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5 Things to Improve Star Trek Online

Posted Mon, May 17, 2010 by jeffprime

I’ve been a Star Trek fan practically my entire life. I grew up watching the original series in syndication, and like every nerd of my generation, memorized every episode. I barely remember watching the animated series, and then rejoiced when they began making movies (especially Wrath of Khan). To further fuel my need for all things Trek, I began to read the comics and novels that came out. Eventually, other series came out, and though I did not like them as much as the original series, there were still some excellent episodes that I remember fondly to this day. So, when it was announced that Star Trek Online was coming out, I felt like I was in nerd nirvana. Finally! An MMOG that fully utilizes the universe of my second favorite TV show (Doctor Who is my favorite) was an answer to my gaming dreams.

Sadly, reality is a harsh mistress and Star Trek Online hasn’t lived up to my (and looking at the official forums, not many other’s) expectations, which I find to be a terrible shame. I think there is the potential for an extremely excellent MMOG that fully utilizes the Star Trek universe. To that end, I’ve compiled a short list of items that I think could enhance the gaming experience of STO and make players and Trekkies happy. (By the way, I know that a lot of people prefer ‘Trekkers’ to ‘Trekkies’, but I’m old school, so I’m sticking with ‘Trekkies.’)

[Note: Trekker usually refers to a fan that lets their love of the IP go so far as to affect their lifestyle, whereas a Trekkie is just an above average fan.]

More Interesting Missions
star trek online scanning picture
Scans reveal...boredom.
To begin, STO needs to have more interesting missions for players to undertake. I’ve had a number of missions where I beam down to a planet and have to scan a few objects to fulfill some narrative. My away team and I move around the planet and complete our scans without encountering any resistance or danger. Afterwards, we beam up to our ship with the mission narrative complete. What kind of mission is that? I can tell you…the BORING kind. There needs to be some kind of danger and excitement to jazz up the mission or else why am I playing the game? I know some people complain that there’s too much combat in STO, but my reaction is that you need combat to make the game exciting. If I wanted to do tedious scientific surveys for hours on end, I would play Boring Scientific Lab Technician: The Game! and not an MMOG.

One mission in particular really depressed me. I had beamed down to a planet and was told to scan a number of plants that were carnivorous and were extremely dangerous. I was even told not to get too close to the plants as they were dangerous. My thoughts were, “How cool! Man eating plants!” Sadly, I ran around up to each plant, whose graphic was of a stone pillar, and scanned them while nothing interesting happened. I would have been happy if my character had died by being eaten by a giant carnivorous plant because it sounds so cool, but it wasn’t meant to be.

There needs to be more interesting missions where, perhaps, man eating plants eat your away team or giant primitive aliens skewer your away team with gargantuan spears. Having one of your away team possessed by a malignant entity and you have to restrain him and find a way to destroy the evil presence. It’s not hard to come up with ideas, just look at about half of the episodes from the original series.

Less Instancing
While I’m a huge fan of instancing, STO takes it way too far. When I play an MMOG, I want to feel that I’m part of a huge community of players, but in STO, I do not. Beaming aboard a starbase, you only see a handful of people running around. The same is true as you travel through space to your destination. I know that with the instancing system Cryptic has, there are only 50 players per starbase and a few more per space sector. All this leads to the feeling that I’m playing a single player game. For $14.99 a month, I don’t want that feeling. I want to see a horde of people running around, doing things, and looking to easily group. I can’t imagine how hard it is for a Fleet to get together within a single instance. Plus, with less instances and the possibility of servers, you can see certain players more than once in a blue moon and you might actually start to group together on a regular basis. Seeing other players on a regular basis will lead to more group creation and Fleet creation, which all leads to a greater sense of community within the game.

Actual Planets and Locations
Another gripe that I have with STO is that there really isn’t any really cool and interesting place to check out where other players may congregate. Most planets are there to just beam down for an away mission, and the most likely place to see another player in person (and not as a ship) is in a starbase. I want to be able to go to Earth and tour Starfleet Headquarters. I want to explore the Vulcan Scientific Academy and the surrounding environs. Why aren’t there cities in STO for players to explore? Even a cool ancient city that is now in ruins would be better than what we have now. We’ve seen and heard of many planetside locations that any Trekkie would love to explore and take screenshots of, but there really isn’t any. Plus, there needs to be something useful to make players want to hang around there. While I hate to cite WoW, you can always expect to see people hanging around the capital cities because they act as hubs for various services. STO needs to do the same thing, but create hubs that would interest Trek fans.

star trek online gorn picture
Why is a Gorn forced to wear Klingon clothes? Pity the poor Gorn.
More Factions
I hope that Cryptic will be adding additional factions as the game progresses. Personally, I want to play a Romulan so bad, I can taste it. Having an additional faction makes gameplay a lot more interesting in my opinion by being able to play for one side and then switching over if you wish to or even actively working against both Federation and Klingon. Factions wouldn’t have to limited to Romulans; there could be a Mirror Universe faction and a Dominion faction as well. The more choices I have as a player, the happier I am. However, Cryptic does not to adequately outfit any new faction before they’re released to the gaming community. Right now, the only outfitting options for anyone playing a character for the Klingon faction is the standard Klingon uniform and a couple of variants. I wanted to make a Gorn character, but having a Gorn wear Klingon clothes left a bad taste in my mouth. Give us character creation options for the various races. The Federation side of character creation is robust, so why isn’t the Klingon side?

Stop Nickel and Diming Us
I really want Cryptic to stop nickel and diming the players to death over STO. Having only 2 Federation character slots with the option of a single Klingon slot is a slap in the face. Paying real money to get more character slots when I’m already paying $14.99 a month to play the game? I don’t have a problem with microtransactions as long as I’m playing a free-to-play game and not a subscription based game. If a game is free-to-play, then I don’t mind conducting microtransactions because I understand that the game company needs to make money. If I’m paying a monthly fee, then the game company is already making money. Think of it this way: three months subscription is basically the cost of a new game. I know that there’s overhead of having servers, but we all know that the costs of maintaining an MMOG doesn’t equate to $14.99 a month. (Yes, I understand that after a game launches, the subscription fees for x number of months are used to pay back the investors. I’m just stating the eventual overhead costs of maintaining an MMOG.)

Every new option that the company comes up with should be made available to all players. I can understand having a certain costume piece be a rare drop from a mission, but having to buy it in the C-Store is wrong. Plus, I hate free items that you can only get if you buy the game from a specific store. I can understand that the company wishes to have good relationships with stores that sell their product, but how about unlocking those items a month or two after the game’s release? All I’m saying is that if I’m paying a monthly fee to play the game, I shouldn’t have to spend any extra dough to get some cosmetic perks.

All in all, I think STO could be a good game that I’ll play for years if they beef it up and add new features to make the game better and more enjoyable. The primary focus is to make the game feel like an MMOG and not a single player game. Having more interesting missions, increasing the number of playable factions, not paying them for things that we should get for free, and to have places to actually explore and congregate in as players would all go a great deal of the way towards making STO a better game. I really hope they do so, or they might not “live long and prosper.”
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