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Project Status Update - June 2020

by Charlie Plaine, Director of First Edition

1st June 2020

It's the first day of June, and it's been three months since my last project status update. These are difficult and time-intensive to write, so I apologize for not delivering them as frequently as I would like it. I will continue to try and improve my process to make these easier to write and thus keep you better informed. And, as today is a busy day for First Edition content, I'm going to jump right into this update.

But before I get into the details, we have a new feature for you: the project chart. Thanks to hard work and kind instruction from Cristoffer Wiker (Smiley), this nice PDF chart outlines all of the projects below. At a glance, you can see their progress and which steps are complete, in progress, or on hold. I hope this helps you better understand where our projects are in the pipeline. We plan on updating it each time I write an article like this, so you can see how projects move between updates. We welcome any and all feedback on this new chart.

Current Projects

The Neutral Zone a.k.a. Project G'Kar
(Project G'Kar is the second expansion of Block #5, the Original Series block, and focuses on [Rom] [OS] cards and the Neutral Zone Region.)

Obviously this is old news at this point, but The Neutral Zone was released in April 2020. Although COVID-19 has reduced tournament activity by a considerable amount, Brian S. (JeBuS) ran an online release tournament that required all players to use The Squire's Rules. (If you don't recall or haven't seen the card, The Squire's Rules forces you to use all [S/P] dilemmas and randomly - sight unseen - seed them. It's fun!) If you're looking for deck ideas, check out that tournament page - there are more than a dozen decks to examine! And, of course, our talented Writing Team wrote articles about The Neutral Zone or you to check out as well. If you have the chance, I hope you'll give the cards from The Neutral Zone a look and a try.

Project Londo
(Project Londo is the third and final expansion of Block #5, the Original Series block, and focuses on [Kli] [OS] cards.)

Project Londo, a.k.a. the [Kli] [OS] expansion, is in testing and going well. The initial file - what we call "Version A" - was positively received by most of our testers. As always, there were some concerns and some questions, but over the past few revisions they have been tested, worked on, and addressed. The fourth revision of the file recently went out to the testers, and they have been hard at work building new decks and testing some of the new decks put together by Londo's design team.

Speaking of the team, it's still officially led by James Monsebroten (Orbin) with Matthew Zinno [commdecker], Michael Moskop [comicbookhero] and Daniel Matteson [OKCoyote] on the roster. However, Matthew, Michael, and Daniel have all had to step back to various degrees, so I've been helping out on the expansion a little - just to keep discussion going. I haven't changed much of the team's original vision, which includes a cool mechanic where players compete for resources during the game. There are also more tools for previous themes in the block, including new 23rd-century missions, new [Self] dilemmas, and more.

The fifth revision of the file should be going to testers soon, and that's when we'll let our Creative and Rules teams start their hard work on the expansion. Our aim remains to release this expansion in the late Summer of 2020, or early Autumn. We'll keep you up to date on things as they progress.

Project Storm
(Project Storm is a stand alone expansion based on the end of the Dominon War.)

Cristoffer Wiker (Smiley) and his team - Andreas Rheinländer (Dukat), Derrik Marsh (HoodieDM), and Paddy Tye (KazonPADD) - are hard at work on Project Storm. Daniel Matteson (OKCoyote), who was previously assigned to the team, decided to resign from the team for personal reasons. But they are deep in the weeds researching the final ten-episode arc of Deep Space 9, which serves as the inspiration behind this expansion. The team is still exploring ideas and concepts, and only just starting to make cards. What they'll end up with is to be determined, but they're looking at Alpha Quadrant Dominion, Cardassian Dissidents, the Morphogenic Virus, and a Fed/Kli/Rom treaty.

Cristoffer is using a new methodology for designing this expansion that is trying to limit the total comprehension complexity of the expansion. He and his team are setting "rarity" benchmarks, where the "rarity" is a measure of how complex the card can be. A "common" card should be simple, easy to understand, and straightforward; an "uncommon" can be a little more complex; a "rare" can be wordy or have strange interactions, and so on. Note this won't be reflected on the actual rarity of the cards - they'll still be "V" - but it's a way to keep complexity creep in check. It's an interesting experiment that I'm watching closely and am eager to see the results.

Project Storm will be going to testing this summer, after Project Londo moves out of testing and into production. Our goal is to release Project Storm in late 2020, putting it between the Original Series block and the Movie block.

Speaking of the Movie block, we've got two new projects to announce! Starting in 2021, blocks will be two (2) expansions instead of three (3), as this will allow us to make more unrelated content. We're also taking the opportunity to try coordinating between block expansions more tightly, and as part of that we have one designer working on both design teams. Here are the details:

ANNOUNCING: Project Rogue
(Project Rogue is the first of two expansions in the Movie Block, focusing on the [CF] era of the first six movies.)

Project Rogue is going to be tackling the first six Star Trek movies (and the Enterprise-B bits of Generations.) While much content was mined for The Motion Pictures, there's still plenty more to add. I've tapped veteran lead designer Paddy Tye (KazonPADD), fresh off of his work on The Neutral Zone, to lead this team. We're trying a little bit bigger teams for these two expansions, so Paddy will be joined by Allen Gould (AllenGould), Derrick Marsh (HoodieDM), Jason Robinette (JasonRed3), and Niall Matthew (sexecutioner). Jason will be serving on both design teams in the block, as part of our plan to more tightly coordinate the block expansions.

The team has just gotten started, and there are two projects in the queue ahead of them, but that won't stop them from diving in. They will be exploring ways to make Sybok decks more fun and viable in the modern game, story-based objectives (like intercepting V'Ger), and more. The tentative plan is for this expansion to release in late Winter or early Spring of 2021.

ANNOUNCING: Project Solo
(Project Solo is the second of two expansions in the Movie Block, pulling from Generations through Nemesis, with a large focus on the latter movie.)

Following up on Project Rogue, Project Solo will be focusing on the final four Star Trek movies, the Enterprise-E era. Dan Hamman (SirDan), our most experienced lead designer, will be heading up the project team of five (5). Aside from Jason Robinette, who as mentioned above is on both teams, the team will be Brian Sykes (Armus), Daniel Matteson (OKCoyote), and Cristoffer Wiker (Smiley). Most of this expansion will be pulled from Nemesis, which is largely unrepresented in the game. Fun fact: the orignal plan for the TNG block's third expansion was going to be Nemesis, but we changed direction to focus on the [TNG] mechanic.

Dan's team has also just gotten started on their work, and they have even more time to plan and design before going to testing. Our tentative schedule is for Project Solo to release in Summer or very early Autumn of 2021.

Unscheduled Future Projects

Project En Garde
(Project En Garde aims to provide a pair of balanced decks design to give great games against each other, and fit into modern tournament play.)

Though Niall Matthew (sexecutioner) has been very busy with life, work, and love in the age of COVID-19, the rest of the design team - Dan Hamman, Paddy Tye, and myself - have made some small progress on these "Duel Decks." Dan recently played a version of the [TNG] [Car] deck to get more data on what the deck needs, and we're in the midst of discussing options for new [TNG] [Fed] cards for that deck. This has been a long delayed project, but the need for it is still true. I'm eager to move this forward and get these decks - and the small set of new cards - in front of testers soon.

Project Viking
(Project Viking is a boutique style expansion "booster shot" for the Vidiian affiliation.)

Project Viking has finished designing almost all the cards they're looking to make, and will very soon be moving to internal testing. James Heaney (BCSWowbagger), Brian Sykes (Armus), and myself have been working hard, if intermittenly, on the Vidiian affiliation, their playstyle, their needs, and their wants. At the same time, we've been carefully studying the current state of the game to see if we can define a theme and flavor for Vidiians that also put some much needed variety into the game's available deck types. I'm really happy with where we are, and I can't wait to get started internally testing once we finish up a few more cards.

This expansion is also an experiment, in two ways. It's a smaller, boutique style and will be using a new model we're calling the "booster shot." The idea is that all of the cards will be designed to give an affiliation - Vidiian, in our case - a much needed infusion of new cards. If there are themes that could use support, they might appear here. If the chosen faction needs thematic development, it will appear here. At the same time, we're going to try another new design and development methodology on this expansion - this is the second difference. This is a different new technique aside from what Project Storm will be doing. The goal in trying new techniques in smaller settings is to give us data on what works and what doesn't, with the ultimate goal of refining and streamlining processes on all expansions.

For Project Viking, we're trying sequential design teams. The current team is going to make a first pass at the cards and do internal testing. They will hand this file of cards, along with a document explaining the intention of the expansion, to a second set of designers who will do their own testing. This second team won't be able to change the intent of the cards, per the handoff document, but will be able to make changes to make sure the cards are doing what they are meant to do. Then, once this second team is done, the cards will continue to normal playtesting. This second layer of design work is intended to improve the quality of the cards, and hopefully lessen their testing time. But it's an experiment, so we'll see how it goes when it's done.

Project Keiko
(Project Keiko is a scripted learn-to-play experience for new players.)

We're happy with Project Keiko as a scripted, learn to play experience designer for people familiar with games and gamers. While the best way to learn is always going to be with a teacher, we realize that isn't always going to be a practical option. This product, which will provide instructions as well as two (2) scripted decks, will give players the ability to get a taste of the game. We'll need to follow it up with more instruction and additional beginner-friendly products, but this will be a great first step. We expect to have this finished sometime in the summer for release later in 2020.

Project Argentum
(Project Argentum will be a project celebrating some of the best single episodes of Star Trek. It's been repurposed from a previous product to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game.)

The previous iteration of the project was designed to celebrate the game's 25th Anniversary, but for a variety of reasons, that wasn't able to come to fruition. However, a number of cool ideas were generated from the project and I don't like letting good ideas go to waste. So Project Argentum will be reborn as a small expansion celebrating some of the best episodes of Star Trek. We're just at the very early planning stages of this project, so there isn't much to say at this time. But I did want to keep you up to date about the project, since it had been previously announced.

ANNOUNCING: Project Quarantine
(Project Quarantine will bring a small refresh to the Q Continuum Side Deck, complete with some fun new Q cards.)

There's been a lot of talk about the Q Continuing Side Deck over the past years, and while most of it has been negative, not all of it. I was recently approached by Dan Hamman (SirDan) and Thomas Vineberg (Exon) with an idea to do a small boutique-style expansion based on this mechanic. They're hard at work exploring new Q cards and a way to expand the utility of the Q Flash, without making it a top tier power card. I'm excited to see how the project develops. This expansion will be using the same "two tier" design model employed by Project Viking, outlined above.

Exploratory Projects

Exploratory projects aren't traditional design in that they aren't looking to create a set of cards that we'll release. Instead, these teams are looking at higher concepts, bigger concepts, and the wilder ideas that may or may not ever work in the game. The end result of each of these projects is data. Each team will present a report to the Department of First Edition, and from that report decisions will be made about the long-term viability of the explored concepts.

Project Babylon
(Project Babylon is an exploratory design project looking at the problems with Nors, and potential solutions to those problems.)

This project, under the leadership of Paddy Tye [KazonPADD], is already underway studying the nuances of Nor use and their mechanics. Some of their early efforts made their way into The Neutral Zone - most notably, Community Leader and Primary Turbolift. In the mean time, the team has played games to get a firm baseline established, and then the team will be leaving no stone unturned in their examination of ways to address "the Nor problems." That includes new cards, errata, rules changes, and even a new version of existing Nors that allows players to ignore all the extra baggage. A number of you have suggested "a way for you to play Nors the old way and me to use a simple version," and that's on the table as well.

Project Warrior
(Project Warrior is an exploratory design project looking for ways to do to ground combat what Tactics did for ship combat.)

Fresh off of his return to the game, Jason Robinette (JasonRed3) has joined Allen Gould (AllenGould) and Jon Carter (pfti) on this project. Progress remains slow, because exploratory projects are always the lowest priority for our designers, but I have high hopes that when these three do get working, we'll see great things.

Project Annika
(Project Annika is an exploratory design project looking for ways to play Borg along with other affiliations.)

Though things have been slow, Andreas Rhinelander [Dukat] has agreed to take on the lead of this project to keep things moving. Andreas and Derrek Marsh (HoodieDM) will be working on this as they can and hopefully, someday in the not-too-distant future, give us some cool direction to take the Borg.

That's all for now. I hope this information helps you understand where we are, and how we're constantly striving to improve. For any projects previously announced but not updated here, nothing has changed. In the mean time, please tell me what you like and don't like about this new format for these updates. What information are you missing? Do you want to see things presented differently, or organized in a different way? Sound off, and I'll keep working on making these better and more useful.

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