By admin @ September 15, 2010 at 10:34pm
Executive Producer Dan Stahl checks in with September’s state of the game.
I’m happy to report that Star Trek Online is doing quite well thanks to our awesome fans. We continue to enjoy a healthy subscriber base, and we are seeing an increase in Lifetime subscriptions. Over half of our subscribers have logged in and played the new Featured Episodes we’ve been releasing weekly. New players continue to log in for the first time to see what the excitement is about. The development team continues to design new content, add improvements to the game and address long standing issues. The team is excited for the new features and episodes coming soon. Star Trek Online continues to improve and I’ve got a smile on my face writing this.
Does that mean we’re content and kicking back to bask in the STO Glow? Not at all! There are still a decent amount of bugs and annoying issues in the game. Subscribers continue to churn. There are some big complaints about policies and changes that have happened in the game. So I can’t sit here and smile away all those issues, but I can be happy with the progress we are making in Star Trek Online.
Perhaps my attitude reflects some of the change that is happening at Cryptic Studios. We are not immune to feedback and have learned some valuable lessons in the last six months about the quality of our product and the concerns of players. We’ve also learned a lot from the little things such as statistical play data and player habits. All of this is leading to better decisions and more awareness of the issues so that we can implement plans to address concerns and also continue to enhance the game in meaningful ways.
One area we are addressing is that ever since launch there was a perception that we weren’t “updating” the game or adding enough new things to do. Despite all the updates and many new features that we introduced to the game, there was still a concern that players wanted more to do. We started to recognize that there is a strong need for regular content updates, even if they are small. Consistency has become very important. The Featured Episodes are a great example of how we’re putting your subscription dollars back into the game. You have a lot of games you could potentially spend your money on, and you continue to pay your monthly subscription for Star Trek Online. We need to honor that by continuing to add value to the game every month.
It also helps to show that our business is not just about putting items in the C-Store. Yes, micro-transactions help provide us with resources to make more content, but ultimately we want you to see that your continued support of this game is reflected in the regular updates you receive. That is also why you’ve seen some differences in our attitudes toward items in the C-Store. I’m happy to say that we have been evaluating your feedback and looking at our internal resources and finding ways to ensure that coveted items such as ships can be be obtained in game as well as via micro-transaction. The Nebula Class ships, for instance, which will release soon, will be available in-game as well as via the C-Store. I’m hopeful that we can continue this trend back toward multiple ways to earn these cool, specific items.
This is also why you are seeing us spend more time on making cool new rewards for the content in our game. The Featured Episodes are just one example where the rewards you get in game add value to the experience. You’ll also see new rewards for all older episodes in the future, along with new reward items in Memory Alpha. Loot matters and we’re making big strides to improve the items you receive for completing content in the game. This also means taking a close look at the rewards we are adding to the game to ensure that they are available and make sense for both Federation characters and Klingon characters.
That is one area where we’ve had a problem in the past and players have been right to point out the fact that the 200 day Veteran Reward included a new costume option for Federation players but nothing that was wearable for those players who only play in the Klingon Faction. Despite the reasons for the decision, it is only fair that 200 day Veterans also get a cool new costume option for their Klingon character, and I can tell you that we have put this onto our character art schedule and it’s coming. These types of issues have always existed for the Klingon Faction since pre-launch and there are a lot of examples to pick from.
In fact, the Klingon faction has had an identity crisis in STO since the first days of the project. I can remember discussions where we flat out said that we didn’t want to add a Klingon faction to STO, just as much as I can remember discussions about the Klingon faction being a PvE faction similar to the Feds. In the end, the Klingon faction ended up billed as a PvP faction, and then players were both excited and upset at our approach. In response, we’ve added more PvE content for Klingons and now they are this odd mixture of mostly PvP progression with a little bit of PvE and a lot of odd missions and un-fun grinds.
So it is fair for players to ask, why did we add the Klingon faction in this state, and what is our goal for Klingons, and how does this bode for future factions? When the majority of the paying fan base wants to play a Starfleet Captain, how should we handle other factions that some players want to play, such as Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians? Given that there has been a lot of history and quotes thrown about by different Cryptic employees about what the KDF is all about, let me clear some things up and help convey the vision for what we expect the KDF and all future factions to be.
Here are the goals we have for the KDF (and, really, any new faction we add):
- Solid PvP experience – We want all factions to have awesome PvP maps with sought-after rewards. We want the queues to work and the gameplay modes to be fun.
- Faction-specific PvE episodes – We recognize that the KDF needs flavorful episodes that bring out the story and point of view of that faction.
- Strong selection of ships – The KDF needs to have a solid variety of options when it comes to PvP, not only visually but functionally.
- Fun leveling progression – Leveling a KDF character can be painful compared to the Feds and it needs to be fun instead of a grind.
- Equal access to new stuff – We want to ensure that all STFs, Fleet Actions, Featured Episodes and any other cool new features are built to be played and make sense for the KDF.
We can achieve these goals. We have the plan to do it and recognize that the KDF isn’t there yet. Leveling a KDF character isn’t as fun as leveling a Fed. There are very few faction-specific episodes. There is a lack of ship variety and there are several features such as Memory Alpha that the KDF doesn’t even have access to. Our goal is to address all of those issues.
This doesn’t mean that we’ll be making the KDF or any future faction as PvE episode-heavy as the Federation currently is. Maybe someday in the long-term future, but for now it is not a goal because we simply don’t have the manpower to do it. But we can address the issues above and make the KDF a fun faction to play and enjoy instead of the sometimes cool but often frustrating experience it is now.
It all boils down to this: We have to spend the resources we have appropriately, and if we ever have a chance of adding all the playable factions that everyone wants to see in-game, this is the way we’re going to get there. We have a lot of work left to get to where I think we need to be.
That is why we continue to make strides at improving lackluster features. We have a new ground combat mode in testing that allows you to switch to a target reticule and shoot your weapons where you are aiming instead of needing to click target. We have a new version of Sector Space in development and hope to retrofit all of our existing sectors in the near future with this new hotness. We are working on finding ways to make your character class matter more by adding interactions and game mechanics that take your class into account. We are reworking the way missions are presented to you via a completely revamped remote contact display. And on top of all of that, we have another entire team working on user generated content tools, which promise to add the ability for you to create the missions and episodes that you want to see in the game.
So yes, I’m still smiling. You’ve given us your support and we recognize that you love this game and are committed to making it continually better. The team is hard at work every week making sure that this game stays strong and that it can continue to live as an interactive experience we can all enjoy.
And at the end of the day, I’m happy that Star Trek Online is moving right along. I’m happy with the team I have and happy that we’re moving in a direction that is yielding good results. I’m thankful for your support. It is no small task to work on such a beloved property. Star Trek is such an important part of so many people’s lives. My personal goal is to never lose sight of what Star Trek represents and ensure that we continue to focus on everything that makes Star Trek great.
Until next time, I’ll look forward to seeing you all online for the weekly episodes!