So Star Trek Online is going to have a new system of content generation called the Genesis system. (Alla Wrath of Khan) It will constantly generate "stuff" i.e. planets, missions, encounters, etc.. as you fly through space, so that you will genuinely be going some place that "no man has gone before". They also have used this same genesis system to build all their content but for their special "seasons" and "episodes" the artists and designers have hand tweaked the content and storyline some more of course.
Here it is from the interview:
"One thing I would say is truly Star Trek is the sense of exploration. Is that something you wanted to bring across?
Yeah, with exploration we knew "to boldly go where no man has gone before" is huge for Trek. We named our system the Genesis system, which is a set of software technology that allows us to create planets and systems, ground maps, interiors so that players will be able to continously explore and generate new content for themselves that no one else has seen before. This is a tool set that we use internally as we develop the game to expedite the process. You loose weeks of development time if you were just white boxing environments, just making sure that this is generally what we want to do and then you have a designer coming in and place the content and then an artist goes in and hand touches that.
By the time you have an end product a huge chunk of that was just initial set up. With the genesis system we can have a designer loosely describe a mission "I want a snow planet with a bunch of Klingons here and you have to go defeat this first group and then you'll go find five bombs that you have to disarm. Then the Genesis system will automatically put that together and then we can go in and hand craft that and do things that only humans can do. But since we've been working on our technology for so long we've kind of refined it and are making it better we are going to expose that to players so that they can just fly and that system will generate something new that you'll do and you'll have that limitless exploration. "
This strikes me as brilliant if it works well. City of Heroes already pioneered this with its randomized dungeons and bosses and stuff, and of course Diablo 2 as well. I can see it getting old fast though if it feels too generic or doesn't have enough variability or some such problem. Hopefully they make this a shining feature.