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Star Trek Online (Perpetual Entertainment)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
Star Trek Online logo
Publisher: Unknown
Developer: Unknown
Release Date: Unknown
Year: 2399
Stardate: 77021.1
Reference #: ISBN TBA
"Enlist and engage."

Star Trek Online (STO or ST: O for short) was the name of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) previously being developed by Perpetual Entertainment. In January 2008, Perpetual Entertainment ceased production of the game and laid off the entire Star Trek Online development team. Non-code assets of the development have apparently been transferred to an as yet unnamed studio but whether the game is being actively developed by them is unknown. [1]

Beta testing was slated to begin in Winter 2007 or spring 2008 and a tentative launch in early 2009, after the release of the newest film, Star Trek. [2]

General information

Game setting

STO starfleet logo teaser

The Starfleet logo from the STO teaser website

Years later, Andorian poets will describe this time as the "En'ock tu Ch'enock," roughly translated as "The calm before the inferno." [3]

The STO story starts around Stardate 77021.1, twenty years after Star Trek Nemesis, as the Alpha Quadrant rebuilds following the Dominion War. The Romulan Star Empire is on the brink of becoming close allies (or perhaps a member) of the United Federation of Planets while the Klingon Empire continues to be a strong ally of the Federation. More and more species are enrolling in Starfleet Academy to join the growing ranks of Starfleet personnel. Even the Borg are considered a manageable threat with technology brought to the quadrant by Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Such peaceful conditions have convinced the Federation president to divert resources of Starfleet towards the construction of a network of enormous transwarp conduits, which have been troublesome and expensive, but with great exploratory potential.

However, elements of Starfleet fear that the Federation is falling into a false sense of security and into a deceptive trap by one of its old enemies, or perhaps a new one. Thus, steps are secretly being taken to prepare for the conflict that is sure to come. It is up to you to choose your path for the coming century.

The Beta Quadrant will be the primary area of space where much of the gameplay will take place, with future game expansions opening up other areas. Initially accessible areas may include: the Romulan Star Empire, the Klingon Empire, Vulcan, Andoria, the Tholian Assembly, the Briar Patch, Bolarus, and perhaps the unknown enemy force. [4] The Borg will be one of the major antagonists, and the Q have been mentioned to be involved in the game in some capacity.

Game features

"A wholly new Star Trek experience." [5]
File:Star Trek Online observation lounge concept.jpg
Enterprise-D lounge

The actual observation lounge of the Enterprise-D (alternate view)

Star Trek Online will be available worldwide and localized for various languages, and paid for through a monthly fee, comparable to current subscription-based MMORPG games.

The game will feature planet-based and starship-based content, as a player will explore the Star Trek universe in third-person mode. Both player characters and starships level up to develop their skills and systems respectively, and can be customized with equipment and other elements as desired. Starships can have crews of many player characters working together, and new vessels can be obtained throughout the game experience.

The game will draw much of its content from all television series and movies of established Star Trek canon. However, the game developers have stated some changes have to be made to fit the game's design and capabilities. New elements are also expected to be added, such as technologies, ship designs, and alien species. Some content might even come from popular non-canon sources as well. Elements of the upcoming Star Trek movie could be incorporated into STO without much difficulty due to the different time periods the movie and game are based in.

The game will initially be available for the Windows PC, but there have been hints of allowing players to perform actions through other platforms, such as a mobile device.

Supporting community mods and user-generated content within the game through the holodeck or perhaps empty areas of space is being explored. The holodeck could also be used for certain exploratory, social, or trading activities.

It has been said that the developers are interested in exploring the possibility of tying together a future television series with the game so that players could influence what is seen on the show through their actions within STO, although this is certainly not on the drawing board at this time. At the least, the game story is designed to play out as a new TV series.

Future expansions of STO have been said to revolve around different races in the Star Trek universe, perhaps the Romulans or Klingons.

STO will use text chat as the primary means of communication, but PE would like to make voice chat more accessible, perhaps by incorporating it into the game.

PE has started investigating the possibility of having in-game voices provided by Majel Barrett (as the computer voice), John de Lancie, Kate Mulgrew, and Ricardo Montalban. [6]

System requirements

Minimum [7]
Recommended [8]
  • 2+ GHz CPU
  • 1 GB RAM
  • 256 MB video card
  • 3 GHz CPU
  • 2 GB RAM
  • 512 MB video card

The full system requirements are still being determined as the game is in pre-production, but the following table summarizes what is known.

It has also been stated that a video card that supports Shader 2.0 technology may be required to render the complex lighting effects [9], with speculation that DirectX 10 may also be required. [10]

Gameplay information

Missions

File:STO game art Andorian command division.jpg

As with other MMORPGs, STO is based on completing quests to advance skills and gain tangible assets, like weapons and monetary compensation. STO is expected to have thousands of missions of various scales and differing types.

Most of these missions are cooperative in nature, in that players will work together with other players around the world to complete various missions that a Starfleet starship typically encounters, collecting rewards dependent on their performance during the mission. One can expect a majority of the content available to solo players as well. Each mission will be created by hand, most likely not using any pre-programmed algorithms to generate them in real-time. Like the television series, STO will try to provide opportunities to find peaceful solutions to tense situations, but combat may be unavoidable in certain circumstances.

There are also plans for Player versus Player (PvP) combat to be available in two variations. There will be "war games" for the more casual players that can be initiated anywhere between the two parties, most likely through holodeck simulations. Secondly, a "wild west" PvP area for larger-scale battles is in the works, but may not be available at launch. Performance in PvP might have a persistent effect on one's character outside of the PvP environment through rewards or penalties.

Alliances

A character will select a group within the Federation to align with called "factions". This alignment affects the type of missions, equipment, and other technologies available to the character. Such groups might be based on department, race or culture, or other factors.

Players will also be able to make affiliations with other players through "guilds", called fleets. Such player groups can then take on larger missions pooling together their skills and resources. Smaller player groups called "clubs" and "small teams" will also be allowed for more casual situations.

Economy and reputation

The game's economy will revolve around the Federation credit to purchase personal luxury products and services that are typically not provided by the Federation to its citizens, such as decorations for quarters or the character itself.

A 'pseudo-currency' of Prestige may be implemented to improve one's reputation with Starfleet and, in essence, 'purchase' equipment, missions, rank commissions, ship commissions, and ship upgrades. Such purchases may also require Federation credits as well.

Space travel and exploration

File:STO akira class banner.jpg

Starfleet vessels will carry characters between destinations through conventional warp drive, and possibly through the new transwarp hubs. However, the speed of travel in real time is currently undecided, but will not be instantaneous, as to allow for unexpected events and missions to occur. Spontaneous missions and rewards will provide incentive for free-form exploration of the galaxy at lower travel speeds.

The tuning of impulse speed in respect to the size of all objects and the distances between them is currently underway to "give space the kind of explorable depth and complexity we've seen in some of the most dramatic scenes from the films and shows." [11] Significant time and effort has been put into new technology and art to make the space-based environment as exciting as a traditional ground-based environment.

Space combat

Space combat will be in real-time and portrayed with 3D graphics, with many different camera angles showing in-ship and exterior views, similar to television. In February 2007, it was hinted that movement in space has "moved beyond 2 dimensional thinking," [12] despite earlier statements of a 2D plane in order to simplify the learning curve for the pilot.

The ability to make critical analysis and decision-making quickly is expected to be the desired goal. Space combat will be at a slower pace than ground combat due to slower movement speeds and significant damage producing/reducing capabilities of capital starships.

Ships of all sizes, including fighter-sized ships like the Federation attack fighter, runabouts, and shuttles will be available, and players can join forces in many smaller ships or one larger one for a mission.

There were initial concerns with allowing all characters to have access to smaller starships being detrimental to teamwork and collaboration, but the desire to be a captain of one's own vessel for many players played a role in changing this.

Higher-level players will have the ability to form armadas consisting of multiple capital ships and escort ships to complete difficult missions. Major incentives will be provided for players to group together, and some of the larger starships may even require a high-ranking, player-run crew [13]. Captains of such crews will have "access to some incredible abilities." [14] It has been mentioned that such armadas could be "fighting battles with fleets of Borg". [15]

The largest Starfleet starships like the Galaxy- and Sovereign-class are not designed for individuals to own, but act as in-space "towns" called hubs. Such ships will be commanded by a NPC crew, and their interiors will be rendered in high detail; player-controlled ships will be of lesser detail. Vessels designed by cultures outside of the Federation will also be accessible.

Away team and ground combat

Away team combat, including boarding parties, will be in the third-person view based on the use of skills as actions, similar to existing MMO games, and distinctive from first-person shooter games. Offensive, defensive, and support roles will all be available. A player can choose to transport from a transporter room or initiate a site-to-site transport.

Death from ground combat scenarios will simply be the loss in time, rather than some sort of permanent death penalty: once critically wounded, the character gets an emergency transport to a medical facility, such as sickbay, receive treatment, and traverse back to the combat area. One might also be awarded a lower mission bonus based on the number of deaths accumulated during the battle.

It is the intention of the developers to make space and ground combat comfortable for all players to participate in and both combat types are expected to be viable options in various situations. Both bridge duty and away mission duty will be important for character advancement, although one may specialize in one area.

Key game non-playing characters

Federation President

File:Logo Kris presUFP.gif

Described to be charismatic with a bold vision of the future of peace and exploration. The president is urging Federation citizens and scientists alike to look towards "the next frontier."

Terran Ambassador

The 94-year-old Terran Ambassador possesses galaxy-renowned diplomatic skills that are being put into effective use in negotiating with the Romulan Star Empire, but has "never forgotten that the universe is more surprising and more dangerous than anyone can imagine."

It was hinted in a storyline teaser (and widely believed that) Jean-Luc Picard, who turns 94 years of age in 2399 (the same year as the start of STO), is the Terran Ambassador. [16] It is unknown whether Patrick Stewart will lend his voice talents toward this game.

Miral Paris

The young Klingon/Human Miral Paris entered Starfleet, following her parents. This has inspired a generation of Klingons who believe her to be the kuvah'magh to enter Starfleet themselves.

Character development

Setup

File:STO vulcan female observation lounge concept.jpg

Players will be a Federation Starfleet officer. As of September 2006, characters can be of one of nine races: Human, Vulcan, Andorian, Bajoran, Tellarite, Bolian, Klingon, Cardassian, or Ferengi, which will define their initial physical appearance. However, PE recently stated that the list of playable species has been changed and locked, but is not ready to release the information until later.

The original analytical/versatile/aggressive character structure was done away with in favor of a more "interesting and distinct flavor."
Klingons were one of the original races available to be chosen by players (along with Humans and Vulcans), but the current system was adopted to address the issue of why there would be so many Klingons in the Academy. However, they were added back in after a customer survey clearly indicated a desire by the market to play as a Klingon.
In late-2005, many other races were added to the list of playable characters, including Trill, which could work towards becoming joined, and obtain special skills from the joining. Another unknown race was also confirmed to be joining the line-up in early 2006 [17], which was later revealed to be Cardassian and Ferengi in the second official FAQ update, thus replacing the Trill race.

Other cosmetic changes to body and clothing could also be available at this time, although some will have to be earned through progression of one's character.

The Academy

A player starts with an "approachable, solo-friendly newbie experience" [18] at Starfleet Academy as a new cadet and attends courses as a tutorial to the game experience. Afterwards, the cadet is assigned to a training vessel to have an opportunity to try out the content of the departments available to them: Science, Security/Tactical, and Engineering.

Original plans indicated that players would specialize in one of the following professions: Flight control, Engineering/Operations, Science, Tactical/Security, Medical, and Command. However, this was changed to the current three departments to expand the versatility of character development.

The Command division is accessed through the Leadership skillset system which every player can access in their development, albeit forgoing some training in their primary department. At the end of the space training, players will select a department to specialize in initially. To be a high-ranking officer later on, one will need to balance their department and Leadership development. The highest known rank a player can obtain is Admiral.

Players continue their adventure within the relatively safe confines of Federation space. One can expect missions in this area to be similar to the "traditional one-shot episode-like content" of the television series.

And beyond

Later on, characters graduate from the Academy and become commissioned officers. At their own pace, the player explores the vast reaches of space, develops relationships with other players, joins the crew of other spaceships, and enter hostile territories where the major conflict comes into play. More peaceful missions like planetary surveys can also be expected, even for advanced characters to complement the combat.

Success in missions gains experience and reputation for the character, which can be used to gain rank, take on new missions, and other actions. Characters that earn the respect of Starfleet will be granted ship commissions, and at higher levels even have their own crew of other players and non-player characters (NPCs). One can temporarily leave their personal vessel to join the crew of a larger ship. Regardless of rank, one will always have a personal vessel available to them.

Character development continues through improving one's standing in various "specialties" (within the departments, such as Medical and Flight Control) so that each character can specialize in skills they can apply to many different situations, including away and space combat missions. One known example is that a Science officer could be an Intelligence Specialist (primarily a starship-based role) or a Medical Specialist (mostly an away team role). Regardless of a character's skillset, all players can expect to participate in combat and non-combat situations.

Players with a high standing in a specialty will receive an appropriate title to represent their achievements.

It will be possible to develop skills or progress through missions even while offline from the game, although it is unclear how this would work. This is designed to help casual players with not a lot of free time for games to still progress their characters at a reasonable rate.

Art and design

Starships and starbases

File:Star Trek Online hallway concept.jpg
File:STO USS Perpetual 1.jpg
File:STO concept enterprise GDC.jpg

A Galaxy-class starship is the first major area to be modeled and is planned to be a major hub of activity. The design is based on the USS Enterprise-D, so well established areas such as Ten Forward, sickbay, and the bridge will be represented. Other planned areas include an aquatic lab and a multi-level computer core. Such areas were made known in January 2006, when concept material on a Galaxy-class starship's science/medical hub deck was published, with 18 other concept sketches of the hub deck released up to May 2006. [19]

The layout of the decks may be based on grouping key areas for certain departments like engineering, science/medical, and security to make accomplishing similar tasks easier. Decks will also be distinguished by number, color, lighting, architecture, signage, and other furnishings. It is expected that decks and their doors, hallways, and rooms will be larger and easier to navigate than seen on television.

In February 2006, the visual look development team generated in-game, real-time screen shots of a turbolift, hallway, and observation lounge typical of a Galaxy-class starship. [20] Two more screen shots were made available in early March, one of a female Vulcan officer in a Galaxy-class observation lounge, and another of a corridor showing a door and turbolift. [21]

In May 2006, a promotional banner for STO on Perpetual Entertainment's revamped website included an Akira class starship, taken from an in-game screen shot. It was confirmed to be the object of the first "look development" for the exterior of starships. [22]

In July 2006, the first two detailed in-game screenshots of the Akira class vessel, named the USS Perpetual, were released. Ian Pieragostini showed live demos of the unreleased game later in the month at an industry presentation. [23] For the first external visual look development, a scene from Star Trek: Voyager was selected to be reproduced. [24]

In March 2007 at the Game Developer's Conference, PE released four new concept art material including a starbase with the newest reincarnation of the USS Enterprise, and the design for the new Sacagawea class small-sized starship. The Enterprise of the STO universe will be of a new class. [25]

Characters

File:Star Trek Online uniform concept.jpg

The first character modeled was a female Vulcan.

The new Starfleet uniform have been described as being "a combination of the war-time jacket uniforms that debuted in Deep Space Nine and the popular, more form-fitting costumes of the later seasons of The Next Generation." Colors will be assigned based on department. From an early interview with the developers, Science gets blue, Engineering gets gold, and Security gets red. [26] Under this color scheme, it is uncertain what color command officers would wear; they might keep their original department's color or receive a completely different one. However, more recent concept art implies that Science gets blue, Engineering and Security gets gold, and Command gets red.

A player will be able to customize their uniforms with various styles and placement of shields, body armor, insignia, and other personal items. Uniform styles from all Star Trek eras will also be offered, although it is unclear in what capacity. Crew quarters most likely will also be customizable, including their location (based on character advancement). At the industry presentation in July 2006, Ian showcased the quarters of an admiral on a starbase.

Concept art on Starfleet uniforms and an animation of the LCARS interface have been released. [27] An image of various views of what player uniform customization could be available for STO is also available.

Perpetual's website has an image of an Andorian command division Starfleet officer along with two other crewmembers exploring a planet. [28]

Planets

File:STO cinematic concept awayteam.jpg

Little is known about the planetary look of the game, but a July 2006 industry presentation did provide a glimpse of a planet that was explorable by an away team. In November 2006, PE mentioned that most of the land-based areas will be "open" in terms of the ability to socialize with other players, with instanced areas primarily for missions that demand less community interaction. In March 2007, concept art of a cinematic-like shot of an away team approaching an alien structure was released.

Other

In March 2007, some desktop wallpaper was also released around the same time overlaying several space images with the PE and STO logos. [29]

Development information

Development progress

The game entered the first production stage gradually during mid-2006 from the pre-production phase, as PE built their staffing resources and developed content ideas. In early-September, it was announced that the community should expect less frequent releases of game images, as the team will "stay [in the] dark" so that they can "do a grand reveal for the new look we’ve created to for the game and it's [sic] era." [30]

In September 2006, gameplay is starting to take a significant leap forward. The Perpetual Platform is being utilized for its server technology (intially used for PE's Gods & Heroes) and to create a viable testing environment for server selection, character creation, character movement, camera, object collisions, rendering, and animation, all on a simplified space station. In a couple months, PE will be testing space combat, limited ground combat, space travel within a populated sector of space, and run missions involving these aspects. In November 2006, PE conducted a couple new interviews, one of which revealed the name of the sector as Epsilon.

In March 2007, it was revealed in a podcast with StarTrek-Online.net that the release date was pushed closer towards the release of Star Trek XI at the end of 2008. However, in mid-2007 it was revealed by Daron Stinnett that the game will not be released in 2008, rather likely in early 2009.

The HD DVD TOS box set by CBS features an STO preview. It is said to contain developer interviews, screenshots, concept art, and other tidbits. It is not known what kind of information will be revealed, since STO is still nearly 2 years away from release and has not entered full development.

Beta testing

PE plans on conducting small private betas throughout the last year of development, with an open public beta at the end of the development cycle.

STO was originally slated for beta testing in 2006, with release in 2007, but this information was removed from all official sources and in early 2007, it was confirmed for a 2007 summer beta test target and early 2008 launch. This has since changed as well.

Development team

File:STO development team stage.jpg
  • Todd Berkebile - Server Lead
  • Glen Dahlgren - Lead Designer
  • Steve Desilets - Senior World Designer
  • John Eaves - Design Consultant
  • Ira Goeddel - Character Technical Director
  • Lorien Gremore - Production Assistant
  • TJ Holleran - Art Technical Director
  • Mike Okuda - Design Consultant
  • Ian Pieragostini - Lead Client Engineer
  • Fabio Policarpo - Senior Graphics Engineer
  • Andrew Probert - Design Consultant
  • Todd Reamon - Art Director
  • Mike Stemmle - Story Lead
  • Daron Stinnett - Executive Producer
  • John Yoo - Senior Systems Designer
  • James - Unknown
  • Jesse - Level Designer
Harry Lang oversaw development of Star Trek games from 1998 up until the split of Viacom in early 2006. This resulted in CBS Consumer Products taking over responsibility for the licensing of Star Trek games. Harry Lang is still Senior Director, Interactive Viacom Consumer Products, Licensing division of Paramount Pictures.
Eric Heimburg (Senior Systems Designer) and Ken Henderson (Art Director) are no longer part of the development team as of early 2006. The team consists of 35 developers as of September 2006, and is expected to rise to 70-80 after the pre-production stage.

Appendices

References

External links

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