The good news for some is that this week's column will be dedicated to the brand new players of Star Trek Online. This decision was triggered by an email I received from a reader who wanted to know how he could change his character's outfit without having to go to the tailor all the time. He was a very new player and was embarrassed to ask anyone else, and trusted I wouldn't make him feel a fool.
It was then I realized that there are lots of little things in Star Trek Online that aren't obvious to new players. While many of those things are second nature to me now, I recall with bitter clarity what it was like to be so new that asking a stranger for help was akin to playing Russian roulette. So join me past the break as I touch on what all those tiny little icons on the HUD mean.
I'm also well aware that many new players to STO and other MMOs are people my age and older and they're the least likely to go ask a stranger for help, especially one that might just end up just calling them a name or making them feel stupid. In other words, this column isn't written for the experienced gamer, it's being written for the people who've never tried STO before or are just now getting their feet wet.
So, how does a player change costumes on the fly? Simply right click on the character icon in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. A small drop-down menu will appear and one of the selections available is "Change Outfit." Just click on that and a list of all of the outfits available for that character will appear. Select the one you want and voila, a new look is achieved without having to schlep over to a tailor!
There are two more options available on that little menu. They are "Info" and "Set Focus." Info is what it sounds like: it retrieves a small panel of the character's data, including skills, points, and any biography that may have been written. Set Focus allows a player to "pin" another player, NPC, or enemy as a potential target. I know a lot of people who use this skill to assist them in the No Win Scenario mission; it allows them to track and heal the civilian vessel without having to search for, find, and reselect it over and over during the battle.
To the right side of the screen the mini map is framed by a litany of smaller icons. Most of these are pretty easy to figure out once they are clicked.
The left column begins with the Beam/Warp Out icon which lets a player beam up to his ship from the ground or, if already in space, warp his ship from a zone or instance and into sector space. The small circle below it is the transwarp menu. New players typically have the right to transwarp to major home-hubs like Earth Spacedock or a fleet starbase right away, but the list of available destinations can grow larger as a player achieves diplomatic XP (most of which can be obtained in the duty officer system.) The strange little set of lines in triangular form under the transwarp menu is the scanner. Once clicked, the scanner will search for the nearest mission goal or, if there are no goals left, the scanner will search for any anomaly nearby; a beam of light will emanate from the player or ship and point towards the goal. Finally, the small icon at the bottom of the left column is the "hail command" icon; clicking this will bring up the mission log.
The top icon on the right column brings up the map (this can also be achieved by using the M key). The next button does exactly what you'd think: it opens the character screen. Below it are the Inventory, Mail, Social and Settings icons respectively. The big question mark icon is the Help button, and this is where a player can report bugs and request GM assistance.
The icons along the bottom are also pretty easy to figure out: The ZEN Store is where players can buy items using ZEN (which is purchased with cash on the game's website), the dilithium store is how players can buy in-game items (including weapons) using dilithium. The Duty Officer portal is next, and it is followed up by the PvE queue and Fleet Menu icons.
It's that tiny little triangle off to the right that seems to remain a mystery to many and I'm going to show new players just what's hidden there.
That tiny little triangle holds a hefty drop-down menu of goodness that is never really addressed in the game's tutorial with the exception of a single mission half-way through the leveling process.
To begin, the first icon will lead a player to the Dilithiums Exchange. This is a portal where a player can buy and/or sell his hard-earned dilithium or purchased ZEN (formerly known as C-Store points.) ZEN can be used in the game's retail store to buy ships, consumables, duty officer packs, costumes, lockbox keys and much more. Dilithium on the other hand, is used for in-game for purchases at NPC vendors or can be donated to fleet-holding projects like the fleet starbase and embassy.
Have a lot of real cash and not a lot of time to play the game to earn dilithium? Sell ZEN and get the required dilithium crystals. Dying to get into that Scimitar but simply don't have the cash to get it? Play the game like crazy, earn the dilithium then sell it to obtain the required ZEN. Like all MMO economies, the rate of exchange fluctuates so the object should be to "buy low and sell high."
Well it was a long one, but I hope that some of our newest players (and readers) find this information useful. We're all still waiting to hear more about the upcoming Featured Episode, but until then, I'm going to be moving some Lobi from character to character and get my Romulan some new toys. 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.