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Star Trek Online

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Atari
Developer: Cryptic Studios
Release Date: Feb. 2, 2010 (US), Feb. 5, 2010 (EU)

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'Star Trek Online' (PC) Developer Diary

by Rainier on Jan. 29, 2010 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Set in the year 2409, Star Trek Online will allow players to immerse themselves in the future of the Star Trek universe, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations in an ever expanding vast universe. Command a starship as a Federation or a Klingon Captain, outfit it with custom systems and recruit, train and mold a crew into an elite force for exploration and combat. Missions take players into thrilling space battle, planetside for face-to-face combat and even inside starships!

Set in the year 2409, Star Trek Online will allow players to immerse themselves in the future of the Star Trek universe, exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations in an ever expanding vast universe. Command a starship as a Federation or a Klingon Captain, outfit it with custom systems and recruit, train and mold a crew into an elite force for exploration and combat. Missions take players into thrilling space battle, planetside for face-to-face combat and even inside starships!

Powered by the Cryptic Engine, Star Trek Online will be developed for both console and PC formats. With customizable ships and characters from the Klingon Empire and United Federation of Planets, ground, space and shipboard gameplay and unique options for player-generated content set in the Star Trek universe, Star Trek Online is the MMOG that allows you to boldly go where no one has gone before!

Developer Diary 

It’s amazing to think that not too long we were just a handful of guys in a tiny run-down office with not much more than an idea: a super hero MMO called City of Heroes.  Fast forward about nine years and Star Trek Online will be the seventh game I’ve been a part of here at Cryptic and the fourth game that I’ve helped ship.  I have to say that I think Cryptic has really come into its own with STO; it’s definitely the pinnacle of our achievements so far.

My name is Jeremy Mattson and I’m a Principal Artist at Cryptic and a member of the character team on STO.  Working on Massively Multiplayer games is a little bit of a different experience for a game artist to say the least. We’ve got a few challenges you might not find in other types of games but our biggest challenge is the sheer amount of content we have to create. In STO we have hundreds of characters that players will see throughout the game. So we have to come up with ways to not only get the job done but also make sure that our artwork is competitive with all of the great looking games out there. One of the ways we do this is by building things modularly.

We started making our characters modularly in the City of Heroes days. Back then it was my job to develop the costume creator for that game. When we started the project I was making the heroes and Chris Chamberlain (who was the only other character artist on the team) was making the villains. While Chris was taking a more traditional one-off approach with the villains; I was building everything to go into a system. Set up similar to paper dolls: head, hairstyle, shirts, pants shoes etc. players could mix and match and change colors to get the look they wanted for their hero. It was a pretty fun system. About mid-way through the project we were realizing that the costume creator wasn’t just fun to play with but it was actually shaping up to be a powerful development tool.  Soon just about every character we made was going through the costume creator. From then on we were making the majority of the characters modularly.  So when a designer would say I need ‘hero X’ we’d look at the request and figure out what new assets we’d need and what existing things we could leverage. Most of the time we’d be able to give them what they needed by just creating a few new parts. The rest was done with scaling the body, adding a unique color scheme and things like that. It saved us a ton of time and that’s basically how we do things for all of our games now. Although what we’re doing now in many ways is light years beyond what we did then.

Matt Highison, our Character Lead, has taken the same basic approach in character creation for STO. Uniforms are categorized just like you’d expect: jackets, pants, shoes, gloves etc.  But where STO character creation really shines is our Alien Gen system.  We’ve basically taken every alien species the team has created for the game, disassembled them and put their parts into a system that allows you to mix and match to create some pretty amazing stuff. It’s really powerful and a ton of fun to play with. For instance with Alien-Gen you can start with a Benzite face, add a Denobulan forehead, put on some Ocampa ears, add a tattoo and blammo! A never before seen Star Trek alien is born at your fingertips.  It’s tons of fun to just sit and hit the random button over and over… and over. And much like the CoH costume creator was, it’s a great time saving dev tool.  It takes some extra thought and some set up time but now we can make the games non-player characters super fast, in some cases they can just be randomly generated.  Another great thing about building a system like this is that every piece that gets added makes the system even more powerful. But it’s not without its downsides.

In order to make characters modularly there’s a lot of set up involved, only about half of the character artists job is actually making the art. We’re constantly thinking about compatibility between all of the pieces, for instance all of the hairstyles have to work with all of the ears and vice-versa.  And some artists have trouble getting used to being part of a team that is making pieces for a system rather than making their own one-off characters. Luckily we’ve been able to alleviate this last problem a bit on STO. Using the Jem’Hadar as an example the artist gets to make the entire Jem’Hadar character first and then break him up into pieces for the system. So we get to spend some time sculpting something we can be proud of as well as making costume pieces. It works out pretty well. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and in the end the game is that much better.

At Cryptic our games have always been about customization and trying to give players the tools they need to create whatever character they want. STO definitely stays true to that. Our Alien-Gen system is in some ways the most powerful customization tool we’ve ever made. I think players are going to have a blast coming up with new alien species for themselves and their bridge crew. Lucky for me, it turns out that making something this much fun for players makes my job a little bit easier too.

Jeremy Mattson, Principal Artist, Cryptic Studios

Key Features :

  • The Star Trek universe will appear for the first time in a massively multiplayer online game. Everything from the elegant domes of Starfleet Academy to the ancient temples of Vulcan, from the towers of Qo’noS to the Fire Caves of Bajor, from the mysterious Mutara Nebula to the unexplored voids of deep space, all will be represented in stunning 3-D graphics. Immerse yourself in the future of the Trek universe as it moves into the 25th century: a time of shifting alliances and new discoveries.
  • Explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations in an expanding vast universe. Make contact with alien races, discover resources and uncover mysteries that will change the future of the Star Trek universe.
  • Command your own starship as a Federation Captain or a Klingon Warrior. Outfit it with the systems that you need to make your mark in the galaxy. Customize your ship as you see fit. Recruit, train and mold your crew into an elite force for exploration and combat.
  • Command your vessel in thrilling space battles, or beam down to planets with your away team for face-to-face confrontations. Missions will take you and your friends into space, planetside and even inside starships!

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