Star Trek Online logo
Hello, computer (and players)! Leave your credit cards, er, I mean, Latinum, at the turbolift door -- Star Trek Online has changed course for a new destination... Planet Free-to-Play. As we reported late last week (thanks again to tipster The First Avenger and @Altexist), it was announced during a Perfect World Entertainment earnings call that STO would be adopting a new subscription model before year's end. Little did we know that the plan to make a full-scale announcement had already been in the works and was set to have been released this week, the first inkling of which we saw this past Tuesday.

The press release and new F2P information page that Cryptic has launched on STO's home page contains a lot of information that explains the different benefits that paying and non-paying players will experience. As it did with Champions Online, the development team is planning on being as transparent as possible, listening to feedback, and making adjustments based on closed beta experiences of the new hybrid model. This week's Captain's Log is going to explore some of these benefits, shed some positive light on some worries, share with you exclusive answers to some questions we sent into PR, and let you know some of my overall personal thoughts -- so without further ado, make it so!

Ensign, warp 10! Let's help our readers decide whether they are going to be Silver or Gold members...

Before we jump into the meat of things, I want to assure you all that I understand what a game going F2P can look like. It is instilled in most of our minds that when a game is in trouble, it goes F2P as a last resort for salvation. In this day and age, that is simply not the case anymore; as seen by plenty of other games that have changed their subscription models, this change can actually bring increased incremental-revenue, a larger playerbase, and a faster rate of content production. With the acquisition of Cryptic by Perfect World, it was imminent this would happen. Even before that, though, Cryptic had reached out to other studios to discuss what a F2P model could do for STO. Executive Producer Dan Stahl spoke about this in his recent interview with Computer Ed. Also, please note: Any mention within this article of "paid" or "paying" player status also includes Lifetime subscribers. All right, on to our four topics...

Star Trek Online screenshot
Benefits comparison

At this time when you first glance at the features matrix, most items are actually offered to both free and paying players. There are a few areas where paying subscribers are actually going to benefit over those who are playing for free:

Fleet creation/membership: While either membership type allows one to join a fleet, only those who are paying can create a fleet. This is most likely in place to entice those wanting to create a private group to become paid subscribers. It may also have something to do with the future of being able to build a fleet starbase.

Energy credit storage limits: Only paying players can have unlimited amounts of energy credits earned/inventoried. This is most likely in place to stop "gold" farmers from thinking they can create free accounts and sell large amounts of this currency.

Character slots: Players who do not subscribe will be limited to one toon-slot per faction, with additional available for purchase. Paid subscribers will also have one slot for each faction plus one additional slot to be used on either faction. This is a great example of where Cryptic can expect to see a burst of revenue, as most players will want one of each class on each faction.

Respec tokens: Only paying subscribers will get one free respec token per rank or from Veteran rewards, whereas free players will have to purchase them. I believe this to be another big area where Cryptic will see revenue.

The Foundry: While both types of players will be able to play any of the missions created using the Foundry, only paid subscribers will get to create missions. My thoughts here are that once the non-paying subscribers see the power of this toolset and what stories can be told, they too will want to begin creating their own missions.

Customer service: There is not much known yet as to what this actually means, but it looks as if paying subscribers receive unlimited access where others only have limited access. It will be interesting to learn more about this and what it entails.

Monthly stipend: Paying subscribers are going to receive a monthly allowance of 400 promotional points. With many players asking why these are not called C-Store points, it is important to note that they can only be used within STO and not for any other Cryptic game like C-Store points can.

Star Trek Online screenshot
Don't worry, be happy!

There were a few other features on the matrix that are causing a bit of an uproar, and I would like to take the opportunity to explain them further.

Klingons starting at level 25: As announced in the featured matrix, the playable Klingon faction content will not unlock until a player has at least one Federation character at level 25 (Commander 5). This is due to the acknowledged lack of content for the KDF faction and the opportunity to work heavily on this. With what missions are currently in-game, this will make leveling up a Klingon toon less of a grind. There has been some talk already that this will also allow devs the chance to rebuild the faction from the ground up, bridging the level gap from 1-24 with new content.

Playable species: While there are not going to be any unlockable species available for purchase after the transition, we have been told that they are going to be made available by other in-game methods. This is a good time to bring up that any purchase previously made before the transition will be grandfathered and will not be lost or taken away.

In-game chat and mail: While these are "limited" for those playing the game for free, there will be a number of ways to gain "unlimited" access to them without having to purchase a subscription; these include playing for 20 hours across all of your characters, making a C-Store purchase, carrying a C-Store point balance, or having had a past subscription.

Continue on to page two for our exclusive interview with Cryptic's Marketing Director, Ivan.

This article was originally published on Massively.