Star Trek Online: Q&A with Al Rivera, Lead Designer + Costume Giveaway!

STO Ship

It’s been nearly four years since Star Trek Online set out on its ongoing mission to the stars and so far, we’ve travelled back in time, held back the oncoming threat of the Borg and witnessed the rise of the Romulans as one of the Galaxy’s main superpowers.

But what’s next for spacefarers in the online world of one of sci-fi’s most popular franchises? With the recent release of Season 8, we sat down in the holodeck for a cup of e-raktajino with Al Rivera, Lead Designer of Star Trek Online, to talk old adversaries, new locations and what lies beyond the stars.

Why have you chosen the Voth as the enemies for Season 8? Any chance we’ll see them teaming up with the previous Voyager-era hostiles, the Hirogen?

Voth were a no-brainer. We actually wanted the Voth in the game at launch, but they didn’t make the cut. Since we decided to slowly expand Star Trek Online into the galactic north-east, we needed to identify an adversary that would be a challenge for end-game players who have already faced off against the Tholians and the Borg. The Voth’s origin story from Voyager allowed us to introduce dinosaurs as war beasts, much like Klingons use Targs or modern day soldiers use dogs. So this, combined with their extreme high-technology gave us a lot of room to be creative with this group.

Will we see them teaming up with previous Voyager hostiles? Probably not explicitly. The Voth are prone to hubris and think nothing of all other species, whom they view as inferior – especially mammals. The Hirogen are currently working with the Romulan Tal Shiar, hunting the Borg and supplying the Tal Shiar with Borg Tech for many nefarious endeavors. But in the months to come, you will definitely see more Hirogen and certainly many more Voyager hostiles… and friends.

What was it like working with Michael Dorn as Worf for the new Season?

Although I met him in the past at conventions and spoke with him directly at the last Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, we unfortunately did not get to actually work with him in-house like we did with Denise Crosby. We worked with him remotely via Skype while he recorded in a studio in LA. But it was still a huge thrill to get a chance to work with such a Trek icon.  When you speak with him in person, he’s just a regular guy, but when he turns on Worf, it’s like you’re right back there listening to an episode of TNG or DS9. He can turn it on and off instantly. His voice is so iconic. It was actually a pretty surreal experience being a part of that.

You have a plethora of aliens and locations to pick and choose from to include in each new Season. How do you decide which to include and how did you come to the decision to use a Dyson Sphere, introduced in Relics, for Season 8?

Star Trek Online already has a ton of locations and aliens. After 4 years, with the exception of the Delta and Gamma Quadrants, most fans would be hard pressed to find much missing. DS9, Crystalline Entity, Gorn, Doomsday Machine, Changelings, Horta and just about every Alpha and Beta Quadrant alien you can think of, not to mention pretty much every ship you can dream of flying (over 250 to date). So at this point, picking what is next can be a challenge. There are a few big things remaining that we want to explore, such as V-Ger, The Whale Probe, the Hur’q, those rubber vomit looking Neural Parasites from The Original Series, Space Jelly Fish, etc. So there is still much to explore, but we really like to pick up unfinished storylines from the show.

Delta Quadrant and Gamma Quadrant were certainly big on the list and so was the Dyson Sphere.  The real trick is to choose what’s next and figure out how to get it into our main storyline. That simply takes many hours in a conference room picking from the biggest contenders and then separating the chaff until you get something that is not only an interesting story, but something that offers interesting gameplay.

What can we expect during our visit to the Dyson Sphere? Can we expect a cameo from a certain Mr. Scott…?

The Dyson Sphere you explore in Season 8 is not the same Dyson Sphere that Scotty crashed on. That one actually vanished the moment you located the new one (along with a Federation science team studying that sphere). The two (and possibly others) are definitely connected and that will be explored in the future.

What you can expect is to fly over the inside of this Dyson Sphere which has massive spires and structures that pierce the ionosphere. You will fly along the inner surface solving the mystery of the Sphere. You will beam down to the surface and engage the Voth for territory control of the Spheres’ technology. There is also a massive Voth fortress ship, far bigger than the city ship in Voyager. In fact, there are several city ships inside the Fortress.  You will take your starship to attack the Fortress ship from the outside and blow a hole in the side to engage the inside of the ship. It’s probably our most epic event ever.

Schisms is regularly cited by fans as one of the scariest episodes of the entire franchise. How have you translated the terror of the episode into videogame form?

Our episode, Into the Sphere, takes players back into subspace to the very same location where the solanogen-based aliens were abducting the crew of the Enterprise. Our episode retains the creepiness of the original (it was a Halloween release) and is really a love letter to the fans. You are joined by Worf and at first you don’t know where you are. Sharp fans may pick up on subtle clues, such as the fact many of the NPCs keep complaining about not sleeping much lately and the detection of tetryon particles. The whole experience is familiar to Worf, so he is your emotional guide throughout the experience. Then you find the surgical table and then you start to hear the clicking… then there is an epic reveal which unveils the truth behind what they have been up to. It’s all very personal to Worf and all very creepy.

With a new update comes new clothing options. What can you tell us about the ones that are included with Season 8?

There are only a couple: a new Voth Armor you can earn, as well as a new Voth science uniform, so you can get your Voth on.

What’s next in the future of Star Trek Online? Can you give us any insights into where we’ll boldly be going in the future?

The Delta Quadrant certainly. We want to get players there soon so they can see what has changed over the last 35 or so years. What have the Voth been up to? How far do the Borg Reach now? What about the Undine (known to the Voyager crew as Species 8472)? How has the entire quadrant changed since Voyager was last there and how does it tie into the Dyson Sphere and the Demons of Air and Darkness – the Iconians? The Delta Quadrant gives us seven seasons of story to explore, so even after four years of STO, we’re just getting started.

With the addition of Into the Sphere and the promise of so many new episodes to delve into in the future, we can’t wait to see where our next mission will take us.

three of ten mirror universe

Competition: To celebrate the release of Season 8, we have 20 sets of Enterprise-era Mirror Universe outfits to giveaway, as modelled here by the dashing Three of Ten.

For your chance to unleash your inner evil Archer, simply answer this question correctly:

What is Mirror Universe Spock’s primary identifying factor?

A) His goatee

B) His long, blonde hair

C) His tight leather lederhosen

Closes Monday 13th Jan 2014

[contact-form 8 “comp_entry_16”]


Leave a Reply