Kotaku

Set your phasers on stupid Trek reference, as Cryptic's Star Trek Online opens its free-to-play docking bay and invites the world inside following a brief subscriber-only period. To see what players get for free, hit up the official Star Trek Online web page.


Kotaku

The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous ScreenshotsSince running a big, enjoyable feature on Duncan Harris, the "video game photographer" behind the website DeadEndThrills, I've been sharing some of his work each week here.


This week has some great stuff. Here we go!


First up, at top, we've got one of several shots from Star Trek Online, this one titled:


"Harbour Lights."

Woah. Gorgeous shot of a Federation station (correct? I'm not a huge Trek knowledge-haver), the kind of shot you'd expect to see in a Star Trek movie, not a Star Trek MMO. Here, as usual, are Harris' "Tools and Tricks":


Tools and tricks: Cryptic demo recorder, 2160p rendering, free camera, custom FOV, timestop, offline antialiasing.


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"Next-Gen"

A very cool shot of the Starship Enterprise.


Tools and tricks: Cryptic demo recorder, 2160p rendering, free camera, custom FOV, timestop, offline antialiasing.


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"Canopy"

Another very nice one.


Tools and tricks: Cryptic demo recorder, 2160p rendering, free camera, custom FOV, timestop, offline antialiasing.


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"Factor 5"

Yesssss.


Tools and tricks: Cryptic demo recorder, 2160p rendering, free camera, custom FOV, timestop, offline antialiasing.


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"The Killing Fields"

The first of a series from the online PC hunting game Hunter. I gotta admit, Far Cry 2 junkie that I am, that these shots make me want to play this game a whole lot.


Tools and tricks: 2160p rendering, antialiasing (FXAA injection w/ texture presharpening).


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"Shoot"

Very Far Cry 2, this one.


Tools and tricks: 2160p rendering, antialiasing (FXAA injection w/ texture presharpening).


The Week in Unbelievably Gorgeous Screenshots


"Hinterland"

See what I mean? Doesn't this just make you want to climb up that hill and see what's on the other side? It does me. As Harris puts it, "I could post scenes from The Hunter until the cows come home – but then I'd have to shoot the cows and have them stuffed." He's even put a bunch more of his Hunter shots on Flickr. So there.


Tools and tricks: 2160p rendering, antialiasing (FXAA injection w/ texture presharpening).


Kotaku

Players with a lapsed subscription to Cryptic's Star Trek Online can come back an play the game at no cost today as part of the free-to-play early start program. Everyone else can play for free come January 17.


Kotaku

What Free-to-Play Means to Star Trek Online PlayersLate last week it was revealed that Cryptic Studios' massively multiplayer Star Trek Online would be going free-to-play later this year, swapping required subscription fees for an active player base. Today we find out what's free and what'll have players reaching for their gold-pressed latinum.


The free-to-play model being applied to Star Trek Online really isn't all that restricting to free (silver) players, something that might annoy those that plan of shelling out $14.95 a month for gold status. Free players are limited to two character slots instead of three; 48 inventory and bank slots as opposed to 72 and 96 respectively for paying players; and they won't be able to create new missions using the game's Foundry system, though they'll still be able to play player-created content to their hearts' content.


Free players also get limited access to forums, in-game mail, in-game chat, and customer service, are not eligible for priority login or veteran rewards, and have to deal with ad-supported in-game voice chat.


It seems restrictive, but looking over the full list it looks like free players will have access to just about everything Star Trek Online has to offer, without having to drop a dime. That should boldly go a long way to repopulating a universe that's steadily declined since launch.


Star Trek Online Free-to-Play [Official Website]



You can contact Michael Fahey, the author of this post, at fahey@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
Kotaku

Star Trek Online Goes Free to Play by the End of 2011Star Trek Online, the MMO picked up by new owner Perfect World when it acquired Cryptic Studios back in May, will be taken to a free-to-play format by the end of 2011, says the new ownership.


Perfect World's chief financial officer told investors during a call today that it's looking to a free-to-play Star Trek Online to "have a bigger potential in US market and also in China market."


Star Trek Online launched in February 2010. Champions Online, Cryptic's other MMO, already is free to play.


Star Trek Online Goes Free to Play [Industry Gamers]



You can contact Owen Good, the author of this post, at owen@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.
Kotaku

Publisher Atari is "divesting" itself of MMO specialists Cryptic Studios, which it snapped up in 2008. It's trying to sell the creators of Star Trek Online and Champions Online after losing Atari millions. [Atari Results (PDF)]


Kotaku

It's been a year since Cryptic Studios boldly went and released a massively-multiplayer game based on Star Trek, and it's come quite a long way since then. See what's changed and what's next for Star Trek Online.


Star Trek Online is a different game from the one I reviewed a year ago. Back then I said the game wasn't finished, and while it hasn't stopped developing since then, the developers have added level upon level of polish to the already solid Star Trek experience.


Some of the major additions to the game over the past year include a level cap increase from 41 to 51 complete with a new tier of ships, new mission types further emphasizing Trek's knack for generating drama without resorting to violence, and the beginning of the Foundry system, which will allow players to craft and share their own missions.


Cryptic is holding celebrations in-game to celebrate the anniversary as we speak, with in-game prizes to be won via developer-driven trivia contests. Everything in the game's real money C-Store is on sale, and there's a fresh Romulan-themed set of weekly episodic missions - "Cloaked Intentions" - kicking off this weekend.


There's enough going on to get me curious enough to boldly go one more time. Anyone else pondering heading back into space?


Kotaku

Bill Roper — one of the forces behind Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo — defected to Cryptic Studios back in 2008 to work on Champions Online and Star Trek. He has recently stated that he's leaving Cryptic, but hasn't given specifics.


Kotaku

Isn't It A Little Early For A Star Trek Online Winback Weekend? Atari and Cryptic Studios have mounted a huge push for players in Star Trek Online, featuring a referral program, veteran rewards, a free demo, and an invitation to lapsed players of the three-month-old MMO to try it again for free.


Has Star Trek Online really lost so many of its launch players in the past three months to warrant a Winback Weekend? It seems a bit early to me, but then I've not had much time to play since the first month myself. Perhaps I'm a trendsetter. Perhaps players were maxing out their rank too quickly and getting bored. Either way, this weekend old players are invited to log back in and see what they've missed in the 5-10 weeks since they stopped playing.


The Winback Weekend is part of a four-pronged attack to bring in more subscriptions while keeping existing players playing.


A downloadable demo of the game is now available, allowing perspective players to experience the opening missions in the game for as long as they'd like.


For players needing that extra push, the new referral program doles out in-game items, skill points, and Cryptic Store currency for those that manage to trick their pals into playing with them.


Finally, to keep players coming back, Cryptic has lined up special titles, items, and bonuses for players who keep their subscriptions active for 100, 200, 300, or 400 days with the veteran's reward program.


I think Star Trek Online is a fine MMO for what it is. It still needs a little polish, but on the whole it's a solid release. Hopefully Cryptic and Atari can draw in enough new business to keep up this continuing mission.


Kotaku

Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice? This is no video game. This is an image of a gigantic baby star inside a galactic bubble 4,300 light-years from Earth, captured by Europe's Herschel space telescope. Has video game space ever been so beautiful?


The small white spot on the bottom edge of the ethereal-looking galactic bubble RCW 120 is actually an infant star, only tens of thousands of years old, before its nuclear furnace ignites. Even as an infant, the star is 8 to 10 times the size of our sun.


Interesting statistics, but what drew me to this story was how advances in astronomy help shape the way our games depict outer space. Granted, the Herschel space telescope works in the far-infrared and sub-millimeter range, so the picture isn't an accurate visual representation of what we're looking at, but it's pictures like these that shape the way game creators shape their universes.


Here are a few examples of how outer space is depicted in video games.


Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice?
Wing Commander


We've sure come a long way, haven't we?


Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice?
Homeworld


Homeworld is one of the first games I played that made outer space look truly appealing. There isn't much in the way of detail, but the color palette brightened up the normally inky depths considerably.


Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice?
EVE Online


If there's one thing EVE Online has always done right, it's gripping, edge-of-your-seat adventure.


No, of course not. It's the game's depiction of outer space that lures many unsuspecting future EVE addicts into the fold, promising countless colorful star systems to explore, mine, and eventually die within. Graphic updates in recent years have made the universe of EVE Online more beautiful than ever.


Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice?
Mass Effect 2


You don't really spend too much time freely exploring space in the Mass Effect series, but the few free-roaming space faring moments you do enjoy take place on colorful star fields filled with various nebulae and gas pockets. Not bad for what is essentially point and click space exploration.


Are Video Games Doing Outer Space Justice?
Star Trek Online


Star Trek Online is another game that nails space, presenting distinctive and colorful spatial phenomena at every turn. Some would even say it outdoes the television shows and movies in terms of capturing the alien beauty of the airless void.


It's interesting to see how scientific advances color the way we experience the final frontier. As telescope technology advances and we push further out beyond the bounds of our tiny solar system, our view of outer space will grow more complete, allowing us to experience more of the beauty of the universe in real life and the games we play.


Herschel space telescope pierces giant star bubble [BBC]


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