STO Update: Details On Story Arcs, Klingon Gameplay, Micropayments + more

The launch of Star Trek Online is only a couple months away now, and more and more details of how the game will work are being revealed. This week we have info on the structure of the story arcs, Klingon gameplay, micro-payments, the expected customer base and more. Plus info on how the look of the game fits with Star Trek.



‘Four Hub’ Story Arc + Balancing fans & gamers + player sales targets + Klingon gameplay +more details
The Star Trek Online Team are regularly doing interviews. In an interview with MaximumPC, Star Trek Online Executive Producer Craig Zinkievich explains the mission structure of the game

The game is split into four hubs – Federation/Klingon (where you start), Romulan, Cardassian, and finally Borg at the end. We liken each of these hubs to a season of Star Trek, each season with a set number of episode missions based there. Each will have major and minor story arcs, as well as one-off episodes. There’s an overarching story arc for the whole game, so that always shows up in each hub, story-wise.

Each hub is split in sectors, where are high-level maps that you’ll use to fly between planets and spaceports. This is one of the persistent areas where you’ll see hundreds of ships flying around, in addition to the large fleet action zones.

Craig also explained how STO strikes the balance to appeal to MMO fans and Star Trek fans (who may not be regular gamers):

There are some compromises we’ve had to make, license-wise, like adding many phaser weapons variations [in addition to the two main types in Star Trek canon]. In terms of gameplay, our goal is to make a really deep MMO that doesn’t scare away someone who has never played an MMO before. For example, the power-level interface has a complex mode where you can move individual power bars, but there’s also a mode where you can use preset power levels for offensive or defensive stances.

With Buffed, Craig explained how Klingon gameplay will differ (at launch) from Federation

Klingon Gameplay revolves more around PvP – both within themselves, but primarily with Starfleet along the Neutral Zone. There are planets and point of interest to encounter, raids, and some special missions, but for launch, Klingon play is more about social gameplay than story driven content.

Here are some more of the highlights gleaned from latest interviews:

  • The game economy will fit into the Trek genre and the basis will be" Gathering resources, inventing technology and understanding alien technology – and then trading those items and knowledge"
  • Like with all MMO’s, Cryptic plans to "more stuff to do and more skills to gain" as time goes on (in future updates)
  • Still planning on bringing Star Trek Online to a home console, but no details on which or when
  • When your ship blows up you don’t lose it, it respawns at the beginning of a map, with damage
  • Exploding warp cores will effect close-by surrounding ships
  • Players of different ranks will be able to group together for missions
  • Cryptic is not expecting to compete with the size of "World of Warcraft" with millions of gamers, and sees games like "Warhammer" and "Age of Conan" as models that work with a "few hundred thousand" players
  • STO will be a subscription model (monthly fee), but will also have "micro-transactions" for "cosmetic things"

…for more, here are the links

Modernizing the Look of Star Trek
Finally, tar Trek Online VFX Lead Michael Cavallaro has written a Developer Diary at IGN, going over the look of the game. In it he discusses their approach to the source material.

The effects changed from series to series and from movie to movie, and of course you have the J.J. Abrams version, which is different than all of them. If there is one thing we learned from Abrams it is if you make it cool enough, the fans will like it.

There are many occasions where we need to create an effect for an old IP element, and the only reference we have is from TOS Star Trek. We all know the budget they had for visual effects back then was small, so ours has to look better, but fans still know and love the original. Our job is to modernize the look but still keep the original feel so fans will immediately recognize the IP and be impressed by the updated look.


Star Trek Online comes out February 2nd and  is available for pre-order now.

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This is fascinating. One must be a soldier, a diplomat — and an entrepreneur!

I’ll definitely two-box this one with family/friends.

Although the game looks great, I’m not a gamer in the sense that I’d play this enough to justify the monthly fee.

I am worried Cryptic doesn’t realize what they have on their hands. If the game is good (and it’s looking good so far), they are going to move more than a few hundred thousand copies of STO. This is an ip with one of the largest, if not strongest fan bases in the world. Next to Old Republic, this has been the closest I’ve seen to a true wow competitor.


To compete with WoW, STO will have to steal WoW players. MMORPG gamers tend to be married to one game due to having real lives and only 24 hours in a day.

Paradoxically, WoW manages to allow gamers to come on for short periods of time, and actually make meaningful progress. I can do a quest in an airport, or over a cup of coffee. I can also commit to raids and dungeons which last much longer. Hopefully STO also has this in mind.

The graphics still look very 2000.

I’m liking it how this is coming along. I hope it isn’t too expensive, though. I much rather pick up a game that I know nothing about, like Dragon Age: Origins, for $50 than pay for the initial game plus $15 a month for something I know and love.

BTW, watching Enterprise again, I can’t help it! The 4th season really was better than the others.

#6 – I’ve been working on computers for nearly 30 years and they look significantly better than anything that came out in 2000.

Just keep in mind the game is going to be played across a wide variety of PCs, some with dinky built-in graphics with low RAM, and some powerhouses that could render an ILM frame from the new film. It has to be more than playable on both.

True that Simon, but Cryptic did the same with City of Heros then ugraded the game engine that wonked many a moderate system with all bells and whistles enabled (bloom anyone?) not to mention character AOE effects dipped many a frame rate.

I am definitely going to wait until the initial bugs are worked out. WoW had massive realm crashes and lag-time issues in the early days, and continue to re-visit them with their patches and game expansions.

Will this game be launched outside the US? I may be out of the country for half a year soon, and as I’ve been so for most of the last 15 years, I play WoW on a European server, which means I play with insomniacs and drunks from Sweden and Denmark here in NYC. Gotta hit the right time zone.

How long can you play the game out of the box before you have to buy the first month? Anybody know?

Monthly fee – so it’s not for me.

I disagree with Cavallaro’s statement of “If there is one thing we learned from Abrams it is if you make it cool enough, the fans will like it” Yes, Abrams version did look cool, but I didn’t like it. And I think those who did didn’t like it just because of the effects. And this game could (and does so far) look pretty cool. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good game. It needs to have a good storyline, and good gameplay. Look at TOS, it had horrible effects, compared to things of today, but it is undeniably “cool”

#4 “This is an ip with one of the largest, if not strongest fan bases in the world.”

Star Trek has a strong fan base, but the brand “Star Trek” on games is not enough to warrant success. Star Trek pen and paper RPG, just to say one, has always been a total failure. The same can be true for videogames.

Anyone know how much the monthly fee will be?? Did I miss that info or have they not annouced that yet??

If it’s the same as most MMO:s (including Cryptic’s very own Champions Online), the pricing will likely be similar to:

$14.99 USD 1-Month Recurring
$41.97 USD 3-Month Recurring
$77.94 USD 6-Month Recurring

Those are the prices for Champions Online’s monthly fee, and I’m pretty sure STO will be close to it (if not the same).

And you’re basing this opinion on low res screenshots?

Forgive me for disagreeing with you while resisting the urge not to fall out of my chair laughing

While I wouldn’t say that the graphics in STO are on par with games like Mass Effect. Dragon Age, Modern Warfare 2, and others, but I have to say that they are Light years, another dimension even, beyond what was out way back in 2000.

Don’t believe me? Look at this image, from Everquest which was released back in 1999:

STO looks like a game from 2000? I think not, not by a long shot.

When you make a game like STO that has such massive scale and has to incorporate a lot more things then your typical game (Mass Effect or Modern Warfare 2 for instance), compromises have to be made to balance graphical quality, and performance, while still being able to be played across a wide variety of computer configurations. Stuff like this would be lower polygon count (How much geometric detail an object has), lower texture size (how much graphic detail is grafted over the polygons), less complex animations, ect ect.

Think before voicing your opinions, it’ll serve you well.

#11 – It’s pretty standard that when you purchase an MMO you get a month of gameplay included after you activate the game. After the initial month you get charged the monthly fee.

I think charging people a monthly fee to play a game they already paid for in a store is wrong and stupid. Do these people in charge not realize that most of the gamers already have monthly fees they have to pay, just to live a decent life and provide for their families? Now they want to charge them a monthly fee just to be entertained by a game they already PAID for. I know this isn’t new, other games have done it, but I think it’s wrong and unfair. People already pay monthly for internet access, isn’t that enough? I’m a firm believer in paying for a game once and being able to play it anytime you want without shelling out more of your hard earned money. I don’t really care how great this game may be or what people tell me about it, I will not give in, I will resist! Resistance is not futile! Monthly fee sooooooooo not for me!

The preorder prices are not cheap to start with and then a monthly fee on top to keep playing… again, if the champions prices are anything to go by… not cheap either… do these guys not know most of the world is in recession right now. Money is tight and us poor gamers and trekkies have to prioritise what the pennies get spent on.
I used to dabble in Eve Online and even though it is a very good game, the monthly fee side of things makes it seem like any time you aren’t playing it, you are wasting the money that you just spent on the monthly fee. Plus to increase your ISK (in game currency) the tasks you had to perform tended to be repetitive, especially so if pvp isn’t your thing. It was turning into a chore for me so I made the decision to stop playing it (and paying the monthly fee). It kinda put me off Eve and other MMOs.
I may give STO a chance but overall, I hope the developers don’t think that just because its about Trek, us fans have bottomless pockets. We don’t.

This game is going to be great, but I’m disappointed that they are not releasing a mac version. I am a rabid mac user and have virtually abandoned pc! :-(. What happened to IDIC in computing? l. That and I wish the space combat was more like Bridg Commander which as true 3d combat with roll pitch and yaw. I also am a fanboy that wants to walk around my ship and level up!

I believe that this game is going to be a lot of fun. I cannot wait until it comes out.

I agree with you ross1701. I think the fee should definitely be based on the amount of time you actually spend playing the game, not just a straight-up month. So you only have to spend 15 bucks after you’ve actually played 30 full days worth of time according to the game’s internal clock.

Of course, if I was in charge of the business model, I would only charge users when they downloaded additional content to upgrade or expand their copy of the game, since it sounds like that will be a part of the game’s design anyway. But what do I know, math isn’t my strong suit. I guess selling a few hundred thousand copies of the game at 50 bucks a pop doesn’t earn you enough money to keep things going without charging a user fee on top of things every month anymore, I guess.

Or, because of the user fees, will the game be cheaper out of the box?

Wait, nope. Still 50 bucks.

Greedy bastards.

I think the opposite is true: Give the software away for free, and charge the monthly fee which covers ever-changing content and in-game events.

Right now, World of Warcraft is $19.95 in the US for the initial starter game, which is much more reasonable than $50. That price will definitely keep some people away.

Also, Cryptic should have a system in place which covers the inevitable overcrowding, lag and crash of servers once they get online.

In the case of MMOs, if you want a quality game that will stand the test of time, there is no way that they CANNOT charge a monthly fee. Sorry to those of you who already read my similar post in a different thread, but I’ve played both one time purchase MMOs and monthly MMOs. The one time purchase MMOs fall apart after the first year or so. It takes tremendous time and (computing) man power to keep an MMO running smoothly. The maps and ammount of content in even an average MMO is pretty staggering. There’s no way anyone will get decent gameplay, features, and update without paying somewhere along the line. MMOs are not like first person shooters, rts games, or even online games like Team Fortress. They are an entirely different beast and those servers need to be maintained constantly.

Well I have no idea how much this will cost in the UK, or if it will even be released in the UK.

But one thing for me which is certain, I will not pay $50 for a game and then after 30 days, be told that to continue playing, I will need to start giving out another $15 per month whether I use it every day or once a month. Which is the main thing that bothers me about subscription games like this.

I think the previous poster which said it would be fairer if you were charged $15 once you hit thirty days of connections was talking a lot of sense.

Mind you, I don’t think that I even have the time these days to get involved in an MMO.

This looks like a great starting point for the game, but I think most of the ideas above deserve a place in the game as it progresses with updates. This could truly be the most comphrensive virtual representation of Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe – if we support it.

I still don’t have a job so I probably won’t get to play… :(

So we finally have some news on the payment scheme the devs are going to be using for STO… hmm. Whilst a small fee might be justified, if Cryptic are to go for a payment scheme for STO like their Champions Online, then I would imagine that many Star Trek gamers will be very hesitant to put money down for this, especially in the current financial climate.

i have many fellow Trek friends and gamer friends who would love a good Star Trek game to hit the shelves, but I know that they most definitely don’t have that sort of money to continually fork out when their family budgets are already at the limits. Personally, I hope that the game ends up having a trial period or demo as I am still somewhat unsure about investing time and money in STO.