A new mission, a new ship, and a familiar voice
The game's third anniversary saw a new featured episode accompany the usual Q-instigated frivolity. The mission called Temporal Ambassador included the familiar voice of actress Denise Crosby, whose character, Tasha Yar from Star Trek: The Next Generation, was brought back along with the long-awaited Ambassador Class ship. The ship became the mission reward, continuing Star Trek Online's tradition of providing players with a new vessel during the game's anniversary event. While many of us had hoped that Crosby might be heard again as her other character, the Romulan Tal Shiar Operative Sela, I don't think many of us were truly expecting what was to come.
In February, Cryptic Studios pulled a number on the playerbase the likes of which it had never done before. It actually shocked us. At the end of the anniversary trailer, the developers tagged on a teaser of a large Romulan raptor and under it the words "May 2013: March beneath the raptor's wings." When players hopped over to the website the teaser advertised, they were greeted with a countdown clock. A few weeks later when the countdown clock expired, players' patience was rewarded with the announcement of STO's very first true expansion, the Legacy of Romulus. Finally, after more than three years, hordes of Romulan fans were told they would be able to create and play as a member of the Romulan species.
While the excitement of the new expansion was gearing up, another one of STO's signature items, the user-generated content tool known as The Foundry, had caused quite the kerfuffle. The devs, as a means to support the loyal foundry authors who create playable content for the game, implemented a reward wrapper to the game. Essentially players who undertook the required number of Foundry missions were granted a reward of 50 Fleet Marks. While the majority of us were thrilled with the new source of Fleet Marks, one thing I've learned about MMOs is that there is always a small group of players hell-bent on ruining the game for everyone around them. Exploiters jumped on the new reward like indebted Ferengi onto gold-pressed latinum.
Dozens and dozens of exploit missions were created, requiring nothing more than accepting the mission and then clicking on a stationary console (or something similar). Other missions were created so that NPC groups were set up to fight each other, allowing a player to walk away from the keyboard while the NPC groups achieved the mission's goals for him. It was a nightmare. In order to stop the bleeding, Cryptic removed the mark reward from the Foundry. Although Foundry wrappers now give a dilithium reward, the Foundry still hasn't quite recovered. Most players don't find the engrossing story-lines (or even the challenging battles in the grinder missions) as worthwhile to play. The Foundry remains Cryptic's best idea with its most lackluster implementation.
The Legacy of Romulus expansion was released mid-year, and with it came some great surprises. While most of the players knew that the new content would also supposedly allow a new player to create and level a Klingon character from level 1 through 50, none of us was really confident about the developer's claim. We were pleasantly surprised with the revamped Klingon Defense Force faction. A brand-new tutorial with a powerful and personal storyline was included along with several new missions that, when combined with the preexisting content, easily allows a Klingon player level up to Lieutenant General.
The Romulan content was stunning as well. A unique (and unfortunate) situation in Star Trek canon presented Cryptic with the ability to have members of the Romulan faction select a faction with whom to align. Essentially members of the Romulan Republic are asked to choose to ally with (I prefer "act as a liaison to") either the Federation or with the Klingon Empire. Although the majority of missions are still very much geared for a purely Romulan tale, choosing a side does allow the Romulan player to undertake those missions that were originally created for the other factions. All in all, LoR was an extraordinary success for the studio, and that's great because not long ago we learned that we're going to get another expansion next year!
I could write an entire month's worth of columns about all of the new ships that were introduced into the game this year! It all started with the Kumari escort pack, which was the awesome version of the Andorian fighting ship seen in Star Trek: Enterprise. This was followed by the release of the Ambassador class ship with the Temporal Ambassador episode. The Klingon Kamarag was the KDF reward for the anniversary event. The Legacy of Romulus expansion contained six more basic ships, but the Legacy pack added another large set of Romulan ship variants. The Scimitar soon followed with its own three-ship variant pack. And I haven't even scratched the surface because I don't have room to list all of the lockbox ships or Lobi store ships that were released during the year.
At the beginning of fall, many loyal STO players and fans joined with Cryptic and Perfect World Entertainment employees to bid farewell to one of their own. Mark Valentine (h2orat), a beloved video artist and an avid player, Foundry author, and podcast supporter, passed away after fighting a long battle with cancer. If you're a new player and you happen to walk by the eternal flame memorial at Starfleet Academy, know that it was he who inspired its creation. He is still missed.
The year rounded off virtually the same way it began. Before Season Eight went live a new lead-in featured episode was released which featured another Star Trek: TNG alum: Michael Dorn. Dorn reprised his most famous role of Worf in the new FE. Not only that, but he also voiced additional lines for much of the existing Klingon content. That material was only recently released into the game.
Finally, Season Eight was released in November. Included in the massive patch was a whole new reputation system that revolved around the game's newest enemy, the Voth. The Voth were a species seen in the series Star Trek: Voyager and were descended from the dinosaurs of Earth. While the primary species are more humanoid-looking, their subservient species are all raptor. Large armored V-Rexes and small, velociraptor-like creatures are all a part of a huge new territory control ground map found in the Solonae Dyson Sphere ground battle area.
The new Dyson Sphere region also contains two more enormous space-battle areas that require players to battle the Voth in their gargantuan city ships and other supporting vessels. The area allows all factions to take on the common enemy, something I think we're going to start seeing a lot more of in STO.
In 2013, we also saw new security features for fleets, a new mid-level adventure zone at Nimbus III, a Federation tutorial update, appearances by Cryptic personnel at the Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, new fleet holdings, and a big new summer event too! So don't let anyone ever dare tell you that nothing happened in Star Trek Online this past year. If someone does, it's a pretty good bet he hasn't played the game at all. Until next week, and next year, 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.