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Captain's Log: It's speculation time in Star Trek Online

Captain's Log: It's speculation time in Star Trek Online
Terilynn Shull
Terilynn Shull|@TerilynnS|September 23, 2013 3:00 PM
STO Caspian FSB
It's that time again, folks: that time when the Star Trek Online playerbase begins to get edgy as we wait for new stuff. It's that "quiet time," although it's never truly quiet at Star Trek Online -- not in the forums, not in the game, and most definitely not at Cryptic Studios.

However, we're also at that crucial point in the cycle of content releases when the dearth of real information is all too obvious. So what's a player to do until the next Featured Episode is released? Well, dwell on the teasers, of course! So join me past the jump and we can speculate together on what we will and won't be seeing in the upcoming FE and Season Eight.

STO S8 Teaser screenshot
Let's begin with some of the news

Last Friday STO Community Manager Brandon Felczer posted the weekly screenshot. As seen above, the shot is very blurry, and by comparison to most environments in STO, it also appears very ethereal and ominous. Felczer confirmed in the follow-up thread on the forums that the scene was taken from the upcoming Featured Episode that allegedly carries the STO story from the Romulan Iconian gate plot into the Voth's Dyson sphere tale we are expecting in Season Eight.

However, something else was tucked into that same thread that I'm not sure many people saw and I thought it was intriguing. Many of us expected the Featured Episode to be released by now -- or at least by the end of September. It appears that won't be happening, but the reason may not be the sign of doom the naysayers insist on seeing. Felczer stated,
"The Featured Episode that will be coming out pre-Season Eight will not be out this month as originally thought. While it could easily ship this month, we're working to add something special to the episode that requires a little more time. You will start to see a few teasers about the episode here and there as we lead up to its release, starting with screenshot that is linked in this thread."
And here's where the speculation sets in. What on Earth could "something special" mean? It could be anything really, or maybe even nothing! However, the majority of people with whom I have spoken seem to think it will be a bit of new gameplay tech (like we saw in Boldly They Rode), a special guest voice over (as we've heard with Denise Crosby), or maybe even a new and unusual reward. Whatever the "something special" is, it looks as if we won't know until October at the earliest.

STO Revaik's warbird
CaptainGeko answers a few questions

Also posted late last week was a small blog from Lead Designer Al (CaptainGeko) Rivera. In a format similar to the Ask Cryptic blogs from Executive Producer Daniel Stahl, Rivera takes on a few questions selected from those posted on the game's forums. The news wasn't particularly Earth-shattering, but some of it was interesting.

Rivera seemed to be most confident about the probability of upcoming set bonuses to ships in the game. While the devs are considering a visual overhaul to a couple of older ships, it appears that the creation and sales of new ship sets is a given.

It's really no surprise that at some time in STO's future we're likely to see the level cap rise to 60 (Fleet Admiral), where it will probably stay. A player by the name of atatassault asked Rivera whether when the cap is raised we'd we see an influx of Tier 6 ships; Rivera was actually quite blunt and said it was unlikely we would see Tier 6 ships because "making players' [previous] ship purchases obsolete [is] something [Cryptic wants] to avoid." Rivera intimated that the devs were tossing around ideas of how upgrades to the current slate of Tier 5 vessels could be handled. He said it might include use of play time and/or ZEN or "maybe something completely different."

STO Caspian FSB floor
The Foundry is not quite dead

I know, it never really was dead, but there's no denying that the user-generated content tool known as the Foundry has been the victim of virtually every potential disaster. The tool suffers from long shutdown periods after ever major code push, sometimes lasting two weeks or even three months. Since we've been seeing regular content pushes to the game once every four-to-five months, this has placed Foundry authors into the unenviable position of having unfettered access to the tool for only a matter of days or weeks before it's inevitably messed up again by a new patch.

Making matters worse was the the months-long brouhaha of exploiters taking advantage of a poorly implemented Foundry reward system right before the push for the Legacy of Romulus expansion, which again took the Foundry tool offline for a significant amount of time. It was so frustrating that many players thought that the Foundry would never recover.

STO SBUGC Purity Project
While some new assets to the tool have been added, the never-say-die Foundry community has fought tooth-and-nail to remain a cohesive and viable part of the game. In spite of the months of frustration, this week members of an outside Foundry group known as StarbaseUGC have announced that they are creating their own series of "Featured Episodes" to be released into the game.

The series, titled Purity, will contain six separate missions that will be released on a weekly basis beginning on Tuesday, October 1st. The missions are all a part of a purely independent and collaborative effort on behalf of the community-based group.

I had the opportunity to talk recently with one member of the group, Drogyn1701. We briefly discussed the fact that more than a few naysayers believe that the Foundry is akin to "doing Cryptic's work for it." Seeing as though the group is collaborating on a six-mission series, I wondered whether or not the group might be playing into those ideas. But he outright rejected that thought process and said that the group is made up of like-minded, creative Star Trek fans who wanted to do something "bigger." He seemed very excited about the fact that the group was getting so much attention because he was hopeful that it would draw more players to the Foundry and see it for the asset to the game that it is, not as a replacement for the official content that has been coming out regularly from Cryptic.

STO Beth at Caspian FSB Bar
I have to say that I'm personally happy to see a new influx of creative work from the Foundry community. I encourage all players, not just those associated with StarbaseUGC, to see what new and great missions can be created so they can be enjoyed by all players.

Finally, as many of you have probably already noticed, the little button for the Redshirt server reappeared on our client late last week. This usually means that we will begin to see new beta content being pushed to the Tribble server in the near future. However, the most recent patch notes revealed that much of the new content consisted of science ability changes and alterations.

If you are a Gold Member and have never beta tested new content for STO and would like to, hit the official site to learn how to download the Tribble test server. The appearance of the Redshirt server still means that Season Eight material will be forthcoming; we just have no clue as to how far in the future that might be.

Hopefully we'll learn more and get more teasers for upcoming content in the next week. In the meantime, if there's a subject you would like me to take on please send me an email! (Before you send a mountain of emails asking me to ask about bugs, I will tell you Cryptic's answer has been and will likely always be, "We try to squash bugs with every patch.") 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.
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Captain's Log: It's speculation time in Star Trek Online