For our second edition of Cool SciFi's 10 Questions With... we talk with the guys behind StarTrek-Online.net. StarTrek-Online.net (STOnet) is a new Star Trek community dedicated to the Star Trek: Online game that is in development by Perpetual Entertainment for the PC platform.
Star Trek: Online will be a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) set in the Star Trek universe. The timeline of the game will be in the 24th century with the events taking place after the TNG Nemesis movie but characters & storylines may come from all aspects of the Trek franchise. The current development schedule of the game anticipates a beta release in late 2006 with a production release in 2007.
Q1: Can you tell us a little bit about the staff and what their roles are?
Jon: Hi Kevin! Well, Jeroen (Hieronymous) and I (Demosthenes) administer the website and the forum, Jeroen is basically responsible for listening to me complain and then coding up new pages based on designs I submit. Then, on the forum we have Rob ([OMF]Sorok), our sole Super Moderator who helps to keep things ticking over by promoting activity and leading lost sheep into their pens. Finally there is Paul (Comrade Tinvorski) or our 'part time designer extraordinaire' as I like to think of him, he creates the concepts our whole design is based on, such as the fabulous forum skin.
Jeroen: Jon is our resident Google fan and forum whore. I'm our resident Google fan as well, fulltime geek, and part-time nutcase! Rob is a real Rob, Paul is a real Paul, and Jim is a real small furry creature from Alpha Centauri (called a Bungle). Oh, and good morning / noon / evening / night. *waves*
Jim: I lurk. It's what I do, I'm good at it. Uni doesn't leave me with much time for the net these days so I appear sporadically, leave a few posts and then bugger off for a week or so. Usually down the pub.
Paul: Hello! Well, Jon and Jeroen are the main driving force behind Startrek-online.net; Jon does the lamenting/thinking and Jeroen does stuff with zeros and ones, as far as I can tell. I'm a general pop-along lackey, but occasionally post a comment on any topics that take my interest. My fellow comrades Tom and Jim lurk even further in the background and lend their critical eyes regarding the design and layout of the website.
Jeroen: I'm reasonably sure I think as well. I think I think, at least.
Q2: With the expected release date for Star Trek: Online over two years away is it a little too soon for web sites dedicated to it?
Jeroen: Apparently not. After we started STO.net other sites soon followed. Judging by the still growing membership and posting levels, I'd say we made the decision at the right time.
Jon: Well, as Jeroen points out, given what I would call the fantastic success of STOnet so far, evidently not. The initial announcement for this game generated massive interest, and we capitalised on that. We put together a solid plan for a site and community and we went off and created StarTrek-Online.net, this gives us a chance to get everything right, before the game even hits the shelves.
Paul: Not at all, however, I think it is important that those who already (or plan to) run such websites keep in mind one word: speculation. Personally I think trying to build a database of what we know about Star Trek: Online is not going to be as effective as getting people from the online Trek community in and having a discussion about it, at least not at this stage anyway.
Jim: I suppose you could argue that, but my personal view is that people like to get excited and enjoy the hype surrounding products, and STO is one which will have a lot to live up to in the ST community.
Q3: Are there any concerns that the game may be cancelled and why or why not?
Jeroen:I would be really surprised if it were to be cancelled, or turned out to be Vapourware. For one, Perpetual received investment based on the game-plan to create ST: O, and investors these days (after the dot com crunch) are careful. Secondly Perpetual's principals have a proven track record in the MMORPG and general game industry. Thirdly, Paramount's rather choosey about licensing. That's too many people who know what they're doing for it to go bust. It has success written all over it.
Paul: I don't think we'll see Star Trek: Online disappear for several reasons: one, what with the apparent decline of the franchise, this may very well breath new life into a small part of the Star Trek we know and love; two, the forth decade of Trek is going to need a landmark!; three, what with the rise of technology and young fans, the online role-playing community is going to need to progress beyond e-mailing lists and message boards. In the late eighties and early nineties we had the brilliant games where typed commands and generated text results were the pinnacle of gaming; kids now want a visual representation of the Trek they imagine, and Star Trek: Online will no doubt go some way to providing that. Our only worry, I feel, will be delays.
Jim: It's possible, I mean these things happen from time to time to good games. If so...well...it would really suck, but we've got a good group of people here and I'm pretty sure that makes this all worth it, even if we don't see STO.
Q4: A lot of discussions on StarTrek-Online.net deal with what the fans would like to see in the game. Have there been any communications between the STO community and Perpetual?
Jon: Perpetual have so far shown a great interest in what the fans have to say about this game and the presence of their Senior Producer on fan forums like our own only goes to solidify that fact. We're confident they?re listening to what we, the fans, want. A recent fundamental change to the game goes to proving that they are listening too, the fan community was upset by the initial decision to include only three playable races, as well as integrating Klingons into the Federation. That?s now been dropped to make way for more playable races, such as the Andorians and Tellarites.
Jeroen: Right, Mitch Ferguson of Perpetual reads up on STO.net posts on almost a daily basis, so I'm sure they're well aware of wishes put forward by the community.
Paul: Yes. Perpetual have made a marked and genuine attempt to keep in touch with the online community, our own group included, much to our delight.
Jim: From what I understand, member(s) of Perpetual browse STO.net now and again. Jon and Jeroen are in contact with them as well I think, by all indication it seems like they do want to know what people want, which is quite admirable.
Q5: When the game release date draws nearer will STO guilds be forming?
Paul: No doubt! I look forward to it myself, but those forming guilds should keep in mind that flexibility will evidently be needed due to the little info we have about the game thus far.
Jeroen: It's expected that people will resume a guild they started for other MMORPGs. Apart from that the beta will likely see guilds forming at or around that time. Maybe even an official STO.net guild It's certainly been proposed already by our membership that STO.net bands together in-game.
Jim:I'd be surprised if there weren't hundreds. Guilds are already forming now, and we're not going to see it for at least two years (unless this is all a big charade, and it's coming out secretly tomorrow).
Q6: What type of gamer do you think Star Trek: Online will appeal to and do you think it'll be more than just Trek fans playing?
Jeroen: From what I understand of the premise so far it's going to have something going for hardcore MMORPG players, Trek fans, as well as the more casual gamer.
Paul:I myself have never played an MMORPG before, yet I talk to people who tell me about how they have gotten into MMORPGs such as Star Wars Galaxies and Neverwinter Nights with no prior knowledge of the story or concept behind the basis of the game - from this I think we can expect to see MMORPG veterans taking an interest in the game, especially with the signs Perpetual are giving about the possibly flexibility and detail of the game itself. I imagine the ST: O audience will be from a wide range of gamers, as Jereon says, pulling 'net-curious' Trekkers/Trekkies online, bringing in new fans and perhaps even cultivating the role playing community in a new direction.
Jon: Well, like Jeroen and Paul I think this game will attract a massively varied audience, from the Trekkie who holds dear the canon, to the casual gamer who may have not even watched Star Trek before. The Star Trek Universe is such a huge and diverse one and it looks like ST: O will have something for everyone, the developers seem to be taking the MMO in a new and exciting direction, we expect the appeal to just grow and grow.
Jim: Obviously, the MMORPGer, looking for something a little different from clubbing Orcs and booting Elves up and down Everquest. To be honest I can't see this having a massive appeal beyond the sci-fi community. We might pinch a few Star Wars fans, which is never a bad thing
Q7: The STOnet vBulletin LCARS interface is one of the best designs seen recently. Who on the team worked on the style and can they tell us about some of the effort that went into it?
Paul: Thank you very much! There isn't a lot to say about this other than I got bored one weekend and just did it - I'm happy that people seem to like it! Jon and Jeroen liked it, so it was skinned and there you have it. A lot of tweaking is still needed, so don't expect this to be the final version. I think the three of us can certainly say Startrek-online.net is a progressive project, hopefully all for the better!
Jon: Indeed Paul! Thanks for the compliment Kevin! We're really quite proud of the forum skin and full marks go to Paul for coming up with the initial concept for it. Getting it working was another thing, it took the collective effort of myself, Jeroen and a friend of mine, Mike Rowe, to turn it into a working style. The postbit as I am sure you can imagine gave us the most trouble, but it's almost there, not quite as perfect as we conceptualized, but close enough.
Jim:I think it was Paul and Jeroen, they did a great job and their families were released as agreed.
Q8: The next version of STOnet is already being worked on; without revealing any surprises what you can tell us about the future of STOnet?
Jon: Well, we're redeveloping our site structure so that it will better suit our expansion once we decide to open our game database and site gallery up. We really want to become the resource for Star Trek: Online, from hosting gaming guides, to providing webspace on subdomains for fans of the game, whether they want to host a clan site or create their own small resource. We think we've got all corners covered.
Paul: What Jon said, really. Expect it to look prettier, too.
Jim: I...don't know
Jeroen: It's that secret. I'll have to torture Jon now for saying as much as he did, probably by taking away his kebab allowance for the month.
Q9: What other Trek games does the staff recommend for fans between now and 2007?
Jon: Well as it stands, Star Trek: Online is currently the only new Star Trek game in development, though recent hints from Harry Lang (The Senior Director of Interactive Consumer Products at Viacom/Paramount) over on STGU.com suggest there are some surprises ahead. In the mean time, I'll always recommend people get online and play some Elite Force 2, or head off to Armada and Starfleet Command if controlling Starships is more your thing.
Jeroen: Birth of the Federation, accept no substitute (until ST: O arrives, of course).
Paul: Uhmm...Birth of the Federation has always been a favourite of mine. Also Starfleet Academy, DS9: The Fallen and the mighty VGA Trek!
Jim: Elite Force 1 and 2 straight off, fantastic games. I've always wanted to try The Fallen and New Worlds but I haven't been able to find them in my local game shop. Klingon Honour Guard was excellent, if not repetitive. Stay away from Away Team and Starship Builder. Oh...and Starfleet Academy Classic...
Q10: Trekkies or Trekkers?
Jon: I think I can safely admit to being a Trekkie
Jeroen: Yes, that's right... One of the two
Paul: They both have 'Trek' in them, don't they?
Jim: Trekkie. I don't understand all this bollocks surrounding the Trekkie/er thing. Chill out, it's just a name. Besides, Trekkie sounds cooler. Trekker makes you sound like a seedy hiking enthusiast - you know, the kind who hike up to people's windows and watch them eat. Like Jon.
Gentlemen, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. We wish you best of luck with the STOnet community and look forward to seeing you online one-day inside of Star Trek: Online.
Jon: It was an absolute pleasure, really
Paul: Thank you kindly!
Jeroen: What happened to question 11?
For more information...
StarTrek-Online.net -- http://www.startrek-online.net
Perpetual Entertainment -- http://www.perpetual.com
Star Trek: Online -- http://www.perpetual.com/pages/news.html#StarTrek
Star Trek -- http://www.startrek.com
(c) Copyright 2005, Cool SciFi (http://www.coolscifi.com)