Winding Down 2018

Traditionally-although never planned to be that way-I seem to do a slowdown at the end of the year.  This year’s probably no exception.  Still, there’s at least a couple things that will likely make an impact on the blog posts as we warp up 2018.

First, we’ve got a new Star Wars: The Old Republic publish coming soon, which will actually have content I’m interested in playing.  I still remember when Bioware kept hyping the “fourth pillar of story” for the game, and that was one of the big draws for me.  (The other being, duh, Star Wars.)  It’s been a long drought since I’ve been online there for any real length of time, and I’m hoping to have a return to the game in the reasonably near future.

Second, which is sort of over to the side, is an upcoming delivery of a new computer system, which is sort of long delayed.  I’ve had my current system for more than half the lifetime of this blog, which in computer-years is Methuselah-like in scope.  It’s hard drive is begging for mercy, and the graphic card struggles at times, particularly when newer graphical stuff get thrown in; I haven’t ever actually seen the “Lighting 2.0” in Star Trek Online because my system can’t handle that.  The new system, on the other hand, if all goes according to plan, should be able to handle maximum graphics settings on the games I’ve got and maintain a high frame rate.  We’ll see.  Some of my screenshots will hopefully look a lot better when that time rolls around.

I was this close to getting ready to pick up the character of Selak back in STO again; the Foundry came back online, but I’m not sure the kinks have been worked out.  I chose a Foundry Spotlight mission, which indicates that this is a mission that should be working just fine, and it wouldn’t let me advance past the first map.  So, his chronicle stalls a bit longer.

The winter festivities have begun in STO, and although there aren’t new activities, there is a new ship for those interested in putting the time into doing races every day, and a few new other wintry related things.  No winter festivities have started in Champions Online yet (to my knowledge, anyway), but SWTOR is set to kick off its Life Day festivities on the 11th (amusingly, the same day the Republic/Empire war re-ignites.  Happy Life Day!).  I imagine the other assorted MMORPGs have also either started or are getting ready to start their winter events.  I usually don’t go all-in for these events, but I do enjoy doing some of the stuff.  Whether it’s throwing snowballs at Sith at Vaiken Spacedock or engaging in combat with caramel-throwers against snowmen (or most recently, taking my Jem’Hadar, arming him with a candy swordfish, and hacking away at Krampus), it’s a nice break from the usual storylines of the games I play.  After all, games are meant to be fun-and if you don’t take them too seriously, this season is big on fun.

(Except Ewoks on Valentine’s Day.  That was just wrong on so many levels.  Long story.)


Wait, This Isn’t a Star Trek Online Post!!!

You could be forgiven if you thought, over the last few months, that I only played Star Trek Online.  And to a certain extent, this is true:  STO has dominated the blog a bit lately, with the “Victory is Life” expansion rolling out, followed not long after with the “Age of Discovery” patch and the dev plans to advance the storyline based on the Star Trek: Discovery show.  So it’s kind of sucked all the oxygen out of the room for a while now-especially since I have a pair of character chronicles on standby in that game who can’t really advance until said Discovery-related episodes get released or the Foundry gets restored again, or the devs finally get off their hindquarters and fix the so-called “streamlining” of their mission journal so my Cardassian can do the Lost Dominion arc at a time when it actually makes sense.  (I’ve ranted on that subject enough.  Moving on.)

It also hasn’t helped that the other pair of games I mess with regularly, Star Wars: The Old Republic and Champions Online, haven’t exactly put out the kind of stuff I mess with lately.  CO is CO, with the iffiness of its content releases, and SWTOR has been focusing on its raid stuff a lot lately.  And even though I’m an avowed altoholic, there comes times when I’ve burned through the same storylines enough times that I just need a break-one of the reasons why STO and its Foundry have been invaluable in giving me an excuse to indulge the altitis.  The Foundry gives me stories I haven’t played through ad infinitum.  I can’t say that about SWTOR, where I’ve done most of the class stories no less than three times each, and the subsequent “shared” content at least twenty times.  And I can’t say that for CO, whose leveling path for most characters is nearly identical, with minor variations with Canada and the Desert.  So I find it’s easier to wait until the new arrives for those games, or when I feel a craving to get my lightsaber or cape on.

Fortunately, at least for SWTOR, newer content is coming in December-on the 11th, to be precise, barring surprises.  The Republic/Empire war is getting ready to reignite, and an old Jedi stronghold on the planet Ossus is the flashpoint (which may or may not actually include Flashpoints; I haven’t been keeping up).  Ossus is from the long-ago days of what is now known as the Star Wars Legends era as an important site for the Jedi, which means we’re likely looking at more Jedi-centric content.  Well, I guess I can’t complain horribly much.  The last major storyline was intrigue and treachery and didn’t focus so much on the Force except in a roundabout way-it didn’t forcefeed that kind of thing at you like the previous big storylines.  And I get that the Force is going to be centric in any Empire/Republic storyline, because the Empire is the Sith Empire, which means the Dark Side of the Force, which means it’s opposed by the Jedi Order, but still.

It’s just my perception.  I feel like we just got out of major Force-related stories, even though it’s been a couple of years now since we wrapped up Valkorion and his family issues (man, has it really been that long?), and we’ve got another one likely on deck.  I will admit that I haven’t done much reading up on what’s upcoming with the plot-I like surprises-but the fact that it’s Ossus screams Jedi vs Sith stuff, and that’s just the way it is.  I guess it’s a hazard of the “all classes are one” story prospects now, although it sounds like we’ll be separated into Republic and Imperial sides once more (and intriguingly, not necessarily the sides your class may have started out with).  But there are times I really miss the class stories, where bounty hunters could be bounty hunters, troopers could be troopers, agents could be agents, and smugglers could be wiseasses.

But it’s coming, and I expect to play through the content upon its release.  There are companions who will be making their returns (most of which, I believe, only for the classes they worked with in the past); significantly, one of them is an individual who could’ve been a Dark Sider or Light Sider depending on choices made, which was a big question mark for a while.  One more note of interest:  upon starting the new content, at least one Alliance Alert for a companion may be automatically completed (which may or may not matter, depending if you got him as a companion during the previous storylines).  It probably means it’ll happen regardless if you actually started that Alert-I’m guessing it’s considered “started” if it shows up in your list of Alerts.  We’ll see.

It’s been a quiet time in a galaxy far, far away, but it might be time to revisit it very soon!

The Cast List: Introducing Kalox of Star Trek Online

One of the earliest purchasable species in Star Trek Online was the Klingons.

No, you read that right.  I don’t mean, though, Klingons of the Klingon Empire.  I mean Klingons for Starfleet.  As this was in the era of the Next Generation-well, really, 30 years past it-it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that Starfleet had gotten more Klingons in Starfleet, but not enough to rate being in the base set of species for Starfleet.  Or maybe they figured it was a money-maker.  I’m sort of cynical that way.

This was not a purchase I made right off, though.  If I wanted to play Klingons…well, the Klingon Empire was there.  With Klingons ships!  Surely, that would be sufficient for my needs.  But eventually, as the years rolled on by, and I found myself looking at my collected Zen from my lifetime sub, and thought, “I can spare some of this for a Starfleet Klingon, right?”  And that was the genesis of the plan to make yet another character.  In keeping with the Original Series traditions, I kept the first letter of the name as a “K” and created Kalox.

You cannot defend yourself to victory. You must attack.

He was going to be a tactical captain; there was just no way around that.  Yes, I could’ve gone against type and made him a thoughtful science captain, or a creative engineer, but when push comes to shove…sometimes it’s good to play with type.  (Besides, I already had an engineering Klingon in the form of Kelleth in the KDF.)  The concept I had in mind for him was also pretty straightforward:  I would go in the opposite direction than what I imagined for the character of Koreth (who I had imagined as “the cavalry” for Starfleet).  Instead of being a reactionary force, Kalox and his crew would be a proactive one; the tip of the spear, the vanguard.  I was inspired substantially by the MACO troops from Enterprise-guys who knew they’d be looking for trouble, and dealing with it when they found it.  This crew was designed to have graduated in the thick of the Klingon War of 2409, knowing that exploring strange new worlds was going to have to come in second to holding onto the ones they had.

I went to take an interesting direction for my character uniforms for this one, and it went a route that I generally don’t take.  Some backstory:  back in the days of the early game, the armor you picked up would replace the uniform you wore.  That, unsurprisingly, led to outrage from players-what was the point of painstakingly designing uniforms if they were always going to be hidden by the armor?  So the devs put in a “disable visuals” switch so that you wouldn’t have to see the armor.  Later on, those armor pieces got thrown in the woodchipper entirely, no longer linked to the armor you got in-game.  Instead, they got put into the tailor, but different variations would unlock as you leveled.  Well, I’d eschewed the armor stuff entirely for my other characters-but decided that this sort of thing worked just fine for Kalox and his crew; if you’re going to be the tip of the spear, you better be wearing something that gives you a reasonable shot at coming out of a fight intact.

The ship I went with for his “final configuration” could have been an Escort; it could’ve been one of those C-Store “Pilot” ships.  But instead, I decided to go with something recognizably Starfleet, but still up for battle:  one of the battlecruisers (I might have mentioned having a chunk of spare Zen).  This was tough enough to take a hit in the face, and strong enough to punch back hard.  The U.S.S Kashima felt like the right fit for Kalox.

Kalox is sitting comfortably at the level 50 area, and is likely to stay there for a while until I decide to pull the trigger on the Cast List Revival Party.  While the Klingon War is over, the Iconian War lies ahead of him-not to mention all those other annoying conflicts that are in the later portions of the game.  When you’re at the vanguard of a war and survive, time and time again, you can sort of expect to lead the charge whenever called up:  as a Klingon, Kalox would desire nothing less.

When Story Becomes a Tangled Mess

I’ve commented recently on Star Trek Online’s recent “streamlining”, and now that I’ve had some time to see just how it impacted things, I feel that the devs have royally screwed up.  It’s not NGE-level screwed up (nothing gets that screwed up…hopefully), but it smacks of having not done the research as to the impacts.  For those coming in late:  the devs at Cryptic/PWE recently did a reshuffle of the mission chain for STO, removing some missions, and theoretically moving some missions and arcs out of the “primary storyline” and into the “Available missions” tab.  This shuffle has exacerbated an ongoing problem with STO concerning their storyline missions.

I think it could be said to have really begun with the Delta Rising expansion; at least, that’s where I first started noticing discrepancies.  More specifically-when the whole “Delta Recruitment” was a thing.  It’s not that noticeable for players using high-end characters, but definitely noticeable for new characters (and guess what the whole Delta Recruitment thing was about?).  Throughout the career of the recruits, he got told about Iconian this and Iconian that; of course, this was well before there were any hints of Iconians in story arcs.  The earliest that they got referred to was during the Romulan arc, thanks to Obisek.  This persisted even after the Delta Recruitment period was over-missions would seem to presume that your character knew of events that he hadn’t participated in-and in fact, couldn’t have known about, such as the fact that yes, the Iconians were definitely mobilizing behind the scenes as an active force.

So this isn’t a new problem.  And it’s not shocking, given how mission arcs got shuffled hither and yon over time.  But now, it’s worse.

For older characters, the Age of Discovery publish has them dealing with an “As you know” statement from the bigwigs of their associated factions indicating the return of J’Ula.  Well and good.  Except…I’ve yet to see a single reference to J’Ula in any of the earlier episodes.  Now, maybe there’s something that shows up in missions I’ve done with other characters (future grist for the Cast List) recently, but at least as far as the Delta Rising mission arcs, there isn’t a single mention of J’Ula.  Why would established characters have assumed that J’Ula magically showed up from the past to be such a big deal?  Now maybe that’s something the devs are planning to go into further with future episodes, but I sort of doubt it.  This should’ve been seeded somewhere, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t.

Then you have the fact that most of those mission arcs that were moved to the Available tab and out of the episode chain are level gated to max level.  And that’s where you start going off the rails.  One of these appears to be the Deferi arc; so you’re likely to be trying to defend a Preserver site before you discover it, since the Iconian War references that.  Then there’s the “Lost Dominion” arc, which would make a lot of sense where it was in the old episode chain, but now your first encounter with the Dominion is likely to be well after the events that should have taken place.  And my personal favorite incidence of idiocy:  the Delta Rising arc, which has a mission that explicitly takes you to to the Kobali homeworld…where you can’t actually DO any of the missions there because of the damned level gate.  And that in turn comes after you discover the Vaadwaur beef with the Kobali, which spoils the first act of the Kobali adventure zone!

Whoever came up with this streamlining idea…no, I’ll be more specific.  Whoever was in charge of implementing this streamlining idea should be fired.  Someone needs to sit down and go through each and every mission in this game, and start doing rewrites where things don’t make sense-which at this point is looking like a hell of a job, because there’s an awful lot.  Even with the crazy time travel that goes on in this game now, you expect a character’s POV to be consistent.  And it’s not.  And if the game is still trying to get new players, this kind of garbage isn’t going to leave them with a favorable impression.  And given how good so much of this game is, that’s a damned shame.

(As you may have guessed, the Foundry is still down, which keeps Selak from going further-and given the above mess with the “Lost Dominion” arc and the length of time that the devs usually take to bring the Foundry back up after major publishes, he’s likely to stay there for a while.  So, we could be looking at even odds for a new chronicle either in Star Wars: The Old Republic or Champions Online.  Stay tuned-it’s likely to come down to a coin toss.)

W&M: Home Sweet Home?

Well, this should cause a bunch of Bajorans to have a religious crisis….

Personal Log, Stardate 96450.4.

It’s with a certain amount of trepidation that I accepted our current assignment.  After all, I have not been near Cardassian space for a number of years-and I’m a different man now than I was when I left.  Of course, I was on the threshold of adulthood when I left…and now I’m a captain of a Starfleet vessel.  Captain Kurland of Deep Space Nine has been welcoming, but…this posting has been an uncomfortable one.  Decades have past since Cardassia occupied Bajor and effectively enslaved its people…but they have not forgotten.  I wasn’t even born when the Dominion War ravaged the quadrant, but they remember that Cardassia was a willing partner of the Dominion at that time.  There are some who believe Cardassia got off lightly when the Dominion finally turned its power against it.

I’m not saying that I have a constant feeling of pressure centered on my back above my heart, but I’m not not saying it.  I don’t honestly believe that a Bajoran would try to murder me in retaliation for crimes I had nothing to do with; but the feeling remains.

It’s probably for the best that Vedek Krin at Hathon kept quiet my…experience…at the temple there.  If word got out about that, it could create unrest for almost all of the Bajoran people.

I hope that Starfleet assigns me to another location soon.  Away from the madness that has afflicted some of my people-away from this “True Way” that wants to send us back to the bad times.  I want very much to be better than that.

I have to be.

Computer, end log.

Thanks to the magic of “streamlining”, I’ve arrived at the Cardassian Struggle arc of Star Trek Online with my character of Selak.  The Foundry is still down, but I decided that I could skip ahead on missions in the official storyline to bring us to Deep Space Nine and bring my Cardassian captain to more familiar territory.  Thanks to the pruning that’s gone on over the years, though, it covers a mere five missions.  Man, I remember when there were lots of missions involved with the Cardassian/Bajoran region.  That’s dev logic for you:  let’s add by removing things.

It occurs to me that the entire plan hinges on trusting a Vorta. Why did I think this was a good idea?

It was during this little spree that I discovered an extremely unwelcome revelation.  I knew that the really big DS9 related arc, the return of the lost Dominion ships from the wormhole, was no longer a part of the main storyline, but was now considered a “side mission”.  I’d been assured that the missions could still be accessed in the character journal in a separate tab.  What nobody mentioned, though, was that you had to be freaking max level to access them!  That makes NO sense whatsoever.  Whoever made that decision must have either been drinking or taking some serious hallucinogenic drugs.  This, incidentally, also impacts other of the old Feature Episodes, like the Devidian arc and possibly the Breen arc (I haven’t looked into the Breen one yet).  Nimbus, at least, can still be accessed early; I don’t know about the Kobali arc, but you had to be fairly high level to get there in the first place anyway.

I could honestly see the Breen arc being higher level restricted (although max level is again extreme-particularly in light of the fact that the Iconian War makes reference to the big reveal in the Breen arc!).  But the Devidians were fairly early in the careers of a lot of captains, and it made sense for the “Lost Dominion” arc to be during your time in the DS9 region.  This level restriction is idiocy, and it throws off the timing of the storyline missions.  I was already unhappy about the streamlining to start with, and this does not help matters.

So it looks like Selak is going to be put back in the cooler for now, until the Foundry missions are up again (always an extended period, it seems), or until the devs return to their senses and properly place more sane level restrictions for the “side mission” arcs.

JJ: Well, That Was Fast

I have no idea what I’m defending, but if the Klingons want it, they can’t have it.

Personal Log, Stardate…I’m still getting used to the Stardate system.  Computer, fill this in when it is appropriate.

There is a disquiet in my spirit, and I am having a difficult time stilling it.  I am not where I belong.  I have died, yet I still live.  I am separated from my friends and family by decades-and I dare not try to delve too deeply into their fates.

J’Ula has destroyed me, and my crew.  Many died during the battle at Starbase One, but our lot is far worse than simple death.  Due to the apparent mastery of time, I have been brought ahead along with select members of my bridge staff-to the year 2409-over one hundred and fifty years after what was presumed to be our deaths.  It is an odd experience to read about how I died, and even then as a footnote-a gifted lieutenant who had been thrust into the command of a starship.

My people, at least, still survive-and it seems that my name has become a common one among them.  Accordingly, it was not difficult for this “Agent Daniels” to craft a story for me and still use my name.  It is simply presumed that I wished to follow in the footsteps of the Jhudsui that died at Starbase One.  At least it is no longer unusual for one of low rank to command a starship; it seems that we have made peace with, then went to war with, the Klingons-and then repeated the cycle twice.  So once more, we are at war with the Klingons, along with a number of other species they have recruited to their empire.

But the worst news is that somewhere out in the void, J’Hula also somehow crossed the river of time.  I fear that another confrontation will be coming.  We must be ready.

For the future; how ironic my closing sounds!  End Log Entry.  Save.

I have to admit it.  I honestly thought there would be more time between the tutorial and the eventual shift to 2409 in Star Trek Online’s Age of Discovery missions.  Of course, AoD wasn’t a full expansion like Agents of Yesterday had been.  But man, talk about abrupt.  Two missions and bam-we’re in 2409, in circumstances similar to how the AoY guys got there:  the hard way.

So let’s take a look at those missions.  For the spoiler wary, I’ll throw up my “read more” tag-and if you’re reading on the blog front page, then just stop at the image following-it’s as good a way of separating out the spoilage from the non-spoilage, although as usual, I’ll try to tread lightly.

Continue reading

JJ: This All Seems Familiar

Even now, space is STILL the final frontier….

Personal Log, May 30th, 2256

In the course of events, it has been recommended that I begin a new personal log separate from my notes during my years of training at Starfleet Academy.  Given the unusual circumstances of my new command of the USS Bowman, I find that I agree.  While I am in command, I am nonetheless not a Captain in rank, merely a Captain in command of this ship.  It is important that I remain mindful of this as I go forward.

To whom it may concern:  I am Lieutenant Jhudsui, a recent graduate of the Class of ’56 at Starfleet Academy.  I am a Mentassan, the first member of my species to thus graduate from the Academy.  My people are relative newcomers to the United Federation of Planets, but we were known to them for nearly eighty years, thanks to the efforts of Captain Jonathan Archer of the Enterprise.  We have spent a lifetime to come to a point where we could be permitted entry to the Federation, and it has been worth it.  I am the first to graduate, but I will not be the last; the dream of stars has been awakened in my people, and I do not believe we will ever go back.

My focus has been command, and I have trained in the defensive arts.  I am not the best shot, nor am I the best hand-to-hand fighter.  I am no grand strategist or tactician.  I am simply a sentient who tries to see the best in others, and in doing so, attempt to awaken the best in myself.  War is not what I sought when I joined Starfleet Academy, but if that is the path that is before me, I will walk it to its end.  And when I have done so, I will walk the path that I envisioned when I enlisted:  the path of exploration.

For the future.  End Log Entry.  Save.

It’s here at last: the latest offering from Star Trek Online, which incorporates elements from the latest Star Trek offering period.  The Age of Discovery is upon us!

Accordingly, with the new publish, with a new tutorial and set of missions (there aren’t many yet), I decided to make a new character to fit.  I went tactical, mainly because the whole premise was set around war with the Klingons (this is not the last familiar thing ahead).  The options for character species was at once limited and vast.  You could make a Human or a Vulcan.  Or, you could make an Alien.  Which is what I decided to do; I don’t really have many characters of my own alien designs, so I thought I’d do that with this character.

I’ll freely admit:  I broke down and started mashing the “random” button for the guy’s appearance.  I didn’t randomize the body, going with the default there with minor nudges; I’ve been known to play with that harder for aliens, but I figured I’d stick with the standard for that.  I was satisfied with the one I settled on.  I took the name from some old gaming article I read years and years go.  As far as the ship’s name…well, come on.  I’ve been known to make amusing nods to things before, and this one was no different.

With that, I was able to begin the tutorial!  It starts in Starfleet Academy, where one of my fellow students led me around to meet other graduating cadets who thanked me for their help, before sending me to see a captain who wanted me to take an advanced phaser test…hold on.  This all sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

It should.  Take away the specific students and change the skins of the graphics, but it’s essentially identical to the regular Starfleet tutorial.  It goes on beyond what I’ve described all the way to an encounter with Klingons, a dead captain, and eventually meeting up with someone with ties to established Trek lore to help.  There is a divergence, where you don’t have to worry about the Borg showing up, but the mission beats are all there.  Don’t look for too much creativity on the missions.

The characters involved, however, are at least worth the time.  Cadet Tilly-portrayed by the same actress who plays the part in Star Trek: Discovery-is a lot more entertaining than Elisa Flores; I find that the doomed captain of your ship is a lot more interesting, too (and he actually has a sense of humor).  Your future bridge officers are a decent sort.

There are some things that kind of irritated me; while the phasers and torpedoes are portrayed as I imagine they are in Discovery (having not seen any episodes, I can’t make accurate comparisons, but they’re at least different than the TOS and 2409 era weapons), the existence of personal shields continues to be an irritation.  That’s probably not something anything can really be done away with, though-the game’s sort of built around the concept of personal shields, and they’ve already had them around for the Agents of Yesterday expansion, so this is a war that’s lost already.  The existence of holodecks, though, is a bit more annoying; I’ve done some research, and I can with effort justify the existence of the things in the Academy, but holographic communications instead of the viewscreens?  That said, it seems that this is something that’s been used on the show, so I can’t rightly gripe about it too much-it’s a sin of the show, not STO.

Post-tutorial, you wind up back at the Academy, instead of a space station like Earth Spacedock.  Looking at the episodes ahead, I suspect there’s a good reason for that.  More on that as I get there.

I suspect very strongly that I will not be putting in too many posts on this Chronicle in the near future-there just isn’t enough content.  Once I’ve completed it, it’s back to Selak.  But as stuff comes out related to AoD, I’ll revisit this character.  I’ll be interested to see just how long it takes before some temporal thing happens to throw the character to the 2409 era.

Let’s not panic. I know in the future we won’t have to worry about Klingons boarding, kidnapping the Captain, and forcing a cadet XO to take command.

W&M: In Command

Those beacons are a lot bigger on the inside than you’d think.

Personal Log, Stardate 96352.35.

It seems that after a number of missions that seemed to involve Starfleet Intelligence in some way-or Security, too-our ship has been assigned to patrol a number of systems in the Beta Quadrant, away from Klingon space and closer to Romulan space.  Romulan space has been unsettled recently, with talk of a “Romulan Republic” forming out of the carcass of the Romulan Star Empire.  The Empire isn’t going quietly, though.  I’m having a hard time feeling a lot of sympathy.  It’s not so much their actions in the Dominion War-I wasn’t even alive when that happened, and if I was angry at the forces arrayed against Cardassia at that time, I wouldn’t be in Starfleet now.  No, it’s that they have always seemed to me to be corrupt, clandestine, self serving…reminds me of the stories of the Obsidian Order.

At least we haven’t run into too many Romulans-although I can’t say we’ve avoided them entirely.  We did run into a pair of defectors from the Klingon Empire, who gave us some useful intelligence to pass on to Starfleet-although that almost got us in the middle of a big mess.  We also managed to assist a colony of Ferengi, who honestly extorted us.  Whoever made that deal on the behalf of Starfleet needs to be given a remedial course on how to deal with Ferengi.  Saying “we’ll pay you back later” can be interpreted as a blank check to have them call on any Starfleet vessel to bail them out.  Which is exactly what happened.

There’s good news that came out of all this.  Starfleet Command has sent over a list of approved promotions, and it seems that one of them includes someone I hadn’t expected-me!  I’m to return to Earth for assignment to a new ship as a Commander.  I’ve asked that my bridge crew be permitted to accompany me, and the initial reactions I’m seeing indicate that there won’t be any problems here.  I don’t know much about what the ship is, but I’ve been warned that it won’t be a science vessel like the Runner.  So I’ll have to adapt my command style accordingly.  A new challenge!

Computer, end log.

Before we go to the Age of Discovery in Star Trek Online, we’ll take a last look at the progress being made by my Cardassian captain in Starfleet.  Selak has finally gotten past the level 20 barrier, assisted in no small part by doing patrol missions.

A little background:  patrol missions are remnants, in a way, of the STO-that-was; usually involving going into a system and fighting five or six groups of foes, on the ground or in orbit around a planet.  These were not what you’d consider plot heavy; they’re sort of what you would expect a ship would be doing between televised episodes, like investigating strange cocoons or examining odd artifacts-or fighting off a series of Romulan ships blockading satellites.  Originally, they were a part of a set of missions assigned by Captain Sulu, but nowadays they are available if you happen to be close enough to a planet that has such a mission linked to it.  Players who have leveled via traditional means-by using the episodes-will have seen at least one or two of these associated with a planet that was the focus of an episode.  The xp from these missions isn’t bad, although not equal to the xp from episodes-but they also tend to take a lot less time than the episodes, too.  Unfortunately, to my awareness, once you’ve done a patrol, it’s done-it’s not repeatable.

In combination with duty officer work and Foundry missions, I was able to push out of the mid-teen doldrums past level 20.  I’ll keep my choices for the next ship under wraps until the next W&M post, but in the meantime, here’s some thoughts on a pair of Foundry missions I did to help me through the Lieutenant Commander levels.

Ferengi have 178 words for “rain”. I wonder which one this is.

“Beckon Me Unto Beacons” is an offering from velocitore, and it takes place while patrolling the Cernan system.  If you’ve run any missions in space at all in STO, you’ve probably seen the beacons that help with navigation at times-those blinking lights that guide you to important waypoints.  Those beacons actually become a fairly important plot point here, as they aren’t transmitting any data.  This is because of the presence of a pair of “traitors” to the Klingon Empire, which has caused a bit of a conflict between a Klingon task force and a Federation cargo transport.  It turns out, though, that these traitors have some information that could rock the Klingon Empire-and certain interests don’t want that info coming out.  The mission isn’t too long, and it has some decent character work.  Something I found interesting was the use of dialogue options that didn’t involve your character at all-sort of like a cut to a different scene during a show, where the villains get to pontificate a bit.  That’s something that’s missing from some computer games in general:  a chance to see what the other side is thinking or planning, and to help flesh out the opposition a bit instead of just making them threatening faces on a viewscreen.  If I ever design a Foundry episode (don’t get the hopes up), that’s a technique I’ll have to remember.

The next offering is “Brains Before Bounty”, a tale from dixonium, which takes place in the Hana system.  A trader contacts you to request assistance on the behalf of Quintoona Quarry, a Ferengi mining colony.  Nausicaans have taken up residence, and are causing all sorts of problems.  The Ferengi governor wants help, and he claims that you’re required to do so by contract.  Don’t remember signing a contract with Ferengi?  That won’t help you….  This is another nice one-and done mission, where you investigate the presence of the Nausicaans and find out why they’re here, and what is wrong with the Ferengi on the colony.  It’s not a complicated mission by any stretch, and like the one above, it’s not a very long mission either.  If you’re looking to just run a couple Foundry missions to fill in some gaps in your leveling, or if you just want to have a short gameplay session, you could do a lot worse than run through these missions.

With the launch of the Age of Discovery-TODAY!-Selak will be put on the back burner for a little bit.  There’s a lot coming down the pike beyond just the story, and I’ll be putting up some of my thoughts on the changes next time.

Discovering New Character(s)

Well, it looks like we have a date for the Age of Discovery patch for Star Trek Online.  Mark October 9 on the calendar, barring last minutes surprises that delay things.  (It’s possible; while I know most devs will push through regardless of game breaking bugs, they will certainly hold off if those bugs benefit the player in any meaningful way.)

With that, the “Ways & Means” chronicle will be put on hold after the next post-at least for a week or two.  A lot depends on how the content for AoD is going to be delivered.  As I recall, they had talked about releasing content along with actual episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.  So, we’ll see how things shake out.  I imagine there will need to be at least a couple of episodes (some of which have gotten their TV Guide-like synopses on the STO site) ready to go.  I’m still dubious about them being able to handle episodes on a weekly basis-I was impressed as hell when they were pulling monthlies during the Iconian War arc.  It’s possible they’ve developed a backlog of Discovery-related episodes for the game and will be able to meet that kind of schedule, or maybe they’ve already walked back their original intentions.

It seems likely at this point-without having gone on the test servers-that this is not replacing the 2409 tutorials, but is rather going to be treated similar to the Agent of Yesterday storyline:  you’ll make a character that has their missions/maps in the past, and then at some point some temporal action will take place that will kick the character to the present day.  All that said…the missions for AoD sound like they’ll be accessible to current captains as “historical records” to play through.  I don’t know if that means “historical for both Starfleet and Klingon factions”, though.  I get some potential amusement from the idea of using my TOS-era captain who got shot into 2409 to play historical DSC-era content.  (I’m pretty sure that, despite the amusement of the alternative abbreviations, that DSC is the preferred one for Discovery.)

This is why I hate time travel.  :)

Anyway, it’s a little over a week away, so I anticipate maybe one more W&M post, before figuring out what the heck kind of character to make for AoD.  The good news is I can at least experiment ahead of time for appearance, because I got the Discovery uniform when they were promoting Discovery’s CBS debut.  Of course, I imagine that everyone will be getting it now, which only makes sense because it’d be stupid to have episode arcs dedicated to that era without having the uniforms available.  I’ll have to hunt down some uniform coloring guides….

W&M: One-Shots

Parties are more fun when they aren’t hosted by the scum of the galaxy.

Personal Log, Stardate 96311.84.

The last of the Saurian Brandy that we swiped from Zevon Chojin’s party was served out last night.  It was good to have finally gotten rid of it.  I don’t regret taking it from a slaver, but I can’t help but think that it was probably purchased from credit gained by the slave trade.

I won’t deny, though, that it felt good to put him into Security’s hands, though.  I just wish I could have hit him a few more times in the face.  He and his “Matron” deserve everything they get from the Judiciary.  I put in my recommendation that they be tried under the Cardassian method of justice, but unsurprisingly, the Federation disagreed.  Ordinarily, I’d be right there with them, but I think they deserve no presumption of innocence in this case.

I hate slavers.  Who knew?

But at least he’ll face Romulan justice instead of the Federation’s overly lenient version.  It’ll have to do.

Shipwise, we’re still sorting out the mess at Behrens Station, after the Klingon attack.  I’m still not exactly happy with my performance on the station.  I can’t help but feel that a better captain would have found a way to keep everyone alive.  Rationally, I know better-there was no time.  We couldn’t split up-there were too many enemies that would have overwhelmed a smaller away team.  Communications were out and….

Damn.  It was too much like Kobayashi Maru.  But I think that the Maru’s the only reason I managed to keep it together at the time.  And I’ll use this as motivation to find better ways, so it doesn’t happen again.  It’s all I can do.

I hate fighting wars.

Computer, end log.

It’s been a busy week, particularly with my home computer deciding that it wanted to cause problems recently.  I suspect a new computer purchase may be happening sooner than later.  But I did manage to find some time to put Selak through a couple more adventures in Star Trek Online, courtesy of the Foundry.  I’m not sure how much longer this will go before I get sidetracked by the upcoming Age of Discovery patch, because I’ll probably develop something for that, too.  But heck, it’s not the first time I’ve put characters on hiatus for extended periods, as my chronicles for Anthrandos and Sorshan in Star Wars: The Old Republic demonstrate.

Nothing bad ever happens at a baryon sweep facility. (Hm, I’m getting a call from Captain Picard….)

So:  this time around, I grabbed a pair of missions that, for once, were not a part of an extended storyline.  After all, Star Trek made its rep on one-and-done episodes; big story arcs weren’t a big thing on most of the versions of Trek floating around.  And I certainly don’t mind-after all, they make good breathers from major storylines.

First on the list is an offering by djxprime, “A Price for Eurydice”.  This mission takes place near the Sardah system, and begins with a rescue operation:  a civilian liner had been ambushed by raiders, and two other starships were coming to assist-in addition to your own.  It turns out to be tied to a slaver operation, and after dealing with the attacks on the liner, your PC will be pursuing them to a slave auction.  This is a bit more upper class than the one seen in the Enterprise episode “Borderland”, but it’s still a slave ring.  The subject matter may be uncomfortable to some, but the episode was decently put together.  The party was a high point-lots of NPCs, some of which could be interacted with, and one of whom was more than they seemed-not to mention the major antagonists there, too.  The ground portion of the ships, on the other hand, weren’t all that impressive-but I admit, there’s not much you can do with corridors.

The second mission was “Clean Sweep”, by RogueEnterprise.  This is a spiritual successor, in some ways, to a Star Trek Next Generation episode, where the Enterprise had to undergo a “Baryon sweep” which required everyone to be offboard the ship-which led to someone trying to steal some trilithium resin from the Enterprise.  This mission ups the stakes, though:  for starters, the base here is servicing multiple ships-it’s one of the largest around, based in the Servin system.  And it’s responsible for servicing ships going to and from the Klingon front.  Gosh, that would mean it’d make a damned peachy target, wouldn’t it?  The Klingons agree:  and before you know it, you’ll find yourself trapped on the decks of a starship undergoing its own sweep-with much of its crew still on board.  So, in short, PCs will have to deal with both Klingons and whoever managed to start up the early sweeps-before the Klingons destroy all the ships and the facility.  No pressure.  I’ll give full credit for the writer here for keeping the sense that time was a factor:  you got to see the sweeps advance at certain points to give you the impression that bad things were going to happen if you didn’t keep moving.  Plus, there’s a nice little moral dilemma as alluded to in Selak’s log above.  I don’t believe it made a big difference to the mission itself in terms of objectives, but it was a nice touch to remind a captain that sometimes, there aren’t any easy answers.

Again, the Foundry missions are proving to be a slow-going method of advancing a character, but I’m going to say that’s counterbalanced by the fact that it’s great to be playing missions that I haven’t played a dozen times before.  That makes this whole experiment worthwhile.  No new player queues to play with this time-there’s a Breach event rolling right now, but that’s not open to low level characters unless something changed when I wasn’t looking.