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Captain's Log: A Star Trek Online 2014 wish list

Captain's Log: A Star Trek Online 2014 wish list
Terilynn Shull
Terilynn Shull|@TerilynnS|December 23, 2013 4:00 PM
STO Odyssey
We're coming up on 2014 and staring Star Trek Online's fourth anniversary right in the face. It's an anniversary that many naysayers said would never come. Next week I plan on taking a look back at the past year in Star Trek Online, so this week I thought it would be fun to prognosticate on what we might see in the year to come.

A few days ago, STO Community Manager Brandon Felczer wrote a blog post on the game's site, and buried within that post was the announcement that Cryptic and Perfect World Entertainment have slated another expansion for the game in 2014. The news was actually a bit surprising, and although there were no additional facts about what the expansion might entail, there has been a lot of speculation by the players. I am no exception to the speculation frenzy, so here's my own personal wish list for what I'd like to see in the upcoming expansion and other releases in 2014.

STO Sphere of Influence
Story, story, story

I might be beating a dead horse here, but if there's one thing I am, it's tenacious, and if there's any potential kick left in the horse, I'm going to will it to the finish line. Star Trek Online's first 50 levels for the Federation are replete with a consistent and intriguing storyline that somehow manages (in some cases just barely) to meld together the reasons the Federation is involved in a 12-front war. The Romulan story is far more personal and was released with the game's first expansion, Legacy of Romulus, earlier this year. The Klingon tale, while not as involved as the other two factions, certainly got an incredible facelift and actually contains some of the most politically powerful story in the game. But what happens after the player reaches level 50? Sure, there are a few story-based missions stuffed in as cheese-like rewards for finishing reputation tiers, but honestly I want more.

Many players are already champing at the bit for another new playable species for the 2014 expansion. While I would love to play a Cardassian fighting the True Way, I have to say I don't think the time is right for another new faction. Three is fine for now; what I would like is for the current three factions to continue to work toward the same goal from their points of view: to get to the bottom of the Iconian infiltration, thereby giving each faction another 10 levels of in-depth story progression.

Raise the level cap

There were rumors once that the powers-that-be at Cryptic would consider a level cap raise to level 60, allowing players to become Fleet Admirals. I'm all for this idea as long as there are a lot of story-based missions that would get players to reach that level. But there's a downside to this idea as well. Raising the level cap leaves everyone in the same position that we're in now, with a dearth of material to consume at endgame.

Any raise to the level cap would also have to entail a new source for endgame play. Also, having a Fleet Admiral would also be a bit odd without having an actual fleet which to direct. There were brainstorming sessions I've had the honor of overhearing, and one of the more unique ideas was that a player should be able to direct the ships already in his possession. But how exactly could something like that even work? What technological shenanigans would have to created or manipulated for us to command our own fleet?

I think that something like the current duty officer system might work pretty well. Instead of just ordering individual officers to away missions, a fleet admiral could also order his ships to explore strange new worlds. A system like that would also be another item that Cryptic could use in a more mobile way, allowing players to access their fleets via the Gateway system and order ships from there.

TLiss warbird
Speaking of Gateway

I have to admit I was more hopeful about Gateway's potential at the beginning of 2013 than I am at the beginning of 2014. It seems to have languished in beta and is just sitting and waiting for something useful to do. It currently only allows a player to access his characters and his ship stats as well as some basic information about his fleet. There's nothing really interactive about it. A player can't access the popular duty officer system (which is just screaming for mobile device accessibility), nor can he do anything with his characters, ships or fleet. It's all very nice looking but to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, there's not a lot of there there.

It seems as though Gateway either needs to be utilized or scrubbed entirely. Perfect World's recent public announcement that it will be moving into the console gaming world also lays perfect groundwork for consoles and could be a sign of a full-court-press into multi-platform gaming, allowing players to access any of their games using almost any device, console, laptop or desktop. The Gateway seems like such a natural progression into mobile access to STO that I have to wonder why it's been seemingly set aside unless PWE and Cryptic see a bigger picture than I do right now.

STO Ships of the Line
PvP and Foundry

Finally, I have to wonder whether PvP players will ever see any love in 2014. They certainly haven't for the past two years. Is it time for STO to seriously consider dumping PvP entirely from the game? I'm not sure. I've never made it a secret that I don't play PvP except for when my fleetmates know I've been drinking and talk me into a few skirmishes just to see me blow up constantly. However, I do know many people who use PvP as a means to test out their new ship builds and do find it fun. Honestly, I'm not sure if the genre has failed to thrive in STO because it was never really popular or because there was never any focused content for it. It really doesn't matter now; what does matter is what, if anything, will be done with it in the future. I like commitments, and I think Cryptic needs to make up its mind and commit one way or the other.

STO Romulan Colony landscape
The same goes with the game's amazing user-generated content tool. The Foundry has suffered for years in mediocrity, always waiting for the leftover scrap code from Neverwinter and still not quite finding its foothold in the game. This isn't to say the devs haven't tried; they've experimented with rewards for Foundry play which failed spectacularly. There's simply no reason for players to undertake a Foundry mission unless they're in it for the story only. It's a downright shame because some of the best, most Trek-like missions are located in the Foundry, and spotlight or not, they're just not getting the play they deserve. I have no idea on how this conundrum can be fixed; I can only hope that a more creative soul can find a solution.

Since I don't want to end this week's column on a down note, I am going to ask all the readers to post their ideas of what they would like to see in the expansion and content releases for STO in 2014. What would you want to see: A PvP overhaul? Story progression? A new playable faction? I'd love to read what you think we might see next year. 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: A Star Trek Online 2014 wish list