Captain's Log: Supplemental on STO's treatment of canon

Welcome to another edition of Captain's Log, everyone's (well, mostly my) favorite column about Star Trek Online. Guess what? It's Thursday, which means Thanksgiving is upon us -- assuming you're in the U.S., in which case I hope you already knew that. At any rate, in the spirit of the holiday, we're going buffet-style this week, talking about a little of this and a little of that. But don't worry; most of you are probably slipping into a food coma already, so I'll keep things light, mostly.

For an appetizer, we'll nibble on Cryptic Studios' little preview of Season 3. For a nice second course, I'll revisit my opinion on STO's treatment of Star Trek canon. And for dessert, I'll suggest some Black Friday shopping on the C-Store!

First course: Genesis-in-a-blanket


Cryptic finally released an official look at some of Season 3's features! The third season, Genesis, will include plenty of fabulous features:
  • Revamped sector space -- No more (or less prominent) ugly blue grids!
  • New loot -- Special Task Force missions will drop devices to augment your ship and make it look Borg-ish!
  • Replayable missions -- I guess players wanted this!
Most importantly, Genesis will introduce The Foundry. While it's not unexpected, I don't like the sound of this beta business. The content tools have been in closed beta for a while now, but the developers will open it up on the Tribble test server at some point very soon. That's all well and good, but I don't want to get all excited about the Foundry in beta if whatever missions I whip up get wiped in the system's transition to live servers. (Leave it to me to start complaining when we're so close to actually getting our hands on the tools about which I've been so excited for weeks.)

But boy, look at that screenshot from the toolset. The level of customization it suggests is intimidating me already. I can't wait!

Second course: IP soup

Last week, Massively's Jef Reahard took to the Soapbox to lament the treatment of intellectual properties in MMOs. He wrote a thought-provoking column, which I rather enjoyed and which definitely is worth a read. But for the sake of brevity, I'll grossly oversimplify his point: No MMO based on an existing IP has treated that IP faithfully. In part, he suggests that the developers of such games as Lord of the Rings Online and Star Wars Galaxies have made a habit of "deliberately groin-kicking the established continuity."

Surprising no one, Jef also mentions STO's relation to Star Trek canon -- an ongoing point of contention among, like, everyone who's ever encountered the game. Certain aspects of STO's gameplay, particularly currencies, are "directly at odds with the utopian ideals of the Federation," he writes.

I wrote a Captain's Log on that very subject in September. At the time, I leapt ambled tepidly to Cryptic's defense, saying the developers did not in fact ruin the Star Trek IP. While I sympathize with those on both sides of the argument, I landed enthusiastically settled irresolutely for cutting Cryptic some slack.

But Jef got me thinking. I stand by my original points, for the most part. Sure, a game full of combat and gear flies in the face of the Federation's utopian ideals -- but not in the face of its less lustrous reality, as established in, like, a million episodes of the various TV shows. Even so, he's right that it is "hard to ignore the level of sustained outrage expressed by longtime franchise fans."

When I rationalized, for example, that currencies "remain indispensable from a gameplay standpoint," was I unthinkingly defending the current state of MMOs? Maybe so. I've said it before, but the biggest problem behind STO's troubled existence was its ridiculously brief two-year development cycle. The developers didn't get into trouble by inventing some Bizarro version of Star Trek in which action and explosions happen -- they got into trouble by leaving out all the more sedate, less flashy (and arguably most important) aspects of Star Trek.

Could the developers have come up with a system that avoided the typical combat-centric, gear-heavy MMO tropes in favor of a more Star Trek-ish sandbox, if only they had taken the time to try? Obviously, the answer is yes. Whether that approach would have been at all successful is less clear.

After reading Jef's column, I wonder whether the developers considered Star Wars Galaxies' early existence in deciding to avoid the sandbox (assuming they took the time to consider it at all). Because Jef is right -- many of SWG's cool sandboxy elements died a slow death at the hands of Jedi-obsessed min-maxers. Could the folks at Cryptic reasonably have hoped to sustain a Star Trek MMO in which a player might spend his entire existence running around not as a starship captain but as some random science officer, curing ills and maybe inventing things? It would have been nice to see them try, though, right?

Third course: C-Store pie

The record will show that I have never been a fan of microtransactions in general or the C-Store in particular. But heck, tomorrow's Black Friday. Buying stuff is our patriotic, economy-fixing duty, especially for the next 36 hours or so! I don't know whether Cryptic has mentioned a possible sale, but I thought I'd finally consider maybe possibly buying something from the store.

Likes
  • Klingon Kar'Fi Battle Carrier -- Look at that thing! How cool is that design? It's like a dark shrimp Pokemon in space.
  • Sehlat cub -- I'm a sucker for non-combat pets.
  • Excelsior-class retrofit -- When my brother and I used to play with our Star Trek Micro Machines, my first choice was always the Excelsior. I loved that Sulu was in charge.
  • Maelstrom-class escort -- I still think this is one of the coolest escort skins in the game.
Dislikes
A small request

Have you noticed Cryptic's design-an-Enterprise contest? Well, I'd like to talk about that contest in a future Captain's Log, but I could use your help. If anyone would like to send me a "design" for an Enterprise, I'd love to show off some of your ideas. You can draw a picture, play with Photoshop, whatever, and email me a picture and some information about your awesome or hilarious design at ryan@massively.com. If I receive some submissions, I hope to include them in the next week or two.

Less trustworthy than a Ferengi loan shark and more useless than a neutered Tribble, Ryan Greene beams Captain's Log straight into your mind every Thursday, filling your brainhole with news, opinions and reckless speculation about Star Trek Online. If you have comments, suggestions for the column or insults too creative for Massively's commenting policy, send a transmission to ryan@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.