Captain's Log: Our Star Trek Online year in review plus a look ahead

STO Tholian EV suit New romulus
As I took the time to really go over the past 12 months in Star Trek Online, I began to realize just how much the game had changed between this time last year and now. While some people will never be pleased, I can't say I'm one of those people. I'm utterly delighted by most of the changes in the game and am looking forward to the expansion of the reputation system into 2013. With that said, however, there are improvements that Star Trek Online still needs if it wants to quell some of the harshest (and sometimes deserved) critiques.

Join me as I finish up my year in review and then touch on some of Executive Producer Daniel Stahl's answers to player questions in this month's Ask Cryptic post.


STO Romulan DDeridex
So where did I leave off?

Oh yes, Season Six and ships. That leads us directly into the last big thing that happened in 2012: the release of Season Seven and the new personal reputation system. Much of the new system's foundation had already been constructed during the Season Six implementation of the fleet starbase system. In the new Romulan and Task Force Omega reputation systems, players were given access to new user interface panels, which allowed them to pick a few personal projects and then fulfill the project requirements by earning reputation marks from Strategic Task Force missions as well as from missions that became available in a huge new sector of space.

The Tau Dewa sector is by far the largest single playable expansion the game has seen since its launch in 2010. It includes 17 new star systems, 13 of which have playable space missions that reward Romulan marks. The main attraction is the new ground social map found on New Romulus, which can be found toward the center of the sector. That map contains several zones where players can undertake a selection of short, menial tasks to earn additional marks.

STO New Romulus D'Tan
Once a player earns enough marks (and other required commodities) to input into the new UI panel, the player can unlock the next tier in that faction's reputation system. Achieving the next tier not only unlocks the ability to earn weapons (via undertaking another project) but it also unlocks a playable full-length mission as well as a cut-scene that provides the player with new revelations in the tale behind the New Romulus colony.

All of the new material In Tau Dewa is easily playable on a daily basis, much like the daily missions the playerbase was accustomed to in the Breen/Deferi-based Orellius sector. It's just that there is now more reason to replay the material in Tau Dewa, as there are multiple rewards for achieving successive reputation tiers. We have to wonder whether we will see such an expansion of missions and possible conversion to a reputation system in the Orellius sector in the future. To borrow a phrase from Spock, I'd say it seems only logical.

STO Reman settlement on New Romulus
Looking ahead

The past year has been one of enormous change in STO, and yet there is still a lot that needs to be addressed. Issues that have plagued the game since before its free-to-play conversion have been set aside and virtually ignored while the teams at Cryptic expanded and began to focus on providing the endgame material discussed above.

As the game forges into 2013 and is staring its third anniversary in the face, Cryptic will be expected by many players to finally pick up some of the pieces that were left hanging when the F2P conversion took place. Chief among those is the fleshing-out of the game's second faction, the Klingon Defense Force.

STO Gorn on QonoS
In the most recent Ask Cryptic post from Daniel Stahl, he was once again asked whether The KDF will see any attention in the upcoming Season Eight tentatively scheduled for a May 2013 release. In response, Stahl said that while the KDF will be "getting some love in Season Eight, [he] can't discuss the scope of it yet." He promises that more news and previews will be forthcoming as the release nears and revealed that he "believe[s] that Season Eight will be a positive release for the KDF."

And the Klingon faithful sit back with a heavy sigh and renew their perpetual look of what the heck does that actually mean? Does this mean the KDF will actually get some structure on which to hang some targ hides, or is this just another way of saying that the team is really nowhere near to being able to give the KDF the content it deserves, that the team is just hoping that we'll be ever more patient while it decides what to do with the mess it created? Either way, it looks as if we'll all be forced to wait until Season Eight to find out just what he means by "positive release for the KDF."

Another Ask Cryptic query highlighted a recent trend in cooperative PvE missions where some players have taken to entering a zone and then going AFK, thus obtaining the mission rewards and credit without ever having to put in any effort. While the question attempted to rationalize that such immature behavior was somehow as a result of to the increased need for commodities in the game, Stahl did say that the Cryptic team is discussing possible technical solutions so that players will be rewarded based on their actual participation in missions.

STO USS Annan
Yet another persistent question was posed: When will we begin to see gameplay that highlights the "true" Trek spirit? When will players be allowed to use their brains and explore new life and new civilizations, instead of just shooting people all of the time? Stahl's answer was intriguing. While good news for Foundry authors, it's bad news for everyone else: It appears that future "officially" created exploration missions may never be seen.

Stahl stated that the devs have "poured significant resources into creating procedurally generated random space encounters" and still the game "never quite feel like the Trek [players] are talking about." He stated that said realization was the reason Cryptic created the Foundry -- "so that players could author missions that are much more genuine and offer something new." Fortunately, he revealed that there is a plan to "marry the Foundry to a solid Exploration concept where [players] can be rewarded for exploring new sectors of randomly (but player created) strange new worlds." In fact, he says, "That is the basis of what [the team] want[s] to do with Exploration in the future." (Emphasis mine.)

STO Nanov on New Romulus
This was a bit of really big news to me. We had always thought that Crytpic and Perfect World Entertainment had bigger plans for Foundry missions, but we were never really sure how player-created content would be integrated into the overall game. Well, now we know. I'm not so sure I'm opposed to this idea at all. I've always thought that Foundry missions had some of the best storytelling in the game, and the authors really do deserve to have their missions played by the greater playerbase. However, there are still quite a few "stinkers" out there, and the thought I'd be assigned to a poorly written/created mission at random really doesn't appeal to me at all. I'm going to watch the evolution of this idea with a skeptical eye.

Stahl answered a lot more questions too, so be sure to read the article linked above. All in all, in 2013, it looks as if we're going to see two more really "BIG releases." I have no idea what Stahl means by that, so it looks as if we're going to find out together! 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.