Season Six is being readied for a move to STO's test server, Tribble, in the next couple of weeks, according to the most recent Ask Cryptic as answered by the game's Executive Producer, Dan Stahl. The new patch will contain fleet starbases and a new fleet advancement system but not much else in the way of story-based content.
That's not unexpected, however, as not one of the previous Season releases really ever contained story-based content; they've merely been game-technology pushes, and I understand that Season Six will be no different.
However a couple of things have come out to the game in the past few weeks that have ruffled some hard-core Trek-fan feathers: Caitian Carriers and Ferasans.
Over the past year, there has been a lot of squawking over at the STO forums that the Federation faction deserved its own version of the Kar'Fi battle carrier that's been available to the Klingons. A lot of the negative reaction to the possibility of a Federation carrier seemed to come from the very loyal group of Trekkies whom I refer to as "canonites" -- people who just can't stand something remotely affiliated with Star Trek that isn't canon.
The rub is, no one quite agrees what exactly is and isn't canon, so making something that one person believes will adhere to canon is most certainly apt to tick off another person who will swear on Gene Roddenberry's grave that it most certainly would not.
Before anyone gets all upset, let me say that "canonite" is meant as a term of endearment, as I have always considered myself a canonite in most things Trek, with the exception of video games and novels. There are very specific reasons I'm so much more lenient in my tolerance of diversions from canon in those matters, but mostly it's because I know for a fact that successful sales of the items depend on being a lot more than being reverent about canon.
Novels require conflict between main characters and in plots to keep the reader interested. Video games usually require some form of mortal combat or battle in order to appeal to the wider game-playing market. That can be pretty tough for Star Trek novelists and even for Star Trek video game developers when they're being hounded by a fandom that constantly insists that members of the "Federation" would never do what they end up doing in the books and in the video games.
The appearance of the Caitian carrier is a perfect example of this conundrum. The developers at Cryptic Studios have finally broken down and created a type of ship that has never been seen in canon (the television shows or the motion pictures) before, and they've placed it into the game.
Canonites are frothing at the mouth. How dare the developers insinuate that the Federation, an organization that would never focus on war, would make a ship that was designed for nothing but?
If the people at Cryptic were making a new television show, I might actually agree with my fellow canonites in this argument. When I first began writing fan-fiction involving the Trek universe, I was educated very quickly about how the Federation would never call a ship a "war ship"; it would be designated a "defense ship." A defense ship does just that -- defends its territory. A war ship simply sounds too aggressive to be Federation-like.
However, the people at Cryptic are making a video game, one that wouldn't have sold more than a few thousand copies if it had been based solely on the non-combat ideals that most fans know the "true" United Federation of Planets is based on. It's impossible to make a video game and have it sell in today's market without at least trying to appeal to those who might be on the fringe of the fandom -- or not even in the fandom at all.
This is how we ended up with the Caitian, or Atrox, carrier.
The developers realized that in battle, especially in PvP that might be overhauled in the not-too-distant future, both factions needed to access similar playstyles, and in STO that means ships and weapons.
Let's face it: It was inevitable. Cryptic needed to even out the playstyles between factions, so the Federation was bound to get a carrier.
At this risk of making the canonites clench their fists with even more rage: I believe the ship is beautiful. Ship designer Ian Richards really outdid himself with this one.
She's got the following specs: 3 Fore and 3 Aft Weapons slots; a Lieutenant tactical, a Lieutenant Commander engineering, a Lieutenant Commander science, and a Commander Science slot; two tactical, three engineering, and four science console slots; four ship device slots; and a crew of 3000. Her turn rate is expectedly low at five degrees per second. To top it off, she's got hull strength of 40,500, +5 Power to Shields, +10 Power to Auxiliary, Subsystem Targeting, two Hangar Bays, and Caitian Stalker Fighters.
Sure, there are design elements that are slightly reminiscent of Romulan design, but for the most part, I think the main lines of the ship steer clear of being overtly Romulan. She also doesn't look anything like a true Federation ship, which is exactly why she's been placed into the game. You see, even the developers know how to work around the canon problem.
I also approve of the new playable species (and also bridge officer) for the Klingon faction called the Ferasan. The Ferasan were created by the development team, assumedly under the watchful eye of CBS Studios, as the Klingon counterparts to the Federation member Caitians.
Die-hard fans might recall that the Caitians refer to their home-planet not as Cait but as Ferasa in their native tongue. The developers felt there was a need for a Caitian-like species on the Klingon side, but then it became obvious that the arguably canon species, the Kzinti, would not be permissible. The answer was to develop a new species specifically for the game.
The team ended up creating the Ferasans, a species "closely related to the Caitians." As depicted in the blog announcement, the species initially seemed to resemble a vampire-Avatar Caitian. However, I've been informed that the color of the Ferasans' fur can be changed to other colors.
Buying a playable Ferasan will unlock a few cosmetic items for any player who also happens to have a Federation Caitian. A playable Ferasan costs 480 C-Store points, which is roughly $5.75 US. A player can also purchase a Ferasan bridge officer for his Klingon crew for 400 C-Store points.
A new season's around the bend
I hope by this time next week I will have more to talk about in regard to the upcoming Season Six push to the Tribble test server, but it's possible we may have to wait a bit longer. Until next week, however, 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.