Some of the recent releases, such as Spotlight on the Foundry, a new Klingon mission titled Alpha, the new Caitian Atrox carrier for the Federation faction, and a duty officer commendation XP bonus weekend, have all been fairly well-received. We have also seen the return of the Ask Cryptic blogs, and apparently we will also be seeing the return of the fan-favorite Engineering Reports at the end of this month.
The question remains, however, whether or not the those relative successes can overcome the controversies that seem to surround the game's other recent releases -- namely, the introduction of what is arguably a new currency and the infusion of yet another time-gated mission.
Huzzah, right?! Right?! Well, I have to admit, there are new players who will be very happy to see the return of the unique rewards offered for the completion of the Featured Episode series. Players will recall that the four series consist of The Devidians, The Breen, Cloaked Intentions, and most recently, The 2800.
From May 3rd to May 10th, players can undertake the Devidian series again, and upon completion of the final mission (The Night of the Comet), they can obtain the useful Ophidian cane.
Each subsequent week, a different series will become available to replay so that its unique reward can be obtained: a Breen Tactical bridge officer from the Breen series, a Reman Science bridge officer from Cloaked Intentions, and the Shard of Possibilities from The 2800.
However, veteran players were just a tad disappointed with the reruns of missions they've already played and from which they've already received the rewards. Where is their incentive to replay those missions?
And Cryptic responded: Lobi Crystals. Lobi crystals? What are they, you ask? Well, let's get down to it, shall we?
It should come as no real surprise to anyone who has played STO since the game transitioned to the free-to-play model that the changes in priorities of the development of the game have been tumultuous at best.
The introduction of the new currency called dilithium was meant to unify and replace the myriad currencies the game had before the F2P change. Medals, marks, and emblems were all combined into dilithium that is also tradable for C-Store points, which can be purchased for real-life currency. An exchange was even created so the market could handle the ebb and flow of the value of the dilithium in comparison to the C-Store points. Gone were the days when non-tradable currencies likes marks or emblems would hang around gathering dust... or so we thought.
Enter Lobi Crystals, STO's response to the supposed cries for a "second-chance currency" for those who bought the revenue-generating keys and opened lockboxes but didn't get what they really wanted.
Currently, there are two ways to obtain Lobi Crystals. The first way is to replay the Featured Episodes during this month's reruns of all four series. There is only one crystal hidden in each episode, and that crystal can only be obtained once. This means that a player has the ability to earn a total of 20 crystals during the month of May, and then only if he finds each one hidden in all 20 episodes. He cannot grind the missions over and over in order to gain more crystals.
If he wants more than 20 crystals, he'll have to use the second method for obtaining them, and that's by obtaining a key to open a lockbox. Each lockbox contains an item, which is at least supposed to be desirable, like an XP boost, a set of consumable battle pets or batteries, or even the Ferengi D'Kora Marauder ship. But the boxes also contain a small (very small) number of Lobi crystals.
The crystals are non-tradable. They can be used only to buy items at the Lobi Crystal Consortium at Drozana Station. The store has a selection of uniquely desirable items that include a Ferengi shuttle, a MACO tactical bridge officer, ship consoles, Klingon skirts, and other costume pieces. All of those items can be obtained only by collecting Lobi crystals, and the only real way you can gather more than 20 crystals is by buying keys and opening lockboxes.
The prices of the items in the store range from the "we're-sorry-we-screwed-up-the-initial-launch-of-this-crystal-thing-so-we'll-drop-in-one-cheap-item-so-people-playing-the-reruns-of-the-Featured-Episodes-can-get-it-without-having-to-spend-real-cash" 15 Lobi Crystals to 800 crystals for the Ferengi Shuttle.
When opened, most lockboxes contain anywhere from one to ten crystals and very rarely contain 100. Each key costs 100 C-Store points (approximately $1.25 US). Therefore, a player earning two to five crystals per box may have to spend $250-$400 in order to collect enough crystals to obtain the 800-crystal shuttle. Yes, it could be less than that. It could also be much, much more.
Of course, it's possible to grind the game to earn enough dilithium to trade for C-Store points to obtain a key. The going rate on the exchange is hovering around 300 dilithium for each C-Store point, meaning a player would have to earn at least 30,000 dilithium to buy one key. Since it's possible to earn only 8000 dilithium per day, it would take that player four days of max playing to earn a single key and then would likely only result in two Lobi crystals.
On top of the hoopla the Lobi Crystal Consortium has caused, Cryptic pulled another stunner by releasing a highly anticipated mission in the popular shuttle/small craft map called The Vault.
The downside has been that the mission has been made available for play only on a completely arbitrary schedule. The mission has been relegated to the game's "event calendar" and appears on a floating schedule twice every 24 hours.
Players have one hour to complete the mission as many times as possible in order to earn Reman datalogs, which can be used to generate a special duty officer assignment, and in turn, can reward gear "including a very rare set of Mark XII ship equipment" if you're successful.
The obvious problem with the release has been the mere fact that it's available only for two hours every day. There are two other "event" missions in the game: the Mirror Universe events and the Borg Invasion of Defera. They are also time-gated.
The community (including me) has made its dissatisfaction with the expansion of restricted play heard pretty well in the forums and on many of the podcasts that focus on STO. A company representative recently tried to explain the use of restricted play as a means to corral players into the game at specific times of the day. While that may be true, there seems to be a majority of players who have jobs, families, community responsibilities, and hobbies that take priority over a video game. It seems counterintuitive for a game to make itself and its content less available to those who want to play it when they can, not when a developer says it's OK.
I have yet to play any of the restricted missions. I would like to. I'm the game's biggest Obisek fan, and I really would like to hear that Reman voice once more, but I'm not about to interrupt my work day or put off making dinner for my family in order to go listen to it.
I look forward to reading everyone's feedback on these subjects. Tell me why I'm wrong (or right). Tell me why Lobi crystals aren't a currency or why timed play is beneficial to the game.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.