Cryptic's been developing its Star Trek MMO somewhat quietly while superhero stablemate Champions Online stole the limelight. It was only at gamescom back in August that we got our first proper look at the game, and very illuminating it was too. Now that Champions is out in the wild, though, Cryptic is ready to start dishing the dirt in detail on a game that could be out sooner than you think. We called up executive producer Craig Zinkievich to talk Klingons, betas, consoles, random content generation and finding people in chests. Or something.
Eurogamer: Champions Online - the other Cryptic MMO - is done and dusted and on shop shelves. Has that affected your team?
Craig Zinkievich: There has been no direct affect in terms of... If I was to take the hardcore executive producer stance, then I've lost no work cycles. The really cool thing is, though, that everything they find - every core instability, any backend tools - is immediately inherited by the Star Trek project, because we use the same core engine. Any issue that Champions has found, Star Trek automatically gets fixed. It's almost as if our core technology has already launched. So I guess that's affected us a little bit - it's eased my mind! And it's doing awesome.
Eurogamer: Did you work on City of Heroes?
Craig Zinkievich: Yeah; I've been with Cryptic since before City of Heroes. I was the producer on the two City of projects.
Eurogamer: It must be very different going from Spandex and cities to spaceships and planets and television-remote zappers! What was the hardest transition to make?
Craig Zinkievich: I am surprised that getting space combat feeling and looking good wasn't that hard, and in hindsight I'm not sure how that happened. But it wasn't that difficult to get space combat up and running and really, really fun.
At this point in the project, looking back, the hardest thing was probably getting ground combat to feel like Star Trek, and to feel different. I don't want to say we took it for granted, but it was the things that were most similar to games we made previously that have been hardest to make work well.
Eurogamer: Let's talk about ground combat! It doesn't look very tactical when characters stand face-to-face, zapping each other with a phaser until one keels over. Will there be ranged/melee weapon-swapping?
Craig Zinkievich: It is one of the things we're still playing with and that we're still adjusting. There is melee, there is ranged. When you do beam down to the planet on an away mission, you always have two weapons. One of those could be a melee weapon, or you could leave it open and use martial arts, which you can actually level up and get better at.
Eurogamer: Martial arts like Spock - he was handy with his hands! What other weapons can we wield?
Craig Zinkievich: Short weapons - knives; long weapons - there's a Vulcan polearm but its name escapes me; as well as, if you're on the Klingon side and have opened these things, you can get get Bat'leth [two-handed sword-staff thing]. Klingons definitely have a whole slew of weapons that we'll make available.
Eurogamer: Talking of Klingons: they appear to be a baddie in Star Trek Online. Have they got any friends?
Craig Zinkievich: In 2409, which is when the game takes place, the Khitomer Accord, which is the treaty between the Federation and the Klingons, has broken down. In the years leading up to it, the Alpha Quadrant has escalated to the point where the Klingons and the Federation are at war, so the Klingons are the baddies.
That being said, there are Klingons who are on the Federation side - you can't really make a Star Trek game these days without allowing people to live out their Worf fantasy. There are even missions where the Klingons and the Federation have to work together because other issues are going on. You don't always fight the Klingons, but they are a strong, bad arc throughout the game for the Federation players.