STFs: A brief overview
For almost the past two years, Star Trek Online
players who've reached level 50 have had the ability to play a choice of daily missions to earn expertise and dilithium. These missions include the Orellius Sector dailies, a dilithium mining mission, Eta Eridani dailies, cluster explorations, the Foundry mission wrapper, a few fleet actions, and finally, the Strategic Task Force missions. STFs are to Star Trek Online
what small raids or skirmishes are to other MMOs; they require a solid five-captain team to complete. With the exception of fleet actions and The Vault shuttle raid, all of the other daily missions can all be completed on a solo basis.
Well, over a year ago, STO
implemented a reward system to the STFs that was both exciting for some players and mind-bogglingly frustrating to others. That reward system included the highest-level gear and weapon sets one could obtain in the game. It also left to random chance a player's ability to obtain those extremely rare items.
As a result, a formidable contingent of players stopped playing most other content and focused solely on playing STFs. It was not uncommon to hear that people were playing the STF missions hundreds and hundreds of times in order to obtain the gear. In doing so, the team unwittingly created a clique of sorts: a union of STO
players who played the eight available STF missions and nothing else.
The removal and reinstatement of the dilithium reward
Since the creation and implementation of dilithium into STO
, it has been a constant reward for the completion of an STF. If players couldn't rely on getting the very special MKII drop, they could at least take comfort in the fact that they'd receive a substantial grant of dilithium as well as other minor drops in the missions. STF grinders were able to make well over their daily refining limit with the completion of just a few STF missions.
This dilithium reward was used for more than just buying ships, gear, and other items in game. Since the release of Season Six's Fleet Advancement System, much of that dilithium was used by players in donations to their fleet construction efforts. When Season Seven launched and the dilithium reward was removed from the STFs, there was an loud cry from the STF crowd asking for its reinstallation. Many players believed they were being punished for focusing solely on playing STFs and were now forced into playing other content that rewarded dilithium if they wanted to donate to their respective fleets.
The cries were heard. Within 30 hours of the new Season's release, the team published a blog post stating that dilithium would be re-implemented by the end of the week. The amount of the dilithium rewarded has been reduced from the previous levels, but STFs remain the only missions currently associated with a reputation system that award any dilithium. As far as I am aware, the Task Force Omega Reputation System still does not require any dilithium to advance. The only dilithium required in either reputation system is for the purchase of gear, weapons, and consumables that are unlocked by advancement.
The Reputation system's bizarre downside
It's no secret that I love the new content created for the Romulan Reputation system. In contrast to those who prefer to do nothing but STFs, I prefer anything but STFs. I love that Season Seven has provided me with a lovely choice of numerous space and ground missions to undertake in order to earn marks toward my progression with the faction. Yet what I find quite odd was how unbelievably easy it seems to get those marks.
From what I understand from those who play STFs, it's also quite easy to earn both Omega Marks and Borg Neural Processors to advance with Task Force Omega. That ease seems to give both systems a possibly unintended downside: A player now has an excuse to walk away from the game for a days at a time.
Even though the previous incarnation of STF-play was entangled with a luck factor, many players of the STF missions felt that at least there was a reason
to play the missions hundreds of times. With the implementation of the reputation system and the current reward levels, that reason appears to have dissipated significantly.
In my own personal experience with the Romulan Reputation system, I earned 120 Romulan Marks in my 5.5 hours of play time on one day. I undertook one session of Tau Dewa patrols for 60 Romulan Marks and a few sessions of ground missions for an additional 60 Romulan Marks. I then began my Reputation projects immediately, and they went into the 40-hour cooldown period. Those two projects required a total of 26 Romulan Marks, leaving me with 96 unused marks that I can't use again until my project cooldowns are up. Then I can begin the projects again without needing to play for more marks. It's very possible that I will not need to log back into the game except to start my reputation projects for another 7.66 days
I'm not so sure this is what Crytpic had in mind to get players to spend more time in the game. Sure, I could jump into the game and start hoarding the marks, but to what end? I'm now feeling as if I want to save any unplayed content for when I really need
to play it. It seems like special material that needs to be preserved until I need
to go play it in 7.66 days.
Next week I hope to touch upon some of the changes that have occurred in the Duty Officer system as well as any other changes to the Reputation systems that might be forthcoming. Until then, I'm going to keep packing for my long-awaited vacation... which, ironically, starts in 7.66 days! Live long and prosper everyone!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.