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.

The Apocalypse is Upon Us!

Yeah, I said it.  First it was Brad McQuaid re-emerging as a developer with Sony.

Now, this, from Dan Stahl, executive producer of Star Trek Online:

 

The key decision to move STO to F2P over the last year was crucial to our current success and while it was painful along the way, ultimately sets us up for the future. It really makes me wonder if other games such as SWTOR wished they would have launched F2P as well, because converting all the systems over to a new business is a huge challenge.

 

Yes, that’s right ladies and gents, you heard that right:  Cryptic (the studio that got sold off) and Star Trek Online (the MMO that flopped like the left ear of the Easter Bunny) are concerned about the long term survivability of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  If anyone had told me a year ago, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.  But today it not only sounds less than insane, it actually sounds right on the money.

 

Truly, this is 2012 kinda stuff happening around here lately.

Upgrading My Ride

So I upgraded my ride yesterday, both virtually, and in real life.

 

In real life, I traded in my van, in its seventh year of life, and replaced it with something a little smaller and sportier.

 

What, you were expecting a Corvette?

 

Yeah, I’m still a family guy, and even though we now have a different family car to serve our travel needs, that didn’t mean our second car was going to be a speed demon. Still, the Suzuki is wildly underrated. Which is just fine with me, because that means its also wildly underpriced, especially in the slightly used market, which where I picked this one up at.

 

However, that does not mean I am bound by the same restrictions in my virtual life, now does it? I haven’t checked into STO in awhile, but I knew that some new ships were on the horizon for this Season, and my patience paid off. And, quite frankly, Cryptic/Perfect World delivered in spades. Behold the new Heavy Escort Carrier (HEC), the Armitage Class.

 

The latest Frontier Aggressive Negotiation Vessel.

 

 

Now, high praise needs to be given. From the launch of STO, a great deal of grumbling went on in the community that the deeply popular Akira class was only a tier two ship. The upside was that you could get into one fairly early on. The downside was that it was impossibly outmatched at endgame, and thus could not be your sweet ride for life. So kudos for finally stepping up and putting it alongside the other canonical ship retrofits for endgame awesome.

 

But double kudos because Cryptic actually called up the original designer of the Akira, Alex Jaeger, and talked to him about the intentions of his design. And, as most fans know, Alex had always planned for the Akira to be a warship, either a carrier or a heavy missile boat. Either way, it was supposed to be big, bad, and nasty. We got to see a few moments of them in action during First Contact/DS9, but on the whole they have gone criminally neglected in the IP.

 

So Cryptic saw this as a great opportunity to bring Alex’s vision to life. They worked with him to come up with a new exterior design, taking design cues from the Akira as well as their own next generation ships. And they gave it a hangar bay, so that it could in fact be a little bit of a carrier. But the final part was a little tricky for game balance reasons – how do you make it a missile boat? Well the solution was in the special console. Technically its a point defense system; in reality, its a special ability that launches torpedoes at the six closest enemies. It has a high cooldown (3 minutes), but when paired with your actual torp weapons, provides a nice DPS boost, as well as the cool factor of filling the space in a 360 arc around your vessel with lots of shiny red torps.

 

Now, the best thing about ships in STO is the ship configurator/customizer. So not only can you make that new Heavy Escort Carrier look like the new design, you can make it look like the original Akira if you are feeling nostalgic, or even mix and match, as creative types like me are want to do. So in the end, I’d like to show you my other new ride.

 

Meet the U.S.S Ranger

 

And since I don’t play around, my HEC has not one, not two, but three sets of Dual Heavy Cannons, of the plasma variety, because plasma fire. If you survived the first pass, I’m sure my rear-facing torp tubes and the Peregrine class fighters will finish the job.

 

Bonus pro-tip:  All STO ships except the HEC are on sale for 20% off through July 2nd.  Go get some.

And then, before I knew it, I was a Captain…

I’ve been playing STO again for something like 13 days.  And by “playing” I mean that I did the “2800” series, which is like five or six “episodes” (quests, if you will), and one additional episode from the series I was on when I last played over a year ago.  Outside of that, I’ve done only dailies and rotated my duty officer assignments around playing my other games.

And in those 11 days, I have gained more than 10 levels.  In fact, I had planned a post on “what ship should I choose” – because I was not sure if I wanted to branch out and try cruisers, in part because I intensely dislike the Defiant (errr…”Tactical Escort”) and I’m not a huge fan of the Intrepid class either.   But after some consideration, I realized that 1) I was going to hit Captain long before I thought I was and 2) for $6.25 + some leftover Cryptic points from my pre-order and some survey I did, I can purchase the Long Range Science Vessel Refit, aka the Bellepheron, aka the “USS Voyager, only much cooler looking.”

To Boldly Go...and Look Awesome While We Do It

And given how much fun I’ve had in the game and that its kinda my secondary game fix now, $6.25 a month was not a bad investment.  That gives me about 500 Cryptic points a month to play with, enough for 1-2 cash shop purchases.  I say “about” because you can also trade some of the in game currency into Cryptic points (at a rate of about 4 a day at my current pace) giving me another 100 or so points a month to work with.   For $4 less per month than I was spending on World of Tanks.  How about them apples?

So, as of tonight, this Captain will have a new ship.   Now if  I could just come up with a good name

How Did I End Up Here?

If you had jumped back in time (haha, if I had a nickel for everytime that happened in…well, you’ll see) to two weeks ago, and told me, HZero (some of my internet friends have a disconcerting habit of calling me Zero by the way 0-O ),  a few weeks from now, you will voluntarily give up a night of playing TOR to play some STO, I would have laughed at you.  And in fact, I did, literally “lol” at the person who asked me to play with them.  And then I felt bad, so I went and downloaded the game and logged in.  And went ahead and got my Akira (what the hell, that goal has only been on hold for like, 13 months, right?).

 

My Akira/Zephyr class. Yes, it is rather awesome looking, isn't it?

 

And along the way I realized that Cryptic and Perfect World have done a great job of improving the game.  Granted, some stuff is still just plain bad.  Ground combat, for example, continues to be unresponsive, boring, and at times, just plain odd (why is that AI alien armed with a plasma mini-gun trying desperately to get as close to me as possible?).    But there are a lot of things being done absolutely right.  Ground combat, bad as it is, is much improved over a year ago.  The Foundry delivers some excelling user-generated content.  The Duty Officer system is fantastic.  The Episodic story format, with its weekly story-driven missions, are great, almost like an interactive online comic book.   You can actually fail missions if you don’t read the text.  The opportunities for RP are so deep its hard to truly appreciate them all (it occurs to me that, despite the lack of true dialogue interaction with my bridge crew, I am far more attached to some of them than I am to any of my TOR companions…).  And perhaps best of all, the atrocious grind is gone, and replaced with a decent leveling curve.

 

But this might come at a good time.  I’ve about tapped out World of Tanks.  Or, more specifically, I’ve about opened up all the tank lines I wanted to, with the possible exception of some individual historical tanks, which can honestly wait until they put in actual historical matches.  So it may be time to step down from a premium account there, which has acted as a sort of “second sub” for me, and put the $5-10 a month I was spending there into STO instead.  I see no reason to sub up to STO, since a subscription offers me nothing of interest at this point.  But with 400-800 Cryptic points a month, I would be in heaven with a well stocked duty roster, fun uniforms and ships, and a regular XP boost.  Even if I do nothing more than log in on the weekend to play the new episode, and occasionally during the week to piddle around with duty assignments.

 

So, in summary, I’m not sure how I got here, but I’m glad I did.  And my friend is too, because those continuing missions are more fun with a second ship and captain at your disposal.

Free Game Time…or not.

+ 72 Hours of Action: Free access to Champions Online begins Friday March 26, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. PDT and ends Monday March 29, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. PDT.

+ Unrestricted Play: Players will have access to all zones, instances and gameplay tools.

+ Pre-Load and Get in Fast: Client is available to Pre-load Beginning March 19, 2010 from the official website.

+ Account: Users will need a valid Champions Online account to play (no purchase necessary). To register a new account, please visit our website.

+ Revive Old Favorites: If you’ve previously played Champions Online, you can login during the free trial time and continue playing with your old characters!

ETA:  Turns out you can get in,  but only if you actually click through the promotional materials and “sign up” for the free trial weekend.  Do game companies seriously think crap tactics like that are good for business?

Coup de Grace

The pre-order grace periods are ending soon! If you pre-ordered the game, but have not yet entered your retail key, you can continue to play until the following dates. After your grace period ends, you will need to enter your retail key to continue to play.

North American Retailers:
Feb 6, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific.

Yes friends, that would be in about 3.5 hours from now.  Which means that I will lose days of game time…because my package is in the hands of the US Postal Service.  And you don’t want it in their hands.  Walmart shipped the game on Monday, and the USPS got it in Atlanta on Wednesday…and its still in Atlanta as of today, Saturday.  It still has to travel from Atlanta to Nashville.  The *earliest* I could receive my game would probably be Tuesday, and I’m not holding my breath.

I have no idea what to do.  I can’t yell at Walmart, because its not their fault, they did what they were supposed to.  I can’t yell at the Post Office, because they won’t be open and available again for 36 more hours.  Bleh.

Then again, this is a way to test Cryptic yes?  A chance for their Customer Service Staff to shine!

Oh, who am I kidding, I’m screwed…