your team the best of luck!
Glen Dahlgren: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about STO!

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