The Cast List: Introducing Ailar of Star Trek Online

In the beginning, they were a broken race, thanks to Star Trek Online’s backstory-which tied neatly to the J.J. Abrams backstory of his Star Trek film.  They gained significant focus in a Feature Episode series as their…let’s call them planetary siblings…broke away.  And then it got followed up with a large portion of their species deciding to effectively revolt-and eventually became a sub-faction available in the game.  People love ’em, people hate ’em, but the Romulan Republic arrived and is here to stay.

Obviously, when the Romulans were finally brought in as playable characters, I had to make a few.  Like the major factions, I could choose species.  Unlike them, there were only so many available.  The Romulans.  The generic Aliens (which I never did take as much as advantage of as I could have).  A little later came the Borg-ified Romulans.  I did have Reman access early thanks to having completed the Romulan Republic reputation prior to that period, so I didn’t have to do anything exotic like spend Zen.  And, naturally, true-blue (er, green?) Romulans.

A new hope for the Republic

So.  It felt right that I should have a pure Romulan as my first (and main) Romulan character, so I designed Ailar.  Ailar was a Science captain (another non-tactical!  I’m on a roll!).  Now, as a sub-faction, it was required-after reaching a certain level/point in the STO story-to choose a faction to ally with, the Klingons or the Federation.  Ailar chose to go Federation (although the Klingons had a real good argument at the time.  I remember really wavering with the choice when the time finally came).  This would allow me to make use of Starfleet vessels up to and including Tier-4 ships; Tier-5 ships were not made available to the Romulans from Starfleet, mainly because of an outcry on the forums that it would be insane for Starfleet to make their best ships available to an allied power outside of their control.  Same with the KDF.  I’d agreed with that at the time, but later reflection had me recall that it wouldn’t have been without precedent; in the original Star Trek series, Romulans could be seen flying top-end Klingon battlecruisers.  So its not as if there wasn’t precedent for that sort of thing.

The Romulans had their own set of outfits, and didn’t share much with the other factions-which meant there wasn’t that big a variety of uniforms.  Certainly not as much as, say, Starfleet.  That said, the devs didn’t do too badly here.  There were a couple varieties of Romulan “civilian” outfits, a pair of Republic officer outfits, and even Klingon/Starfleet specific Romulan outfits, depending on who you chose to ally with.  (And for the Romulan purists, a Tal Shiar style outfit.  Because it’s good to be bad.  You got it from going undercover….)  Some of the cross-platform outfits came across too, such as the Intelligence uniforms.  The C-Store eventually got a few more to work with, if you wanted to go classic or real classic.  For the Romulans in the crew, I went with the straight up uniform, although I individualized Ailar’s uniform as she was in charge.  Well, mostly straight-up:  the Reman representative has her own look, and one of them is sort of unable to have any other uniform options.  I figured that was okay, though-given the relative “age” of the Republic, it’s a wonder they have anything resembling a consistent look.

The bridge crew was mostly the default crew; as the first of my Romulans, I didn’t go too crazy on using them.  I had access to Starfleet officers as well, but, well, I was feeling like a purist here.  I’d be willing to have a Starfleet officer help man the ship weapons (I think it was a Ferengi that joined when I declared for Starfleet), but for the longest time, I would only use Romulans and Remans in my away teams.  I eventually picked up a Hierarchy bridge officer during the Delta Rising arc, and I eventually included him in the main group.

I knew from day one that Ailar would be flying a Scimitar-class warbird in the end.  It hadn’t been available at the Romulan launch, but I knew that as sure as Starfleet had Odysseys and the Klingons had Bortasqu’s, the Romulans would get a flagship, and it would be the Scimitar.  I was dead right-and for a while, that was exactly what she flew (using the science variant, naturally).  However, when the Tier-6 ships came rolling around, I saw that while the basic Scimitar skeleton was still being used, the appearance was distinct from that used by the Tier-5s, and I decided that it made sense to have Ailar in command of a brand spanking new Republic-constructed warbird-the RRW Hobus.

Ailar, as my primary Romulan character, has had the benefit of having gone through the vast majority of the episodes of the game, and is at max level; she hasn’t maxed out her primary specialization (Command), though.  In part, this is because it’s tricky enough to get new characters leveled plus keeping my Klingon and Starfleet mains at the latest and greatest.  At some point, I expect I’ll try to locate where I left Ailar and binge from there to the latest episode.  If one is looking to rebuild into galactic power again, it’d behoove one to make sure their best and brightest lead the way.

Emerging from the Far Side of the Galaxy

Well, well, well.  Isn’t THIS interesting?

Star Trek Online recently unveiled its next season, “Emergence”, and dropped some intriguing information along with it.  Here’s the trailer, in case it’s been missed:

Got some very interesting things in it.  First and foremost, we have the first main character from the Star Trek: The Next Generation series to lend his voice to the game show up:  LeVar Burton, aka Geordi LaForge.  (He’s not the first major name in the game, though; that’d probably have to go to Tim Russ from Star Trek: Voyager.  Yes, there were other voice actors from episodes in the assorted Trek series, but Russ was the first from a main cast.)  At this point, we’ve had main cast appearances from the Original Series, the Next Generation, and Voyager; okay, I can stretch a point and include Deep Space Nine with Michael Dorn, but I always considered him more with TNG than DS9.  So, if you stretch that point, we’re looking at only Enterprise as a series lacking voice representation from a main cast member.  That would probably require time travel hijinks, though.  Let’s probably hold off on that.

Emergence is promising a new Fleet Holding.  Guess I’m going to need to start hording supplies again to help my fleet get to a tier-1 there.  The holding is going to be located on a new homeworld for the Lukari and Kentari, and it seems like moving up tiers will probably add structures to the holding, which is something we haven’t seen a lot of since the original holding, the Starbase-which you can see being constructed as it goes up in tiers.  Figure on it being a new Dilithium sink in the game.  Also of interest:  a new specialization path, simply called “Miracle Worker”.  I’m absolutely SURE it couldn’t POSSIBLY have anything to do with engineering in any way, shape, or form, right?  </sarcasm>  That said, it could be a very interesting spec path, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing more about it.

Of course, the season couldn’t be a season without a new feature episode, and it will feature Burton along with the ongoing arc with the Tzenkethi and the Lukari.  Could we start seeing some answers forthcoming about the Tzenkethi’s drive to wreck certain worlds?  Let’s hope-a title called “Emergence” is a hopeful sign there.

And now, for the elephant that comes crashing into the room at the tail end of that trailer.  You DID watch that trailer before reading this, right?

That elephant represents what is quite possibly the next STO expansion:  there’s a whole lot of Dominion ships rolling out of the Bajoran Wormhole, and I can’t believe we’d be doing an effective repeat of yet another DS9 invasion.  If it is an expansion, it leads one to wonder what can we see here.  Could we finally be seeing the devs open up the Gamma Quadrant beyond the wormhole?  Could we see a new faction-er, let’s call a spade a spade and call it more of a subfaction, because that seems to be loads easier for the devs to handle.  THAT could explain the rather slow pace of content recently.  Or could we be seeing something that’s been long awaited (at least on my side of the screen):  a new exploration system?  The Gamma Quadrant would be ripe for that sort of thing.

We’ve had a good chunk of content over the last few years that have hit all the eras of Star Trek.  The Iconian War has strong ties to the Next Generation’s era, and one can argue that the Legacy of Romulus is tied to that sort of storytelling as well; the Delta Rising arc drew hard on Voyager’s day, while the Temporal arcs leaned hard on the days of Enterprise-and brought in the Agents of Yesterday that took us back to the Original series era.  DS9 has been off to the side for a long time, with its biggest representation being that old feature episode series, and it’s about time that we have something big attached to that series.  And hey, I recall reading in the forums that half the reason that the DS9 interior never really got revamped was because there wasn’t content to hook it to.  An expansion could well herald a new revamp of DS9.  The only question is whether it would try to tie even tighter to the TV appearance, or go the Earth Spacedock route and do a 2410 remodel.  (Or they could go really crazy and go the same route as the novel series, and blow up the station entirely and replace it with a brand spanking new station.  That’s probably TOO crazy-DS9 is too iconic to go that route.)

But since we’re looking at 2018, it’ll be a long wait.  That’s okay, though-because the Lukari and Tzenkethi issues still need resolution, and that’s a story that’s still unfolding.  Still, I’m looking very much forward to the future, as DS9 was always my second favorite of the Trek series.  (Hey…you don’t think we could see the return of the Sisko, do you…?)

The Cast List: Introducing K’ratukar of Star Trek Online

This will come as a shock, but the Klingon Empire side of Star Trek Online?  They’re named for the Klingons.  It’s true!

I know that’s a shock-we have all these Orions (and judging from the look of things, most of them are women), Gorn (none of them are women that we can tell; nobody’s been brave enough to check.  O Klingon Warrior!  HERE is a task to get you glory!), Naussicaans, and Letheans, and oh yes-cat men.  Not to mention aliens of even stranger origin that could well be the only ones of their species for all we know!  And then there’s Klingons assimilated by Borg, and this nothing-Delta Quadrant species that have the gall to think they can command Klingon warships!  They’re all crawling over the surface of glorious world of Qo’nos.  How did all these beings become captains in the Klingon Defense Force?

I gave an eye to the Empire, with the promise I would take the eyes of its enemies.

So, taking back the Empire in the name of the Klingons, I put together a new Klingon:  K’ratukar.

The character is an Engineering captain (YES!  NOT A TACTICAL GUY AGAIN!), and the character came about because I wanted a captain to handle a very special kind of ship.  This requires some backstory, and illuminates another great injustice to the Klingon Empire in STO.

Way back, at the game’s third annivesary, there was a feature episode.  It was called “Temporal Ambassador”, and when it was first released, you got a couple of special rewards for completing it.  First, you get a uniform unlock-it’s not exactly fancy, a sash similar to that used by Starfleet characters in the Next Generation episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (to which this mission was a sequel).  Then, you got a ship-an Ambassador class ship if you were Starfleet (or Romulan aligned with them) or a Kamarag Battlecruiser if you were with the Klingons (or a Romulan aligned with them).  Both ships were Commander level ships.

BUT…during a limited time, which was “the 3 year celebration” period, you would also get a tier-5 variant of that same ship.  But ONLY for a character that completed that mission.

Now for that injustice part:  a while back, during another celebratory event-according to the Internets, an end-of summer event in ’14-the Ambassador was made available again-the tier 5 one, I mean.  And THIS time, it was as account unlock from the C-Store.  So any Starfleet character could go gallivanting around the top line Ambassador class (well, it was top line until the T6’s came around…).

The Klingons, for the same event, got…well, not the Kamarag.  To date, it has never been made available as a T5 variant beyond that first time.  Cryptic, MAKE THIS RIGHT!

But that’s getting off track.  The point is, I’d made this Klingon character, and I knew the Kamarag’s T5 version was going to be limited time, so I pushed to get him to a level which could run the mission-recall, most Feature Episodes had low requirements until the initial period had passed, and it got put somewhere in the game’s episodic storyline at its “true” level-and got the ship unlocked, where it would wait until he got high enough in level to use it-both the Commander version and the T5 version.  That’s pretty much the only reason this character got run through.

Still, I had to design the character first.  You can’t really see it on this image, but he’s not a bald Klingon-he’s got a long ponytail in the back.  I gave him a “General Chang” eyepatch.  He’s bounced around uniforms over the time I’ve had the character around, but I did eventually start grabbing the Bortasqu’ parts for his primary uniform-well, at least for his crew’s primary.  He often goes around in the outfit shown above, because he was an engineer and he WORKED for a living!

The battlecruiser was named the Vegh’Ka, because of course it is.  As far as I know, it doesn’t translate to anything in the Klingon language, so it’s probably a place name or something like that.  Or a proper name.  This is a hazard of using the randomizer for names.

While the character was backburnered for a long time, he did recently gain spotlights again.  See, a friend had reformed a Klingon fleet after the original one had gotten stolen (this is the kind of thing that can happen when you’re absent for an extended period and have recruited people without knowing them well as officers).  My main Klingon joined that fleet, but he had a minor problem.  He couldn’t do much in the way of helping with building the fleet holdings, because the choke-points involved Dilithium (which, of course, is the currency which can get converted to Zen at the exchange), energy credits (because it adds up)…and duty officers.  Specifically, white/common duty officers.  My main Klingon has a minimum green/uncommon rarity for his people.  So if I wanted to help the fleet out with some rough patches, I had to use a different KDF aligned character.  I chose K’ratukar as my go-to guy here, so I was able to assist in a number of projects by blowing away heaps of commons, and use the fleet credits to buy more commons to throw into the mill.  There were diminishing returns there; the amount of fleet credit gained by donating them isn’t as high as it costs to buy them at the starbase-but then, I could always donate fleet marks or other materials to get the fleet credit numbers up again to start a new round of “Grab the Random Duty Officer and Stuff Him In A Fleet Holding”.  The character hasn’t done much else outside that-he’s holding tight at level 50, and has been for a long, long time.  I like to think that he’s more or less transferred to the fleet starbase and is in charge of its personnel, given how many duty officers he’s stuffed in it so far.  Perhaps occasionally giving glances at a docked battlecruiser that is just waiting for a chance, one day, to go into glorious battle once more.

The Reports of His Death Were Highly Exaggerated

Despite appearances, everything is going exactly according to plan…

Star Trek Online has released a new episode in its ongoing arc concerning the Lukari and the Tzenkethi, and it features a bit of a sidetrack.  The Lukari are nowhere to be seen in this one, and the Tzenkethi are less important to this mission than Klingon politics.  The episode, “Brushfire” features, in fact, a Klingon warrior long thought dead:  former Chancellor Martok.  One has to credit the devs on this much:  they have done an amazing job on recruiting the voice acting of the original actors of many characters for this game.  This episode features no less than three.

It features a mission to sneak into a prison operated by the disgraced House of Torg, a name recognizable by the players of the Klingon faction.  General Rodek (remember him?) has been ordered by the current Chancellor to headline a rescue mission, with the muscle represented by the player character and crew.  However, it does involve a modicum of stealth.  Fortunately, the definition of stealth for a Klingon means “blow up the ships guarding the place before they can get a signal off”.  Did I mention this takes place in the Briar Patch, a region of space known for explosive gas clouds?  And did I also mention that there is a new group of aliens-new to STO, that is, not to the franchise-that is known to operate in this area that make their debut here?

Once past the defenses in space, it’s time to infiltrate the station as prisoners.  If all goes right, you will escape with the former Chancellor and flaming wreckage in your wake, and into a final conflict with the House of Torg (well, as final as anything ever is in Klingon politics).  And as if the Klingons and the aforementioned other species wasn’t enough…the Tzenkethi are also on hand because they want a piece of “the Butcher”.  (Hint: that isn’t you.)

As far as missions go, it’s not what you’d call deep.  It does feature a potentially life-changing moment for Rodek, who is given cause to question a number of things he has always(?) believed, and it brings a very potent political force back into the mix for the Klingon Empire, even if that force denies it.  But it doesn’t do much to advance the current quest line in the episode arc.  That’s actually okay-we got breather episodes in the Star Trek series that focused on story arcs; it’s not unreasonable to have one here.  And the Klingons deserve a spotlight once in a while, too-although I do think that it would be more interesting at some point to see a Gorn, Orion, Nausicaan, or Lethean oriented episode at some point; be nice to see some of the cultures that make up the Klingon faction these days.  But that’s sidetracking myself.

A couple other things landed with the patch.  Naturally, new lockbox, centered on the aforementioned newly arriving species.  Big shock there, right?  Another thing introduced is an “Endeavor system”.  This tends to be a limited time achievement-based event, where you do something x amount of times in y amount of time.  The one I saw first was a Borg related one, where one had to blow up 15 Borg ships.  Being on a team apparently does not help on the count; I was in a Borg Red Alert on a team, and got credit for exactly four kills.  That said, I may have failed to read the instructions clearly enough-I thought it said 15 ships, but it may have said “15 Cubes”.  That would make a big difference, as it wasn’t only cubes being blown up.  The rewards didn’t seem like much to me, but I’m going to hold off on judgment until I actually run a couple of these and see what shakes out.  For those who enjoy doing the Admiralty thing, there is a new campaign that features the Ferengi, and offers gold-pressed latinum amongst its rewards-as well as Dilithium, which apparently a focus in this path.  (This should do all kinds of amusing things to the Dilithium Exchange if true.)  Finally, as is habitual for new episodes, there is a weekly reward offered in addition to a choice of either a specialization point or an equipment tech upgrade item.

Obviously, I ran my primary Klingon character through “Brushfire” first, and the screenshot reflects that.  Still working on a decent framework design for the images, and it’s likely that I’ll wind up having a separate one for Klingons and one for Starfleet.  (Don’t get me started on Romulans-I’m not sure I’ll bother, but it could happen.)  Clearly, I’m no graphic designer, but it has most of the elements I’d look for.  Just need to figure out a border design for the edges that fits for a Klingon-oriented look.  I’ve made strides in my Starfleet design, but it’s not ready for primetime yet.

The Cast List: Introducing Chyrim of Star Trek Online

One of the biggest things that Cryptic as a developer has always had going for it is a love of customization.  You can create all kinds of characters with all kinds of appearances.  Star Trek Online is a shining example of it, but not in the way one might think.  After all, even with all the uniforms out there, it’s still a pretty limited selection in comparison with, say, Champions Online.  But that’s not where it truly shines.  No, where STO really earns its reputation is with the alien species, where you can literally design an alien species in almost all aspects-as long as it’s hominid, of course (no Tholians for you!); it’s also notoriously difficult to design a species that appears like some of the major ones in the shows (Jem’Hadar, Cardassians come to mind-and it’s not impossible to get a close facsimile).

Given all of this, you would think I’d have more alien characters; new cultures to work with and conceive of.  And if I were doing more RP in STO or fiction writing in the setting, maybe I would have.  But…nope.  I’ve designed some alien looks for bridge officers, but very few captains.

Why, no, I’m not a standard Star Trek species. Why do you ask?

One such captain is Chyrim, who has the distinction of being the second Klingon Empire aligned character I created.  The character is a (sigh) Tactical captain (I swear, I DO make other types of captains…), and originally my goal was to have him go hard on the assault ships, the “raptors”, which were the functional equivalent of Starfleet’s escort ships-in other words, hit hard, hit fast…with hull like tissue paper.  (It isn’t really that bad.)  I regret to say that I never did come up with a name for his species, but I did envision it as sort of an almost barbarian species; think Cimmerians in Space.  A warlike species is one that would work nice and neat with the Klingon Empire.  It’s worth noting that, when creating a character for the Klingons, I’m always thinking about “why is this person in the Klingon Defense Force?”  Klingons have a very specific code of honor and viewpoint towards warfare-and it’s not really shared by their allied species such as the Naussicans, Letheans, Gorn, or Orions.  So I had to consider why a) Chyrim would join the Klingons, and b) why the Klingons would follow him.  Hence, the idea to go barbarian.

With that in mind, I had a general idea as to his appearance-at least as far as outfits go.  Originally, it was pretty limited-this was early in the game’s life, after all.  But when veteran rewards started coming available, I could slap on fur-lined costume parts, and really play up the barbarian look.  As for the alien look itself, I wanted to give him a long, narrow sort of head, and I wrinkled it up substantially from one of the alien facial options.  His skin is more on the greenish side-something I sort of regret, but at the time, I hadn’t used green skin tones much.

One of the things I had decided to do with my early characters was to plan out their professions and ship types in advance.  For Starfleet, I was going to mix and match captain professions and their ships.  For the Klingons, though, I was going to match the professions to the ship; so my main Klingon, an engineer, got to go with battlecruisers, which were strongly engineering.  Chyrim, being a tactical guy, got to go in a tactical based raptor.  I eventually ended up having him swap over to the veteran Klingon ship, a Duvqu’ class heavy destroyer named the IKS Koloth (I’m a fan of the classic Klingons).

Bridge crew, sad to say, tended to be mostly generic Klingons.  When the Breen episodes first came out, I’d run most of my characters at the time through it, and the result was that I had a Breen bridge officer available for Chyrim.  So I made him a part of this crew, so that Chyrim wouldn’t be so alone in his alienness.  Chyrim, as well, has suffered as other Klingon Empire characters have surpassed him, and he’s been stuck at level 50 for a very, very long time-long enough that he’s never done the Fekl’hri story arc.  That’s a long time!  I guess the barbarian sort of character doesn’t fit me after all.  (Or, if I’m being more honest, I’m just too damned much of an altaholic.)

Surf City, Here I Come

Everybody’s gone surfin’…!

Well, once in a while, Starfleet Captains just gotta have fun.  And who needs it more, right?  Between wars with Klingons, Borg, Dominion, Undine, Vaadwaur, Iconians, and now Tzenkethi…well, it’s a wonder most of the officers in Starfleet haven’t gone mad.  And what better way to unwind then in Star Trek Online’s Summer event, the Lohlunat Festival?

Every year, STO breaks out the summer fun on the planet of Risa, famed for being a pleasure planet-and not in the “mind-in-the-gutter” way.  It’s about sand, surf, and good times.  Oh, and rewards.  Did I mention rewards?  Many of the mini-events on Risa involve gaining Favors, which will allow you to purchase swimwear for your character (which does not work on bridge officers), or special items like kit modules.  But as usual, there’s also a big prize, one that’s reserved for running an event daily for a heap of days-in this case, it works out about three and a half weeks (but if you exchange Lobi, you can shorten that time a bit, Lobi being found in opened lockboxes).  Most years, I don’t really care about the prize:  it’s been exclusively non-standard ships, such as Risan luxury ships, or a Ferengi ship, or-last year-a Vorgon escort ship.  This year, though, I’ve been kicking around character concepts for my next STO captain, and the ship this year is a Vorgon carrier ship-and that sort of thing might work very well with a concept I’ve been toying with in my head.

So, I decided THIS year, I’ll push for it.  Over halfway to the goal right now, so I feel confident of reaching it, barring surprises.  In the meantime, since I’m at the resort, might as well indulge in the other activities to get those Favors-which are not account bound-in order to help other captains in my stable be ready for summer beach activity.  So I’ve spent a lot of time in powerboard (eg. surfing) races (took third place in one such race-it’ll likely never happen again), floater courses, building sand castles, looking for temporally displaced artifacts-I’m pretty sure that one’s new this year-racing in a biathlon, which uses both the floaters and powerboards (I actually took a second place prize on that one at one point-also probably never happen again, I’m sure), and, of course, dancing at the beach-which actually has the largest single return on favors, although I haven’t bothered calculating what’s best per-minute.  I’m not that dedicated.

Also, as might have been noticed above, I’m experimenting with new screenshot frameworks for various characters.  I’m not really happy with the one above, but I wanted to have something for this post.  The framework idea’s worked out pretty well for my Star Wars: The Old Republic characters of Anthrandos and Sorshan, and for STO’s Rick Masters, not to mention the covers for Willforge in Champions Online; so I’m likely to continue to experiment until I get one I like for my Starfleet main (and by extension, KDF and Romulan mains).  It’s probably not a shock that I will also be considering what to use for that aforementioned future STO concept down the line, likely to make appearances after I get Willforge to 40 in CO.  We’ll see what happens.

The Cast List: Introducing Bill (of Borg) of Star Trek Online

I promised a non-tactical based captain for the next installment of the Cast List (for the Star Trek Online guys, anyway), and I deliver!

So, who assimilated whom?

Bill was either the second or third character I made for Star Trek Online, and I made him for one reason only (among many others): I had a lifetimer sub from pre-launch, and since I had the ability to create a Borg captain, I was damned well gonna make one!

Bill was my second Starfleet guy, and I was already going with a pattern.  My initial Starfleet captain-Walt-was a Tactical captain flying a cruiser; I was interested in mixing and matching ship types with captains, so I wanted Bill to do that sort of thing as well.  So I made him a Science captain, and I threw him at the Escort class of ships, eventually winding up in a Defiant variant.  Back then, there weren’t nearly as many ships as there are now at the upper levels-and I keep considering finding a new ship for him, but keep deciding against it.  Unlike what you see in the picture to the left, Bill’s ship-the Integral-is loaded with Borg tech; in fact, he was the first guy I went into the effort for to get the three-piece set of Borg technology from the original Special Task Forces related to the Borg, before Reputation became a thing, and I have the visuals enabled, so there’s an awful lot of Borg attached to the hull.

Originally, the character of Bill was designed to wear the old late 23rd century uniforms, as originally seen in The Wrath of Khan.  Thanks to some really stupid moves from Cryptic/Atari in the earliest days of the game, they attached that costume code to retail items to promote the game; not a big deal, honestly, except they had the brilliant idea to just use a single code instead of unique codes.  This meant that it only took one person out there to put the code out into the public domain.  (This is why the devs eventually just made the damned thing free to claim; I’m not sure what the status on it now is, though.)  Full disclosure:  I saw the code out there, and I used it-but I felt guilty and purchased a DVD that had the code in it to salve my conscience.  It was arguably my favorite Star Trek uniform that’s ever been on the screen, so I really wanted a chance to use it.

That made it all the more ironic when, eventually, I decided to update the uniforms to what’s on the picture above.  Of course, that’s sort of hard to tell, since my primary bridge crew is…well, let’s go back and do some story time.  Early on, when those aforementioned Borg task forces came out, word came that you could get a Borg science bridge officer as part of an achievement.  This had me dreaming of one day, perhaps, having an all-Borg away team.  It never happened, but I did the next best thing.  Over time, I got the veteran reward of an android bridge officer, and thanks to some circumstance that I can’t even recall, I got a holographic science officer.  So every member of my team is, in some way, technological and mechanical in nature.  Three Borg, an android and a hologram.  How’s that for a crazy bridge crew?

I didn’t have much in the way of story concept behind the character.  There were a significant number of lifetimers at launch, and so there was a lot of liberated Borg floating around as captains-not to mention the even larger pool of people who had access to the Borg Bridge Officer at the same time.  Fortunately, there were a couple of places where one could locate liberated Borg if you look back at Trek history.  There was the Borg Cooperative, for example, introduced in Star Trek Voyager, and liberated drones from Unimatrix Zero from the same series.  I decided, though, to go with a different branch-one freed by the original liberated Borg, Hugh, introduced during Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I figured that Hugh would have definitely become the Big Deal Leader guy as the first to be freed and returned to thinking as an individual, and wouldn’t have stopped with the ship he wound up on-or simply stayed on that nameless planet that the android Lore manipulated a bunch of liberated drones.  Hugh struck me as the kind of guy who could create a revolution.  (In the Delta Rising expansion, in fact, you can encounter Hugh, who seems to have thrown in with the Cooperative).  Anyway, given Hugh’s simple name, I figured that other liberated Borg who had been freed by Hugh would adopt similar names-thus, Bill.

The other pair Borg on the bridge officer crew don’t have as fancy names, still choosing to use designations like Seven of Nine did.  I named the hologram “Hertz”, a play on words for a doctor for both his holographic nature and a pun on what he treats.  The android has a more normal name, “Jen”.

Bill hangs around in the mid 50s as far as level goes, and represents a different method of leveling.  Back in the day, STO had exploration missions that were performed in star clusters.  They were basically the STO version of City of Heroes’ radio missions (or newpaper missions if you were a villain), a randomly generated mission choosing from a pool of maps, opponents, and goals.  Don’t bother looking for them now; they don’t exist anymore.  I still haven’t forgiven the devs for that stunt.  Anyway, Bill leveled up almost exclusively via exploration missions in the various star clusters; the only exceptions were the tutorial missions and the then-new Feature Episodes.  I haven’t really put much more into Bill since the early days, but I would suspect that if I were to continue to develop him further, I’d be tempted to push exclusively through Foundry missions-the next best thing to the old exploration missions.  The quality might vary on those dramatically, but then, people had no problem using the Mission Architect for their characters in CoH-why should I have a problem doing the same with the Foundry?  (Admittedly, a significant portion of the folks using MA had special “grinding” missions to do nothing but power level themselves, and I’d be shocked if similar didn’t exist in the Foundry….)

That sort of puts me in mind to consider a new series of posts that center on Foundry missions.  I’d been considering the idea of a new post series on STO from the Klingon side (much like I did with Rick Masters and the Temporal Agent angle), but worried that the experience would have a lot of repetition thanks to the tripling up of Starfleet missions to include Klingon and Romulan sides for the Cardassian/Borg/Undine content, not to mention the shared content for Nimbus and the ramp-up to the Iconian War.  But the Foundry offers some possibilities here.  (The con of this idea is that, well, Klingons don’t get as much nice stuff in anything, and that includes people putting time into developing missions for the Klingons with the Foundry.  Still….)

Anyway.  Bill’s in a state where I’m fairly happy, although there is one area that I sort of keep thinking about developing further.  I don’t do much in the way of crafting in the game, but Bill had been my main crafter in the beginning.  Crafting has gone through various iterations, but when the new system came in-the current system, that is-most of my crafting effort went to my Starfleet main character.  Buuuuut…Bill’s prior experience entitled him to a special crafting duty officer that would allow him to craft AEGIS equipment, one of the early starship sets back in the day.  It seems like it’s a damned shame to not have Bill work up the ability to craft stuff that makes use of that officer-and thus, the AEGIS equipment-for use later on.  Food for thought.

The Cast List: Introducing Venkoreth th’Reklaw of Star Trek Online

When one looks at the title logo for this blog, one can generally see a pattern in the characters I create-at least in appearance.  It’s also not hard to see that one of those characters doesn’t quite fit.  The story behind that is the story of Venkoreth th’Reklaw.

Speaking of balding, bearded characters….

When Star Trek Online was first announced, back before the day when Cryptic took over development, there was a lot of speculation as to just what the game was going to be like.  I kept saying that my plan was to create an Andorian redshirt (eg. Security); redshirts, of course, were infamous in the Original Series for being killed, often before the first commercial-indeed, sometimes before the opening credits!  It was to these unsung heroes that I decided I’d dedicate my character in the game to, instead of being a captain or one of those other big positions.  Well, time passed, new developers came on board, and what we got was very different than what I had envisioned.  I had a character in mind for the game as Cryptic revealed it, but since I was thinking of captains, I put the Andorian concept aside.

Almost.

What I did instead was take advantage of one of the shining details of the game:  the ability to create your bridge officers.  And that was the beginnings of this character.

Of course, developers being developers, they promised the moon on any number of occasions, and one of those was that they wanted to eventually allow max level captains to “spin off” characters from their bridge crew, promote them to captains of their own ships.  How they could have gotten this to work would possibly have been a coding nightmare, and in the end, it never happened.  When I figured that detail out (it didn’t take as long as you’d think), I decided that, “Gee, since I can save the appearance of the character on a file, why don’t I just make a new captain based on that?”  It wouldn’t allow the character to jump right into a higher tier ship right away, but I was certain I could push him to significant levels in a reasonable amount of time.  The final push that convinced me to make that move was the release of Andorian starships on the C-Store; who better to command one such ship than an Andorian captain?  And since I had an Andorian concept already just sitting there, well…!

The story of the character was tied to that of my primary character, Walter Frost.  Venkoreth-or Koreth for short (aren’t I clever?)-was Walt’s earliest friend in the Academy; during his cadet cruise, the Klingons (who were still at war with the Federation at the start of the game’s episodic timeline) managed to blow up the ship he was on, and he was one of the lucky few to be in an escape pod before it went up.  Damaged, he was still asked to serve with the newly put-in-command Lieutenant Frost.  If I had gone on to write any other fiction on this beyond what I’d done prior to the game’s launch, I’d have had him get his confidence back-a definite swagger-and eventually be promoted off of Frost’s chain of command and onto a new ship-a retrofitted Andorian Kumari-class starship called the Zihl.  I figured that since these archaic ships were in the game, and since the devs pointed out they were updated versions of these archaic ships, I’d run with it:  the Andorian Imperial Guard kept old shipyards with the specs dormant just in case the Federation fell.  But wiser heads realized, “Why don’t we just crank out these ships, since we seem to be losing ships by the dozens?”  The ship makes use of higher end Andorian phasers/torpedoes, and I felt that Koreth’s command would be a sort of cavalry ship-the kind that you see that shows up “just in time” when other ships are at their direst need.  Koreth himself was a tactical captain as well-yes, I’m aware that thus far, all three of my Cast List captains are tactical.  I promise my next one will be a science or engineering captain.

The uniforms, I’d decided early on, would be more of a darker coloration, reflecting a more military posture for this ship and crew.  I did maintain the traditional three-color set for Starfleet branches, with red showing command/tactical, gold for engineering/operations, and blue for sciences/medical.  The difference was that instead of being the primary colors, I used the colors only on the trim of the outfits.  I wanted a couple of “outsiders” for the main crew, too, so I used my pre-order Borg officer as one, and a Jem’Hadar from the Dominion arc as another.  This helped confirm for me the “rough and ready” nature of this crew.  I didn’t get exotic with the weapons on the Zihl:  I saved up Dilithium and grabbed upgraded Andorian phasers (mostly cannons, but I slapped a turret in as well) to stick with the whole Andorian warship theme.

Koreth got his push, and I managed to get him to max level in the game-and while he’s not a main character of mine, he IS pretty much the same sort of guy as most of the balding, bearded guys in my blog logo, because heaven forbid I play an MMO where I don’t have a character with that sort of appearance.  I even got clever with the name:  go ahead and spell out the last part of his name in reverse.  Sometimes I can’t help myself.

Old Reliant

Back when Star Trek Online launched, there was only one absolute truth:  you began your time in the game on a Miranda.

The Miranda-class ships have been in since the beginning; the very first tutorial ship.  Sure, people who had bought the game with the pre-order Constitution-class could fly those at the low levels, but you couldn’t swap ships in the tutorial.  And technically, there were other ship parts available so when you got your random ship, you could just as easily be in a Centaur-class or a kitbashed mix of both.  Regardless, it was the Miranda that was most frequently seen, so it gets top billing.  (Not to mention it was a wee bit more infamous being the ship class of the USS Reliant, best known for being captured by Khan back in the day.)

So the painfully slow moving, slow turning Miranda-class vessel was the very first ship new players flew.  This was back when Klingons couldn’t be created until you had a level 6 Starfleet character and had unlocked an accolade for completing a certain mission, and when Romulans weren’t anything more than another opponent for both factions to fight.  You could eventually get into the ship tailor after the tutorial, and either swap to your pre-ordered Constitution or fiddle with the appearance of the ship.  As time went on, C-Store options became available to fly a more tactical or science oriented low level ship, but that was that.

The Klingons didn’t have it much better.  At level 6, they were flying Birds-of-Prey, and that was it.  When the Romulans came to play, they got the T’varo light cruiser.  The one thing these ships had in common was that players generally wanted to get away from these ships as soon as possible.  Even if the appearance appealed, the lack of weapons and bridge officer spots just made using them painful.

The light cruisers, in other words, got no respect.  The Bird-of-Prey got some, since its general appearance kept following along at almost every tier of starship for the Klingons, and the T’varo got a retrofit version which allowed it to play with the big boys.  The Federation, though?  Nope.  No love for the Miranda.

Until now.

A new light cruiser for a new era!

With the recent patch, a trio of light cruisers-one for each faction-has been given the Tier-6 treatment.  The Klingons get the brand new QeHpu’ cruiser, the Romulans get the equally new Deleth warbird, and Starfleet updates the Miranda to new specs with a new appearance-and adds a new light cruiser of the Reliant-class.  (Aside:  I’m really surprised Starfleet was willing to name a class based on that ship; I mean, it’s famous, but look at what it’s famous for:  being captured by Khan, nearly destroying Enterprise, and finally being at ground zero for the Genesis torpedo explosion that created the short-lived Genesis Planet.  Not exactly a thrilling career, right?)

As usual with C-Store ships, they’ll have a unique console, only usable on these cruisers, and as T-6 ships, they will have access eventually to starship traits that your captain can slot.  Since the bundle contains ships for each faction, the ships don’t have a shared set of consoles to create a 3 ship set bonus like you’d see with, say, the Odyssey bundles.  Given that they’re in different factions, it’s probably not hard to see why.  It…probably goes without saying that you can purchase these individually as well as in a single bundle; I know many players tend to stick with one faction.

With every other starship that’s been on the big and small screens having T-6 variants, it was only a matter of time before the Miranda got its turn; if there are any others out there that haven’t, I’d be hard pressed to name them.  Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be going out of my way to comment on a C-Store release unless it was to deliver a rant, but the arrival of this once-lowly ship to the top tiers of the game was something I felt was worthy of commenting upon.  I’ll be very interested to see just how many of these ships I see in the queues-not to mention in orbit near Earth Spacedock.

The Cast List: Introducing General Fralex of Star Trek Online

Let’s stick with the Star Trek Online theme for a moment, but shift over to the other big faction of the game:  the Klingon Empire.

Badass. Nobody can tell me otherwise.

The Klingons are a pretty interesting faction, if you ignore the fact that the game dialogue assumes that all of their captains are dyed-in-the-wool Klingons.  In fact, you can’t assume that:  you’ve got Orions, Naussicaans, Gorn, Ferasan, and others-not to mention the generic “Alien” which can be anything you can possibly conceive of.  And you aren’t limited to Klingon ships, either; before we even get into the C-Store ships, you have the potential of Orion and Gorn ships.  Indeed, a lot of the non-Starfleet sort of lockbox ships work very well in this hodge-podge of a fleet.  By opening up the Klingon Empire to such, the Klingons have managed to, in a weird way, become just as inclusive as the Federation.

Well, as long as you follow their code of honor (or at least can fake it).

All of which leads to this character.  The Talaxians have a bad rap in Star Trek, as their primary representative, Neelix, is viewed as “the Scrappy” (don’t believe me?  Here we are!).  So the species is looked at in a “planet of hats” sort of way (I’m horrible-two TV trope references in one paragraph) as being cheerful to a fault, interested in good food and good company.  But what a lot of people overlook is that their species took a massive hit in population, thanks to a war they fought.  So one might presume that there might be in their collective character an ability to be truly dangerous.

Now, I’ve been a lifetime subscriber to STO since the very beginning-literally a purchase on the first day they became available, before launch.  As such, I had the ability to create a Borg captain-which I did (I may speak of him in a future post).  But when the Delta Rising expansion rolled out, the developers added a little bit of extra spice to the stew of lifetimer benefits.  (Now a cooking allusion; what am I doing with this post!?)  Now, lifetimers could make a Talaxian captain.  Note that both of these species were available to both Starfleet and the Klingon Empire.  I’m sure a lot of players looked at that and went, “Really?  THIS is the species you give us to work with?  Why couldn’t it be a cooler one, like a Vaadwaur?”  (That was never going to happen; “cool” races are more likely to be in the C-Store than just given for free to Lifetimers; actually, I suspect it would be more likely to be a lockbox grand prize, these days.)

Obviously, I had a different reaction.  Along the lines of, “Okay, if this is the hand I’m dealt, how do I make it a hand worth holding?”  So what if they were Talaxians?  I was bound and determined to make a character that gave this species some respect back.

Enter General Fralex.  My first task was to work on the appearance of the character; most of the time, the default look of a Talaxian was…sort of dumpy.  I added a bit of height (not horribly much, but enough), got rid of the stomach fat, shaved the top of his head and gave him a beard-hey, it worked for the guys in the blog logo image, right?  I stayed away from the traditional KDF options for uniforms and went with the Intelligence uniforms that were non-faction specific.  (There really aren’t enough outfit options for the Klingons.)

Keeping him with the badass attitude I wanted to generate, I made him a tactical captain, although the ships he flew were wide and varied until he got high enough of a level to use the Kobali cruiser, called the Concord; I definitely didn’t want his final ship to be a standard Klingon starship, even though I’d used mostly Birds-of-Prey up to that point.  I’m still not completely wed to it, but it’ll do unless I come upon a different sort of ship that has Delta origins.  (I’d grab a Vaadwaur ship for the irony value, but those are lockbox ships, and tend to be expensive on the Exchange.)  Until then, he flies Concord.

His story is pretty much one a Klingon could get behind.  His father was in the Talaxian military.  During Fralex’s life, he bounced around mercenary crews, and eventually wound up in the Klingon Empire (how he got there from the Delta Quadrant is something I never really worked out, but it wouldn’t be hard to think of something-Iconian gateways, unstable wormholes, Q…), where he imposed his brand of disciplined tactics upon his Klingon crew.  He embraced a saying of Kahless, “In war, there is nothing more honorable than victory”, and backed it up with getting victories in a calculated, tactical manner, as opposed to zerg rushing enemy ships.  The crew caught on, and are behind him 100 percent.  It helps that he might have dispatched a few challengers to his command with the same ruthless efficiency he demonstrates in his approach to war.

The character is around level 55-ish in order for him to officially use the title of “General”, because it felt right that he be considered so.  Since then, he’s been more or less held in stasis-he’s at the first quarter of the Delta Rising expansion, and I’ve mentioned before how much of a slog that feels-and this has held up his forward motion.  This may change with the recent updates to the Delta missions.  But for now, I’m happy that I managed to advance a Talaxian captain to my upper ranks, and defy stereotypes in doing so; Fralex’s cooking prowess only extends to opening a can of whoop-ass!