Some games, Star Trek Online included, have integrated what are known as reputation systems into their games. Reputation systems are meant to keep players participating in repeatable content, allowing them to apply the currency received from that play to obtain select items and unique rewards.
There can be a big downside to these systems. The fact is they can become pretty boring to those players who appreciate more variety in their gameplay over a prolonged period of time. So when a player gets used to a new game by following a very distinct path of story-based quests, only to be left at level cap for months with a small menu of repeatable missions in order to earn better gear and weapons, it can seem like a bit of a let-down. It's what is known as "grinding," and there isn't an MMO out there that doesn't have some form of it.
But there is an actual upside to this type of gameplay, and I know the purists are going to hate me for saying it, but here it goes anyway: Short, repeatable missions are far easier for most "casual" players to undertake, enjoy, and complete. The untapped market for MMO developers isn't the 12-hour nose-to-the-screen MMO player. They're already playing all the games, that market's pretty tapped out. No, the untapped market consists of those who come home from work and have a whopping 30-60 minutes to get a little game action in after dinner and before they go to bed. They simply don't have the ability to commit to long raid runs or extended small-team missions. So easily repeatable missions allowing them to blast a few Tholians before they battle nightmare-induced mortgage bankers or little Susie's anthropomorphized orthodontic bills in their sleep is a pretty handy stress reliever.
If there's one thing everyone can agree on, it's that it always seems better to begin an MMO after it's been growing for a couple of years. That way, when a player does reach endgame, there's simply more repeatable content from which to choose.
There are currently four personal reputation factions in Star Trek Online (by contrast, there are almost 30 in Lord of the Rings Online). They are the Romulan Republic, Task Force Omega, Nukara Strikeforce, and Dyson Joint Command. Since all of these systems work in the same way, I'll go through the basics and then delve deeper into a couple of idiosyncrasies.
The reputation system can be accessed in STO by bringing up the character screen (either the small outline of a bust in the upper right corner of the mini-map or by pressing the letter "U" on the keyboard) and clicking on the reputation tab.
The main interface will appear, and a player can select which reputation system she would like to use by clicking on the desired faction on the left hand side. Once a faction is selected, the overview of the player's standing with the faction should appear. A player can complete five tiers of reputation with each faction. At the completion of each tier new, items, gear, weapons, and (with certain factions) playable story-based missions or cutscenes will unlock.
Projects and donating
A player advances in reputation by playing select associated, repeatable missions and earning marks and other forms of currency. These marks can then be donated to projects. Projects are the tasks that must be completed for each faction.
The system allows for two projects and one upgrade project to run simultaneously. Regular projects usually require players to donate a mix of that faction's marks, expertise, commodities (like astrometric probes or seismic stabilizers as seen above), and consumables (like hyposprays or shield batteries). Once the required number of each item has been input, the project will automatically enter into its cooldown phase. For the time being, most of the basic projects in STO have a 20-hour cool down.
When a player completes (upgrades) a tier, she also unlocks the ability to slot new projects that will reward her with upgraded gear and weaponry. These projects are not required to be completed; they're merely a means to obtain the gear. I know many people who bypass obtaining the Mark X and Mark XI gear from the projects so they can utilize their hard-earned marks to continue progression in the reputation thereby reaching Tier V more quickly, then concentrating on slotting projects that allow them to get the much-desired Mark XII gear.
Upgrade projects are a bit different; they typically serve two purposes. The first is a project that can be slotted when a player reaches the end of a tier. Completing the upgrade project (they have a 15-minute cooldown) unlocks the next tier's progression bar as well as a new passive skill. Players are granted a choice between two different passive skills, one of which typically offers a boost to an offensive capability while the other increases a defensive skill. The second type of upgrade project can be slotted at any time and allows a player to donate marks in trade for dilithium. While that project also advances the player's reputation on the progression bar, it does so only negligibly.
Processors and Implants
Two of the game's factions, the Borg (Task Force Omega) and the Voth (Dyson Joint Command), have additional items that are required in order to obtain the high-end gear. Select Borg missions that are run on the elite setting will reward players with Borg Neural Processors. Specific Voth missions run on the elite setting will reward players with Voth Cybernetic Implants. Borg Processors can also be obtained as a rare drop in the same missions played on the normal setting, while there is a small chance that Voth Implants "will appear in Dyson Equipment Requisition Boxes."
These items can be donated to reputation projects that require them for the much-desired Mark XII faction weaponry and gear. To get a better understanding of how to obtain the marks, processors, and implants that are needed for each faction, simply click on the Info button at the top of each reputation system's UI and a list of all of the specific missions will appear.
If you're new to STO, there's actually quite a bit of material to be explored with each of the four factions. It's one of the best advantages a new player has to the game. Those who have played from the day it began got most of this content piecemeal and tore through it as fast as they could. So take heart! Sometimes it's a very good thing to be a new player! Until next week, live long and prosper!
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