Ends and Odds

Gonna cover a bit of territory today-this’ll be one of those posts where I hit thoughts on a number of different games.

So, here we go.

Galactic Strongholds is about a week away from Star Wars: The Old Republic, and while there are a few other things coming along with it, it’s the Strongholds that are the big draw.  I’ve been making plans to get credits enough to expand my free Nar Shadda stronghold, with the understanding that I’ve never managed to get a million credits on a single character.  I was coming close recently, with a character getting up to over 700k, but then I made the mistake of going on the GTN trading house and went “Ooooo!  Shiny!” and that was that.  I have no discipline….  According to the latest guide I’ve seen, it’ll take about 6.5 million credits to fully unlock all the rooms in the Nar Shadda stronghold.  That’s not counting whatever credits will be dumped into decorations.

Clearly, this is a long term project for me.

Still, it’s not like I have to spend all the credits at once.  Most of it can be done in 2.5 million chunks.  Not an easy number, but it’s not impossible, either-I can fairly easily get 100k inside of an hour or a little more doing some of the dailies.  If I had any sense of the market, I’d sell stuff on GTN, but since I rarely do flashpoints or operations, I don’t have the big ticket items to sell.  Well, I’m in no hurry.  All of this means, though, that there’s no chance I’ll be working toward the guild flagship, which unlocks at a colossal 50 million.  If my guild was something other than mostly-dead, it might be achievable, but with maybe two people active at best, that’s just not gonna happen.  Especially since, you know, personal strongholds first.  I MIGHT spring for a guild stronghold, which unlocks at 50k on Coruscant (which is what I’m figuring on) and opens all rooms at 1.5 million, but that’s probably as far as it’ll go.  No flagship also means the desire to do the upcoming Conquest content is iffy, and it sounds a lot to me like that large guilds will dominate that stuff anyway-since it’s conflict between guilds, and all-so the way I see it, I can do without that too.  This doesn’t bother me; there will be enough for me to work on without that.

The next new content related thing is coming from an unexpected source.  Champions Online is actually updating with something other than “single mission and done” with Steel Crusade, introducing one of the most dangerous villains of the setting:  Mechanon.  The report says that this is a two-part update that will include a new mission arc, several new areas (although I’m dubious about these “new areas” being anything more than a mission instance).  But the most interesting part of this update is something City of Heroes players may find familiar: the introduction of an Epic Archetype, which is unlocked for anyone who has a character who gets to max level.  The Reawakened Automaton is said to have new powers that aren’t available to Freeform characters…at first.  But if you get the RA to the max level, those powers unlock and become available to Freeforms as well.  I expect to see a lot of these characters early on, as I suspect almost EVERYONE who plays CO has a max level character somewhere on the roster.  I certainly do-in fact, Asteroid recently hit that status himself, so I’m getting ready to work on one of my older characters who deserve play time.  (It’s so much easier to level characters when you don’t have to deal with guild-related stuff.)  This update is due to hit early September.

The last big update news is the announcement of Star Trek Online’s Delta Rising, which features a continuation of the game storyline by taking the characters into the Delta Quadrant.  Technically, they’ve been operating there for a little while thanks to the Dyson Spheres there, but this will be taking them into areas explored by the USS Voyager back when it was lost in that area of space.  New ships are expected-including a tier-6 set of ships, which has irritated a number of forum posters as it implies that C-Store ships have just become obsolete.  There’s talk that there are upgrades to “make them competitive”, but so far, it sounds like the ships being granted such upgrades are lockbox ships or Fleet ships.  Whoopee.  Well, given my disenchantment with the game lately, it’s not like I’ll care that much.  Besides, I’ve skipped tier upgrades before-back when the game was new, I used my Constitution-variant ship for twenty levels.  I’ll live if I can’t use my Odyssey-class as a tier-6 upgrade; I’ll just adapt to having it punch above its weight class.  Of course, given that STO doesn’t include things like exploration anymore, I might just decide to throw in the towel on Starfleet and use my Klingon characters since it’s more about conquest.  This expansion is due to hit in October, and like Legacy of Romulus, is a free expansion.

So, a lot going on in the major games I play.  The next few months will be interesting, and it’ll give me plenty of fodder to comment upon in the weeks ahead.  Next time, I expect to have something to say about Galactic Strongholds; if for no other reason than to mock my decoration skills.

Our House

We’re about two weeks out from the next big expansion for Star Wars: The Old Republic, called “Galactic Strongholds”.  It’s the introduction of player housing in the game, something I honestly thought we’d never see in a game like this.  Of course, it’s also not quite what fans of SWG might’ve liked, either, but I don’t see how that was going to happen.

Housing is one of those things that seems to provoke strong opinions on the ‘net.  One group insists that having housing is a way to give players more of an investment in their chosen game.  Not a financial investment-an emotional one.  That sort of thing, they say, encourages players to stay with the game over the long haul-everyone likes showing off their houses to guests.  Another group, though, tends to view it as a waste of time; it’s playing “dress-up” with houses instead of going out and doing things.  The time spent on putting in housing could be better spent, they say, on actual content.

I kind of see both sides of this, especially in today’s content-locust environment.  TOR has been fairly quiet with content lately; there have been a couple flashpoints, a couple raids, and small planets (very small) for dailies, but that’s been about it for a long while since Makeb.  (Oh, yeah-and Galactic Starfighter, for the PvP crowd.  How’s that been working out?)  Nothing that significant for a game that touted itself as relying on that fourth pillar of “story”.  And now we get housing.  But…they aren’t wrong in the idea that having a housing setup can promote a sense of place in the game.  Plus, there is another flashpoint coming along with this expansion-and while I am somewhat incredulous that the developers can pull this off, they still claim another Makeb sized expansion is in the wings before year’s end.  I’ll believe that one when I see it.

Which brings us to the housing itself.  Full disclosure:  I don’t have access to the test server-mainly because I don’t have the client downloaded.  At this point, I have exactly two test clients on my system:  Star Trek Online, because I never bothered to get rid of it, and City of Heroes, because I can still access useful bits thanks to a utility put together not long after it shuttered.  I don’t need to add more test clients.  The point being:  what I know is hearsay, mostly from awesome sites like Dulfy’s.  (Incidentally, as a side note, it sounds like the Rakghoul plague has hit again in Tatooine-I only know this thanks to Dulfy’s.)

Let’s get the obvious out of the way, first.  The housing is instanced.  There was absolutely no way it was ever going to happen where you could place homes on the planets that exist.  I would think that sort of thing would’ve had to have been planned for from the initial development of the game.  Now, I’m not sure if the strongholds will have an obvious hook into the world, or if you will have to use something similar to a “quick travel” to get into it.  I’m sort of expecting the latter, based on the screenshots I’ve seen.  The good news is that you should be able to access it no matter what world you’re on, so there’s the tradeoff.

In many ways, it sounds a lot like the housing in Champions Online with their hideouts.  Except better.  First, the scale seems on first glance to be larger; and second, you have a much larger selection of decorations to put up.  It isn’t a free-placement sort of decor.  Heaps of sections in the Stronghold can handle different styles of “hooks”.  You put the decorations on the hooks-some of which, as I understand it, have a hook of their own (tables, maybe?).  The downside seems to be that to get the good decorations will require achievements of various types, or a lot of credits-or materials gained via raids.  Not to mention crafting; crafters seem to be the way to get the building blocks needed to create various decorations.

There’s a monetization aspect, too-does it surprise anyone that some good decorations are going to be in Cartel Market packs?  It shouldn’t.  More frightening, though, is the expansion of the Stronghold.  It costs a heap of credits-and I mean a HEAP-to open up more rooms to the maximum size.  Of course, Cartel Coins can be used to do it as well.  That’s the price one pays for a free-to-play/freemium game.

The Strongholds themselves cover a wide area:  Nar Shadda, Tatooine-these are “any faction” Strongholds.  Then there’s Coruscant and Dromund Kaas, which are factional strongholds.  A key factor here:  Strongholds are “legacy wide”, which means you pick up a Stronghold, and all your characters have access to it; it’s not tied to a single character.  Which means, yes, your Sith Lord can go to your Coruscant Stronghold.  There’s apparently some kind of cost to doing that-unless the character is a l, who’s used to breaking rules all the time, or an Agent, who’s used to going where they’re not supposed to all the time.  (And as an amusing note, I consider my Smuggler to be my Republic “main”, and my Agent as my Imperial “main” character.  Sometimes the choices work out!)

This is theoretically a bit of what Coruscant’s could look like.

In keeping with the idea of the Strongholds being open to the roster of characters on the server, there is available a “legacy bank”, which allows access to all your characters to inventory.  Cost may be an issue, and credits aren’t one of the things that can be shared, but it might prove helpful to crafter-heavy players, depending on how many slots are available.  And like other cargo bays or inventory, more bays can be purchased.  But expect sticker shock.

Finally, it’s worth noting that a guild can open a Guild Stronghold.  There’s also the idea of Guild Flagships that are supposedly hitting the test server in the near future, and from what I understand, the cost on those things will be…let’s call it “nontrivial”.  It’ll be brutal for small or dead guilds, but larger guilds should be able to spread the pain-similar to how I’ve seen things work with the Fleet Holdings in STO.  Between the personal Strongholds, the guild Strongholds, and the Flagships, I imagine that there’s going to be a great deal of anguish as far as wallet-beatings go.  Cost of doing business-think of it as a set of goals to go for.  As for me:  I plan to deal with my personal Strongholds before I even think about anything Guild related.  And I’ll likely try to fill out at least three of those Strongholds, and theme them to fit the worlds:  Coruscant will be heavily Jedi-ish flavored, a place of heroes; Dromund Kaas will be so Sithy it’ll make your head explode; and Nar Shadda, which I figure is gonna be Casablanca.  We’ll see how it all shakes out-in about two weeks, should all go well.

“We’ve always been each other’s greatest nemesises… uh, nemesee… wh-what’s the plural on that?”

One of the best parts of Champions Online has always been its Nemesis system.

Every hero has one.  Batman has the Joker.  Spider-Man has the Green Goblin.  Thor has Loki.  Superman has Lex Luthor.  And so on, and so on.  That one villain who is the bane of their existence.  But wait-honestly, it’s not so much that they have a single nemesis-they all have a rotating rogue’s gallery, a heap of villains.  Bats doesn’t just have the Joker; he’s got the Riddler and the Penguin and Ra’s al Ghul and Catwoman.  Spider-Man has Doctor Octopus and the Lizard and the Kingpin and Kraven the Hunter.

City of Heroes had never really been able to replicate that sort of thing, one of its few lingering faults in my opinion.  Mission Architect could help a little bit, but that required you to actually figure out how to make a mission from start to finish.  CO may have its faults, but their Nemesis system seemed to definitely be a winner, and it still stuns me after all these years how-outside of one endgame thing-they never bothered to iterate on it.  As in, at all.  It’s one of their prime attractions to that game, and they ignore it.  (I’ve spoken recently about how dumb the decision making at Cryptic is; this is just another example.)

Over my time in the game, I’ve managed to mess with this with a few heroes; one of them even managed to jail no less than two of his nemeses.  This probably demands a bit of explanation first before I get into them.

When you get to level 25, you can go to the police station in Millennium City and “reveal” a secret history to the cop there-about your Nemesis!  It’s a thinly veiled story lead-in to allow you to design your villain.  The villain has pretty much all the same costume options as the hero does (save for weapons, I believe).  You define a general power set for them, and assign henchmen-which have their own powerset.  Once you’ve done that-and an introductory mission for the Nemesis-then you can expect to occasionally be ambushed by the minions of the Nemesis while you’re out in the world beating bad guys.  If you defeat them (which, honestly, is rarely too hard-the hard part is if you’re fighting someone else at the same time.  This will happen-often), one will usually drop a clue that goes in your inventory; opening it starts a “Nemesis Mission”, which features something the Nemesis is doing or the minions are doing, which you get to foil.  Eventually, it all comes to a head and you may finally confront the Nemesis and defeat them, and put them in jail.  Except…you have the option of reactivating the Nemesis, which will start a new cycle with villain, or create a NEW Nemesis.  And when that cycle is done, you can choose to reactivate either of the old ones, or create yet another.  And so on, to a maximum of eighteen.  That’s not as easy as it sounds, because there is a cooldown timer limiting how often the minions ambush you-or more accurately, how often they drop clues.

There’s occasional bugs in the system; the Prison Break mission is infamous for having a bug that prevents you from completing the mission (I avoid it by just not saving any policemen, opening the cells, and making sure to defuse the bomb; I can’t be 100 percent certain that any of the above actually helps).  And there’s one mission involving a VIPER Draysha facility that doesn’t cooperate so well if you’re teamed up with other heroes.  So no, it isn’t perfect, and since CO is basically barely above maintenance mode (it still finds time for lockboxes), they probably won’t improve anyday soon.

That said, it’s still fun to have your hero occasionally get reminded by your Nemesis that they’re still out there.

So far, I’ve had four Nemeses (see?  I know the plural form!) for my characters, and they’re worth sharing.

Demons are NOT people too!

The first one was Fhtagath, a Nemesis for Runelord.  That character was a wizard sort of guy, so it made sense to make a demon sort of guy to fight him.  The name was derived a bit from Lovecraft; it sounded suitably horrific.  I’d gone with a savage personality with Infernal Supernatural powers, so he was a definite melee brute-a nasty counterpoint to my ranged based Grimoire character.  I used Ice Demons as his minions, but gave them fire powers; I liked the dichotomy.  He actually featured in the one bit of fiction I wrote for Runelord as the demon that killed his master, but in the service of its own master (who never, alas, was revealed).

Beautiful and deadly was also a consideration.

The good news for the good guys was, eventually, I managed to put him in jail (well, from a character standpoint, I banished him).  So I expanded Runelord’s gallery by introducing the Black Blade.  I made her a swordswoman-again with the melee!-and made her a thief of occult treasures and artifacts.  Since Runelord’s backstory included possession of a fairly potent artifact, it would be a fair hook for any future writing I did (alas!), as well as give him a villain who wasn’t necessarily focused on simply rending him apart.  Her minions were your traditional ninja; I’d not worked out why they worked for her, but I’m pretty sure I was leaning towards them being bound to the owner of the sword she used.

Why yes, she IS threatening you.

Gunfighter was another character who had a Nemesis available, and she was still at large; Mind Ripper was a telepath, and she came from the same program that had produced Gunfighter; the difference was that instead of being given tech to take advantage of exceptional skill, she had her very genetic structure remapped to produce telpathic powers-which drove her nuts.  Her minions were thugs-who also wielded telepathic powers.  My rationale was that she had effectively created a hive-mind with these thugs, so they no longer had any will of their own.  I’d given her a maniac personality; that’s something worth mentioning-each Nemesis could have one of three personality types:  mastermind, savage, or maniac.  It could lead to some dialogue that didn’t really make much sense, and three is just limiting-you’d think it wouldn’t be hard to add more types, but again, that would require developers to actually iterate on the system.

The hair alone should qualify him as “mad”.

The last Nemesis is the most recent, and is tied to my recent hero, Asteroid.  When I was working up a backstory for him, included a reference to a mad scientist who had owned the moon base that Asteroid now uses; Asteroid referred to him as “Doctor Whatsisface”.  So I decided it would be a good direction to go for his first nemesis.  Since I liked the humor I was putting into the character’s backstory, I decided to continue a bit of it for his Nemesis.  I decided that the name “Doctor Whatsisface” actually stuck, and that’s what the media started calling him.  So now you have a mad scientist who has put conquering the world as a secondary goal, with a primary goal of beating up and burying that alien buffoon who stuck him with that ludicrous nickname!  I gave him a gadgeteer powerset, which is pretty nasty as I hear it, and gave him insectoid minions with the power-armor powerset:  genetically engineered and heavily armed, I wanted to put the “mad science” into my mad scientist.  Given that I didn’t have a lab coat costume part to work with, I think he came out pretty good.

The Nemesis system may have its flaws-I’m sure the missions can become as repetitive as time goes on, but it’s still one of the better parts of CO.  And really, what’s the fun of making a hero if you can’t make a villain to go against him?  The only negative is having to get a character all the way to level 25 to do it, but given how deadly those villains can be, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

The New Champion

Recently I’ve been feeling the urge to be super-heroic again.  So I’m visiting Champions Online again.

Sure, I could get my super-hero on with Marvel Heroes (and I still am, have no doubt; been working on the Silver Surfer there recent days, and waiting patiently for Star-Lord’s release), but the issue there is that I can’t play a hero of my own creation.  There’s only two MMOs out there that will allow THAT these days, and DC Universe Online just isn’t on my radar.

Which brings us to Champs again.

The first things I did was to resolve some lingering issues with older characters; the big one was getting the Silver Paladin character to level 40, mainly to open up a new character slot.  The character had been close when I set CO aside, and I wanted to get that done.  Which I did.  Then came the time to decide what to do next.  Being the altoholic that I am, I wasn’t going to just sit and muck with my level 40 characters; while I’m a fan of Runelord, Silver Paladin, and Gunfighter, I just couldn’t see a reason to play them again.  Plus, a couple of them are associated with one of my larger failures which had been one of the prompts that likely led to me leaving CO in the first place.  So I wanted a new start-and plus, I always enjoy coming up with interesting backstories for the characters, especially since that sort of thing makes it easier to do the RP thing if I should wind up in a situation like that; it’s a lot easier to RP a character if you have some idea about who they are, instead of trying to make stuff up on the fly.  Which I have done in the past once or twice….

So, I decided to make a character that was different than most of the ones I’ve made in various games.  Coreth Landwalker, Old Ranger, Walter Frost, Alcaran Rost, Stellar Protector, Zhaven Rel, Jenled Lar…all of these characters have a commonality in their traits.  Their backgrounds encourage drama.  Or melodrama, depending on how you look at it.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that-hell, the fact that I made all these characters should prove that.  But I decided that I wanted to make a FUN character; one who didn’t have the baggage of a doomity-doom past, a character who wasn’t serious all the time, and would be a far more personable character than any of the others I’ve made.  I was inspired by reading the trades of the comic The Incredible Hercules by Marvel, and I used that as a starting point for a personality.  Then I got creative.

The Asteroid Lands on Millennium City!

So I created…the Asteroid!  Is it a silly name for a hero?  Sure is!  But as the character might point out, “if your planet gets hit by an asteroid, that’s it!  All over!”  The character was designed to be an alien-why go mythological when you can mess with sci-fi?  His personality-the reason he fights villains?  He likes to hit bad guys!  Give him a desire to compete in an alien gladiatorial game, with the understanding that the CO setting has just such a one on the Moon, and have him appreciate humanity for its diversity (especially if you make his species one that tends to be stale and boring), and you get a possible winner.

His physical design was a bit trickier.  I didn’t want to make him TRULY alien; no insect heads or anything like that, but I did want to make it blatantly obvious that he wasn’t exactly human.  So I gave him the two-fingered hand, alien eyes with added glow to make them stand out, and a mohawk with black AND blood-red hairs.  The outfit is…well, not exactly a fashion disaster, but could be the kind you’d see off of someone who is trying to call attention to himself.  Finally, I set the character’s mood to “pleasant”, so that he’d always look like he had at least a half-smile on his face.

His power design was always gonna be the Might framework; on my character roster (several of which don’t actually have backgrounds yet until I get an urge to develope ‘em-that DOES happen), I have a martial artist, a telekinetic-sword fighter, a dual wielding axe hero, a heavy weapon user (for those absurdly sized swords), and a fighting-claw user.  Might-just sheer super strength-wasn’t one of the sets I’d focused on as of yet, and while I’d made a few attempts at it in the past, I’d always ended up scrapping them; they were designed more as “Superman” types.  Not having a definite concept behind them probably hurt them the most-this should not be a problem with Asteroid.  Strength was going to be the hallmark of the character, and his selection of powers and talents would be built around that.

I did make a last minute decision to tie in some of the growth powers.  I didn’t really envision him as someone who could grow bigger in a fight, but I decided “why not?”  It’s not easy for him to get to his current max height-it requires use of certain powers, and the effect can wear off pretty quickly, but my concept works with that sort of thing; if I wanted him huge to start with, I’d have gone with something other than a default height when he was created-I’d have maxed out that height slider.

So far, I’ve had some fun with the character.  One of the downsides for him is that his defensive abilities aren’t exactly well developed yet, so I find I need to suck down consumable healing packets for some fights, but he’s getting closer to where I’d like him to be.  He’s up to about 15th level right now, and I have to admit-there’s something just so RIGHT about lifting up cargo vans and chucking them at the bad guys.  I’m looking forward to seeing if I can get him to lift even heavier objects, like eighteen wheelers.  (What?  That’s not logically possible?  You wouldn’t go far in superhero MMOs, my friends!)  I don’t know how long this run will last-CO has failed in the past to keep my interest in the long term, and I suspect that may be the case again.  But then, with a new character slot opening with every level 40 and no SG stuff to lock me into any characters, it may work better this time than in the past.

Speaking of Exploration…

Recently, I felt it was time to do something in EVE Online that I’d been looking to do for a while now.  It was time to go wormhole diving!

This required a bit of prep first, though.  Wormholes are considered null-sec space, in a manner of speaking.  That manner of speaking would be “if it can see you, it can shoot you and laugh as the bits of your ship, your pod, and your corpse drift away in the cold unforgiving void”.  Obviously, this was not a situation where I wanted to take an expensive ship loaded with expensive tech.

No, this was something that called for “expendable”.  One of the truisms of EVE that you see quoted everywhere is “don’t fly anything you aren’t prepared to lose”.  So I made sure that I could afford to lose this one:  a simple Imicus frigate, with tech one cloaking devices, afterburners (found out I accidentally never trained microwarp drives on this guy-oops), and scan probe launchers.  An afterthought had me slap in a relic and data hacking module; just in case I found something interesting.

My skills for scanning (meaning, the character skills, not necessarily the player’s skills) are pretty good, so I wasn’t concerned about probe strength or anything like that.  I figured I had decent odds of finding a wormhole somewhere.  And then I expected to go in them.  My plan was to go as far into wormhole space as I could, or failing that, into space far, far, far away from home.  Wormholes can lead anywhere, after all-and a new wormhole in wormhole space could land me in the wilds of null-sec just as easily as hi-sec.

I was set-I had already taken the additional precaution of using one of my expendable jump-clones, without any implants.  So I had an expendable clone body flying an expendable ship equipped with expendable tech.  The cash it set me back could be made up in one, maybe two easy level 3 combat missions.  I didn’t bother insuring it; my expectation was that it was space-dust the moment I undocked, and if I got back with it intact, I’d call it a bonus.

It didn’t take me long to scan down a wormhole somewhere, and go right on in.  The interesting part about wormhole space is that it has no “Local” chat tab-or more precisely, that tab doesn’t tell you how many people are in that portion of space.  So if nobody sees my arrival, nobody knows I’m there.  Being the paranoid sort, though, I made sure to warp away from the wormhole and find a nice quiet spot to scan while under cloak.  Found another wormhole, it led to another wormhole system.  Found lots of other things on scan, too, but since this was effectively a probe/exploration ship, not a combat ship, it would be a really dumb thing for me to try to get to those site in wormhole space and deal with the NPC Sleeper ships which I’m told are pretty rough to start with.

The Other Side

In the second wormhole pocket, I found another wormhole-but it led to null-sec space.  Well, this was what I wanted, wasn’t it?  So I went into the wormhole, and appeared about fifty-some jumps away from my home space.

And it was empty.  Null-sec isn’t like wormhole space-you can see who’s in the area with you on the Local chat tab.  I was it.  I’d appeared in a dead-end system, one stargate in and out.  I still took precautions of creating a safe-spot and then cloaked up and scanned for stuff.  I found a data site, so I warped on over and hacked upon some of the containers there.  It wasn’t exactly huge profits, but it did introduce me to some twists to the hacking game that I hadn’t seen in hi-sec, like one of the nodes that strengthened other defensive nodes.  That made life rough until I caught onto what was going on.  I didn’t do badly, though.  I thought about returning home via the wormhole…but what’s the fun in that?  The whole point was to see what I could see, right?  So I warped out.

Hacker’s Paradise? Not Exactly.

This system was NOT uninhabited.  There were about eight other ships there, and they knew I was there as much as I knew they were there.  Not a word showed up on local, but my assumption was that they were all allied with each other-and they would be looking for me!  So I again went out of my way to find a safe spot-constantly moving and warping-and then cloaked up and scanned.  Unfortunately-or fortunately!-there really wasn’t much to speak of in the area.  Not even another wormhole.  So the next trick was to get out before they caught up with me.

That was where I made my first mistake.  I warped to a gate about 50km out, figuring to see if they’d set up any warp disruption bubbles or something similar to stop me from warping directly to the gate.  Of course, this would mean I would be exposed.  I can’t warp while cloaked in this set-up.  I saw there was no bubble, so I began flying toward it, afterburners blazing.  This was a mistake.  I was still about 30km out when I saw the first ship warp into the area.  Maybe I was scanned out, or maybe they were sending guards to all the gates, but I was spotted now.  Second mistake made at this point-and it was related to the first.  And that mistake was this:  I should have warped away back to a safespot-or really, ANYWHERE other than trying to get to the gate.  By the time I realized this mistake, reinforcements showed up and I was being scrambled-there would be no escape for me.

Boom.  Bye bye, Imicus starship.

But, amazingly, not bye bye pod!  I’d already managed to target another stargate so that the moment my pod ejected, I was warping it away-so I escaped death!  (Of course, I lost the stuff I’d hacked out, but it wasn’t exactly earth-shattering profits.)  So it was time to make my way back to home space-or perhaps near it.  I decided that this was as good a time as any to have a jump clone situated in Jita, the biggest marketplace system in EVE.  This did mean, though, that I’d need to get through a very lengthy stretch of null and low-sec space.

It actually wasn’t as hard as it sounded.  Once I’d evaded the guys who blew up my ship-they didn’t really pursue, since they had no idea where I’d gone by then-a large portion of null-sec was empty.  At least until I neared low-sec.  On one of my attempts to get out, I hit a warp disruption bubble-and there were active ships not far.  I’d reacted quickly enough, though, to get my pod out of the bubble and warping to one of the other objects in the system.  Checking my map, I worked out where to go to warp directly to the gate without intersecting the bubble-it’s HARD to cover all the access points to a gate-and warped directly to the gate from there.  I think I caught someone going “What the hell?!” as I blew through and warped out.  There may have been some pursuit briefly, but I was well positioned on the other side, and I continued my journey.

Ultimately, I did make it out, and I did make it to Jita.  It was a heck of a trip, and it’s something I’ll likely try again soon for the kicks.  I’d have liked to get deeper into wormhole space, but if I end up somewhere else…well, that’s the whole point of exploring, isn’t it?

No Longer Boldly Going….

There are two things you can rely on from the devs on Star Trek Online.

One:  their feature episodes are awesome.

Two:  their decision making stinks.

Given how rare feature episodes are, it’s not hard to figure that option two is the one that tends to get noticed more often.  And that’s what I’m going to address today.

Recently, the executive producer of STO announced season 9.5 (ah, those halfway publishes; I never understood why they bothered with that sort of thing.  Call it season 10 and be honest about it.  I’ve had this issue with other games, too.) which would contain a revamp to crafting.

This makes, what, the third time?  The fourth?

A part of this process includes closing the planet Memory Alpha, which means it’ll effectively no longer be in the game.  Yes, clearly it wasn’t enough for the devs to remove entire missions from the game (State of Q, anyone?); now they’re going to remove Memory Alpha entirely.  (Caveat:  it’s possible that things have changed since I last checked, but the last patch notes I saw for the test server sure said they were closing it.)  Memory Alpha, for those not in the know, was the crafting hub for Starfleet in the game, at least at one point.  With a crafting revamp, one could argue-and it seems this is the devs’ argument-that it no longer serves a purpose-so out it goes.

Closing Indefinitely

If THAT is their argument, might as well scrap Andoria, too-I mean, nothing happens THERE, either.  (Crap, I hope they aren’t reading this-they don’t need any more ideas.)

I’ve not seen much on the actual crafting process-I’ve never been big on crafting in STO, and I’d maxed out a character on that during the FIRST iteration of the crafting process.  I’ve not heard how the devs will treat folks who have done that-but I imagine it’ll be the “sucks to be you” sort of thing.  From what I’m reading from people who have been on the test server, though, there are a number of changes that are somewhat unimpressive-like a revamp of the duty officer interface, which didn’t really need revamping.  The unreplicatable materials are going away, as I hear it; folks who have burned Dilithium (remember, that’s the trade-in for Zen on the market, giving it actual cash value) to create those materials better use ‘em to craft stuff quick-I’ve heard of no compensation or refunds for those announced.  I’m not sure if Dilithium will be involved in the crafting process, but I’ll be shocked if it isn’t-Perfect World Entertainment is hardly one to pass up a chance to make a buck.  And the materials used in the old crafting system?  They’ll be able to be converted (probably at a loss) to the newer materials, although at the moment the procedure is tedious if you have a large volume of the stuff.  I’ll give the devs this much credit-they are supposedly looking to make that easier.

All that’s minor, though, in comparison with what I view as a bigger sin in a Star Trek game.  They’re also removing the Star Clusters from the game-the one portion of the game that had a stain of exploration to it.  If a Star Trek game without exploration sounds okay to you, it’s time to re-evaluate what Star Trek is actually about.

Here’s what one of the devs had to say about it.

I can answer this succinctly without touching on the rest of the thread yet – The Star Cluster missions were really out of date and a generally awful game experience for any new players who stumbled upon them. While those of us who are veterans of the game were able to accept them as their own thing and do them only when we wanted to, new players would (with moderate frequency) enter a star cluster mission, get lost or get blocked on an unclear objective, and then quit and never return.

Additionally, the Star Cluster missions took up a sizable portion of the game’s install size. This also negatively impacts new players, as the longer it takes to download and install the game, the less likely they are to actually complete the process and give it a shot. So the very existence of Star Cluster missions was essentially dinging our player retention at least twice for each new player.

We recognize that removing them has removed a feeling of exploration from the game, and we know that the feeling of exploration is important to the Star Trek vision and feel – we’ll want to rectify that. However, the presence of the Star Cluster missions in the game just provided so many negatives that they outweighed the positive of holding on to that feel of exploration.

We’re looking in to modifying the Exploration Accolades so that they’re still obtainable.

I should probably look at this paragraph by paragraph.

I can concede easily that the exploration clusters are out of date and boring and repetitive-and worse still, sometimes they made no sense whatsoever.  Ask someone about the Borg Dynasties, for example, just for a laugh.  People quitting missions happens all the time; it’s nothing new.  How they get lost is beyond me; people were doing the missions just fine before they made them easier by including the ability to scan for objectives.  Some objectives got blocked solely because of problems with map geometry, where sometimes enemies and boffs would literally fall through the ground and continue the fight out of sight.  Those missions became more rare as devs fixed those.  The only way that I can see people “becoming lost” would be if they didn’t know how to scan for stuff; and gosh!  Wouldn’t that be a smart thing to have included in a TUTORIAL?!  So I view paragraph one above as garbage.

Install size?  Seriously?  They’re saying folks decide not to do the game because of install size?  In this day and age?  Seriously?  Paragraph two is even more garbage.

Bringing us to paragraph three.  At least he acknowledges that Star Trek is about exploration at its base-although again, most of the negatives he pointed out is garbage.  Worse still is the implication that they haven’t even started to work out what to put in its place.  They’re removing the one exploration-related bit of gameplay from the game and leaving nothing in its place.  I won’t say it’s unforgivable…but it’s pretty damned stupid.  Now, maybe the big expansion will bring on an entirely new and better exploration system-but of course, since nobody will say anything about that expansion, that just leaves it a mystery-and in the meantime, the very core of what Star Trek is about is cut away.

I don’t know what it is with these devs, sometimes; I have no problem with them trying to improve systems and the like; they may be failing in some cases, but they are trying.  But when they just cut out parts of a game for no good reasons….

It’s not hard to see why I spend less and less time in STO.

Won’t be seeing you anymore….

Send In The Clones

The last time I wrote on EVE, I’d mentioned the joys of grinding standings.  I’d been slowly but surely developing my Sisters of EVE standing by running a lot of courier missions.  And by a lot, I mean “Oh-My-God-This-Is-Killing-My-Soul”.  Combat missions might’ve made the process go faster, but my experience in the last level 4 combat mission I’d done made me somewhat wary.  Still, it was getting done, and I was creeping up closer to my target standing; I wanted to get to a standing of 8.0 or above, and I was sitting a little over 7.5.  That was when a new storyline mission popped.

Things have changed a wee bit since that ugly encounter.  The time had been well spent in continuing to skill up combat skills; I could upgrade a fair chunk of my Megathron battleship to tech-2 equipment.  Not the guns, naturally-that would’ve been too easy.  But the armor hardeners that upped my resistance to various types of attack, the armor plates, and my capacitor rechargers that-in theory-would mean I could fight longer…all that I was now able to use.  I was also able to use a tech 2 armor repairer, but the problem with that was powergrid issues; couldn’t get it fit.  The differences were marginal enough-at least at first glance-to make me feel that I could live without that.

I believed that a successful level 4 storyline combat mission could get me a lot closer to that magic 8.0.  And this time, I did my due diligence.  I hopped on the web and reserached the mission, and found out that it would feature drone attackers-not the drones like players use, but frigates, cruisers, and battleships controlled by AI.  This meant that EM weaponry would probably be best.  Of course, last time around, I’d mentioned that hybrid turrets didn’t exactly give you flexibility when choosing damage; it was thermal and kinetic damage and nothing else.  I still hadn’t trained up other weapons of large size (pretty much required for battleships), and I’m not sure I’d have switched even if I had; the Megathron has enough bonuses to large hybrid turrets that I’m not sure I wanted to go without.

My own drones were a different story.  I loaded up five EM damage-dealing medium drones, and three light drones of the same, rounding it off with two light thermal damage drones.  I’d basically used tech-1 versions that I’d looted from other combat missions.  My strategy was going to be fairly simple:  drones to deal with frigates and cruisers, and the guns for battleships.  This time, I’d loaded up with iridium ammo for range, and antimatter for damage.  My guns were still the long-range railguns; in hindsight, I probably should’ve considered blasters, which are shorter range but lots more damage.  This is what happens when you ignore the numbers.

Now that I was armed for bear-in theory-and making sure I had enough time for the night’s festivities, I flew into the encounter.  Right off the bat, I knew I might have issues; unlike some missions, which could allow you to warp in much further away (which would’ve been nice for a rails-equipped ship), this was “warp to encounter'; there would be little breathing room.  My ship warped in, and the attack began.  Things got ugly fast; my light drones made fast work of the frigates, and my medium ones had taken out one of the cruisers; but I was taking damage a lot faster than I’d figured.  Looking at one of my armor hardeners-a reactive hardener-I could see that it was putting its efforts into dealing with explosive and EM damage.  Naturally, my ship was using armor hardeners that dealt with thermal and kinetic.  Oops.  I recalled my drones, and warped out-but not before the attackers began chewing into my structure.

I repaired the armor damage with my armor repairer, warped to a station, docked to recharge shields and capacitor-and to fit the EM and explosive hardeners.  Why take more abuse if you don’t have to?  Then I returned to the field of battle.  And my reactive armor hardener began applying mostly to thermal and kinetic.  Well, the intel had told me to expect “all damage types”.  I just didn’t expect to have them adjust on the fly like that.  Well, what’s good for the goose….

I cleared out all of the cruisers before warping out again-and this time, more of my structure was getting hammered.  Structure is expensive to repair; I could see my profit margins going down fast in this fight-especially since drones tend to drop pretty much nothing as far as loot goes, and I could tell I wasn’t going to have the time to do a salvage job later.  At this point, I began to consider new tactics.  When I warped back in, the first thing I did was hit the afterburners.  I’d installed them on the ship for situations like this-when I’d need to put distance between my attackers and me.  Distance was my friend; I could hit targets fairly reliably from 70km away, and still hit fairly hard.  The damage of my attackers became less reliable, and the accuracy hurt too.  In short, the enemy was apparently set up for close range fighting-and I wasn’t.  It was time to fight on my terms, not theirs.

To cut short a long story…it took a fair chunk of time, but in the end, there were a lot of broken drone ships, and my ship had come out on top.  The only downside-well, in addition to structure damage-was the fact that I was so relieved it was over that I warped out-and forgot to pick up my medium drones.  Oops.  Well, it’s not like I can’t find more.  Heck, I’ve swiped unattended drones by scanning them down on occasion.  Drones aren’t an issue, especially since they were all tech-1 drones.

The standing jump put me well above 8.0.

So now things open up a bit.  I immediately created a jump clone at the SOE station, flew my battleship back to its home dock, then jumped into that clone.  Then I installed another jump clone.  (If I remember right, I should be able to install another later for a total of four clones-my “original” and 3 jump clones.)  So that puts me pretty much where I want to be for my big goals.

A truism of EVE is that you should never fly anything you aren’t prepared to lose.  EVE is still very much a PvP game, and if a player thinks he can gain by blowing you up in hi-sec, even the punishing CONCORD retaliation won’t save your ship.  In lower security regions, players don’t even have to worry about that-they’ll blow you up just because you might do the same to them.  Or for the laughs-it’s hard to tell sometimes.  Add to that null security space, and the major player alliances and all of that…and you can see where the problems can come into play.  Add to that the fact that my clone-until now-had a heap of implants improving attributes, which allow me to train some skills a tad faster.  That mades getting my pod killed dangerous-in other wordes, I wasn’t prepared to lose the implants, so even my pod was something I couldn’t afford to lose, in my mind.

That situation no longer exists.  With the jump clones, I now have two clones which have no implants; it slows training time, but it frees me up to do fairly suicidal things.  Which is, amusingly, the next step.

Way back, CCP introduced wormholes to their game, where you could go into strange space where there was no protection, but also no set gates to guard.  The only ways in and out of wormhole space were-duh!-wormholes.  And those regions of space always had wormholes, often to other regions of space-even other, deeper levels of wormhole space.  They could wind up putting you anywhere.  This has appealed to me a great deal, but aside from short visits, I’ve been reluctant to explore them fully.  Mainly because if you got your ship killed, you had an excellent chance of being stranded in wormhole space so you’d have to pod-kill yourself to get out.  And I already mentioned the implant issue.

Not an issue anymore.  So in the not too distant future, my plans are fairly simple:  get a fairly cheap frigate with cloaking device and cheap scan probes, find a wormhole (which isn’t too hard, especially since I’d sharpened my scanning skills a long time ago), and see how far down the rabbit hole I can go.  It won’t get me any money-the “rats” in wormhole space are way too dangerous for the ship build here-and it won’t get me anything special, but that’s not the point.  The point is to get out of my nice, comfortable hi-sec nest and go somewhere new.  It may be boring as hell; it may be the wrong kind of exciting (“Ooo, look at the tech-3 cruiser shooting at me!  Oops!  I’ve been podded!”).  It might strand me deep into low-sec or null-sec space.  But it’ll be fun-and since I’m not tricking out the ship (not like I’m taking a tech-2 ship or something like that), it’ll be easily replaceable.  And when I get back to my home space, whenever that is, I’ll have a tale to tell.  At least, that’s the hope.

Soon, my friend.  Soon...

Soon, my friend. Soon…

Bad Reputation

I’ve held off on posting on this one-even though it’s been Live for a while now-because I wasn’t quite sure how I felt about it.  But at the least, it’s worth commenting on, so here goes.  I’m going to talk about the Reputation system-and its recent changes in Star Trek Online.

The origin of the whole thing can be found in the Fleet system, when the game introduced Fleet Holdings.  A fleet could build its own starbase-and later, other holdings like an embassy on New Romulus.  However, to build it up, you had to complete Fleet Projects, and a lot of them.  The cost was usually in a special currency called Fleet Marks-which you could gain from fleet actions-in addition to items of various types which you could buy for energy credits, and of course, heaps of Dilithium (which, as players of STO know, is the currency which you can effectively buy for real money as well as grind for).  Naturally, the requirements got higher and higher with each tier of the holding.

The developers liked this so much, apparently, that they introduced the Reputation system, basing it hard on the Fleet Projects.  For MMO players, it’s not really anything new.  The requirements aren’t so ugly for the Reputation Projects as they are for Fleet Projects, but that’s because the Fleet Projects are meant to be done by an entire Fleet, while the Reputation Projects are single character.  And this wasn’t all that different from, say, faction grinding over in World of Warcraft, for example.  As you got higher in Reputation with a faction-which, at this time, includes Omega (Borg), Romulan, Nukara (Tholian), Dyson (Voth), and Counter-Command (Undine).  I’ll leave out the special Event Reputation at the moment, since that’s a different sort of grind and isn’t impacted by recent changes.

The Repuation Project screen

The Repuation Project screen

Now, each of these Reputations have various tiers.  Originally, as you completed each tier, you opened up the ability to purchase specialized equipment (for Dilithium, naturally), or start a new project that created even more specialized equipment (like starship equipment sets), which cost Dilithium and more.  Also available upon finishing a tier was the choice between two passive abilities; depending on the tier, it would be two space traits or two ground traits.  The top tier was a special one, though, because it opened up a new active power you could use.

Mathematically, you can see where this is going.  For each reputation, you would get four special traits and a new power.  Going on as things have, you could conceivably have 20 new traits, 10 each of ground and space, and 5 active abilities.  (Okay, technically 16 and 4, because the Counter-Command Rep came about with the changes in place.)  And each new Reputation added-and there will be more, because the devs love adding Reputations like mice love cheese-you would be getting four new traits, and a new active ability.  To say that this might be unbalancing probably doesn’t do it justice.

So the devs decided to do something about it.  It’s worth noting that in another game, Cryptic did something similar once, which really drove the players bats.  They called it the Global Defense Nerf, in City of Heroes, because the Defense traits were just TOO good.  But it made a lot of people very unhappy, and I understand that there was a definite migration of people out of the game at that time.  (It was before my time in CoH, so I never knew life before it.)  I don’t know that this is on the same scale, but it’s hard to see it as anything but a nerf-but at the same time, it’s made things more…interesting.

The Change

The Change

Now, instead of having all those traits as passives, you have to choose which ones are actually active.  In other words:  where you might’ve had sixteen traits to work with, you now have eight:  four space traits, four ground traits.  For active powers, you can choose to have four active; no real change there, since there were only four active traits until the new publish with these changes which adds a fifth.  (The screen above shows the “regular” traits that were revamped a ways back, and don’t really enter into this post.)

Any way you look at it, that’s a pretty hefty nerf.  But things get a little more interesting, though; after all, if that was all the devs did, it would be pretty hard to motivate anyone to do any more Rep grinds.  So what they have done is eliminate the choice:  where before you had to choose one trait from two choices per tier, you now have access to both.  And you can swap out traits for free-so instead of having sixteen passives, for example, you have a pool of sixteen traits of which you can select the eight best suited for your current needs:  four for space, four for ground.  So you’ve received flexibility to compensate for power.

Is it a good tradeoff?  That’s a good question.  After the initial uproar about it on the forums, I don’t see nearly as much posts about it.  It’s possible that people have accepted that an ever-increasing number of passive traits active all at once wouldn’t be good for the game; it’s also possible that they’ve found something else to be angry about (STO excels at that sort of thing).  I’m not entirely sure that it’s done the Reputation system much good, though; I’ve found myself less motivated to do the Counter-Command rep since a) there doesn’t seem to be any story behind it like the Romulan and Dyson reps as you achieve each tier, b) I’m not horribly impressed with the traits that I’d replace the ones I’ve got active now with the new ones, and c) the top tier doesn’t have much to motivate me.  The second one is the biggest obstacle for the Reputation system, going forward:  if the traits aren’t as good or better than the ones available from previous Reputations, why would someone bother putting in the effort for it.  The equipment offered during the Reputations will have similar issues:  if they aren’t better, or suit a specific playstyle, why would someone bother with it?

The dev rationale for all of these changes was to curb the power-creep (at least keep it from being worse than it is with their constant lottery-ship releases-guess they want you to pay for power-creep).  But I feel that this will only cause the power-creep to adapt, because players won’t do something in the game if they don’t see any benefit to their characters for it.  If existing stuff is better than the new stuff, and there’s nothing else to it, why bother?  And so the power-creep will continue…just in a new form.

It’s Not The Fall That Kills You…

One of the things I like to do when developing characters in MMOs is to go against type.  Star Wars: The Old Republic is an area that’s ripe for that sort of thing.  When I played my Imperial Agent, I didn’t make him a monster, but also didn’t make him entirely a “yes-man” to the Sith.  (To be fair, I think a lot of players probably went that way with Agents.)  When I played my Sith Warrior, I had him mostly wind up Light Side instead of Dark Side; my view was a guy who just didn’t work with the idea of “there is no emotion” while he was bang-up for “there is no peace-there is only passion”.

But, y’know, the fact is…it really should go the other way, too.  But it hasn’t.  My Jedi Knight was everything you’d figure a Jedi would be; my Smuggler was the soft touch, even if he did tend to be on the greedy side.  Even my Trooper was the noble soldier, defying orders if he saw a better way to save lives.  I haven’t really played against type there.

So I started looking at the last character whose class story I haven’t advanced:  the Jedi Counselor.  And I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t this be an interesting class to go through a Fall From Grace?  Why not have this guy fall to the Dark Side-and revel in it?”

He's certainly dressing the part....

He’s certainly dressing the part….

Because I wanted to get a little bit away from straight-human characters, I went with a Miralukan character for my Counselor.  This way, I can unlock another species when I go on my inevitable “2nd Advanced Class Spree”.  (I’ve already unlocked Cyborg, Chiss, Twi’lek, and Zabrak.)  And so far, I’ve played him straight-well, mostly.  I’ve made a few Dark Side choices so far, but relatively minor ones-nothing that really causes real issues.  The key phrase, of course, is “so far”.  I’m currently dealing with his Chapter One storyline on Alderaan, but I’m watching and waiting for something that seems like a good spot for him to just…snap.  I almost did it on Tatooine, but I figured that rescuing a native’s “Loved Ones” would be a really wacky thing to have him slip to the Dark Side; if I were doing this as a comedy, sure, but not for this.  Players familiar with the stories on Tatooine Republic-side will probably know exactly the mission I mean.

It’s inevitable that sooner or later, my character will encounter a situation where he will have to make a choice between Light and Dark, and I figure it’ll happen reasonably soon-if he gets past Chapter One without hitting my mental trigger, I’ll be surprised.  Once that happens, I’ll finally start to see what happens when one of the nominal “good guys” of the Old Republic’s story decides that the Jedi Code is for suckers.  How dark can he get?  We’ll find out pretty soon.

On an unrelated note, I ran my Smuggler through two new Flashpoints recently-the first part of the “big storyline” that will go throughout the year.  Personally, I think that this is a mistake, in a way; feels too impersonal as group content to advance the game’s story (which features hard hits to the worlds of Tython and Korriban, the starter worlds for Jedi and Sith).  Still, they were pretty fun as far as combats go, and I freely admit I did them solely to get the HK customization-although I’d have really liked to get the Imperial version for an Imperial character, because I like its look better than the Republic one.  Oh well.  I’d sort of like to run my Operative through the Flashpoints, too, but I’ve felt for a long time that his survivability was iffy even in better circumstances; I might wind up looking at one of my other Imperials to do them at some point.

Constitutional

I never thought I’d be arguing this case.  In fact, I’ve often argued the exact opposite.  But recently I’ve been doing some thinking, and I’ve come around to the other side of the argument.  The argument involves the eternal question in Star Trek Online:  why not a top-tier Constitution-class cruiser?

Before I get started, a caveat:  the license holder, CBS, said no.  Ultimately, that trumps any argument a fan of the game can make.  I’m not out to convince anyone to actually do the deed; that ship has sailed unless/until the decision makers higher up the food chain agree.  What I want to do is put down my thoughts on the subject, including blowing holes in my own arguments from the past.

Shall we begin?

Let’s start this with a minor history lesson.  Once upon a time, the ship tiers were pure.  This would be, “when the game began”.  You started out in a Miranda-class light cruiser (or if you were one of the ones with certain pre-orders, an Original Series version of the Constitution), at the Lieutenant level.  Made sense-you were newly promoted to the position via battlefield commission, and you were hardly going to be given a ship of the line right off the bat.  As you advanced in rank, new ships became available to the player.  The Lieutenant Commander tier held the Constitution class, which was pretty respectable for the level (and if you were willing to go nuts like I had, could even get through the Commander level missions at that time; of course, I imagine it’s even easier now).  That tier also opened up the various styles of ship:  tactical escorts and science ships as well as the cruisers.  At Commander, you moved beyond the Constitution and its contemporaries to the ships like the Stargazer class (based on the ship Picard commanded before he got that OTHER significant Starfleet ship).  Finally, at Captain, you got access to the Next Generation era biggies:  the Galaxy, the Defiant, and the Intrepid, the headliner ships of TNG, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager.  (Okay, not “finally”; you could get to the Rear Admiral level at the time and access the Sovereign-class ship and other newer styles; the Sov, of course, being the class of the Enterprise-E.)

So we had a progression.  And naturally, fans of the individual ships started screaming the day the tiers were announced.  I won’t go into detail on the shouts the Akira-class fans went into when they found out their ship was under the Defiant in tier, or the Galaxy-class ones who insisted they should be at the top tier.  And even as far back as this period, there were people who wanted the Constitution-class at the top tier as well.  At the time, I shook my head and dismissed them.  Of course, I’m not a fortune-teller; I couldn’t see what was coming.

What I didn’t anticipate was that Cryptic/Atari would start putting ships on the C-Store.  And two of the earliest offerings laid the groundwork for future arguments.  First came the Excelsior-class ship.  This kicked the hell out of the tier system, because they offered two versions.  One version was the Commander version (which made a certain amount of sense; the Excelsior was supposed to eventually replace the Constitution, and apparently had, as it showed up in a number of early TNG episodes).  But the second version was a top-tier version, which matched the most advanced ships in the fleet-and was superior to many.  The second was the Vulcan D’kyr science vessel, a ship that was also at the Rear Admiral level; the kicker on this one is that this ship was based on the ones seen on the show “Enterprise”-which took place decades before TOS.  In other words, one of the oldest ship designs was a match for the newest science ships in the fleet.

Eventually, the whole retrofit/refit thing became an ongoing thing.  We got top tier Galaxy variants along with the Defiant and Intrepid versions.  Another old ENT design came into play with the Andorian Kumari-and this one was released as a “three-pack”, three different variants with the same basic appearance.  During one feature episode period, we even got a top tier Ambassador-class, the type of ship that included the Enterprise-C.

Which brings me back to the Constitution-class.

From a lore standpoint, there’s no reason it can’t serve as a top-tier ship.  You can’t point to its age; the Kumari and D’Kyr put lie to that.  If they can be upgraded to top-tier technologies, the Constitution should also be doable-even easier, one would expect, since at least it’s been using Starfleet designs instead of planetary militia designs.  You can’t say it’s because it’s too small; it’s larger than the Defiant-class, which operates at a top-tier level.  So age and size have been ruled out.  From a game standpoint, there’s no reason it can’t serve as a top-tier ship.  An upgrade would probably include a special console of some kind (because just about every new ship has one nowadays; maybe something to buff warp cores?  Dunno; I’m not going to speculate), an increase in bridge officers and type (based off of Engineering, since cruisers go that way) and an increase in consoles, and that would pretty much take you where you want to go.  And in a game where you have Jem’Hadar, Cardassian, Undine, Tholian, and even Temporal vessels available via lockboxes-which effectively means the galaxy is littered with them-it’s silly to say that all of those are acceptable, but a top-tier Constitution is not.

It’s all moot, of course.  As I’ve said above, there are reasons beyond the lore and the game development side of things that prevent this from becoming real.  The dangers of licensing an intellectual property is that the license holder gets the final word on things.  It’s one of the reasons why we don’t have a Star Wars Galaxies anymore (well, in part, anyway; the NGE helped), and that’s why we don’t see a top-tier Constitution vessel in the game.  Someday, perhaps, one of the business people over there will decide, “Hey, we can rake in cash from those TOS fans if we put it in a lockbox” or some abomination like that, and that’ll override any feelings of keeping the IP pure.  But hey:  its purity went to hell when we got top-tier Excelsiors and D’Kyrs, so why not?