Star Trek Online producer Dan Stahl spoke with listdaily about well-known science-fiction franchises spearheading free-to-play MMOs and how the genre's constantly shifting content isn't in harmony with traditional review systems, saying, "In my opinion, the whole game rating business doesn't necessarily do a great justice to MMOs."
"MMOs are designed to grow over time and get better with every major release," he continued. "It might be better if sites like Metacritic could find a way to rate MMOs by releases instead of just the initial day one."
Stahl said "plenty of MMOs" enacted "huge strides" since launching with detracting or beneficial effects. Since launching in February 2010 to mediocre reviews, Star Trek Online, for example, retooled its ground combat, added a "duty officer" system of modular ship boosts, and empowered players with homebrewed mission content via its Foundry creation kit.
By contrast, Sony Online's Star Wars Galaxies earned initial critical acclaim when it released in June 2003, but subsequent major updates—including the infamously divisive New Game Enhancement—soured its reception among the community for apparently ruining an otherwise enjoyable sandbox experience.
We wouldn't necessarily disagree—reviewing MMOs is a fundamental challenge. Our original EVE Online review scored the game at 55, and we've continued to cover the game's growth after launch. Our reviews-in-progress are an attempt to give timely impressions when they're arguably most valuable—immediately following release—while allowing us to stamp a verdict when we're ready.
Cryptic, the dev studio behind Champions Online, Star Trek Online and the upcoming MMO Neverwinter, has just released a notice that some of their servers that contain users' personal information were hacked in 2010 and that the encrypted data had been compromised. But the good news is that if you follow good internet practice and have changed your passwords sometime in the last two years, you probably don't have to be worried by the bleak letter that just appeared on Cryptic's website, or the cautionary email you may have just received.
In their letter and the email (which I received because my account was one of those compromised--thanks, hackers!), Cryptic stresses that they only have evidence that account names, handles, and passwords were stolen. They do not believe that billing addresses, email addresses, date of birth, or credit card information was compromised. All affected accounts have had their passwords reset--so that might be why you're having trouble logging in right now.
If you have a Crpytic account, make sure to check your junk mail inbox for a warning to see if your account information was stolen. And even if it wasn't, it's a good idea to change up your passwords--especially if you're still using the same one you did in 2010.
Star Trek Online's following up on its recent relaunch as a free-to-play MMO with a new episode titled "the 2800," which will start on Saturday. The new season of story quests will kick off with the reappearance of a Dominion fleet of genetically engineered super-soldiers called the Jem'Hadar at Deep Space 9.
The remaining four episodes will be released every Saturday after that until the season finale on March 10, in which the you thought was god turns out to be who can only be stopped using .
You can play Star Trek Online for free by signing up and downloading the client from the Star Trek Online site. As well as the trailer above, there are these four screenshots featuring wormholes and space-walking.
SWTOR's shiny, soon-to-be-new tweaks may be hogging the spotlight, but it's not the only space-faring MMO gearing up for a change of pace. Starting today, Star Trek Online is boldly going where, well, pretty much every other MMO has gone before: into the realm of free-to-play. The game now employees a two-tier pricing system, with Silver providing a solid (and free) starting point, while Gold adds all sorts of bells and whistles - including user-created content tools, a larger inventory, and more character slots - for a $15 monthly fee.
Cryptic's released the above trailer to celebrate your space piggy bank's new lease on life. Watch it and revel in slight confusion as generic male Shepard from Mass Effect rises through Starfleet ranks. Or maybe it's his twin cousin. Regardless, mankind may have the technology to live among the stars, but has it lost sight of what matters most: distinctive hairstyles?
While everyone’s going doo-lally about Star Wars, another licensed sci-fi MMO based on a loved franchise is feeling sadly neglected, like an old dog who’s just had to give up his favourite basket because of a new puppy. Star Trek Online was a bit of a failure on release, but it seems that Cryptic still has faith in the MMO, and the “seasons” (read: updates) have added new content and addressed player’s issues.
The latest “season”, numbered five, has been detailed on the official STO blog, and adds the Borg Invasion of Defera (which we inevitably read as DEFRA), Federation and Klingon Academies, as well as a brand new event calendar. Gameplay improvements include a “Duty Officers” minigame (we bet they get shot a lot), the ability to Transwarp to episodes, and a Dilithium Economy.
The new “season” is available now for current subscribers, and will be released for all when the game goes free-to-play on January 17 2012. Hit the jump to see the full list of new and improved content and gameplay.
New and Improved Content
Borg Invasion of Defera – An all new action ground combat map that features multiple play areas, boxes, and a variety of game play. Re-envisioned Borg Strategic Task Force (STF) maps – These were cleaned up and streamlined to improve play. Then they were given a “Normal” version so everyone can experience the content, as well as an “Elite” version for some seriously challenging play. And finally, we threw in some great new rewards and elite gear that you can earn. Federation and Klingon Academy – All new academy maps to explore and do non-combat game play. Lore Missions – A whole new type of non-combat play. Learn about the Star Trek universe while playing these fun little missions. Patrol Mission Revamp – The patrol missions got a new feel, now requiring some exploration to discover them. They also got better Skill Point rewards. Event Calendar – A new event calendar that features nearly a dozen new events that happen around the clock. Threaded Storyline – The whole storyline for STO has been put together in a cohesive way by threading the Episode content. Now it’s easy to know what to do next, and to play through the core storyline. Tighter Klingon Storyline – The Klingon game play was tightened up to play starting at level 21, so that the whole experience for Klingon play is improved.
New and Improved Game Play
Duty Officers – This is a whole new game play experience within STO. Collect, trade, and manage your Duty Officers as you send them on assignments. It’s a great down-time activity and really fun! Space Skills Revamp – The whole set of space skills in STO was taken apart and put together in a way that makes it a lot clearer what you’re getting with your valuable skill points. Transwarp to Episodes – We’ve made it even easier to get around the galaxy to key content. All of the episodes now feature the ability to transwarp to them. Faster Leveling – The leveling curve has been adjusted through the game, particularly at the earlier levels. Dilithium Economy – The game now ties together the various daily missions, Duty Officers, and end game play around a new currency called Dilithium. Dilithium adds value to players at all levels from the early game onward. It replaces many of the narrow use currencies previously in the game, such as Marks, Emblems, Badges, and Merit. Dilithium Exchange – You can trade Dilithium to other players for Cryptic Points, giving you a way to get your hands on Cryptic Points without spending money. Mission Journal Upgrade – The mission journal UI got an upgrade to make it faster and easier to find that great content you want to play.
Social Map Facelift – The key social maps in the game, such as Earth Space Dock and Qo’noS, got a facelift. They are now better organized, better performing on lower end graphics cards, and easier to get around. Tutorial Facelift – The tutorial mission set got a nice scrub and cleanup to make the experience better. General Game Polish – Many hundreds of bug fixes across the whole game were rolled in to really improve the overall game experience.
It’s been a rough ride for Star Trek Online. Many Trekkies lamented that the space combat lacked some punch, and ground combat felt more like watching paint dry than a space-faring sci-fi adventure. Previous updates have addressed the first problem, and the latest patch offers some exciting new enhancements to ground combat.
The “shooter” control scheme is simple to enable: either go into the menu and select it from a drop-down, or hit B on the keyboard. A targeting reticule will pop up on your screen, and the camera will switch to over your shoulder, similar to a third-person shooter. Going into shooter mode also changes the way you enable your abilities. The left and right mouse buttons are your main and alternate attack, and the middle button is your melee attack. Just point at your target and use an ability to activate it. No more Tab targeting for you!
This might seem like a simple change, but it adds a tremendous amount of fun to the ground combat. Running and gunning through Klingon and Romulan outposts seems much more epic when you can dive into a Max Payne–style leap across hallways with your dual phaser pistols. Not very Star Trek, but a hell of a lot of fun!
While the majority of the game remains very solo player friendly, the end of the game leans heavily on fleets, which are STO’s version of guilds. There just isn’t as much to do as a solo player when you reach the higher ranks as there is when you’re leveling your captain through the earlier portion of the game. Klingon content, a lackluster afterthought at the game’s launch, has grown immensely, but it’s still not as vast as the Federation content.
But even with the issues at the end of the game and in the Klingon content, I still have fun when I log into STO. The changes to ground combat have helped to relieve some of the frustration with those missions, and Featured Episodes make me feel like a character in one of the shows. If you were frustrated with the ground combat, and you wanted some more excitement, then you’ll want to jump back in to explore new planets and new civilizations.
Star Trek Online will be go free to play in the new year on January 17. Massively mention that Cryptic are planning to move the current test build to live servers in the first week of December in preparation for the full switch over, and they're starting the monthly in-game currency wage early for gold members.
In the free to play version of Star Trek Online, subscribers will get 400 Cryptic points a month. Even though STO will go free to play in January, subscribers will get some bonus credit in December. "We are starting the Gold member stipend early as a way to thank our loyal customers during this transition period prior to the launch of Free-to-Play," say Cryptic on the Path to F2P blog.
The move to free to play will divide Star Trek Online's player base into two tiers. There's free players, who will have access to every level and zone, but don't get the Foundry mission creation tools. If you become a gold member, you'll get extra inventory slots and unlimited access to in-game chat and mail. For a full run down of how free accounts will differ from paid ones in Star Trek Online, plug yourself into the Free to Play Features Matrix.
We mentioned last week that Star Trek Online will be free to play before the year is out. Cryptic have just released more information about exactly what free players will and won't have access to.
All missions, levels and zones will be available to free players, including daily quests and missions created by paying members using the Star Trek Online Foundry creation tools. The Foundry will be off limits unless you upgrade to gold membership by paying a monthly subscription of $14.99, this will also give you access to more bridge officer slots, the ability to join a guild, unlimited use of in-game chat and email features, and a monthly wage of 400 Promotional Points to spend in the item store.
The full list of features that will be available to non-paying players and subscribers can be found on the new free to play section of the Star Trek Online site.
Star Trek Online has plenty to recommend it. You get to pilot your own starship, for a start, fight enormous space battles and then transport down to planets with your away team to phaser aliens in the face in the name of peace, diplomacy, and the will of the Federation.
My overriding memory, though, involves Tribbles. An icon on the taskbar will let you pet them at any time, even in the middle of a fire fight, whereupon they make an initially adorable noise that quickly becomes the most annoying sound in the universe after about five seconds. If you leave them in your inventory, they eat any food in there and multiply, so there are plenty spare to go around. After a while the entire away team would habitually stop in between fights to stroke their pets, giving rise to a chorus of wibbly "woooo!" noises that would alert every enemy in the vicinity.
Cryptic's Tribble-breeding sim is set to go free to play some time later this year, though there's no precise date yet.
Atari's yearly financial report shows that they are parting ways with Cryptic, the studio behind Star Trek Online, Champions Online and the upcoming Neverwinter MMO. The official reasons given for the split include Atari's intentions to release "fewer but more profitable" titles and expand into "casual online and mobile games," but it more likely has something to do with the reported $25 million Cryptic have lost Atari in the last couple of years.
Gamespot pulled the details from the Atari's financial report, in which Cryptic appeared near the bottom, under a heading marked "discontinued operations." The report listed a loss of $7.5 million for Cryptic in the last year. That's a significant improvement over the $17.8 million loss the previous year, when Cryptic released Star Trek Online and Champions Online.
It's unclear how this will affect the future Cryptic's current MMOs and development on Neverwinter, but for now, it's business as usual at Cryptic. Gamasutra report that Atari will continue to fund Cryptic's MMOs until a buyer can be found.
A community representative posted on the Star Trek Online forums to say that "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."
Champions Online went free to play earlier this year. How did it go? Find out in our Champions Online re-review.
Like most players, I’ve had moments in MMOs when I thought that I could write a better quest than the developers did. “The story was wrong—there should’ve been a fight against dwarves instead of rats at the end of the mission, and the pacing sucked!” Cryptic has responded to Star Trek Online players with a software-based “Oh yeah?” by launching The Foundry, which turned everyone into a mission scripter after it hit live servers earlier this month.
We constructed this guide for the magazine back when The Foundry was still in beta on the “Tribble” test server. It was already full-featured and there should be very little variation in the process you'll go through on live servers, but let us know if you encounter any troubles. Used wisely, the Foundry will let you create missions pretty close to the quality of those built by the developers themselves.
Here’s all the wisdom you’ll need. Before we get started, you’ll need to log into Tribble and make a character by pushing the “Create Content” button in the top left. Only this magical avatar has the power to create new missions.
I’ve used custom costumes here to create characters for Captain Decker and Commander Lahti, and a custom map for the space portion of the mission, but there are dozens of NPCs and pre-made maps to choose from, so you can use generic ones to save some time if you want to get right into the mission creation.
Difficulty: Easy Time: 2-3 hours Official forums: http://bit.ly/hqLtzc Starbase USG, a great source for tutorials and reviews of player-created missions: http://starbaseugc.com STOwiki's Foundry Guide: http://bit.ly/fcXH5g
1. Space, the final frontier...
Let’s make a space map where the mighty USS PC Gamer is under attack by the Borg. First, we need to create a slice of space for the action to take place in. Go to the Map tab and click on the “Create Map” button. Choose “Custom Map” and add a few items from the tabs to the right. A planet here, an asteroid field there, a sprinkle of debris and you’ve got space for your quest to live in.
2. To boldly go...
But it’s just an empty set—our Star Trek adventure needs action! To get the story underway, go to the Story tab and drag a “Talk to Contact Event” into the mission storyline box. Pop back over to your map and place the contact somewhere in space, and a Map Transition event will be added. Fill in the Map Transition to send players from their location in the game world to the map that you just created.
3. Shields up!
Now your players are in position, so it’s time to try to kill them. Drag a “Kill Enemies” event into the storyline, and add an encounter to give them some enemies to fight. Since the USS PC Gamer is under attack from the Borg, choose Borg as your enemy type. Then choose “Borg Squadron – Weak” as the encounter type. Pop over to the map and drag Encounter #1 onto the map, preferably near the spawn point.
4. Open hailing frequencies
Once you’ve defeated the Borg, we want the player to talk to Captain Decker, the fearless leader of the PC Gamer. Add another “Talk to Contact” event. By filling in a text box, you can have the player’s science officer inform them that the PC Gamer is hailing, and then add a “PopUp Dialog” and have Captain Decker tell players (via another text box) to defend his ship.
5. Evil cubes
The battle rages on. Drag two more “Kill Enemies” events into the storyline. Make sure that each event has one encounter in it (they should appear as Encounters 2 and 3, unless you’ve defied orders and added more—you rebel you). Back on the map box, drag those encounters in, and make them each a Borg Battleship. (Because if Voyager taught us anything, it’s that single Borg ships are easily defeated.)
6. Long-range scan
Select each encounter separately, and at the bottom of the screen you’ll see their behaviors, which you can modify. Set all of them to “Ambient with Combat” to have them fight. For Encounters 2 and 3, set the idle animation to “Warp In – Borg.” Setting up the two separate “Kill Enemies” events will warp in one Borg Cube as soon as a player finishes talking to Captain Decker, and another once they defeat the first Cube.
Steps 7 - 12 continue on the next page.
7. One to beam up
Let’s bring the battle inside to help Captain Decker repel the Borg invaders. Create an interior map for the USS PC Gamer—but this time, use a pre-made interior map: Great Bloom. Populate the map by using the pull-down menus to narrow down the type of details (props) that you want to use to give the PC Gamer an assimilated feel. Make sure to test often as you go.
8. Borg bonanza
Pull more “Kill Enemies” events into your storyline, and place those enemies on the new map you’ve created. Select each encounter (you can click on each “actor” in a squad separately, or you can treat them as a group) and turn on “Wander.” You can tweak the distance they’ll move, patrol points and how quickly they move from point to point. Now the Borg are assimilating the ship!
9. He’s (almost) dead, Jim
In our story, Commander Lahti’s position is being assaulted by Borg drones, and he needs help to mount a defense. Add a “Talk to Contact” dialog to the storyline, and add Commander Lahti to the map. Let’s use a “Reach Marker” event to trigger a Borg boarding party to beam in when the player reaches a certain location, setting off another battle.
10. Resistance is futile
To use a “Reach Marker” event, you first need to add it to the storyline and then place it on the map. Add a “Kill Enemies” event, and set the idle animation for the Borg to “Beam in – Borg.” When players round the corner of that hallway, they’ll see the Borg beam in suddenly. It’s a trap! Have Commander Lahti send the players to the shuttle bay after the fight using a “PopUp Dialog.”
11. Assimilate this!
For our final epic battle, let’s have two separate groups of Borg attack our players as they approach the shuttle bay. Add another “Reach Marker” event to the storyline and to the map, and then include a “Kill Enemies” event. Add another encounter to the “Kill enemies” event, set the idle animations to “Beam in – Borg” and place the encounters close to the door to ambush players.
12. Live long and prosper
Add Captain Decker to the map, and add a “Talk to Contact” event. Then it’s time to test, test and test some more. Make sure that each task flows into the next, and that you’ve filled in each of the text boxes, or else you’ll end up with NPCs who have nothing to say. If you’re able to successfully complete all the objectives, you’re done, and you can share your mission for others to play!