Captain's Log: STO's new prime directive

Captain's Log, Stardate 64667.9...

Hello, computer (and players)! Welcome to this week's Captain's Log entry for March 3rd, 20... wait... March? YES! Can you believe it is March already?! This is total madness, and not the basketball kind. Really, though, this year has been warping by inside and outside of the Star Trek Online universe. Nevertheless, today's focus is on the new "warp drive" enhancements Cryptic has seemed to install into its STO development team.

As all Trekkers and Trekkies know, the Prime Directive was set forth as the most important guiding principle of the United Federation of Planets; it serves as the basis for how the Picards and Janeways of Starfleet conduct their business. But what is Cryptic's Prime Directive for STO? Forget whatever you thought was the answer to that question, because you're about to self-destruct with joy.

Ensign, warp 10! Let's blow the jumpsuits off these readers and get them all STO subscriptions...

Featured series three, episode four

As you all know, Ryan did an amazing job recapping each featured series for you after the final episode premiered; in all honesty, this cannot wait. Episode four, Coliseum, was so epic and game-changing that the forums had to be shut down so that all engine resources could be dedicated to the massive number of people wanting to play it. After the forums came back up a couple of hours later, they became flooded with posts about the episode. JeanNYGUARD said, "I must say the story is incredible. The cutscenes are really incredible. The voice dialogue and cutscenes made this episode great. I feel if other missions did the same... I would find them a great deal more fun to play." Thaxx chimed in with this: "Thank you, Cryptic team, for this amazing adventure! I can't describe the fun I had playing this. Just... epic epic epic." And KarikaSlayer posted, "Wow. *picks jaw up off floor* Absolutely amazing. Great job, guys."

You are probably asking yourself, "What could be so incredible, amazing, and epic? This is STO." That's a great question, and I am so glad you asked! Here is why:
  • Cutscenes with voiceover -- The cutscenes, and there were plenty of them, were spectacular. They were active, they were voiced-over, and they really made you feel like you were participating in a filmed episode of Star Trek. Cryptic went all out on the production of this Featured Series and actually paid for actors to come into the office and record the VO. I told them I would come do it for free, but I have not heard back yet; might be a California law that I can't volunteer to do something free that they are paying someone else to do. Hey, you could always pay for my plane ticket (/e grin)!
  • New tech -- In the beginning of the mission, you come to find that your ship has been captured in a tractor-like energy-beam, which renders your engines useless. This forces you and your away team to transport to the station to try to get your ship free. You don't do the obvious thing and beam down and pound on some consoles; instead, memories of third grade flood your brain as you are required to complete a puzzle that involves obtaining a code. To get the correct code, you must complete addition, subtraction, multiplication and division equations, including some that you may have to have your Dear Aunt Sally help with. Warning: If you do not have a calculator, you are most likely screwed; I suggest using your PM-a-fleetmate lifeline.
  • Melee combat -- As mentioned in my last log entry, Cryptic had been planning on introducing melee combat for quite a while; this episode gave the team the perfect opportunity to do so. Not only will you be able to use a pre-acquired Klingon Bat'leth, but a free Vulcan Lirpa and Nausicaan sword were given out during the mission (SPOILER: There is even a hidden weapon rack that has a chance to give you an uncommon or rare melee weapon). Melee-weapon-only PvP, anyone?
  • Optional objectives -- We have seen this in past missions of this series, but I was particularly impressed with the career-specific objectives this mission had to offer. The devs have been doing a great job in regard to thinking about what each-class' area of strengths are; they use this to tie it into the optional objectives of each mission. Are you an accolade hunter? Make sure to group up with teammates who are of each career so you can earn a special reward.
If this new directive is going to be implemented into all future episodes (and eventually into past ones through the remastered missions), Cryptic will have a winner on its hands with a waiting list of players wanting to sign up for lifetime subscriptions. Does it sound like all the info above is too good to be true? Check out this video run-through of the mission to see it with your own eyes. And if that still isn't enough, the second directive is sure to educe uncontrolled flailing of limbs.

The long-awaited Foundry update

Have you ever wanted to write a Star Trek episode and have it played out on the small screen? Well, to be honest, you are probably never going to be able to -- sorry to burst your shield bubble. But the good news is that the Foundry allows you to get pretty dang close. This past Tuesday, Tribble, STO's public test server, received a patch with a better-late-than-never update that will set STO's UGC tools apart from any competition:
  • Branching dialogue -- Looking to have the person playing your mission choose what dialogue path to go down? Yap, its got that. Wanting to have a certain action occur because of the path the player went down? Yap, it's got that too. Want to trick the player into giving you all of his energy credits? Well, let's not get crazy. Branching dialogue will allow authors to tell their stories in different ways while giving the players the ability to make their own decisions based on how they like to play their toons. A new preview mode has also been added to more easily to test these new dialogue structures.
  • More customization -- Just when you thought that you already could customize everything, there are even more options available. You can now add more specific backdrops to maps, customize existing backdrop templates, alter the lighting, and even choose your own soundtrack! So far, this is only for space maps, but they will be coming to a ground map near you soon™.
  • New trigger conditions -- Authors can now set up triggers for objects, including "show" conditions. Want to walk up to something and then magically transport some cargo down to the surface? I'm thinkin' so! Also, these new conditions can include interacting with an object, killing enemies, entering a variable or start/end an objective.
  • Copy and paste -- Wait. What? It couldn't do that before? I thought the iPho... nevermind. Support for copying entire maps, dialogues and triggers is now available. This will make it every easy when you want to have an away team beam down to a planet and then back up; in the past you would have to remake the original space map from scratch to simulate it being the same map. Nifty!
Whatever your cup of tea, there are plenty of positive changes occurring over at Cryptic for the STO fanbase. I am really looking forward to the rest of this year, including Season Four with its duty officer system and ground combat changes. To leave you with a little task of your own, I suggest that you check out the following Foundry missions that were sent in by some of your fellow readers: The Regula Incident by @MadDawgNX and Intruder Alert by @Lonewolf_359.

Until next time...

Computer, terminate recording.

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Brandon Felczer transmits Captain's Log through Subspace right to your PADD every Thursday. Join him as he discusses the latest news, gossip, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Hailing frequencies are always open to his bridge through brandon@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.