If You Give Me A Free Option, I’ll Take It

Star Trek Online, Bathroom, Refresher

We are gamers. As gamers, overcoming challenges is kind of our primary thing. Any challenge, especially in the digital space, will be conquered. Speed runs through games where the developers want us to take our time? It’ll be done. Collect every single little collectible? Oh, definitely. Playing every single race/character combination? Of course. Replaying a game multiple time just to see every single possible ending? Par for the course. So if you dangle a carrot in front of us, and then tell us that, oh hey, there’s a way to acquire this carrot just by playing the game? Well bring it on.

The problem is, though, that we are in the Age of Free to Play. On one side you have the staunch Old Guard, banging on their drum of subscription, singing that one monthly fee gives them every single thing in the game and that the only advantage comes from your own drive, the challenges are badges of pride. On the other, you have the New Blood, those born into microtransactions, those that will flit from game to game wherever the crowd of public opinion takes them. “Everyone is playing this latest indie craze?! Then I have to play it, too!” To them, a subscription just doesn’t make sense. Why pay monthly for a game that they’ll be done with in a week? The market is changing to new demands, and so tries to cater to both.  But both sides have heavy influence. The Old Guard brings with it disposable income. The New Blood, their ample numbers and time. Their mixture brought about Free To Play.

Guild Wars 2, Plant Dragons

Dragons, dragons everywhere!


Though personally  I will wander from game to game and I do not find value in time-based subscriptions, my playstyle is steadfast that of the Old Guard. As such, I find myself torn whenever these MMOs offer ways of attaining store items through in-game methods. Neverwinter, Guild Wars 2, and Star Trek Online, for example, have ways of exchanging in-game acquired currency for store points. Wildstar and EvE Online have methods of exchanging in-game currency for subscription time. Lord of the Rings Online gives you store currency for performing achievements, and many other examples.

If you give me a method of playing your game for free, well then buy-gum I’m going to do so, not because I’m cheap, but just because the challenge was thrown down. For example, over the past two months, Star Trek Online has given away two Tier 6 ships, the Breen Sarr Theln Carrier and the Kobali Samsar Cruiser, with just quick daily mission requirements to get each, though you could use Lobi, the consolation lockbox credit, to buy them as well. For the Carrier, it was 25 days of the winter event foot race; for the cruiser, the anniversary mission and 15 days of Omega fragment hunting. I have prevailed and have both of the ships in my inventory! Challenge completed! But man, that much logging in, for those quick little events? The fun wore off quickly. So I have the ships, still in their boxes, and no desire to open them. The events burned me out.

If not for STO’s Lifetime subscription, I honestly probably wouldn’t even be playing. I would want to get everything for free by grinding for it, exchanging dilithium for store credits, just because the option is there. But that option is such a long grind that it numbs me to the game itself. It numbs me even with my lifetime!

This is why I haven’t put that much time in Neverwinter. Get a fantastic steed by just exchanging gems for store points, and grind ages for the gems, a never ending grind. Same with Lord of the Rings Online. I found myself in the early levels waiting and fighting other players for mosquito spawns just to complete a slayer challenge for store points. It’s not fun, but give me the option and playing any other way feels like cheating, and I pride myself on not cheating.

Neverwinter, Gelatinous Cube

Come at me, cube!


This is where being caught in the middle of the Old Guard and New Blood really sucks.  The Old Guard would just stick with one game, pay their sub and be happy. Grinds don’t bother them so much as it’s like other games don’t even exist, and their sub covers a lot of ground. The New Blood is cool with the little cheats. They get really upset at nerfs, they’re cool with the exploits that allow them to grind experience much faster than they should, the easy build guides, the experience boosters, all because they’re just moving on to another game soon anyway.

It’s a harsh realization when the games you enjoy playing have stopped catering to your specific playstyle. You feel like it’s passing you by. But then they offer another challenge, with a mighty fine carrot dangling on the end of the string again…

They know us so well.


Star Trek Online Feature Episodes Rerun Month

What really drew me into Star Trek Online are the Featured Episodes. When I was younger, my father loved Star Trek and I, like the impressionable youth that I was, fell in love with it as well. When Star Trek Online released I won’t lie, I went immediately after work and picked up a copy. Like many other players who jumped into Star Trek Online in the beginning, I was not in love with the game. The graphics were great, the space combat was nice but repetitive, the leveling system was confusing, traveling was boring, and ground combat took way too long and wasn’t a lot of fun. So yeah, it had a rough start. I did not resub for another month.

A few months pass, and like clockwork, the community is up in arms about the half-baked release of the game. Their anger was well justified. Cryptic took one of the greatest IP’s in IP history, and was not living up to it at all. Throughout all of this turmoil, though, I noticed a ray of hope: communication. Unlike say, Blizzard, who rarely if ever communicates directly with their community (because why would they, their numbers speak for themselves), Cryptic studios needed to turn around to their audience and go, “Yeah, you’re right. We were pressured to release and we’re sorry about that, but give us time and look at what we can do”. In the few months after release I have never seen a studio communicate with their players as much as Cryptic did. Even to this day, I think Cryptic wins the crown of “Most Communicating MMO Company”. Even if what they were saying was fan service, it kept coming. Not only that, but you could almost hear the excitement and passion in their posts. The makers of Star Trek Online were really working hard to make the game everything it could be.

And then they released the Featured Episodes. This is where, not too long before I got married, I whipped out my wallet and plunked down the money for a lifetime subscription. The Featured Episodes harken back to the origin of Star Trek, the weekly television show. Emulating that format, the Featured Episodes consisted of a weekly installment mission that released every Saturday for 5 straight weeks. These series all stayed within a singular plot and told a story, and the best part is that it’s all sanctioned by CBS. Meaning any content released for Star Trek Online becomes Star Trek canon. Done. I was sold. The first real Star Trek canon since Enterprise (which I didn’t watch, really) and it’s in an MMO? Star Trek Online may have had its issues, but this was a genius move.

In the month of May 2012, Star Trek Online will be sending all the Featured Episodes into reruns, meaning that if you play the episodes during this time period, you’ll earn the special rewards given when they were initially released as well as extras.

May 3rd – May 9th: Spectres (The Dividians) : This was the second series Cryptic released and it involves a broken down space station, time travelling, gambling, and, of course, the Dividians. One of the missions released around Halloween and involves a crazy hologram gone haywire while exploring by only the single beam from your flashlight. Very nice.

May 10th – May 16th: Cloaked Intentions (The Romulans and Remans): By far, the best Featured Episode series Cryptic has done to date, from fighting with your shuttle inside a giant space station, being forced to fight in hand to hand combat in an arena, to invading a Romulan city! Plus, I think Obisek, leader of the Reman resistance, is one of the best characters created in Star Trek Online to date.

May 17th – May 23rd: The 2800 (The Dominion): The latest featured Episode series released revolving around the capture of Deep Space 9, the series includes huge space battles, the fantastic environments of Bajor, spacewalking on the outside of Deep Space 9, stopping prison riots, and making deals in the Gamma Quadrant.

May 24th – May 30th: Cold War (The Breen): The first series that Cryptic released has to do with a search around Defera Space for the secrets of the Preservers, the race that seeded the galaxy which gave rise to the many cultures of Star Trek. Puzzles, lots of daily missions, and battles against the Breen.

Missions that are similar to an episode of Star Trek are truly what gives Star Trek Online its charm, and why I think a lifetime subscription was one of the best purchases I ever made. I highly suggest that if you’ve never played the game, now is a great chance.

\\ Ocho 

– The top picture is found on the Star Trek Online website and is owned by CBS Studios, Inc.