Star Trek Online: First Look

Arep | 9 August 2008 | Comments off

A few months ago those waiting anxiously for an MMO set in the Star Trek universe were dismayed when Perpetual Entertainment closed its doors. This July it was announced that Cryptic Studios had picked up the rights and were hard at work on a resurrection of the game. Cryptic Studios are the developers of City of Heroes/City of Villains and the upcoming Champions Online due to release in April, 2009. Today at the annual Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas Cryptic introduced us to Star Trek Online and, from what I’ve just seen, the license is in very capable hands.

First of all the game will be set in the year 2409, 30 years after the events in Nemesis. Cryptic’s Chief Creative Officer Jack Emmert has promised that the official web site (http://www.startrekonline.com) will be posting periodic updates to fill in the gap in a year-by-year timeline.  Some things have changed during this time. The Federation and the Klingon Empire are back at each others’ throats, setting up the two factions available to players when the game goes live. We’ll see the Romulans and Dominion factions down the road after the game launches.

The aim is for the game to feel as “Star Trek” as possible. This means they will be pulling material from the movies, shows and books. They are also looking to hire a writer that has worked with the material in the past. The most important thing to know is that each and every player will be the captain of their own starship. From the second you create your character, you will have a ship and crew. It may be a dinghy but at least it’s something to fly around in. The way it was explained was that you don’t necessarily have to have the rank of “Captain” to be a captain, especially with smaller ships. (ie. Worf tooling around in the Defiant) You will earn ranks as you progress giving you access to bigger ships and more crew.

Crew will fall into two categories: General Crew and Bridge Crew. General Crew is your “red shirts” They populate the ship and can be from a vast array of races that Cryptic will include in the game. You will receive bonuses depending upon the racial makeup of your crew. Bridge Crew will be more interactive, the equivalent of pets in other MMOs. They are going to be an extension of your character and can be given equipment, attributes, and skills. Like the General Crew, they can be from a vast array of races and can even be holographic! You will chose among your bridge crew officers to follow you on away missions. You will be able to team up with others in both ground and space missions for a cooperative experience.

Oh, yes…I said away missions. Not only will you be flying around on your starship, you will also be travelling to planets. They didn’t give a number but it was hinted that there will be a significant number of places to visit. Terrestrial combat was described as being very fast-paced with phaser fire all over the place while you try and seek cover. There will be personal shields and Klingons running around trying to hack people to pieces. Ship combat will be slower and more tactical. You will be able to issue orders to your crew just like in the show. An example that they gave was ordering Security to Deck 5.

With Champions Online and the City of Heroes/Villains as an example, many things in Star Trek Online will be customizable. Starting with your character, you can choose from Human, Vulcan, Andorian, Klingon, Tellerite, Ferengi (just to name a few) but you can also create your own custom race! Not much was given about how exactly that will work but my guess is a very elaborate appearance customization system. Your character will also choose from a number of specialties such as navigation, diplomacy, science. These will act as your character class, giving you bonuses in those areas. On top of your character being highly customizable, your ship will be customizable as well. They mentioned not only altering the appearance of the ship but also upgrading its capabilities as well.

In order to make the experience as close to the source material as possible, you will really be able to “explore strange new worlds.” Jack Emmert talked a little about their “infinite exploration system” where the server will create new solar systems, races, and materials for you to find as you explore the galaxy. You could actually make First Contact with a new race or be the first to discover a new resource and have those discoveries directly benefit both you and your faction. Maybe the new race you discover will want to join Starfleet?  You will be able to have them become members of your crew giving you new bonuses. This part of the game is really exciting to me.

The third main aspect of Star Trek Online that Emmert talked about was the Galactic Economy. Factions will be competing over resources and there will be trade. Players will be gathering together to form Fleets (AKA guilds). Fleets will be able to pool their resources to construct things like starbases, satellites, and shipyards. The largest ships will take a significant amount of resources to construct to that’s one benefit of being in a Fleet. This should sound very familiar to EVE Online players.

Emmert then played the trailer for the game and it looked AMAZING. The nebulae and other space scenery were absolutely gorgeous.  They plants that were shown looked very nice as well. Then the trailer cuts to a number of really big battles. Borg Cubes warp in and start hammering away on a Fleet of Starfleet ships. They also showed some character combat with some Klingons boarding a Starfleet vessel and having it out on the bridge. It all looked really nice and its using the Champions Online engine as a basis. Someone in the Q&A session asked about hardware requirements and Emmert said they are using WoW as a model and trying to make the game playable on as many systems as possible.

A few other random points from the Q&A session:

· You can walk around your ship and see the customizations you’ve made

· The death penalty, though not finalized, will not be harsh

· Your faction (Starfleet or Klingon Empire) will issue your missions and send you on tours of duty

· There will be dynamic events such as Borg attacks

· They are toying with having one big server like EVE and say their technology can handle that (there was a lot of enthusiasm from the audience about that)

· Some sort of diplomacy system is being developed since it was such a big part of the show

So, should you be dusting off your Vulcan ears and practicing your neck pinch skills on your cat? You may want to hold off for a bit. Though Cryptic says its “closer than you think” Star Trek Online will not launch until after Champions Online (April, 2009). Logically, they won’t want their two MMOs competing with each other so I think we’re looking at Fall 2009 at the earliest.

Obviously, much of this information is subject to change…don’t come gunning for me next year when you can’t make your main character a Tribble. 

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