Star Trek Online Open Beta LiveBlog Bonanza Part 6

Continuing on from Star Trek Online Open Beta LiveBlog Bonanza Part 5.

You could also head to the beginning of this saga with Part 1!

3:44 am GMT Day 4.

We’re up to version 20100108b.23, with the patch notes here.

When last we saw Arkturos Reh, he was getting ready to head to the Paulson Nebula in the Lackey System, Orion Sector.

First though, I’ll spend some of these Bridge Officer points I’ve been accumulating. You can spend Bridge Officer points to raise your BO’s skills, in a similar way to how you spend skill points to raise your own skills.

The Bridge Officer skill panel is much like you’re own but with far fewer choices, just one ground and one space skill per rank. You can swap those skills out for different ones back at Spacedock but I’m happy with what T’Rix has available at the moment, and I’m going to put all my Bridge Officer points into improving his Torpedo: High yield 1 skill. Using that skill in combat increases the power of your torpedo salvos for 30 seconds, so it comes in quite handy. I also boosted Luc’s Tachyon Beam power which helps to strip away enemy shields.

Star Trek Online Tutorial 29 Bridge Officer Skills 300x187

Teaching a young dog new T'Rix.

When you have spent enough Bridge Officer points on a single BO you can promote them to get them access to their next tier of skills. You can’t promote someone higher than the rank below your own, of course, so there won’t be any promoting going on until Reh becomes a Lieutenant Commander.

There we go. With improved firepower, NOW we’re ready for the Paulson nebula!

How are you getting on with your Star Trek Beta experiences? Drop me a comment if you’ve got any any opinions to share, or even questions I might be able to help you with. Is there a particular part of the game you’d like me to pay special attention to?

5:35 am GMT, Day 4

The Paulson Nebula mission I arrived at was a multiple stage Open Mission, in which I was automatically grouped with other players. As is common with such things, by the time we were engaging the enemy half our group had either left the zone, or dropped out of the group so as to gain some sort of perceived advantage. Why they were allowed to leave the group without being forced to leave the mission I’m not sure.

We’re up against a rogue Gorn mining operation, and they’re here in large numbers. It was probably my toughest fight yet and I suspect that the mission was being scaled for the number of people we had right at the beginning.

Star Trek Online Open Shared Mission 300x177

Before we could finish the 3rd stage, the server came down for an update. Apparently there are some issues with the latest patch. I hope I’m not going to have to start that from scratch, as it took us a good half hour or so to get as far into the missions as we did.

I’m going to take this downtime to talk about something I find particularly annoying that might not have been immediately obvious from my screenshots. Space combat in Star Trek Online is not fully three dimensional. Space has an arbitrary x-y plane, and you cannot go up or down against that at a greater than something like a 45 degree angle.

This means that if something is directly above or below you, you cannot point yourself directly at it. You have to spiral upwards or downwards at it. It feels bizarre.

Your controls in space are limited to “Tilt Up”, “Tilt down” (both to a maximum of 45 degrees to the x-y plane), “Left”, “Right”, and your speed settings. There’s no rolling either. Essentially, while it looks nice the movement is incredibly primitive and restricting. If you want to pull a loop like the Defiant does in many episodes, you simply can’t.

I don’t understand why this would be. While it is true that the Champions Online engine might not have been designed for such things, surely if you were making a space game ensuring you had a full range of movement in 3 dimensions would be one of your basic requirements. The Jump to Lightspeed space combat expansion for Star Wars Galaxies handled this just fine, as have countless space combat games throughout history. Even one of the earliest, Elite for the BBC micro, a computer with 32 kilobytes of memory, had full 3D movement and rolling (Not to mention a more complex economy than STO as well). There are probably web games written in java or flash with more freedom of movement than STO.

It is very odd, and I can’t think of a good explanation for it. It makes space combat a great deal more frustrating than it needs to be, and it is far too major a thing for them to be able to fix it at this late stage.

We shall continue when the server gets back up.

6:48 am GMT, Day 4

Just been told the server is back up. Let’s see what’s what.

There’s no new client-side patch.

I’m back in Sirus Sector Space, but I have a little button on the right hand side offering to let me continue with the mission I was on.

I get back in and am very pleased to see I’m in the correct zone, the 3rd one for the mission. This time I seem to be on my own, and the enemies are scaled accordingly. It is much easier than trying to defeat 6 players worth of enemies with only two or three players choosing to participate.

It’s not really ideal that I should actually be glad I’m on my own. Open missions need to have their design tweaked, methinks, to encourage us to work together like real Federation vessels would.

Oh well. I’ve defeated the final ships, and made it to a giant asteroid which scans inform me appears to be a Klingon listening post. Deary-me, we can’t be having one of them in Sirius Sector. I’d better go have a word. Five to beam down, Mr T’Rix!

Unlike a lot of reviewers, I actually quite enjoy the ground combat. It is suitably chaotic, and positioning is very important. It does a pretty good job of replicating a Star Trek fight scene, though things do take a few more shots to deal with than in the shows. My away team works decently enough together, and I suspect it works even better when you beam down with some reliable players in place of some of the NPCs.

7:52 am GMT, Day 4

I’m eager to unlock Klingons so I can take a look at how things are on that side (and show you, of course!). I’m quite close now. All I need to do is complete the next storyline quest, “Stop the Signal” in the Bomari system of Risa Sector. This is at the far end of the Sirius Sector Block, and takes a few minutes to travel to.

After a couple more space battles you beam down to another Klingon listening post with an eye to placing some explosive charges. And chaos ensues!

Star Trek Online Tutorial 31 Klingon Station Targ 300x180

My trusty landmines dispose of some Klingon targ.

That was supposed to be a picture of some Klingon Targ, but Reh’s mines appear to have gone off at just the wrong time. Jandara appears to be mid-roll.

Wait, mines? Yes, indeed. As an engineer, Lieutenant Reh can use engineering kits, one of which allows him to place some extremely handy mines. As they don’t appear to be able to damage him, or friendly units, he is a little careless with them. They work very well on targ!

You can only have one kit equipped at a time (at low level, at least), and only PCs can use them. Your Bridge Officers have to make do with their inherent skills. Each kit has a different groovy power, but I’ve yet to find any engineering ones I like more than mines!

I got knocked out shortly after that picture as more more Klingons moved in from the left. The rest of the crew were not far behind me in taking a little nap. You than have the option of respawning. All enemies that you killed stay dead, and you suffer no penalties. I don’t think this is ideal as it does encourage something of a zerg mentality, but the devs have said that while death penalties have not been implemented yet, they are coming. Whether they’ll manage to strike the fine balance between death having meaning, and death being painfully onerous remains to be seen.

9:07 am GMT Day 4

With “Stop the signal” completed, I can now create a Klingon character. However, this leads to another problem. You can only have two characters. You’ll be able to buy more character slots from the Cryptic shop, or if you are so filled with faith as to want to spend $300 on a lifetime membership, you get two extra slots with that. Personally for $300 I think you should be allowed as many characters as you like, but then I’m not Cryptic’s accountant.

Cryptic have argued that the reason for this tiny number of characters is because of the additional storage required for ship and Bridge Officer data. I would suggest that even if that were the case, the amount of data needed to remember what equipment and skills an officer has, or how your ship is set up, should be a very small number of kilobytes. I bought a 1000 gigabyte hard drive for 70 pounds last year. How many Star Trek Online characters, complete with ships and officers, could that store? Probably all of ’em.

The storage reason is a red herring. They should just be honest and say they want the money people will pay to have additional character slots.

Anyhows, poor old Ensign Arkenor Oakshadow, still floating around trapped in a buggy tutorial mission, is going to have to get deleted. He’ll be back in the livegame!

Over on Team Klingon you have the option of a few other pre-made races which the federation don’t get access to. Orions, Gorn, Letheans, and Nausiacaan, or you can of course make your own creation. Bit of a shame some of those races aren’t allowed on Team Federation. I’d be amazed if some Gorn hadn’t fled to Federation space when the Klingons conquered them.

The adventure begins anew on the Klingon side with Star Trek Online Open Beta LiveBlog Bonanza Part 7!

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