Crossroads

It’s no surprise that it’s been almost a month since my last update on the blog. It’s not for a lack of trying, but every single time that I’ve sat down to write something I’ve immediately lost my motivation. I’ll get this great idea for my blog, then just as I’m about to start typing everything goes blank. After a few minutes of blankly staring at the screen I just decide to do something else.

Is it writer’s block? I’m not sure. Usually I’ll rationalize my decisions to not update my blog with the notion that whatever I would have written would have been tripe and uninspired. That might be the root cause for the lack of updates over the past month. I just haven’t been inspired enough to sit down and share my thoughts.

Now before either of us goes into a panic, this thing happens to me a lot and at some point I just get over it. It has happened many, many times in the past and I’m positive it’ll continue to be a problem that plagues this blog for the years to come. Oh noes! Not to worry, I always get over it and suddenly my blog springs to life once more.

It’s just the natural ebb and flow of my blogging that is frighteningly  similar to that of my gaming habits. For instance, this hiatus has been caused from the lack of gaming that I’ve felt inspired to write about. What have I been playing this past month? Mostly Torchlight, a couple of PS3 demos and I’ve recently decided to try LOTRO, (free trial of course).

As great as Torchlight is, it isn’t a great game to blog about. I mean, it’s Diablo, what more need be said about it? Sure I could blog about the trials and tribulations of my melee alchemist, but would any of you care? It’s solely a single player game and the end-game is a randomized dungeon-crawler. At some point I may decide to post an entry or two about the unusual builds that I’m playing, but right now I’m not feeling it as a necessary blog update.

Anyhoo, I have also decided to give Lord of the Rings Online a try since I am a fan of the Tolkien world, but the game hasn’t struck a chord with me and there’s little hope that it will. My lack of interest in LOTRO is cemented in the fact that I’ve dedicated 5 years of my gaming life to WoW and every single time I play LOTRO, I’d rather just reactivate my WoW account. Everything just feels clunky in LOTRO where as everything in WoW feels just right. That isn’t to say that LOTRO doesn’t do anything well as it is most certainly a very competent game, it’s just that WoW has spoiled me as an MMO gamer.

Has WoW ruined every other MMO for me? That is my biggest worry about going into Final Fantasy XIV later this year. I’m hopeful that FFXIV will rekindle that love I had for Final Fantasy XI, but after playing WoW for so long, I’m worried I’ll fall into the same trap of rather-be-playing-WoW.

At this point I think the only way I could conceivably give any other MMO a fair shot is if I find myself in a strong community. If it hadn’t of been for the fact that Star Trek Online was released way too early, I might actually still be playing it. Cryptic failed to deliver on a true Star Trek experience and the community has fled from the game.

Many of the STO podcasts I was listening to have disappeared, or are having issues with feeling inspired to keep podcasting about STO. I’ve stopped following news regarding STO and at this point I could care less about it. Between my forth-coming inner-turmoil between WoW and FFXIV, there’s just no room for a poor MMO. I would say shame on Cryptic for STO, but after City of Heroes and Champions Online, it’s shame on me for putting my faith in them one more time.

Well, I think I’ve rambled on long enough about the MMO crossroads that I’m at. I’ll try to keep my inspiration and motivation going for slightly more frequent updates, but I think I’m going to have to go with smaller updates. More stream-of-consciousness stuff without so much emphasis on trying to write something great. I might even share a couple thoughts on what’s going on with WoW, but no promises. ^^;

Annuality

“Hi March! I believe we’ve met many times before. I’m doing well, and you? Oh? You’re thinking it’s time for another break from online gaming? I was thinking the same thing considering how incredibly behind on my console gaming I am. You’re right, I have effectively given Blizzard $30 for logging into WoW a handful of times during the past 2 months. Again, you’re right (as usual) … taking some time off will also give STO some time to rectify the many faults it has. Okay, take care! I’ll see you again next year.”

As you can probably surmise from my humorous and imaginative conversation with the month of March, it’s time for my seemingly annual break from online gaming. Breaks help me avoid from completely burning out and gives me the opportunity to catch up with my consoles. It also has the added benefit of giving the finances a small break as well. At least, that is, if I don’t go out on gaming benders and pick up a ton of games. ^^;

What does this break mean for my blog? Well, if you’ve been following my blog over the past 5’sh years you’re familiar with this annual ritual and know what to expect. If you’re a newer follower of my blog here’s the run-down: chances are that WoW/STO related entries will disappear for awhile, but I will continue to blog about my console gaming exploits during my online hiatus.

I definitely won’t be at a loss for gaming to blog about for at least a couple weeks; I’m currently working on Mass Effect 2 and Final Fantasy XIII comes out next week. Then there’s my backlog … mostly of PS2 games, oids. Persona 3, Rogue Galaxy, Magna Carta, Grandia III & Xtreme, Dragon Quest VIII … ugh, the list goes on. I’ve started most of them, but somewhere along the line, WoW got in the way I never finished them up.

I guess I'm going on a vacation in the Gamma quadrant?

There will probably be one last STO entry since my subscription is active until the 4th. I would like to reach Commander, pick up my shiny new cruiser and give it a go around the galaxy. There should also be the occasional WoW/STO entry as warranted by breaking news even though I’ve not been one to blog my reactions/opinions to the news; not, at least, unless it is a MEGATON piece of news that I can’t help but blog about.

So fear not, the blog will continue to live on as it always has. Ciao!

Failure

I had been planning on updating my blog for the past couple of days, but things got in the way as they usually do. Those pesky things! Ce la vie. I suppose my failure to update the blog is fitting considering the subject matter that this entry will mainly cover, failure. Don’t worry this won’t be an entry full of QQ, it’s just that things haven’t gone quite the way I had imagined for the past week.

What else has failed you or have you failed to do?

I had aspirations to get my toon in STO promoted to Commander but I came up wildly short. I did manage to make it Lt.Commander 8th grade, but between finishing Darksiders and then proceeding to pick up Mass Effect 2, my motivation to log in to STO disappeared. Before I move on, I first must give Vigil games a big Thank You!” for satisfying my craving for a Zelda’esque game. Darksiders was an incredible game and I am really looking forward to what Vigil puts out in the future, especially Darksiders 2.

Wait, when did I beam down to Zangarmarsh?

However that wasn’t all that kept me away from STO this past week. There was plenty of beer consumption while watching the Olympics in HD. You may wonder why I decided to qualify the watching of the Olympics in high definition, so let me explain. Up until about a week ago I had plenty of HD programming available to me, but after a visit from a Comcast tech to diagnose my HSI issues, he switched the connections at the house to give my cable modem a better signal. In the process the signal strength to my television in the living room dropped to where I couldn’t get NBC in HD anymore.

Fortunately this was only a temporary problem because he also put in a request to pull a new line to the house from the street to eliminate approximately 120 ft of coaxial cable to greatly reduce the signal degradation. For some strange reason the cable connections were on the opposite side of the house from the circuit box which meant running a cable along the exterior of the house to ground it at the circuit box and then back again. Once the new line was finally hooked up to the house all was good.

But let’s move onto something you might actually care about …

I did sneak some STO time in during the past week as I’ve hinted at by mentioning my level progression. I’m in a strange place with STO, part of me really wants to keep going to get bigger and badder ships but I’m getting really sick of ground missions. Yes it might be QQ and I sound like a broken record, but I’m at the point where I just want /quit every time I’m prompted to select my away team. There just isn’t enough substance in ground combat to make it interesting and with the sheer amount of enemies you have to kill, I just don’t have enough patience to grind through it.

Oops! But I survived! Barely ^^;

While the majority of space missions are similar kill-taculars, there are interesting encounters scattered throughout to keep things from getting too stale. It also helps a ton that space combat is actually FUN which makes killing 245082 ships during a mission not a chore. Okay, there are times where it does feel somewhat like a chore, but satisfying chore nonetheless. When I faced off against the Doomsday Device I had an absolute blast.

Protip: Don’t try shooting more than one Hargh’Peng torpedo after the thing fires. You’ll just waste the second. If you do waste too many torpedos you can refill/recharge them at the destroyed planet’s core.

Contrasting the awesomeness of the Doomsday Device encounter is the Crystalline Entity. Yes, I trekked back in to snap pictures and hope to not be grouped with epic-fail captains. I’ll be blunt about this encounter, it fucking blows. The mechanics are simple enough, kite the shards until phase 2 (~30%)  and then avoid the large shards like the plague during phase 2. Inevitably someone always get hit by large shards and from what I’m to understand everyone then needs to burn down the small shards that spawn before they get back to the entity, healing it for a substantial amount.

An encounter full of epic-fail, usually.

Unfortunately these small shards still have a sizable amount of health, so taking them down quickly is nearly impossible unless people pay attention and switch their focus as soon as they spawn. So as inevitable as it is for someone to get hit by a large shard, the small shards go unhindered and suddenly the entity goes from ~28% to 40%, then 50%, 60% and occasionally back up to full if the group is particularly full of epic-fail.

After reaching phase 2 three different times within one encounter I gave up. This is just not an encounter that the majority of players are going to get on board with. Hell, it only takes a few special snowflakes to make this encounter nearly impossible. As such I don’t think I’m ever going to attempt it again, at least not until Cryptic gives us the ability to join the encounter as a fleet-raid. It’s just not fun fighting with other players on how to kill the damned thing; I got my fill of that in Alterfail Valley.

So as I stated, I’m starting to wane on STO. There’s still so much potential with the game that I haven’t completely lost hope yet, but I may stop playing for some time and give Cryptic a chance to remedy some of the issues that I have with the game … namely ground combat. They really need to give us diplomatic missions and one-off episodes that take place in the interior of your ship once they put ship interiors into the game. Even in a time of war there needs to be diplomacy and it needs to be weaved through the entirety of the leveling process.

At least the devs are listening to the player-base so there’s hope. I just hope that they’re listening but keeping true to their vision and the ideals of the Star Trek universe.

Grinding

Perhaps you’re concerned that all of this Star Trek blogging means that my Warcraft days are behind me, or maybe you aren’t. Fear not, there will still be plenty of WoW-related blog entries in the future. I seem to be taking my annual break from WoW and recharging my batteries. Cataclysm will breathe new life into the game for me, and the recent 3.3.3 news is tempting me to cut my hiatus short. So yes, there will be more WoW for me, especially since the wifey still plays on occasion, but for now I’m trekking out.

For some reason I was reminded of FFXI.

Or at least I should say that I’m forcing myself to stay away from WoW to give STO a fair shake. There are many times where STO annoys me, but I forgive those annoyances considering that the game is still so new. I remember back to when I made the transition from Final Fantasy XI to World of Warcraft and the difficulties I experienced in the process. That is, however, to not imply that I will be transitioning from WoW to STO, but rather that I’m being a little more forgiving of STO’s plentiful faults.

Okay, so I’ve rambled on long enough, let’s get onto to STO for really reals now …

It's a harp-shaped time portal, really.

Last night I hit Lieutenant Commander 6th grade and managed to get almost halfway to 7th grade thanks to completing the Guardian of Time quest-line twice. First time through I “skipped” half of the quest-line by flying directly to the Gateway system. After saving Miral Paris I proceeded on to JFS 47 and discovered that I was heading back to Gateway, to do the same stuff I had already done. *groan* I can’t complain too much though, the rewards and “experience” were well worth the effort. In fact, I’m almost thinking of completing the quest-line again given how lucrative it was.

While I’m on the subject of this quest-line, I would be remiss to not mention the voice-over work present. The Guardian’s VO work was humorous, but rather lackluster as was Spock’s VO when you travel back to 2270. Don’t get me wrong, it was nice to participate in a quest-line that had VOs where my cruiser had to rescue the Enterprise from Klingon time-interlopers. It’s just that overall the structure of the mission wasn’t engaging, especially since you can jump into it half-way in and not know it.

Perhaps I should have rolled a Klingon?

If anything, the portion of the quest-line where I boarded the Klingon ship made me want to pilot my own bird-of-prey. If it weren’t for my desire to continue progressing as quickly as possible, I’d probably succumb to my desire to roll a Klingon. I’m already distracted enough with thoughts of playing Mass Effect (2) that rolling a Klingon would stunt my STO “development.” Then again, maybe playing a Klingon is exactly what I should do in order to give every aspect of STO a spin.

Ground combat is still giving me fits; I’m coming close to absolutely despising ground missions. They’re poorly designed, take too long, and are an absolute chore to get through. Even with having a Mk III kit allowing me to lay down a cover shield, health regen-unit, and phaser turret (II) I’m still wanting to claw my eyeballs out when trudging through combat. At least a fellow fleeter (Did I mention that I joined the Ctrl Alt Trek fleet?) posted a little tip that has made ground combat slightly more bearable: exploiting exposed enemies.

Huh? What does that mean?

Many weapons have a secondary attack that may be listed as an Expose attack or an Exploit attack. Expose attacks will occasionally expose/debuff a target which will cause the next exploit attack to critically hit. Well, a critical hit is a slight understatement … more like expose them to being instantly disintegrated. I currently have my toon equipped with weapons that have an exploit attack and an expose attack which in theory sounds good.

Providing additional (unnecessary) utility.

If weapon swapping felt a little more fluid and responsive it would work out great, but I’m considering giving my away team expose weapons and keeping an AoE exploit weapon equipped for my toon. I could go with two exploit weapons since the cooldowns on the secondary attacks of each weapon are not shared, but the expose debuff doesn’t occur enough to where having two exploit weapons would be ideal.

Having each weapon type still gives me the option to expose enemies and exploit them on my own, which would be greatly beneficial during ground fleet actions. Not that I would voluntarily join another another ground fleet action. At least the next time I do end up in a ground fleet action I’ll be able to provide more utility to the team.

Well that’s all I have for now. I’m hoping to get promoted to Commander this weekend so I can pick up a larger cruiser. Hopefully I don’t end up running the Guardian of Time quest-line 23 times to get there. ^^;

Persistence

I think I recall stating that I was hoping to blog a little more frequently about my STO exploits. I also recall stating that I would give a ground fleet action another go. Well, what do you know … I’m about to kill two birds with one stone. ^^;

Yesterday I had an opportunity to participate in a couple of fleet actions. Fresh out-of-the-gate I stumbled into the Crystalline Entity fleet action. Unfortunately I forgot to snap some screenshots, but I’ll be making a return visit to snap some pictures and hopefully join a group that knows what they’re doing. Well to be fair I had no clue what I was doing, but the general banter in the zone was eerily reminiscent of battleground chat in WoW.

Needless to say there was zero direction and zero cooperation. We’d get the entity down to 96% or so and then magically it would heal back up to 100% and so went the vicious cycle until I decided to abandon the mission and try my luck later. I’ll have to look up some leet strats for tackling the entity and then hope the next group is a little more receptive to implementing the strategy.

After the fail-fleet at the Crystalline Entity I licked my wounds and ventured off to tackle some standard missions and make my way out to the Pi Canis sector block to take care of a mission I had out there. When I finally arrived at the Laurention system I discovered that I the mission I had in my log was a space fleet mission. Sweet!

The calm before the storm.

I forget what the name of the mission was exactly, but it dealt with stopping a Klingon scouting fleet in the Laurention system. As usual with most missions in the game, there were a number of objectives to accomplish in sequence which culminated in an epic battle against a Klingon flagship and its escorts which were a +3 con to me.

I almost bought the farm twice, but I managed to keep myself up and provided plenty of assistance during the battle. At the conclusion of the encounter I managed to place 5th on the damage meters and scored a Quantum Torpedo Launcher Mk III [CrtD] from one of escorts.

After I swapped out my fore photon torpedo launcher I quickly came to one conclusion: quantum torpedoes are freaking amazing! They travel faster, hit slightly harder than photon torpedoes and just look cooler. I’ve since replaced my aft photon torpedoes with quantum torpedoes and don’t foresee myself going back, ever.

As I previously stated, I said that I’d give another ground fleet action a try and hope for better results. Fortunately the Laurention system offered a ground fleet action mission in addition to the space mission, so I decided to give it a go …

Ice Mining?! Again?

I’m not sure how, but I managed to jump into the Ice Mining mission again. I’m pretty sure my first go at the mission came in the Eta Eridani sector block, but maybe this particular mission can be undertaken from multiple systems. Despite strong desires to immediately abandon the mission I conceded that I would give a ground fleet action another shot, so in I went and hoped for the best.

Initially things were chaotic, but eventually I managed to “group up” with a small group of captains and we managed to limp through the first two objectives to the brick-wall I had previously encountered a couple nights prior. After a complete wipe, the small group I was running with encountered another small group of captains and together we formed a small army.

Teamwork is a requirement for ground fleet actions.

As with all fleet actions in STO, when everyone groups up and works together objectives are accomplished relatively painlessly. Our small army cut through the waves of Klingons with little resistance. What few casualties we suffered were remedied by other captains resuscitating the fallen; teamwork at its finest.

It still took a long time to clear the outer-ring and disable 20 consoles, but we accomplished the third objective to only be met with a fourth.  Fortunately the fourth objective only required killing 100 Klingons (/wrists). In the end we proved victories and we raised our blood-wine in celebration of being free to do something else … anything else.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever voluntarily join another ground fleet action after my first two experiences with the mission type. Ice Mining is a horribly designed and executed mission which bored me to tears with how long it took. I am thankful that my second foray with the mission proved successful, but if I encounter another ground fleet action similar to Ice Mining, someone at Cryptic is going to pay.

Oh how they’ll pay …

Tedium

There are moments where STO is extremely enjoyable and I find myself thinking that I’ll be in for the long haul. Then there are moments where STO falls apart for me and I struggle to keep going and find the motivation to log back in. But I am committed to giving STO a fair shake, so until something happens that is utterly game breaking for me, I’m all in … at least for another month.

So I’ll start with the bad and work my way towards the good.

I had my first taste of a ground fleet action (Ice Mining) which at first seemed like a lot of fun. It was great to run around with other captains without fear of poor AI pulling groups accidentally and being able to exercise crude strategies against the plethora of AI controlled Klingon enemies. Achieving the first and second mission objectives was easy enough, but by the time we faced a third objective things started to fall apart and I decided that I had enough.

Probably the largest issue that faced me was the endurance to tackle each tedious task after another. It wouldn’t have been as bad if the respawn rate of the Klingon AI mobs been a bit slower. It wasn’t so bad in the beginning because the first objective targets were close to your spawn location, but once you made it to the third objective this became a brick-wall. Any death at that point pretty much meant re-clearing all of the mobs to get back to where you were.

So yes, to say that I did not enjoy my first ground fleet action would be somewhat of an understatement. I’ll have to give another ground fleet action a chance, but I don’t have much faith that any ground fleet action will be able to sway my opinion on them.

Another oddity that I discovered that gave me pause came in a deep space encounter I joined in the Regulus sector. I don’t think I meant to join the encounter, (I was four beers in and just travelling to Memory Alpha, I think) but when I first joined, the Gorn ships were a -5 con to me. “I’ll cut through these guys like a hot knife through butter” I thought to myself until I saw an escort fly into a group and get vaporized.

At first I thought this escort was vaporized because of his stupidity for flying directly into a group without his big cruiser buddy to get that initial volley of disruptors and torpedoes. I thought this as I nonchalantly flew in and proceeded to get vaporized as well. WTF?

After I respawned I was able to ascertain what had occurred; I flew into a group of Gorn that were a +27 con to me. I’m not sure how it happened, but the deep space encounter had gone from a -5 con to +27. The only thing I can think of was that a Federation admiral had joined the encounter and caused the enemy ships to adjust accordingly.

I’m hoping the enemy level change was merely a bug and not a design decision on Cryptic’s part. Having enemies go from level 7 (I’m Lt.Commander 2nd grade) to level 39 in a beginning sector deep space encounter on account of a level 40+ player joining is a horrible idea. I really hope it was bug. I really really hope it was.

While there are still plenty of bugs in STO, there is one thing Cryptic put into the game that I am having a hard time understanding the implementation of. I am of course speaking of the Exchange, or in other words, the auction house. Simply put the Exchange is a disaster. Why in the world did Cryptic think it would be okay to implement an auction house without allowing you to sort the items based on price, quantity or name? I’m sorry Cryptic, but you need to improve the Exchange as soon as possible. Sure it might be functional, but it is a nightmare to use effectively.

The beginning of a 20 min epic battle.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten my gripes out of the way, let me move onto a moment I had that gave much pleasure: epic space battles.

Let me set this up …

It was your standard deep space encounter with 4 other captains; a mix of cruisers and escorts. We were cutting swathes through the enemies as a group until the fateful moment where an escort and I zigged where everyone else zagged.

As usual, the escort felt cocky and flew into a group ahead of me which consisted of a battleship, a couple of cruisers and a handful of frigates. Needless to say the escort didn’t stand much of a chance and was swatted down in a matter of seconds. My attempt to save said escort obviously proved fruitless, but I did manage to gain the attention of the group and thusly began my own epic encounter.

It wouldn’t have been quite as epic had I not mistakenly flown close enough to another group of ships with a similar composition. When I noticed what had happened, it was already too late and I began burning cold-downs just to stay up and pray for help.

Unfortunately that help did not come until I managed to aggro a third group. I somehow managed to limp away from the epic 20 minute fight-for-my-life battle with my hull sitting at a precarious 4% integrity. I managed to take down a number of smaller ships, but it wasn’t until the cavalry arrived that the larger ships started to fall.

So let this be a lesson: always be aware of your surroundings so that you don’t accidentally flee into another group. Taking on multiple groups of ships can be very hazardous to the well-being of your crew ^^;

I’ll conclude with the admission that I’ve been meaning to blog more frequently about my STO exploits. Between continuing Comcast HSI issues and real life responsibilities opportunities to blog have been few and far between. Hopefully I’ll get more opportunities to blog more frequently, but at the very least I’ll try to blog once a week.

Until next time.

Podcasted

Just a quick and dirty update for no other reason than shameless self-promotion. Recently I’ve appeared on two podcasts talking about Star Trek Online. Last week I was a special guest on The Addicted (episode #28) to talk about my experiences in the open beta and the headstart program. Hypknotoad and Cypher are great guys and if you haven’t already checked out their podcast, I’d highly advise you to do so.

Then today I sat in with Aprillian, Vrishna, and Bouvi for episode #3 of Ctrl Alt Trek which should be available later this week. We talked about our in-game exploits and gave a few tips for fellow noobs since we’re still discovering the game as well. If you’re familiar with Ctrl Alt Wow you’ll know what to expect from Ctrl Alt Trek. I might be making return appearances, so stay tuned.

Cruising

I have to commend Cryptic on their rather successful Star Trek Online launch. Over the past week I’ve only been denied playtime once since the official debut of the game. That’s a metric ton better than I had anticipated. I was expecting rampant server disconnections, login/authentication server issues, and multiple roll-backs from all of the instability. As far as I’ve experienced, this is definitely not the case. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the launch has been flawless, but it has been exceptional compared to WoW’s launch in 2004.

My U.S.S. Jeuno approaching Starbase 114

My impressions haven’t swayed much since my first taste of the game, ground combat still bores me to tears and space combat is still the best part of the game. Once you finally reach Lieutenant Commander and get your first real ship things start to take shape. I really appreciated the fact that your first promotion yields a token to trade in for your first cruiser, escort, or science vessel. As planned I used my token to pick up an Excalibur class Cruiser which I proceeded to mix parts from the other two cruiser class ships.

As previously stated ground missions are still on the dull side, but I have encountered some missions that have been intriguing despite the archaic combat mechanics. I recently completed an episode named Smuggler’s Blues that had me pointing out Starfleet regulation violations to the Ferengi bar/station owner. There was even a moment where a freighter’s captain and crew took offense to my snooping around and a large scale battle ensued in the bar ala Star Wars.

It’s moments like those that give me hope for future episodes where they’re more than just “beam down to the planet and defeat X number of Klingon crews.” In some ways it was teetering on the edge of actually feeling like a Star Trek episode which is a good thing to be sure. There have been a few other missions/episodes that I’ve experienced that continue to give this feeling, but there are still plenty of filler episodes where you’re just killing waves of Klingons/Gorn/Orions without much character to them. To be fair there are many MMOs that fall back on this staple, but with STO’s ground combat, it gets real old, real fast.

An attempt to employ unnecessary strategy.

I have been trying to make this sore spot in gameplay a little more enjoyable by replacing my shield recharge kit with a ground turret kit, which has helped … a little. Dropping a turret prior to engagement helps create the illusion that I’m being strategic, but ultimately means little as to how the battle pans out. Combat still devolves to standing around shooting each other with little risk of wiping. There’s only been one occasion where my team came close to wiping which happened after accidentally pulling 3 groups of enemies. Yet my science officer was able to keep me up and I was able to take down enough enemies to allow for the resuscitation of the rest of my away team.

Beware the BIG BOOT attack.

I’m looking forward to the away missions, coined raidisodes, that require 4 other captains/players because I’m deathly sick of my brain-dead AI away team members blindly charging into a fray. Hopefully these raidisodes will actually provide some challenge by requiring some semblance of strategy to overcome. I’m sure they won’t ever amount to much more than what I’ve experienced so far, but the ability to employ strategy will be a welcome change and addition. I only hope that some of these raidisodes are scattered throughout the leveling process and are not reserved for the current end-game.

Other than trudging through the ground missions I’ve found a new type of mission that I dislike in STO: space missions with nebulas and/or other anomalies that disable your impulse engines. Even with all energy diverted to engines travelling through these missions is painful. Especially when there are numerous patches of gas clouds that cause massive damage to your hull if they ignite near you. Briar Patch, I’m looking at you.

Variety in space missions is also becoming an issue where the vast majority of them involve killing X number of enemies. I shouldn’t be surprised by that fact, but it does put a slight damper on the otherwise enjoyable space combat sequences. It’s just that when you warp into a system and see that you have to kill 5 patrols for the 20th time that you start to realize that maybe it is difficult to come up with interesting generic missions. Nonetheless having a cruiser helps make these missions a little more palatable but I’m considering buying an Escort class ship to get a taste of what it’s like to play as DPS in STO.

I’ll have to broaden my exploration as I’ve pretty much kept to the Sirius and Regulus sector blocks. My noobness and slight anxiety of exploring the unknown have kept me from blindly traveling into the farther reaches of space. I’m becoming a little more confident with my ship’s capabilities and my motivation to explore is growing, so I’m sure it’ll only be a matter of time before I visit DS9 and decide to travel through the wormhole to squish some Dominion arse. ^^;

Steaming

I never thought about it before, but ordering a MMO through Steam presents problems. Case-in-point I was expecting to log into the Star Trek Online head start with little incident Friday night after getting home from work. I had made sure I downloaded and patched the client through Steam after removing the beta client I had downloaded through Filefront. That was a massive mistake.

Initially I thought a new patch had been deployed for the head start and was disappointed that Steam was downloading something that was going to take approximately 3 hours. That was until I started looking through the STO community forums and found a plethora of scathing threads spitting venom at Steam, Cryptic and the world in general. After donning my hazmat suit I began digging through the threads and the cause of why Steam was downloading a 10gb file became apparent.

You see, Steam has this little nervous-twitch which rears its ugly head because Steam is OCD at removing corrupt files. When I patched the STO client through the STO launcher, that caused a red flag to be raised as the checksum of the files Steam thought were there had changed. Thusly Steam removed this corruption and when I clicked on my STO launcher Steam began downloading the entire client again. /facepalm.

Fortunately through all of the steaming hatred and threats of litigation there were a handful people that were helpful in providing a solution. That solution entailing the disabling of Steam updates for STO and running the STO launcher directly. It solved the issue for me once the client had finished downloading again and I haven’t had an issue since. Supposedly Steam and Cryptic have already resolved this issue and Steam no longer deems the client corrupt, but I’d still be weary of any future STO patches and how Steam handles them.

So while Steam fucked up the head start launch day for Steam users, Cryptic wasn’t without issue either. I’m baffled over the decision to make preorder bonuses unavailable until Tuesday. For some this meant that the head start was pointless if they had planned on playing as a joined trill. I decided to just play as a regular trill as an extra 500 skill points didn’t end up being a deal-breaker for me. I was anxious to get in-game and get going in earnest on becoming a cruiser captain.

My goal is to reach Lieutenant Commander before the game officially goes live. I’m about halfway there as I reached Lt 5th grade last night despite my limited game-time so far. My impressions of the game haven’t changed much but I have to say that I’m impressed with the server stability so far in the head start. There has been some lag, but other than a random disconnect I haven’t had much issue with being able to play the game.

Now once the game does go live on Tuesday all bets are off. I’m still preparing myself for days, if not weeks, of server stability issues which is one reason I want to reach Lt.Commander by Tuesday. By setting my expectations so low I hope to avoid being disappointed and giving Cryptic a chance to impress me with the game not being a disaster upon arrival. Star Trek is a very popular IP and I’m sure that the servers will take a severe beating on Tuesday.

I’ve committed to giving STO at least a month to grow and develop and I am hopeful that eventually STO will be an awesome game all around. There’s a ton of potential with the game and I’ve only seen very little of what the game has to offer. I can’t wait to jet around in a cruiser and kick some dominion arse. You can expect many more updates involving STO for the coming days and weeks. I may even go into detail of my in-game endeavors as I once did with Final Fantasy XI when I started this blog.

Trek

I have boldly gone where many have gone before me and ventured into the open beta of Star Trek Online. (Thanks Ninthbatter and Polygamerous!) I wasn’t able to explore every nook n’ cranny in the beta considering I didn’t have a key until the final weekend, but I did get enough time to share my initial thoughts and feelings.

Overall my impression of the game is pretty mixed from the time I did get with it. Space combat is very strategic and enjoyable, but unfortunately the ground missions need a lot of work. I was also a bit overwhelmed with the interface as so much is thrown at you from the beginning. Now don’t fret, the tutorial/starter area does a decent enough job at teaching you to play, it’s just a shame that your first 15 minutes or so are spent on foot which is definitely the weakest part of the game.

I don’t want to be too nit-picky, but the feel of movement during any on foot segment is pretty poor. It might be related to my computer’s ability to process these sections, but control feels sluggish and clunky beyond any performance issues. I also wasn’t impressed with the environments (especially on away missions) given the graphic/processor load during these segments; they’re dull and generally not interesting.

While I wasn’t impressed with the environments, ground combat is where the game takes a huge step backwards. Ground combat is excruciatingly dated and feels very … non-epic. You’re given the ability to roll to “avoid” attacks and go into an aim mode but neither of these tactics are put to great use. This is exacerbated by the exceptionally dumb AI of your away team and the clunky interface to issue commands to them.

There were many times where my away team would just run straight into a room full of baddies as soon as I would execute any command to initiate combat; I’d slowly approach a corner and set up a potential LOS pull and have it go to waste. Ground combat pretty much turns into a chaotic mess with little need to utilize strategic positioning as the enemy AI is just as dumb as your own team’s. Everyone just stands around shooting/hitting each other with the occasional dodge and/or jump. Why in the world do the enemies jump like fleas anyways?

I’m not expecting full-on action/shooter combat mechanics, but even an inkling of them would have gone a long way in making ground combat a lot more epic feeling. Hopefully the away missions get more involved and/or difficult where having other players/captains with you on an away mission as you progress through the game becomes important. However my gut tells me that they won’t ever approach the mechanics present in other MMOs where ground combat is the focus of the game.

Where STO does shine is with the space combat. Positioning, strategy, and executing maneuvers by chaining abilities at the right times are rewarded in this aspect of the game. More importantly is that space combat is fluid and FUN. Once you gain the ability to hit evasive maneuvers to position your ship for a high yield photon torpedo launch after creating a hole in your enemy’s shields you’ll be hooked. Space combat single handedly ensured that I’ll be giving STO a fair shake once it goes live.

I cannot stress enough how rewarding the space combat feels after progressing your “ship’s strength” through skilling up your bridge officers. Skill investment is tantamount to progression in STO which is a new experience for me. I’m used to gaining experience and leveling up, but in STO you have to spend multiple types of points to progress beyond the usual equipment upgrades. This is an area where the game didn’t do a good job of explaining itself to me.

Some of it is fairly straight-forward, but it is pretty easy to get overwhelmed with your options early on and potentially spend points erroneously. When I was spending points to skill-up my character, I didn’t even notice that there was a scroll bar in the menu interface that had MANY more types of skills to dump points into. So this is definitely an area that Cryptic needs to improve or allow “respecs” to allow players to fix early mistakes. My biggest piece of advice is to pick up an engineering officer FIRST and spend all your points in improving his/her ability to send emergency power to the shields. It’ll drastically improve your survivability early on especially if you get overwhelmed as you’ll be apt to do. You can thank me later ^^;

Another gripe that I’m going to share is with the currency used in STO; there are TOO MANY types of currency in this game at the outset. You have your points for skilling up and energy for items, merit points to buy officers, abilities for officers, ships, and who knows what else. Then there are multiple badges from completing missions in various sectors and even artifacts from scanning anomalies that can purchase items as well.

Very confusing and hard to keep track of while attempting to familiarize yourself with the game. I was overwhelmed with all the various forms of currency in the game and I think Cryptic should think hard about simplifying things. I’ll have to write down every single form of currency present once the game goes live with the head-start so I can better wrap my head around it.

Finally there are issues with the server stability and Cryptic’s gross under-estimation of the pounding the beta servers would take. This isn’t Cryptic’s first foray into the MMO market and with an IP as popular as Star Trek is there is no excuse for just how badly they estimated the beta participation would be. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign of what could potentially be a huge disaster for the head-start before the game officially goes live. I could understand server stability issues once the game is live for everyone, but it’ll be a hard pill to swallow if those of us that have pre-ordered the game to gain access to the head start are left out in the cold.

Despite all of the rough edges I experienced in the beta I remain hopeful that Cryptic can capitalize on the sheer potential of STO. Their track record hasn’t been stellar so far with their previous games, but I’m hoping that they’ll address some of the more glaring issues with the game and put some polish into the game. They have a solid card in their hand with the space combat and if they can find a way to improve the ground combat STO could very well become a great MMO.