Logging into Cryptic's Star Trek Online a couple of weeks ago, then, wasn't something I was looking forward to. I'd penciled it into the Community Detective schedule a while back and frankly put it off several times. I'll do it eventually, I kept telling myself.
Upon logging in, I found that STO's source material is the worst thing about it, and in fact the game itself is quite well-made and a ton of fun (particularly the Foundry; I'm completely in love). In fact, I normally leave games behind when a particular issue of Community Detective is in the books, but with STO, I find myself logging in more and more each day during my off hours. I've renewed my sub beyond the free 30 days, and thoughts of the lifetime option have crossed my mind. Enough of all that, though; you're here to find out about my community and customer service experiences, amirite? Warp past the cut and we'll get started.
Cryptic's title is heavily instanced, resulting in a game world that can feel smallish at times, but that also puts its playerbase in close proximity via a collection of zone copies that Starfleet captains can switch between at will. The game also features a handy global chat (well, it's handy for the purposes of Community Detective; if you're looking for Star Trek immersion or mature behavior, you'll probably want to avoid it a lot of the time).
Additionally, I also file customer service tickets to gauge a company's response and response times. In STO's case, I asked a couple of global chat questions over a period of several days and time slots including weekday afternoons, weekday evenings, weekend mornings, and weekend evenings. Due to Cryptic's decision to attach your global account handle to your characters' names in chat channels, I also made use of two accounts to reduce the chances of my fellow players becoming annoyed at the same guy asking the same questions throughout the week.
For my first community question, I asked the following:
Regardless of the day or time of day that I posed the question, I was answered right away by a number of helpful folks. Several individuals also sent me personal tells to make sure I understood, and I received a few friend invites and one fleet invite as well (fleets are the STO equivalent of your traditional MMO guild).
There was very little trolling related to my first question, which was somewhat surprising due to the number of 4chan-esque memes and general silliness that permeates the game's chat channels.
For my second question, I opted for one that normally kicks off all sorts of interesting discussions:
For some reason, the trolls came out to play for this question, and though I did receive some thoughtful and intelligent responses during all of my query sessions, I also got plenty of gems like "only if you have a Wookiee co-pilot!" and of course "lulz, it's an MMO, why would you want to play solo?!"
I also spent a couple of hours in pickup groups over the course of my two-week command, and though they were all fun (and mostly successful), player interaction in this phase of the game is a mixed bag. STO is another one of those titles that has adopted a variation on the public quest mechanic. Entering a mission zone that features other players working on the same mission will automatically place you into their group (unless you specifically disable this feature in the game's options panel). While the mechanic is useful for tough missions -- or for upping the difficulty and rewards of more pedestrian missions -- you never know whom you'll be matched with.
Finding a fleet/guild looks to be remarkably easy, as there is always someone recruiting in the public channels (and the organizations are varied enough to offer something for powergamers and roleplayers alike).
After poking around the game's help screens, I finally decided to submit a stuck character ticket. Though I wasn't technically stuck, Cryptic's in-game help doesn't offer any space for elaborating on your particular issue. Clicking the question mark button on the menu to the right of your minimap will take you to the help interface, and you'll be presented with several options including account support, bug reporting, and GM help. I chose the last one and jumped through the submission hoops.
As it was late on a Saturday night, I didn't wait around to see what happened. The following day, I noticed that my character had been moved to another portion of the Earth Space Dock zone and I had a followup note from GM Halvedar documenting my issue. I was also able to beam to my bridge at this point.
And that's about all I have for you in this week's issue of Community Detective. STO was a very pleasant surprise in several respects, and despite what you may have heard courtesy of the vocal anti-Cryptic contingent that hangs around many MMO forums, you could do a lot worse when it comes to a fun sci-fi themepark MMO.
I don't know whether STO has a really large population or whether the fact that the game groups all its players onto a single "server" makes it seem busier than it really is, but regardless, STO teems with player life (and most of said life seems rather intelligent and willing to help out). The game's customer service, while not spectacular, was more than adequate in my particular case, though I'll be interested to see some of the comments from those of you who haven't been quite as thrilled.
Aion to Zentia, the Community Detective case files are an essential part of any game-hopper's research library. Suggestions welcome, care of firstname.lastname@example.org.