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Captain's Log: The Gospel of Tribble

Brandon Felczer
Brandon Felczer|@bfelczer|June 16, 2011 7:00 PM
Captain's Log, Stardate 64959.3...

Hello, compu... what the... shields up, red alert! Brace for impact! A giant Tribble is on the loose, and its name is Season Four. That's right -- the Star Trek Online public test server, Tribble, sometimes nicknamed the Trouble with Tribble, has finally reopened with the major update that we have all been waiting for. This build was first pushed last Friday but was taken down moments later due to a "major database error." The show-stopping kinks have been worked out now, so it is time to get to testing out all of the new content I have been writing about for the past couple of months.

If you have not seen the release notes for this build, there are dozens of updates that will be altering the way you have come to play the game. Not sure what to test? That is what I am here for. The goal of this week's Captain's Log is to provide you a checklist on what to hit up once you patch your game and get on your test toon. Also, if you have never installed the test server, now is a great time -- Cryptic will soon be announcing a Tribble Test Weekend, during which you can log in and receive an exclusive item on the live server just for helping test.

Ensign, warp 10! Let's share some text from the word of Tribble...

Ground combat 2.0

First and foremost, it's time to lock and load your favorite ground weapon and head into some explore missions in your favorite star cluster or nebula. Due to the complete overhaul of the ground combat system, there will be a lot to get used to. Not only has every single weapon had a tune up either graphically or statistically, but each has gotten an audio pass. I would recommend getting every ground weapon you own out of your bank so you can test each one out on the enemies you encounter. Your favorite weapon for your favorite playstyle may be completely different, and you will want to find your new groove before heading out to a Special Task Force or PvP match.

While experimenting, make sure to check out the updated options menus. Due to the implementation of the new shooter mode (activated by the N key), there are new options that need to be set to your preference. By default, you can use your mouse buttons to fire your powers -- a left click will fire your primary weapon power, while the right and center will fire your secondary and melee attack, respectively. While in shooter mode, instead of needing to select a target, you can drag your mouse around to fire at multiple enemies. Due to this mode, there have been updates to the pace of combat; critters will be easier to kill, but commander-level enemies are much more powerful and will require some strategy to defeat.

One update that I see adding more realism is the ability to hide behind a tall object to break the line of sight of an enemy that's targeting you. Along with the mentioned ground combat updates, most kit powers, innate captain abilities and grenades have been also fine-tuned (utilize the R and T keys to cycle through these powers if using the new mode). Every ritual you had before when going into combat is going to need some tweaking, so make sure to read the tooltips, updated stats, and explanatory texts as well as the detailed notes on the changes. It is important to note that the RPG mode that we all have had a love-hate relationship with is still available to play in and is just as effective with the new changes.

The Borg, version 1.5

Just when you thought their assimilation tactics couldn't get any worse, the Borg have seemed to adapt (finally!). Before you run your next Borg STF, make sure you use your ship's replicator to make you a new Frequency Remodulater, as the Borg now adapt to your weapons on a per-player and energy type basis. The new device will allow you to clear the adaptation. As always, make sure to stay away from any Drones that have the ability to use an assimilation debuff on you. In the past, this debuff would drain your health while you were randomly rooted and held; this time, the Borg are not messing around, as "assimilation" will now cause you to become a drone and begin attacking your allies. It's nasty stuff! And it gets worse: The Borg are also now using personal ground shields. All I have to say is good luck!

PvE queue system

Grab a few (or up to 20) friends and test out the new PvE queue system! This UI, accessible via the drop-down arrow on the minimap, allows you to start a private, password-protected Fleet Action with customized level and support settings. Have no friends and don't want to fly three sectors away just to join a Fleet Action currently in progress? Good news! You will also be able to queue up for a new instance, or one in progress, and be instantly transported to the action. Must be some new type of technology, right? At this time, the only Fleet Actions that are available to test are Breaking the Planet and Halting the Gorn Advance.

The new Klingon homeworld

Next, jump on your Klingon toon and check out your new digs. Qo'noS, in the wake of the updated Earth Spacedock, has finally received its long-awaited overhaul. Basically rebuilt from the ground up, the "first city" will be explorable inside and out. Dan Stahl recently Tweet-leaked the picture below, which features a flaming fountain located outside of the courthouse. Over the release of Season Four, missions will be hooked up to different NPCs there so that you can explore the city while earning experience points. This is also going to add a great deal of immersion for those wanting to roleplay on the Klingon faction (until now, the KDF faction didn't have the best social zone).

Character art updates

Visit your local tailor to update some of your character's uniform options. New uniform materials have made their way into the game; they allow you to give yourself a unique look by choosing between glossy and matte material options (as well as new skirt and boot options for your female toons). You will also want to take a look at the combadge options as they too have had back-end changes to their coding, changes which now allow them to be placed on almost any uniform. Play a Gorn on the Klingon faction? You are in for a treat! You have had a complete overhaul to your geometry and textures. While these do not update automatically, just visit the tailor for a complete makeover. Lastly, almost every NPC enemy and critter has received polishing in terms of art and costumes.

Behind-the-scenes updates

Season Four will also bring updates to the engine that STO is built on and supported by. Allowing for smaller patches and fewer data downloaded and stored, on-demand patching has been implemented. This allows player to receive packets of data in real-time while the game is being played. Stability updates to the Foundry will make using these tools a lot smoother with fewer bugs. While behind-the-scenes but directly in your ears, the Vivox voice chat integration has been turned on with the current build. As long as your permissions for this tool are turned on, hold down the B key to talk to members of your team or fleet automatically.

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. As you can see, you are going to be pretty busy testing out all of the new features coming to STO for Season Four! Some of them are completely game-changing, exciting, and life-altering (at least for your in-game toon). Please feel free to comment below with any bugs you do find, and I will make sure to pass them along to the devs. For those of you who do not have a sub, I hope you join me next week (Tuesday, June 21st, at noon EDT) for a very exciting STO Livestream, as I will be taking you through some of the changes listed above. Until next time, rid your ship of any Quadrotriticale as this Tribble is highly susceptible to reproduction.

Computer, terminate recording.

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Brandon Felczer transmits Captain's Log through Subspace right to your PADD every Thursday. Join him as he discusses the latest news, gossip, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Hailing frequencies are always open to his bridge through brandon@massively.com.