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Star Trek Online

History of Star Trek Online – a Retrospective

By LaughingTrendy | Fri 29 Jul 2016 11:00:00 AM PDT

It’s been over 6 years since Star Trek Online first launched, and a lot has happened in those 6 years! We have seen 11 seasons, 3 expansions, 15 Star Trek alumni guest actors, 29 playable species, about 400 playable ships, and a countless rogues gallery of baddies, creatures, and enemies. Yet, for all that it is, Star Trek Online had a humble beginning. Now it’s the 50th anniversary of the first episode of Star Trek, and to celebrate, Star Trek Online is headed to console. With over 6 years of content and improvements, the console launch will be so different from the original PC launch of Star Trek Online. So let’s take a moment and look at over 6 years of Star Trek Online development and see how much is in store for what is sure to be a monumental console launch.

During the development of Star Trek Online, Cryptic was working with Microsoft, so there was actually an original plan to put Star Trek Online on Xbox 360. That is why so many things in the game originally came in fours (4 power levels, 4 Bridge Officers, 4 forward and aft weapon slots, 4 device slots, etc.) – so they could map easily to a game controller. But we soon scrapped that idea. We were already making an ambitious game with both ground and space combat, and we were under an aggressive schedule, so adding a console version of the game at that stage was just not tenable.

Star Trek Online launched on PC on February 2, 2010. It had a level cap of 40, and “1½” playable Factions. You could play a Federation character from level 1, but gameplay for the Klingon Faction started around level 20 - and you had to unlock access to Klingons by first leveling up a Federation Captain. The game launched with 19 playable ships for the Federation (6 of which were for the endgame), and about a dozen playable ships for the Klingons. Starship combat was a big deal. It was revolutionary, it honored the IP, and it was (and continues to be) arguably the best part of Star Trek Online. But we were far from done!

The launch of Star Trek Online included our first Star Trek alumni actors - Zachary Quinto, Chase Masterson, and the legendary Leonard Nimoy. Their presence in the game was brief, but we were super excited and proud to have them.

Season 1: Common Ground

Star Trek Online’s first update, Season 1: Common Ground, was released on of March 24, 2010. We adopted the moniker of “Seasons” for content updates to reflect the seasons of a television series. This is something we keep finding ourselves doing here at Cryptic – City of Heroes had “Issues” and Neverwinter has “Modules”. Looking back on this, Common Ground was really a polish Season, and an opportunity to release things that we could not get into the launch of the game. Common Ground saw new PvP updates, off-duty uniforms, some new ships for Klingons, skill respecs, and a few new playable species such as Tellarites, Pakleds, and Rigelians (Star Trek Lore note: Rigelians are not Rigellians. Rigelians are humanoid, while Rigellians look like turtle people). Season 1 is interesting to look back upon to see how much we have redefined what a Season is for Star Trek Online.

Season 2: Ancient Enemies

Season 2 launched on July 27, 2010, and it gave us the first level cap increase to level 50. It was also the first time we saw Mark 11 and 12 gear. For that new content, we saw new missions including the original Undine (Species 8472) arc, a Diplomacy arc, and 8 new Klingon missions including the Fek’Ihri arc. We also saw the addition of Tier 5 Retrofits for several “hero ships” – the T5 Galaxy, T5 Defiant and T5 Intrepid. Season 2 is also the first time we saw the Waveform mini game.

Perhaps most notably, Season 2 saw the beginning of the first Featured Episode series, “Cold War”, also known as the Deferi or Breen arc. The first episode, “Cold Call” launched a month after Ancient Enemies on Aug 28, 2010 and we saw a new Featured Episode each week for 5 weeks. The last episode, “Cold Storage”, was released on Sept 25, 2010.

Season 3: Genesis

December 9, 2010 brought something amazing and unprecedented in MMOs to Star Trek Online - The Foundry. The Foundry allowed players to make their own stories and content for the game. Since then, thousands of Foundry missions have been created. Genesis also brought us the first visual improvements to Sector Space, the first crafting set, the Aegis set, and other quality of life improvements.

Just before Season 3, we saw the release of the next Featured Episode series. “Specter” (a.k.a. the Devidian arc) launched just before Season 3 on October 16, 2010 with “Skirmish”, followed by a new episode every week and then ending on November 13, 2010 with “Night of the Comet”. The Specter arc brought us the memorable and nightmarish whispers of “Bonnie-kin”, for those who recall “What Lies Beneath”.

1st Anniversary

Just after Season 3, we celebrated Star Trek Online’s First Anniversary. Q kicked off the celebrations with giveaways and games. During the celebrations, we saw the start of the next Featured Episode Series, “Cloaked Intentions,” starting with “The Vault” on February 5, 2011, followed by a new episode every week until the release of “Darkness Before the Dawn” on March 5, 2011.

Season 4: Crossfire

On July 7, 2011, Crossfire brought us some major updates to ground combat, including Shooter mode. This was a major overhaul to the game which can’t be understated. Crossfire also brought us Voice chat, the new ship store, 7 new Klingon missions, and a new First City of Qo’noS.

Season 5: Call to Arms

On December 1, 2011, Call to Arms started to set up the modern era of Star Trek Online. First, we saw the first major Skill System Revamp, which simplified and consolidated the original system. We added several new starships, including 3 Federation ships and 9 new Klingon ships. We saw the addition of several new gear sets, including Omega, MACO, Honor Guard, and the Reman Prototype space set. Call to Arms also introduced the now famous Duty Officer System, which would significantly change the way people advance and play Star Trek Online. Shortly afterward, we launched the first Winter Wonderland event. This milestone would change how we do events in the game.

But all of this was still leading up to our biggest change ever, something that would change the face of MMO gaming. On January 5, 2012, we made the controversial decision to go Free-to-play. This was tremendous, and it would change everything for us, forever. There was a lot of skepticism, not only from the community, but from the industry. Free-to-play games were new and scary, and most people were comfortable with the subscription model. However, Free-to-play meant lowering the barrier of entry to Star Trek Online for many players. Suddenly, we were flooded with new captains! We believe Star Trek Online set the bar on how to make a Free-to-play MMORPG. It was the best decision we ever made, and it opened the door for us to really invest back into the game.

2nd Anniversary

On the heels of our Free-to-play launch, we celebrated our 2 year anniversary! Shortly afterward, we released the next Featured Episode Series - “The 2800”. It saw the return of the missing Jem’Hadar in “Second Wave” on Feb 11 2012, and a new episode was released weekly until March 11 2012, ending with “Boldly They Rode”. We also saw the results of the “Design the Flagship” community contest which resulted in the beautiful Odyssey-class starship – the first of which would carry the banner of the Enterprise legacy as NCC-1701-F. Not to be outdone, the Klingons launched the Bortas and Bortasqu’ class flagships.

Season 6: Under Siege

At this point, Star Trek Online was in full stride. On July 12, 2012, Season 6 brought us a major new system – Fleet Starbases. Finally, Fleets (guilds) could work together to build their own starbase and unlock new bonuses, items and ships. In fact, we added over 35 new T5 ships. Under Siege also brought new fleet events including No Win, Colony Invasion, Tholian Incursion, and Nukara Prime. Behind the scenes, we were working towards something big and the beginning of a new way to tell stories in the game.

Season 7: New Romulus

The film Star Trek from J.J. Abrams saw the destruction of Romulus, so we thought it was about time we gave the Romulans a new home. On November 13, 2012, New Romulus was released, featuring a magnificent new Adventure Zone. Now everyone could help the Romulans build a new world for themselves. We also saw the addition of the Tau Dewa Sector Block, and new Queues like The Vault, Mine Trap, and Tholian Red Alerts. But there was something uneasy about New Romulus, and players got to see the first real evidence of Iconian influence.

Leveraging the technology from the Fleet System, Season 7 also brought us the new Reputation System, which would become the cornerstone of our endgame. We saw exiting new ships like the Kumari Escort, the Vesta-class Multi-Mission Explorer , and the Steamrunner-class Blockade Runner Escort, which was inspired by our new partnership with Steam. Shortly after the release of Season 7, Q’s Winter Wonderland returned on December 6, 2012.

3rd Anniversary

Three years in, and just over a year after our Free-to-play launch, Star Trek Online celebrated its 3rd Anniversary. This time, we brought in Denise Crosby to reprise her role as Tasha Yar in a wonderful story, “Temporal Ambassador” - a sequel of sorts to the beloved Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. This was something really special for Star Trek Online. Although we had worked with other celebrity actors in the past, this was the first time we really worked closely with one, and Denise was more than excited to get involved. The response to the episode and her character was tremendous, and it showed us that bringing in Star Trek actors was something the players really wanted to see.

Expansion 1: Legacy of Romulus

When we announced the Legacy of Romulus expansion, it was a real surprise to the players. We hadn’t done an expansion before, so this was a pretty massive project for us. On May 21, 2013, Legacy of Romulus was released. It was the first time we added a new Faction to the game. It allowed you to experience what it was like to be a Romulan or Reman rebuilding their world from the ashes while facing the threat of the Tal Shiar and a strange and heartless new enemy - the Elachi. Players got to experience a spectacular new tutorial, followed by brand new Romulan faction-specific missions and a lovingly crafted story arc featuring a riveting performance by Denise Crosby as Empress Sela. Sela’s part in Legacy of Romulus would change the course of the game’s story.

Along with this content, players got their hands on about a dozen new Romulan ships featuring the new Singularity Drive mechanic. We saw all the classic Romulan vessels, including the magnificent Scimitar, complete with a massive Thalaron weapon.

The Romulans weren’t the only ones to get a new starting experience. For the first time, players could now start as a Klingon at level 1. The Klingons got a new tutorial and a new starting experience. Finally, Star Trek Online had 3 complete Factions for captains to choose from.

Season 8: The Sphere

Before Season 8 was released, we released one of our favorite episodes on October 31, 2013. In “Sphere of Influence”, players joined up with Michael Dorn as Worf. Together, they discovered an ancient Iconian Gateway deep underground on New Romulus. After things went wrong, they ended up entering the Gateway and traveling to a new realm inhabited with solanogen-based lifeforms – something Worf was intimately familiar with. This discovery eventually led to the uncovering of a massive Iconian Gateway network!

Following these events, Season 8 was released on November 12, 2013. Captains learned how to use the space gateway to access a Dyson Sphere on the edge of the Delta Quadrant. Here, the Voth (the alleged descendants of Earth dinosaurs from Star Trek: Voyager) have taken up residence and want the sphere’s deadly power. Flying a starship inside a Dyson Sphere was a new and exciting experience for players, and the visuals are spectacular.

Season 8 also brought us the Dyson Joint Command Reputation, and a new Fleet Spire holding. Along with new queues like the “Storming the Spire” and “The Breach”, we also got the first-ever Battlezone. The Voth Ground Battlezone allowed players to engage in territory control with the Voth and eventually engage with 3 terrifying V-Rex cyborg dinosaurs.

Finally, Season 8 saw a major overhaul in the Federation tutorial. We were able to apply all the lessons we learned from the Romulan tutorial and delivered a cleaner and much more story-driven tutorial to the Federation. This was an important change that really put our best foot forward for new Federation players.

Season 8.5: 4th Anniversary

Although we had released major events like the Winter Wonderland between Seasons, on Jan 30, 2014, we released our first mini-season. Season 8.5 heralded our 4th Anniversary. With it, players got to experience a spectacular new episode “A Step Between Stars”, featuring Tim Russ as Tuvok. Players faced off against the Voth and discovered a new gateway to another Dyson Sphere deep within the Delta Quadrant. This led to a deadly conflict with the Undine, and the discovery of an Undine infiltrator.

Season 8.5 also brought us new ships, the Quick Equip and Loadout System, and a complete revamp of the “Klingon War” arc for the Federation, marking a major step in revamping and replacing old launch content in Star Trek Online.

Season 9: A New Accord

April 22, 2014 brought several new milestones to the game. First, we updated the old Borg and Undine arcs and merged them into a tight, exciting new story which actually predates Season 8. We also got the addition of the 8472 Counter Command Reputation.

Season 9 was kicked off with a spectacular new Featured Episode, “Surface Tension”. Tim Russ returned as Tuvok, now in command of Voyager, and captains worked with him to push back a massive invasion by the Undine. The episode ends with the first reveal of the mysterious and sinister Iconians. These events led to the perhaps inevitable alliance between the Federation and the Klingons.

Season 9 also brought us an absolutely beautiful new Earth Space Dock, as well as a new Undine Space Battlezone.

And finally, to herald in this New Accord, we updated the in-game calendar to 2410!

Season 9.5

On July 21, 2014, Season 9.5 gave us the much anticipated update to the Crafting System. This was a complete overhaul to the old system. We were able to leverage some of technology that was invested into the Duty Officer System, and build a much more traditional and accessible crafting system. Gone was the old crafting system which wasn’t much more than a complex store. Now we have a robust system with different schools, unique recipes for new high end gear, and different materials that you can acquire in missions or in queues.

Expansion 2: Delta Rising

Not to rest on our laurels, it was time for something new. On October 14, 2014, we released our second expansion, Delta Rising. Unlike Legacy of Romulus, which focused on a new player experience, Delta Rising focused on building a robust endgame. For the first time, players could explore the Delta Quadrant alongside Voyager. During the journey, captains met up with several Star Trek: Voyager actors including Tim Russ (Tuvok), Garret Wang (Harry Kim), Ethan Phillips (Neelix), Robert Picardo (the Doctor), and Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine). This was the biggest casting call Star Trek Online had ever seen!

Delta Rising also raised the level cap to 60. To support this, we added an amazing new story and an all new Kobali Adventure Zone. Players got to experience the effects Voyager had on the Delta Quadrant, and not everything worked out well. We got to encounter many new Delta Quadrant species including Kazon, Malon, Talaxian, Ocampa, Benthan, Hierarchy, Hazari, Kobali, APU, Vaadwaur, and, last but not least, the mysterious and nasty Bluegills. We also saw the return of Denise Crosby as Sela and we started to learn how deep the reach of the Iconians really extends.

But content wasn’t the only thing we saw in Delta Rising. We also saw several brand new systems, such as the Specialization System. We got the first Tier 6 Starships. These new ships could leverage the new Intel Bridge Officers, and this was the first time we got to experience the Starship Mastery System and Starship Traits. Finally, we released Mark 13 and Mark 14 gear and the new gear Upgrade System. These systems gave the game lots of new ways to expand and advance in the future.

5th Anniversary

On January 29, 2015, our 5th Anniversary kicked off with a heartfelt episode, “Dust to Dust”, featuring Kim Rhodes as Jhet'leya/Lyndsay Ballard, and Garret Wang as both Captain Harry Kim and Ensign Harry Kim. This story picks up loose ends from the Star Trek: Voyager episodes “Deadlock” and “Ashes to Ashes”.

The 5th Anniversary featured the introduction of the Omega Stabilization mini-game and the return of Q and his antics. Finally, the 5th Anniversary brought us a complete revamp of a Romulan (Federation Faction)story arc – “Romulan Mystery”. This new arc completely replaced very outdated launch content with a brand new story featuring Denise Crosby as Sela. This new arc allowed players to see the Romulan Republic struggle with the Tal Shiar from a very different perspective.

Season 10: The Iconian War

April 21, 2015 saw the moment we were all waiting for. After 5 years and more, we would experience the final chapter in the Iconian War in Season 10. The first episode in this arc started off with a massive Iconian assault in “Brotherhood of the Sword”. Robert Duncan McNeill reprised his role as Tom Paris, alongside his daughter Miral, played by Lisa LoCicero. On May 8, 2015, “House Pegh” brought us face to face with Kahless himself in a brutal, and seemingly unwinnable, battle with the Iconian T’ket. The first half of the arc ended on June 18, 2018 with Aron Eisenberg joining the cast as Nog in “Time in a Bottle”.

Season 10 also brought us a complete revamp of Sector Space. “Shaka, When the Walls Fell”! Finally, the small sector blocks were all merged into 3 giant and simple Quadrants – Alpha, Beta, and Delta.

Season 10.5

Our Iconian War story continued on July 16, 2015 with the release of “Broken Circle”. Then on Aug 13, 2015, Aron Eisenberg returned as Nog in “Butterfly”, a moment that would have long repercussions in the Star Trek Online storyline. Finally, on September 10, 2015, we released our most powerful Featured Episode yet. “Midnight” was the epic conclusion of almost 6 years of story. It took years of planning to bring this together in the most classic Star Trek way – to save the galaxy with a single act of kindness. It showed us that even when up against overwhelming odds, we must never sacrifice our values. We could not be more proud of Star Trek Online than at this moment.

Season 10.5 brought us another Fleet Holding, the Krenim Research Lab. But more importantly, it introduced the new Fleet Armada system. Finally, fleets could join forces and build an armada to help each other – a huge benefit to small and large fleets alike.

Season 11: New Dawn

After the long and treacherous journey of Season 10, it was time for a change of pace. On October 27, 2015, we saw a New Dawn. Starting with the Featured Episode “Sunrise”, this was a post-war story that meant to bring Star Trek back to its roots of the beauty of just seeing what was out there and making first contact. “Stormbound” would follow on November 19,2015 to continue the story of the Tox Uthat.

New Dawn also brought us a complete revamp of the Cardassian story arc. This would be the last piece of launch content that was updated on the Federation side. We were joined, once again, by Chase Masterson. This time she stars as Captain (and later Admiral) Leeta from the Mirror Universe. She was introduced in the Cardassian Revamp, and then captains faced off against her in two Deep Space Nine queues and the new Badlands Battlezone.

Finally, New Dawn added the exciting new Admiralty System, which allowed you to send starships off on assignments as though you were an admiral assigning missions to ships in your fleet.

6th Anniversary

We kicked off Star Trek Online’s 6th Anniversary with the Featured Episode, “Time and Tide”. This episode starts to bridge the story between events from Season 10 and what’s to come. Now the pieces of time travel and the Temporal Cold War started to come into focus, and we learned about some unfortunate repercussions of the Iconian War.

Season 11.5:

April 12, 2016 just about brings us up to speed. The next Featured Episode, “The Temporal Front”, wrapped up New Dawn’s story and kick-starts the tale of what’s to come. Enemy agents bent on changing the timeline for their benefit are set loose across the timeline, and captains needed help to stop them all.

Something critical happened in Season 11.5. We released a major Skill Revamp. Unlike the last update to the skill system, this was not a simple consolidation. This was a full-scale redesign of the system. We wanted to make the entire system easier to understand, and more familiar and traditional. It may not have been obvious at the time, but all the steps we had been taking over the years – mission revamps, tutorial revamps, crafting revamps, UI revamps, and now the skill revamp – were all done in preparation for what was to come.

Expansion 3: Agents of Yesterday

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and what better way to celebrate than with an Expansion that features The Original Series! On July 6, 2016, Agents of Yesterday is released on the heels of the latest Trek movie, Star Trek Beyond. Agents of Yesterday puts players into the role of a classic 60’s era Starfleet Captain. We are joined by several Star Trek alumni, including Matt Winston as Agent Daniels, Joseph Gatt as 0718, Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, and Chris Doohan filling in for the role his father James made famous - Montgomery Scott.

A Personal Perspective

Looking back, it is overwhelming to see how much we have added to Star Trek Online. So many features, so many celebrities, so many improvements, and so many wonderful stories. And now we are taking all that we have built, and putting it on your favorite consoles – Xbox One and PS4 . I have to admit - I am a little jealous of all the new players that will experience Star Trek Online for the first time on those consoles. They’ll have a deep and polished experience, one that is so different from what we launched on PC over 6 years ago. A lot of love and care has gone into Star Trek Online, and a lot of attention to detail has gone into its console launch. I think people are going to be impressed with what they experience. And the journey is not over - new improvements, new features, and new stories are already being worked on! There is so much still to do, and we hope you enjoy the journey as much as we enjoy creating it for you.

Al “Captain Geko” Rivera
Lead Designer
Star Trek Online.

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