Star Trek Online did not always treat me kindly when first we met. That did not stop me from devoting a quite ridiculous number of posts to play-by-play coverage of my beta experience. My final thoughts as the game launched were not particularly complementary, and you can see them here.
My greatest annoyance though was how, when I cancelled my subscription, it was re-activated and they carried on charging me for a couple of months. I am not a rich man, and I can’t afford to be having my credit card details misused. Just reading that old post is doing bad things to my temper. In case you’re wondering, no, I never got the money back.
Once you have their money, you never give it back.
– The 1st Rule of Acquisition
They say that time heals all wounds. As usual, “they” are spouting platitudinal nonsense, and have obviously never been shot by a disruptor rifle on full power. You do not recover from being disintegrated. Be that as it may, my annoyance had faded somewhat, and I had been hearing some positive things about how Star Trek Online has changed post-launch. Perhaps it was time to take another look.
So it was that, a couple of days ago, Arkturos Reh stepped forth to defend the Federation once again! I have a Captain-ranked Scientist from my original free month of play, but I had largely forgotten how to play him well, while the live version of Arkturos Reh was still only a Lieutenant. You may remember Beta-Arkturos as the main protagonist in my Beta liveblog, after Beta-Arkenor got trapped forever in the Wrong Tutorial.
The all-new Reh is more alien than ever, and every bit as annoyingly tiny.
Arkturos Reh hails from a high-gravity world. I’ve gone for as insectoid a look as I could manage, and he has inadvertently ended up looking like he’ll be played by Samuel L Jackson in the movie of his life. (I think it’s the eyes.) He probably weighs more than the Ambassador there, and is certainly stronger, but then again, Ambassador Jiro Sugihara is a non-combatant. He is, in fact, my liaison for the Federation Diplomatic Corp!
One of my major complaints with STO at launch was that it was that it was far more focused on violence as a solution than any of the series were:
Combat was always going to be a big part of any Star Trek MMO. I can live with (and enjoy!) having more fights in an hour of gameplay than would normally happen in a season of TNG. I did expect to be able to limit casualties, through diplomacy, trickery, or disabling ships. On the ground I expected to be able to set phasers to stun, and be able to leave my enemies unconscious but alive, ready to be beamed to the brig. Instead, I leave corpses and burning hulks in my wake.
Some people, especially on the forums, say that it is WAR!!! That we can’t act like Federation officers in the TV shows because we’re at war and the rules all change:
Firstly, us being at war was brought in after the fact as an excuse for the game being all about killing.
Secondly, the rules don’t change in war. Not for the Federation. We’re still supposed to abhor violence except when strictly necessary, and supposed to try to limit casualties on BOTH sides. In STO you have a mission where your job is to kill the witnesses to deeds Starfleet don’t want reported. Picard would resign his commission if he was ordered to do something so obviously against everything the Federation stands for. “The first duty of every Starfleet Officer is to the truth.”.
The Diplomatic Corp is Cryptic’s first stab at rectifying this imbalance. While it is entirely optional, members of the corps can get special First Contact and Diplomatic missions. I’ll have to get back to you on how great those are, because Arkturos hasn’t quite gathered up enough Diplomatic xp to join yet. You get Diplomatic xp from most missions that don’t involve killing, most notably those old “Aid the planet” missions I complained about in Beta, where you basically just fly up to a planet, they ask for some stuff, and you give it to them.
Aid missions, as well as now granting diplomatic xp, also now give you a random item on completion. Previously they had been a rather expensive business, as the Federation has you buying the supplies out of your own energy credits, but the reward now makes it a more worthwhile proposition.
While, as I said, the Diplomatic Corps missions are technically optional, gaining ranks with them gives you the ability to Transwarp to several useful locations, saving a lot of travel time, so even if I was playing a viciously bloodthirsty character, I think I’d probably still do them! I’ll write more fully on diplomacy when I’ve had a chance to do some of the missions.
The other new feature which has drawn me back to STO are the featured episodes. Basically it’s a series of episodes, which are released on a weekly basis, just as if you were watching a series on TV. My friends have been speaking extremely highly of these, and have been gathering up to do them each week as they are released. We’re currently in a lull, after the end of the second series, but they’ll pick up again in the new year. I’m told they have high production values, and are a lot of fun. I should be sticking my antennae into them soon.
If you complete a featured arc before the next one begins, you get a special reward. The reward for the first featured episode arc was a Breen Tactical Bridge Officer. Alas, I was too late to acquire one through standard means, but my friend Longasc kindly lent me the considerable fortune required to buy one from the auctionhouse. After all, a captain like Arkturos Reh should surround himself with the strangest crew possible! We’re doing it TAS-style!
The big deal which has really enticed me back on to my ship, however, is not yet live. It is the player-generated content tool known as The Foundry. This is due to arrive as part of the big Season 3 update on the 2nd of December.
Have you ever wanted to design your own mission in Star Trek Online? Here’s your chance! The Foundry for Star Trek Online will enter public beta when Season Three débuts. Using The Foundry, you can construct Episodes and share them with your friends. If you’re not interested in designing missions, you’ll still benefit from The Foundry: Player-created missions will be available to you to play and enjoy, right alongside the Episodes you know and love today.
Will it be frustratingly limited, especially to begin with? Almost certainly, but I’ll do my best to work within those limitations to make some fun episodes of my own. Once we have the tools to make content we can do more than just give feedback about how the official episodes are written. We can do something to fix it.
Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of the USS Gypsy Moth and its tiny Captain, Arkturos Reh, when I’ll be checking out some more of the changes since last I sailed this sea of stars.