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Captain's Log: Star Trek Online's Sphere of Influence, Season Eight, and reruns

Terilynn Shull, @TerilynnS
November 4, 2013
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Just ask the Massively writers and they'll agree that writing about a specific game is a lot like chasing the tide; information about a game comes and goes in waves. It's been no different with Star Trek Online, but now the tide is rolling in. A lot is happening in Star Trek Online: release dates have been announced, a new beta Mac platform is coming, the new featured episode is live, old featured episodes have a rerun promotion, and a lot more is on the way, so let's just jump in because the water's fine!

New featured episode

Let's start with the most recent featured episode introduced into the game. Called Sphere of Influence, the mission involves the player being invited back to New Romulus to witness the power-up of the Iconian gate that he helped discover. Upon arriving, the player is informed that Klingon Ambassador Worf is also there to act as a consultant. Worf has had prior dealings with Iconian gates, and sure enough, when the player is introduced to the Ambassador, he will hear actor Michael Dorn's voice.



STO Ambassador Worf Sphere of Influence

The development team at Cryptic was able to get Dorn to undertake the role once more for the episode, and his voice lends the mission an amazing amount of authenticity and even gravitas. Without giving away too many spoilers (heck, the screenshots will do that, and all of the screenshots used here were taken from the mission), I think it artfully incorporates at least three Star Trek episodes into the game's lore. It also has me trying to get over the heebie-jeebies I got from hearing the creepy clicking noises originally heard in The Next Generation episode Schisms.

It's truly one of the best and most Trek-like missions in the game. It was hard not to feel like an integral part of a bona fide Star Trek television episode, and Dorn's characterization of Worf is a big reason for that perception. Worf comes across as knowledgeable, strong, and commanding without being disruptive to the player's experience as the main character.

STO Examination table
I also need to mention that it's also one of the most visually stunning missions I've ever seen in the game. There is a point during the mission when the player must traverse an expansive region of the alien's station. The pathways lead from platform to platform, each assumed to be a transport gate to the planets featured at each one.

I highly recommend stopping and smelling the roses as this mission is played. The visuals are too amazing to just run through without appreciating them. Sphere of Influence is simply some of the best story-telling the game has to offer. The story also seamlessly leads directly to the new content we're expecting in Season Eight.

STO Sphere of Influence New Romulus platform
Speaking of Season Eight

This week many of us were actually a bit surprised by the press release that was issued by Perfect World announcing Season Eight: The Sphere's release date of November 12th, 2013. I have received word from Lead Designer Al Rivera that there will not be a formal Tribble test weekend, but Cryptic will still award players with a new Tribble. Rivera informed me that the award will be a Solanogen Tribble (inspired by the solanogen-based beings from the most recent featured episode) but he did not have any information on the potential buffs the tribbles will provide. To that end, it's always wise to monitor the game's website and Massively for any late-breaking news.

Some other great news came out with the Season Eight release date. During a recent livestream of gameplay then subsequently posted in the game's forum, STO's Community Manager, Brandon Felczer mentioned that a new beta for Mac users will also be released on November 12th. This will make a lot of people very happy as I know many that have postponed playing the game or have made use of alternative shells in order to play the game on their Macs. Additional information about the new Mac beta is forthcoming!

STO Sphere of Influence Expanse
Featured Episode Reruns

For those who might not be aware, the term "featured episodes" came about during the early life of STO when Cryptic used to release sets of connected missions on a weekly basis a couple of times a year. Upon completion of the series, the player would receive a unique item that was only available for a limited time.

The practice of releasing featured episodes in this manner quickly fell by the wayside when Atari decided to sell Cryptic Studios, and as businesses are apt to do when they need to look "lean and mean," put the kibosh on spending. Star Trek Online languished in a content drought for a year until the developer was purchased by Perfect World.

While most of us would still like to see the episodic (or even epic) nature of the game be more persistent, after the purchase the developers were forced to focus on easily re-playable content for level-cap players to chew on while they put in an all-out effort into the game's first expansion, the Legacy of Romulus.

STO Sphere of Influence Earth Platform
Each of the previous featured episode sets was melded into the game's leveling lore. Every so often Cryptic reruns the episodes with their original unique rewards. That time has come, and the featured episodes are loaded up with their special items.

Specters, the Devedian series, will once again offer the Ophidian Cane, which works on its own or in tandem with the Triolic Pattern Enhancer. The Romulan-skewed Cloaked Intentions series awards a very rare Reman science bridge officer. A DS9-inspired series called The 2800 will offers players The Shard of Possibilities. Finally, the Cold War series featuring the Breen will reward players with a Breen tactical bridge officer.

STO Sphere of Influence Captain Shon
The series rerun will also allow players to pick up a maximum of 15 Lobi crystals per account on a daily basis. The rerun ends when the server maintenance begins on Thursday, December 5th, 2013.

Last Chance Lockboxes, Lobi and the new challenge of completing console sets

As has become tradition when a new lockbox is being phased out (like the Elachi boxes will be), all previous incarnations of the lockboxes will begin to appear as drops again and offer their own unique potential rewards. The last chance promotion ends when Season Eight begins on November 12th.

STO Sphere of Influence Expanse earth
The lockboxes are the only way a player can obtain lobi crystals, which can be traded for unique items at the Lobi Crystal Consortium. The Consortium has become the newest (and most controversial) way for PWE and Cryptic to sell the final pieces of unique ship console sets. Console sets like the Tal Shiar Adapted set and most recently the Obelisk Carrier console set can be completed only if their sister ship is purchased in the Lobi Store. Currently those ships (and their desired consoles) are seemingly cost-prohibitive at 800 lobi crystal each, meaning many people will probably just go without finishing the console set until they go on sale or become available by another, less restrictive means.

That's about all for this week. I expect that next week the Captain's Log will contain a lot more information about the pending release of Season Eight, so until then, 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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