Star Trek Online: Call of Valor

A Star Trek Online Fan-fiction.

Atari, Foundry, and the future of STO

This past week, Atari announced that it is dropping Cryptic studios. This is a huge thing for any fan of the game. For those that don’t know how it works, Atari is a publisher. They have the huge amounts of money that are needed by developers to make & launch a game. Cryptic Studios is a developer; they make the games. Cryptic makes STO. Atari pays the bills for Cryptic to make STO.

So what does this mean for STO, that Atari is dropping Cryptic?

We don’t know yet. It means that Atari is selling Cryptic Studios to any other publisher willing to buy it, but how much that will change STO is yet to be determined. The crew at Cryptic say that there’s nothing to worry about, that business will go on as usual. Is this true? That’s a matter of some debate. There’s been a lot of debate on STO & Cryptic in general, and this has been feeding fuel to the fire. A lot of nay-sayers are firm in their belief that Cryptic just makes cookie-cutter MMO games, and frankly I can see where they got that impression; they were very much like that when they first got a hold of STO. But over the last 3+ years of STO’s development & life, that’s completely changed. Cryptic has had huge shake-ups in their chain of command, both the main company & the STO team. Daniel Stahl taking over for Craig Zincovich as EP  of STO is a prime example of that. With the new changes in staff has come a huge change in direction for the games, too; STO’s exponential improvement as a game is proof of that, and the new changes coming in Seasons 4 & 5 will take the game even further. If/when Cryptic is picked up by another publisher, who know what kinds of changes they’ll make to Cryptic and STO? They could do away with the C-Store, absorbing it all into the game. They could hire 400 new staff members & give STO 200 or 300 just for that project alone. There’s a lot of possibilities.

Sexy, no? So is this game, and getting sexier.I think there is two big problems that has caused all the bad rap that Cryptic has been getting for STO (I won’t conjecture on their other projects, I don’t play them nearly enough). The first is that, frankly, the game launched 2 years too early. They released it after only 2 years of development by Cryptic, which was ridiculous. The game was cute, but crap, when it first launched. Honestly, what kept me going was the fact that what they DID have working was amazing and felt so right as Star Trek, and the constant updated & improvements over the first year. When Daniel Stahl took over, those updates and improvements came out more and more, and were better & better each time. The game really is quite different from what it was when it started, but it’s still a good year away from being “polished” enough to be called “ready for release”. That lack of polish from launch has actually done the game much more harm than good; it turned a lot of people off at the start, and they are still far from interested in seeing what has been improved, no matter how good it got. And that lack of polish has detracted new players time and again over this first year. The new changes planned for seasons 4 & 5 take the game even further, and hopefully it will turn it all around, but now that Atari is dropping Cryptic, who knows if those changes will be enough.

The other is a huge lack of development team. The crew on STO is tiny & is frikking shared by the other games, all because Cryptic has not been given enough money to hire the dedicated team it needs and deserves. I mean, think about it: The entirety of Cryptic’s development staff for all games combined is roughly 200 people, with only a handful of that dedicated to STO only; in comparison, SW:TOR has a DEDICATED development team of roughly 800 people. Now, can you honestly tell me that STO will still suck when they have that many more people working hard on STO alone? Especially with the long lists of features and functions they already want to implement that the players are drooling for? Right now, that list is quite long, 80% of those features would have been in the game long ago if they had the $ to hire enough dedicated developers for it, and the game would be blowing people away a hundred times more than it is right now. This game COULD have everything any Star Trek gamer has ever wanted… IF someone with enough brains & the resources to see it will take up Cryptic Studios & give them what they need to get it made.

Sadly, though, I have little faith in rich people these days.

Now, the Foundry is definitely something I am concerned about, with regards to STOs future, regardless of what other publisher picks them up.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how shitty the Foundry and the missions coming out of it are. I can’t say I totally disagree, either. Aside from a few missions, mostly I’ve found the endings to be anticlimactic at best. Now, I’m not expecting every mission to be five stars, but I honestly did expect more variety than what I’m seeing, and more intelligence. There was one mission that was nothing more than a fleet of NPC FEDs and a fleet of NPC KDF fighting it out, and I had to help the FEDs blow up 3 progressively tougher waves of KDF. That was it. No story to speak of, just tons of opponents to blow up. Pretty sad, if you ask me. And there’s tons of those. There was another I really liked that was a well written time-travel one… until the end. I was disappointed at how short & slapped together the end felt, the “end boss” wasn’t an end boss. The story just became mediocre.

And don’t get me started on all the 5-part story arches. I haven’t played through any yet, but I keep hearing bad things about the writing of them.

And the Foundry itself is a bit to blame on the lack of memorable missions. The toolset itself is currently pretty limited. There’s no way to create fail-able missions, no ability to make branching story paths, and I really have no idea how people have made so many different maps when all I can find are static pre-made ones. The concept of the mission creation being story-based is a great one, but I still feel there are hugely important features missing, like the ability to make missions a person can fail and branching mission objectives. heck, I can’t even seem to figure out how to make multiple different parallel objectives or class-specific objectives. There’s many things in the map construction we can’t do yet, either. There’s a lot of interior sets and things in the C-Store that are just not available in the Foundry yet. Add onto that the inability to use any of the pre-existing Star Trek franchise characters for legal issues regarding the actor’s likenesses, and there’s a lot of sad players.

Here’s the gripe I have with the Foundry nay-sayers, though; the ones that keep saying “The Foundry sucks” or “The Foundry is just a dissapointment” – IT”S FRIKKIN BETA! Of course the damn thing is going to be buggy and disappointing; what were you expecting? This isn’t Star Trek 6, people; it’s not going to be perfectly awesomesauce out of the gate. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Yes, the current release of the Foundry is pretty sucky; we all get that. Do you really feel the need to remind us so often that you are yet again disappointed with it? And please, for the love of gawd, remember there’s a difference between the Foundry and the missions made with it; get mad at them all you want, just please don’t talk about them like they are the same thing. It really annoys me that they are saying it like the entire Foundry is and will be a peice of crap. Is it really so hard to say “the Foundry sucks right now” or “the current version of the Foundry sucks”? Yes, I’m nit-picking. It’s my blog and I’ll nit-pick if I want to 😛 I’ve been hearing all this kind of stuff from several people, not just one person; if it were only one or two Foundry haters, I could cope. There’s enough going off regularly that I had to say something.

So what’s the future of STO hold? I haven’t got a friggin clue for sure. What is coming out in Season 4 is all over the forums already; after that is open to speculation still, and that speculation is for another post. A part 2 to this one, I guess.

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May 23, 2011 - Posted by | Nit-picker's Guide

2 Comments

  1. Would love to see you in game!! Give me a holler!

    Comment by Prynce | May 26, 2011

    • Will do! … What’s your in-game handle, though? o.o

      Comment by Athen Rahl | May 26, 2011


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