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Star Trek Online: New Developer Blog

Posted Oct 26, 2005 by Jon Wood

Star Trek Online: New Developer Blog

If our discussion forums are any indication, players are anxiously awaiting news from the already much-anticipated offering from Perpetual Entertainment: Star Trek Online. With no Star Trek series currently in the works, fans of the enduring franchise are hoping to get their Trek "fix" through this game.

Perpetual has released another new Developer Blog. This one, from Eric Heimburg, gives us some detail about the game's space combat.

Hello again! This is Eric, here to talk about space combat. As Daron alluded to a few weeks back, we're beginning to have a solid picture of how ship combat works – and there has been some concern about the direction Daron mentioned. I'd like to elaborate a little bit on what Daron mentioned and explain the reasoning behind our model.

First off, although Daron mentioned 2D, our space combat is in 3D. The ships are 3D models, and the planned graphics engine should make our space combat look absolutely gorgeous. One of our goals for space combat is to create a cinematic experience – we want players to really feel like they are living out scenes from an episode or movie. This means lots of camera angles are available, including space shots, bridge shots, and scenes from around the ship. We expect space combat to be, in a word, breathtaking. When many people hear "2D" they think of sprites or other antiquated technology, and that isn't what we're talking about here.

What Daron was referring to was 2D movement. This is indeed our baseline for movement – it's the starting point from which players can diverge when they need to. This means that players will be able to steer the ship without having to take three dimensions into account, in general. Some people have reacted as if this was a travesty of canon, but that isn't true at all. Actually, we're modeling exactly what we see in the shows. You rarely see a battle where one of the vessels is pointed upside down or rotated 90 degrees. Heck, the number of times we've seen the Enterprise in a vertical direction can be counted on one hand. Most of the time, the ship is shown in a 2D plane, facing off against other enemies in roughly the same 2D plane. This is because Star Trek battles are not about dog-fighting and outmaneuvering. They're about strategy and outthinking one's opponent.

Also, keep in mind that oftentimes a crew of players is going to be working together to control their vessel, not just one player, so we want the entire crew to have exciting and interesting things to do. This is another reason to avoid focusing too heavily on heading and azimuth decisions: we don't want to overly glorify the role of the person steering the ship. The entire bridge crew should have an equal part in determining the fate of the vessel. This reflects the spirit of Star Trek: while the pilot is important, and certainly saves the day occasionally, success in most episodes comes from the interaction of the entire bridge crew working together.

Finally, 2D movement helps make the game accessible. STO needs to reach a large market, and in order to do that, it has to be easy to learn. Piloting a ship needs to be almost second nature. It certainly can't require elaborate training. In fact, that's a universal rule for STO: the very basic version of every game concept can be grasped very quickly, but it has hidden depth. Just because we're making the game accessible doesn't mean we're dumbing it down – we're just introducing the complexity slowly, over time. While a young ensign might only be able to handle movement in a 2D plane, a seasoned veteran knows many tricks and maneuvers that take the ship out of that plane. They might do this to attack the top or underside of an enemy, get between two enemy ships, or escape into a nebula. 3D movement isn't missing from STO, but it's also not an immediate and constant concern...

To read the rest of this dev blog, click here.


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