Star Trek Online's Executive Producer, Dan Stahl, checks in with answers to your questions about free-to-play and more in this month's Ask Cryptic.
Q: N.Bridger: Could you give us more information about the skilltree revamp?
A: In order to make space skills more applicable to all builds, we will be removing skills that currently apply only to a specific ship class or energy type and replacing them with more accessible skills such as +Dam or +Turn Rate, etc. This will address the issue where some skill paths only apply to very specific builds or ship classes. Now all space skills will offer some benefit to every player who chooses them. We will be testing this on our F2P Test Server in the upcoming months where players will be able to see the changes first hand. Players who have points in the removed skills will receive a free respec.
Q: Kutunto: Servers, are we going to have enough servers to play the game once is goes F2P?
A: That is a big question we have as well. While we can do some projections based on our previous experience with Champs, it is unknown exactly how many people will download the client and play the game during the F2P launch. So we have ordered new hardware and made some significant performance changes to the game in our Season 4 update (this is primarily what caused the big code merge for those who’ve been following the Engineering Reports). If we still need more servers when the game launches, then that is a good problem to have! I should also mention that we are sticking with one giant shard for now.
Q: keith_darren: Can you give us a couple of alien races that you would like to see added to the game as non player factions? Such as Talarians, more ferengi, or Sona. And are these things that we are most likely to see coming to us in a featured episode or a Season 6 "Expanding the Universe" type release?
A: I’d personally love to see Ferenginar added to the game. We’ve talked about it and are holding off on adding it until we can ensure that there will be a lot of fun content to play in the zone. We’ve obviously talked about the Iconians, Tholians, and Voth as potential baddies in future releases. As far as other NPC races, I’m a fan of including some of the memorable species the crew of the enterprise encountered during her travels such as the Tamarians, Capellans, and the Organians. Our plan is to introduce most of the species through future episodes.
Q: OldLordSkull: What are your immediate/short-term plans for the Foundry? Us authors would love more assets, triggers, cut-scene tech and more, but we've seen nothing for a long time.
A: Because the Foundry is a cross project tool that will appear in multiple Cryptic Games, the development team that manages the Foundry features are currently working on features for Neverwinter. That said, in order to bring over all of the new features and updates they are adding to the tool, we need to synch up our code between our projects in order to take advantage. We expect to do this sort of big merge again after F2P launches. In the short term, one of the things the STO team can do is hook up new social zones for Foundry access.
Q: Sannank: Are you actually going to deliver new content to the subscriber base, prior to going to F2P? There were a lot of statements about new content post Season 4 and until the end of the year, which has just not happened.
A: The best advice for this is to continue to monitor the Engineering Reports which details what content is being worked on and gives an idea what is coming. We do plan to get new content in front of our players with the F2P launch which was noted to be before the end of the year. As far as new content goes, the Borg Red Alerts were just released a week ago. Work progresses on the DS9 Feature Episode Series and we still have plenty of STF and Borg invasion content in the works. The only thing that we are discussing is whether to make this content available earlier by putting it all on the test server so that current players can at least enjoy the content before F2P launch.
Q: Jermbot: If the F2P news hadn't been leaked, when would you have publicly unveiled said plan? Can we get a Romulan Material skin for our ships? Something green and sexy to tide us over until "beyond season 5" gets here?
A: Our intent was to announce F2P when we did earlier this week. We are reserving the ability to fly Romulan ships or ships that look like Romulan warbirds until we can allow players to play as Romulans. That said, we are discussing ways to get this onto our schedule and looking at all possibilities to get Romulans into the game.
Q: Captain_Revo: Can you tell us more about the Borg Ground Invasion? Any plans to mix up (the Borg Space Invasions) by adding different objectives or changing any part of them to keep the play fresh?
A: The Ground Invasion we are working on will put a specific species home world in jeopardy. In the movie First Contact, the crew of the Enterprise views an assimilated Earth in the future. We wanted to bring this sort of tension into the game by having the Borg make an effort to assimilate a planet and show both the Federation and KDF just how difficult it is to remove the Borg from a planetary population center once they dig their heals in. The new zone will allow captains to play solo or team up with others in order to complete a host of different missions aimed at combating the Borg “creep” and rescuing as many civilians as possible before they become Borg. This will be a timed event that will take place over the course of a few hours, after which the Borg will retreat and regroup, then try again. In order to complete many of the objectives, players will need to work quickly to maximize their time and take advantage of the opening. Also, we do plan to make additional changes and improvements to the Borg Red Alerts such as adding objectives and tuning difficulty. You may even see a few new challenges get added in coming months.
Q: Furlong824: With the acquisition by PW complete, What are the chances that the small fixes that people have been requesting such as Caitian hair, rescaled ship interiors etc. will be addressed?
A: Chances are improving that we’ll be able to spend some resources to address some of these concerns. Your suggestions have been on our nice to have list for a while. We have already started hiring to build up the team size in order to have the manpower necessary to update all areas of the game.
Q: HeathenStorm: Has there been any progress toward selling account-wide Bridge Officer, Ship, Bank and Inventory slot unlocks on the C-Store?
A: Slots are going to remain as character based unlocks.
Q: Xaben: Any news about the localization? Especially regarding most Perfect World games are localized.
A: Thankfully, Perfect World does want the game localized into other languages. This is a massive undertaking and we are discussing time-tables to make it happen. Once we are able to put it on our schedule and confirm which languages we will be able to support, I’ll share the news.
Q: Russel-KV4S: What are the plans for the Feature Episodes? How many and how often?
A: Our immediate goal is to get the next Feature Episode series live along with launching the game in the F2P model. Once the launch is complete and we have met our hiring goals, the intention is that we’ll have new content rolling out every month whether that is the start of a new Feature Episode series, new Events, new PVP maps, new Fleet Actions, or something other type of new content. Until F2P launches though, the team is booked solid trying to get everything ready.
Q: Killer8472: What new ship interior packs will we see in the future?
A: There is a new ship interior pack coming with the next Feature Episode series. After that, we will continue to evaluate bridges and existing ship interior game play to determine if we are on the right path or whether to take a lesson from the Champs hideouts and find a way to improve these play spaces.
Q: LittleTerribleRomulan: When is the KDF faction getting fingerless gloves, new hair like Klaa or anything other than those dreads... and perhaps an honor cloak?
A: It is hard to believe that the recent KDF Academy costume pack was the first time we’d released a costume set specifically for KDF players. Part of our F2P model will definitely involve adding more KDF specific costumes and accessories so save those stipend points! Also, I’ve been talking with the character artists about the possibilities of cloaks as upcoming veteran rewards (700 day or beyond).
Q: Venya: Holodecks are a standard feature aboard starships. Would it be possible to incorporate working holodecks into our starships?
A: We’ve considered adding Holodecks to all ship interiors that would allow you an RP way to start mission replay. It would also be fun to come up with some standard “Holodeck Programs” that players would run on their ships similar to the R&R scenarios we saw in Next Gen, DS9, and Voyager – complete with costumes. This is one of those nice to haves that we may get to over time, but is not on our immediate schedule.
Q: sltdg: What does it mean that premium playable species are unlockable? Will we get the new dilithium at a faster rate compared to the old currency to compensate for the fact that now people will no longer will be getting a free ship every time they level, and will be using this resource for more than just getting fancy new gear?
A: Basically, we no longer plan to sell playable species when we go F2P (and will most likely stop selling them prior as well). Premium playable species such as Liberated Borg, Caitians, Klingon Fed, and Joined Trill will not be sold but will instead remain premium rewards for either lifetime membership, veteran rewards, or unlocked via some other in game mechanism. In addition, some species such as Fed Ferengi, Rigelian, Tellarite, and Pakled will become free additional default species. If we introduce new species in the future, they will most likely be tied to unlocking some achievement or special reward in game, but the details are TBD.
The systems team is evaluating the acquisition rate of dilithium at all levels to ensure that it hits our progression goals. Since this also involves changing the price of nearly all items, I can’t give you a specific answer other than to say that Dilithium will be used for more than just ships and gear. We will be tuning and updating this economy during the F2P beta.
Q: Seannewboy: Will Klingon tricorders ever be fixed? Currently if I pick up all the anomalies i get no use towards finding objectives.
A: While we have made some fixes to the KDF Tricorder, there are still some older Genesis maps out there that have anomalies in places where players can’t get to them. This is one of those bugs that we have to address on a map by map basis and it takes time to fix them all. I’d like to think that we’ll eventually get to all of them.
Q: James_Bailey: The last two big updates have made fabulous leaps for both Klingon play and ground actions. (Thank you) Will we now see a push to advance the benefits and organization of fleets and the advancement of Starbases for fleet interaction and functionality?
A: This is at or near the top of the System team’s priority list for Season 5. We want to introduce Fleet gameplay along with the ability to manage Starbases. It is a big undertaking, so no ETA on when that work will start or finish yet.
Q: Idali: Are there any plans to allow us to use the visual effect from one ship item but having the stats from another? For example, the look of the Reman shield on a Borg shield?
A: We have been discussing possible changes we could make to items so that they “unlock” costume options in the tailor instead of being tied to having the specific item equipped, but the argument against it is that some items are intended to provide an effect or power tied to having the item equipped. So you may see us move towards this sort of costume unlock model for cosmetic only items, but for those with in game effects, they may stay tied to having that item installed on your ship.
Q: LionheartVI: Will we ever be able to visit the Starfleet Museum (as mentioned by Captain Picard in Relics), so we can see classic ships such as the Constitution class (maybe the Lexington?) or even the Enterprise NX-01, and let us visit the interiors, perhaps with different items on display in each room?. Or even visit the Phoenix from First Contact (where ever it is, back in it's silo at Montana?)
A: I’m a fan of this idea and I’ve suggested it to the internal team as well as a way for players to visit and view iconic locations from the shows either via a Holodeck or in some museum as you suggest. Unfortunately this is a big nice to have item and is lower on our priority list at the moment until we can get more content and F2P launched.
Q: kirian_darkstar: When are Klingons going to get proper hair? (See Captain Klaa from STV)
A: That is a great hairstyle! Adding more hair and accessory options for the KDF players is definitely on our radar as something that will be one of our upcoming micro-transactions once we launch F2P (and fill our open character art job opening).
Q: ScottishTimelord: Can we have more direct actions from our ships rather than travelling to the nearest starbase?
A: A while back I posted that I’m considering opening up crafting to your ship interior so that you don’t need to travel back to Memory Alpha to make an item. In addition, one of the interior rooms we have on our to-do list is a Shuttle-bay where you could see the shuttles you own (in ground scale) and launch them from your ship interior. That said, we don’t expect to add functions like Banking or Exchange to ship interiors as we do want people to socialize even if it means everyone going to ESD to buy a new costume. STO is a very solo heavy mmo so any time we can put your around other players, we want to do so.
Q: MinosOne: Klingons will now be unlocked once a player has achieved level 25 as a Fed character. What does Cryptic plan to do in order to incentivize new players to play a Klingon?
A: There is a lot of history to this answer, but the basics are that at F2P launch, the Federation faction will have a more rounded PVE experience than the KDF. With Episode missions becoming part of the linear storyline in the game, Feds will have at least one episode mission every level from 6 through to level 45. The KDF do not have enough episodes to provide the same rounded PVE experience. So for those players who want to play the KDF at F2P launch, we are increasing their starting level to the 20s so that they too will have approximately one episode mission or more every level so that the game play feels more rounded than it would be otherwise. So the incentive for playing a Klingon at F2P launch is that you will not have an repeat mission heavy grind to get to max level, but will instead start out higher level and have similar content to what a Fed character would have.
In the future, we are discussing something similar to a Klingon “expansion” that would backfill levels 0-20 with a Klingon tutorial and enough episode missions so that they would (finally) be on par with Fed PVE. At that time we would finally allow players to create a Klingon at level 1 as their first character. The time frame for this is sometime in 2012, but we are in initial discussions with Perfect World about our schedules and it will be a while before I can share specifics.
Q: Raphezir: What about bug fixes? Are there some guys working on that or is everyone busy with Doff, STF, F2P and so on?
A: We are constantly fixing bugs. A stroll through our release notes forum will show that we are fixing bugs in nearly every release alongside new features. While I do track some of the hot issues that are currently being investigated and worked on in the Engineering Report, we can do a better job of communicating that we are aware of issues and looking into them. Don’t expect a laundry list of every bug in the game (MMOs can have thousands of bugs in the database at any given time), but we are looking into ways to improve our ticket tracking system. I assure you that tickets you submit are being looked through and forwarded to the appropriate dev on a daily basis.
Q: Meslamtea: Before you mentioned more to do in social zones such as Andoria or Vulcan. Any details or thoughts for social zones?
A: Social zones need things for you to do! It is ok to visit and socialize and take screen shots, but there needs to be fun little missions or activities that you can do on them. This has been the intent all along and it is my sincere hope that once the content team is firing on all cylinders that we’ll be able to get some of these things into the game. Starfleet Academy is up first and is getting some cool new repeatable lore/achievement quests for F2P. It is only a matter of time before we can add missions like this to all of our social zones.
Q: CaptFrederic: With the F2P happening soon will Gold members get first access to weekly episodes and other similar content over Silver members when released to prevent possible server lag or crashes?
A: With the new hardware coming and updates to our underlying game engine code, I think we’ll be in pretty good shape once we go F2P. Launch week may be a bit insane, but that is what the login queue is for. Lifetime and Subscribers will have priority in the login queue so if we ever run into the awesome issue where there are too many people trying to play the episodes, priority will be given to Gold Members.
Q: MattMiracle: Will the Lifetime Subscription still be offered after the F2P launch? I have a fleet-mate that won’t be able to afford a lifetime until later this year and we are concerned that after F2P, that option might be taken away.
A: While I don’t have official confirmation of this yet as details are all subject to change until F2P launches, all signs are pointing to us continuing to offer Lifetime subs similar to how Champs Free-For-All continues to.
Q: Ooiue: How will this new F2P model affect monthly subscribers?
A: The F2P model will bring lots of new items to the game as well as regular content releases, both of which are required to maintain F2P sized player levels. By having a monthly stipend of c-points to spend, you’ll not only be able to pick up new items as they are released, but you’ll benefit from new content that is being made. Other than lots more people, the game shouldn’t feel that much different than it does now.
Q: Kingdox: What will we see first? The Doff System, new FE, or F2P?
A: All three of those items are going to be available to play in the F2P Beta which will be starting up soon. The DOFF system and some of the F2P features will be immediately available for play as soon as we start the Beta. The FE series will be added in late October. There is a whole slew of other things on the Engineering Report which will also be available for play in the Beta as soon as it starts.
Q: KBFLordKrueg: Whatever happened to the expansion of the Fleet bank accounts? With the large influx of new players, are there any plans to allow fleets to expand the Fleet bank, be it by C-store or otherwise in the near future?
A: We’ve discussed adding more Fleet Bank space and currently the fate of this feature is tied to our plans for adding Fleet Progression as we work towards Season 5. If there is a chance we could add it before then, we will.
Q: Mr.Roadrash: Can you tell us more about the upcoming ground sets?
A: There are 3 ground sets being released in the near future, all around the theme of special forces. So there will be an exclusive set for both FED and KDF and then a shared Neutral set that can be used by either faction. Each ground set has a unique weapon, shield, and armor. While each armor set has a slightly unique look to it when work, there will be also be related special costume unlocks that add cool new special forces costume options as well. These BOP items are rewards for completing objectives in the remade Borg STFs and may also be available through other Borg related mission play.
Q: JCSWW: What does Cryptic have in store for PvP to make it more attractive for the community?
A: One of the refreshing questions we get from our new parent company Perfect World is, “What about PVP?” Up to this point, PvP has not been high on the radar as a place where we could spend our limited design resources. We’ve certainly talked about it and mentioned our desires to deliver on the fact that the Federation and Klingon Empire are at war. We really want some sort of faction based warfare game to be a central part of that conflict. So far it is looking like this will be one of our big focuses for 2012 as PW is very keen on having solid PvP at end game so that players have challenging and compelling replayable content while they are waiting for the next episode series or expansion.
Q: UFP_Dodgers: How can you justify having Klingons start at level 25, halfway through Commander when there is new Gorn and Orion ships coming at Commander, so basicly you are killing half of those ships play time?
A: Sounds like a misunderstanding. Klingon play is unlocked by achieving level 25 with a Fed character. New Klingon players will most likely start around level 18ish and leave Qo’noS as soon as they finish the welcome quests, hit level 21, and get their Commander ship. As far as ships that are below Commander? We are still debating what to do with them until we can backfill the lower level KDF gameplay in a future expansion.
Q: Ashur1: Are there any improvements planned for character creation and character animations?
A: Yes. We are going to be improving some of the character creation and tailoring flow as well as doing an overhaul of all character stances and improving ambient animations. We hope to get this in for F2P launch if not shortly after.
Q: Phibrizzo: What about working chairs in all social zones? ESD, DS9, Ship interiors etc? When will we get these?
A: We will be hitting as many of these zones as possible before F2P launch. I’ve seen ones working in DS9 on an internal shard already, so they are coming slowly but surely.
Q: Greendragoon: The matrix lists the Foundry as locked for sliver players. Is there any chance that foundry slots might be purchasable for silver in the future? You also mention that gold gets 8 "starting" slots, does that imply that more are purchasable.
A: There is a chance that Silver might be able to purchase the ability to craft Foundry Missions in the future, but for now it will remain a Gold only feature. We are discussing the exact criteria for how Gold players will “unlock” new Foundry slots and hope to have this in place at or shortly after F2P launch.
Q: Alan_Gale: Will we see the new fed Tutorial before the game go F2P?
A: You’ll potentially see an updated version of the existing tutorial before F2P, but the goal is that you’ll see the entirely new Fed Tutorial by F2P launch.
Q: Yoosty: Will we have to complete both the Space and Ground part of each STF to get the Reward or will there be 1 for each part.
A: What was previously Infected, The Cure, and Khitomer Accord have now been broken down into smaller segments. So what was previously the first part of Infected in space will now be its own STF. While I don’t have the specifics of how Gozer will be handing out the rewards, my guess is that you’ll need to complete various bosses within each new segment and get the items as a drop. I’ve also heard rumor that they could be offered as mission rewards or something you can work towards earn by trading Borg tech you find in the STF missions to a vendor.
Q: Fewzz: When STO turns on FTP, will we see free Respecs for Gold Members or a price change?
A: Gold members will continue to earn their free respec at each rank and we don’t anticipate any pricing changes to c-store respecs. In addition, we may start offering the ability to trade Dilithium (previously emblems) for a respec token. We also give out a Free respec anytime we significantly alter skills to do something different than what they previously did. Also keep in mind Gold Members will get a regular stipend of C-Points.
Q: P-A-T-H-F-I-N-D-E-R: If the Klingon faction is going to begin at level 25 after F2P is launched, will this speed up the possible launch of other factions as playable factions, like the Romulans?
A: That is good question and we have debated that, but all signs point to us having a full, level 0 to 51, KDF faction before we introduce other factions. That said, it does open up the opportunity to create a Romulan faction that also starts at higher level, but the goal is to have all factions be on equal ground.
Q: Sleeves: (paraphrasing) How do the new costume ships currently being tested on Tribble work and what T5 ships are planned?
A: We will be introducing several new ship variants at different tiers that will come with removable console powers as well as an unlock that adds new parts to other similar ships you’ve purchased. The intention is that if you get the new Galaxy variant you can remove the console power and put it on your T5 Galaxy as well as have the ability to add some of the new visual look to your T5 ship. The idea is that as you buy ships at lower level, the unique powers and some of the looks of those ships can stay with you as you level up to bigger and better ships.
Q: Viper99991: If anyone still remembers when STO launched going into diff Sector Blocks had lag issues. Is there anything you’re going to do to combat this?
A: We’ve had our top men on the issue since as far back as late last year as we needed improved server tech for the launch of Champions Online Free-For-All. They nearly rewrote the gameserver code that handles map transferring and memory performance. This was one of the big improvements we merged into STO in Season 4 and are preparing to turn on when we go F2P. In addition we are purchasing additional hardware and will be monitoring traffic to ensure a solid game performance. If for some reason we end up with more people than the engines can handle, we do have the login queues now which will give priority to Lifetime Members and Subscribers, but if it comes to that, we have a GOOD problem on our hand because it means we have more people than we could have possibly imagined. (for some reason I just thought of Stilgar and Wormsign – sorry wrong IP! Lol :P)
Q: Darkthunder: Will there be any UI-revisions/revamps included in the transition to Free-to-Play? The CO F2P conversion brought along a UI-revamping, which was in my opinion ALOT better than the original UI.
A: We do plan to overhaul major portions of our UI although we will not be changing the HUD that much. The big changes coming are for in game Help, the Mission Journal, and Queues. In addition we are adding a new in game event list and calendar. So while our UI update will not be as radical as Champs was, we are taking the opportunity to address issues that trouble new players.
Q: Kilawpilath: How will free to play affect removing the space boarders in Sector Space?
A: We wanted to be able to remove all of the sector space zoning prior to F2P launch, but due to schedule conflicts it will be after F2P launch before we can move to a one sector galaxy map. It is still something we want to do and will most likely be included in a future Season.
Q: D.Blackman: Will we hear some VO again in the Future? After the realease of In to the Hive, can you give us more STFs?
A: We plan to have VO for future feature episode series. The next series on DS9 is scheduled to have at least one major cut-scene in full VO. We will give you more STFs after the hive and have no intention to stop making them. Whether they are Undine related or something else remains to be seen.
Q: Brigadoom: Will we ever get an option to save our power tray and bridge officer load-outs per ship?
A: The power tray issue is something we are closer to having functional than the bridge officer load-outs. It is a nice to have feature that is on our radar for the software devs to hit when they get a chance.
Q: PhyrexianHero: When will we see more trophies for the accolades we have (e.g. ship kills)?
A: We have an awesome environment artist who is working on our new ship interiors and this is one of the tasks that he will be getting to when he has extra time so it is really up to his schedule and how fast he can get to everything. In addition, we are talking to the Champs team about how they put together their hideouts as they are using a slightly different tech than we are and there may be some additional features we can import into STO in the future.
Q: Primus01: Will there be a shared bank(aka account bank) that allow characters on the same account to share item or give another character energy credits?
A: Shared bank slots are feature we are trying to get into the schedule for F2P launch. The software team is pretty slammed, but if there is a chance we can get this done, we want this sooner than later.
Q: Valiant797: How about lower level STFs to promote and acclimate people to group play?
A: This is absolutely in our future, but only once the existing STFs are up to snuff, working properly, are fun to play, and have awesome rewards.
Q: Tricksterbro: Can you offer us a few plot spoilers on Feature Episodes? Just to whet our appetites?
A: How about EV Suits?
Q: whamhammer: Can subscribers get ponies when the game goes F2P????
A: Be careful what you ask for! I’ve heard that Ponies is the name of a rare and deadly disease on the planet Spar’Kelhorz.