How to Make a Good Foundry Mission [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.

// Ocho

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.

Domo Arigato Mr. Mugato [Star Trek Online]

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.

\\ Ocho

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.

So Many Events, So Little Time

Actually, I believe they were playing Sting...One of the best things I love about MMOs are the in-game festivals. They, more than any other aspect of the game, say ‘Hey! THIS is what makes MMOs fun’. Sure, you have raiding, guilds, and chat, which you can’t find in single player games, but everything else in MMOs can generally be found elsewhere. Quests, yup. Bosses, yup. Lore filled worlds, yup. But its the in-game events that really stand out. You won’t find a Winter Festival in Mass Effect 3, or an Anniversary Celebration in Skyrim, or a Fruit Harvest Bonanza in Pacman, but you WILL find them in MMOs. And I can’t seem to keep up with a single one of them…

Guild Wars just celebrated another huge anniversary festival, the last one before Guild Wars 2 releases. I wasn’t able to get in game for even a small amount of time. Really, I have nobody to blame but myself on this one. I love Guild Wars, but I can’t stand my Paragon. Love the long range damage dealing and crowd control… but Pants! Pants! The class needs Pants! I couldn’t stand, after a while, the fact that I was essentially slaughtering enemies, bristling with spears, while wearing a mini-skirt! Freedom of movement, long distance running, I get it. But still… no matter how epic they make them look, I still feel a virtual breeze where there shouldn’t be one.

A bit chilly today, huh?

Lord of the Rings Online is wrapping up the celebration of it’s 5th year being open, and I was only able to make it in for one night… the last one. I still did a lot, collecting envelopes, setting off fireworks, riding my new Azure steed colored in silver and navy, picking up a map or two, but I certainly wasn’t able to take full advantage of the celebration. Even though they extended it! Ah well. Next time, LotRO, next time.

Dungeons and Dragons online also had a pirate-esque festival, where you explore an island and trounce the scurvy inhabitants to steal their hard earned treasures (wait… who is the real pirate here?). I got in for a night to try this out with my standing Tuesday night DDO group, and it was a lot of fun! As a recurring event, it will most likely be back again.

Finally, Star Trek Online, though not an anniversary like Guild Wars and LotRO, was having an event I’m the most disappointed on missing out on: The Second Foundry Challenge. Star Trek Online’s Foundry is an awesome tool that lets the players generate their own stories. Some are great, some are lame, some are downright exploits, but if you have the entire universe as your playground, having player made missions is a no-brainer. In an infinite universe, there are infinite stories. So how many of the entries was I able to play? One. Just one. It was pretty good, but again, I blame myself. My gaming ADD sometimes knows no bounds. However, a new Third Foundry Challenge is starting!! If you’ve ever wanted to tell a tale based in the Star Trek universe, the game is Free to Play, and you won’t find a better opportunity.

Hopefully, I’ll get around to actually playing it this time.

\\ Ocho

P.S – Also, Star Trek Online is currently having reruns of it’s Featured Episode series that will be going on until the end of the month, and I highly suggest you give them a try. Easily the best content I’ve played in an MMO to date.