Captain's Log: Creating my first mission in the Foundry


Welcome to another edition of Captain's Log, loyal readers! (Disloyal readers and the illiterate are also welcome.) I hope you've been enjoying the ramp-up to Christmas without losing any limbs to last-minute shopping. I ordered everything from the comfort of Amazon this year, though a small, self-destructive part of me misses the Mad-Maxian insanity of the mall right around now.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, or at least a day off from work, and most of you probably aren't primed for a deep discussion of Star Trek Online's future or an in-depth examination of Season 3. Instead, let's play with the Foundry and maybe have a little fun as I try to craft my first actual mission.

How to begin

Once more, with feeling: While technically a feature of Season 3, the Foundry remains in open beta on the Tribble test server. 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 done that, hit the "Tribble - Test Shard" button in the STO launcher. Patching will ensue, probably for a long time if you've never done it before.

On Tribble, select "Create Content" at the top left of the character selection screen to start building a mission. 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. I spend about 14 seconds creating Creative Creator, my new Saurian Engineer.

Now, I should offer fair warning. I have no experience with content creation, unless you count that week I spent fiddling around halfheartedly with RPG Maker on the original PlayStation. I'm also under the weather, thanks in no small part to the doof who came into the office all week even though he was hacking up a lung. So my mental and creative faculties are running somewhere between idle and... yeah, I've got nothing. Moving on!

New project

So I hit "Create Content" and then "New Project." Then I scroll through some legalese that probably says I agree to sell one-eighteenth of my soul to Cryptic Studios for every mission I create. (I look forward to the day the C-Store starts selling human souls.)

The front page requires that I write a short description of the mission, though it doesn't tell me where this description will appear to players. So I whip up a brief descriptive and hit "Save" down in the lower-left corner.

In that same corner, the Foundry tells me I have three tasks to complete: I have to add text, set mission objectives and create someone to assign the mission. I also have to create maps.


Maps

Four tabs await my attention on the left side of the screen: "Project," which I already have done, "Story," "Maps" and "Costumes." First I'll make maps, because I can't set up mission objectives in nothingness.

Because my mission has none at the moment, I must create a new map. I have to name it and decide whether it will be indoors, in space or on the ground. Then I can choose an existing map from somewhere within the game -- the options range from asteroid belts to such hubs as Earth Space Dock -- or I can create my own.

I'll stick with an existing map for my first mission. My mission will consist of two phases, one in the Wolf 359 system and the other on a ship. So first I need a space map. Unfortunately, I can't find Wolf 359 in the list of available maps, so I choose a tract of planet-less space at random. Lore fiends can roast me alive if they want, but nothing about my mission will really make sense in a Star Trek way, so relax.

For the interior map, I choose a small ship interior. We don't appear to have the option of creating our own interior or ground maps at the moment.

Now I can add objectives from the "Library" pane on the right. Because the first step of my mission will be to contact a ship in Wolf 359, I add a Klingon ship from "NPC Contacts" and select a headshot for the guy who will answer the phone. Next, I place a marker on top of that ship, so my dialogue will begin when I approach it.

On the interior of the ship, I add some NPCs, a group of enemies to fight, a console with which to interact and so on. With that set, I should write the story.

Story

For each step of the mission, from assignment to completion, I have to write a piece of the story. I also choose each mission objective, which can include interacting with objects, reaching a spot on the map or killing people. As I fill in the story, I get a sort of flow chart, which tracks the progress of my mission. If I do anything wrong or forget anything, the "Tasks" pane in the lower-left corner tells me what I haven't finished.

The story-writing is fun, and you can infuse as much or as little personality, lore or technobabble into each character as you want. Just make sure you have some kind of story, no matter how thin, in mind beforehand. Without one, you can find yourself staring blankly at all your options.

After writing up my story and mission objectives and all that, I hit "Play Mission" to try things out. I hit a few snags and typos here and there, but after two passes through my mission, I think it's ready to be published. Under the "Project" tab, I hit the "Publish" button and wait a few minutes. Now it's live and ready to be reviewed, or more likely, ignored and forgotten.

Thoughts

The editor is complicated, at least for someone like me who has never created content elsewhere. I frequently hit points where I don't know what I'm doing, and the editor interface offers little direction in those situations.

It's also time-consuming. I needed five hours on Sunday to craft a mission that takes about five minutes to complete -- and that's without even touching the "Costumes" tab. A lot of the problem falls to my having no idea what I was doing half the time, but even so, the Foundry in its current state likely won't appeal to really casual players.

But the Foundry is in beta form for a reason, after all. The more feedback we offer Cryptic, the better the system will become.

Enjoy your Christmas or your day off or whatever, everybody! And if anyone would like to try out my incredibly brief, amateurish mission, look for Sk'rewj's Red Menace on a Tribble server near you. Captain Kreengle is in trouble, and only you can fix R.U.D.O.L.F.

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.