Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MMOs I'm Playing: Star Trek Online

I've been a Trekkie (or Trekker, if you will) since I was a kid.  My Dad, who was a fan, made sure that I watched the original series growing up and I continued on with each series in turn as time went on.  I HATED Enterprise, but that's an explanation for another post.  Imagine my glee when I saw that the aptly named Star Trek Online (STO) MMO was finally coming out!

I went all-in with the collector's edition, took a couple of days off of work, and played until my mouse clicking finger bled.  What I found originally was that it was pretty grindy and it seemed like the developers of the game may not have actually ever watched a single episode of any version of Star Trek.  Aside from missions where you'd beam down to catalog plant life, every mission for the Federation was to go somewhere and blow somebody up.  Star Trek was about more than that - it was exploration, negotiation, defense, and the acquisition of knowledge...and along the way you blew people up.  So I stopped playing for a while (maybe a year).

My curiosity being what it is, I had to return and check the game out.  When I did, I found that new missions had been created.  Yes, you still blew people up, but it seemed like the story behind why was more to defend those who couldn't defend themselves or to really be at the forefront of defending the Federation.  You negotiated here and there, even going so far as to having diplomacy options in your dialogues.  There was a LOT more to do and while it was still ultimately a grind like any MMO, you didn't notice because you could switch between activities if you ever got bored and still progress your character.

I liked what I saw.  So I slapped down the $200 (on sale from $300) for the lifetime subscription and I've never regretted it since.  In fact, it's paid for itself and then some.

Star Trek Online has since gone free-to-play and I'm still glad for my lifetime subscription.  I like the options that the paid subscriptions get over the free version, so I would have been paying monthly anyway or at least paid for some upgrades for each of my characters (inventory, foundry slots, etc).  Plus I get a monthly stipend of Zen, the currency for special things in the game that's otherwise bought with real-life money, until the day that the game goes dark.

Speaking of Zen, STO is the first MMO that I'd played where you can earn it by just playing the game.  In-game you earn dilithium for some missions, Duty Officer assignments, and other things.  That dilithium can be used to buy cool things in-game that can only be bought with dilithium.  The neat thing is that they've put a Zen Exchange in place where you can trade zen for dilithium and vice versa.  The player base dictates this economy/exchange rate, but in the end what you have is a way for people who have more money than time to be able to get dilithium for those neat things and a way for those with more time than money to get Zen to get the cool buyables for the game.  The latter can take a lot of time, but I've met no few players who've gotten dilithium farming down to a science and regularly get Zen-based goods each month to keep them happy, all the while not having spent a single cent on the game.

Going free-to-play was an incredibly smart move for STO.  They kept subscription options for those who wanted the optional extras, even those that didn't have subscriptions were likely to splurge every now and again to buy something they really wanted, and best of all the STO universe was crowded with players.  The thing is, no matter how good your MMO is, people come in part for the second 'M' of MMO - Multiplayer. If there's nothing but dead space and you never run into another character or you sit in queues forever because there are so few players looking to do the activity that you're interested in, the game will die a relatively swift death.  With players everywhere and various options for players to spend money, if they want to, Cryptic ensured that STO would be around for a while.

And, of course, everyone who's interested in STO is looking forward to the Legacy of Romulus expansion (coming on May 21st) where we'll finally get to play Romulans and fly Romulan ships and go through new Romulan-specific missions.  Very cool and I'll definitely have a Romulan captain in my roster when it comes out.

I have a couple of STO videos on my YouTube channel with more to come soon!  Check them out to get a look at the how the game plays and see if it's for you.

May you, too, march beneath the raptor's wings!

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