Captain's Log: Focus on the Foundry

The Foundry is Star Trek Online's user-generated content tool, one that allows players to create their very own playable missions in the game. Those missions also become available as content to the rest of the playerbase. It's a tool that differentiates STO from most other MMOs and encourages fans to expand on the universe of STO and Star Trek in general. Join me as in this Captain's Log, I focus on the Foundry, some of its missions, and the community that keeps it going.

Foundry gives Trekkies a voice

One of the more frustrating things about being a Trekkie and a Star Trek gamer is the inevitable disconnect between a fun game and the show's core mythos.

For example, Star Trek has shown the positive side technology can play in the evolution of humanity. Contrast that with most other sci-fi, which tends to reflect technology as evil or villainous. And in Star Trek, especially in later shows like The Next Generation or Deep Space Nine, diplomacy has always played a heavier role than combat.

This gives video games set in the Trek universe an innate disadvantage. Since video games tend to focus on combat to make them fun, Trek's focus on diplomacy and exploration for the sake of exploration is thrown out the airlock. That makes for quite a few disappointed Trekkies when they first log in to STO.

However, the Foundry has been able to provide a source for playable content in the game that caters to those who might find real enjoyment in a non-combat mission. Foundry authors have also been able to fill in the blanks on controversial story missions that are already a part of the official game.

It seems that Cryptic is also realizing the benefits of a happy Foundry community and has begun a fun new set of challenges that are similar to the writing-challenges that many quality fan-fiction sites utilize. However, instead of generating a short story, the challenge results in fun and playable content for the playerbase.

The diplomatic mission

One of the first purely diplomatic missions I ever played in STO was Return to Terra Nova by Kirkfat.

I am featuring this mission as a great example of two things: First, it's a mission that focuses on story and diplomacy, and second, it's a mission that relies heavily on a singular episode of Star Trek (in this case, the Enterprise episode Terra Nova) and expands upon it. Many of us in the Foundry community call this "touchstoning."

Return to Terra Nova sends a player's character out on a mission to re-establish contact with the former Earth colony, which has sent out a distress signal. If you saw the episode that introduced us to the Novans, you are already aware that the colony suffered horrible losses of life after an asteroid crashed into the planet and caused radioactive poisoning to many of the colonists. However, their children and a few adults survived, and their descendants regressed societally and eventually created a new pre-warp civilization. Captain Jonathan Archer makes contact with this group, and let's just say, things don't go very well.

Kirkfat's ingenious spin-off of this episode places the player's character right into the middle of a Prime Directive pickle, something Archer himself didn't have to worry about because the Prime Directive didn't even exist when he was going out and exploring. Consequently, Return to Terra Nova shows exactly what one possible outcome of Archer's appearance may have had on the colonist's descendants.

Return to Terra Nova could never be made by Cryptic, and not because it's not a good mission. It's a great mission! But it doesn't have any combat. Nothing! Not one gun is ever whipped out, and no one is shot. It has a lot (and I'm not kidding here) of reading to do. This is definitely a mission that would benefit from the ability to add a voice-over because while I love to read, I also know a majority of players loathe it.

If you're up to wading heavily into Star Trek lore and diplomacy, give Return to Terra Nova a try!

The filling-in-the-blanks mission

I'm a pretty big fan of the writing in STO. Christine Thompson, the lead writer at Cryptic, has shown herself to be extremely talented and versed in the Trek mythos. However, everyone misses the bullseye every now and then, and the early in-game mission titled Divide et Impera has developed a rather notorious reputation for enraging most Trek players and even a few players who aren't as familiar with Trek.

While trying not to give away spoilers for anyone who has not yet played Divide et Impera, I can only say that the mission places the player into a situation in which he knowingly begins to follow orders from an Admiral that are clearly (and I can't stress that word enough) in the wrong. Essentially, the player becomes a war criminal. There's just no other way to say it. He murders a lab full of innocent Romulan scientists at the behest of an Admiral who ends up being more than meets the eye. The toughest part of playing this mission is that there's no possible way out. The player can't simply do the right thing by refusing the order and challenging the Admiral's sanity by way of a court martial.

It's a video game, I know, but I personally felt dirty playing the mission, and while I can skip it with most of my alts now, it still annoys me that there is a mission I just feel bad about playing.

Enter the Foundry to the recue. Havraha's mission Rema Donna was written as a follow-up to Divide et Impera, and I think shows another advantage to the Foundry: the ability to expand on the universe within STO. In the new mission, the player is put into a position of having to pay for his failure to save the innocent Romulans at the hands of one of the scientist's family.

I won't give too much more away, but if you've played Divide et Impera, you owe it to yourself to play Rema Donna.

New challenges

STO's Community Manager Brandon Felczer has begun challenging Foundry authors to create Foundry missions using prompts that he creates on the STO forums.

The first of these challenges has proven to be very popular, and while I have only been able to play one mission in this list, I wholeheartedly recommend that you do yourself a favor and play at least a few of them. It's a great way to earn the dilithium reward for playing three Foundry missions, but it also provides a player a great idea as to the vast and varied talent that can be found in the Foundry.

The single mission from the list that I've been able to play is Risian Sunset by Soriedem. He took the basic challenge motif (the player's captain is on his way to shore leave on Risa when a diplomat is murdered) and made a very fun murder-mystery with a great pew-pew aspect to it.

I am hopeful that more challenges in the future will put a spotlight on the Foundry and its authors to show the STO playerbase that there are some fantastic missions to play, something that many people are looking for, especially at endgame.

To find any Foundry mission, simply click on the Starfleet delta, click on the Available missions tab, and click on the Community Authored tab. It's easy to find a specific mission by selecting the search tab and choosing Custom search.

Until next week, live long and prosper!

Incoming communique from Starfleet Headquarters: Captain's Log is now transmitting direct from Terilynn Shull every Monday, providing news, rumors, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Beam communications to terilynn@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.