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    SSR Interviews Goatshark - February 2013

    Director of Intelligence

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    SSR Interviews Goatshark - February 2013

    Post by Pyriel32 on Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:08 am

    TacehT: This is DJ TacehT, and I'm speaking with STO's Lead Content Designer.
    GoatShark: Yea, this is Scott, Goatshark, you'll see me on the forums.
    TacehT: Yes, how are you doing?
    GoatShark: I'm doing just fine, how are you?
    TacehT: I'm good, we're going to go ahead and just get right into the questions because I actually have some interesting questions. This is a little bit more for you, and a personal question, what do you do, what exactly do you do, and how did you get into the industry?
    GoatShark: Well, I am currently the Lead Content Designer on STO, I've been doing that since about mid 2010, I guess at Cryptic. I started making video games back in 94' - back at Maxis when they were around before they were part of EA...
    TacehT: Oh wow!
    GoatShark: So yea, I've been doing this for a long time. I started off as a tester and did that for a while. I eventually ran the test department for Maxis - and after - what was it 2 or 3 years or that - I moved over to writing and game design, and the first game that I had a designer credit on was SimCity 3000.
    TacehT: Oh wow! That's pretty cool! I remember that one.
    GoatShark: So I worked on that, which at the time EA had purchased us, so I was there, moved over to Acclaim, worked there for a while, ended up over at Incog(?), which was Sony first party doing stuff like Twisted Metal for the PSP and contributed a bit to the Warhawk that came out there. Kinda got out of the industry for a little bit and did kind of a fringe project where I was working with this company that put video games on exercise bikes for gyms, which was fun, kind of wacky. I have been at Cryptic for four years as of March.
    TacehT: Wow, that's a long time, you do have a lot of experience, and I think that's really cool. Do you find it, with being in that industry, this is kind of a little side thing. I'm kinda ...
    GoatShark: Sure...
    TacehT: At you a little bit since I, personally, I was going to do what you're going to do, do you find, that working on STO content - with this - is a lot easier than when you were working with SimCity and any of the other games that you were working on?
    GoatShark: Well, I mean I have always tried to work on whatever is interesting or exciting to me, so like I said, I started off doing Sim games - you know - I think I shipped like 35 different queues in the 4 years I was at Maxis. And those were all various kinds of Sim games. When I was at Acclaim I was doing wrestling games and boxing games cause as a kid I loved pro wrestling and I've always been a fight fan. Then when I was over at Incog I helped them finish up Down-Hill Domination - and I worked on, like I said, Twisted Metal, which was an action car shooter, and Warhawk, so now you know being on STO, which is an MMO, it's obviously not only a MMO, but one with an incredibly famous IP. It's whatever is interesting to me and fascinating to me at the time, so I don't know if anything has ever been necessarily more difficult than the other it's always just a different challenge.
    TacehT: That's great! Well then, we're going to get right into more then, here comes a little bit more challenging question. Can you talk a little bit about the creative process, and how you approach the creation of new creative content, like ships, races, characters, events, while still making it feel Trek?
    GoatShark: Sure, well the thing to understand about, especially an MMO, is that it is incredibly collaborative process. You know, you have people who are going to be building ships, you have people who are going to be building, building different critters, costumes, even within design you have different disciplines, and on the content side, when we're building stuff like missions or episodes, or events, a lot of the decision making that happens is partly based on what resources we planned and allotted for. So for example, we knew that we were going to be introducing Tholians into the game, so okay, we know we're going to have Tholians, the systems guys are going to say how they behave, the artists are going to say what they look like, and so now as content we're going to have them, we're going to figure out how to put it together, so what make sense, what would be fun, well, Tholians, you know they don't survive in the same kind of atmosphere as people, so we're going to, we're going to, we want to put them on this, you know, devil planet, right, Nukura Prime, where you have to be running around in an EV suit - so if we're going to do that, we need to understand - what the limitations of the player are going to become, so we know that players are going to have to be in an EV suit, which is going to change their toughness level and how they are going to have to interact with the world. And so we need to also make sure build it right so that if you walk out there without an EV suit, you die, and if you have one you live and if you have bridge officers that have EV suits, they don't die. So we look at the resources, we look at the various elements that we have, and we say what would be fun, what would make sense, and how can we turn this into a new experience for the player. { inaudible }
    TacehT: { inaudible } Go ahead.
    GoatShark: I was just going to say, as for how we make it feel like, Trek, I mean, it's almost hard not to honestly with a lot of the - because again, a lot of the resources we get, when you're creating, you know, the enterprise, even when it's a brand new enterprise, you automatically just steer yourself in that direction, you start thinking, as a fan as a kid, I watched all the reruns of the original series, and then you know, I remember watching Next-Gen, and DS9, and Enterprise, and all those when they were actually airing. So as soon as I see an enterprise, or I see Tholians, I'm insistently in mindset of those TV shows. So it's actually hard not to steer yourself naturally in the direct direction.
    TacehT: Makes complete sense with that. So with the game mechanics, have you, what have you been more fascinated in the past with all games and what new mechanics would you like to play around with to incorporate in future updates of STO?
    GoatShark: Well, mechanically speaking, different games, with different engines are going to be able to do obviously different things. One of the things that impressed me the most, a number of years ago was when World of Warcraft first got phasing really working right and they do some really interesting things with, it has it's own limitations of course, but I don't remember when it really clicked with me in WoW, where, how effectively they were using phasing - but that's something their engine can support - you don't have the same thing in different engine's and so it's always a little tricky to look at things like phasing or you know BioWare had a very, they have a very specific engine they run Star Wars on where you go into their own version of owned instances based on the class you're playing ...
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: LoTR has the things they do with their events, so I'm always fascinated by the different things that people have discovered and working into their engines and it's always tricky to say well - what is something that, what is something that we can look at to inspire us, what can we do within the confines of our own engine; because, you know at Cryptic, we have kinda have a core engine that our games are based on so the positive to that is that whenever any team - you know, we have multiple teams, we have multiple games - when they advance the engine then everyone can benefit. But as far as - so the other thing that we do though is we say, okay the engine is not always going to evolve, right, a game engine is what it is and it will exist in a certain state for an amount of time - so during the time that it's in it's current state - okay what can our engine do, what are some cool things that we can do, how can we kind of push the limits of it and push the envelopes of it. So one of the things that we like to do on Trek, especially since Star Trek isn't all about combat - are finding new ways to get non-combat things, like puzzles, and other interactions involved that help tell stories without relying on constant combat. So as a result we ended up with, you know, you'll see dialog puzzles you know, there's an episode, might have been from the Romulan featured series, where you get some Talshiar files and you go to your ready room and decrypt those files. That was something that we hadn't done in our game before and we were trying to, you know, do different things within the confines of our engine and our tech to be able to manipulate contacts so that you see; like - oh look, as I decipher this file parts of it are becoming legible. You know, the Lor'Mispa is going away.
    TacehT: So did you find that difficult to be able to push the limits with that?
    GoatShark: It's always a challenge because it's just, by the very nature of games, video games, it's always going to be tricky and sometimes will kind of paint ourselves into a corner as a designer and say, oh this will be so cool and I'll go down this road and this road then this road and oh wait, we can't actually do that, how's this - then software will have to bail us out and either give us a new way to handle this or they'll look at it and say - you know what, you shouldn't have gone down that path; find another way to do it.
    TacehT: Exactly, so then on the average, how long does it take an episode from scratch? Or at least an episode mission?
    GoatShark: It kind of varies, from you know, depending on the complexity of the episode, or what we're doing and of course, featured episodes tend to be more longer and more involved. You know they'll have more cut-scenes and therefore they will need more voice recording. So, what we will try to do is, we do a very iterative process, so, there will be a kickoff where all the people involved in making the episode will all understand what it's going to take, the designers and the artists will start white-boxing, building it out, we'll do some play tests, we'll iterate some more, we/ll do some more play tests, iterate, play test, iterate play test, and them ultimately we will say - okay, everything's good - we'll do any last bits to polish and we'll ship it. That can take anywhere from 10 to 20 days just depending on the complexity and the level of depth we're trying to build into it.
    TacehT: Okay, cause that's where the wait is and you know how the fans are with the way - most of the time it's; now, now, now...
    GoatShark: The one thing you have to understand too is that, you know, I love doing episodes, right, it's, feels like new, it's the only new Star Trek stuff that's coming out. It's not like I can turn on a television and watch this weeks episode of Star Trek.
    TacehT: Exactly!
    GoatShark: So, building episodes in our game, you know that scratches that itch, but the thing to remember is that as with the TV show episode, if you play an episode once you may play it again for various reasons but all in all you probably seen that story. You know, you've watched that episode, you've played it, you've experienced it and it can be hard for some players since it does feel like, it can feel like a TV show. There are some people who, they don't watch reruns, you know, they don't, they don't want to see the same episode over and over again and it's very to keep up with the consumption, you know, the appetite that some of them might have for new episodes, and so sometimes that's why we will build something like an event, which will have, which is much more meant to be repeatable content...
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: And, no it is not an episode, it doesn't feel the same when you replay it as an episode does. And so you have to always balance, like, yes we want a new episode, but in this case it might make sense to make a new event so that players stuff to do even if it's not the story content they're specifically looking for. To which on that end by the way, that's one of the things that I love about the foundry and a special thank you to all the foundry editors who are making all cool new episodes, you know, the sheer manpower that exists out in the world people to be making episodes we couldn't possibly match.
    TacehT: Exactly, I think running greatly off you guys though, I mean ...
    GoatShark: Yea, yea, you're probably right, and, but without; I think without the foundry and without the help of all the foundry authors we couldn't you know, there would never be, we wouldn't have a chance of their being enough story content for people to play.
    TacehT: Well I think that's great. That even, that comes up to this next question. With the technical limitations with you, you know with the Cryptic writers and taking account and you know, with foundry missions and elements and NPC's and on the map's and everything, can you, how are you guys actually more limited than the foundry missions? Can you ...
    GoatShark: We're actually far less limited than the foundry editors, I mean, our engine is incredibly powerful, we have massive flexibility and as I mentioned as a result, that can mean sometimes we can paint ourselves into a corner. We try to remove as many potential pitfalls as we can and sometimes that means limiting what you're allowed to do and what you have access to, so we don't build, when a normal designer is building with our engine they aren't using the foundry tool-set; that's something that was built very specifically so that we can put it out to a wide audience and they would hopefully, with hopefully with a minimum amount of pain, they would be able to make something col. For all the people who are actually working in normal editors, which again is incredible amount of flexibility and power, that also makes it incredibly fragile and delicate. And so we have to be very careful though, there are a lot of times we have to very specific rules with what we do, or paths that we take. So we're were not as nearly as limited as the foundry editor, as far as technically what we can accomplish. The thing we will never have is the amount of time that a foundry author has.
    TacehT: Right. Do you find that you might in the future, will the foundry missions, and being able to design that might be a little more laxed?
    GoatShark: Well you know we have added to and improved the foundry here and there as we have gone. It's a fairly large undertaking to update the foundry.
    TacehT: Okay.
    GoatShark: So it's - I can't really speak to that as to whether or not it will ever; how it will ever advance or what it's going to do, but we're always trying to improve it and we're always trying to make new - if I had my way I would open everything up to them, but there's just - that's just not realistic.
    TacehT: Exactly.
    GoatShark: Unfortunately. So what I would love to see is, and again is't a massive undertaking; but I would love to see more flexibility, more options open to them. There's just no concept of a timetable for me for something like that.
    TacehT: That's great. Well we're going to get into the Enterprise bit. I know a lot of people from the forums and from you know, the listeners of Subspace Radio in the chat and everything. They're always talking about it; they want to see more Enterprise love for future content. I personally think the series is under-appreciated - I like Enterprise so and - I'm the oddball out here on the station and I know that. Do ...
    GoatShark: Seasons 3 and 4 were great.
    TacehT: I love the whole build up but that's just me I guess ...
    GoatShark: Yea.
    TacehT: Do you see a little bit more of that content in the future?
    GoatShark: Sure, I mean you know, we try to draw inspiration from every bit of Trek that's been; any bit of cannon Trek even some of the soft cannon, you know, it's all part of the expanded universe for Star Trek and whether it's Enterprise or fans love seeing something that they can recognize or familiar with. So yes, I would love to get more Enterprise inspired content in there, but it's not just from there, it's anywhere where there is Trek, I would love to take advantage of that wherever possible. And I don't think you're the odd one out; if you ask me, the really only thing bad about Enterprise was the title track.
    TacehT: Oh, yea, I agree with you on that one. That drove me insane; but you know, I looked past it.
    GoatShark: Of course.
    TacehT: If you fast forward it it's fine. But that's great, I'm excited to hear about that. Well then we're going to get into the Romulans.
    GoatShark: Sure.
    TacehT: Do you plan on making the Romulan story fully accessible to the players who have not manager, or whatever reasons to complete the reputation system or do you foresee future { inaudible }
    GoatShark: Talking about the story ...
    TacehT: The storyline, yea ...
    GoatShark: New Romulus and the cutscenes that open up and different instances it will open up and things like that?
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: So when we started building up the reputation system it's a very heavy systems oriented element of our game and really wanted to tie content into that so that it wasn't just a purely systems based thing. One of the ways we did that was through having the storyline unfolded as you play through the reputation, you know, instances that you can playthrough and cutscenes that you would be able to watch and I personally, I like like that. I like having something content wise that comes with filling up this reputation and so personally I would not want to make the Romulus story-line, the reputation storyline, I wouldn't want to separate it from the reputation system. I like that that's there.
    TacehT: Okay.
    GoatShark: And whether or not future reputation systems have content that's only accessible as you increase in the reputation I think it is likely because I'm a fan of it. But I haven't really heard much push-back; have you; do the fans not like it or you just want to see if that's possible?
    TacehT: I think it's just more of a general question - they're looking for - when the reputation system has come out they wanna know if there's going to be more. For me - level capping I mean I have 2 characters, there's KDF and of course, Fed, also I'm capped out and so the reputation is what I have now to look forward to - to be able to have something new to build onto the characters I have spent so much time on. And I think that is a lot of what they are kind of wondering if the Romulan storyline is going to be something of - to be able to have more to add to their character cause it's new content.
    GoatShark: Well yea, I mean you know the Romulan story-line is not done there - it's going to continue. Did you finish the Romulan reputation system?
    TacehT: Not yet, I'm going to, I was at the Expo so I have a lot on my plate but I am going to. I am excited you guys did that, I'm a big fan of the Romulans so...
    GoatShark: When you, as I mentioned as you unlock sections of the reputation system it opens up new cutscenes ...
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: There is - The final cut-scene, the one that you can watch after you have completed the Romulan reputation system - I will not spoil anything but it will hint at the future in the story-line.
    TacehT: Oh, that sounds exciting. I'm excited, I'm probably going to have to do that later tonight then. { inaudible }
    GoatShark: You that that far ... { inaudible }
    TacehT: Oh no, I got to get started { inaudible }
    GoatShark: Oh okay.
    TacehT: But that's really exciting. That's great so, now the listeners can get a little bit more excited. I know some probably already have, you know, finished everything, there's some out there that are just fast workers.
    GoatShark: I'm pretty sure that there are people who have finished the reputation system, for new Romulus I'm sure.
    TacehT: Absolutely. Is there, for any of the other questions that I have, any of plans on challenging content - I know it came up with the no-win scenario - do you plan to introduce similar missions in the future and some people were wondering - seeing it in the ground version as well.
    GoatShark: Yea, it's funny, no-win scenario was supposed to be a runoff of the Kobayashi Maru - which is supposed to be - it's supposed to be unwinnable. You're not supposed to be able to finish the whole thing.
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: That would be cheating, you would have to be able to cheat to do that. So I think it's funny - it's funny that you mention it as challenging content, it's at the very end, at the least to be impossible, you're not, that's why it's called no-win. As far as a ground version of it - sure, I mean I would love to do that too, I just, I wasn't, like I said it's supposed to be based off the Kobayashi Maru and it's a tricky line to walk between seeing - it's kind of a gauntlet mentality of how far can I get before I die. But the problem is, is that you have a lot of players who don't like that idea - they don't want the idea of that they can't succeed at it.
    TacehT: Exactly.
    GoatShark: So it's a little bit of a - no-win is a little bit of a touchy subject as far as wither or not it's - people like it I get a lot of mixed reaction to it.
    TacehT: Well you think it - I mean in a little side question on this - I mean I think it's good for the challenge, you know, cause if you are constantly are always getting something it's nice to have a change I would think.
    GoatShark: Sure.
    TacehT: I'm for it. I rage quit if I want to, it's my choice.
    GoatShark: Sure it is. As far as how you decide challenge though, that can mean different things, you can have straight up difficulty that is a gear check and a coordination check, stuff like the STF's - like the Borg Queen fight, and stuff like that where there is meant to be more challenging content and you can play the harder versions of it - we have the elite versions of it - But then there's also the challenge of a fleet action that might require 20 people and then you have the challenge of actually - kinda like wrangling cats right - where you have to get 20 people together and doing what they're supposed to do - and not only getting them to do what they do but also to get them; when they do it together next time if they've gotten better because they got more coordinated or they got more organized. So those are the different kind of challenges we have now. But yea I am all for getting different kinds of challenging content in there and if you think people would love to see a ground version of No-Win I will take that under advisement.
    TacehT: I think they would, I really do and with the No-Win Scenario on the ground version would actually be a lot more enticing a lot of the players - when I listen to a lot of people on our TeamSpeak and watching in chat and viewing some of the content, a lot of what their saying on the forums and everything - they really do - I think they want a even balance between space because when you're battling in space and then you want to go down and have an epic battle - I think that No-Win Scenario would kind of give that challenge, if that makes sense.
    GoatShark: Yea, sure.
    TacehT: To that one. And we'll go to the next question.
    GoatShark: Okay.
    TacehT: So as the game environment for some people have - has said that outer-space can be kind of boring and I don't mean this harshly at all - but they a lot of people are wanting a little bit more challenge. Making things interesting events, environments, is there some ideas that Cryptic might be able to toss around to give the listeners an idea that there might be changes to maybe the environments and how space events might be.
    GoatShark: Sure, you know, it's tricky, it's tricky on a lot of levels. Not just on the design side or on the environment side but we have a varying range of player skills and abilities. Because we have the Star Trek IP, you have a lot of people who just like Star Trek, you know they're not lifetime games; we have people this is their first game they ever played.
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: And navigating in a 3D space can be very tricky. And so you have to be a little be careful, it's not same instant understanding that people have when they run around on the ground avatar. So if I'm on the ground and I see a hallway and at the end of the hallway there is a wall and a little branch left or right - without even thinking - instinctively I know that if I reach the end of that hall I will be able to turn left or right. And I know exactly how to control that, and I know exactly how what to do and I know that when I turn left, I know where I am specially. I don't have to worry about up and down, I just, I understand it, I get it, it's simple. In space, as soon as you're moving in a fully, you know you're taking up and down and steering left and right - and accelerating and de-accelerating - right cause as soon as I stop moving on the ground I stop.
    TacehT: Exactly.
    GoatShark: It's not true in space. And it can be very daunting for a new player or a non-experienced gamer to get comfortable with the space controls - and that's not just flying - I mean on the ground when you shoot you turn to face, right?
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: If I shoot someone it doesn't really matter where they are, I'm going to be able to figure it out. In space I have to worry about facing, I have to worry about which shields are up and down - Am I using Fore and Aft weaponry? So it's not to say we intentionally dumb it down or overly simplify it's just that it can be a lot for someone to take in and when you have some really experienced gamers they will get to the point where it becomes kind of roped and they understand - they know exactly how its going to work in space. But that's not everybody and so it's always a very - i feel that it's very challenging to create something for the game-play - like I said, on the ground I can build a hall to a room to a clicky to something you kill and then I'm outside and then I'm in this weird tunnel and then I understand in space I cant fence win like that. I need to give you room to move and fly because again if all the different axis you can fly around, the different speeds, the weapons ...
    TacehT: Right.
    GoatShark: And on top of that, the things you're fighting aren't going to be able to move as cleverly as stuff on the ground - you have all these other ships that are going to be the AI controlled ships that are going to be moving and flying or shooting and everything else. So it can be tough to build conceptually the same kind of challenge or control that a player is used to on the ground. As far as visually and the environment in outer space, I actually think the environment artist do a great job - I think ...
    TacehT: I agree.
    GoatShark: Yea, I think we have some really breathtaking space scenes that they put together - always trying to invent new things and things that people can do but I know some people that have a tendency to say it's boring because it's not the same kind of environment that you see on the ground but where you get the excitement and the interest is in the tactical combat and navigating the different ships and facings as well as what our story is diving in space, so you know I think you get varying takes on it.
    TacehT: I think, well you made a really good point though because of what it takes - when I first started playing the game I didn't know how to fly the ship - I got frustrated - I was like; what is this, what am I doing - you know and when I started getting more into PVP, you know, I liked the fact that space to be able to roll around depending on what ship I have to be able to kill whomever I want to kill.
    GoatShark: Right.
    TacehT: And you make a lot of really good points with that and i agree, the environment, a lot of the new graphics and that I have seen so far in the game - beautiful, excellent work, the Nebula work, everything, I'm just, I'm a big fan. I was just like wow!
    GoatShark: Yea I mean ...
    TacehT: Really beautiful!
    GoatShark: I'm continually impressed, I mean I play some of the stuff that's obviously in development now and I go to them and go - Wow that look great and I've never seen that, how are you doing that?
    TacehT: That's really awesome! And I'm looking forward to seeing more. I mean, you know, hands down, definitely to you - all you guys at Cryptic - I know you work really hard at what you're doing and how frustrating it can be, especially with you know the audience, and everybody playing, you got the negative and the positive and the what if's and you know, you got the long list of what people want but I mean I think you guys are doing a really great job.
    GoatShark: Well for better or worse, I would rather have a passionate audience than a disinterested audience because when people stop caring, they stop paying attention.
    TacehT: Exactly.
    GoatShark: And I would much rather have a passionate audience.
    TacehT: Exactly, well I just think you guys are doing great and you know I have one last question; you know what this is from.
    GoatShark: Yeah.
    TacehT: This is - this is a very valid question I think.
    GoatShark: Sure, yea.
    TacehT: So, here it is, it's why did you go with GoatShark and why not SharkGoat? Because a goat with a shark head would be pretty epic - and with lazer beams.
    GoatShark: Well yea, then it's got to be a shark, so yea, I went with it for two reasons. Number 1 - it just flows better, GoatShark is more fun to say than SharkGoat, SharkGoat has that weird "K" stopping you rolling into the "G" and aesthetically it's just not pleasing. The other part of it is - I mean think of it like tiger shark, this is goat shark, it's what it hunts.
    TacehT: That's a excellent reasoning ...
    GoatShark: Not saying of course I'm about to get a group of people saying - wait tiger sharks don't hunt tigers - yeah that's what you think. They actually do slither onto land and go out to hunt - little known fact - not a lot of people know that.
    TacehT: So you're saying you hunt goats?
    GoatShark: I would never say such a terrible thing.
    TacehT: Well that's makes a valid point. Do you have anything that you want to say to the listening audience of Subspace Radio and the fans of STO?
    GoatShark: Thank you for listening, appreciate the interest, keep playing the game and I think we got some really cool stuff coming that people really going to enjoy.
    TacehT: Well great, again, thank you so much for taking the time to this. You've been listening to GoatShark, he's the lead content designer for STO and just keep a lookout because there's going to be a lot more stuff and again, thank you very much!
    GoatShark: Thank you!
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    Director of Intelligence

    Fleet Rank : Fleet Admiral
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    Name: Pyriel Danto

    Re: SSR Interviews Goatshark - February 2013

    Post by Pyriel32 on Sun Mar 03, 2013 8:38 am

    Something very interesting will either happen or be revealed for Star Trek Online on March 21st. We know that not because of our new psychic intern, Francesca, but because the teaser site for STO's May content update now has an exciting-slash-ominous timer counting down to that date.

    The teaser picture also has been updated to change from the Romulan symbol to a murky picture of warbirds among the stars when you mouse over it. The image caption reads, "Our shadow will dim the stars."

    Will this be the reveal of a playable Romulan faction, as many have suggested? Or will it be the rise of a prominent adversary in the form of new mission content? Or could it be something as of yet unforseen? We'll just have to wait with the rest of you until all is revealed on the 21st.
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