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!

Riding the Escalator

Transporting to the wrong side of the tracks.

Last week, Star Trek Online hit us with a new Feature episode:  Escalation.  First, though, I’m going to touch on a couple highlights of other stuff in the patch.

One thing I won’t touch on this time, though, are the new “war game competitive queues”; I’m undecided as to whether or not I want to bother with that.  I’m okay with cooperative team-ups, but I don’t have the same thrill on competitive ones as I might’ve in younger days.  That said, I didn’t absolutely hate doing STO PvP back in the day when it was really the only decent way to level up a Klingon, so the jury is still out on it.  It’s a significant part of the latest patch here, so I’d feel remiss if I ignored it completely.  We’ll see what happens.  There’s a Reputation associated with these queues, too, making them one of the few Reputations I likely one have maxed out on at least one character.

There have been space combat balance changes.  So far, I’m not noticing major differences, but let’s face it:  I’m not one of the high-end players either, who tune their captains and ships to be death-dealing machines.  I do okay-but that’s about it.  So others more knowledgeable will have to comment on the impact those changes have had.  I’m not horribly helpful today, am I?

How’s this for good news?  The Delta Rising missions have undergone some mutation.  The Kobali Adventure Zone has mutated in the mission logs; originally, they were independent of the episodes, then they were incorporated into the Delta Mission arc, but that was causing issues, too-so now, they’re set within three missions that contain the adventure zone missions.  I don’t know if that’s a big improvement or not, but it at least reduces the perception of having to come back every level to the planet to do stuff.  Heaven help you, though, if your character had already done some of the missions but not all of the ones in an arc; plus, judging from some of the dialogue windows, someone needs to go through and make sure that they aren’t missing the first half of sentences.  Just saying.  Speaking of levels, the experience curve of 50-60 isn’t as harsh anymore, and-best of all-the patrol missions for the Delta arc have been removed from the episodic path (although you can still likely patrol them if you want to-both of which may make the Delta arc feel less like a slog, which is a big deal as far as I’m concerned.

You know, I’m not sure this has been completely thought through….

Bringing us to the new Feature Episode, the eponymous Escalation.  In the current episodic arc in STO, your captain has been assisting the first exploratory vessel of the Lukari in its first steps to reach out to the wider universe.  In doing so, you’ve learned a bit more about the Lukari as well, like how they were driven off of their original homeworld in a…disagreement with their parent species, the Kentari.  In fact, you even stumbled upon the abandoned Kentari homeworld, which was a bit of a mess.  Unfortunately, in your seeking out strange new worlds, etc, you’ve also come upon another mystery-the alien Tzenkethi have been exploding protomatter weapons on worlds with strange crystals upon them-and they don’t care much if the world is inhabited or not.  How bad are protomatter weapons?  Remember Genesis?  Just when you thought the devs had opened up a massive can of worms with time travel, they’ve opened another one just as big with reviving the technologies that brought us a weapon of mass destruction like no other.  As Doctor McCoy once said in response to Spock’s comment that it is easier to destroy than it is to create:  “Not anymore; now we can do both at the same time! According to myth, the Earth was created in six days. Now, watch out! Here comes Genesis! We’ll do it for you in six minutes!”

Which brings us to the present.  A mysterious world has been discovered nestled in a nebula, and the Lukari have asked your assistance in making first contact.  The results are…perhaps not surprising, given the episode arc thus far; the world is a ravaged mess, in the grips of ecological disaster.  Worse, the natives are factionalized in the usual fashion-some of them are happy for any help you can deliver; others trust you about as far as they can throw your starship.  And just when you manage to get things going, the Tzenkethi show up….  And things go nuts from there.

The mystery of the Tzenkethi motives remains just that; but don’t think that there wasn’t any forward momentum in this episode.  The natives are likely going to be a key part of at least another episode, I suspect, before this is all over.  The uses of protomatter as a help and a weapon continue to be front and center-perhaps showing that technology is indeed neither good nor evil, but simply neutral.  It is the hand that uses the tool that determines its usefulness.  Star Trek-the television series-didn’t shy away from these themes, and STO seems to be willing to continue in the same vein.

The episode does feel like it was written harder for the Starfleet POV than the Klingon, though; it’s hard to imagine the Klingon captain being polite-at least, not the Next Generation/DS9 and beyond Klingons.  I could see the Original Series ones being that way….  But the dialogue options are pretty much identical for Empire players as they are for Starfleet ones.  Is it REALLY that difficult to represent the points of view and the admittedly generic attitudes of the Romulans and Klingons?

As usual, playing through the mission in the opening weeks will make new rewards available for completing the mission (encouraging replay), and the first run of the week will give one character the choice of a tech upgrade or a specialization point for each week that the episode is featured.  Choose your characters wisely.

So, we’ve got a decent episode, and a lot of updates to the combat system in the void of space, and a new set of queues in which to test yourself against other captains in a new way.  STO’s continuing to move forward with no end in sight.

(As a final aside:  it seems that the previous feature episode, Survivor, has been put into the latest episodic arc.  Not entirely shocking, I guess; there weren’t many other places it would work.)

The Cast List: Introducing Jenled Lar of Star Trek Online

Here we go-the first of my Cast List, one of my captains in the Star Trek Online MMO.

My attempt to redeem Star Trek: The Motion Picture’s uniforms.

The character’s name is Jenled Lar, and his creation came about for two reasons.  The first was that I wanted to use some of those uniforms I’d purchased in the C-Store over time; the uniforms from Star Trek: The Motion Picture get a lot of grief, and I wanted to see if I could do something with them that made them look a little less…bad.  The second was that this was during a period of time when I wanted to see about the RP scene in STO, and most of my other characters were committed to my main Fleet.

Right off the bat, I decided to take advantage of the fact that I’d purchased the Joined Trill species for this captain.  With some thought, I figured I’d make him a Tactical captain flying tactical escorts-my usual methodology was to mix and match ship and captain types (my main Starfleet guy, for example, is a Tactical captain who flies cruisers).  He’s not the first Tactical/Tactical character I’ve made (and I’m likely to come back to that in a future post)  The character’s appearance is a bit swarthier than my norm, but I figured it would make him stand out a bit more-as if the uniform wasn’t enough.

I managed to get Jenled up to level 50-ish.  That would allow me to put him into a Sao Paulo class escort, which is a Defiant variant-which includes a phaser quad-cannon.  I made sure to add photon torpedoes as the weapon of choice, as I wanted something that had a faster recharge time than my usual quantum torpedoes.  I didn’t go all out with gear-after all, the good stuff tends to go with my primary guys, the ones I’ve spent the most time with, and Jenled wasn’t one of them.

The final bit for the character was story.  If this was going to be a character to RP with, I wanted to have something to hang on him.  I didn’t write up any big fiction for him (as I’m wont to do), but I did at least give him a background where he rose to command after decking his Commanding Officer; there were extenuating circumstances, such as that she was currently mentally impaired at the time.  That got him a transfer off that ship-with his former CO’s blessing-and into the center-seat of a new one:  the Gullwind (named after a ship from an old RPG I’d played long, long ago).

I actually did manage briefly to join an RP fleet in the game for a couple of weeks; but it didn’t really wind up being a good fit for me, and other fleets I’d looked over in that time really didn’t seem like they would be good fits either.  So Jenled stopped advancing, and he got put into the cooler.  I still enjoyed putting this character together, and remains a character I’ll occasionally play when I just want to mess around.

AoY: Just When I Thought I Was Out, They Pull Me Back In

How do I keep getting called in on temporal problems? Oh, yeah, that’s right…I AM a temporal problem….

Personal Log, Stardate 94874.13

Well, this figures.

I shouldn’t be surprised.  Even though I hoped that I was finally done with the temporal craziness, I knew in my heart that I wasn’t.  I’m in command of a ship from the 31st century, and an acknowledged temporal agent, hailing from the 23rd century, operating primarily in the 25th.  Temporal stuff is always going to catch up to me, sooner or later.

And it seems that a loose end from a previous temporal event has come up.  When Agent Daniels showed up again talking about a mess with the EnterpriseC, I wasn’t sure what to make of it.  I had to get briefed on that, which included not only the fact that a temporal mess caused a 24th century Starfleet officer on the D to wind up on the C on its way back to its doom, but also that there were survivors from that-from which came future-Empress Sela.  And added to that was the fact that between the C‘s final fate and the diversion to the D‘s time, it made one other stop:  the 25th century.

And apparently, I was involved-somehow.  I must’ve done something right, but I can’t recall the details.  But I must’ve also overlooked one minor issue-that timeline’s version of Admiral T’nae was on the C when it went back to its proper place in time.  So now we had two elements in play that were causing the timeline to start buckling.

At least this time, I didn’t have to worry about jumping into the past; we took care of things in the present, and got a prisoner to boot:  Sela.  I can only hope that this time, Starfleet Security can actually hold onto her.  She may cooperate more now that she hasn’t been turned in to the Romulan Republic for execution-but what do I know?  That’s politics, and I have enough trouble dealing with variant timelines.

What a job.

End Log.

Nah, that couldn’t be. Right?

Got us a new featured episode in Star Trek Online, and instead of continuing the Tzenkethi line, it seems like it’s a stand-alone episode.  I’m sure it’ll get folded into one of the existing arcs, of course-and given the presence of Sela in this mission, called “Survivors”, I’m guessing that it’ll be after the Iconian War and the Temporal Front.  It’s also possible that it may be put as a part of the current storyline, too, but I’m going to treat it as a stand-alone because it really doesn’t fit the story-arc structure that STO encourages.

And since it involved Agent Daniels and time travel, I had to bring Rick Masters out of mothballs for this post.

The episode conceit is this:  waaaay back in the episode “Temporal Ambassador”, your character managed to help fix the timeline by breaking the Enterprise-C out of Tholian hands with the help of Tasha Yar, Richard Castillo, and-most relevant to this point-T’nae of Vulcan.  The thing is, T’nae is a native of the current time, not of the era of Yar OR the era of Castillo.  Now, Captain Walker of the Pastak retrieved your character to avoid the timeline from getting messed up horribly-but he missed the tiny detail that T’nae was aboard Enterprise-C.

Oops.  Walker screwed up.  So Agent Daniels has to fix it, or more to the point-YOU get to fix it.  And who should he suggest to help find the divergent T’nae than the daughter of Tasha Yar:  Sela, the Empress of Escapology.  (TV Tropes would call her a Karma Houdini.  That’s fair.)

This is actually a reasonable breather episode, really.  I’m not going to say there’s no combat-you’ll be slugging it out with Tholians in space and on the ground, as well as some local wildlife, and another unexpected target.  But once you get past it, it turns into a bit of a mystery as to the fate of not just the alternate T’nae, but also the rest of the Enterprise-C survivors, including a very unexpected one.  And when all is finally said and done, there’s one more [speechless] cameo appearance from a Starfleet legend.

Sela hasn’t really learned too much from her previous encountered with the PC captains.  Still an arrogant know-it-all; you’d think she’d have become a little less sure of herself from her actions on Iconia, but nope.  I really wanted a dialogue option to have her pushed out an airlock; maybe the Klingons will have that option.  (I doubt it.)  By the end of the episode, she might have dialed it down a bit, but I’m going to say the jury’s still out on that.  I doubt we’ve seen the last of Sela.

Reward wise, the gear’s okay.  I often don’t try too hard for the gear sets, and that’s probably going to continue for the foreseeable future.  Ground gear, with another portion of that gear coming next week to complete the set.  The fact that it’s only going to be two weeks is probably in recognition of the fact that the next Season is going to land later this month.  Also worth noting is that during these two weeks, you’ll get the standard “first time run-through” reward which can either be a tech upgrade or a specialization point, your choice (I always go with spec points).

One minor complaint was that the pathing on the planet is…somewhat awful.  I lost one character at one point, and even respawning after a bad encounter didn’t reunite us; he was there for a second, then bamf-he headed right back to where he’d gotten stuck, over 100m away.  That made some of the fighting rougher than it had to be.  Aside from that, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before.  It’s also possible that one of the early puzzles on the planet is a bit too easy; you can generally find important areas by using tricorder scans-do we really need the big yellow arrows pointing out which way to go, too?

So, I think I’ll give this one high marks for story, mediocre marks for mechanics.  And a wish that it had come a bit earlier so that the wait between the last Tzenkethi episode and the upcoming one wouldn’t have felt so long.

Once More Into The Breach

So, Star Trek Online pulled it for a while, and then put it back.  But is it better or worse or just different?

“It” is the PvE queue “The Breach”, where a group of five player ships invade one of the huge Voth starships and disable it from within.  There’s an event tied to this return, which is the usual “do this fourteen times in the next three or four weeks and get a bunch of marks/dilithium/free item/etc” sort of deal.  Time being at a premium these days, plus me not having a great desire for the latest Voth thingamajig, I’ve only been running it with one character (my Fed main; maybe the next event I’ll bring out Rick Masters again so he can have some time in the sun again.  He could use the extra gear, anyway).

The opening phase isn’t too different.  As before, you’re doing a trench run, and blowing up stuff.  However, the “course” through the ship is different, and shorter; it’s also a lot harder to achieve the bonus objective of blowing up a certain number of objects (and now that I think of it, it wasn’t a bonus before-you needed to do it before you could actually open the titular breach.  In fact, based on one run I did, I’m not sure you even have to blow up the shielded thingies anymore-some ships just blew right through all of it and didn’t bother stopping.

Stay on target….

The original “blow up interior hangars” phase is gone now, as is the “blow up the dreadnought inside the ship” phase.  Now you go directly to the “shell game” of blowing up the subspace core, and once you get past that phase, you get the last portion of blowing the primary core crystal and getting out of Dodge.  This leads to a faster queue, but less opportunity to get loot drops.  Which, of course, may or may not matter to most players-the better equipment these days is Reputation related.

I’m not sure if I’d call the new version better, but I’d be hard pressed to call it worse.  Certainly, if I were doing this with multiple characters, I’d be all for it, since shorter versions mean more characters can run through in a gaming night.  And I might be forced to admit that I won’t miss that dreadnought all that much, as it was a big sack of health and shields, and if things didn’t go quite right (and/or you didn’t have a group with some abilities or gear), that could turn out to be a huge slog.  The “closing the hangars” phase is a bit of a loss, though, since it wasn’t tied to huge sacks of health-just swarms of reinforcing ships until the hangars were closed up by a member of the team.

So, my verdict is, “just different”.  While I often lament the devs removing stuff from the game, at least this time it feels more like a scalpel instead of a shovel.  I’ll add the caveat that I tend to always restrict myself to the “normal” version of the queues instead of the Advanced or Elite options-mainly because I don’t consider my skills or gear as elite, and the Advanced versions would probably need me to be more aware/coordinated/faster/better, and if I’m just looking to enjoy myself without pressure, why would I do that to myself?  But because of that, there may be little changes in those higher versions that I remain unaware of; other more dedicated folks will have to be a better guide to such things.

One more note before closing out this post:  there’s changes in the wind to the mechanics of the game.  It’s not like changing the game engine, but a mass tuning of both ground and space combat.  I’m a tad skeptical-it’s not all that long ago that they just did a massive skill revamp, after all-but I expect that when it lands, I’ll have plenty to say.  I’ll say this in advance, though:  I’ve rarely found a revamp that actually made most of the players happy.  Maybe this will be one of those rare ducks.  Either way…it’s coming.

We Make This Look Good

There’s an odd little currency that exists in Star Trek Online that tends to sit on the high end of the rarity spectrum.  It’s called Lobi, and for the most part, the only place where it can be obtained is by opening lockboxes.  There was a time when there were events that ran where doing certain missions could award Lobi, but I haven’t seen one of those in a long time.  But when they did run, I was an active participant.

Thus, I had a bit of Lobi to play with, awaiting the next Lobi sale.

Let me back up a moment.  If it’s currency, after all, then it stands to reason that it can purchase stuff.  The Lobi Store (accessible either on Drozana Station or simply right clicking the Lobi in your inventory) has stuff from equipment to weapons to ships.  And uniforms.  Shockingly, a lot of the good stuff is priced disgustingly high.  And it’s not like you get a large amount in the lockboxes; they tend to be almost “consolation prizes” when you open a lockbox and it has garbage in it.  So, most of them.  And back in the day, you weren’t getting a heap of Lobi either through those events.  Finally, to add insult to injury, items procured in the Lobi Store were not account unlocks.  A ship purchased here was only good for the character making the purchase, and nobody else.  (That said:  most of the stuff purchased come in a box, which means they can be slapped up on the exchange, for oodles of energy credits.)

Every so often (not all that often), STO throws out a Lobi sale.  This isn’t a method of procuring Lobi; it’s a sale on the stuff in the Lobi store.  So I’ve been patiently waiting with my small amount of Lobi, looking to buy a new outfit.  I’d been looking at the Vaadwaur outfit for a long time; it put me in mind of Star-Lord of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I liked the look.  But it was a bit too expensive by a whisker for my Lobi, and I don’t have the raw cash in energy credits to pull down buying it on the exchange (something to do with blowing energy credits on fleet holdings over the years…).  But I knew that the next sale would put the outfit in reach.

So, the next Lobi sale has hit.  And…well, I started doing something dangerous.  I started thinking.

The Lobi was no small investment, so I wanted to make sure I got the most use out of the outfits.  The problem was…I couldn’t justify in on my Starfleet guys, and I couldn’t see it working for my Klingons or Romulans.  I could make a new character and new crew (and heaven knows, that’s as inevitable as the sun rising in the morning), but I wasn’t really feeling like it.  Suddenly, I was faced with a new problem:  if I wasn’t going to pull the trigger on the Vaadwaur, should I purchase something else?  Or anything at all?

I toyed with one of the Mirror Universe variants.  I have the Mirror Universe uniforms from the Enterprise era and the Original Series era, but those had been available in the C-Store for Zen; the variants in the Lobi Store were 2409 versions, Mirror Jupiter and Mirror Odyssey variants.  And that had some appeal; I could see myself making a Mirror Universe character with crew.  But…I could also see myself not bothering with that.  A lot of the other outfits tended to be alien related, and thus, maybe suitable for one character on a crew.  I didn’t really feel I’d get my Lobi’s worth from them.

Until I noted the Wells uniforms.

The Wells uniforms are based on the outfits worn by Starfleet’s Temporal guys in the future-they showed up on Star Trek: Voyager back in the day, as the crew outfits for the USS Relativity.  And wouldn’t you know it, I had just finished going through the game with a Temporal Agent who had recently outed himself with a future starship.

The purchase was made.  And I outfitted Captain Rick Masters and the crew of the USS Connor with new uniforms that matched his status as a Temporal Agent.  And I think they look pretty decent, too.

NOW we look like we’ve been to the future and back. Of course, with all the time travel, who can tell?

So my Lobi is now barely in the double digits, and never likely to go any higher-but I have a crew using a uniform that makes sense to me.  Maybe someday I’ll find a way to get the Vaadwaur outfits-purchasing Master Keys and putting them on the Exchange for credits I can use to pick those outfits off the exchange is doable-but for now, I’m satisfied with my choice.  And best of all, no buyer’s remorse here.  Sometimes, in these games, it’s enough.

The Answer Is In The Stars

While the blog’s been overwhelmed recently (so to speak) with Champions Online activity, the fact is, I haven’t been completely ignoring my other MMOs.

In Star Trek Online, I managed to get my main Starfleeter through the anniversary event to earn the Lokari starship.  I haven’t actually done anything with said starship, but I wasn’t planning to.  The big key for it was to allow the account unlock for the other large number of alts in case I feel it would be interesting for them to use it.  Plus, it’s handy to have a new Admiralty card in case I want to work a bit more on that again; I never did finish the Romulan tour of duty.  I’ve also pushed through to tier 3 for the Lukari reputation; I admit, I’ve let this one go quite a bit thanks to a bug that allowed me to view all the reputation log entries at DS9 instead of getting 1 log per reputation tier.  (I didn’t realize at the time it was a bug, which has since been fixed.)  That removed a bit of the motivation for finishing the rep.  At some point, I imagine I’ll start pushing again, when STO comes back in focus for my gaming time.  There is a new queue coming up involving a Klingon arena where you and other captains fight against endless waves of opponents.  Kind of like Kobayashi Maru, except on foot.  It’ll only last from the 23rd to the 27th, so I’m not sure if I’ll get around to it (particularly in light of my dislike for the ground queues anyway), but it does make me wonder if they’ll do something similar for space-after all, like I said, this is pretty much the Kobayashi Maru queue on ground, and it seems silly to not have something similar for space again at some point.  And endless enemies sounds just like that scenario should be.

You would think starship captains would be leery of arenas after Nopada....

You would think starship captains would be leery of arenas after Nopada….

Meanwhile, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…when last I checked in with Star Wars: The Old Republic, I’d gotten my Smuggler to the end of the line for the Knights of the Eternal Throne story.  Since then, I’ve gotten my Imperial Agent and my Jedi Knight through the story, and my Sith Inquisitor is on deck.  I’ve been really looking forward to running that character through, since-unlike the previous three-he’s Dark Side to the core.  I want to see what happens when he lets his bad side go wild, not to mention seeing how the story adapts to him killing off a significant number of characters; plus, I really want to see how he reacts to the current regime in the Sith Empire.  Darth Acina was sort of a peer on the Dark Council, and the Inquisitor could be said to have as much right to the former Emperor’s throne as she does.  I’ve yet to actually do any Uprisings; I’ve been concentrating on running characters through KotET, and that’s been a slow process due to my recent focus on CO.

Despite its availability to free players nowadays, I’ve sort of let EVE Online go fallow.  There’s only so many hours in a day.  This is why it’s probably a good thing that I haven’t been involved in any guilds or anything like that for the last couple of years.  So much to do, so little time.  I’m sure that at some point, I’ll have a craving for that setting again-it’s happened before, and it’ll happen again.