Captain's Log: Star Trek Online year in review, part two

STO Tholian header
As 2013 gets underway and before Cryptic Studios and Perfect World Entertainment begin hinting at upcoming material due out for Star Trek Online's third anniversary next month, I'm taking the opportunity to go over the past year in the game. It's a great time to sit down and be reminded of just how much transpired in the last 12 months.

Last week, I barely scratched the surface of what happened in Star Trek Online during 2012, but I was able to touch briefly on some of the minor changes that occurred with user-generated content tool, The Foundry. Join me while I continue my look back on what 2012 brought to STO!

STo Tholian ground battle
Season Six Tholians

It's hard to believe that only six months ago, Cryptic released Season Six, which contained the new fleet starbase system and the Tholian ground map. Much of the new material that was released during Season Six became the basis for what was also released later in Season Seven. The majority of players in the endgame had been waiting for something new to do. While many players truly love the Featured Episodes and were hoping for more of them, it became quite clear from interviews with STO's Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl, that the devs would be placing more energy into content that could be replayed numerous times. Featured Episodes, while they did advance the story-line, weren't typically replayed once the unique rewards were obtained.

Enter the Tholians. Prior to the release of the new season, endgame consisted of pretty much, well... nothing. Some endgame players dabbled in PvP. A few others rolled new characters in order to re-experience the story of the game. Still others played Foundry missions or became more active in fleets with new players in order to assist them.

STO Tholian Commander
The new Tholian ground map clearly signaled to the playerbase that future endgame content would be, in a word, different. The map is actually two separate ground maps that include an above-ground area and the subterranean caverns below. Each level offered players a choice of six different missions: two easy missions that could be completed as a solo player, two medium-difficulty missions that were best for two or three people, and two high-difficulty missions that were designed for a solid five-person team.

The Tholians were the spark of life in an endgame that had been floundering for the year that preceded its release. It also became clear that the new material would be but the foundation upon which Cryptic would build for the release of Season Seven.

STO KDF Starbase
Season Six fleet starbase system

Along with the release of the Tholian ground maps, Season Six also brought with it another piece of the endgame puzzle. Fleets were the real beneficiaries of the Season Six patch. Suddenly it became awfully important to belong to a fleet, when before the release, a fleet didn't offer any added benefit except its social value.

An entirely new mechanic in the game (and ultimately the framework for the reputation systems released in late 2012) allowed fleetmates to work together in order to supply and build their own starbases. Fleet members were able to earn individual points that they could spend on top-of-the-line gear and weapons in the fleet's starbase store (once those stores were unlocked by construction).

However, smaller fleets began to suffer. They just didn't have the personnel capable of building a starbase as quickly as the larger fleets, and while their members were earning a ton of personal fleet credits, they were unable to spend them in their own stores. Many small fleets disbanded when their membership dissipated and went looking for greener pastures that had stores with the items they wanted to buy. No real resolution has been found for this dilemma, especially on the KDF side, where small fleets appear to be suffering even more.

STO STO panel at Vegas
Viva Las Vegas

On the heels of the Season Six release, I was honored to represent Massively as one of the co-hosts of the formal STO panel at the official Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. Joining STO Community Manager Brandon Felczer were Cryptic's Daniel Stahl, Jesse Heinig, and Thomas Marrone, all of whom talked about the future of the game and took questions from a very enthusiastic crowd.

The team shared screenshots of what was then new material from the Season Seven release and also dropped hints at material that might be seen in Seasons Eight and Nine. They fielded questions on most every topic, from changes to The Foundry to Star Trek lore and ship-modeling. All in all, it was an extremely successful event and I remain hopeful that we'll see the Cryptic team again next August when the convention returns to its new home at the Rio Suites and Casino.

STO Mirror Universe ships
Speaking of ships

Those of us who collect ships in STO were not at a loss for new vessels this past year! However, what we may all be facing is an extreme shortage of garage space. This year brought a whole mess of new starships from the Odyssey class, to the "loaded-with-bear" Armitage. Canon ships were available in the C-store, while enemy faction vessel remained a top reward in the game's notorious lockboxes. The KDF got to see its own new flagship, a behemoth called the Bortas class. Mirror universe variant ships could be also be found in lockboxes.

As mentioned above, the new fleet starbase stores began to offer new fleet versions (enhanced capability) of most of the vessels already produced. It seems we will continue to see this trend in to 2013 as well. As reported a couple of weeks ago, STO Lead Designer Al Rivera has already stated that players will see no less than nine new ships released into the game before the end of February 2013. So, does anyone have a place I can put all these new shinies?!

Next week, I'll complete my year-in-review and go over the release of Season Seven and the new reputation systems and the introduction of not just another new ground map but an entire sector's worth of new missions. 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.