VideoGamer.com: Take me through what a player will typically experience during their first hour of play.
CZ: Within the first hour of gameplay they're definitely getting space and ground constantly. They're going to spend some time in Earth Space Dock learning what that's about - that's the major Federation hub in the game. They end up there after the tutorial, so there's a bit of stuff to do there. They're going to gain a bridge officer. Basically during the tutorial you get your first bridge officer. Several hours into gameplay you get your second one. You'll end up getting your kit. You'll end up getting your second weapon. The rest of the game mechanically ends up filling out stage by stage so that we can wean you into the game. After that you will contact Starfleet and they will give you several options of things you could be doing out in space; things that you're supposed to be doing for the Federation. You can pick from there and either do episodic content, go straight to the exploration content or do some patrol content within the sectors right around earth.
VideoGamer.com: Some critics of the genre say MMOs start off slowly with little to do, but it sounds like you're packing a lot into the early stages.
CZ: One of the goals with the content in Star Trek Online is to make sure that no matter what, at any given time you have a choice of things to do. You're never in that grind valley where you're like, 'I don't know what to do. I guess I'll go out and kill some stuff and maybe I'll run into somebody who'll tell me some mission'. We always want you to be able to contact Starfleet and Starfleet is going to give you something that you can do. Starfleet is going to say, 'look go and explore more systems within this cluster. The Klingons are invading this sector - go out and patrol that area'. We always want to make sure that you're being directed to gameplay in Star Trek.
VideoGamer.com: What approach are you taking with the pace of levelling?
CZ: It's a skill based game, right? There are hundreds of skills and you're constantly getting skill points within the game and investing those in your character. That is the mechanic that is the advancement mechanic throughout the game. Each one of your skills has nine ranks. You have these skills and each of them has nine ranks. The idea is that through every 30 minutes of gameplay, you're ranking up one of these skills. You're basically filling in one of these boxes, making one of your skills better every 30 minutes. On a macro level of things, there are five ranks in the game that a Captain goes through. He starts off as a Lieutenant, then he goes Lieutenant Commander, Commander, Captain, then Admiral. Within each of these five ranks there are 10 classes. You have Lieutenant Class Five, Lieutenant Class Seven, and Commander Class Three. You end up having basically 50 levels throughout the game. Every two hours of gameplay you end up going onto the next level, approximately.
VideoGamer.com: It doesn't sound particularly grind focused, which is the main problem people who aren't fans of the genre have with it.
CZ: It's much more linear levelling progression. We want to make sure people feel on a constant basis they're getting that ding. By making sure there's always something to do, there's always some sort of directed gameplay, that people don't feel as though, 'okay I guess I'll just go out and grind until I ding', that there's always something that will make them go, 'oh, I'm going to do that tonight'.
VideoGamer.com: Can you tell us a bit more about PvP? What will a player have to go through to activate PvP or enter into an area where it can take place?
CZ: We will get a little bit more detail on PvP in the upcoming month or so, but I can tell you some things anyhow, because that's my prerogative! We do want to make sure that PvP is available early in the game and available to all players during the advancement of your character, so you don't have to wait till you're level 50 to PvP. There are PvP things you can do all the way throughout the game. We do have arenas within the game. We do have battleground type maps within the game which you can go and play and fight against the other faction. All sorts of different games within PvP, but we're going to get specific about that in a month or so.
VideoGamer.com: Does PvP relate to space and on-ground combat, or is it restricted to one or the other?
CZ: It is both.
Check back tomorrow for part two, where Craig reveals what role the Borg will play in Star Trek Online, and discusses comparisons with BioWare's Star Wars: The Old Republic.