Captain's Log: Spending time with the Foundry beta


As Deathwing rages through Azeroth and the inhabitants of other worlds look forward to gift-filled holiday events, members of the Federation and the Klingon Defense Force saw Christmahanukwanzakah arrive early in the form of Season 3.

Star Trek Online's third mega-patch brought a fine array of features, including Borg ship pieces and replayable missions, to live servers last Thursday. But the biggest feature (and possibly STO's best) landed on the Tribble test server instead. So let's take a trip to Beta Land and get to know the Foundry a little better by playing a few user-made missions.

Getting started

To try out the Foundry, get thee to the test server! I know I went over this last week, but I'll repeat myself, with an addendum. Darrenkitlor, an attentive Captain's Log reader, handily reminded me that players need to sign up for and copy a character to the test server. Log in to the STO website and select "Public Test" in the dropdown menu under "Support," which you can see at the top of the front page.

Once you've gone through that rigmarole, hit the "Tribble - Test Shard" button in the STO launcher.

On Tribble, you have two choices -- make a mission or play a mission. To make one, select "Create Content" at the top left of the character selection screen. You'll have to create a new, Foundry-only character before it lets you craft a mission, but as that character's only for testing purposes, you don't need to put much effort into it.

To play other people's missions, log onto the test server normally, and then hail Starfleet. You'll see a new option for Community Authored missions, and you can search for episodes and sign up to review them.

Let's do that

I am not a man of science -- I still say shape-changing ghosts sabotaged the real moon landing and then staged a fake one as a favor to a spacefaring race of vole people (not mole people) seeking to protect their cheese-based homeworld. So I'm going to jump into the Foundry toolset as unscientifically as possible: by playing a mission or three chosen completely at random.

One of the keys to the Foundry, currently in open-beta form, is the peer-review system. Players rate others' homemade missions on a five-star scale, which ranges from "did not like it" to "loved it." So let's do some of that!

Incidentally, I'm happy to rescind a small complaint I voiced last week. It had seemed that the interface for player-made quests wouldn't list all available quests unless you entered a search term, but I was wrong. I suppose the system hadn't been populated or something, because now it lists plenty of quests under such headings as "Top Rated" and "Hot."

Mission #1

I choose my first quest, "A vessel through time," by Maxloef, based on its three reviews, which give it a total score of slightly more than three stars. This seems as good a place as any to start.

With my mission selected, a request from someone named Admiral Janeway sends me to investigate a mysterious anomaly near Wolf 359. And so I warp jauntily into Beta Ursae Sector Space (because I associate Wolf 359 with Benjamin Sisko) to find my destination... only to realize the system is back in the Sirius Sector. Oops.

Hint: If you make a mission, always include flavor text that directs other players to the correct sector.

Unfortunately, I enter Wolf 359 to find nothing out of the ordinary. A massive ship graveyard and a memorial, sure, but no anomaly. Even after I made this my primary mission, the map displays no objective, nothing comes up on scanners, and flying around randomly reveals squat. I must be missing something, because at least three other people enjoyed this mission, but heck if I know what's wrong.

So I drop the mission and submit a report saying I couldn't find the mission objective. An inauspicious start, but I'll chalk that up to user error.

Mission #2

OK, let's try another mission in Wolf 359, since I'm right here. Of the "Top Rated" user-generated missions, I select the second, "Ferengi Rescue," by HellfieXP. For one thing, I like Ferengi. For another, the mission already has earned 22 reviews, 20 of which grant it three or more stars.

A Ferengi ship purports to have been attacked by the Federation, but no Federation ships are present in Wolf 359. Mystery!

In the system, the Ferengi captain realizes I'm not like those ships that attacked him. That must mean -- bingo -- mirror-universe Federation! One last mirror ship appears to waste the Ferengi, but I'm too much for it to handle. Oops, the second wave clobbers me at first, because my Tribble ship is pretty old, but I trounce them on the second try and then beam to the Ferengi ship to beat up some unwanted guests.

The Ferengi captain needs me to mop up three groups of mirror Feds and fix the warp core, of which I make quick work. Typical stuff. I rate the mission three stars, though the Ferengi captain made me chuckle more than once. Nicely written.


Parting thoughts

Man, this is not my day. As I peruse the listings to find a third second mission, the system informs me that Tribble is going down for maintenance in 15 minutes. Pfaugh! The next day isn't my day, either, because I can't access the test server. (The Tribble button has disappeared from my launcher window, which happens on occasion.)

Anyway, after only one full mission, I admit I'm more excited than ever for the Foundry and the possibilities it offers. The author put together a quick, enjoyable mission with funny, well-characterized dialogue.

And from the notes on other missions, I can see that even after a week or so on the public test server, the Foundry has attracted some creative creators. Already some players have started producing serialized missions and ongoing story arcs. Considering how much fun Cryptic Studios' feature episodes turned out to be after only two series, I am totally jazzed to have a whole troop of players crafting their own storylines.

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.