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After months of testing, beefy Star Trek Online update Season 5: Call to Arms has been released.
In a nutshell, Season 5 brings a Duty Officer System, the story of The Borg Advancement, Klingon gameplay updates, a skills revamp, a mission revamp, lore missions and economy restructuring.
STO executive producer Stephen D'Angelo offered an overview of the changes in a dev blog.
Star Trek Online turns free-to-play on 17th January 2012.
New and Improved Content
New and Improved Game Play
Full Star Trek Online Season 5: Call to Arms patch notes can be found on the STO website.
Star Trek Online will go free-to-play before the end of 2011, developer Cryptic Studios has announced.
Confirming reports that surfaced last week, the MMO will still offer a standard subscription model but players will now be able to jump in without opening their wallets.
While free-to-play users enjoy the same level cap as subscribers and can access all of the game's sectors and missions, they'll have two character slots rather than three, a smaller inventory and credit storage limit.
Access to Create a Fleet is limited and the Foundry Creator is locked off entirely. Free-to-play users will also see restrictions on in-game chat, forums, mail and customer service, and will have to put up with advertisements in In-Game Vivox Voice Chat.
Take a look at the lengthy FAQ over on the game's official site for more details.
"In addition to seeking out new life and exploring strange new civilizations, part of our continuing mission for Star Trek Online is to expand and improve," commented Cryptic CEO Jack Emmert.
"Transitioning to a free-to-play model is a natural way to share all we've built with a broader community of players and we couldn't be more excited."
Cryptic Studios is developing a free-to-play business model for Star Trek Online, new owner Perfect World has revealed.
The free-to-play model will launch by the end of 2011.
This, not unsurprising news, tumbled from the mouth of Perfect World chief financial officer Kelvin Lau.
"Cryptic is working on the free-to-play model for Star Trek Online," Lau told investors during the company's latest earnings conference call (transcription courtesy of Seeking Alpha).
"This is going to be launched by the end of this year."
"So I think free-to-play model we have a bigger potential in US market and also in China market."
Cryptic Studios' other MMO, Champions Online, switched from subscription to free-to-play earlier this year. Whether Star Trek Online would follow suit depended on the reaction to Champions Online, developer CEO Jack Emmert previously told Eurogamer. Our only indication of Champions' F2P success has been Atari describing the switch as "promising".
Perfect World bought Cryptic Studios in May. The company now owns the rights to Champions Online, Star Trek Online and also, according to the conference call, Neverwinter - the not-quite MMO in development at Cryptic.
"[Cryptic] will help us grow in the US and the Europe," said Perfect World chairman Michael Chi, "and further strengthen our R&D and operations around the world."
Star Trek Online was released in early 2010 and scored 6/10 on Eurogamer. A year and a half of improvements has been made since then, including the addition of user-created missions.
Cryptic Studios - creator of City of Heroes, Star Trek Online and Champions Online - has a buyer: Chinese MMO outfit Perfect World.
Perfect World paid $50.3 million (£30.4 million / 35 million) for Cryptic. That's 55 per cent more than Atari paid for Cryptic in 2008 - $27.5 million.
How Champions Online and Star Trek Online will slot into Perfect World's portfolio is unclear. With Champions Online already free-to-play, however, the transition should be painless.
Perfect World talks of the purchase as a great way to charge West. Will this mean significant investment for Cryptic's new almost-but-not-quite MMO Neverwinter?
Atari is to shed Champions Online and Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios.
According to the publisher's latest earnings report, the California-based studio was classed as a "discontinued operation" as of 31st March this year.
"In line with the previously stated strategy of fewer but more profitable releases and further expansion into casual online and mobile games, the Company has determined that external development creates more flexibility in the three changing marketplace," explained the report.
"Therefore, the Company has made the decision to divest itself from Cryptic Studios. The divestiture process is underway and more details will be provided as appropriate."
Cryptic had initially struggled following its purchase by Atari back in 2008, but had recently shown signs of an upswing. Losses were 5.3 million for the 2010/11 fiscal year, up from 12.6 million in 2009/2010.
Gamasutra reports that Atari will continue to support all active Cryptic titles while a buyer is sought, and development on its Neverwinter project will continue as normal.
A post from a Cryptic employee on the Star Trek Online forums suggested it wasn't all doom and gloom on the studio floor.
"The headline is chosen a little unfortunate by the colleagues at Gamasutra and makes it sound like we're a kicked puppy standing in the rain. That's not the case," stated a community representative.
"Support for Champions Online and Star Trek Online will be continuing as normal, our staff is working hard on their projects (and the folks from the Champions team deserve an extra cheer for their new stuff by the way) and there are no planned changes to the way any of our games and projects will operate."
Star Trek Online was Cryptic's most recent launch back in February 2010, scoring 6/10 from Eurogamer's Oli Welsh.
The make-your-own-missions Foundry tool has now officially launched for Star Trek Online.
Beta testing had been ongoing since December.
The Foundry equips gamers with the same tools Cryptic Studios uses to make Star Trek Online content. When built, missions can be shared with the rest of the community, and Cryptic pledges to "periodically" feature your work as "Spotlight Missions".
Excitingly, The Foundry represents a base alteration to the engine under-pinning all Cryptic's work, including Champions Online and upcoming online co-op RPG Neverwinter. Theoretically, then, the Foundry tools will head to those games as well.
Jack Emmert alluded to as much back in November, telling Eurogamer that "user-generated content has always been part of our strategic plan for years and years and years". He added that, "Ultimately I'd like to have it in every game we do in one version or another."
MMO maker Cryptic Studios has once again propped up parent company Atari with money made from Star Trek Online and Champions Online.
Both games helped online revenue for the first nine months of the 2010/2011 financial year rise nearly 500 per cent from the previous year to 18.4 million (£15.4 million).
Much of this improvement was down to Champions Online's switch from a subscription based MMO to free-to-play, the initial results of which were "promising", Atari said.
Early sales performance for online-enabled racer Test Drive Unlimited 2, which Oli awarded 7/10 to, were "in line with expectations".
Still, French company Atari's revenues for the 2010 holiday quarter were down 52.5 per cent from the year before to 11.4 million (£9.5 million).
And nine month revenues for the fiscal year (1st April to 31st December 2010) were down 55.7 per cent at 41 million (£34.3 million), compared to the same period in the previous financial year when Terminal Reality's Ghostbusters: The Video Game was released.
Atari blamed the decrease on its new focus on selling fewer but more profitable games and online games.
"Over the next few months, we look forward to new game releases based upon our classic Atari game franchises as well as Ghostbusters, Dungeons and Dragons and The Witcher," CEO Jim Wilson said.
You'll be able to make your own Star Trek Online content on 9th December when update Season Three arrives.
The Foundry tools are still in beta, but you'll be able to use them to make your own missions and share them with friends.
Season Three also brings the option to replay missions, plus you can now use Borg technology on your spaceship.
Cryptic has even spruced up Sector Space to make it look and feel more realistic.
Cryptic's other MMO, Champions Online, is being turned into a free-to-play game. Star Trek Online will follow depending on how well Champions Online does. At least, that's what Cryptic boss Jack Emmert told Eurogamer recently.
A bumper year for Cryptic Studios the MMO specialists behind Star Trek Online and Champions Online has encouraged owner Atari to shift its focus to the online market.
As reported by IndustryGamer, Atari's half year financial report has revealed a worrying slump for the publisher. Revenues are down 60 per cent to 29.6 million compared to 68.5 million over the same period last year.
The only good news was a strong showing for its online division with revenues soaring to 12.9 million from 1.8 million in 2009, largely thanks to Cryptic Studios' efforts.
Duly, Atari has announced it's planning to invest heavily in online gaming to address the decline. It has Asteroids Online, Deer Hunter Online and a new Neverwinter title from Cryptic all lined up, as well as Atari Games Online a new initiative set up to develop online casual and social games.
A new free-to-play strategy for Champions Online also goes live next year, with similar plans being considered for Star Trek Online.
Among more traditional titles slated for release from Atari over the next 12 months are Test Drive Unlimited 2 and Star Raiders for the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, and The Witcher 2 for PC.
If you want Star Trek Online to be free-to-play then you had better jolly well say so, Cryptic boss Jack Emmert has told Eurogamer, because right now that decision hangs in the balance.
"I'm sure people are wondering whether we'll do it with Star Trek and the question is really how well it does for Champions," explained Emmert. "Does it work or doesn't it?
"We're not sold one way or the other with Star Trek yet. If people want Star Trek to go free-to-play then get in and play Champions and help make it a great success, because that would send a strong message."
"If we did Turbine's level of success that would certainly merit the discussion!"
But, he added: "There are more people than just I on that decision and I can't begin to say it would be an automatic 'Yes, we'd do it.'"
Champions Online will turn free-to-play next year. Why? Because Turbine made loads of money relaunching Dungeons & Dragons Online as F2P and found success with Lord of the Rings Online, too, which turned free-to-play in Europe this week.
"We hope for a success as big as DDO," Emmert enthused. "That would be great - but I wouldn't say we're betting on it.
"In other words, I'm not going to say we'll do or die if we don't get five times our revenue or whatever the stats were that Turbine did. We're just hoping to open it up and increase the fanbase, and we'll just wait and see - I'd love it if we got their results, but hey, if that doesn't happen it doesn't happen."
Video: Free-to-play too?
Champions Online turning free-to-play means there will be two ways to experience the game: as a Silver member or as a Gold member.
Gold members are existing subscribers who will pay $14.99 a month. Silver members, on the other hand, represent the free-to-play side of the game. Silver members have limitations on character class, costumes, and character slots - "all that kind of stuff". But they can download Champions Online and adventure from zero to superhero without spending a penny or a nickel or a galleon or whatever you use.
Of course there's the option to splash some cash if you so choose, picking content, items and buffs "a la carte" from the in-game C-Store.
Note, however, that if you're a subscriber-turned-Silver member then you'll have to pay to move to a Silver server. "You have to pay to transfer your characters over or you could just start from scratch again," revealed Emmert.
Gold members will have access to some areas that Silver members do not. But apparently the two sets of members can play Champions Online together. "We don't want to disallow that by any stretch."
He reckons the reaction so far to the Champions Online news has been "super great" by the "vast majority", although there have been a "few snarky comments".
"I'm hoping lots of new people would give the game a chance that perhaps didn't even look at it the very first time because it was a subscription MMO," Emmert said. "Naturally I expect a lot more people to come in - we believe strongly that the game was good at launch and even better a year later - and that those people decide to stay around and play in the world. "
Champions Online received 6/10 on Eurogamer at launch last September. But today Emmert reckons it's the best superhero MMO on the market - "very much better game than City of Heroes ever was".
"But hey, that's just my own particular gameplay style. I created City of Heroes so if anything I'm insulting myself! That's no slight against anyone but me," he said.
"Nobody sits down and makes games that aren't popular on purpose. You assume it's going to get 9/10, even though there are mistakes. If you told me that somebody would give Champions 4/10, I would have said to you, 'You're crazy! Who in the world would give Champions 4/10? That's for games that don't even run!' I think WWII Online got better than that.
"But it's a different marketplace," he said. "It's an incredibly demanding space now, and what was acceptable five years ago is not even worth discussing."
Turning Champions Online free-to-play is one idea Cryptic Studios has had to spruce up its MMO portfolio. The other: user-generated content. This will appear first in Star Trek Online, so will it carry over into Champions Online?
"Ultimately, yeah," said Emmert. "Eventually we would like to do it.
"User-generated content has always been part of our strategic plan for years and years and years. Ultimately I'd like to have it in every game we do in one version or another."
That doesn't mean that Cryptic's developers will simply abandon Star Trek Online and Champions Online to the community though. "No, no," Emmert insisted. "We'll still continue making content. It's just that now you've got more content to choose from. You've got the stuff created by the developers as well as the stuff created by your friends, other people and so forth."
Star Trek Online's user-generated content system is undergoing beta testing now. For existing games - and even for new project Neverwinter - UGC and F2P are on the cards. And Cryptic 3.0, as Emmert called it, has more ideas up its sleeves - several unannounced projects, for starters.
"A lot of our innovation is going to be coming in games that haven't been released yet. There are still things under development that we're working on at Cryptic.
"There's a project that I'm more involved with the design than I have been in a long time than anything," he added. "Something that's close to my heart. And so that's very exciting."
"It is definitely not fantasy-based. I can say that. It is something that's pretty exciting. It's under wraps and hopefully we can talk about it soon."