It's time for another Ask Cryptic, where the questions you ask go straight to our developers. This round, we're talking about Episode Missions, those mission arcs in the game designed to feel like you're playing an episode of Star Trek. If you have questions you'd like to ask the team, please do so in this post's comment thread. Read on to learn a bit about Episode Missions.
(You may have recently seen this text in a dev diary on MMORPG.com. They've graciously let us quote it here, so you can get a better idea of what you'd like to ask for this edition of Ask Cryptic.)
Episodes are the mission chains in Star Trek Online that feel even more like you’re playing an episode of the show than normal. We looked at more than 700 Star Trek TV episodes and dissected them to determine how those writers told stories in Roddenberry’s universe, then set about crafting our own for you to enjoy.
We actually have content writers on staff who approach the mission chains as though they were standalone TV episodes. Rather than thinking strictly in game terms, they design the chains from an entertainment prospective. This means Episodes have themes, interesting dialog and dramatic moments designed specifically to look, feel and play like Star Trek.
They’re central to your progression, as well. While they’re not the only handcrafted content in the game, the stories you unfold in each Episode reveal more of Star Trek Online’s story. As you move through the game, you’ll learn more about what’s happening to the Romulan Empire, deal with the renewed war between the Federation and Klingons, and encounter some very interesting Borg.
As the story develops, the stakes increase. While Episodes later in the game don’t take longer in terms of time or the number of in-game objectives, plot itself accelerates to a dramatic pitch. The threats you’ll face are as great as any you’ve seen in the Star Trek movies. That’s not to say early missions are anything to scoff at, however; the early Episodes are designed to be intriguing and dangerous, too.
The Episodes are based on conflict, much like the main storylines in the Star Trek franchise. Conflict drives drama – will your negotiations with the captain of a Klingon Bird of Prey break down and come to blows? How far do you need to go to apprehend a spy on another vessel? 2409 is a time of war, which means even the most resolute captains will need to make tough choices and come to blows to ensure the survival of their faction.
We do, however, want to make the battles you fight believable. You can make diplomatic overtures toward characters in Episodes, but on the front lines it’s very rare to avoid confrontation when dramatic forces have guided you into hostile territory with combat-ready antagonists nearby. While there are missions in Star Trek Online that don’t feature combat at all, Episodes will by and large demand your abilities as a tactician be put into play.
The characters in Episodes periodically return throughout the meta-plot, just like any good ally or adversary in Star Trek. By the time you reach endgame content, many of the different plots will have folded into each other.
At launch, the game will feature three “seasons” of content; each season will feature 14 Episodes, as well as other handcrafted and procedurally-generated content, meaning you’ll have your hands - and your Captain’s Log - full for quite some time after launch.
While the three seasons available at launch will have common themes, and many Episodes are related to one another, there are only a few Episodes with prerequisites to meet before you can play through them. Think of those Episodes as two-parters, whereas the majority can exist within their own right. They’re complete stories that inform but don’t lead directly to the others.
Episodes generally last between 45 and 90 minutes and are designed with transition in mind. In many classic Star Trek episodes, the characters were never on one set very long. In the game, you’ll find yourself moving between different maps, both on the ground and in space, to blend literal movement with plot development.
The five-act stories are designed so you can pick them up and put them down. If you reach a point where you need to log out, you can leave the story where it is and resume within the same act, so you aren’t forced to retread old ground.
Post-launch, we already have plans in place to continue Star Trek Online’s story with even more Episodes. We just can’t explain everything by the time we launch, so as you play through the game, chances are there will be even more great content waiting for you by the time you receive your Admiral commission.