Captain's Log: A new perspective on STO's endgame

STO
For a veteran Star Trek Online player, it can be very easy to get mired in the game's seemingly soulless endgame. From restricted (time-gated) play to lackluster PvP to grinding strategic task force missions and dailies, sometimes it's difficult to find reason to log in at all, let alone on someone else's schedule.

There are always a few options, however. Of course, these ideas aren't going to be everyone's cup of raktajino, but they're a start, and I want to take some time to discuss two possibilities that may help to provide a distraction while we all wait for fleet starbases, Tholians, and Ferasan (the new cat-like species to be released for the Klingon faction).

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The Foundry

Yes, yes, yes, The Foundry again. Sure, I've written about it before, and I'll be writing about it a lot more in the future too. Why? Because it's a vital part of STO. Recently there's been a lot of concern posted in the STO forums over a recent statement made by Executive Producer Dan Stahl in the United Federation of Planets interview from March 2012.

He was asked whether there was any plan by Cryptic to continue remastering some of the game's older missions as the studio did with Stranded in Space and The Doomsday Machine. His answer? "We will continue to do this where it makes sense and where the return on investment is solid. We would also like to see community authored Foundry missions take a more prominent role in the game, so you may see a combination of some remastered missions and some entirely new community missions replace some of our older content in the future."

As you can imagine, many people are taking the statement to mean that the developers have pretty much given up all hope of publishing new story-based PvE content and that Cryptic is now considering implementing user-generated content as a means to fill the demands for story-based missions while the developers concentrate on content that can directly generate revenue for the free-to-play game.

Personally, I'm not quite sure what it means. While I seriously doubt that Cryptic really intends to cease all officially written PvE missions, I haven't been blind to the fact that in recent weeks one of my favorite things in the game is beginning to get an awful lot of coverage from the studio.

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Three weeks ago, the Foundry-focused community-operated website Starbase UGC had several of its members create a video trailer advertising the Foundry. The trailer was posted on the front page of STO's website as well as on the enormously popular mother-ship of Trek sites, StarTrek.com.

The following week saw the first of the resurrected Foundry Spotlight missions. Alimac30's The City of the Polmar Ree was featured on STO's website along with instructions on how to access the mission. This week, the second spotlight features a Klingon faction mission called Federation Desperation by Maziken. A new Foundry Spotlight mission will appear every Friday, and they will alternate between the Federation and Klingon factions.

The Foundry has provided me with some of the things I've been missing at endgame, and that's PvE missions with a bit of story behind them. Some missions are not very well-written, and some lack a story to follow in the first place. Some missions were created for those who like pure pew-pew and can scratch an itch in that regard. Others are merely social zones where a player can hang out in a player-created area with up to four friends. Still others are fairly short and simple "patrol" missions that are remarkably similar to the cluster missions that can be found in the game.

Whatever the future holds for the Foundry and its authors, right now it can be a great way to spend some time at endgame while we wait for Season Six and beyond.

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A fresh perspective

Another way to kill some time while waiting for new content is, of course, rolling a new character.

I don't expect this to be an answer for everyone, especially those who don't want to shell out the $6.25 US for two character slots. However, for those who haven't created a new character recently, especially since the game's F2P conversion, I have to say it's a very viable alternative to endgame.

Although I have many alts in the game, I had not created a new character since before the F2P launch. As such, I found myself rather frustrated with the few alts I had that were caught up in the F2P conversion pickle. This is a phenomenon whereby an alt that has already completed certain story-based missions before the F2P launch is precluded from taking on any more due to new level requirements.

I ended up with two Commander-level alts that could not undertake any new missions until they reached the rank of Rear Admiral. Suddenly, I was trying to find a way to earn 15 levels without having access to episodic missions, and consequently, those alts sat, quietly and alone, for a very long time.

Recently, I was also personally challenged to look at the game as if I were a new player. The only way I could do that was to start from the beginning. Let me tell you, it certainly has given me a fresh perspective on the game.

Not everything is perfect -- far from it. But I can honestly say I think this game is actually more fun if you are a new player now than it was when the game first launched.

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I created my new character, Tessa, six weeks ago. I was able to put a few serious all-day efforts into leveling, but most days I would be able to play for about three hours.

Yes, leveling is fast, especially if the duty officer (DOff) system is utilized from the moment it becomes available and if any skill bonuses are used.

I also used many of the "legacy unlocks" that I had available in the C-Store. Immediately my character had access to the Red Matter capacitor, the automated defense turret, the chromodynamic armor, and a few tribbles that I had earned over the past two years. I was also able to access the duty officers I had been awarded by using the test server during the F2P test events.

All of these extras seemed to add to the speed with which Tessa was able to level, and she reached level 50 last weekend. However, since she did level so quickly, she still had at least 10 story-based episodic missions in her queue and still has not unlocked any of the Breen daily missions, nor has she done a single set of endgame dailies.

It's a very unique perspective to be a level 50 character with quite a bit of endgame material still to do.

The early use of the DOff system definitely added layers of complexity to the game I wasn't able to experience the first time around. Also, surprisingly, she had already earned about 100,000 dilithium by the time she reached Vice Admiral. She earned it merely by partaking of the lore missions, the cluster Explore Strange New Worlds wrapper mission, and from rewards for using the aforementioned DOff system. It was enough to outfit her VA level ship with a few high-end weapons.

Is rolling a new character the answer for everyone who's bored with endgame? Of course not. It's probably not the answer for most people. However, if you're looking for a fresh perspective on the game, you might want to give it a try.

I would love to hear what other ideas you might have that make endgame a bit more entertaining for you. I look forward to reading your comments. As always, 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.