In Command

One of the stranger things I’ve noticed about Star Trek Online is the leveling speed.

In many of the games I’ve played, the early levels go by VERY fast, and the upper levels tend to slow down dramatically.  But that isn’t really the case in STO.  In my first run through (during open beta), the first six levels-not to mention the succeeding four-were slogs.  But things opened up at 11, and I got up to around 15/16 before the end of beta.  Granted, some of that slow down may have been perception, thanks to the heaps of downtime and regular crashes, which isn’t nearly as frequent an event nowadays.

Now, from roughly 1/30-ish to today, I’m on the cusp of hitting the Captain rank, being at Commander 10.  For the level-based thinker, that means there’s about 15/16 more levels before reaching the current cap, and I’m not exactly what you would call a power-leveler in any circumstance.  My first 10 levels went damned fast this time, but I’ll admit in this case it was because I minimized my reading-I’d done it in the open beta.  That, plus I had a much better idea of how to play the game.  Point being, it’s a damned fast trip to max level here.  It’s possible it’ll slow down as I get further along, but my Fleet already has four, maybe five Admirals in it already, and that says something.

For some games, this isn’t all that big a deal.  Many games have several character slots to make characters with, and trying new things is nice and easy.  STO, on the other hand, has but three-or five if you happen to be a lifetime sub.  By comparison, Champions Online has eight; World of Warcraft has eight-to a single server, of which there are many which can allow you to make more characters; SWG has eight last I checked, although only two could share a server at a time; City of Heroes allows up to twelve per server.  All of this discounts microtransactions; CO will allows you to purchase more character slots (and is developed and maintained by the same folks who do STO), although I have no idea what the maximum number is there.  CoH, on the other hand, I do know-it’s got up to 36 slots available per server (and incidentally, each yearly vet reward gives a free slot to apply to those servers).  That allows for a lot of messing around with character concepts and builds.

Originally, the low number of slots wasn’t viewed as a big deal on STO, since you would theoretically continue earning skill points at max level, and thus eventually be able to acquire (in the long run) pretty much all the skills and ranks.  That went out the window during open beta, when it was announced there’d be a skill cap.  So suddenly, experimenting with builds or different abilities becomes a lot more limited without paying “Cryptic Bucks” in their store (presumably).  As it is a given that a developer can’t develop content faster than players can blow through it, it does lead me to have some concern about their long-term strategies; whoever is running the marketing might want to think about that a bit.  (That’s a whole other post waiting to happen; I haven’t overlooked the fiasco recently with their announcements in Champions Online.)

Of course, I haven’t gotten to max level yet, so it’s a bit premature of me to feel doom and gloom on this; plus we’ve got content patches upcoming shortly introducing the “raid-isodes”, and the promised Klingon patch next month (theoretically).

Speaking of Klingons, I put a bit of time into mine.  Now, some folks say that Klingons may be unbalanced, trashing the Federation (at least in space).  I’ve only competed in the 6-10 PvP areas, so I can’t honestly speak for higher levels.  But they may have a point.  In all the scenarios I fought in one evening, the Klingons were the winners, whether it was a “hold territory” scenario or a simple “who kills the most first”.  In each of them, I held the top spot on my teams for damage done, number of kills, and kill/loss ratio.  Careful note:  all the scenarios I participated in were Klingon vs Federation (it’s hard to find imbalances with fights against your own faction at that level), and note that I am nowhere NEAR that good a PvP player.  This implies either a) the Federation players all stunk (and I’m sure some would indeed say that), b) all the Klingon players were uber (and I’m sure some would say THAT), or c) maybe there really is some imbalance here, at least in the lower levels.  That’s simplifying things, though, because team tactics matter.  It was interesting sometimes being the stalking horse, where I’d fly uncloaked and let myself get ambushed by a couple ships expecting an easy target-only to discover there were two other ships ready to uncloak and say hello.  Maybe to get a better idea on things, I should take a lower level alt into the 6-10 range to PvP at some point and see what it’s like on that side of the disruptor.  Could be enlightening.

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