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Old June 27 2012, 08:18 AM   #2007
intrinsical's Avatar
Location: Singapore
Re: Star Trek Online Discussion Thread (now free to play!)

Scout101 wrote: View Post
Very true. Based on the negative momentum this game's had since the start of the Great Content Drought, an infusion of fresh blood and new ideas/opinions/priorities is probably a good thing...
This is probably going to turn out to be a very long post. Before I can discuss about STO's problems, I need to share a little about how MMO companies are usually organized internally and how Cryptic's teams are organized differently.

Just like in Starfleet is organized into the Tactical , Science and Engineering branch, a typical MMO company is usually comprised of three major teams, Development Team, Live Team and Operations Team.

1) Operations Team - Heavy in database admins, network admins, GMs and community managers. This team is in charge of the day to day operation of the game, including interacting with the community in the forums as well as handling issue reports, identifying bugs and forwarding relevant reports to the correct teams, handling scheduled and emergency maintenance, pushing patches to test and live servers, etc...

This team is operated by the publisher (NWE) and not by the game development company (Cryptic). They do not come up with new game content, they are mostly just involved with PR and marketing for the game.

2) Live Team - Heavy in graphics artists, 3D modellers, map designers, quest designers and a small handful of lower grade programmers. The Live Team is in charge of realizing the MMO world. The team does this on continual basis throughout the year, keeping the game fresh by constantly introducing new places, new stories, new NPCs, new challenges and rewards. This team is sometimes also known as the Content Team.

3) Development Team - Heavy in systems architects, software engineers, senior programmers, database architects. This highly technically oriented team is in charge of creating brand new systems for the game. (Eg, PvP Leaderboard, duty officer system, Foundry editor, Foundry database, Quest system, shared bank system)

Now, Cryptic is slightly different because it is involved with the operation of three to four MMOs (City of Heroes/Villains, Champions Online, Star Trek Online and Neverwinter Online) all running the same Cryptic-proprietary MMO engine. While City of Heroes is no longer a Cryptic operated MMO, the game is still running in Cryptic's MMO engine so I suspect Cryptic is still being licensed to maintain the engine that runs City of Heroes/Villains.

As a result, the teams are organized somewhat differently for Star Trek Online:

1) Core Engine Development Team - This Development Team
comprises of Cryptic's best architects and software engineers and systems designers. This team is not in charge of Star Trek Online. Instead, they are in charge of making changes and upgrades to Cryptic's proprietary engine that run the four MMOs. This was the team that designed the Cryptic MMO engine, including the database design, instancing system, game-world system, player inventory system, shared bank system, core accolade system, core crafting system, core foundry engine, etc...

Right now, this team is heavily focused on adding new core systems required to support Neverwinter Online and converting the c-points system to use ZEN. They are likely putting on hold any requests for changes from the STO and Champions Online team.

2) STO Development and Live Team - Instead of having a separate Development Team and Live Team, Cryptic has chosen to merge both teams into one for Star Trek Online. So this team in charge of game systems specific to STO, such as the Fleet Action system, Duty Officer System, STFs and the upcoming Fleet Base system. On top of that, this team also has to come up with new missions, ships, player races, challenges for the live game. As a result of the decision to merge the STO dev and live team, there are several important consequences.

For instance, the STO team CANNOT modify the Cryptic MMO engine - that is the responsibility of the core engine development team. The STO team can only take the Cryptic MMO and add STO-specific enhancements. An excellent example is PvP. The Cryptic MMO engine had very little support for PvP, which meant the STO team could do very little PvP-wise without the support of the core engine devs.

Not only that, because this is a combined dev and live team, the team is actually taking on the workload that was traditionally given to two teams. And I seriously suspect even with the recent hiring of new staff, the STO team still does not have enough people to handle the workload of two teams. This forces the STO team to pick and choose what it should work on - new features such as Fleet Bases for Season 6 or new ships and new content for STO.

From what I have observed, the team has opted for a 80-20 split. 80% of the team's time is spent working on new game systems for Season 6 and during the remaining 20% spare time, they try to add a new quest or a new ship as and when they can.
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." -- Albert Einstein
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