Eurogamer: Did you ever consider taking fights to the bridge - having invading parties duke it out with captains like those silly old pirates did?
Craig Zinkievich: There are ship-based battles in the game! Not on your ship - you end up having to beam over to other people, or have to beam over to a distressed Federation ship. So there's definitely interiors and other ships you beam on. But we wanted to make sure that when we put player ships into the game, that the player has a lot of control over what that ship looks like and what the layout is.
We figure we'll do that stuff post-launch.
Eurogamer: Will there ever be a time when me and my five friends or me and my thirty friends, depending on how popular I am, occupy the same ship or the same starbase? Is that a guild goal?
Craig Zinkievich: There are guilds, we call them Fleets. You can imagine that they have all the standard guild mechanisms that are in MMOs.
When we got the licence we did think about whether or not we wanted to go multiple players on the ship or not. Instead of trying to bite off more than we can chew, and either never deliver the game or deliver a really thin experience, we decided to focus on the captain and get that right.
When we make decisions, we make sure that eventually maybe we can add - that people can maybe pilot the same ship and be different officers on the same bridge. But for now, at launch, everybody will be a captain, and that goes for Fleets too.
Eurogamer: And how is development going? When we last saw the game, in August, beta was going to be "really soon". We're now a couple of months on; where's our beta?
Craig Zinkievich: We are taking beta applications now, and started taking them at the beginning of September. We are, um, just on the doorstep of going into closed beta. I don't know if it's alpha, but we do have people outside of the company already playing the game. We're in the home-stretch in terms of developing the game. We're definitely moving into the lock-down and feedback stage. It's really, really exciting.
Eurogamer: Speaking of launch, have you narrowed a date down at all? Is it Q1 2010? A lot of people say "early 2010" only to release their game in August.
Craig Zinkievich: Yeah. What I'm allowed to say is that it's early 2010, and most everybody on the planet will believe it's early 2010. It's not a July "early 2010", it's definitely early 2010.
Eurogamer: Star Trek Online is also coming to consoles. I take it by that you mean Xbox 360 is a shoe-in. Is it coming to PS3 as well?
Craig Zinkievich: We haven't announced which consoles it's going to be on. It will not launch simultaneously on consoles and PC, but we haven't announced which consoles yet, at all.
Eurogamer: We follow consoles MMO development closely, as no-one has managed to deliver one yet, apart from Final Fantasy XI. What reassurance can you give our readers that Star Trek Online is really happening on console and within an acceptable time-frame - not two or three years. It's starting to get silly!
Craig Zinkievich: I can only speak for the development side of things. When it comes to the business, I'll be honest, the business part of bringing MMOs to consoles has been really sticky... Trying to get Sony, trying to get Microsoft to really understand MMOs; really understand what needs to happen for MMOs, and then figure out all the business aspects of those games, has really been a difficulty for all of the MMO developers.
Final Fantasy [XI] has been on the Xbox 360 for a while, but so many exceptions were made for that game, because at the time, the Xbox was trying to take market share and whatnot. So when it comes to the business, to how the first-parties - Microsoft and Sony - support MMOs, and what technologies we need in order to have our games run well, networking-wise and chat-wise and all that sort of stuff - those have been the really big hangups.
In terms of actually developing the game on the consoles? I mean Champions runs on the console right now; Star Trek Online runs on the consoles right now; our engine - the Cryptic Engine - runs on the consoles. So I can guarantee that internally I can have Star Trek Online running on the consoles because I know I can, and we've done it. But it's that [business] side that I can't speak for. I can give you guarantees that if you really, really want, someone can come here and play it!
Star Trek Online is due out in early 2010 on PC.