Cryptic Studios is trying new things to bolster the popularity of MMOs Star Trek Online and Champions Online. Its newest invention? Player-made missions. And Star Trek Online will integrate them first.
Dubbed The Foundry, the toolset allows anyone to make a story, fill it with encounters and play around with the scenery. You can either start a world from scratch or tinker with pre-made templates - Cryptic even allows existing STO areas to be used.
But The Foundry is not a modding tool.
"No. The goal of this toolset is to allow players to put their stories in the Star Trek universe using the same look, feel, and capabilities that Cryptic's own design team utilises," The Foundry FAQ states. "So while there are a lot of features for creating content, players cannot import their own images, 3D models, or audio into the game."
A five-star rating system will be implemented for the Community Authored Episodes. Judging them will be reviewers picked from the game's community, and nothing will be offered to the masses without passing their eyes first.
To begin with, custom rewards for Community Authored Episodes can't be made using The Foundry. But judging by the wording of the FAQ, they may be added at a later stage. What's more, "expanded functionality" such as missions aboard ships, is being "considered".
The Foundry toolset currently needs beta testing. If you have an existing Star Trek Online account you qualify.
City of Heroes - the Cryptic-created MMO that NCsoft ran away with in 2007 - introduced a very similar toolset in 2009 called the Mission Architect. The results "astounded" NCsoft and Paragon Studios.
In an effort to compete with its own genre-leading creation, Cryptic announced yesterday that Champions Online would soon turn free-to-play. Therefore, the chances of Star Trek Online adopting the same business model down the line must be high.
Star Trek Online was released at the beginning of the year but wasn't the genre-shattering launch the licence perhaps deserved. Eurogamer awarded a deflated 6/10. Cryptic Studios admitted it could do better and has promised to support the enterprising MMO even as "several other projects" - including online RPG Neverwinter - are revealed to be in development there.