Archive for the ‘Star Trek Online’ Category
This is why Free-To-Play is my model of choice. It’s not because I can’t afford to pay a subscription, it’s simply because, when not confined by a subscription, the onus of quality and pulling players in falls onto the developers. This leads to events, and lots of them.
For the past month I’ve been ping-ponging between The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online because of these events. Guild Wars 2, of course, has it’s content flowing continuously with something new every 2 weeks. However, not being max level, most of the new content is not aimed at me. So Guild Wars 2 has fallen by the wayside to make way for the following:
- The Secret World’s Whispering Tide – The path to Issue #8, The Venetian Agenda, and the prelude to the opening of the new Tokyo region. It looks like Phase 3 is ramping up TODAY as per tweets from Richard Sonnac seem to imply.
- Star Trek Online’s Crystalline Cataclysm Event – Our favorite giant, destructive snowflake is back and asking for a beating. In this 10-man instance, the Tholians have suddenly showed an interest in the Crystalline Entity, possibly being due to their species being of similar composition. The Tholians, though, are bad news, and as such, they all need a good whooping. Until October 21st (according to the game launcher), a daily beating of the entity gives a metric ton of Tholian marks, and a 50,000 dilithium pot.
- StarbaseUGC’s Purity Foundry Series – Part Two of the Purity Series, Purity: Of Thought by Bazag, has already been released, and it adds a decent amount of back-story to the Obani, Federation, and Sajan people.
And then you know what’s coming up, don’t you? The Superbowl of MMO Events: Halloween.
Guild Wars 2 is looking like it’s kicking it’s usual Halloween event up a notch, which seems impossible as it was already at 11. This year, instead of the event simply focused around the Mad King, instead we will be seeing Prince Edrick take center stage in the “Blood and Madness” event. I’m seriously excited to try the Clocktower jumping puzzle, and even if you’re not max level, it sounds like there will still be plenty to do.
The Secret World is also kicking their Halloween celebration up a notch by bringing back the Cat God event from last year, which is going to be new to me, but then adding on something that sounds amazing: Stories from Soloman Island. Soloman Island is one of my favorite MMO locations ever, competing with LotRO’s The Shire for top spot, so I CAN NOT WAIT to check this out.
I like to try new games, but I don’t think I’ll be able to leave the grasp of these events for quite a while.
This is for you, Syl… and you as well, Jeromai.
For your reading pleasure, here is a collection of MMO haiku, made up on the spot. Random, creative, MMO-based poetry goodness. If you’re feeling creative as well, how about starting up your own site, or joining up with other writers? It’s not as hard as you might think. Enjoy.
Fiction or Real Life?
Friends we meet in game are real.
I level crafting,
but can’t make good leveled gear!
Why is this useless?!
Knights, Templars, Castles.
The sword was overpowered.
Still true to this day.
“Hey! Big bad boss guy!
Look at my big armored butt!
… Whoops… I lost aggro.”
“Captain, it’s the Borg!”
“My tribble is in the bank.”
The Bad-Ass Templars,
I love Guild Wars 2.
It’s like walking through fine art,
with mass violence.
One more special mark,
until I’m finally done!
Wait… there is more grind?!
I spent most of this past week playing Star Trek Online and trying out a couple Foundry missions, notably StarbaseUGC’s first “Featured Episode” weekly series mission, Purity: Of Denial. Star Trek Online is a game I love coming back to for a couple days, grinding a bit, and then going to play something else. Not that STO can’t keep my attention, but at max level, aside from creating new characters on other factions, you primarily just grind and grind and grind.
This is what STO uses as a means of max-level horizontal content, though, so I do find this method more attractive than, say, dungeon raiding. It is quite a grind, but I can still log on, do a few missions, and still advance myself or my fleet. Progress is still made every single time I log into the game, and that’s the best kind of max-level content. One that still rewards you for your efforts, even if it’s not with more levels.
But first, before I go into my review of Purity, I want to talk about the post’s title image. Mark Valentine, aka h2orat, is the talented artist behind the videos Star Trek Online used, most notably the one above. I mean, look at that. How epic is that?! I’ve played STO for years and I never remember it looking and feeling that intense. Maybe just in my mind it feels that intense, but he captures that epic feeling. Mark also is a noted Foundry author, and his mission The Rising Phoenix – Part One, is currently on the list of Featured Foundry Missions, with a very high rating.
Mark Valentine recently passed away after a long battle with cancer, and the above monument is an in-game tribute to his legacy. Cryptic didn’t advertise that it was going to be there, it just silently appeared after a quick patch yesterday. The plaque on the monument reads “To Absent Friends” with the monument itself hosting an eternal flame, looking out over San Francisco Bay. The monument is quite touching and floored me when I first saw it. A great tribute to a great person. Thank you, Cryptic.
Purity: Of Denial
The story of the first featured Foundry episode, and I’m assuming, the series as a whole, starts it’s focus as one that we can fully understand today: Resources. In today’s world, oil prices are through the roof. I remember when I was in high school, the price of gas was under $1.00 per gallon (which makes me sound a lot older than I really am), and I will probably never see prices under $3 again in my lifetime. Oil exports have turned the tiniest of countrys wealthy beyond compare, and wars have been fought over the coveted substance. Well, what do you think? That starships just power themselves? Oh no, that power has to come from somewhere. That somewhere is dilithium.
Your ship is sent to investigate the relationship between the Obani people and the Starfleet personnel in the Megara system, and once you start investigating, the hailed story of First Contact between the Obani and the Federation starts to unravel quickly.
I don’t want to give too much away, but I want to say that I really liked the episode. I have previously posted some criteria of what I believe makes a decent Foundry mission, and this held up to most of these tenets. The story was great, the reason for being there was believable, and the space and ground maps were very detailed and well made.
My only issues with the mission, and this doesn’t just apply to this mission, but a trend in Star Trek Online Foundry missions in general, is one of time and character. First, the mission took me approximately 75 minutes to complete. For a casual gamer like myself, this feels like a marathon. I mean, when an STF mission runs, at most, 15 to 20 minutes, and a Star Trek episode itself is only 45 minutes, 75 minutes might as well be a full-featured movie. Now, true, I read everything, and if I did not, I could probably just fly through this mission, but that’s not cool. The author’s intentions for these missions is story-focused, and so they should be played as such.
The other trend I notice in Foundry missions, including this one, is when these characters I have created, my Captain and the crew, have their personalities hijacked for the use of the author. I get it, one of the greatest parts of Star Trek is the characterization of not just the Captain, but their crew and how they interact. But really, making my bridge officers flip off the handle and act with insubordination is not how I picture them. Many author’s use this method as opposed to putting words directly into your Captain’s mouth, but still, the actions of my crew in reaction to events in the story don’t really match up, and this pulls away from my immersion.
Overall, though, these are only slight issues. The story, though long, is very detailed and communicated well. I gave the mission a full 5 stars and think it is a very good start to StarbaseUGC‘s “Featured Episode” story. The 2880 dilithium reward for doing the mission certainly didn’t hurt, either.
The end of the mission came, in true Star Trek fashion, at the worst possible moment: after the order is given to abandon ship. As the player runs for the shuttlepods, of course it has to end with:
To Be Continued…
P.S. – Also released now is a side-mission to be played alongside (or after) this mission and is called Purity: Of The Day, a shorter mission of escorting freighter groups. I think there’s a trend to these naming patterns, but I’m not sure…
Happy October all!
October is a great time of year, one of my favorite months. The leaves are turning colors, pumpkin beers start lining the shelves, and the smell of campfires fill the air. It’s that fantastic time of year where I can have my windows open at home and not need the air conditioning or the heat, and all that is needed to stave off the cold on chilly mornings is a light longsleeve shirt.
It’s a great time of year to be a gamer, too. Game companies start ramping up for the holiday season, and with humanity’s retreat back indoors, content for our games is released like crazy to draw our attention their way. I remember back when I played World of Warcraft I took many breaks from the game, but when I returned, seeing the Halloween event in full-swing was common.
It’s hard to argue that the holiday that really starts the tide of content is Halloween. Lord of the Rings Online’s Haunted Burrow will most like be making a comeback, ArenaNet considers Halloween to be the biggest event of the year and always goes all out with the Mad King, WoW celebrates with candy, costumes, and headless bosses, STO releases the creepy episode Hearts and Minds, and the list goes on.
But this year, starting TODAY, October 1st, there are two big events that I want to make you all aware of and point you towards: The Newbie Blogger Initiative 2, the second coming of the event that launched a thousand blogs, and StarbaseUGC’s Star Trek Online Foundry Featured Episode Series, Purity!
Newbie Blogger Initiative 2
The Newbie Blogger Initiative, or NBI, for short, is something that I hold dear, namely because it was what gave me the boost I needed to get me from being just a casual gamer, to being just a casual blogger. I kid, but as far as new experiences go, this one has been pretty awesome. The NBI opened me up to the larger game blogging community, has improved my writing and communication skills, has opened me up to new experiences, and has given me a new angle to view these games we play from. The prolific Syp gave us 2012 NBI Vets a headstart on blogging, a shot of eyeballs and advice, and now the favor is being passed forward.
A new Newbie Blogger Initiative officially starts today and will last all of October! This time around, Doone from T.R. Red Skies and Roger from Contains Moderate Peril have taken the reins, opened up a set of forums for new bloggers, and already the sponsors are lining up to offer their sage wisdom. At last count, 28 different game blog writers, with experience ranging from game development to professional writing to podcasting to being able to awesomely coordinate outfits and kick ass while doing so, have all thrown their epic head slot armors into the NBI 2013 ring.
So if you are on the fence about possibly starting up your own corner of the Internet, hopefully this endeavor is able to push you to give it a real shot. And really, with such a large, helpful community backing you up, you really don’t have anything to lose and quite a lot to gain.
StarbaseUGC Presents: Purity
The Foundry in Star Trek Online often feels like the red-headed-stepchild of the game. The toolset enables all players to match wits with the writers of one of the most iconic IP’s in history, and tell their own story using the vast base of canon that has come before. On paper, it is a monument of epic proportions and is the glory of the Star Trek universe. In reality… not so much. Lackluster support from the developers and a playerbase that largely ignores it, it suffers. Without proper direction, finding user-generated missions that are high quality is no easy task. Thankfully, this is where StarbaseUGC steps in.
StarbaseUGC is a site designed for the Star Trek Online Foundry user. The site provides resources for both new authors and veterans alike, and should be the first place you go if you want to start the process.
To show their Star Trek prowess, StarbaseUGC launches today the first episode in a weekly story arc that will run until November 5th, a new episode every Tuesday. The episode “Purity: Of Denial” by Zorbane, will be available for all level 31+ Federation and Federation-Aligned Romulan Captains, and can be found from the Foundry tab of the Mission Journal. Check out the trailer below.
When Star Trek Online announced weekly episode missions, it was the next day that I purchase my Lifetime subscription. 3 years later, and they have come out with, what, four story arcs? I still consider my STO Lifetime a good purchase, as it has more than paid for itself, but their promise of weekly content has fallen by the wayside. Understandable, but still a shame. So I’m excited to see what StarbaseUGC is bringing to the Foundry and I will definitely be playing along (and reporting about it).
So will Zorbane knock the first chapter out of the park? Will Cerberusfilms be lifted to the level of minor celebrity?! Will Syp ever not sing a sea shanty over Teamspeak?!! Will YOU be the next breakout author of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and teach all of us a thing or two?!!! Tune in next time for the answers (maybe) to these thrilling questions!
Same Casual Aggro time! Same Casual Aggro channel!
I like new things. And screenshots. I’m a huge screenshot nerd. Don’t know why, but I have a million of them. It’s so bad that occasionally I’ll be someplace in the real world and think “This would make a fantastic screenshot”… yeah.
Anywho, I’ve decided to start up a weekly thing. Every Friday I’ll post a screenshot from my collection, one from a random game I’m currently playing, or one that, if anyone is interested, you send me! Yes, you! I would love to see the shots that everyone out there is collecting, I know I’m not the only one. If you have a good one, I’d be very grateful to see it. Just send it over to my e-mail: Ocholivis at Hotmail dot com, and I’ll post it here!
This is one of my favorites. Not too long into my first Star Trek Online playthrough, on Earth Space Dock I noticed lots of people jumping against the windows. So, what the heck, I joined them. Here if you ran towards the wall, beamed to your ship, and immediately beamed back, the game glitched and you appeared outside ESD. Sweet.
So, after chilling outside the windows for a while, dancing and waving at those inside, I jumped into nothingness. And landed… on nothing. Turning around, though, I saw this excellent shot. Moments later, I was pulled back onto ESD.
This glitch has most likely been fixed in the hundred or so patches since I took this and I haven’t tried it in a while, but the screenshot I got while experimenting in glitchery was well worth it.
Well, folks, in about 16 hours Neverwinter, the latest MMO from Cryptic and Perfect World will be entering it’s open beta phase of development. Past this point there will be no character wipes, though, so for all intents and purposes, consider Neverwinter launched. After all, the difference between a soft open-beta and a full-on launch is just bug fixes and patches, which happen all the time in MMO development anyway.
So once the floodgates open, we can fully start enjoying our time on the Tarnished Coast in all the glory the Dungeons and Dragons setting can muster (without really being very Dungeons and Dragons). But, to be honest, I’m a little apprehensive. I’ve spent a long time playing in Perfect World and Cryptic’s other games, namely Star Trek Online and Rusty Hearts, and the trend I’ve seen is a little scary. Namely, that the psychology behind relieving the player of their money is getting better and better.
Now, I’ve lived around gambling for quite some time. I was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia in the great state of New Jersey, so all my life I’ve been less than an hour drive to one of the USA’s great gambling meccas, Atlantic City. And now, Philadelphia itself has started to becoming a gambling destination of its own, sprouting up a few casinos in the past couple years. With my fascination of human behavior, this has led to a keen understanding of how the casinos are able to pull the money out of your pockets so easily.
And with the rise of Free-To-Play MMOs and casual mobile gaming, I’m starting to see the same signs invade our hobby…
Seeing Others Win
Have you ever put money into a slot machine, and even if you’ve won just a few coins the machine started whooping and hollering like a banshee? This is 100% on purpose. The noise and alarms that arise from slot machines is both for your benefit (You won! Woohoo!) but also for the benefit of others around you (Look! That guy won!). The draw of seeing others win with lights and sounds is a signal to others that they can win, too.
In games that use subscription models, this acts more like a Skinner Box, pushing you forward to your next dose of positive reinforcement. In Free-to-Play, though, seeing others win is an impetus to get where they are, and spending money is the easiest way to get there. In Star Trek Online, for example, whenever a lockbox is opened and the top prize is given out, a message goes out to the entire playerbase that you have won. Every… single… online… player. And there is NO OPTION to turn it off!
Giving you the option to do so would seriously hurt their income, too. Seeing others win is the biggest driver of sales of the lockbox keys, which puts money directly into their pockets. With the odds of winning being as low as they are, and the frequency at which people are spending money on keys to open the boxes… they aren’t going anywhere. Lockboxes make them money hand over fist, and despite the loud complaining about them, the players keep buying them, hoping for the big hit.
Playing With Points and Not Real Money
When you want to start gambling at table games, the first thing you do is head to a table and drop some money on the table. These are then replaced with clay chips that are used at the gambling tables. Universal, and nobody thinks twice about it. But really, they should! Why chips? Why have tokens that represent money? Well, for one, the casino finds it easier to transfer money en-mass and little chips are easier than stacks of paper. But the biggest reason is that, in the players mind, those chips stop representing real money. They become a plaything, a toy used in the transaction of gambling. The most I’ve ever dropped on a single hand of blackjack was $60. In chips, that’s two green $25 chips, and two red $5 chips. This was very easy to do at the time. If, in order to play, I had to pull three $20 bills out of my wallet and bet them on ONE HAND of blackjack… the better part of my mind would’ve stopped me. Those three $20s aren’t just bills… that’s food, gas, etc. However, in chip form, there’s a disconnect between the chips and real money.
In MMOs, the same goes with store points. Most games don’t do this, but Perfect World’s Zen has a direct 1:1 correlation with the American dollar. 1 Zen = $.01. So $20 = 2000 Zen and so forth. So that big Andorian Kumari Vessels 3-Pack that’s 5000 Zen literally translates to $50! However, once those bills are transferred into points, they don’t go into the same category as cash in your mind. And with Star Trek Online’s Dilithium or Neverwinter’s Astral Diamonds, even these have a direct correlation with Zen, which has a direct correlation with real cash. They become just another game currency, and as such, they’re easier to spend as your mind treats them differently.
Comfortability and Keeping You Active
In older casinos, finding clocks is relatively tricky. There is, however, a new thought of casino design that since people have easy access to a clock themselves, changing the environment to hide the outside world isn’t the primary thinking anymore. It’s more about being comfortable. If people are comfortable and they enjoy their environment, they will spend more. Roger Thomas, the head of design for Wynn’s Resorts has essentially reinvented the modern casino. Now, instead of a cave setting, Wynn’s casinos feature sunlight, opulence, and artwork. The key here is that a casino is now an adult playground, designed to be so comfortable that you’ll want to spend more time in them seeking whatever pleasures are offered. More time, afterall, equals more money in the casino’s pockets.
The same goes with MMOs. The more time you spend in them, the more money you will spend in a Free-To-Play game. And so, the key is to make the players as comfortable and as busy as possible, with reasons to keep coming back. Comfortability is easy. Players like the familiar, and are too thrown off by the different. If they see mechanics that they’ve seen in other games, they’ll find it all very comfortable. My recent review of the game posited that Neverwinter is really just a blend of other games, not doing everything the same, but not really adding to it, either.
And then keeping players active is Perfect World’s modus operandi, something they have perfected. How many times have I logged into Star Trek Online to stay for a few minutes, only to end up staying for an hour or more? From Forbe’s exultation of the game’s Landing Page and timed events to STO’s real-time Doff system or Neverwinter’s timed crafting system (like Zynga’s multi-billion dollar strategy), giving you stuff to do and giving you reasons to come back is paramount, and they do it well.
So What is The Future?
Really, it’s not going to stop. With Zynga opening up real online casinos, and Perfect World using casino strategies in their games, it will just lead to a bigger and bigger industry. Casino psychology has been around for ages and is only going to get stronger. Although Neverwinter is taking the chance by not offering a subscription at all, they know the psych game well and so it’s not really a huge risk for them.
You will find me periodically heading into Neverwinter, and I will most likely periodically be spending money there, too. If the game is fun, I don’t mind it at all… but always in the back of my mind is that itch. That little voice that says “The House Always Wins”. So, I don’t see myself spending tons of time in Neverwinter, maybe just a weekend trip here and there.
Just like a vacation to the casinos.
Well, not technically time travel. More of an alternate universe type thing but, wait, somebody had time traveled and… you know. Nevermind. I’ll leave the mechanics of time travel to the Department of Temporal Investigations. Star Trek Online’s Third Anniversary event just recently ended this past week and currently I have been sucked back into Skyrim, but I wanted to comment on the anniversary episode a bit.
The real draw of this year’s STO Anniversary event, besides the Ambassador ship, more Q hijinks, and the new popper, was the brand new episode starring the voice talents of Denise Crosby reprising her role of Natasha Yar. For all the Next Generation fans out there, having any new Star Trek content is amazing, and just solidifies the fact that Star Trek Online currently is THE source for new (prime universe… I don’t count JJ) Star Trek content. However, the episode is… meh.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
First, from all the reviews and news surrounding it I was expecting an awesome mission that puts a lot of other missions to shame. It started out with a bang. Head to the Azure Nebula and investigate a possible temporal anomaly that the Tholians might have a hand in. Awesome. Once you head to the nebula you encounter the anomaly, but can’t seem to pinpoint it’s location. BAM! Yesterday’s Enterprise, one of the best Next Generation episodes immediately comes to mind, and that just gets the nerdy Star Trek juices flowing.
Upon entering the anomaly, your ship changes and the known universe surrounding you changes. Suddenly you’re a freighter captain in Tholian controlled space about to stop at a mining station. The station is filled with what can only be described as “Star Trek Online Over The Years”. Major characters you’ve come across through the series are interspersed in a waiting area and each tell their little alternate universe backstory. Franklin Drake, Section 31 guru, Va’Kel Shon, the newest Enterprise captain, the fantastic Obisek, the Reman freedom fighter, and finally, Tasha Yar. Sweet. From there the episode, in my opinion, takes a huge nose dive. In a nutshell, she tells you that instead of ending up back at Narendra III, she ended up in this universe at the same station you’re at. So… how did she end up at your time? Did she time travel? Did you time travel? But most important, why did the universe go back to normal in Next Generation if she never made it to her destination in the first place?! Alright, whatever, we’ll just chalk it up to “anomaly shenanigans”.
So you have someone create a scene to distract the guards and head into the maintenance tunnels. Using a map-it-yourself type system, a harken back to the days of Might and Magic, you make it through the tunnels, but not before discovering little asides placed for the Star Trek fans out there. (One that straight up bothered me is seen below. Cryptic… I assume you guys have a QA department, right? For one of the most iconic phrases in the entirety of Star Trek, could you at least have gotten the SEX of the BODY right?!!)
After the tunnels you enter a room with a view of the Enterprise-C being held in tow and panels that you command the others in your group to work on. I chose very poorly, not paying the most attention to which officers are better at fixing what messes, and this seemed to affect the outcome not one bit. Those little bars just filled up a little slower. It was at this time I realized Cryptic had really gotten their monies worth out of Denise Crosby.
Tasha. Did. Not. Shut. Up. In the hallway finally leading to the captured ship there were forcefields that needed to be taken down and at every forcefield, Yar had a snarky comment or two about how she could have got them down faster, or how she was so much more experienced. You know what, LIEUTENANT? From now on, address me as freaking VICE ADMIRAL! Cripes. For a security officer, you’d think Tasha would’ve shown a little discipline or something.
Finally, once on the Enterprise, you were launched into combat in an unknown ship that you’ve never flown before, with all kinds of confusion going on in your skill bars. How I survived is anyone’s guess. After a few waves of bad guys, a time-ship from the future shows up, lets the Enterprise traipse off to it’s fated demise to prevent a war with the Klingons (Uhhh… whoops. We really messed up that whole selfless sacrifice thing, didn’t we?), steals you and sends you back to your own space and time, where your own skill bars are thrown out of whack from suddenly captaining another ship. (Tip: Just set your Bridge Officers back to where they belong and it should correct itself. But seriously Cryptic, why aren’t the skill templates saved on a ship by ship basis?)
All in all, it was a nice walk down Star Trek Online memory lane, but the thrown-together feel, the lack of a solid backstory, and that I ended the episode being HAPPY that Yar was on the way to her doom led to this being a really less-than-stellar episode.
Eh. They can’t all be winners. You’ll get em’ next time, STO.
So, as I promised, I fully completed every mission of Star Trek Online’s Foundry Challenge #4. In this challenge, a player had to use the Star Trek Online Foundry tools to create a mission that had something to do with a 1000-year-old derelict ship and some mystery contained therein. I finished the last mission right under the wire, and got my vote in late Tuesday night. Now, I’ve played my fair share of these player-created Foundry missions, and there are some really talented authors out there. However, with all the good ones, you’ll also find ones that just aren’t quite ripe.
So, in that vain, this post is twofold: I want to show you some of the best of this past Foundry Challenge, as well as give some of my personal preferences for what *I* think makes a great mission.
What I Look For In A Good Mission
First and foremost, I like a good Story. Give my characters a reason to be there, and I mean a GOOD reason. At this point, the majority of players are at the level cap and are all considered Vice Admiral rank. So, give my character something worthy of a Vice Admiral! The standard kill ten Romulan variety missions just don’t cut it for a VA. Sisco, Picard, Kirk, Janeway, all the great captains we’ve come to know and love… yeah, according to Star Trek Online, we outrank them all. We should be giving THEM orders.
However, don’t get bogged down in just story. What makes the shows great, as well as most entertainment, is all about the Balance behind it. The serious is balanced with the comic relief. The story is balanced with the action. Since this is a primarily action oriented MMO, I would even err on the side of action over story, but not by too much. The forward movement of the plot should then rise and come to the climax, with a nice conclusion after to round it all off. So, if you have too MUCH story it ends up being a novel. Too little story, though, and it just feels like a grind. Find the right balance between the two.
Believability is another strong point of mine, especially when it effects the words coming out of my character’s mouth. As The Secret World shows us, having a silent protagonist is a good thing. From way back in character creation, most gamers have an idea of what their character is like personality-wise. It isn’t a stat that’s included (in Star Trek Online, anyway), but I can picture my character being the ideal of Starfleet. He’s dutiful, thoughtful, considers his words carefully, and tries to find a peaceful solution first if one is present. So, sometimes, it really grates my nerves when my character is forced through dialogue that I can’t picture him saying. Why would I insult a new species I just met? Why would I be having a tryst with a lower ranking officer, if I know it is against the rules? Why would I put up with snide, seditious remarks from my officers or allow them to berate each other? He’s certainly not perfect, but the way I picture my captain, none of these is acceptable. So if my captain is forced into these situations my willing suspension of disbelief shatters.
Detail. Large stretches of flat land aren’t that exciting. Nobody takes screenshots of boring grey structures, they like a little diversity and pop in what they’re seeing. A little flair makes the space feel full and alive. Also, I know I’m the LAST person to be giving this comment, but a little bit of spellchecking on the text wouldn’t hurt. I’m willing to let a few grammar and spelling errors slide, but when they start turning up in every single dialogue box, it just looks sloppy. Like a stain on a tuxedo, it’s hard NOT to notice them, especially if they’re everywhere.
Finally, Time. The rewards that we get for completing these missions is not a lot. When we complete three Foundry missions, we are given a stack of fleet marks, experience, and either a random leveled item or a decent chunk of dilithium. Compare this to any other mission or daily in the game. If it takes an hour to get the same rewards elsewhere, what is the draw of an hour long, long-winded mission that you have to go through 3 times for the same reward? There really isn’t one. The perfect time for a Foundry mission, in my opinion, is about 15-20 minutes from start to finish, and that’s with reading all the dialogue. That gives enough time where it’s not a cheat, enough time to give a decent story and exposition, have some combat, and see multiple locations, but still be resolved in a timely manner consistent with the rewards.
My Favorite Missions of the Challenge
My favorite mission out of the group, and it was close call, was The Twilight of the Gods by diogene0. When it comes to what I look for in a good mission, it had most of it down. It started off with a good reason why my Vice Admiral would be bothered being there in the first place, a rescue mission. If you can help, it doesn’t matter your rank, helping others is a civic duty.
You are sent to Pico VI, a not too friendly environment, and tasked with finding a crashed shuttlecraft. After a few run-ins with the wildlife you find the shuttle and, after giving assistance, you make the decision to continue on the shuttle’s original mission. This leads to an underground cavern filled with color, to space battles, to infiltrating a Romulan base. In the end, a plot that would’ve been a huge blow to citizens from hundreds of worlds is unraveled. Well done. It had everything from a compelling story, to decent combat, to interesting environments, to a worthwhile conclusion. Don’t forget the loot, too. I got some nice drops in there as well. The mission did have my character speaking a lot throughout the dialogue. However, what my character was saying wasn’t too outside the realm of possibility, and so it didn’t ever feel too unbelievable.
Other great missions, and ones I had a hard time choosing between for top honors were The Answer by Raptorwalker, Atlas by rickysmith1, and the winner of the Foundry Challenge, Relics by Kirkfat. All are very good efforts I highly recommend, definitely worthy of recognition.
P.S. – If you have a mission and want some input, all you have to do is ask (STO handle: @Ambrose99). I’d be more than happy to help. Also, I think that during the next challenge, despite having no real talent or knowledge of the Foundry system, I’ll be submitting my own mission. Why not? The more missions available to players, the better, and I’ll get to put my suggestions up there to good use.
P.P.S. – All of the Foundry authors put a lot of time and effort into these missions. Even if you didn’t enjoy it all that much, still give them a decent 100 dilithium tip. It’s the least you could do.
So, I’ve been writing a lot about a particular really big MMO lately, but even though Guild Wars 2 is within it’s opening weeks and is starting to fire on all cylinders, I find myself distracted. The game that I find I keep coming back to is none other than Star Trek Online. I can’t really explain it… maybe it’s because I love the Star Trek universe. Maybe it’s because I bought up a lifetime account ages ago that has fully vested, and so I get all the perks of a sub without actually having one. Or maybe it’s because every time I turn around, there’s always something new!
On Wednesday, September 5th, the Foundry Challege #4 Voting opened. To those who don’t know, the Foundry is Star Trek Online’s engine for making your own player generated content, and is just the ticket for scratching that Star Trek itch. I’ve done all the primary story missions and every Featured Episode series, so the Foundry is just the reason to come back and visit STO from time to time. I’ve only played one mission so far and that one was… interesting. Well, they can’t all win, right?
I highly suggest everyone go check out all of the missions offered and vote. Compared to other Foundry Challenges, it’s really easy from a player’s perspective this time. There are a total of 10 missions in the running, all focusing on the same basic premise of searching a newly discovered 1000-year-old derelict ship, and the voting booths are open until September 26th. 3 weeks to do 10 missions, where you get decent rewards for completing Foundry rewards like Fleet Marks used to help build starbases, or dilithium used to trade for the best equipment. There’s really not a reason NOT to do them.
To be fair, I’ve done a lot in Star Trek Online, but I still haven’t done everything. I’m not big on running group content, so the Special Task Forces are still a mystery to me, and I haven’t done much with the new starbases, but that’s because I never play enough to make a really worthwhile fleet member. I’m happy to just sit on a roster collecting dust. It’s my own fault, though. Being in a perpetual noob state tends to make other players frustrated, and the last thing I want to do is frustrate others, so I never really bother grouping. It’s what makes Guild Wars 2 grouping so nice. So I may never see some of the content or get the biggest or flashiest rewards… meh. That’s not why I play. I play Star Trek Online for two reasons: it’s Star Trek and it’s just fun!
A couple of other fun things for all those Star Trek Online players out there… as you see in the above picture: Free Monkeys!!! Okay, it’s not technically a monkey, it’s technically a Mugato, but still… look at how cute that thing is! Getting it can’t be easier, either. Just install the Raptr gaming tracker and play Star Trek Online until you reach the “Experienced” rating, and then claim your monkey! It lasts until December 3rd 2012 or until they’re all out of the 2700+ they have remaining, so I’d jump on it now if you want one. An easier solution is if you play Star Trek Online through Steam, just connect your Steam account to Raptr and all the time you’ve played STO through Steam should carry over. If you decide to check out Raptr, which I highly suggest, look me up!
Live long and prosper.
P.S. – Other fun Star Trek things of note, although Google is celebrating the 46th anniversary of the debut of the original series of Star Trek, it’s anniversary is really tomorrow, September 8th. A day early, but that’s okay. Well… it also premiered in Canada on September 6th… so maybe they’re just splitting the difference. Either way, it’s all good.
CNet also posted a nice question: If you could live in any one universe, would you choose Star Trek or Star Wars? Hint: Star Trek is winning with ~60% of the votes, including mine. It makes sense… teleporters, an idyllic and peaceful Earth, replicators, and holodecks beat a fancy flashlight and superheroes with magic powers any day.
I know I just posted an article on the how the MMO community can be a little negative, but as I pointed out, sometimes criticism is necessary. This is one of those times. I haven’t started seeing a trend yet, and maybe that’s because I just haven’t played as many MMOs to notice, but in Star Trek Online we’re starting to see content and missions hiding behind “time gates”. And excuse me for being so frank but they are a terrible idea.
A “time gate” is essentially a certain mission, dungeon, or other event that only happens at different times and only for a short period of time. A good example of this is the Vault Shuttle Event, in which you have five players, all in shuttlecraft, lead a mission into a space station known as the “Vault”. It’s the equivalent of a five person dungeon, but in very specific ships and runs at random times of the day.
I get it. If you have a specific event that only comes around at specific (and sometimes random) times, then your playerbase is going to spend more time waiting for those events to occur and the rewards given are going to not be as common and easy to acquire. This leads to completionist or loot-hungry players playing the game more often. More time in-game means more time playing, which means the possibility of those players spending more money. For a free-to-play game, players spending money is very important. See, I get it.
However, for players that do not have completionist tendencies to the point of disorder and aren’t as attached to one specific game, as I assume a majority of players are, this is not how games are approached.
Maybe the Guardian of Forever likes ‘Time Gating’! Get it?!! He’s the Guardian of Forever… looks like a gate… deals with time. You know what, just forget it…
Here is a possible rundown for this event: I fire up the game, check the missions that are available, see when the specific event I want to play is, stop playing, come back later at that time, find a group, and play it. Three big problems come up with this scenario.
1) I stop playing. For those of us with limited time on our hands to play games, if I shut down a game, there is little chance I’ll be opening it up again later on. I’ll play whatever game I have time to play now while I have time.
2) Come back later at that time. I don’t know what I’m going to be doing or what could possibly come up in between now and when the event is taking place! My wife could suddenly have a cheese fries craving, or a phone call from a friend with an extra ticket could lead to a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert in Delaware, or an impromptu campfire with s’mores, cigars, and whiskey. Every single one of these events has happened to me, and so if I’m playing a game, I want to play it now, not in the future.
Finally the worst, 3) Find a Group. Since these events seem to be at random times, scheduling to play the game with a group of friends or fleet-mates is a lot more tricky and so a lot of the time, playing the event would require getting into a pick-up-group. A pick-up-group is a group consisting of random players you do not know personally, and is one of the curses of the MMO world. Every once in a while you can get into a good pick-up-group that knows what they are doing and everything meshes well. Mostly, however, the group consists of opposite personalities, different playstyles, different response to authority, different experience, and different competency. So the pick-up-group has a much higher chance of failure. MMOs have different ways of dealing with the stress of pick-up-groups. Some offer more reward for being in them, some offer a convenient way to enter them, so when it fails you haven’t lost a lot of time, too.
By this time, my lungs were aching for air…
My idea (and as with any idea on the internet, please take it with a grain of salt) is thus: If you’re going to have time gated content to get the benefits that I described above, how about make the content soloable? If I’m playing, and it randomly pops up, I feel much more comfortable playing if it doesn’t involve other people. If I’m looking to play that mission specifically, 1 and 2 above still are in effect, but because it’s so easy to jump into and complete, I don’t feel as bad about missing the opportunity to play. Then, given a tiered reward system where the ones who play in groups get the best rewards quicker, I could still get the best rewards over more time. Not having to find a group to play it completely removes that stress, and then I would look forward to thinking “I wonder which random mission will be available tonight?”
As it stands now, I honestly don’t think I’ll ever play any of the time gated content in Star Trek Online. Every time I’ve been on since any time-gated content has been introduced just hasn’t been the right time and I’m not going to start scheduling my gaming time around the events. There are way too many great games that I could play right now that waiting for a specific time in a specific game just isn’t feasible.
I game on my time, not anyone else’s. Now, I’m not saying that I’ll never play it as there is always a chance… but who knows when that chance will be.
P.S. – It has come to my attention that over on Syp’s Bio Break, Casual Aggro has been nominated for the Newbie Blogger Initiative title of “Promising Star, General Games and Geekery“! Woah! To say I’m floored is an understatement. This is a very awesome and humbling nomination, especially considering all the other amazing bloggers that joined in as a part of the NBI festivities. Just to be nominated is an honor. Thank you to all of you amazing readers, I can never thank you enough. You all ROCK!