G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 1 – Ricossa
G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip 1 – Ricossa is now available to download. Check it out here. Mike recently visited Cryptic Studios and had the opportunity to sit down with the Star Trek Online team for several interviews. We kick off the first of these interviews with Star Trek Online’s Executive Producer, Stephen Ricossa. Be sure to check out this interview and the others from Mike’s trip by visiting our G & T Show SL – Cryptic Trip Round Up page.
After introductions, Mike asks what does an Executive Producer do for a game like STO. Stephen says that he’s in charge of the overall vision of the game, is responsible for meeting all of their financial goals, and ensures that team members have project goals for different seasons and updates. He usually sets up road maps for six to twelve months and decides when they will do the seasonal updates, weekends, and events such as the Crystalline Entity. He works with the various leads to make sure that his schedule is met in addition to the hitting each month’s financial goals. He works closely with Al and the other leads to ensure that his vision is realized.
In order to better understand Stephen’s role, Mike uses the Iconian War as an example. Stephen takes us back even further to Season 8 when they introduced the Dyson Sphere. Shortly after Legacy of Romulus, they knew they were looking for a way to move the STO story towards the Delta Quadrant. With Season 8, they laid the foundation for and expansion that would be released in fourteen months and built everything since then towards the goal of allowing the player to come and go from the Delta Quadrant with ease. The process was the same for the Iconian War.
The war has been building for the last five years and they were eager to finally be able to wrap it up. Throughout Delta Rising, they were able to bring in the Vaadwaur as servitor races and the Bluegill in preparation for the war. Now that they are in the midst of the war, they have everything mapped out for the the war, post war, and well beyond the war. With the Iconian war winding down, they have a new story in mind that they will be telling over an extended period of time.
Mike observes that Stephen isn’t just thinking a year ahead, but instead, he’s looking two or even three years ahead in some cases. Stephen jokes that because he’s planning and scheduling so far ahead, he sometimes can’t believe it’s only 2015. Temporal anomalies and time travel makes their head hurt. Stephen says that when its time for the team to get to work on something, its old hat since they have been working on it for months.
Mike confirms that Stephen is also involved in the direction that the story goes and asks what is his level of involvement in the story process. Stephen states that the process usually begins with him and Al, or Charles, or Christine and they decide where they are taking the story and in this case, he once again uses the Iconian War as an example. They will spend the first two or three meetings over the course of several meetings setting up the general timeline. If something reminded them of a specific episode, they will watch the episode to find anything from it that they can pull from it. Once they have the beats they want to hit, they will figure out how many episodes they want to do with a short blurb about each episode. At this point, they pass it over to Christine to write a more thorough synopsis of the story. With the synopsis completed, they will start picking it part. After a couple of iterations, it’s handed off to the content designers. They will put their own spin on it, while still hitting on the major story points.
Mike mentions that at the end of the Delta Rising arc, there was a mission that he was certain had a direct impact on the events of the next episode and wondered if he had gone back and made a different decision if it would have changed the outcome of the next mission. Stephen mentions that they will be releasing something in the next couple of months that will have an impact on something that will go live in the middle of next year. No one will know about the connection now, but later, if they are paying attention, players will realize that they had it planned out months in advance.
Stephen mentions reading the forums and reddit to see what speculation about the story people are making. Then, in the midst of all the theories, sometimes, there’s one guy that guessed it correctly, but no one is paying attention. Conversely, he mentions a recent occasion where no one got it right, which made him happy, because everyone will be surprised.
Mike shift the conversation to the financial side of STO, since he decides when and what ships will be released. Stephen describes the process as similar. He begins by figuring out the cadence of when ships will be released and when certain sales will occur. He once again sits down with Al and Phil Gorngazolla and discusses what ships and options the game requires. He uses the pilot ships as an example. Mike states that he loves the raptors. They will develop a list of ships and select a few ones to work on. Stephen is also responsible for planning what items, including ships are included in lockboxes.
Borticus has made every single lockbox. Stephen and Al will first determine the theme the lock box will take and uses the Xindi 2 box as an example. They will bring Jeremy and Phil in and they will discuss their theme or listen to any suggestions that Phil and Jeremy may have. They go back and forth discussing powers, options, and features until they are happy with it. When they come up with something new, such as the bridge officer training manuals, they decided to add some new ones to the lockboxes. Mike wonders if they had considered going back and revamping some of the older boxes to include some of the new items and tech they have developed, such as the bridge officer training manuals. Stephen says that they have done it before with the Cardassian, Ferengi, and Tholian boxes. If they see the need for it, they may do it again.
Mike asks if he’s involved with planning the various sets that players receive as rewards in game or for grinding out the reputation system. Stephen explains that he was more involved when he was the lead producer. Now, he may sit in on those meetings, but the systems team typically handle those items on their own.
Mike asks Stephen if he’s a Star Trek fan. He watched TOS with his father. When TNG started, they watched it together. He admits that he’s a Deep Space Nine fan. Mike mentions the recent controversy that arose from the inclusion of LGBT characters in a mission. He goes on to point out that in DS9, Nog had lost his leg during the Dominion War, and wonders if they would consider introducing a character at some point that is differently-abled. Stephen says that it is something that they could do. Star Trek has often done a number of television firsts and that is a tradition and legacy STO is trying to live up to. He goes on to say that if he could find a situation where a differently-abled character would work to improve the story and not detract from it, they will be more than glad to do so. Mike appreciated his response.
Mike asks what are some of his other favorite SciFi. Stephen describes himself as omnivorous. He loves Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and more. Mike then shifts to the Star Trek novels. Stephen has read and enjoyed the DS9 relaunch, which he describes as Season 8 of Deep Space Nine. The stories seem to fit well. When Mike asked, if he had a favorite author, he could not name one.
Mike moves on to the Lipton questions, beginning with which Trek species he would be if he could be any one but human. He chose Romulan. The name of his starship is the Inferno and will even name every ship he flies the Inferno.
Next, Mike asks if they could kill off a major canon character, who would he pick. Stephen recounts a story where they had considered killing off both Quinn and Jmpok from STO, but decided against it because of the amount of tech it required. He decides that the death would have to be impactful and decides that he would kill off Picard. He brings up Best of Both Worlds and how it would have changed everything for TNG if Stewart had not renewed his contract and Picard had not been rescued from the Borg. Stephen thinks it would have been like the worst of all worlds, where Riker with the unkempt beard talks about how the Borg have overrun them and the Federation is in shambles. He draws attention to Game of Thrones and how killing off main characters gives more weight to the show.
Mike wonders if there’s a type of story, such as a mystery or a western, that he would like to do within Star Trek Online. Stephen explains that there certainly are. He wants to do Holodeck stories, such as Captain Proton complete with Black and White filter. Mike is pleased to hear it. Stephen mentions they had the preliminary idea for a story, but explained how expensive it would be to produce because of all the new assets that would need to be created. They could potentially do a couple of seasons worth of content revolving around photonic lifeforms and being trapped on the holodeck. Captain Proton always gets brought up at some point or another during their planning meetings.
Mike asks if there is anything he would like to tell their listeners about what is coming. Stephen talks about the rate that the new episodes are being released, around one new episode a month. That trend will be continuing for the foreseeable future as they close out the war and establish their new story arc. Mike loves that there is new content and a good reason to play it again. On replays, he’s noticed that there are little nuances in the story that he missed during his first play through and states that these stories have substance. When Stephen learns that his interview will be released midweek, he shares that the new episode will be coming out on Thursday. With that, Mike winds down the interview.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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