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Some Assembly Required: Directing your own Star Trek episodes with the Foundry

MJ Guthrie

To boldly go where no SAR has gone before... but not for a lack of trying, I assure you! Yes, folks, I have actually attempted to explore the topic of Star Trek Online's Foundry for Some Assembly Required on numerous occasions since this column debuted over a year ago, but I was thwarted each time. This mission generator, which offers STO players the chance to infuse the game with their own stories, has had a very rocky life; there have been extended stretches when the feature has been in, shall we say, a less-than-working form. Hopefully, that is all in the past now.

Luckily for fans of player-generated content, the Foundry has recently come back online. And with the revelations the in the July state-of-the-game letter and the recent Foundry Season 6 dev blog, it appears the system is getting some real attention from the developers. Soon players will have more tools and better customization to compose their missions and tell their own stories.

Do you have a story you want to tell? Keep reading for quick guide to the nuts and bolts of this feature that allows you to create your own bit of personal Star Trek lore.

Star trek Online screenshot
When the Foundry first turned back on, the developers apologized that only previously created missions were available. Of course, having access to these missions is a plus in itself; many of the missions are amazing bits of additional content, as a previous Captain's Log highlighting specific missions created by players demonstrated. But as much as some players want to play more content, others want to create it. Players like yours truly!

Of course, when it comes to exciting features that allow players to create their own content, I am willing to let bygones be bygones. So now that folks can return to the creation process, I beamed myself right into the game and started puttering around in the Foundry. The trick will actually be getting myself to leave...

Five Ws and one H
Good journalism remembers the five Ws and one H. Player-generated content is no different. OK, so we already know the who -- it's you! And why? Because you want to create a personal Star Trek mission for yourself, your friends, or the community at large, of course. You will need a what -- you know, the actual creative story you want to share, be it a diplomatic mission, a rescue, or even a massive combat zerg-fest. Whatever your angle, remember that well thought-out stories with details will attract more mission-goers (and likely result in more dilithium tips!). When is whenever you can wrest the computer away from everyone else so you can dive in and create. And where is easy: The Foundry. That leaves only the how.

Star Trek Online screenshotThankfully, unlike a previously discussed mission creator, STO's Foundry is available even to free players, so anyone can hop in and try her hand at creating a mission. Another difference in Star Trek Online's system is that you don't create the missions from inside the game as a part of gameplay; instead, you have to start building your mission on the character select screen. In fact, you have to actually build a dedicated Starfleet or Klingon Foundry character. As a free player, I had access to one Foundry slot, but the option to buy more is clearly labeled on the bottom of the screen. An important note: If you decide to delete your Foundry character, you do not lose your missions already created or in development! This is important because if you decide to change types of missions (e.g., stop making Starfleet ones and create Klingon instead), you will have to create the corresponding character.

Now these characters don't have much in the way of customization, but that is OK; you want the character to be your crash-test dummy for your missions. Once your character is set, you jump to the actual mission creation screen, a gray, partitioned area where you choose between working on a new mission or editing one already under development. The first thing you have to do when making a new mission is agree to a EULA for the Foundry. After that, you start filling in all of the details of your soon-to-be masterpiece. Squeeeeeeeeeee!

Story time!
The system itself is pretty self-explanatory once you log into it, with hints at every step telling you what is needed. Players choose to create dialogue, costumes, and maps for use in their missions using the tabs on the left of the screen. The project tab has an area for private author notes that won't be visible to the public when published as well as the statistics for that particular mission (like tips received and rating).

On the story tab, you start dropping features from the library into the center to start building the tasks your players will have to accomplish. In addition to naming everything, you can add animations and OOC comments. On the top of the screen there is a preview button, which pops you into your own personal holodeck for a preview. I have to say, just going into that yellow grid was pretty exciting for me! I even forgot about checking out my mission! In this preview mode, you have some editing tools available, but the bulk of them are back in the editor. More tools are available in the top left corner of the editor; there is a menu that includes copy, paste, undo, and other typical commands that may be very helpful during the process. Undo is my friend.

Star Trek Online screenshot
Another tidbit I want to be sure to point out is that players can work collaboratively with others to create a mission. If you have a better knack for creating environments and your friend is brilliant at storyline dialogue, the two of you can work together to create a masterpiece. To check shared missions, switch to the second project listing by clicking the tab at the bottom of the left-hand column.

For players wanting a more detailed step-by-step walk-through of the Foundry, there are a number of extremely detailed guides as well as some video tutorials. Personally, I prefer hopping in and experimenting from the get-go and figuring things out myself. And since the system is not overly difficult, it is quite feasible to avoid the abundance of details and just have at it.

Pulling out of spacedock
So you've been tooling around the Foundry a while and now you feel as if you can finally publish your work. Hit save and publish and watch your creation enter the game. (You yourself will have to relog into the game once you leave the editor, a feature I found odd but not problematic unless I spontaneously forgot my password). Congratulations! You have now added a tiny bit of lore to your Star Trek universe. Now you can sit back and watch as players experience your mission, possibly rating it or even leaving a tip, or you can jump right back in to creating a new story.

Star Trek Online screenshot
Once you are back in game, you might want to to play through one of the myriad missions created by players. I certainly did! Finding the missions, however, is not very intuitive. To access available player-created missions, click on the Hail Star Starfleet icon in the top right of your window right over that store button. Next, click the third tab across the top (Available) and then the third tab down on the left (Community Authored). From here you can review and choose player missions to embark on.

Bigger and better
Even better than the fact that there is a mission creator in Star Trek Online in which player creativity expands the available content of the game is the fact that the Foundry will be getting even better! So what things are coming soon to the Foundry? How about the ability for authors to create patrols, new behaviors, and more customization? Season 6 will also bring an improved UI, new maps, and new props.

If you haven't tried the Foundry yet, go ahead and give it a spin. Now's the time because things are just getting better. If you'd rather not take on the task of creating your own missions yet, enjoy any of the many missions already published by fellow players. I will readily admit that I haven't really played STO much since launch, but I got lost in the Foundry. Both making missions and exploring the missions of others tickled my love-of-player-generated-content bone. I applaud those games that offer tools to support it. So here's a round of applause for Star trek Online. May your Foundry runneth ever... but always be online!

Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!

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