Interview: Star Trek Online’s 11.5 mid-season update

Yesterday’s Season 11.5 update for Star Trek Online is a bit of a hodgepodge, an assortment of several separate pieces all sitting in the same space without a great deal of thematic connection. In a way, though, that’s entirely appropriate. This patch was meant as part of the bridging action after the game’s first six-year story arc came to a close, and the seeds of it were sown back at the end of that story arc… even if they weren’t as explicit as might seem necessary.

I had a chance to sit down and speak with Steve Ricossa, the game’s executive producer, about the 11.5 update, the mechanics involved, and some of the future plans involved for the game. The Na’kuhl’s presence in this first story arc is, in fact, entirely to be expected, as the developers were planning on this at the same time that players were finishing up against the Iconians.

As it turns out, Cryptic’s staff in general is full of time travel fans, from Star Trek’s nigh-ubiquitous time travel episodes to other media. The team is also usually planning a year and a half or so ahead of the game’s updates, so there was no mystery about where the game would be going next; the big question was simply how we were going to get there. Thus, the time travel that ended the Iconian war was partly there to prime players for the Na’kuhl and temporal considerations, seeding the future with the past. It feels like a thematic link even though the factions aren’t connected.

Of course, the Na’kuhl also come from Enterprise, which was historically not one of the most beloved Star Trek series (to put it gently). But Cryptic enjoys pulling lore from Enterprise, and there’s an ongoing effort to use races that were present in that series but hadn’t be seen in chronologically later Trek shows. There’s a lot of stories to be told there.

Oh no, look, your ship's all broken and on the floor.

Players who are struggling with the new skill system will be happy to know that a sale will be going on for both respec tokens and bundle packs of respec tokens if you feel the need for extra flexibility. On that same note, I asked Ricossa about the Strategist specialization, which was entirely meant to serve as a tanking spec for players who find that particular playstyle more engaging. More options means more chances to delve deep into a playstyle, and while some people won’t care, Cryptic is more worried about giving options to the people who do.

Does this mean that the game is going to focus more heavily on having a tank-healer-DPS trinity setup? Not unless that’s how you want to play. If you have a dedicated group that likes to play that way, Strategist helps you do that; if you’d rather have your Tactical captain flying an Engineering ship and blasting away for damage, that’s fine too. It’s an option rather than an enforced playstyle.

We also talked somewhat about the new Na’kuhl red alerts, with Ricossa acknowledging that some red alerts (particularly the Tholians) were essentially uninteresting in terms of gameplay compared to others, swapping one set o ships for another. The Na’kuhl red alert is meant to have more back-and-forth motion and scale up over time.

While the Na’kuhl are a clear threat, Ricossa also said that one of the big goals of the narrative side is to avoid some of the mistakes made with the Iconian arc, where every single update was a new major conflict or another buildup to the eventual war. The conflict is nigh-inevitable, since the game’s space combat is such a central feature, but not every single update needs to focus solely upon it. It’s about catching seeds of the conflict that are building up, and have a more balanced flow over time.

Hello, I'd like to have an argument.

I asked Ricossa about the new Exploration system on that note, and he said it’s currently too early to speak about that or Season 12 plans. The team has a plan, but it’s a matter of where it’s going to fit well.

Last but not least, it’s impossible to run Star Trek Online without thinking about the new upcoming series in the franchise. Ricossa confirmed that the developers are in communication with CBS about participating and supporting the show and the game in both directions, though it’s too early to talk about the details.

Ironically, if we could actually travel through time in multiple directions, we could probably have those details now. Our inability to break out from linear time aside, I appreciate Ricossa taking the time to chat with me about the state of the update and future plans.

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13 Comments on "Interview: Star Trek Online’s 11.5 mid-season update"

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Armsman
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Armsman

DanielReasor  I still enjoy doing it once a day on a couple of my characters. It’s a fun combat sequence (and I like it better then the new one they just added – but that’s me.)

mysecretid
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mysecretid

JayPower 
I explained it poorly, and I don’t want to get into a long min-max build discussion.
My point was only that what my Fleet expected to see from a baseline Vesta, we didn’t get.
And yes, you can make almost any ship in the game into a solid ship if you’re willing to put thought into its gear and build — that’s part of what STO such a fun game.
So sure, you can make a Vesta “tanky as fuck”, but there are other ships which outshine it when set up equally well.
The point I intended, beyond my drunken whale joke, was that, because of the lore history behind the Vesta, we expected the ship to be impressive even at baseline — one of the great starships, right out of the box — and it wasn’t.
Cheers,

mysecretid
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mysecretid

DanielReasor 
I know  number of people in my Fleet who like to use the Tholian Red Alert as a “ship tester”, actually, so you’re not alone.

Me, I confess I like it for its looks, as well — fighting all those Tholians inside that bright blue nebula — and I also like that it’s also something which can be done, and enjoyed, quickly.

Not every single skirmish in the game has to be a long, involved process. Sometimes, “putting out fires”, and then earning a bit of a reward is enough.

Cheers,

JayPower
Guest
JayPower

Sounds like you were doing the Vesta wrong. It’s meant to run a shield tank, not a hull tank and with full power to aux. Anyone trying to use it as a escort or sciscort is missing out. It is tanky as fuck setup properly.

DanielReasor
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DanielReasor

I wonder if I’m the only one who has a soft spot for the Tholian Red Alert.  It taught me a lot about managing power levels and clearing debuffs, and now it’s my “Patchwerk Fight” to test out a new build.

mysecretid
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mysecretid

skoryy 
My continuing problem with the Vesta is that its hull feels a lot thinner than I would expect, and it handles like a drunken whale. :-)

My opinions only, of course, but it just didn’t “feel right” when I flew one, so I moved on to a ship I liked better.

My fleet had a fair of amount of discussion about the Vesta, and the general consensus was that it didn’t live up to the expectations many of us held for the way it would play  …

I’m curious to hear your take on the ship.

I’m glad you’re enjoying your goldshirt captain on a sci ship (“Heretic!” “Who said that?”) :-) — but seriously, one of the enduring strengths of STO, in my opinion, is that you really can play as you prefer when it comes to your captain and your starship choice.

Cheers,

skoryy
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skoryy

My main is an engineer who now quite happily flies a science ship, and I highly endorse varying up your playstyle as you see fit. 

(Granted the Vesta is to science what the Manhattan Project was, but still!)

mysecretid
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mysecretid

BKone mysecretid 
My post was more about style, than canonicity, I suspect.

I rather like the original style of Trek storytelling which Star Trek Online reflects in its game, and I’d rather not see all of that wiped away because CBS has a new series coming out which they want to see supported in the most overt way possible.
Cheers,

BKone
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BKone

mysecretid It won’t be in JJ Trek. The series is made by CBS while Paramount said they don’t want to serialize the current movie universe. So it stays as an alternate timeline. Prime timeline belongs to CBS and the new series will will play in that timeline.
Cryptic’s Star Trek is also an alternate timeline. But they can visit the official prime timeline thru wormhole shenanigans or timetravel or whatnot…

johnmynard
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johnmynard

JayPower It is formatted a little wierd, but it’s readable.

mysecretid
Guest
mysecretid

I have been wondering if part of the reason for the current “time travel  story arc” is to provide a means of “rebooting” the game’s continuity to match that of the upcoming Star Trek show (which is set in the “Abrams Trek” universe, I am told) if CBS insists on such a change?

If the change is mandated by CBS, I think it will a bad decision, in part because STO is the only place left to experience ongoing visual adventures set in the original Star Trek continuity, and in part because gamers tend to hate radical change in long-standing games, even if those games are imperfect. (Star Wars Galaxies and the NGE, anyone?).

I’m not losing my mind over this, and I feel that it’s far, far too early to start frothing about it — it’s simply something I wonder about occasionally, and that I hope doesn’t actually come to pass.

JayPower
Guest
JayPower

No one cares, huh. Ok.

JayPower
Guest
JayPower

The way this is formatted it’s hard to tell where the interview starts and where Salami boy’s responses are. Is that a new thing?

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