Captain's Log: The reverse slingshot effect

Captain's Log, Stardate 65056.3...

Hello, computer (and players)! The slingshot effect is a maneuver, shown throughout the Star Trek franchise, which allowed starships to move back through the time continuum. By traveling at a high warp factor towards a star with a large gravitational pull, the ship would whip around it and time travel. While this seemed to only exist within the realms of the IP, it looks as though Star Trek Online's Executive Producer Dan Stahl took us on a reverse slingshot course, giving us a glimpse into the future of the game. Before we returned to the original timeline, he made sure to write up everything we saw along the way for those who couldn't make the trip.

In layman's terms, for those of you who missed the news earlier this week, July's Engineering Report has been released. While this is a monthly publication that contains the development pipeline for STO, including some items that have been featured in past issues, there are always a few bullet points added that seem to spark a healthy amount of debate -- one of these includes the ability to auction off your in-game Emblems, a form of currency, for C-Store points that have been paid for with real money. For information on this, including a response from Cryptic's PR department, and more, read ahead past the jump for this week's Captain's Log entry.

Ensign, warp 10! Let's pull a slingshot maneuver of our own...

Dan's report is split up into several sections for easy reading: in testing, under investigation, in development, and in design discussions. I would like to use the same format to present to you some of the new additions to each section.

In testing

Although the items in this category are currently being tested on either the internal developer shard -- whose name is still unknown, but is speculated to be "Warp Core" -- or the public test server, Tribble, there has been a decent amount of information released about each of them that suggest we should see these in the upcoming weeks. These include the Duty Officer system, new Starfleet and Klingon Academy zones, a couple new uniforms, crafting updates, and improved Borg space encounters. The "talk of the town" at this time seems to be all about the Duty Officer system -- it was originally developed to launch alongside Season Four but further development was needed before it could be played by the masses.

Under investigation

As it was pointed out in last week's entry, while the launch of Season Four was smooth, there were a few snags along the way -- the "under investigation" portion of the report is dedicated to taking a look at some of the top problem areas. Some of these priorities include the Foundry being down, lag in some zones, individual mission bugs, and Bridge Officer problems. While I have no doubt there are other bugs that you are experiencing than those just listed, Dan does give us a disclaimer that the list "by no means represents all the bugs we're looking into, but instead new issues that I want you to know we are on top of." If you are experiencing a bug, please do not assume someone else is going to file a bug report about it -- do your part and contribute to the fight to eradicate these nasty pests.

In development

One of my favorite parts of the report is this section, as it contains the items that are actively being worked on. While there are some old, but amazing, bullet points, a few new additions have crept onto the list. Though we knew about the fan-designed Enterprise-F and the STF improvements coming, we learned about some new end-game gear sets (six total with 18 new items) and open PvP melee areas coming to some social maps. One of the most surprising additions to the list was the remark about being able to auction off Emblems for C-Store points -- I received several emails claiming that this was "another pay2win addition" so I thought I should reach out to Cryptic to ask more about it. Luckily, I was able to get a direct quote from Dan and Co. with a little more information about the reasoning behind it:
In our further efforts to allow players to obtain microtransactions in game, we plan to open up a player-to-player blind auction that will allow players to barter their emblems for C-Points. Some players have plenty of time to play but little cash to spend on Microtransactions such as special costumes or pets. By allowing players to trade with each other, this allows another avenue for players to obtain C-Store exclusive items from other players who want to be generous with their C-Points (sic).
To me, this makes sense and I think it is a great way to allow those without the IRL funds to still acquire C-Store items. Never the less, I am sure that there will be more debate about this as time goes on. Feel free to share your opinions below and in the STO forum thread about it.

In design discussions

While some of the items in this section are still on the drawing board, it is typically the meat and potatoes of the entire report -- everyone seems to rush to this section to see what the future holds. During Season Four, expect to see new PvP maps, a new STF, more featured episodes, and the rest of the Sol planets added as social and mission locations -- the question that remains is, "Will Cryptic include Pluto as a planet?" Dun dun dun! The Klingons will also get some more love, as some of the Federation-only missions will be converted to add a KDF version. Around this time, we should also see the introduction of the First Officer system and even more ships, like the Ambassador class and Andorian ship.

Being considered for Season Five, which Dan recently mentioned may be released as late as 2012, is the redesign of how exploration works, more fleet updates, including the introduction of fleet starbases, a territory control game, and much more. One of the items that I am most looking forward to is the collapsing of all of the individual sectors into one, giant map -- this will not only allow traveling to be easier, but really give you the feel that you are playing in a massive galaxy. Beyond Season Five, expect to see more Fleet Actions, additional PvP maps and game types, improved social gameplay and, possibly, even a third faction.

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. Before you go, I would like to remind those of you who are in the San Diego area that I will be hosting an evening event with some of the STO devs attending Comic-Con -- if you are free tomorrow evening, head down to Mission Valley and dine with us! Full details are here. For those of you who are not in the area, have no fear! I will write a full recap of the event on a future entry of Captain's Log, including highlights from the Q&A session. Also, please join me for the next STO livestream on Tuesday, July 26th, at 7 p.m. EDT.

Until next time, let me know what you think about this month's Engineering Report, including what you are looking forward to most, by commenting below or sending me an email to brandon@massively.com.

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.