Usually when I run these polls, the winning game is one that I haven't played. In this case, the winner is not only a game that I've played extensively but one I'm very fond of despite my long absence.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's time for a brief and not perfectly accurate recap of the game's history, followed by a set of polls and a couple of things I'm doing differently this time around. One of those things is not the bonus polls, if you were wondering. So if you've somehow missed the story so far, what's the deal with Star Trek Online?
For those of you who need a history of Star Trek as a whole, Wikipedia has you covered. The short version is that it's a long-running science fiction series in which people journey across the galaxy while stopping briefly to interact with pretty objects or people in makeup and jumpsuits. In other words, it's like Burning Man with a spaceship.
That doesn't capture why so many people like the franchise, of course. At its heart, Star Trek is a fundamentally optimistic series, something rarely found in science fiction. Even at its darkest moments, Star Trek posits that space is filled with wonders. Even when the show's science is deplorable, it celebrates using reason and cleverness to overcome ignorance and fear. Even when it's heavy-handed, it extols the virtues of negotiation over combat. It's a series about the best of what we can be as explorers and a drive to improve ourselves.
If you hadn't guessed, I really like Star Trek. I loved The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, I've watched each series in turn, and I can't wait for the next film to come out. And it's the sort of setting that lends itself very naturally to an MMO because there are so many ships in Starfleet exploring the galaxy and having their own little adventures.
That didn't mean the game was an easy development. Perpetual Entertainment started off with the license and spent 2004-2008 trying (and failing) to develop a game that people would actually want to play. (Eric Heimburg discusses a bit of that in this post and has said in later places that the released version finally got some things right that Perpetual never did.) When the game was finally handed off to Cryptic, it developed and released the game on a very compressed timeline, which resulted in some of the game's major launch woes.
And oh, there were woes. Even if we leave aside server stability issues and lag (you know, things that happen upon the release of every major game in the history of the universe), there were serious issues with the game's content. If you played a member of the Klingon Empire, you were expected to simply PvP at all times rather than getting any real PvE content, despite the fact that PvP was pretty broken. Items were buggy, assets were not properly loaded, and many otherwise simple elements of the game were explained with zero grace. That's all without mentioning the game's crafting system.
Oh, and I should mention that the game, like most MMOs of its time, focuses almost entirely upon combat. This is not a Star Trek game in which you have long intervals just arguing with your crew; this is a Star Trek game in which you are part of Starfleet's military and you do what is necessary.
Some people were very upset by this. I was not. The more character-focused Star Trek episodes don't lend themselves well to a video game, and the actual story-focused points of the game clearly called back to the Star Trek themes. Hence why I happily played up to nearly the level cap before circumstances drew me away from the game for an extended period of time. It wasn't a game I disliked, just one that fell off my radar as other obligations came to the forefront.
Needless to say, I had some surprisingly strong emotions on seeing my old character again, but that's neither here nor there.
Now that you've got some backstory and you know that I like the game, it's worth noting that I haven't played since a few months after launch. As a result, there's a lot of stuff for me to explore for the first time. So let's get moving in that direction, starting with basic character selection. I made the choices a bit more limited than the full list of races mostly because I didn't want the poll to be too cumbersome. Those of you hoping for a Bolian captain will have to get over your sorrow.
In addition, the poll is ending a little earlier than usual. In the past I've given myself polls that end right before I can start playing on Saturday, but this time I'm going to shorten the poll length slightly and start in on the game on Friday instead. With a little luck, this should provide a bit more time to really experience the game. If that fails, well, I'll find out soon enough.
So vote along below, vote early, and vote... well, just the once. You've got two days, and I'll see you next week with my first set of logs from playing the game!
Eliot Lefebvre has been choosing his own adventures for several months, but now it's time for him to head back to the front lines of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column where you make the choices about what our writer will be doing each week. Come back each Wednesday for a new installment and a new set of choices!