STO Fleet starbase conf table
The news is out! Lobi are now accessible account-wide! They're no longer bound to a single character! While I would love to be able to write an entire column about how happy the change has made me, I won't make our readers endure it, but it sure was a fun way to start off this week's Captain's Log.

The good news for some is that this week's column will be dedicated to the brand new players of Star Trek Online. This decision was triggered by an email I received from a reader who wanted to know how he could change his character's outfit without having to go to the tailor all the time. He was a very new player and was embarrassed to ask anyone else, and trusted I wouldn't make him feel a fool.

It was then I realized that there are lots of little things in Star Trek Online that aren't obvious to new players. While many of those things are second nature to me now, I recall with bitter clarity what it was like to be so new that asking a stranger for help was akin to playing Russian roulette. So join me past the break as I touch on what all those tiny little icons on the HUD mean.


STO Fleet starbase uniform history
A lot of experienced gamers might ask why I'm being so basic in this column. The fact of the matter is I'm going about this column in a manner I would have appreciated when I first started to play STO. I'm not young, as a matter of fact, I still have a bit of that "don't push any button on a computer screen unless you're absolutely sure you know what it will do" mindset. Anyone who remembers COBOL will probably understand.

I'm also well aware that many new players to STO and other MMOs are people my age and older and they're the least likely to go ask a stranger for help, especially one that might just end up just calling them a name or making them feel stupid. In other words, this column isn't written for the experienced gamer, it's being written for the people who've never tried STO before or are just now getting their feet wet.

Costume change menu
Character icon menu

So, how does a player change costumes on the fly? Simply right click on the character icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. A small drop-down menu will appear and one of the selections available is "Change Outfit." Just click on that and a list of all of the outfits available for that character will appear. Select the one you want and voila, a new look is achieved without having to schlep over to a tailor!

There are two more options available on that little menu. They are "Info" and "Set Focus." Info is what it sounds like: it retrieves a small panel of the character's data, including skills, points, and any biography that may have been written. Set Focus allows a player to "pin" another player, NPC, or enemy as a potential target. I know a lot of people who use this skill to assist them in the No Win Scenario mission; it allows them to track and heal the civilian vessel without having to search for, find, and reselect it over and over during the battle.

STO Mini map
Mini-map icons

To the right side of the screen the mini map is framed by a litany of smaller icons. Most of these are pretty easy to figure out once they are clicked.

The left column begins with the Beam/Warp Out icon which lets a player beam up to his ship from the ground or, if already in space, warp his ship from a zone or instance and into sector space. The small circle below it is the transwarp menu. New players typically have the right to transwarp to major home-hubs like Earth Spacedock or a fleet starbase right away, but the list of available destinations can grow larger as a player achieves diplomatic XP (most of which can be obtained in the duty officer system.) The strange little set of lines in triangular form under the transwarp menu is the scanner. Once clicked, the scanner will search for the nearest mission goal or, if there are no goals left, the scanner will search for any anomaly nearby; a beam of light will emanate from the player or ship and point towards the goal. Finally, the small icon at the bottom of the left column is the "hail command" icon; clicking this will bring up the mission log.

The top icon on the right column brings up the map (this can also be achieved by using the M key). The next button does exactly what you'd think: it opens the character screen. Below it are the Inventory, Mail, Social and Settings icons respectively. The big question mark icon is the Help button, and this is where a player can report bugs and request GM assistance.

The icons along the bottom are also pretty easy to figure out: The ZEN Store is where players can buy items using ZEN (which is purchased with cash on the game's website), the dilithium store is how players can buy in-game items (including weapons) using dilithium. The Duty Officer portal is next, and it is followed up by the PvE queue and Fleet Menu icons.

It's that tiny little triangle off to the right that seems to remain a mystery to many and I'm going to show new players just what's hidden there.

STO The catch-all down triangle
The catch-all downward-pointing triangle

That tiny little triangle holds a hefty drop-down menu of goodness that is never really addressed in the game's tutorial with the exception of a single mission half-way through the leveling process.

To begin, the first icon will lead a player to the Dilithiums Exchange. This is a portal where a player can buy and/or sell his hard-earned dilithium or purchased ZEN (formerly known as C-Store points.) ZEN can be used in the game's retail store to buy ships, consumables, duty officer packs, costumes, lockbox keys and much more. Dilithium on the other hand, is used for in-game for purchases at NPC vendors or can be donated to fleet-holding projects like the fleet starbase and embassy.

Have a lot of real cash and not a lot of time to play the game to earn dilithium? Sell ZEN and get the required dilithium crystals. Dying to get into that Scimitar but simply don't have the cash to get it? Play the game like crazy, earn the dilithium then sell it to obtain the required ZEN. Like all MMO economies, the rate of exchange fluctuates so the object should be to "buy low and sell high."

STO R&D menu
For those who might have actually started to play STO as a member of the Romulan Republic, it might surprise you to know that there is crafting in the game. The Romulan tutorial misses the subject completely. Although there are three consoles for crafting at the Romulan Command Center on Mol'Rihan, there simply wasn't anything that I experienced as I leveled my character that explained how crafting is done. Luckily, it's not that complicated. Crafting simply isn't a focus in STO like it is in other games. To be honest most of the top-of-the-line gear comes from other sources, but there are some really great high level ship-sets that can be made at the higher crafting tiers. All of this information can be seen (recipes and tier progression) by using the View R&D Progress button.

STO PvP queue page
Yes Virginia, there is PvP in STO! Not a lot of it mind you, but there is some. All eight PvP scenarios (four ground missions and four space missions) are available by clicking on the PvP queue button under the secret little triangle icon. Is STO hiding the fact that is has PvP? Most would say probably yes, as the queue icon is covertly hidden and also because PvP hasn't seen any love (upgrades, new tech, or new battle arena) in well over two years. Still, it's the best way to test out a new ship build or to take on your fleet buddies in a melee weapons-only scuffle on board an abandoned starship.

STO Odyssey bridge
Did you know that you had a bridge on your starship? It's not something that a new player would know, not until he reached the point in leveling where he was directed to go his ready room to review a report that was sent to him by a quest-giver. Most ships have a basic default bridge interior, but new ship packs tend to come with a new interior and many can be purchased as part of a set (like the TOS bridge or the DS9 Defiant interior) in the ZEN Store. Ship interiors also have their own Duty Officer assignments available that reward unique items and personnel. You can access your bridge by selecting "Visit Starship Bridge" from the menu. A starship interior can be changed by visiting a ship customization NPC on most major starbases.

STO Notifications menu
The remaining items on the list are useful tools like the music player and bulletins. The game credits can also be viewed there. But one of the most important items is "Notifications." Sick of seeing what player got a title for the No Win Scenario? Tired of the announcements of others who got a spiffy new ship from a lock box fly across the screen? Click on Notifications and change those settings! You can relegate flyover announcements to the chat box forever!

Well it was a long one, but I hope that some of our newest players (and readers) find this information useful. We're all still waiting to hear more about the upcoming Featured Episode, but until then, I'm going to be moving some Lobi from character to character and get my Romulan some new toys. 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.