Captain's Log: There's no space in Star Trek Online

STO Solar EV suit
Being away from a game you love can be both a curse and a blessing. The past couple of weeks I've been cursed with a flu that made it virtually impossible to play any game, let alone Star Trek Online. I've been back for a day or two now, and I've had the opportunity to check out some of the tech that has been pushed into the game since I fell ill. One of the new efforts is the ship-swapping system recently implemented into Star Trek Online, and I have to say, it's a great tool that might be the victim of the game's number one problem: lack of inventory space.

There's no space in space

The newest system to be injected into STO is the ship-swapping system. The tool allows players to switch ships on the fly as long as they are in a public zone like sector space or spacedock region. Essentially the player brings up his character screen and clicks on the "Switch Starship" button and moves into one of his other ships.


STO Ship Swap
Each ship has been granted two separate "loadouts." Additional loadouts can be purchased for each ship (they are not account-wide unlocks, nor do they unlock for all ships on a single character). A player can purchase up to a maximum of 32 loadout options per vessel. A set of 10 loadouts currently costs 500 ZEN. A loadout allows a player to set up a complete set of weapons, gear (like deflectors, engines, etc.), consoles, bridge officer layout, active duty officers, and devices for the ship.

A player can set up a loadout for his ship by clicking on the "Manage Loudouts" tab on the ship character screen. The player is asked to name the load-out, and then he can create the setup he desires, even down to specializing in certain enemies. Once he saves the loadout, it can be recalled and triggered on the fly.

STO KDF Sci Destroyer
But the real problem with the new system isn't with its ease-of-use; it's the fact that every time a player swaps a loadout (which can be done once every minute), the items that were used in the previous loadout are placed into the player's inventory. The items can be pulled from any storage area (bank, inventory, or even other ships), but once the loadout has been switched, the items that differ between loadouts all end up in the player's inventory.

Since my Chimera has 23 slots for items that can differ, this would be an insane tool to use. If I wanted to set up my ship to be a Borg-killer, I would swap out all my weapons and at least three pieces of gear. I would also switch out at least half my consoles. But once I was done with my Borg missions, I would likely return to my general load-out or maybe even my Voth load-out. The moment I switch to a new load-out, all of the items that change (again, up to 23 for my Chimera) would end up in my inventory.

STO Beth Inventory
Here's a picture of my main's inventory to illustrate why I won't be using ship loadouts. My inventory is currently filled with specialized tribbles, vendor trash, and commodities I've collected in recent missions, items like power cells and regenerators that I need for my reputation projects, battle pets, and a few weapons that I keep on hand to use if needed. At the time I took the capture, I had 10 open slots. If I used the ship loadouts as intended, I would likely fill (if not overflow) my inventory with the very first swap.

Until Cryptic devs come up with a way to increase my inventory and bank space, the new loadout tool is useless to me. I do understand why the studio decided to use the inventory as a dumping ground. STO's Lead Designer, Al Rivera clearly stated in recent interviews that the team made the decision on purpose to assure that players would still have a reason to go to social zones to use their banks.

STO Beth Bank
That's all well and good for people whose banks are full of weapons and gear for their ships, but consider my own overstuffed bank as an example: I have no other room in my bank either. My bank is loaded with non-combat pets I've been awarded over the past four years. My bank is full of anomalies that I collect for crafting and that my fleet bank doesn't even have room for. My bank is full of ships I haven't unpacked because I haven't had the ship slots. My bank is full of commodities that I use in fleet projects. My bank is full of items like epohh tags, autographed Q pictures, ground weapons, and Romulan research reports. In short, my bank is just plain... full.

I might have a few consoles that could be moved back and forth for loadout options, but in the grand scheme of things, I don't have enough room to make loadouts a viable option for me. I don't even have enough room to buy weapons and gear that I could get in the fleet stores!

STO Step Between Stars
Until the devs at Cryptic and PWE learn that after four years I simply need more space and purchasable tabs of space in the ZEN store, any new tech that comes out that might soaks up the remaining spaces in my inventory is simply not going to be used. It seems like a no-brainer really. Sell more inventory! Let me buy tabs that allow me to organize all of the material I own. I'd love to have a tab for tribbles and non-combat pets. I'd love a tab for reputation items. I'd love a tab for fleet project items, and I would love a tab just for ship weapons and gear that would allow me to actually use the new loadout system!

Come to think of it, in writing this column, I've discovered that there's a lot of Star Trek Online that I haven't played at all simply because there isn't enough room for the stuff I could get if I did play it. Isn't that counter-intuitive for a F2P game? One would think that this is an avenue of revenue generation that would have come before the loadout tool.

It's rare when I say that I have money in my wallet that I would love to spend on a better inventory management system, but that's exactly what I'm saying now. I hope that Cryptic and PWE figure that out before too long. 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.