New featured episode
Let's start with the most recent featured episode introduced into the game. Called Sphere of Influence, the mission involves the player being invited back to New Romulus to witness the power-up of the Iconian gate that he helped discover. Upon arriving, the player is informed that Klingon Ambassador Worf is also there to act as a consultant. Worf has had prior dealings with Iconian gates, and sure enough, when the player is introduced to the Ambassador, he will hear actor Michael Dorn's voice.
It's truly one of the best and most Trek-like missions in the game. It was hard not to feel like an integral part of a bona fide Star Trek television episode, and Dorn's characterization of Worf is a big reason for that perception. Worf comes across as knowledgeable, strong, and commanding without being disruptive to the player's experience as the main character.
I highly recommend stopping and smelling the roses as this mission is played. The visuals are too amazing to just run through without appreciating them. Sphere of Influence is simply some of the best story-telling the game has to offer. The story also seamlessly leads directly to the new content we're expecting in Season Eight.
This week many of us were actually a bit surprised by the press release that was issued by Perfect World announcing Season Eight: The Sphere's release date of November 12th, 2013. I have received word from Lead Designer Al Rivera that there will not be a formal Tribble test weekend, but Cryptic will still award players with a new Tribble. Rivera informed me that the award will be a Solanogen Tribble (inspired by the solanogen-based beings from the most recent featured episode) but he did not have any information on the potential buffs the tribbles will provide. To that end, it's always wise to monitor the game's website and Massively for any late-breaking news.
Some other great news came out with the Season Eight release date. During a recent livestream of gameplay then subsequently posted in the game's forum, STO's Community Manager, Brandon Felczer mentioned that a new beta for Mac users will also be released on November 12th. This will make a lot of people very happy as I know many that have postponed playing the game or have made use of alternative shells in order to play the game on their Macs. Additional information about the new Mac beta is forthcoming!
For those who might not be aware, the term "featured episodes" came about during the early life of STO when Cryptic used to release sets of connected missions on a weekly basis a couple of times a year. Upon completion of the series, the player would receive a unique item that was only available for a limited time.
The practice of releasing featured episodes in this manner quickly fell by the wayside when Atari decided to sell Cryptic Studios, and as businesses are apt to do when they need to look "lean and mean," put the kibosh on spending. Star Trek Online languished in a content drought for a year until the developer was purchased by Perfect World.
While most of us would still like to see the episodic (or even epic) nature of the game be more persistent, after the purchase the developers were forced to focus on easily re-playable content for level-cap players to chew on while they put in an all-out effort into the game's first expansion, the Legacy of Romulus.
Specters, the Devedian series, will once again offer the Ophidian Cane, which works on its own or in tandem with the Triolic Pattern Enhancer. The Romulan-skewed Cloaked Intentions series awards a very rare Reman science bridge officer. A DS9-inspired series called The 2800 will offers players The Shard of Possibilities. Finally, the Cold War series featuring the Breen will reward players with a Breen tactical bridge officer.
Last Chance Lockboxes, Lobi and the new challenge of completing console sets
As has become tradition when a new lockbox is being phased out (like the Elachi boxes will be), all previous incarnations of the lockboxes will begin to appear as drops again and offer their own unique potential rewards. The last chance promotion ends when Season Eight begins on November 12th.
That's about all for this week. I expect that next week the Captain's Log will contain a lot more information about the pending release of Season Eight, so until then, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.