Shacknews - Xav de Matos

Star Trek Online's 'season five' content has been detailed in a lengthy blog post from executive producer Stephen D'Angelo.

The new season of content, dubbed 'Call to Arms', features a new Borg invasion of Defera "action ground combat map," along with additional content.

'Call to Arms' also includes "re-envisioned" Borg Strategic Task Force maps, which have been streamlined to improve the gameplay experience before being given a free-to-play version and an Elite version.

No release was mentioned for the content; however, D'Angelo says that the content has just completed "two months of extensive testing." He also mentioned Tribbles, which is required by law in all conversations pertaining to Star Trek.

A full listing of changes can be found on the official Star Trek Online blog.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Star Trek Online will boldly go free-to-play on January 17, 2012, developer Cryptic has announced. "But which stardate is that?" you may ask, feeling a little cheeky and clever. And I won't reply, because you didn't specify The Original Series, The Next Generation, or 2009 reboot stardate format. This is the Internet; there are rules.

As detailed before, the free-to-play STO will let users access all missions, sectors, episodes and so on. However, there will be restrictions on bank and inventory space, character slots, and the like, and you'll need to pay to access features such as the mission editor. Subscribers (monthly or lifetime) will be spared these, and get other bonuses too.

Executive producer Stephen D'Angelo also announced that STO subscribers will start receiving free Cryptic Points, the currency used for microtransactions, every month. Starting in December, on the day of the month when your subscription began, you'll get 400 Points. That's about enough to buy a classic Star Trek costume for your characters and an extra bank slot, for reference.

Shacknews - Garnett Lee

Perfect World's announcement last week of its plans to take Star Trek Online free-to-play later this year left many unanswered questions. An extensive update to the game's official site now provides an overview of what will be included, a comparison of features for free and paying subscribers, an FAQ, a message board for asking specific questions, and a copy of the press release laying out the upcoming changes. Some highlights follow below but the most important part is that the bulk of the game--all sectors and missions, PVP access, fleet actions, and more--will be playable for free with unlimited access.

"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," said Star Trek Online developer Cryptic Studios CEO Jack Emmert.

The new system classifies free-to-play players as "Silver Members." They have access to pretty much the entirety of the game, with the two big purchasable items being captain respecs and additional bridge officer slots. Silver Members also have limited in-game chat and email, and access to forums and customer support. They will be able to use Vivox voice chat, but with ads.

Subscribers, including those who bought lifetime memberships, become "Gold Members." In addition to getting those things listed above that Silver Members pay for, they also get unlimited access to guilds, unlimited energy credit storage, veteran rewards, more slots in their bank and inventory, and priority login rights. The cost for the benefits of being a Gold Member will remain at the subscription rate of $14.99 per month.

The only thing left to answer is when the change over will take place. The wait won't be too long, though. The press release states that Star Trek Online will be free-to-play in 2011.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Cryptic's sci-fi MMORPG Star Trek Online will be boldly going free-to-play this year, the developer's new owner Perfect World has announced. The revelation came during Perfect World's latest financial results conference call.

Details are sparse for now, with the only solid fact being that Perfect World intends to switch to free-to-play "by the end of this year." When subscription-based MMOs go F2P, they typically keep optional subscriptions and limit non-paying players with fewer slots, classes, races, missions, and the like, letting them buy extras as they please.

One imagines that the poor, foolish, naive lifetime subscribers would receive extra perks too.

Star Trek Online already has a microtransaction store, selling ships, bank slots, items, player races, cosmetic ships and costumes, and more, so it's not hard to imagine this being expanded to include many more things.

Cryptic also has experience with the free-to-play model, as its previous MMO, superhero spandexfest Champions Online went free in February. Perfect World also has heaps of the experience in the field, running a whole host of free-to-play online games.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Cryptic Studios has been acquired by the Chinese MMO maker Perfect World, reports Gamasutra. According to the report, the company paid approximately $50.3 million for the studio, and acquired a 100% equity interest in Cryptic. Atari had been looking to sell Cryptic recently, having only acquired it in 2008.

Star Trek Online, Champions Online

"This strategic acquisition will add attractive game titles to our portfolio, which will help us further penetrate into the U.S. and global online game markets," said Perfect World CEO and chairman Michael Chi. "More importantly, Cryptic Studios' highly reputable development team and its technology platform will further strength our well-established R&D capabilities. We deem this as another noteworthy achievement of our global expansion efforts."

Cryptic is best-known lately for the MMOs Champions Online and Star Trek Online. The studio is continuing development on its next RPG, a D&D-styled game titled Neverwinter.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

Atari is divesting its interest in Cryptic Studios, developer of Champions Online and Star Trek Online, looking to sell it, Gamasutra reports. The publisher only acquired Cryptic in December 2008.

"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 changing marketplace," Atari explained in an earnings report.

Champions Online and Star Trek Online

Atari will continue to run and support Cryptic's MMORPGs Star Trek Online and Champions Online while it looks to sell the studio, Gamasutra says. Development on Neverwinter, Cryptic's co-op-oriented take on the D&D RPG series, will continue at least for now. Neverwinter was announced in August 2010, then slated to launch on PC in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Cryptic lost $7.5 million in the past fiscal year, though this was down from a $17.9 million loss the year before. The studio boasted that Champions Online's revenues increased by over 1000% after it went free-to-play in January 2011 but evidently this wasn't quite enough.

Cryptic community representative 'WishStone' took to the forums, explaining, "Right now I have no further details other than what has been mentioned elsewhere. Support for Champions Online and Star Trek Online will be continuing as normal, our staff is working hard on their projects... and there are no planned changes to the way any of our games and projects will operate.

When Atari picked up Cryptic only 29 months ago, Atari CEO David Gardener commented that "This is exactly the type of company we wanted to acquire in order to build Atari for the 21st century." Short century.

Shacknews - Steve Watts
It's been a year to the day since Star Trek Online was released in North America, and Cryptic Studios is celebrating with a variety of special events. Discounts running until Friday, February 4 include 20% off a lifetime subscription, making it $239.99, and 20% off in-game C-store items.

Watch the video on Shackvideo.

Cryptic team members will also be making appearances in the game this week as well, quizzing players with trivia and handing out exclusive rewards.

Finally, Saturday will see the debut of the third Feature Episode series, "Cloaked Intentions." Players will be tasked with preventing a civil war in the five-part collection. It will introduce a new ship type and, like the other episodes, give out a special reward for completing the whole set.

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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor
Ostensibly to celebrate the launch of Champions Online's free-to-play option next week, developer Cryptic Studios has announced it will be offering a 20% discount on lifetime subscriptions for the superhero MMO as well as for Star Trek Online.

Discounted, the lifetime subscriptions will each cost $239.99. The sale will start on January 25 at 6am Pacific then run until 10am on February 4.

Champions Online and Star Trek Online.

This discount will briefly bring the price of a Star Trek Online lifetime subscription back in line with when it was first available as a pre-order offer. The Champions Online sub, however, will still cost $39.99 more than when it was first offered way back in 2009.

Champions Online's free-to-play launch is scheduled for January 25. The free 'Silver' accounts will suffer certain limitations, which is why someone, somewhere might still want to pay $240 to play the MMO for the rest of its life as a 'Gold' member. Cryptic has also contemplated the possibility of making Star Trek Online free-to-play. The model has been a success for Turbine and its own MMO The Lord of the Rings Online.

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Shacknews - Jeff Mattas
Cryptic's head honcho, Jack Emmert, revealed today in an interview with Eurogamer that Star Trek Online could become free-to-play in the future, provided certain stars align.

Cryptic's Star Trek Online

Emmert is apparently looking to Champions Online, another MMO that just shifted from subscription-based to free-to-play, as a guinea-pig of sorts. "We're not sold one way or the other with Star Trek yet," he said. "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."

Champions Online's free-to-play model splits players into groups of subscribers and free-to-players. The free-to-play members don't have access to all of the bells and whistles that subscribers receive, but can still play most of the content for free, with á la carte purchasing options also available.

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Shacknews - Brian Leahy
[Update 9/7/11] The contest is now closed. The winners are Knuxsonic, Conrnchak, and *ahem* Whore. Congratulations to the winners.

[Original Story] Shacknews has teamed up with Star Trek Online and Intel to give away three $200 Best Buy Gift Cards! To enter, entrants need only create and save a ship in the Star Trek Online Ship Builder. Then, post here in the comments of this post with your ship and captain names to be entered for a chance to win! It's that easy.

You'll have until September 6th to enter at which point the three winners will be chosen randomly. Multiple entries are allowed as long as each entry is for a unique ship.

Must be 18 years or older to enter. Open to residents of the United States only. For more information please see the official rules.

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