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Captain's Log: Six months of Star Trek Online

Ryan Greene

Grab a party hat and some confetti, because it's time for an extra-special edition of Captain's Log. This week, we put aside recent tribble-ations in favor of some celebration: Star Trek Online is six months old!

Can you believe Cryptic Studios' STO went live half a year ago? This Monday marks the big anniversary, and it sure has been a bumpy ride getting here. Awash in new content, and occasionally mired in controversy, STO is older and wiser now. So let's scoop up the sands of time with our beach pail of reminiscence, as we fondly recall the past six months of STO.

Hello, worlds!

After a whirlwind development, Cryptic released STO on February 2nd, 2010. Players and Star Trek fans received the game with roughly equal parts rejoicing and weeping. The developers at Cryptic had gotten a lot right. Blasting Klingon (or Federation) scum in starship combat was joyous. The final frontier looked glorious. And the abundant fan service, whether recalling the original series or more recent fare, felt wondrous.

Unfortunately, players and onlookers alike soon noticed that STO suffered from some glaring deficiencies. Most missions consisted of shooting enemies in asteroid field after asteroid field. Exploration and diplomacy were rare and meaningless. Crafting was weak and uninspired.

And the Klingon Empire was a mere shadow of its supposedly glorious self. Even as developers promised more factions to come, the Klingon faction had been saddled with PvP-only gameplay and severely limited starship options.

Enter Season 1

In hindsight, STO's release sounds rougher than it seemed at the time, at least to me. Despite the flaws, the game was stable and enjoyable. And the addition in early March of the game's first raid episode, The Infected, started opening up the endgame a little bit. But any way you sliced it, content was pretty thin.

Then Cryptic released Season 1, the game's first major injection of content, and things really got poppin'. Season 1 hit live servers in late March, bringing with it a bevy of improvements, including respecs, new uniform options, PvP interface upgrades, new fleet actions and some PvE content for Klingons.

More importantly, the speedy introduction of Season 1 showed that the developers could back up their promises. Executive Producer Craig Zinkievich had gushed about big content additions right from the start, and Cryptic's people clearly meant to deliver. In just a few months, STO had expanded with new missions, updated crafting and a host of other features.

What's new

Speaking of minty-fresh content, let's take a quick peek at a few of the features the developers have rolled out over the past six months. Of course, any such list absolutely must include the epic, occasionally delayed Season 2 patch, Ancient Enemies, which finally went live this week!

  • New executive producer -- The sudden departure in July of STO head honcho Craig Zinkievich took the galaxy by surprise. I didn't see it coming, and as far as I know, we still have no serious explanation for it. But Daniel Stahl, formerly a producer on STO and now the boss, has the game well in hand. Stahl's promotion brought with it a renewed focus on improving the existing game and an indefinite (and extremely wise) hold on the development of additional factions.
  • New level cap -- With its introduction this week, Season 2 lifts the level cap from 45 to 51, allowing players to reach the rank of vice admiral. Considering the developers have used admiral, rear admiral and now vice admiral, I wonder how many more admirals they can come up with before having to invent new naval titles. Arch Captain? Supreme Captocrat?
  • Crafting changes -- In May, Cryptic overhauled Memory Alpha and the sorry excuse for crafting with which the game had launched. Now dubbed Research and Development, the system for making kits, weapons and consoles offers a genuine sense of progression, though it's still not one of STO's more exemplary features.
  • Difficulty settings -- Cryptic's introduction of advanced and elite modes to STO was one of the smartest things it's done in the past six months. No longer is the game (always) facerollably easy -- I lose fights quite often now, really -- and the greater risks bring greater rewards.
  • Ship interiors -- Players have clamored for this for a long time, and the folks at Cryptic actually deliver in Season 2! On the Tribble test-server event over the weekend, I got to stroll about hallways, a lounge (sans bartender, strangely), engineering and my very own quarters. I even swung by sick bay for my six-month checkup, too!
What needs work

STO has come a long way, blossoming from a fun, thin game into a funner, fuller MMO. Nevertheless, certain areas definitely still need some attention.

  • Ground combat -- It always amazes me when I encounter someone who enjoys the non-starship portions of STO, because I find ground combat so gruelingly painful. The developers have done a fabulous job overhauling certain systems, such as commodities missions and Memory Alpha, so I can only wait and hope this one's next.
  • Klingons -- Season 2 introduces some nice PvE content for Klingons, but the faction still lags wayyy behind the Federation. Stahl's emphasis on improving current factions over adding new ones is exactly what we need, but I don't want to wait another six months before the Klingon Empire feels like more than a hastily conceived afterthought.
Massively on STO

With guides, interviews and more, we wear our love for STO on our sleeves. Please enjoy Massively's wealth of STO knowledge, and be sure to read Captain's Log every Thursday!

What's to come

I know it's a horrible cliché, but STO has a very bright future. Sure, the naysayers love to say nay, but the folks at Cryptic keep moving right along. Seasons 1 and 2 have changed the game's landscape dramatically in the six months since STO went live, and I expect much the same from Cryptic in the next six months.

After today's release of Season 2, I have absolutely no idea what comes next for STO. But I sure look forward to finding out!

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