Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Disappointed with Star Trek Online

Hello there again, yes, it is I... Not Leclair...

Now, I'd like you to all gather around, and I'm going to tell you about my personal experience with Star Trek Online [STO] earlier this year, but first you can all go and find out what I'm talking about by checking out the game yourselves at their site.

Now, I did something rash; at least rash for me; and I bought STO, I actually bought the pre-release digital pack off of steam. Purely on the basis of the reaction I'd heard of people liking it on podcasts and on the stock I hold in the Star Trek Franchise name [yes I can even forgive them for 'Enterprise' because, I can always think that Captain Jonathan Archer was actually a time-traveller trapped in that show and he had to get to the end of the Zindy war before he'd get zipped out of there... cough... sorry going off topic a bit there... Sorry, I don't know what came over me... slaps his Ziggy Remote].

Yes, so I got into STO pre-release. I'd not played the beta but I thought pre-release would get me going, especially as we got “exclusive pre-release” access.

Well, lets just say, I didn't think that the pre-release access was worth the £10 paid. I can accept there being lots of pre-release development going on, I accepted the patches coming in. But the Server instability, especially when they knew how many potential accessors they had, was pretty poor. The server was down a lot more during US Prime-Time [least that's what I heard], so I was considered lucky playing on UK Prime-Time.

But even so, I was at one point so frustrated with the log on process and queuing and then random kicks that I contacted them and voiced my concern. I even mentioned the point of paying a premium to access the service which was not available. I came up a blank on that one, and I unlike me, I was quite calm about it all.

When I was in game though I began to enjoy the mix of space to ground missions. I enjoyed being sent off to Memory Alpha, and I even enjoyed grinding up some of the space junk to hand over to the scientists. I advanced in rank and got myself a pretty new ship [I was playing a science officer, I like to heal, however, I found the STO mechanics for fleet support annoying at best].

I joined a nice fleet in the game and we have a fun role playing evening or two, it was nice to meet people in a pug situation who were willing to role play too. A refreshing change I thought. I could live with all this.

But as my month of play came along and I moved up in rank to the mid-tier III – LtCmdr – stuff, I found that the game play was really rather repetitive. Ground missions became something of a joke, they had an eerie feel of an episode of the Flintstones. Whereby the background is repeated over and over to save money animating it... the same thing was happening in STO... I'd go past a bunker, or a rock, or a whole planet and think... “That's the same as X I did yesterday”. In fact the only things changing were a few words here and there.

Now, I will admit a strength in STO, something it had over other MMORPGs, it didn't try to hold your hand too much. It did, obviously, or no-one would be able to fathom it out at all. But it basically introduced you to how to do something, and then let you figure it out as you went. Ship equipment, away team kit, new skills, recruiting officers, levelling skills. All these things were pretty much left up to you. And with the game being new there was no consensus of a right or a wrong way. Making it feel so much freer than other MMO's which have now been out a while.

However, after exploring around a bit, going through missions and ranking up level upon level, I kind of came to a sorry end with the game. It has been, I feel, released too early. There were a lot of bugs, even after release. Some of them very detrimental to the Star Trek name... I was surprised that it was allowed. For me these included:

  • Warp in of ship – often happened with no ship.

  • Pop-up characters would display the old head and then “flip” to the new head as it loaded.

  • Falling through the ground on away missions.

Now, unless we count the episode where the black blob kills Denise Crosby, no-one ever fell through the floor in a Star Trek episode... Ships never arrived from their enigmatic warp after their own con trails... and subspace transmissions didn't load slower than my old Atari ST playing Captain Blood.

So, all in all, I shut down the subscription.... yes I avoided the life-time sub... and I left feeling somewhat dejected.

I don't think there is much that can be done to rescue the situation either, as I'm sure that Cryptic don't have full control over the engine STO is based around, I feel that Cryptic are doing a bang up job to mould and craft the content to minimise problems with a flaky engine. This is only a personal view, I'm sure someone over there would correct me if I'm wrong, and I'll happily accept that correction. But with no future information except playing the game to go on, and seeing how patches affected things, I can only say I saw content changes, no major code base changes.

So, I left STO. Star Trek did not meet up with the expectations from a major franchise name, at least not for me.

Catch my next blog where I make enemies of you all by slagging off Dragon Age... Blasphemy! I head you all cry, but bare with me, I have a point to make and it is all about the contents of your wallets.


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  2. I wish I were this guy, he seems to be enjoying STO, even with all its repetative mission structure... and he even reports decent behaviour from the servers at the end... though I speculate as to why he felt the need to point that out... is it because he actually has had an f-tonne of technical problems with the stability in the past, so much so, that when it behaves it's worth mentioning.... [I think so]....