Star Trek Online: "Season One and Beyond"

In our latest Q&A with STO executive producer Craig Zinkievich, we ask about the post-development lessons learned from Season One, and how it might influence future content and gameplay mechanics.

The last time ZAM spoke with Star Trek Online executive producer Craig Zinkievich, in early February, the MMO had just launched and thousands of fans throughout North America were finally getting their first glimpse of the new persistent-world 'Trek universe. After our initial previews of STO's ship and avatar gameplay, ZAM's last Q&A with Zinkievich dealt with many of the community-related issues raised by fans on STO's own forums. In addition, he provided a few clues about new content, some of which culminated in last month's "Season One" patch update.

It's been almost three months since Star Trek Online's official launch and we've seen a variety of new features, updates and fixes introduced since then. Special Task Force missions are released every few weeks and "Season One" marked the MMO's first major content update. Several other new features, like the "Tribble" public test server, is helping STO overcome many of the post-launch issues it originally faced.

In today's Q&A, ZAM goes back to Zinkievich to learn more about "Season One" and beyond. What insights did Cryptic's development team glean from the recent content update and Special Task Force missions? What's in store for future "Season" updates, and what can max-rank players look forward to until then? We also ask about the upcoming "death penalty" and "difficulty slider" features that players requested, and learn that the developers are working on a new mini-game based on "Dabo" (the casino-like game referenced many times in the TV series). Check out the full Q&A after the jump for these details and more.

ZAM: How did Season One's release go? From a design standpoint, are you happy with STO's first content update, as well as its reception?

Craig Zinkievich: Season One's release went well. We're pretty happy with the first content update. We want them to continually get better and better but the first one addressed players' concerns and we got new fresh content in the players' hands.

ZAM: What did the development team learn from Season One, specifically regarding raid episodes, max-rank content and item/gear rewards?

Zinkievich: We're still tabulating, really. The initial reaction was very positive, but of late some people have expressed reservation because our Special Task Forces have been too difficult. My read on that is the folks who really live for that super-challenging content ate it up and had a lot of fun, but people not especially used to that style of gameplay are running into some trouble. We really did challenge our max-level players here, and we're still figuring out what's an appropriate difficulty level for everyone.

ZAM: Many players appear to be pleased with the upcoming "death penalty" and "difficulty slider" features on the PTS (Public Test Server); can you explain why these features were developed and how they work?

Zinkievich: We found that a lot of people are looking for more of a challenge. So the idea with the difficulty slider is that if you want more of a challenge you can crank the difficulty slider up and you may have a death penalty but you also may get better rewards. When you're playing with a death penalty, you accrue injuries upon death. Different injuries provide different debuffs to your character or ship. They'll fade over time, but you can use special items to remove them immediately.

We opted to develop the difficulty slider and death penalty because our players asked for it. People wanted to increase their feeling of risk in the game, and we reacted to those demands. We've been working closely with our community on our test server to make sure it's something that satisfies the players interested in a more challenging experience, but doesn't infringe upon the people having fun now.

ZAM: So is the new "Tribble" PTS giving you more insight into the community's wants and needs?

Zinkievich: Definitely! We get great feedback on the forums but the nice thing about the test server is that you can give something specific to the players and allow them to play through it. Then you get really focused feedback in which they can go into detail about what they liked or what they didn't like.

ZAM: How is Memory Alpha coming along? Is the team still working on more crafting content and enhancing the overall gathering/crafting mechanics? 

Zinkievich: We're always looking at ways to improve Memory Alpha and to broaden crafting to make it more appealing to everyone. We're making headway on Memory Alpha and are looking forward to releasing a preliminary update on it soon.

ZAM: What's the deal with the "mini-game" ideas we've been hearing about?

Zinkievich: We are working on a Dabo mini-game. What's been great about that is it's a part of Star Trek lore, but no official rules exist on it. We know it's a casino game that resembles table games you'd find in Las Vegas, but that's about it. So we're looking at a ground-up mini-game to share with players. Mini-games aren't easy to design, so it's been a fun challenge for us.

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