Captain's Log: STO was the best MMO of 2010?

Happy new year, everybody! By now, we've all gotten over our post-party, um, grogginess (children might be reading) and trudged back to work. I'm still on cloud nine after a stellar Sun Bowl for my alma mater, but the time has come to look to the stars for another Captain's Log.

This week's edition, tortured metaphors and all, offers up a bit of a grab bag -- which has nothing at all to do with the fact that my day job is frantically hectic this week. We'll check out Star Trek Online's strong showing in Massively's year-end readers' poll, fiddle with a ship-building contest, and maybe whine a little about the Foundry. So, fun!

You go, STO!

So we all know the end of a year heralds the arrival of a few obligations. List posts and borderline-suicidal alcohol consumption aren't just things that happen -- they're vital rites of passage to send off another 365 days of mediocrity in style, or something.

In that same vein, we have "___ of the year" polls, too. Game of the year, songs of the year, haircut of the year, cute animal pictures of the year -- you name it, some popular medium surely has it. Sometimes, the really amazingly great news outlets or what have you let their readers participate.

And thus are born Massively's 2010 Player's Choice Awards! A stunning 11,820 of you crazy kids voted for your favorites in a wide range of categories, including new MMO of the year -- and you'll never guess the big winner! OK, no, I guess if you're reading this, then you can probably read, which means you didn't have to guess, because we told you already.

STO claimed top honors for the year's best MMO in our readers' poll this year, handily beating out second-place finisher None of the Above. In fact, STO showed up quite a lot in the poll:
  • Best launch of 2010
  • Second-place in best crafting of 2010 (just behind None of the Above)
  • Best capacity for roleplay
  • Biggest surprise hit
  • Best overall MMO of 2010
Color me surprised! Based on a lot of the responses Captain's Log receives from readers, I might have figured STO would die in a fire when it came time for Massively readers to vote. And yet STO didn't rank among the three biggest disappointments of 2010 -- those dubious honors went to Final Fantasy XIV, All Points Bulletin and None of the Above. Even Cryptic Studios, the developer everyone loves to hate, came in sixth place for worst MMO studio of the decade.

So what do those results mean? Is STO really the year's best overall MMO? To be fair, it largely means that 2010 offered slim pickings for major new MMO titles, and that of the most widely known releases -- FFXIV, STO and APB -- STO was easily the least disastrous of the lot. And a cynic might suggest that the votes for biggest surprise hit of 2010 came from those who expected the game to have died by now.

But really, I think STO's fortunes spring from one part name recognition and three parts optimism. STO is moving in a decidedly positive direction, and it already serves at least the casual portion of its playerbase quite well. Whether such improvements as the Foundry will satisfy the more hardcore among us remains to be seen, but with any luck, favorable word of mouth and the results of our readers poll might nudge a few new folks toward trying out the game.

Do this, win that!

Because I want to start the new year off as lazily as possible right, I thought I'd direct everyone's attention to a silly marketing thing a fun little tie-in site.

Apparently Cryptic has teamed up with Intel (bah-bum-bah-bUM) to present the Star Trek Online Architect, a contest website giving away neato prizes in exchange for starship designs.

The site features Ship Shaper, a quick Flash game in which you've been summoned to a shipyard to assemble ships for the Federation war effort. Pieces of a starship -- saucer, neck thingy, body, pylons and nacelles -- slide by on a conveyor belt, and you have to drag and drop the pieces onto a silhouette of a ship while a timer counts down. Choosing correct pieces for the class of ship earns you more points and more time on the clock, while the conveyor belt gradually speeds up.

Yeah, it's mindless, but I had fun killing some time at work trying to pick all the correct pieces. I managed a handful of "perfects" and earned a top score of 40,000 or so. I also nabbed one "fail" score and lost points by failing to choose a single correct piece on one silhouette. Y'know what's crazy, though? As of this writing, some fellow calling himself RenatoDolceBR stands atop the leaderboard with 6,000,000 points. That's a lot of pointless points!

The real draw of the site, though, is that visitors can design a starship and enter a sweepstakes to win a prize. Ten third-place finishers can win a copy of STO, three second-placers get an Intel Core processor, and one super-lucky fool will win a replica of Captain Kirk's chair from The Original Series. (Note: I have no idea whether that replica I linked is the same one Cryptic's giving away, but you get the idea.)

The ship builder resembles STO's in-game ship customization. Players can choose a cruiser, escort or science vessel, each of which offers three template options. Then folks can mix and match pieces, select colors and add a name.

I'm unclear about the purpose to it, though, since you can enter the contest without designing anything. The ship architect includes all the in-game stats for each ship type, which seems like a lot of information to include for no reason. I guess it could be meant to get people excited enough to try STO, but some of the templates are just plain silly-looking. (See below -- is that a ship, or a character from Batteries Not Included?)

Foundry complaint

Everyone should know by now that my opinion of the Foundry is hugely positive. I loved the promise of user-generated missions in theory before I got my hands on the thing, and I'm a fan of it after playing and creating missions.

But as I've tinkered with designing missions (discovering in the process that I suck at designing missions), I couldn't find an option to create branching paths of any kind. For example, I created a quest NPC, and I wanted him to offer options: The player could either talk his way to victory or fight the NPC, depending on his dialogue choices. It seems like a frustrating oversight and a perfect example to explain the Foundry's beta form. Maybe one of you guys knows whether I'm missing something, be it a simple solution or a more complicated workaround. Anyone?

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.