“Good group.” Words I never thought I’d say during an Open Beta and with a PUG none the less. But that was what I said the other day after a particularly harrowing space fight. Open Betas have become synonymous with Free Day at the Fair. When the barrier to entry is nonexistent, everyone shows up. It’s worse than hosting the holidays; at least I’m related to most of those people. I have to say though, thus far the in-game chat and forums (other than official forums which are always full of bile) have been surprisingly civil and upbeat for STO’s open beta, which is a refreshing change.
Onward and Upward
Beta programs are an interesting time in the development of a new game. What used to be a time for testing is now more of a PR/marketing endeavor and a game’s opportunity for a first impression with the public. Typically the development team is testing server loads and how to handle the huge influx of players. In STO though, major changes to the gameplay are occurring from the closed to open beta and beyond.
It is this beta player’s opinion that the game has undergone some incredible changes over the last few weeks. The space combat has been sped up and refined to create a much more responsive and dare I say more fun environment. The UI for the space travel/combat has also undergone significant improvements. The way in which the weapons are fired is now more intuitive and user friendly.
Grouping in beta, are you kidding me?
STO isn’t the first game to include public quests or other mechanics to get players to work together. I would say though that the system works very well so far. Zoning into a mission can land you into a group automatically where everyone works together to defeat a common foe. The missions are fairly straight forward and it’s in everyone’s best interest to take out the enemies. There isn’t much actual teamwork required, just aim and fire. I’ve been surprised by two social impacts of this system. First, in general chat players are actually recruiting for group quests and seeing things like “Meet at the Bhea System for anyone interested” is not uncommon. Secondly, the grouping is easy and fun. And if for some reason it isn’t, you can just leave. No questions asked. I’m sure there is some ass-hat quotient out there, but thankfully they aren’t playing when or where I am.
Away Team Away
One of the common concerns discussed in the previews and forums is the ground combat. The improvement in the land-based combat is noticeable thus far and the AI for player’s away team is significantly better. The science officer routinely boosts my shields back up now where he used to be off picking daisies when I needed him. If Cryptic can continue these significant improvements, we’re in for some fun planet side.
Don't make me pick you for a red shirt dude...
Variety is the spice of life.
One aspect of the game that has been improved is the layout for the various skills. The hierarchy for skill progression was confusing, but now it’s easy to see which skills lead to the path players will ultimately want to take. The skill tree is very well done, and offers up an amazing amount of options. I can see myself spending a lot of time evaluating the different career pathways. Can you smell that? It’s article foreshadowing, meaning I see an article about this in my future.
It’s hard to tell if we are in that honeymoon phase for a new game or if people are genuinely excited and will stick with it. I upped my pre-order from a standard edition to the digital deluxe just from my excitement level during beta. I’m known to get caught up in the hype, but I have to say that I’m enjoying my time in the game. I can definitely admit that I was disappointed yesterday when the servers were down.
Whether or not Cryptic can keep the pace of improvements is yet to be seen, but they have to be burning the midnight oil thus far. It’s not all roses either, there are still plenty of issues for their team to grapple with. Here’s to hoping for continued progress.
We’ve had a few threads on the forum about early thoughts during the open beta, and I’m going to start one that focuses on just the changes we’ve seen during the process. What have you seen from closed or early open beta that has changed for the better (or worse?)?