Computer, Start recording. It is time for this month's Ask Cryptic and I wish to have everything that Dan Stahl passes on to us properly noted.
Admiral, if you would?
Q: deeboboy Are there any intentions of making ground pvp first person shooter like star trek elite force?
A: Elite Force was a great use of the Quake III Arena engine, and while MMOs are much different underneath the hood (dealing with a wealth of additional client to database transactions for starters) there are some first person shooter aesthetics we are considering optional as part of our ground combat updates. For example, players will have the option to switch to a reticle aiming mode, where instead of tab or select targeting an enemy, you can aim your reticle over a target to select it, and then use mouse buttons for primary, secondary, or tertiary firing.
That is only a secondary and optional portion of the ground combat changes. The biggest changes you will notice is the increase in responsiveness when using your weapons. Our goal is to have weapons respond as fast as possible when you click an attack power. This involves various speed improvements such as reducing the frames between when you click a power and when the client registers the input, to reducing frames for various weapon powers to animate, to speeding up FX times for the weapon to draw on screen and then matching audio to this new speed.
The end result is that when you click to fire your weapon, it should feel much more responsive and give you a greater sense of control.
Q: picardalpha2clearance What is the ETA for voice chat in game and will there be a special hailing UI? Also, Is the new ground combat going to have a cover system?
A: The Vivox voice chat integration will go live when Season 4 releases this summer and there will be in game UI to control the voice chat features.
Cover systems have become a staple of shooter games such as Gears of War, Uncharted, and Call of Duty. Even other games such as Grand Theft Auto and Mass Effect have included some sort of cover system. In traditional MMOs, cover systems have always taken the form of line of sight agro. It would take a significant effort from the ground up to add a more FPS-like cover system to an MMO and as much as we’d like to do something like that in STO, it is outside of our schedule at the moment – because in many ways it has to be implemented in direct relationship to the location you are running through, and with so many locations in STO, it is a daunting task.
So the one thing we have and will continue to focus on is the traditional line of sight agro model. As part of our ground combat update we will be tuning our LOS rules so that if you manage to duck around a corner or break LOS with your enemy, they will be more likely to switch agro to something that they can see. This has been in the game for a while, but something we are fine tuning to make it more obvious.
Q: DecadeComplete How's the T5 Constitution Refit-Refit that was in a recent engineering report doing? Will there ever be a way to purchase "Ship Slots" and "Costume Slots" in game with say 1Mil EC or so?
A: We are working to add more variations to existing ships for both factions and one of the ships they are working on is an additional Constitution refit; however there has been no confirmation that this is a top tier ship. Geko can add more details as we get closer to Season 4 release, but for now, I can only say that we are working with CBS on an alternative refit design.
As far as making ship and costume slots available for in game currency, we are considering finding a way we could offer them for in game currency, or in the case of ship slots, have the ships come with slots as part of the purchase price.
Q Narosian: How is the ground combat revamp coming along and when can we expect it to hit Tribble?
A: Kit changes are mostly done. Power bar speedup is mostly done. We have prototype weapons done for pistols and most rifles, and are now working on the assault weapons. Once the prototypes are done, then we need to propagate all the changes to the thousands of weapon items in the game. We expect to have the first batch ready for testing towards the end of May.
Q GreatMaker69: Is it possible to have someone assigned as a specialist in developing each aspect of the game? And when are we going to have starbases to call home?
A: For as massive a game as Star Trek is, each individual on our small team is a specialist in their own field and unfortunately that means they have to cover ALL issues and content related to their discipline. For example, CaptainLogan is our ship specialist and has to deal with all art related issues to ships. Jesse, Gozer, and Charles are our content designers and they must cover development of all the content in the game, so they don’t have the luxury of only doing one type of content. We must manage their time across all the parts of the game and they are constantly busy working on as many different parts of the game as they can handle.
As far as Starbases go, now that the Foundry is out and live, we anticipate the next major feature to the Foundry being the ability for Fleets to design and run their own Starbases. This is a monumental addition to the Foundry, so don’t expect it right away, but it is the next big thing for that feature.
Q Inquizitor: Has the idea of releasing the Foundry to Holodeck as a Beta changed? What does the end Non beta release look like?
A: We have kept the Beta moniker on the Foundry toolset to indicate that we consider the software to be in perpetual beta at this time, meaning that we will continue to add and iterate on features and usability issues that are brought up by our users. So while we may consider it somewhat feature complete in its release form, we recognize that we will be iterating on the tool for some time to incorporate additional user feedback and requests. We will most likely not remove the Beta tag until we feel the Foundry has all the features and fixes that players want.
Q HyenaZERO: Will anything be done to make certain weapon secondary effects (namely tetryon, plasma, polaron, and transphasic) less useless?
A: While I can appreciate your opinion, those energy types are just as useful and do as much damage as any other. The real issue is that some damage types cost less skill points to master and so there is no perceived benefit to dumping points into more expensive skill trees if they all do roughly the same thing. There are a number of options we are discussing to address this, the most radical of which is a complete retooling of the skill trees to address both energy types and the beam vs. projectile skills which suffer from the same issue. Our goal is that there should be a definite perceived benefit for putting your points into a more expensive energy type skill. It will take some time to make this switch over, but we are discussing options.
Q DarkShrike: Have you also considered adding in additional keybinding features that would allow us to make keybind commands to more directly control officers?
A: Yes. While we are working on Ground Combat controls, we are considering ways in which we can put your Bridge Officer powers on your power bar so that you may use key binds to issue them commands. While I’m not certain if this additional feature will make it in for Season 4, it is something we hope to have tackled sooner than later.
Q CaptainSterling: : Are there any plans to have craftable ship weapons such as the Plasma/Disruptor Hybrid Beam Array?
A: We have been adding more craftable items with each update and I expect there to be more items arrive with Season 4. We are also starting to consider crafting options for special items such as the new crafting mission for the Delta Flyer class shuttlecraft. I’ll send in a suggestion to the designers to see if the Plasma/Disruptor beam can make it into the crafting tables.
Q AdmGriffiths: Can you please explain how the Foundry will be used to edit interiors?
A: Our early designs for the interior editor were quite simple and easy to use. From a top down perspective, you had a grid and could drop premade rooms of various sizes on the grid. You then could connect them with hallway pieces and then determine where to place doors. Objects were then the last thing you could drag and drop. It felt a little bit like designing a house in the Sims. When we add this functionality back into the editor, we hope to retain this simple easy to use interface.
Q Russell-KV4S: We are already coming up on April, how many Feature Episodes could we see in 2011?
A: While we are still adjusting schedules and hiring the necessary staff, our current projections show us starting up Feature Episodes after Season 4 launches and then continuously releasing the Episodes from that point forward with a maximum of 2 weeks off between series. This puts 3 Feature Episode series definitely on the books, and we’re trying to get in one or two more before the end of the year. So out of the 26 weeks in the second half of the year, we expect there to be Feature Episodes at least 15 of those weeks and we’re shooting for 20 and if we’re lucky then maybe 25 weeks of episodes (but that’s a huge stretch with no downtime between series). Much like a TV series, we are limited by the amount of time it takes to make the episodes, and we are doing as many as we physically can without burning out the team.
Q Quetzaal: Are there any plans to add a few more PvP maps?
A: None at the moment for Season 4, however we do have it incorporated into our Feature Episode schedule that each series will come with replayable map based on the series. This replayable map could be a PvP map, a Fleet Action, or a fun repeatable mission.
Q: Kasensal Are you guys still planning on making wing and nacelle animations optional?
A: Mr. Tattersall (our previous lead ship artist) was looking into this as an option, but it involves creating 3 different versions of every ship geometry that could possibly have wing animations and then hooking those options up into the ship customization screen so you could select which position you want your nacelles in all the time (up, down, animated). Unfortunately, this feature dropped off when Marc left and it is currently low on our priority to address at the moment. If CapnLogan can free up some time in the near future, it is possible he could get to this task, but that is why you’ve not seen much mention of it lately.
Q: david26th Tell us something exciting coming up you’ve not told us before!
A: Starfleet Academy is in development (as well as the Klingon Academy).
Q: Grouchy.Otaku Are there any plans to expand “Diplomacy” mission for Ambassador ranked characters? Are there any plans for additional “Crafting” missions?
A: Yes. The duty officer system offers special diplomatic assignments based on your Diplomacy rank. And yes, we do plan to add more crafting missions to allow players on both factions craft fighter craft.
Q: Quiiliitilla Quite a few people are wondering about certain NPC only Federation ships (like the Typhoon) and whether or not they will be made for player use?
A: While NPC ships are roughly similar to player ships, there are some big differences that prevent us from easily converting an NPC ship into a Player flyable one. Textures are generally lower rez on NPC ships and they do not contain all of the “skeletal structure” of Player ships that impacts power usage. That said we have considered making Player variants of ships such as the Typhoon and Jupiter Class. It all boils down to what’s next on our priority list of ships. Right now the short list for Feds is Oberth, Ambassador, Vesta (if we can agree with CBS on using it), and the player created Enterprise. We are also working on additional variants of existing ships to add more customization options across the board.
Q: Cmdr_Funke Will you ever give us the ability to wear any communicator with any uniform?
A: While I can’t say for certain that it will work with ANY combination, I can say that the vast majority of communicators can be used with the vast majority of uniforms starting in Season 4.
Q: Cheysuli When will we see more love for the Klingons?
A: As with other prior Season releases, Season 4 will have a healthy dose of Klingon PVE including the ability to create a KDF faction character as your first character. A new tutorial that works for both Fed and KDF characters, as well as the Klingon Academy as a starting hub for Klingons. We are also redoing Qo’noS and hope to have several “in the neighborhood” missions available for players who want to run mission on and around Qo’noS. We will be re-leveling featured episodes to make them part of the KDF PVE progression, opening up new sectors, and potentially converting more patrols to KDF variants. The KDF will also have unique duty officer assignments they can run with their new duty officers. All of this adds up to a lot of options for PVE leveling a KDF faction character so that as we get back on schedule with Feature Episodes, the KDF are in a much stronger starting position from Season 4 on.
Q: Dassem_Ultor In the time between now and Season 4, have you set aside any development time for working on the PvP aspect of the game?
A: I’d argue that all of the Ground Combat changes will have a tremendous impact on PvP and so in that sense we have a feature team is working specifically on that. We realize that there have not been any new PVP maps added to the game in the last few updates, so we are working into our Feature Episode schedule the time to convert some of the new maps we add to the game over to PVP. These new maps are not expected to hit Holodeck until the next Feature Episode series is in full swing.
Q: Ironwill96 Will Cryptic add additional slots to the UI for powers?
A: We are going to be looking at some updates to the UI in Season 4 and I’ll forward your suggestion to the team.
Q: Darkthunder Any chance ships can be made purchasable or upgradeable by use of Starfleet Merits instead of always relying on Emblems? Will there ever be a system of “Random events” in the game?
A: Yes there is a good chance of a change in how ships are purchased in game. One of the job openings we have recently posted is for a systems designer who will be looking into the economy of how ships are obtained and (if the cards fall into place) establish a way to obtain ALL ships for in game currency.
As far as Random events, this has recently popped up in design discussions and I’m a huge fan of having an in game calendar so you can see what events are happening. Not necessarily Random, but a way to highlight and promote special events that could take place in game. I’d like to see this in game by Season 5, if not sooner.
Q: SpiritoftheForest Could you please try to explain why there will be ‘pet crafting’ instead of additions to the ‘usual’ crafting?
A: Crafting is a general term. Think of this more as pet training. For example, we already have the Tribble breeding game. Since Klingons pretty much hate Tribbles, we are working out a way for them to train their own Klingon Targ attack pets (and these were seen in some movies on the interior of Klingon ships). Training these Targs would make them viable as a very simple type of away team members that you could command. As far as Horta go, we are using some loose canon references to an Ensign Naraht joining Starfleet as inspiration for allowing players to have a Horta away team member.
Q: Seannewboy Will the Crew systems being worked on change how and what skill we train boffs in? Will the tailor system ever be opened up so my liberated borg can look like they aren’t human?
A: There are some plans to allow some Duty Officers to give new abilities to Bridge Officers, but it is not meant to replace the existing training system. The Character Art team is looking into re-organizing the liberated Borg costume data so that you can make more diverse looking Borg, but we don’t have a solid estimate on the amount of work it will take yet, so no eta.
Q: Unknown-210 What are the exact plans for adding other ships like the Freedom, New Orleans, and Niagara Classes? What’s the ETA on the Gorn update?
A: We are currently working on adding variants to the existing classes of ships in the game in order to add more customization variety to ships. We have been looking at the three classes of ships you mentioned, with an emphasis on the New Orleans class. We don’t have those ships on the schedule yet, but my estimate is that within a year we will have a host of these classes of ships in the game.
The Gorn updates are scheduled to be released Season 4.
Q: LordOfPit My question is, are there any plans to change (the ability for dialog trees to have impacts later in the mission) and if so, any idea about when we will be able to test this change?
A: In our internal tools we have functions which allow us to store data directly onto your player character database object which allows us to then reference decisions you make later on. This is how most of our text puzzle games work. While we cannot open up similar access for Foundry mission creators, we can look at some alternative ways in which branching dialog can set variables that you may be able to use in your missions. Don’t expect a big feature like this in the short term, as I’d anticipate at least 6 months to a year before they would be looking at something like this.
Q: Felderburg Will the Open Jacket bundle ever include female versions WITH undershirts, and male versions WITHOUT undershirts?
A: We have discussed doing this, but haven’t come to a consensus on it. You’re more likely to see female with undershirts first.
Q: MinosOne (Re: Feature Episodes) Will each of these (new series) be on the scale of Cloaked Intentions, or do you intend to scale some them back in order to release more? Will any of these series focus on the war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire?
A: We expect all Feature Series moving forward to be on the scale of Cloaked Intentions with at least five episodes. We have been discussing a 2-part Feature Episode series that brings the Fed/KDF war more into focus, but it is a little ways out in the story.
Q: PodSix Will future patches and new Foundry features (items, effects, maps, etc) be patched directly to the Foundry on Holodeck, or will they be first tried/tested on the Foundry on Tribble?
A: All updates should go to the Tribble Test Server before going to Holodeck.
Q: Macumba How do you developers get the new potential content ideas, and are some of them born out of the community?
A: We have a writer on staff who does most of the pre-production legwork on a new content series. We collaboratively decide themes and overall goals of upcoming series together. As far as implementation of specific episodes, the individual content designer uses all available resources to decide how to interpret and deliver the story through game play. So in general I would say that most ideas come from the Star Trek lore more than anything else. As fans we often contribute to that, but in most cases we are referencing existing established plots. One of our overall agreements with CBS is to go back and add more depth to stories that were only scratched on the surface in the TV series.
Q: AllahuAkbar Do you intend to focus more on QA in the future?
A: We have been staffing up our QA team as our headcount allotment allows and have recently moved them out of their previous building and they now sit directly with us in order for us to communicate on issues more effectively. So that will help address your question.
Q: UFP-Magnis When will Reman and Romulan daily missions be introduced just like after the Deferi Series? Will we be able to fly our ships from Earth to the moon, Jupiter, Saturn when sol gets its upgrade?
A: The daily missions in the Deferi sector were for the most part added by myself (not a content designer) in my spare time using the alpha version of the Foundry tools. I did it mostly to test out what could be done but also to help fill up what would have mostly been a very empty sector without the dailies. Since the Romulan series takes place in an established zone with plenty of patrols, and my (and all the team’s time) is crunching on Season 4, I haven’t had the time to make any missions there yet. This is where I’d hoped players would use the Foundry to help fill in some story gaps. We do plan to add more daily missions with future Feature Episode series, but for now there is no plan to add them to the Romulan arc at the moment.
As far as the Sol system goes, we will be adding the planets and hopefully some small missions in the Sol neighborhood when Season 4 launches.
Q: ShinRa_Actual When will some of the newer uniform options for the KDF, that’s currently species-limited, be opened up for more characters?
A: The character art team intends to do something closer to the opposite. They are working on more species specific uniform options for the KDF since they have an interesting mix of very different species as part of their military. This is scheduled to go out with Season 4.
Q: sltdg Are there any plans to release a purple BOFF requisition system costing Emblems? This would allow you to have special BOFFs (Caitains, Telarites, etc) available in your current scheme.
A: We actually have something a little different planned. We intend to use the new Duty Officer assignment system as a way for you to recruit new and rare officers as a reward. While we are still working out the details, one of the things I’d like to see is a recruiting assignment some of your Duty Officers could undertake to say, “Go recruit a Caitian bridge officer”. This will add more exclusivity to these special officers while incorporating it into a game play mechanic instead of just “get them from the store”.
Q: HerbieZ Do you have any plans to make mineral mining and resource harvesting take a larger more dominant role in the future?
A: While I wouldn’t go so far as to say a “dominant” role, we do plan to continue improving crafting to the point where building your own Starbase or Starships could involve controlling and or harvesting a vast variety of resources. This is all scheduled for Season 5-6 timeframe.
Q: Captain-Yister Do you know if we can have STF releases for Romulans, Klingons, and Cardassians in their areas?
A: We have been talking a lot about STFs and what works and what didn’t work in an attempt to come up with a much more viable end-game. We will be taking a very close look at this after Season 4 releases to come up with a solid solution for Team and Fleet based game play.
Q: Ooiue When the new Enterprise-F is chosen, will it be included in a future Feature Episode series?
A: That sounds like a great idea! We might be able to do that, so stay tuned!
Q: STOHardCore If you desire to play Elite, you cannot as many ground missions are impossible at higher settings. Will this specific issue be corrected in the near future.
A: While not all missions are impossible, I understand your complaint. The issue is not with the difficulty sliders, but in the way some enemy groups scale up and add more HP and DPS. We are staffing up our systems team specifically to address this issue and give an overhaul of all enemy mobs to ensure that they are scaling properly. We are also looking at the possibility of splitting Ground/Space skill points so that players have more viability in both regions.
Q: Fractal_Eye With the addition of more melee weapons, will there ever be a change for Captains to have 3 weapon slots?
A: We do not anticipate adding a 3rd weapon slot option; however we are making significant changes to the 3rd weapon power to make it more versatile and useful. One example would be the ability to chain together melee strikes into combos by landing 3 melee hits in a row. This along with more variety in how weapons work will allow your two existing weapon slots to have a wider variety of uses.
Q: sabredruid Any updates on shuttlebays?
A: Two updates on this front. We are working on tech that will allow you to switch to any shuttlecraft you own (and back) directly from your ship interior. This way you could swap to your shuttle without needing to return to a starbase. This may be out for Season 4 or shortly after. Secondly, we are looking at adding a shuttle bay room to our next iteration of ship interiors. This is more of a long term option and will happen at the same time we introduce a more interior functions.
40.Q: RobinPhoenix Will it become possible for Foundry authors to create fancy short films and make them part of self-made missions?
A: We are looking into adding the ability for players to create their own cut-scenes as part of Foundry missions. However, this is a long term goal and we have some improvements that need to be made to how cut-scenes work in space to work out before we can consider this. There is currently no plan to allow stitched in video from an external source.
Q: Salamandus Will the KDF get an alt skin for each ship at each rank (like the Koloth alt to the B’rel from Season 2)?
A: First we are looking at filling in the gaps in the KDF ship line so that there are appropriate class ships at each rank. Secondly we do have a goal to have variants of each ship eventually. For Season 4 you might see a small mixture of both, but no firm confirmation on exactly what yet (other than I can say I’ve seen a BOP variant near completion). As we get closer to Season 4 launch I can start talking about what is going to make the cut and what will come later.Talk about it in the forums!