Star Trek Online Previews and Interview

Some more hands-on previews of Star Trek Online, as well as an interview with producer Christine Thompson, have made their way to the 'net this evening.

The previews kick off over at IGN:
As you progress through the ship, the enemy AI gets a little more dangerous, and you begin to see what real ground-combat is going to be like. Before it ever gets too challenging, though, you're told that you can choose a specialized ally to help you on missions -- again, either a tactical, science or engineering officer. This isn't the only time you get to choose one, and I believe that later on you can buy them at will, with your only real limitation being the number of slots you have to "equip" them. Your officers provide benefits both on the ground in the form of an extra fighter equipped with special abilities (the first engineer, for example, can perform a leg-sweep that stuns opponents.) and in space, with useful cooldown-abilities and passive increases to your ship stats (the tactical officer increases the damage of your next torpedo, the engineer can boost your ship's shields).

After which we move to GameSpy:
At any given time you're free to set the main story aside and just do some exploring, which is where Cryptic's Genesis System comes into play. Genesis procedurally generated thousands of maps, including terrain, system maps, interiors, and so on. The idea here was to create the feeling that you'd never visit the same place twice while trekkin' through the vastness of space. Episodes have their fair share of conflict written into the storylines, so exploration content goes after the other feel of Star Trek, the part that isn't always about phasers and bloodshed. If you remember the episodes where the captain would help local populations with their problems, you have the right idea.

Pay a visit to VideoGamer:
The bigger, more worrying problem, is the astonishingly slow sense of progression. I'm baffled by some of Cryptic's design decisions here. The great MMO game design manual lists a number of must-have features: level up quick at the beginning and get shiny new toys to play with when you do. Execute on that, and you'll soon infect your players with that (carrot on a stick), (just one more quest) bug. In STO, you level up so slowly that you wonder if you'll ever level up at all.

And then stop by for both a preview:
The only problem with items in Star Trek Online is that they suffer from eternal versioning. It's one of those games where you start with "Standard Issue" Phasers, then find yourself looting "Phasers Mark 1," which you use until someone drops "Phasers, Mark 2." The same goes for all weapons, shields, and other core items. Within certain groups, such as ground weapons, there are a lot of options. There are dozens of different Mark 1 guns to pick from. Same goes for kits. Others, such as space weapons, are a little simpler. Among basic energy weapons all there seems to be are disruptors and phasers and aside from the color of the beam (green for disruptors and orange for phasers), I never quite figured out what the difference is. Not that there isn't one, no doubt, I just never did understand what it was.

And the interview: Why the decision to pitt the Federation against the Klingon Empire again? Surely there were other opposing factions that could have been considered?

Christine Thompson: We considered a lot of different factions, or even creating a new one. But the Federation-Klingon conflict is classic Trek, and it's also a whole lot of fun.

In addition, when we looked back at the end of DS9, we could see the cracks forming. The Federation and the Klingon Empire are different. They think differently, they react differently to stress, they respond differently when being challenged. Take the end of the fighting on Cardassia Prime as an example - Martok and Sisko had very different reactions to it. I think we took what was there and followed it to a logical place.

That's not to say that Klingons are space orcs. They're not "evil," and we don't want to portray them that way. There's no right or wrong side in the Klingon-Federation conflict, and that's what makes it really interesting to me as a writer.