End of the year Trekking
The really short summary: I really like Star Trek Online!
Star Trek Online have had its ups and downs at casa Sente. I picked up the 12-month subscription offer at release. Due to work conditions I have never had so much time to play for the most part of this year, which came into effect right at the time of STO release. So time was limited and progression slow, which perhaps was not a bad thing at that time. But also the linear and repetitive nature of a number of missions caused me to stop playing entirely.
A new start
At bit earlier this autumn I decided to have a go at it again, but started from scratch with a new character instead of the old one (old one was at Commander 3). This was partly to see what had changed in the game, but also to make a start avoiding things I did not care much for, such as the patrol missions and perhaps get a better overall experience.
Still, STO played second fiddle in my MMO orchestra and progressed a bit every now and then until the Holiday season now started and I got a bit more time to play.
I have now started to play STO significantly more and have been enjoying it very much – my character has progressed through the ranks and now just reached Commander 1, not so far off from where my old character was.
Mostly I play the story arc missions, which in general are quite enjoyable. New for me was also the Feature Episodes; multiple story arcs which forms a larger story. I have played through Series 2: The Devidians so far and I am at episode 3 on Series 1: The Breen. I must stay these have been magnificent! I do like that they have had a mix of combat and non-combat activities, including some puzzle type missions. Quite enjoyable!
I know Tipa @ West Karana has written about those in more detail, although I have to admit I did not read those posts – I did not want to pick up any spoilers.
With the Season 3 release the crafting system had been revamped again, this time I think it turned out quite well – at least when considered as a side activitity. You still need to pick up anomalies, but you no longer need any previous items to enhance. Instead you use collected tier 1 anomalies to make schematics. These schematics can then be used with other anomalies (any tier) to make various types of equipment – uncommon (green), rare (blue) and very rare (purple). Crafting a very rare item also will require some rare anomalies as well.
In addition to the anomalies required to craft, there is also a prerequsite minimum of crafting experience needed for each item. The crafting XP is obtained by crafting items of course and seem to be equivalent to the number of common anomalies required to craft an item.
A good thing here is that progression is easy enough that there is no need to farm anomalies for many hours to get anywhere and there has so far not been any need really to make trash items – pretty much everything I have crafted so far has been put to use on my ship, my character and my bridge officers. The ship has a mix of purple, blue and green items, everything crafted.
In the early parts of the career I still did some cluster exploration missions, partly because it gave exploration points that could be used to buy some better equipment. Unfortunately some of these missions suffer from the linear repetition feeling as well. But after I got into the crafting I did not see so much point in doing these – crafted items were better than those that I could get with these points.
I still went to the clusters to collect anomalies, but simply skipped the “explore unknown system” missions – just picking up anomalies in the cluster has been a fairly quick way to gain some extra anomalies for the crafting.
The diplomacy system is something I started playing around with also when I created the new character and have now advanced to the Attache level. This has opened up for diplomacy missions in the cluster sectors. I am a bit uncertain about how much I should spend in the clusters; I want to see more of what diplomacy missions may pop up there, but I am concerned that it may end up being repeating the same thing over and over again. I may do a few of those missions to see if something good pops up, but the main focus will still be on stopy arc missions. Hopefully there will be more options to advance in diplomacy also in that area.
When I browsed through the C-store recently I found that they had a few items that were “off duty outfits”. Some research showed that it is now possible to have a different outfit without the more strict uniform requirements – this was news to me, I am not sure how long this has been in the game. The selection that is part of the game seemed a bit limited though. Fashion may not have a prominent place in the Federation, who knows. Klingons do not seem to have any off duty options at all – poor them, always on duty…
When I was browsing the costume options for the uniform I noticed that there were a couple of costume options that seemed to have been unlocked. I have honestly no idea when they were unlocked and why – most of the outfits have looked almost the same to me and I care little for using any uniform variation that fits with a certain Star Trek setting. But there was a Starfleet Veteran option that I thought looked pretty nice, so I changed the uniforms for my character and the bridge offers with a new style (as can be seen in the portrait picture above).
Skills and progression
For most of my play time in STO my skill point allocation has been kind of educated guesses and semi-random allocation. I put points in skills that sounded reasonable from the brief description they had, but not really any plan or purpose behind it. It was not until recently that I actually discovered that each activity typically are affected by three skills in the skill trees available – and that those skills are mentioned in the description of each activity, if one scroll down the text to the bottom.
After that discovery I used one of the free respec:s that are given out in the game (seems to be at least one for each progression tier/title) and did a bit more purposeful allocation, combined with some change in weaponry.
After that combat was definitely easier – perhaps mainly due to the weapon change though.
The space combat has been something that I generally liked in STO – it has been quite fun. Ground combat I have had more mixed experience with, but I am now at a point where I quite like that as well. Part of that is by putting a bit more thought in the ground skills of the bridge officers and my character and also moving around more, but also taking advantage of the pause functionality when playing solo – it is an excellent help for tactical decisions in controlling the away team.
I had a brief look on the test server on The Foundry, STO:s tool for user generated missions which is in open beta right now. As one who have used the Mission Architect system in City of Heroes a fair amount to create story arc missions I was really curious to see what the STO toolset would be like. Since it was just a brief look and it is in beta I might have missed a few things – there are not really much of tooltips or help text in place yet.
I liked the layout and structure of the Foundry editor better than the one in Mission Architect – it felt easier to get an overview of the different assets and the pieces that make up a story arc/project. On the other hand, Mission Architect has a richer set of objectives/events while the Foundry seem to have a more limited set of options in that regard, plus that mission progression definitely seem more linear in its build-up.
Still, the objectives/events that are there will still cover a lot of ground with some creativity. Also, there is better control of placement of objectives in The Foundry. This has been an issue in Mission Architect when building stories – without full control of placement it has sometimes been challenging to be able to make a good pacing in the MA missions.
A significant difference between the Foundry and Mission Architect also seem to be that there are no local files stored when using the Foundry. In Mission Architect all resources you use when working (story arcs, custom costumes and characters, enemy groups etc) are stored locally on your own disk; it is only when a story arc is published that it is put on the central servers. I could not find any files from my saved test project in the Foundry, so I can only conclude that all assets are always stored on the Cryptic Servers. It seems that they intend to have sharing/collaboration features built into the editor later, but right now it was a bit limited.
Also, it was not possible to save and load any costumes and characters from the regular game as far as I could see; hopefully this is something that will be added.
Since I am not really a Star Trek fan I am not so sure how well I would be doing in writing missions for the Trek universe; beyond some of the Star Trek basics I am pretty ignorant of the lore. In this setting it seems suitable or almost required to keep to the canon to not piss off people. We will see what happens.
The end of the year
My 12 month subscription period is not so far from its end now; most of the time during that period I have not been playing the game at all. Since I quite enjoy the game right now I think I will definitely continue to subscribe after the end of this 12 month period, but perhaps with shorter payment intervals.