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Captain's Log: The great skill cap debate

Kyle Horner

There's a lot of unrest over on the official forums concerning Cryptic's choice to add a skill cap to Star Trek Online. As of this writing the thread containing the meat of this discussion is well over 6,000 replies and 111,000 views. As I look through this arguably epic thread, the primary question that continually crosses my mind is: Really, this much upset over such a minor piece of news?

Yes, I said minor.

I'm not saying there's absolutely no reason to be annoyed over the announcement. Cryptic's timing of the news was not ideal, and they certainly need to do a better job at informing the community about changes coming to the game. One occurrence is excusable -- it's a mistake and those happen -- but too many more of these mishaps and it quickly becomes suspect. But as a rational person I can certainly understand that running open beta and preparing for launch can cause something like this to happen.

However, the timing is the worst part of this whole thing.

Star Trek Online having a skill cap isn't worth getting so upset over for a lot of reasons. Every other MMO has some kind of end-game cap or if they don't it's nearly impossible to ever learn every skill available. Take a game like EVE Online, which has no discernible skill cap but also requires that you learn skills in real-world time. You can play as much as you want, but that high level skill is still going to take several weeks to complete -- and that's just one skill. The huge time requirement is a skill cap all its own, in a different form.

Some people have been asserting that Cryptic is only doing this to make more money on paid-for respecs. Okay, let's assume Cryptic is a videogame company that wants to make money. Are you imagining this in your head now? Good, so now how are they any different than Blizzard for charging 10 bucks for little in-game pets that do nothing for your character on a substantial mechanical level? They're not any different, or any worse than every other MMO developer out there trying to find ways to sustain these expensive games. If the prices and quality/quantity of content comes into question, then I'll become concerned.

Let's not forget respecs will be obtainable within the game as well, although currently we don't know when or how this is going to be implemented. Cryptic could add it the day after launch, the week after launch or perhaps later -- but we just don't know yet. I choose to be optimistic on the matter, however.

The reality is that STO is no more or less the game it was before this news. On Early Start day (tomorrow!) I'll be creating my Federation character with loving attention to detail, rolling through that chaotic-yet-enjoyable tutorial and have a lot of fun while doing it. Then, I'll begin my adventure towards Lt. Commander and my first new ship. Is the new skill cap going to change my game experience from Ensign all the way up to Admiral? Nope, not in the slightest. And it won't affect any other person's journey to max level either, because a skill cap is non-consequential on the journey to end-game.

The fact that a player can't learn every single skill after weeks of playing is pretty much a moot point. Such a player wouldn't even be possible until way into the end-game, and by that point STO is likely to have other things for said player to do. This is why I'm confused over all the upset. Nothing is really changing in the grand scheme of things. The game is still the same, so why all the puffed up cheekery and arm thrusting?

Enter the Star Trek universe with Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online. From hands on reviews of the early levels and space combat, through noob questions and developer interviews, we've got everything you need to know about the game trekkies are dying for. Check out Massively's Star Trek Online page for the latest!

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