OK, maybe not every developer, but one thing's for sure: The team over at Cryptic certainly uses the Winter Event in Star Trek Online to allow its silly flag to fly. The Star Trek Online Winter Event has incrementally grown bigger and wackier since it first began, and this year's festivities are no exception.
The eccentric Q
One of the best characters in Star Trek was Q, the self-important, quasi-omniscient alien who seemed to know everything about everything except what made humanity tick. He was a comedic and villainous foil for Captain Picard, a punching bag for Captain Sisko, and a befuddled mess of a moral convert for Captain Janeway. His son (also named Q, like everyone else in the Continuum), has followed in his father's wilier ways and has made himself a loveable pest to the captains in STO.
It's a great arrangement. Not unlike Q in the television series, Q in the game has become a means for the writers and developers to infuse the game with something, well, different. Need to have the Borg appear so captains can fight endless waves of cubes? Bring in Q. Need to have a built-in excuse for the familiar look to some of the NPCs? Bring in Q. Need to have a player act like a rat in a maze? Bring in Q. And it's that rat-in-a-maze thing that brings Q out every holiday season for STO.
This year sees the return of the foot races that were introduced long ago, the first event being the Fastest Game on Ice. This race has a player running around a slick and winding track of ice, usually against an NPC that appears at the beginning of the race. The NPC isn't a very difficult opponent to beat, unless of course the player slides into a precarious position and can't recover; the race is simple enough to repeat in case that happens. A player is awarded 40 8x10 autographed glossy photos of -- who else -- Q himself. If a player collects 1000 of the photos, he can obtain the new Breen Plesh Brek heavy raider starship (shown above).
Last year players had the opportunity to obtain the Breen Chell Gret warship. It was nice to see that the warship ship is also offered again this season, allowing players a choice of prize ships. It's also possible to obtain additional glossy photos of Q by buying them from a Ferengi merchant at the center gazebo of the holiday festival area. A box costs five Lobi crystals and may contain between two and six photos each, a steep and ridiculous price for anyone who would dare consider using only Lobi to obtain the photos. It's much easier to just run the race once a day and use Lobi crystals only as a means to supplement when you're just a few photos short.
Added to the event last year and returning again is the new PvP race called Fast and Flurrious. The race runs at specific intervals during an hour-long period and rewards players who complete the race without going off-course with epohh tags. The tags are used just as they are in the Romulan reputation system and can be used in select duty officer missions that breed and raise the rabbit-like epohh pets. The tags can also be traded into the unit at the gazebo in exchange for gold-pressed latinum.
Also returning this year is the popular Snowball Fight where snowmen placed around the event area come to life and attack players in the zone. Players can fight back with strategically placed snowballs or purchase and use one of several different snowball weapons. All players who participate in the recurring battle are awarded with an amalgam of winter items, like Vulcan incense, Andorian sleigh bells, and Bolian candles. All of these items can be traded at the Ferengi merchant for ice boots (boots that allow a player to slide on most any surface as if it were ice), cosmetic items such as winter coats and scarves, and snow weapons such as snow blowers or mortars.
New this year to the Winter Event are a couple of special games. The first one is simple and repeatable. It's also kind of gross (at least to me). The pie-eating requires players to eat as many pies as possible during the time period allowed. It's not a difficult thing to do, and the player is rewarded with a sliding scale of tradeable items when it's complete. I would suggest to players that they might benefit from turning off the sound-effects for this one, though. The noise of players slurping dozens of pies gets a little disturbing after a while.
Finally, the newest event in the game also happens to bring a huge smile to my face. It should come as no surprise to those who know me that one of my favorite missions in the current PvE queue is a repeatable quest called Colony Invasion. I like it because it's a ground mission, but it's also fast, fun, and easy.
Imagine my glee when Q re-skinned the mission into a cartoonish gingerbread village filled with gingerbread cookie citizens under attack by "sugar-hating snowmen." The mission also contains another homage character -- namely, a very Bumble-esque yeti who gets a bit cranky when his cave is disturbed. Players who complete the mission and take down the final snowman beast receive a present that contains an assortment of festival trade items.
The map is scattered with candy piles and packages that award players everything from health boosts to recipes that can be traded in the event area to "bake" winter foods that provide additional buffs or can even be fed to a tribble to create a Winter Tribble device.
I am loath to admit that during the first STO Winter Event, I blew a gasket when I saw the obvious homages to Star Wars in the game. However, time has passe,d and the prevalence of light-saber bat'leths has waned. I'm so used to the devs coming out with homages at this time of the year that I've learned to lighten up and laugh whenever I see them, so much so that I really have to say the Gingerbread Village Invasion has become my new favorite event.
STO's Winter Event continues now through the server update scheduled for Thursday, January 16th, 2014. So there's plenty of time to collect those pictures of Q if you start now! Until next week, live long and prosper!
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