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Star Trek Online’s Craig Zinkievich

Star Trek Online’s executive producer Craig Zinkievich recently sat down with IncGamers to talk about the recently released game, its launch and ongoing changes. See what he had to say below:The capacity of the STO servers was increased recently following a huge turn-out by fans. Was this expected, or has the game attracted more players than you anticipated?

We were pretty blown away, honestly. We had high expectations for the game due its license, of course. But the user turnout completely exceeded our projections. It’s definitely been a great surprise! And like you said, we’re reacting to it: We’re improving our capacity, and as of this writing, we’ve increased our max capacity by 75 percent.

What are your immediate plans for STO, what’s next on the “To Do” list?

There’s a lot on the “To Do” list.  We just added some Borg-themed endgame episodes, with more on the way. We’re making more PvE content for Klingons, more exploration, more PvP maps, basically more of everything. Just because the game is live doesn’t mean we’re done adding to it.  We’re constantly gathering player feedback and if it fits into the game and it’s in high demand then we plan on making it.

With hindsight, was there any aspect of the launch that you wish you’d done differently, or could have changed?

Overall, I think we’ve had a pretty good launch, especially using the history of MMO launches as a guide. But in hindsight, it would’ve been great to know exactly how popular the game would have been, just to guarantee smoothness through our first week.

Can we expect any features for STO like the Champions Online ‘Companion’ or the Champedia?

We’re always looking to improve and build upon what’s on the website. We’ve got some rough plans in place, but we really want to be able to give lots of information to our community and let them use it how they want. We love the wikis we’re seeing on the net right now, and we want to support those community efforts as much as possible.

Are there any plans to make ships more explorable, for example, the ability to take the turbolift from the bridge down to your quarters, visit the sick bay or the holodeck?

Anything we can do to make the game feel even more like Star Trek is something we want to do. So, definitely, we want to give people more of their ship. This is one of those things we want to get perfect before introducing it to players, though. Star Trek ships aren’t like some other sci-fi ships; there are nooks and crannies and bays and holds that need addressing. For instance, there’s a room on the Enterprise that is the most acoustically “perfect” on the entire ship. Beverly Crusher and Jean Luc Picard played music there in one episode. These are things we consider when talking about expanding ships. So it’s going to be an undertaking.

The introduction of the skill cap was quite a controversial change during the beta. Is there any chance that it may be reconsidered as more players reach end game?

Anything can happen, but I wouldn’t expect the skill cap to go away. This is mostly due to the way players gain ranks in-game. Right now, the max “level” is Admiral Rank 5. If players were able to max out every skill in the game, if we raised it to Admiral Rank 10, players with maxed skills would instantly rank up to that rank, meaning they’d just bypass any of the new content we’d created for people to advance. And in STO, much like Star Trek itself, the journey is part of the reward.

Why isn’t there much of af death penalty? There are a few suggestions around that could be introduced to stop players from carelessly throwing their ships into battles; Your Bridge Officers could be incapacitated for a minute or two after a defeat while they’re healed in sick bay or, after a number of deaths, you may have to return to a star base to get repaired before certain modules stop working.

We currently have a death penalty in-game. When you die, your crew comes back depleted and has to slowly build back up. This means your hull and other systems don’t repair as quickly as if they were at full capacity. And on the ground, you’re forced to retreat to a respawn point behind where you expired.

In terms of traditional death penalties, think about what a death penalty really is: It’s a time penalty. You died; therefore we’re putting you in time out for X amount of time. Or, you died, therefore we’re forcing you to spend X amount of money, which takes Y amount of time to earn. Why would you force people to stop having fun, and sacrifice their free time, just to disincentivize behavior in a videogame? I get that people want to feel a sense of risk when they’re fighting in battles, but if the only emotion you feel when you’re playing a game is fear that you’re going to lose some time due to an arbitrary gameplay mechanic, we’re probably not doing something right. It’s like asking why single-player games have quicksave options.But that said, we are looking into finding a meaningful way to give players a deeper sense of loss when something bad happens. But we want it to feel right, rather than just like an arbitrary penalty.

What’s the most popular request by players right now?

We’re seeing a lot of players asking for more Klingon PvE content, which we’re implementing as we go. Klingons will soon receive a new Star Cluster to explore as well as a brand new Fleet Action, with much more to come.

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