Escapist EditorialsStar Trek Online: Still Trekkin' Across The Universe Escapist Editorials - RSS 2.0
This February marks the four-year anniversary of one my favorite games, Star Trek Online, the only MMO I can truly say I've logged hundreds of hours playing , making full use of my lifetime subscription that I regretted at first, but now greatly appreciate having purchased.I recently had the opportunity to speak to Stephen Ricossa, Lead Producer on Star Trek Online, about its history, successes, missteps, and what aspects of the game the Cryptic team is most proud of.
When it first launched in February,2010, Star Trek Online relied on a subscription model, and like many other subscription MMOs, it faced the notorious problem of churn; a term used to describe how MMOs often lose a large chunk of their player base after the first few months. Cryptic hoped to avoid that by making STO a larger and more robust game through frequent updates introducing the likes of The Duty Officer, Reputation and Fleet Progression systems. The team "went back and forth on strategies", but Ricossa detailed how it wasn't until the team was acquired by Perfect World that they saw the benefits a free-to-play model could offer.
Afterit first adopted a free to play model back in January, 2012, Cryptic saw an "immediate and significant increase" in players of all types giving STO a try, which in turn allowed them to experience many of the new features that Cryptic added over the game's lifespan. Additionally,since pulling the plug on its subscription model, Star Trek Online has become a much more expansive MMO with a significantly larger player base than when it was operating under a subscription model. Each year has been "bigger than the last", according to Ricossa, and Cryptic has seen its player base play the game longer, attend more short-term or seasonal events (such as STO's Christmas special events) and return more often to play through content updates.
When it comes to designing new updates for Star Trek Online, the team relies on a mix of player feedback, game metrics, and team input to determine what additions the game needs and the best way to achieve them.
"On a long term basis, we tend to come up with goals for a calendar year and then get more detailed as the year goes on," Ricossa explained. "We may decide we want an endgame update, or a new player update, or an expansion similar to Legacy of Romulus. Once we have that figured out, we'll brainstorm what we feel is the best way to achieve those goals."