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Will Star Trek Online go free-to-play?

Will Champions get user-generated content?

If you want Star Trek Online to be free-to-play then you had better jolly well say so, Cryptic boss Jack Emmert has told Eurogamer, because right now that decision hangs in the balance.

"I'm sure people are wondering whether we'll do it with Star Trek and the question is really how well it does for Champions," explained Emmert. "Does it work or doesn't it?

"We're not sold one way or the other with Star Trek yet. If people want Star Trek to go free-to-play then get in and play Champions and help make it a great success, because that would send a strong message."

"If we did Turbine's level of success that would certainly merit the discussion!"

But, he added: "There are more people than just I on that decision and I can't begin to say it would be an automatic 'Yes, we'd do it.'"

Champions Online will turn free-to-play next year. Why? Because Turbine made loads of money relaunching Dungeons & Dragons Online as F2P and found success with Lord of the Rings Online, too, which turned free-to-play in Europe this week.

"We hope for a success as big as DDO," Emmert enthused. "That would be great - but I wouldn't say we're betting on it.

"In other words, I'm not going to say we'll do or die if we don't get five times our revenue or whatever the stats were that Turbine did. We're just hoping to open it up and increase the fanbase, and we'll just wait and see - I'd love it if we got their results, but hey, if that doesn't happen it doesn't happen."

Free-to-play too?

Champions Online turning free-to-play means there will be two ways to experience the game: as a Silver member or as a Gold member.

Gold members are existing subscribers who will pay $14.99 a month. Silver members, on the other hand, represent the free-to-play side of the game. Silver members have limitations on character class, costumes, and character slots - "all that kind of stuff". But they can download Champions Online and adventure from zero to superhero without spending a penny or a nickel or a galleon or whatever you use.

Of course there's the option to splash some cash if you so choose, picking content, items and buffs "a la carte" from the in-game C-Store.

Note, however, that if you're a subscriber-turned-Silver member then you'll have to pay to move to a Silver server. "You have to pay to transfer your characters over or you could just start from scratch again," revealed Emmert.

Gold members will have access to some areas that Silver members do not. But apparently the two sets of members can play Champions Online together. "We don't want to disallow that by any stretch."

He reckons the reaction so far to the Champions Online news has been "super great" by the "vast majority", although there have been a "few snarky comments".

"I'm hoping lots of new people would give the game a chance that perhaps didn't even look at it the very first time because it was a subscription MMO," Emmert said. "Naturally I expect a lot more people to come in - we believe strongly that the game was good at launch and even better a year later - and that those people decide to stay around and play in the world. "

Champions Online received 6/10 on Eurogamer at launch last September. But today Emmert reckons it's the best superhero MMO on the market - "very much better game than City of Heroes ever was".

"But hey, that's just my own particular gameplay style. I created City of Heroes so if anything I'm insulting myself! That's no slight against anyone but me," he said.

"Nobody sits down and makes games that aren't popular on purpose. You assume it's going to get 9/10, even though there are mistakes. If you told me that somebody would give Champions 4/10, I would have said to you, 'You're crazy! Who in the world would give Champions 4/10? That's for games that don't even run!' I think WWII Online got better than that.

"But it's a different marketplace," he said. "It's an incredibly demanding space now, and what was acceptable five years ago is not even worth discussing."

Idea for guild name: Spandex's Midnight Runners.

Turning Champions Online free-to-play is one idea Cryptic Studios has had to spruce up its MMO portfolio. The other: user-generated content. This will appear first in Star Trek Online, so will it carry over into Champions Online?

"Ultimately, yeah," said Emmert. "Eventually we would like to do it.

"User-generated content has always been part of our strategic plan for years and years and years. Ultimately I'd like to have it in every game we do in one version or another."

That doesn't mean that Cryptic's developers will simply abandon Star Trek Online and Champions Online to the community though. "No, no," Emmert insisted. "We'll still continue making content. It's just that now you've got more content to choose from. You've got the stuff created by the developers as well as the stuff created by your friends, other people and so forth."

Star Trek Online's user-generated content system is undergoing beta testing now. For existing games - and even for new project Neverwinter - UGC and F2P are on the cards. And Cryptic 3.0, as Emmert called it, has more ideas up its sleeves - several unannounced projects, for starters.

"A lot of our innovation is going to be coming in games that haven't been released yet. There are still things under development that we're working on at Cryptic.

"There's a project that I'm more involved with the design than I have been in a long time than anything," he added. "Something that's close to my heart. And so that's very exciting."

"It is definitely not fantasy-based. I can say that. It is something that's pretty exciting. It's under wraps and hopefully we can talk about it soon."

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Robert Purchese

Associate Editor

Bertie is a synonym for Eurogamer. Writes, podcasts, looks after the Supporter Programme. Talks a lot.