A Few Words On Exploration

Werit had a solid post on Exploration a couple of weeks ago. The thrust of it was that Exploration in an MMO needed to be Interesting and Persistent, and that as a result, procedural generation was not a good option for it. The backdrop is STO and how to integrate exploration into it after pulling the plug on their previous system.

I have to confess I do not agree with this stance. I loved the Exploration system in STO and spent most of my time doing just that. It *felt* like the most Trekky part of the game. I would load my ship up with supplies and head into the unknown clusters. Each point of interest either spawned a shiny in the form of a crafting node, or a mission. Sometimes a planet to explore, sometimes an asteroid base to defend, sometimes a Borg invasion that I had arrive just in time to quell. And sometimes it was no mission at all, but rather aid and diplomacy – passing out industrial replicators or medical aid to a planet in distress.

At the end of the night, I would warp home, my bay emptied of commodities and filled with trinkets and crafting goodies, to receive a commendation from the Admiral. Even the duty officers had tie ins, with special missions to establish colonies and such and even recruit the rare species of that cluster on to the ship. In other words, it was very interesting, at least to me.

Was it persistent? Not in the sense that I could revisit the same planet twice, but then again, how often did they do that in Trek? How many Encounters were there at Far Point? Every episode was something new, and in that sense STO did it right. The point was not to find a new home base, it was to explore new worlds. And those I liked, I took screenshots of, which are what you see in this post.

I have never again visited the AT&T planet, as I called it. But it is persistent – I have a record of my time there, and I still remember the mission. Which is more than I can say for some of the “featured episodes” and definitely more than I can say for any Foundry mission I have ever done.


To me, the real crime was that the system was simply dropped instead of being tuned and made better. How could they have done that? A couple of things.

The first was further tie in with the duty officer system, and in particular the Diplomacy subsection. Colonization and Diplomacy should have been broken out of the duty officer rotation and into its own reputation mechanic, much as they have done with the special Task Forces and New Romulus and so on. And exploring the planets and points of interest in the clusters should have afforded the commendations necessary for those unlocks. Here is where your Ambassador titles and cross-faction immunity buffs come from, as well as special uniform and item unlocks.

The second was to further flesh out some of the missions. The aid missions boiled down to dropping off supplies and a small pat on the back. Commodities, rather than being bought, could have been (and still should be) a crafted item, much as The Old Republic does with its new conquest system. Get enough commodities to the planet, and good things happen. This could even be a long term missions. Many people don’t realize that while the generation of the planet was in some way temporary, it was tied to your mission log. If you kept the mission open and uncompleted, the client/server was able to return you to the same system again and again. If the mission objectives were changed or made long term, you could keep returning to the same system, unlocking new sub goals (as you would in a regular quest) with each step of aid granted. Or perhaps they could be tied to the project system directly in the Reputation system as it exists today.

With some improvements, you have the PvE version of all the damn Reputation grinds that STO is so enamored with these days, all of which center primarily around PvP or required group content.

Instead, unlike other “useless” aspects of Star Trek (like starship interiors) that developers have realized are actually important to subsets of the community (like Roleplayers), and put a little bit of time and effort into improving and strengthening the tie ins with the rest of the game, it was jsut tossed aside, with nothing to take its place. It is mind boggling that any game would simply throw away content, particularly without having a replacement in development, or at the very least, to have an idea of what they eventually wanted to replace it with. It still ranks high on my list of “worst developer moves in an MMO” category of failures.

Would it work for every game? No. But in this game, with this lore, it was a pretty good emulation of what Star Trek is about. Exploration was not only possible, it was truly, for the first time in an MMO, not limited by the creativity of the dev team or artists, while also leaving room for the player to make his mark on things.

Gaming Devs Gone Stupid

Awhile ago I wrote that I hoped for the best with Dan Stahl no longer at the helm over at STO. Turns out my hope was misplaced.

STO announced last week that they would be removing Exploration from the game permanently, and shifting any and all active gameplay tasks related to it into the (passive) duty officer system.

Literally every screenshot I have ever uploaded here comes from Exploration clusters and missions.
Literally every screenshot I have ever uploaded here comes from Exploration clusters and missions.

Want to explore strange new worlds? Hell no. You think this is Star Trek or something?

Have a roleplaying group and want to run a random mission together as the basis of your roleplay? Hell no.

Only have a half hour to kill, but want to enjoy some time in STO? Hell no.

The crazy thing is that they are not replacing this source of content. Their only suggestion is to play player-made Foundry missions. But those are an hour or more of gameplay, and someone else is writing the story for you.

Even crazier is the reason – new players might be turned off by this content. Um, 1) there are very few new players coming in at this point. 2) New players are pointed expressly to the storyline missions and new group content. And in a slightly related 3) Nobody is complaining about the extra content. Nobody.

Why, oh why, would you remove content from the game (without a replacement)? Content that people enjoy and that nobody is complaining about? Content that is in no way unbalancing to the rest of progression or anything else?

This is strike two for STO (strike one being the continuing addition of ridiculous Transformers battleships). At strike two, we are at the point where you get no more of my money.

The only thing I can say at this point is thank God I didn’t buy a lifetime sub!

Five For Friday: Favorite Character Mechanics

I thought I might share this series with one of the things that drives interest in a game for me – interesting classes and class mechanics. This is one reason WildStar is not of interest to me while Elder Scrolls Online is – same old classes with same old three part skill trees vs. archetype + weapon + morph builds that change the way the game looks and unfolds in front of your eyes. This may be a reason TERA appeals to me too – the warrior is DPS and one of the healers is a pet class?! Love it! I like for fun little perks, utilities, and options to come into play. I like for norms to be twisted up a bit. I like to have a character that has something interesting or unusual to do in the game, even if that means they are not the best tank or healer or DPS player out there. So, in no particular order, here are some of my favorite character mechanics in the MMO field thus far:

1) “Avast matey, lower your flags, this ship be mine!” (‘Take Command of Ship’ Skill; Pirates of the Burning Sea)

My favorite character in PotBS has always been my Pirate – later, after the class break, known as the Cutthroat. And one of his fun abilities is to use this skill on a ship he has just successfully disabled:


Ships are hard to come by in PotBS, and they don’t necessarily need to be easy to come buy. Its like having a car in real life – you only need a new one every so often. But if you could get a new one, say, every year…for free…wouldn’t you want one? And that is the life of the Cutthroat. Eh, I’ve had this ship for a whole level – I want a new one! Of course the captured one only has 1 durability point (if you are defeated in combat, the ship is lost permanently), but if you were like me, you kept a stockpile of more than one on hand. Because some days you feel like a gun shooting frigate, and some days you feel like a boarding galleon.

2) “Whatya need? Supplies? Gear? Fireball tossing gems? Lemme summon one for you…” (Magician Class, Everquest/EQOA)

Take a gander at the base spell list, levels 1-65, for the Everquest magician. Notice anything? At level one, three spells, not to hurt things, but to get you food, water, and weapons. Level two: armor and bandages. Level six? A backpack. It gets better: arrows, spears, staves, armor for your mates, armor for you, jewelry, resistance items, mana to hp conversion rods, breathe underwater items, click-to-nuke charged items, weapons/armor/gear for pets. Hell, you can even summon your friends – poof! – to right in front of you. A walking, talking, one man fixer for the masses. The ultimate utility kit.

Everything you see here came from my magic.
Everything you see here came from my magic.

Of course, what killed the class, and the idea it brings to the table, was the move to bring characters home at the end of each night. When your group is logging off in the wilderness at their favorite mob spawn and grinding location, characters like the Magician are a godsend. They help you make camp and bring those basic supplies to keep you rolling longer. But none of those can compare to the rest xp that you get when you port back to town each night. After all, the real reason to camp in the wilderness is to be close to the action and cut down on down time. But double xp more than covers the transit time to your favorite spawn camp – particularly in MMO’s dominated with fast transit.

3) “If you build it, they will come.” (Necromancer Class, Vanguard)

Vanguard was the first MMO to move away from the idea of a simple summoned pet for a pet class. While you could certainly raise the dead in the traditional manner, Vanguard went beyond. You built your own Frankenstein. Dead bodies could be scavenged for parts, constructed and given to your persistent pet, turning it into a powerhouse that grew right along side of you. It dealt with a part of the lore of necromancers that other games had not touched on – that of true grave robber, visionary of giving life to the dead. It was an interesting take and a fun little side quest within the group. After all, what could be more character enriching than the experience of a group pulling down their new loot – sword, staff, or what have you, wild the mad necromancer just smiles and pillages the claws off the dead body, excited not for the gold and silver but the knicknack nobody else even noticed, that will make him that much more powerful.

4) “Dual wielding, healing, teleporting, pet class? Yeah, we got those.” (Disciplines, Shadowbane)

While some fun has been had with Wildstar’s system allowing you to chose a sort of subclass that unlocks new area quests, they don’t change the way your class is played, as Shadowbane’s original discipline system did. You had a base class, and advanced class, and then up to three disciplines you could stack on top of that. The end result was that you could build characters that might both be wizards, but with wildly varying skill rotations, abilities, and out of combat utilities. Both could hit you with a lightning bolt, but one might summon dark lords and dual wield swords, the other might run around healing and buffing his group. And the disciplines ranged from the ho-hum (Enchanter, Archmage) to the interesting (Bladeweaver, Traveler) to the WTF (Ratcatcher, Sundancer, Gorgoi). It was a lesson lost on PvP developers everywhere, who now seem to think that PvP can only be good and balanced if every character can be summed up in a class word and its abilities and strengths and weaknesses determined at a glance. In Shadowbane, those kinds of assumptions got you killed. Fast.

5) Attention! Party on deck! (Crews and Duty Officers, Star Trek Online)

Growing up, my favorite RPG series was Might and Magic. I loved rolling a party (sometimes naming characters after my buds) and having a grand adventure through fantasy, not to mention time and space (because Might and Magic wasn’t complete without laser guns appearing at some point). Later on RPG’s evolved, and you had only one character. And so when MMO’s hit, the same followed. But I miss the party system and the fun that could be had with some…well, what I will call “internal roleplaying” – fan fiction, having the universe personalized and come alive in your own head a little more.

And you know, there is only one MMO right now where you can play a fully fleshed out party of five, and where their skills and yours are usable, and where you can pick their race, class, and personality. And that is Star Trek Online. I mean, if you want to play a classic RPG, STO is sitting right there waiting for you, with fleshed out, well written, hour long quests (er, “episodes”) covering multiple story arcs. And if you want to play with a buddy, like I wanted badly to do with Might and Magic back in the day – team up, and you can each bring half your party (on the ground) or all of it (in space).

Truly, this is one of the under-appreciated aspects of STO. One that is not noticed, much less lauded, often enough.

We come in peace (Shoot  to kill)
We come in peace (Shoot to kill)

I Write, STO Delivers

Well that didn’t take long. As of a noon blog post today on STO’s website, we now have “transforming science destroyers.”



The feedback on the lifetime subscriber “transforming cruiser destroyer” was less than positive, so I am curious what kind of bubble the dev team placed themselves in before coming up with this stellar idea.

Don’t get me wrong, the ship itself looks great, and is definitely harkening to the Voyager, no doubt about it. And we badly needed another science vessel. And I figured it would be more escort science than cruiser science because those are more popular, but…

Seriously, transformers?

As more than one person pointed out when the other destroyers were released, when you add the moving parts with even a modicum of thought and common sense, you realize that those parts of the ship have nobody in them. Unless they like getting airlocked by the transformation.

I guess I will still grab one, at least for my main, but…all things considered, I’m about as excited as box of rocks.

Backstory wise, I am fine with focusing more on the current storyline rather than nostalgia, though I really have to wonder why you coulnd’t have done both. Oh well, guess it will be a while longer before we see more of those classic Trek ships on our computer screen.

STO’s 4th Anniversary Ship

Speculation has been rampant. Okay, maybe not. There are one or two threads on the forums, but that’s about it. Of course, for the 2nd year anniversary and F2P transition, the new Enterprise, the Odyssey Class cruiser was given as a gift (I missed that one by just a few weeks). Last year, the speculation and push was for the old Ambassador class, which was the model for the Enterprise-C that showed up in the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” This was a good fit – a nostalgic ship that people appreciated but that more than likely the player base was not going to pay good money for. A win-win for everyone to have this request fulfilled. I personally appreciated it a lot since I am a huge fan of the ship and had wanted one since launch.

So I have been curious as to whether or not Cryptic would follow the same paradigm this year, and I think they will. A ship that is evocative of Trek without being very marketable to the playerbase. Other hints have abounded. A few days ago we found out that Tim Russ will be making his STO debut in the Anniversary Episode. We also know that there have been escorts and science escorts and cruiser escorts all released, but it has been awhile since we have had a pure science or cruiser vessel released. OR a science cruiser hybrid like the Nebula. People have been clamoring for the New Orleans class frigate but since it is a cruiser escort hybrid that will sell in game like hotcakes, I am excluding that from my guessing. I could be way off base on that, but I just can’t believe that Cryptic would pass over monetizing such a sought after and valuable (from a gameplay mechanics standpoint) vessel.

With all that in mind, I present to you, after some research on Memory Alpha and some other site that doesn’t want to be recognized, five possibilities for the anniversary ship (in no particular order.

#1. The U.S.S. Yeager

While the Yeager appears to be, for all intensive purposes, more of an escort class, I consider it a possibility for two reasons. One, it gives the Voyager tie in to go along with Tim Russ’s appearance. Two, it would be hard to monetize because it is a reviled kitbash that is apparently considered ugly as sin. There are a couple of good tie-in dates as well: the anniversary is nestled between the anniversary of Yeager’s final combat mission (1/15) and his birthday (2/13).

#2. The U.S.S. Sydney

The Sydney is also ugly. But its a good multipurpose ship that would in no way be considered overpowering. In canon it was a transport ship, and so would fit in with the aid being given to the Romulans and allow for a variety of fittings. On the other hand, this was supposedly a precursor model of the runabouts. A little wink and nod to the script and you could give this away as a small craft for the new PvP arena just added to the game. But still, this is a long shot.

#3. The U.S.S. Bradbury

A prototype for the Voyager, this also nods to Tim’s cast arrival, and it is a pure science vessel, so it fits all sorts of ways. Modeling wise it would be cheap, given the Voyager and Prometheus cues that would simply need to be edited and not built from scratch. Not to mention that the loss of Bradbury 18 months ago still stings a bit for those of us who are fans of the old school of science fiction. Let me just say this: if I were in charge of STO, this is the way I would go.

#4. The U.S.S. Springfield

Stolen directly from a site that wants no publicity at all.
Stolen directly from a site that wants no publicity at all.

Harkening to the Nebula class a bit, this Wolf 359 kitbash would make another good science or multipurpose vehicle. While ugly, it is a nod to the Galaxy, and that’s never a bad thing for a playerbase that is very much in love with the old Ent-D.

#5. The U.S.S. Curry

AKA the Shelley-Class, as a nod to the author of Frankenstein for this obviously kitbashed ship. Still, its not all that bad, I think, and has a certain charm to it. You can see additional pictures of the model straight from its creator if you like. Another good candidate, I think, because it comes across as the Oberth’s big brother, as a science vessel, and, again, cost very little to model as a kitbash.

Of course…Cryptic may be deciding to go a whole different route – they may go back to original ships (despite the additional modeling cost) as a celebration and promotion. In fact, somebody pulled these images from one of the new missions showing some alternate ship plans. I think they are ugly as some of the ships I’ve listed here, if not more so, but beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.

In any case, I’m excited to see what Cryptic reveals, and what new ship is coming to us this year. Now I just have to go buy some more ship slots…

Because even the free stuff isn’t really free…

Stahl Stepping Down

Stephen D’Angelo is the new captain of STO.

This will actually be his second stint at the helm. He was interim Executive Producer when Stahl took a leave of absence back in 2011.

I have to say, I have a bit of sadness around this. Stahl did a great job facilitating communication, listening to feedback, and charting a solid course for the game. In a lot of ways, I’m not sure STO could have asked for someone better to lead it.

Stahl is not retiring, but has agreed to con an “an exciting new project at Cryptic Studios” according to the article. According to their webpage, they simply call this their Top Secret Project and will only say at this time that it “represents our continued commitment to diversify and reach beyond the boundaries of traditional MMORPG gaming.” I’m not sure what that might be, but whatever it is, they are in as good a set of hands as you could ask for for the project. (I do know at one time Cryptic was set to pursue a modern Cthulhu/Indiana Jones style modern MMO – wonder if this has been resurrected).

Good luck Dan, and thanks for your hand in rescuing the game from an otherwise unceremonious fate.

State of My Game: June

This is a nutso week for me.  I was gone for three days and came back just in time for my wife to fly out for four days, and then we can have a nice peaceful two days together before I’m gone again another week.


So, I don’t have much time to write.  Or play.  But here’s a general rundown on where I am right now:


World of Tanks:  Unfortunately between travel and single-parenting, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere lately.  And all our Clan Wars matches have been super early.  And my client crashed on my laptop.  So I upgraded my desktop drivers to the new 320’s.  That worked…for a day.  Then they started crashing again.  I guess I just got a lemon video card.  Oi.   Anyway, so now we are back to laptop play.    I haven’t made any significant progress on my tier 9’s  About the only thing I can say is that I have fallen in love with the SU-100M1.  It is fast, has nice angled armor, insane travserse speed.  And the upgraded gun is super accurate and drills out shots every six seconds or so.   Tier 9’s are sometimes and issue, but the game is so accurate and the tank so fast, that even getting the best of them is not often a difficult prospect.  I can relocate, and on occasion I’ve even circled them to great effect.  Great tank that I will be holding onto as I continue to climb the line.


The new camo's are pretty awesome, btw...
The new camo’s are pretty awesome, btw…


Star Trek Online:  The new Romulan content is great, but I’m stuck with analysis paralysis.  I really don’t know whether to go KDF or FED.  And so I haven’t done either.  Really, despite the new content, what I would like to do now is go back and play all the KDF missions with my level 50 engineer.  I leveled solely through Duty Officers with him, mostly because the UI was such a RED EYESORE ATTACK.   Now that this has been fixed, I’d like to run the actual content.  Oh, and I think I will be shelling out for at least one of the Romulan refit ships.


Hello, gorgeous. I would trade my pointy ears for you.


Uncharted Waters Online:  I dinked around a bit last week, but that’s about it.   I really want to go finished the advanced schools and start doing some exploring…


Lord of the Rings Online:  I think we finished up the Lone Lands this past weekend.  It has been slow going with my travel, but we are still enjoying ourselves.  We talked about trying one of the 3-person instances soon.  That could be trouble though since I can’t even hold aggro on regular mobs, must less boss monsters.  We will see I guess!


The Secret World:  I’m back, and I rolled a Templar.  Surprise!  While I have never really been a self-modeler or self-biographer in my roleplaying, there was one thing the Templars offered that nobody else did that I decided I absolutely couldn’t live without:


I can only dream of being this stylish IRL...
I can only dream of being this stylish IRL…


Plus it goes with a healer build.  Right up my alley.


Anyway, this may be it for the next week and a half.  Game well everyone!

The Bridge is Crowded, Part II

So I’m less than 750 xp points from completing a long time goal of mine in STO, which is the capping out of the Diplomacy Advancement.   Doing so gives me voting privileges (for what appears to be a broken event at the current time), a transwarp to DS9 ability (awesome!), the Ambassador title (woot!), and best of all, the feather in the cap – the ability to recruit a bridge officer from the opposing faction.


As I’m currently in the process of reworking and upgrading my bridge crew, this will be a nice addition, and I need to make room for it.  The question is what to do.  I think it will be an Engineering officer, as that is what I am short on the most in the “purple” (very rare) department.   And I would like for it to be female.  After the overhaul the M/F breakdown will be 10/2, which is a big heavy for me.  My current breakdown is much closer to 50/50, and that is preferable for me.  And of the available races, I’m most interested in the Letheans and the Orions.


The cheesy part of me of course wants the reformed/escaped Orion slave-girl who beauty is exceeded only by her ability to make warp core calculations in her head.  While I’m not grouser of sexism in games, yes, I do plan to dress her as a Starfleet Officer and not as a slave-girl, so rest easy on that score.  On the other hand the Letheans are an underrated race and quite fun with their psionic abilities and unusual appearence.  Here too the RP possibilities are fantastic.


So far I’m torn on the decision, and I only have another day or so until I churn out those XP.  I need to make a decision fast.   Your input is appreciated!

The Bridge is Getting Crowded

Okay, not so much like that.    More like this:


As you can see, I have something of a plethora of bridge officer candidates.  What can I say, I have have a hard time saying “no” to virtual applicants.


I could sell off the extra ones – but they are worth so little, and there are so many of them on the exchange, I’m not sure its worth the time it would take to list them.  But then again, inventory space is always at a premium for a pack rat like myself!


The other option is, of course, upgrades.  Because the officers are so cheap, laying ahold of one to train the “rare” mark II or III version of a skill is relatively simple.  Not to mention that if you have a buddy who can train that skill as a player character, they can train the bridge officer and then trade them right back to you!  No, the real reason to upgrade is the passive attributes, which are greater at each level.


Even then – I’m not sold.   After all, for the best efficiency, you need an entirely Saurian/Borg/Human bridge crew (only these three races grant passive bonuses to space combat), and a ground crew that is all but those three races – usually with nothing but Betazoid Science officers.  And I’m just not into that.  Not only am I a big fan of Jacques Ellul (who famously noted that Efficiency is currently humanity’s true god), but I’m a roleplayer.  I’m not here for the stats, people.


Long story short though, it is pretty sad.   Here is what I currently have in my slots vs. what is available…



1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     5 x Blue


1 x Blue, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 5 x Blue


1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 7 x Blue

Given that without spending Zen, you get a standard of 10 officers, with the ability to purchase new slots at $1.25 a pop, up to maximum of 54, according to the wiki.    Which I’m not keen on doing.


So, the TL:DR of all this is simple.   I have to be willing to say goodbye to some old friends if I want to upgrade.  As a roleplayer, and a pack rat, that’s a double whammy.   How do I give up the science officer I started with 45 levels ago, who has been with me through thick and thin and still functions just fine!


I probably need to just put my big boy pants on and fire some peeps.   Because I’m betting other players don’t have this issues like this…


Nor, I’m betting, did Captain Picard.

Plays Well With Others

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.


The classic muscle car of the Star Trek IP…


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.


To boldly get jumped by renegade Klingons...
To boldly get jumped by renegade Klingons…


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.


Refitting between battles.
Refitting between battles…


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…