I re-learned a very important lesson this week. Sometimes its not the game you are playing, its the company you are playing it with – and how you play it.
I really got back into Star Trek Online last year because of two things. One was Rowen sounding off about the second anniversary of the game – a post that still makes me jealous, since I missed out on the Odyssey and Bortas classes, and both are quite nice. And the other was a friend of mine who knew I was into MMO’s asking me if I had played it and would play with him. I gave him the “whatever” but he persisted and I finally logged in and…well, stuff happened.
As it turned out, by the time I finally gave in and got my lazy butt online, his life was going through some shifts, and we never did get to play. So the roles reversed and I kept after him. And finally on Sunday afternoon, we got it together. In a rarity in online gaming, we just hung out at my house. He played on The Beast (my Bulldozer/Nvidia equipped desktop) and I played on my aging laptop. In the same room.
We had our hiccups. We had set the day and time up with an eye towards getting our Ambassador class ship for the 3rd Anniversary party together. But in what I would say was a rare mis-step for Cryptic, the 3rd Anniversary mission can only be completed solo. Seriously. If you are in a team, you have to *leave* the team before you can enter the mission. Still not sure what to make about that.
But hey, we weren’t going to waste the moment. So with him still leveling at 24, I just told him I would tag along. He was wanted to complete the daily exploration mission, so we jumped off to that. We drew combat on the first unknown system, and he died in about three seconds flat when somewhere between six and eight ships spawned on top of us. It took a minute to remember that we needed to hit the level matching button to promote him to 50. Once we did that things were still challenging but much smoother – and to Cryptic’s credit, he earned the same XP that I was earning.
When I had asked him about ship selection, his only response was “firepower” – and he indicated I should bring as much as possible. With my fleet, that means only one thing – it was time to reach for the HEC with its triple Dual Heavy Plasma Cannons and wing of Peregrine fighters. I assigned the fighters to defend him, and kept an emergency heal on standby for his Heavy Cruiser, and it worked out pretty well.
After warming up on the exploration mission, we wanted to take on the next Romulan episode he had been working on, and I was able to easily cue it up for a “Replay” with rewards for my level. That was a little tougher. And you will think I am crazy, but at times it felt like we were in the middle of a JJ Abrams Trek movie, and I’m not talking about lens flare.
I remember at one point him yelling for help and desperately throwing power into my engines to break the tractor beam lock on me, so that I could get within transporter range and beam over an engineering team to assist in damage control. And him coldly noting “its over” as an Orion battleship, its hull failing, tried desperately to escape the web of plasma fires and Tyken rift that we had caught it in. And it wasn’t just the battle sequence. It was the little things. He was short a bridge officer, so I went through my personnel files and we talked about which officer to transfer to him (he opted for one of my human ones, complaining in a very un-PC way about the number of aliens on his ship, lol). We talked shop on console set ups and somehow in the midst of all of it, were surprised to find him sitting at level 26 when we quit for the day.
My takeway was twofold. One is that STO, despite some good features, like the level match and replay, its not a great multiplayer game mechanically – the missions require us to do the dialogue separately, and its possible to get caught in a 30 second timer for a map transfer when you haven’t finished up your part of the mission. But all that fell away when we put two enthusiastic heads together. The shortcomings in the game itself didn’t matter. My second was that there is still something magical about playing together that typing and even the best voice comms can not replicate in a meaningful way. The concentration, laughter, and that enthusiasm above set an atmosphere in the room that transcended words. That’s not to say I don’t have some great online friends – but I was reminded that if I could play with those friends in the same room – it would be a whole ‘nother experience!I ndeed, it has made me deeply miss the few occasions over the last year or so when my dad and brother and I played World of Tanks in the same room!
But mostly I thought, as we played – “this is why this is fun for me.” This is why these games are my hobby, my fun time. That’s not to say I wasn’t having fun before. But something in the game time yesterday made me sit back and enjoy all those joint game sessions *that much more*.
So..play on people. Enjoy your time this week. Now excuse me while I go grab my Ambassador class. I’ve only been waiting for it since before STO’s launch…