Captain's Log: Newstime grab bag

Hey, everybody. I did four things this weekend: I saw True Grit, I saw The Green Hornet, I tried kumquats for the first time and I went on a blind date with a dyspeptic wendigo. I recommend doing only one of those things.

In other news, it's time for another edition of Captain's Log. We covered some helpful resources for creating missions with Star Trek Online's Foundry last week, even as the folks at Cryptic Studios tossed out a whole slew of new information. Dan Stahl and company meted out an update to the feature-episode calendar, a new Engineering Report and the latest Ask Cryptic. So, what'd we learn?

Series 3

I've said it, like, 18 times and I'll say it again: This has never happened to me before, I swear. Also, STO's feature episodes are awesome. I can only devote so many columns to them before my head explodes from all the fun-having.

Feature episodes (which I've stopped calling weekly episodes because of the lulls between series) premiered in late August with Series 1, and Series 2 followed in October. Then they took a break while the devs put the finishing touches on the big release of Season 3.

But Season 3 went live at the beginning of December, and the second series of episodes ended in mid-November. In all that time, and somewhat alarmingly, we hadn't heard a peep about Series 3 -- dot dot dot -- until last week, that is! Finally, we know we can look forward to the premiere of the next series on January 29th.

Do we know anything else? Well, the series is titled Cloaked Intentions, and the plug says that former allies will get into a tussle that could tear apart the Romulan Empire. The first episode will send players to investigate a mysterious energy surge on an abandoned Romulan starbase.

And that's it. Unlike previous series, this series is dominated by a villain whose identity we don't necessarily know. We're probably dealing with rogue Romulans -- if nothing else, this series is supposed to flow from STO's established Romulan storyline -- but I guess we could maybe run into a whole other faction. Either way, we have fun on our way in a week and a half.

Engineering Report

Executive producer Dan Stahl whipped out a new Engineering Report last week, too, updating players on all sorts of in-the-works improvements. Besides mentioning that certain features, including updated ground combat, are still moving along, Stahl drops a few tasty crumbs of news.
  • Birthday bash -- STO will celebrate its one-year anniversary in February, and the crew at Cryptic apparently has some interesting plans in the works. Stahl teases "a weeklong event featuring an old 'friend' who will be giving out some fun and collector item level rewards." He also says players should head to major starbases with their Star Trek knowledge and their best dancing outfits. I don't know who this old friend might be (Spock sounds like a reasonable guess) or what else to expect, but STO's birthday week should be interesting.
  • STO's Cataclysm? -- Because reworking old content is all the rage these days, the developers will revisit existing missions to bring them more in line with the game's "new mission architecture." I don't know what that means, unless they're adding a bunch of diplomacy missions or something. Any thoughts, readers? The devs will work on this one as time allows, though, so it's not, like, priority numero uno.
  • PvE queue -- Season 4 will finally allow people to set up private instances of Fleet Actions. Solving a long-standing and nonsensical flaw, this feature will finally allow fleets to fight together, though non-guilded friends who have the password will be able to join in, too.
  • Foundry update -- We should see the first major update to the Foundry on the Tribble test server in February, which is exciting news for two reasons. First, the update will add "some much requested storytelling features," which I hope will include branching mission paths. Second, with the update out of the way, the team will focus on moving the Foundry to live servers! Happy day!
  • Free-to-play -- Champions Online, Cryptic's superhero MMO, adopts its new freemium model on January 25th. "We will be watching closely to see how the public responds to this offer," Stahl says, "and evaluate whether or not it is something that would make sense for Star Trek Online." Fascinating, doctor.

Ask Cryptic

Finally, Stahl answers 31 questions from readers in January's Ask Cryptic. Amid the usual minor stuff, he slings out a few nice tidbits.
  • Crafting refits -- You know how some of the coolest ship types, such as the Defiant or the Constitution, show up at early levels and then grow obsolete quickly? Well, the team at Cryptic doesn't plan to let us buy updated, high-level versions of those ships, but Stahl says we might someday be able to craft those refits instead. It's a long-term goal, so don't hold your breath, but it earns several thumbs up from this humble blogger.
  • Foundry diplomacy -- "Adding the ability to gain Diplomacy XP for non-combat gameplay seems like a no-brainer," Stahl says. "We'll be sure to add that to our review." Works for me.
  • PvP future -- Will STO ever feature open PvP? Probably not, Stahl says. Although, given the relentlessly instanced nature of STO's game world, I wonder how that would work. People are rarely ever in the same place at the same time, except on starbases. Can you imagine going to the bank and having to worry about the long arms of the Ganktopus?
  • New gameplay -- We'll get playable shuttles in Season 4, and Stahl suggests we might someday see working sick bays. Imagine, my science officer will get to do some science!
  • Deep space encounters -- The devs will nix deep space encounters entirely in Season 4, replacing them with a new feature. What shall it be, I wonder? As long it's something that doesn't find and kill me every time I leave my ship floating unattended in sector space, I'm all for it.

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.