Entry 5.0 - "Interactions in Action"
Stardate 61390.2 (December 4th, 2007)
Hola, STO fans, and welcome back to the DevLog! There´s something darned cool lurking in this entry, so let´s skip the endearingly goofy banter and get right to it...
Over the past few DevLogs we´ve primarily focused on a sampling of the low-level processes of STO development, taking a peek at terrain generation, object design, and version testing, among other things.
Today we´d like to seriously shift gears, and start revealing a little bit about the actual game systems themselves. We´ll start with a deceptively simple game mechanic that´s deucedly difficult to nail down: the Interaction System.
What´s the Interaction System you ask? In a nutshell, the Interaction System controls every non-combat, player-to-NPC interaction in the game. If you want to talk to a Ferengi shopkeeper, it goes through the Interaction System. Need to get some additional phaser training at the local Starfleet Academy? That´s the Interaction System. Want to beam down to a planet? Interaction System. Responding to a distress call from a crippled starship? That´s the Interaction System, too. In fact, when one is done tallying up the mission givers, trainers, vendors, Transwarp Terminal operators, Dahar Masters, helpful cadets and informative colonists, you´ll find that there are just about as many peaceful interactions in Star Trek Online as the phasers-and-bat´leths variety. Put plainly, the Interaction System is the glue that holds all the other systems of STO together, transforming a bunch of disconnected (though spectacularly well designed and balanced) phaser fights into an actual game, so it´s vitally important that we get it "just right."
As we design, implement, and refine our Interaction System, we´re trying to keep a few basic goals in mind:
- Keep it Simple - The less clicks and extraneous buttons the better.
- Keep it Intuitive - The best Interaction System is one the player can figure out without any instruction.
- Keep it Consistent - No matter where the player is (ground, space, another dimension) or what kind of interaction hs engaged in (dialogue, buying, training, obtaining missions, etc.) the widgets of the Interaction System´s interface should behave in a consistent manner.
- Keep it Trek - A blanket goal of STO, but one that bears repeating.
- Keep if Fun - You´d be surprised how often this gets forgotten.
So, what can you interact with in STO? A better question might be: what CAN´T you interact with?
When playing on the "ground" (the surface of a planet, the promenade of a space station, or the interior of an "abandoned" Borg cube, etc.), players will use the Interaction System to chat with terrified aliens, order cups of Earl Grey from station replicators, launch games of chance from charming Dabo girls, and get missions from Starfleet superiors, among scores of other activities. All of these interactions, from the mundane to the sublime, will be launched by the most casual of mechanisms ("Keep it Simple": a single right-click of the mouse on a neutral or friendly NPC.
While flying through space in a starship, players will use the Interaction System in exactly the same way ("Keep it Consistent"... but the NPCs the player will interact with will reflect more of the awesome diversity of the Star Trek universe. In space, players can respond to hails from officials on distant planets, or get orders from the commanders of besieged space stations, or do business with the owners of untrustworthy Orion shipyards, simply by right-clicking on those planets, space stations, or shipyards in exactly the same manner as if they were on the ground. In fact, the Interaction System is often the key to the player´s ability to transition between space and ground, as ably illustrated by our VERY FIRST RELEASED IN-GAME SCREEN SHOT:
Unfortunately, while the Interaction System of Star Trek Online may be nigh-infinitely expandable, our blog space is not, which is why it´s time to bring this DevLog entry to a close. Please stay tuned for the next DevLog, which will reveal even more interesting tidbits about the development, systems, and content of Star Trek Online.
On behalf of everyone here at STO, thanks for the continued enthusiasm for Star Trek Online,
Mike Stemmle, Story Hologram
PS Big thanks to Greg, Steve, Daron, and Sean for helping to get this DevLog together.