Star Trek Online’s newest expansion launches today, and the massively multiplayer online gaming is hoping to use nostalgia to bring fans into its game world.
Agents of Yesterday celebrates the 50th anniversary of the franchise by adding ships, characters, and more from the Original Series era. Previously, Star Trek Online was set in a post-Voyager era, so it had more in common with that show, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine than the adventures of Kirk, Spock, and crew. This expansion will not only give current fans of the free-to-play MMO content to enjoy, but it could bring in new or relapsed players (including those who try the console version when it launches later this year). The expansion is also available for free.
GamesBeat interviewed Star Trek Online executive producer Stephen Ricossa. We discussed the decision to go to the Original Series, creating an experience friendly to new players, and if that new Star Trek show will impact the MMO’s future.
GamesBeat: Why would this expansion entice old players like me to return?
Stephen Ricossa: This expansion offers a new playable starting experience. That’s a great way to get back into the game. You can start from scratch with all the other people who are starting there as temporal agents. You can experience the temporal agent story, as well as all our other stories that we’ve had over the six and a half years the game has been live. You can run through and play the Original Series stuff. You get bits of that temporal story throughout that experience, and then you close out a significant number of episodes with a big finale for this expansion. Tons of story content in there for you.
If you haven’t ever played, or haven’t played in a long time, there are tons of reputations for in-game, a ton of fleet system expansions, a bunch of new systems, crafting, admiralty. There’s so much stuff. It’s a very big MMO at this point as far as content and systems go.
GamesBeat: All of this Original Series stuff obviously takes place in the past. How do you shift that and the timeline of the base game?
Ricossa: You start off in the Original Series. Then, during your run as a captain in that Original Series, you get recruited by temporal agent Daniels, who’s from Enterprise. He’s recruiting as you some weird things are happening in the Original Series era. They need temporal agents from that era. At one point in the story you go to a battle he tells you not to go to and you get stuck fighting Klingons who’ve sprung a trap. Your ship and you hold off the Klingons as the rest of the Federation fleet escapes. You‘re recorded as lost. Your ship, your crew, all recorded as dead, and Daniel brings you into the Star Trek Online era and says, you can’t go back, so now you’re in this era as a temporal agent.
GamesBeat: Is the temporal agent starting area the only beginning point going now? Or are the old starting areas still available?
Ricossa: Absolutely. You can still play the standard Federation tutorial, the standard Klingon tutorial, the standard Romulan tutorial from scratch. You can log in and pick any of those four.
GamesBeat: Was this a conscious decision, to do something for the Original Series to coincide with the 50th anniversary?
Ricossa: Absolutely. It’s something we planned a couple of years ago. We like to plan our stories well in advance. We looked and saw, okay, the 50th is coming up, we should do something with the Original Series. We built our stories and timelines and schedules toward hitting that objective.
GamesBeat: Was that fun? A lot of what you’re doing is maybe geared toward The Next Generation/Deep Space Nine era. Doing something a bit more nostalgic must have been a nice change of pace.
Ricossa: Yeah, it was fantastic. It was great going through and building out all of the props and the enemies. Going through and watching the episodes and picking things out to make sure we hit all those moments. It was a great experience, finding a way to capture the feeling of the Original Series, playing through that ‘60s era. With our film-grain filters and all the new props and making all the bad guys — how far do we make it look like a guy in a rubber suit for the Gorn? It was definitely cool.
GamesBeat: Star Trek Online has been out for a while now. When did the game launch again?
Ricossa: 2010. We’re at six and a half years.
GamesBeat: That’s a healthy life cycle for an MMO. What do you attribute that longevity to?
Ricossa: There’s a few factors. It’s the strength of the IP. People love Star Trek. They want to get their Trek fix. It’s our respect for that IP, making sure that we’re fitting within — everything we do feels like it would happen in Star Trek. I think it has to do with how much we listen to our community. When the game originally shipped, there wasn’t enough to play, not enough content, not enough this, not enough that. After six and a half years, we’ve addressed nearly every complaint anyone could have about what’s in our game. There’s always more things to add, more things to get in there, but we have a breadth and depth of content that we never could have shipped with, and that most games can’t achieve unless they’re out for this amount of time.
GamesBeat: How has the MMO space changed since you launched?
Ricossa: It’s changed in a few ways. You have more MMOs coming out than you used to see way back, but it’s hit or miss on whether or not they’ll stick around. For a long time, for maybe 10 years, you’d see RPG mechanics appearing in shooters, or RPG mechanics appearing in other games in general, games that didn’t traditionally have them.
Now you’re starting to see some MMO-style mechanics in more traditional genres. For example, Destiny or The Division. You’re seeing a shooter with RPG mechanics that’s also grabbing some MMO mechanics. I feel like that’s an interesting turn in the last couple of years.