Eurogamer: Star Trek Online has a random generator - a genesis system - that populates the planets of the universe. Aren't you worried that by leaving content in the hands of an engine that quantity will be churned out over quality - that Star Trek Online will be shallow and sterile?
Craig Zinkievich: If that is the only content that you are planning on, then yeah, you are probably doomed to failure. But one of the things we've done in order to build the genesis system is to make sure that each bit we make, our internal developers get to use it to make cooler content with... You give them the tools to use it a little bit and and it increases their productivity because they don't have to worry about doing any of the rote stuff any more - just the cool stuff. And then you fold that back into the genesis system.
I don't think that at any point our genesis content will replace what our artists and designers can do; it's really an adjunct to it. No matter how cool the genesis content gets - and it is actually really awesome - there will be stuff in the game that is hand-tweaked, hand-touched, that moves the player along, that is that story-driven content. Doing the procedurally-generated content is really there as a choice.
Eurogamer: Another thing that struck me is that you fly around on your ship with your crew (AI "pets"), or you explore a planet with a friend and some crew, but it never sounds like you're interacting with a lot of people. Space might feel like that, but where are we going to get the MMO hustle and bustle from?
Craig Zinkievich: Yes, this game is an MMO, and we want to make sure that players run into other players and experience content with them. There are definitely social hubs in the game: Earth's space dock is the big, huge space station outside of Earth that is the Star Fleet headquarters, and that is the major social place that players will constantly be going back to.
There is an over-world view, which we call sector space, which is what the game looks like when travelling at really high warp speeds between systems. In this astro-metric view you see all the other players within this sector and where they are and how they're moving along and whether or not they're being chased down by some Klingons, or whether or not they're going to the same system as you to try and solve the same problem. It gives you all those chances to team up with and see all those other people.
It really is an MMO. Fleet actions - huge persistent attacks - where you've got to help a star base under attack by the Klingons: you're not going there by yourself, you know. You'll need 10, 15, 20 guys to get through.
Eurogamer: Ooh, that sounds very endgame. What other stuff will we do at that level?
Craig Zinkievich: Another MMO philosophy of ours is to make sure people have choice. People can do what they want to do when they're in the game, and that applies to our endgame. There is raid content; story-driven episodes for a hardcore team of five people; PvP content with a reward structure; high-end PvE exploration content with its own rewards.
Eurogamer: Rewards! What sort of things will I get? Tighter tops? New crew members in treasure chests? Obviously there's experience and money to gain.
Craig Zinkievich: Exactly, so besides from just your experience and skill points, there's like tons of rewards in the game. There's all the equipment you need - your weapons, your kit, your armour, your personal shields - as well as all those things for your bridge officers. Towards the end of the game when you have 10 to 15 bridge officers, you have to equip them all too, so you've got a bevy of characters you have to outfit. Additionally, all the equipment on your ship: the weapons, the shields, the impulse engines, the deflector dish, the consoles on your ship - the ships themselves are unlocked as time goes on. But in order to get more ships within the tier you're in, those are things you're going to be working towards.
What did I miss? Oh, bridge officers - you mentioned that; finding that special alien race who make really, really good engineers, out at the edge of space, and working for them to the point where they'll allow you to recruit bridge officers. Those are loot also. So there's lots and lots of loot to go after.