The Cast List: Introducing Victor Storm of Star Trek Online

In Star Trek Online, in the days when it was just starting out, I had created a couple of Starfleet captains.  One was a Tactical captain in an Engineering ship-a Cruiser; one was a Science captain in a Tactical ship-an Escort.  So, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that when I made up my third Starfleet captain, he would be an Engineering captain in a Science ship.  Beyond that, though, I wasn’t sure of anything except the name, which was something I’d been looking for an excuse to use for ages.

Then I realized that all my captains and their crews were fairly normal.  (This was well before my Borg Science captain got access to androids, holograms, and Borg officers.)

Some extra explanation is probably in order here.  I’ve been a reader of Star Trek novels for…well, practically since they started making Star Trek novels.  For the most part, the novels tended to be one-and-done affairs, much like the average episodes of the assorted series.  The timeline would vary wildly, from the early years of Kirk’s Enterprise to the post-Motion Picture years, and sometimes a bit beyond.  (They had to walk carefully to not step on the movies after; Wrath of Khan thru Final Frontier were pretty tight, timeline-wise.)  Later, they started alternating with Picard’s Enterprise, then came Deep Space Nine, Voyager….

And the novels evolved, too, starting to experiment.  There were storylines that crossed between the assorted series, although Kirk’s crew never interacted with the others, thanks to the time gap between them.  And eventually, the people in charge of the novels decided to green light something really experimental:  a series based on a ship that had never appeared in a show, with a crew that mixed brand new creations with bit characters from the shows; it was branded “New Frontier”, written by Peter David.  How big was this?  It introduced Mackenzie Calhoun, a character who not only got his own action figure at the time, but also is present in STO!  His crew wound up being…well, let’s just say it didn’t exactly scream decorum as far as Starfleet regs might prefer.  TV Tropes calls them a “Ragtag Bunch of Misfits“, and they aren’t wrong.  But they took off, and other writers in the Trek setting noticed this.  Not long after, we had books based on Picard’s pre-TNG days on the Stargazer, we had a ship that was cobbled together from the wrecks of a number of others in Kirk’s era, we got a space station around that same era that had its own secrets…and all of them had crews that were closer to Calhoun’s example than Kirk, Janeway, or Picard’s gangs (Neelix notwithstanding).

These are just the relatively normal members of the crew….

So, I embraced this idea with Victor Storm, a Betazoid captain.  Over his career, the character managed to get the Breen, Reman, and Jem’Hadar bridge officers from the feature episodes of the day, the Borg from my preorder, and a Mirror Universe officer thanks to picking up those uniforms as part of a pack.  If/when I pick his story up again (I’m still kicking around a Cast List Revival Party at some point), he’ll probably grab a bunch of those other ones that have become available, like the Hierarchy bridge officer in the Delta Rising expansion-and possibly make use of some other extras I’d picked up over the years.  In other words, I had my own “ragtag bunch of misfits”.

Because of this nature, I eschewed a standard uniform…mostly.  I took a Jupiter variant and applied it to the “normal” Starfleet crew, but my Mirror Universe rep got a Mirror Universe outfit to match, and my Breen, Reman, and Jem’Hadar boffs couldn’t be customized.  If I get around to messing around with his bridge crew slots, I’m going to phase out the remaining “normal” crew for the crazytown ideas; I’ve got at least a few Jem’Hadar thanks to “Victory is Life” to play with, a couple of others, maybe bring an android into the mix….

You get the idea.

The ship I chose kind of evolved over time, but settled on a Solonae Science Destroyer, the Phaethon, an oddly hi-tech choice for this sort of crew.  It was that or the Obelisk Carrier, which was around at roughly the same period of time, and I wasn’t quite ready to mess around with carriers at that point.  (I should eventually have someone go primary on that ship, but I’m not sure how I’d get it given my circumstances…although that new T6 rep could come in handy there.  That’s an awful lot of work, though, for a sub T6 ship.)

Much like my other STO characters featured here, Victor’s gotten to level 50, and not much further.  No specializations at this point, although if the Revival Party happens, he’s bound to get at least one, maybe two spec points.  And I’m dead certain the bridge crew shuffle will continue, because…well, see “ragtag bunch  of misfits” above.

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W&M: The Hazards of Starfleet Security

Gorn diplomacy at its finest

Personal Log, Stardate 96295.47.

I suppose that it was inevitable that sooner or later, I would wind up having to deal with Starfleet Security.

As a concept, I have no great objection to them.  They are certainly more honest than, for example, the old Obsidian Order back on Cardassia.  They operate off of rules and regulations that are known, even if they themselves must operate in a somewhat secretive manner at times.  After the mess with this “Section 31” and the Soptillian, it was probably deemed a good idea to have me work with something other than an intelligence operation.

That said, Captain Ross is an…unusual sort of captain.  His team is an eclectic bunch, and it makes me wonder if that sort of thing is the norm for Starfleet Security.  The mission to Iffar demonstrated, though, that they were at least a competent crew.  We were all dead wrong about it being related to the Undine, though….

Things were less certain with the Conclave incident.  I still don’t know how they managed to get a working [REDACTED] to use against [REDACTED]; I can’t imagine the scale of death that would have caused.  Given the nature of the mission, I find that I can’t blame Ross too much for keeping me in the dark.  I hope he doesn’t blame me for my own small act of insubordination when it was all over; as my Academy classmates would have said, he sort of deserved it.

Computer, end log.

Something is becoming apparent with my use of the Foundry missions in Star Trek Online; namely, advancing a character solely through this means is going to be a far slower affair than it has been in the past.  I may have to start supplementing the missioning with use of the Duty Officer system if I want to get out of the teens in Selak’s levels.  On the other hand, hey, it’s giving me far less repetitive posts because the Foundry means I’m putting up stuff I haven’t done with other characters a dozen times before.

I also did a quick run of another of the queues that became available:  the Starbase 24 action.  Once upon a time, Starbase 24 was a fleet action sort of deal, where you could fly to the base on the sector map, auto-join with other characters to fight off an attack on the Starbase, then board the Starbase and repel the attackers there.  That was a long, long time ago, though.  Now, it’s just a queue, and completely space-based as well.  As a result, it’s not much more than your standard “go in, blow up Klingons, blow up more Klingons, game over.”  Maybe it’s intended to be that way since it is a lower level queue, but still….

This is as good a time as any to remark on some queue related news, as well.  Last week, Cryptic/PWE announced that they’re renaming the queue system to “Task Force Operations”.  Because that’ll totally make a difference.  I guess I can at least save on keystrokes typing TFO, but that’ll just confuse people if I don’t type the whole name early in a post.  So don’t expect me to call it other than what it still is:  a queue.  That said:  another thing being introduced in the Age of Discovery publish will be the idea of random TFOs (damn it, I’m actually doing it…well, I already defined it above…).  It’s exactly what it says on the tin:  you can click for a queue and get assigned to a random queue mission, ground or space-you have as much chance as ending up in a Breach scenario as you do an Infected-Space run.  And there will, of course, be rewards for doing so in the form of your choice of marks and Dilithium.  This is in addition what you’d get from a “normal” run.  Whether this will be enough incentive is an open question:  I know some people (like me) tend to stay away from ground queues.  That may be a turn-off.  On the other hand, there’s no cooldown for using the random button; you can hit it again immediately after exiting.  This sounds like a terrific way to grind up marks and Dilithium, and that alone may be the best incentive to do this stuff.

Not all of the queues will be available in this; the 10-man missions are out, the PvPvE queues are out, the shuttle queues are out, and so forth.  There’s a post on the official site that has details along with more specific reward details.  I’ll leave it to the reader to go check that out.

There’s also news about “streamlining the mission journal”.  Which, shockingly, includes references to “removing content until we can improve it”.  So, if you’re a fan of the current missions in the Klingon War arc, better do ’em now, because you’ll likely never see them again.  My thoughts on content removal are well documented at this point, so I won’t belabor it here.

In defense of a colony world with the most dangerous weapon in the galaxy on it.

Onto the good stuff.  This time, I’ll put up some thoughts on a pair of missions that focus on Starfleet Security:  “Gemini” and “Polarity” by Gorgonops.  And there is a lot to like about these missions.

Firstly, the dialogue.  You tend to interact with an interesting group of Security officers; if you’re a fan of the deadly serious, you probably will cringe a bit, but most of the quirkiness is optional dialogue, so you can ignore most of it to your heart’s content.  And there IS plenty of optional dialogue that you don’t have to go through if you don’t want to-say, if you want to speed run the missions.  (I didn’t speed-run.  Obviously.)  Even more impressive was the fact that the author put time into having dialogue windows that fit your captain’s situation:  if you were in 2409 prior to the Iconian War, or after the Iconians revealed themselves; if you were a Federation captain or a Romulan captain aligned with the Federation; and if you’d done the “Gemini” mission before running “Polarity” or not.  These are touches I appreciate and give the impression that yes, things happen in the galaxy, and various captains will be doing them.  (There’s even a couple that you can select if you are Andorian or Vulcan!)  That said:  it’s not like the Foundry offers these JUST to captains who qualify; the Foundry isn’t that good-you could chose any of those options even if you don’t qualify.  It’s a limit of the tool.

Some of the maps here are terrific too.  I don’t know if they’re prebuilt from the Foundry tool or if the author built them all from scratch, but they look great.  There’s one instance where a waypoint doesn’t show up correctly, and the author acknowledges that literally at that point in the mission; bugs happen.  If I were to make a single recommendation, it would be for a note when you beam into that map that you take note of where you are, because you’ll need to get to it again later.  Pity those with poor memory.  Could go running around that map for a long time….

The storylines are mostly independent of each other; it’s not a requirement to play “Gemini” before “Polarity”, and they are self-contained stories, which means you don’t have to worry about cliffhangers.  There are certainly references to “Gemini” in “Polarity”, but they don’t require you to know them.  The first storyline involves a mystery that points to Undine infiltration, while the other storyline…well, Captain Ross is dead set on not telling you anything helpful as you go along-and it gets justified hard when the truth comes out.  I won’t spoil it further here; it’s a great “oh crap” moment.

Highly recommend both missions.  There are also two other missions in this arc of stories, but they’re level-gated to level 51 or higher, so it will be a while before I can get to them.  That’s okay-there are other Foundry missions waiting, with other authors, and it wouldn’t be fair to monopolize, would it?

Reputation Matters

In Star Trek Online, the upcoming Age of Discovery episode release will be including an update to the existing Reputation system.  Think World of Warcraft’s faction grinding and put a sci-fi spin on it.  That’s sort of what the Rep system in STO is.  There are five tiers, with each giving access to equipment and special abilities.  There are a LOT of Reputations available, which makes life mildly horrific for altoholics; that’s the price of doing business.  Well, we’ve got a new tier coming up-and it’s not going to be just for any new Reputation revealed for AoD.  It’s going to be applied to all the reputations.  (Well, except maybe the Event Reputation, which plays by somewhat different rules anyway.)

A post on STO’s site goes into details, but here are some of the highlights that caught my attention.

  • Reaching Tier 5-the current max, remember-will automatically grant sponsorship account-wide.  Sponsorship was the means to help those aforementioned altoholics by means of purchasing a sponsorship token you could give to your other characters on the account with rep marks, and it effectively halved the time and resources to advance that character in that reputation.  Now, it’ll happen automatically; no grinding required, no single token purchases-it’s automatic.  I’m a big fan of this one.  Doesn’t guarantee I’m going to actually push a heap of characters down the Reputation path, but I approve simply on principle.
  • Reaching Tier 6, among other things, will grant a character a Fleet Module and a Retrain Token.  This will be once per character-because these are things purchasable on the C-Store, and I’m dubious Cryptic/PWE are interested in killing another revenue stream.  I’ve not seen any clarification on that at this time.  Still, that could be a big thing.  Fleet Modules are the only way to get Fleet Ships (well, in combination with a Fleet Shipyard capable of building them, I think), and you usually need about four plus whatever other resources are involved to purchase them.  The Fleet Ships tend to be fancier/better versions of existing ships.  Given the sheer number of Reputations, it’s not unreasonable to presume that you could get a pair of Fleet Ships from advancing to Tier 6 in a bunch of reputations.  I’m pretty sure that the goodies here will be character bound, not account bound-and I’m almost certain they won’t be sellable on the exchange…but I’ve been wrong before.
  • Account-wide Rep Gear discounts-well, at least as far as energy credits and Dilithium.  You’ll still need to grind off the Reputation’s Elite Marks though, but I think the regular marks will still be discounted.  This is at Tier 6, but you can’t argue with an account-wide benefit.  Well, you could, but I won’t.

Now, there are other benefits, but I’m not going to go through their post and just regurgitate it here-I just wanted to hit the things that got my attention.  There’s no indicator as to the requirements to advance to Tier 6, either-but it’s logical to assume that it may take as long as it did for you to reach Tier 5 for a given Reputation, with the corresponding amount of resources spent.  I don’t THINK Elite Marks will be used to advance…but I can’t rule that out either.

Regardless of how one might feel about the Age of Discovery coming up, the change to Reputations should at least shake things up and possibly get people back onto some of those lesser-used queues and Battlezones.

W&M: Ice, Ice, Baby

U.S.S. Runner, ready for duty

Personal Log, Stardate 96256.50.

It’s been a while since I updated this log.  Where to start?

Should I start with the fact that my first round as a first officer wound up with me taking over after Klingons killed the Captain and winding up in a running battle with the Borg?  That seems like it should be the first thing I start with.  My ship’s logs can tell that tale better than I can.  So even though I was a raw cadet, I was in command of a ship-and, in the parlance of the humans, it has “stuck”.  In fact, it has been an absurdly short time and I have been promoted to Lieutenant Commander, and put in command of a Rhode Island-class ship, the Runner.

It’s a testament to the ferocity of the war against the Klingons that people are being promoted at a rate far faster than is normal.  We are in an odd situation where we have too many ships, and not enough crews.  The war is forcing the best officers to take command far sooner than they should-and I hope that it doesn’t end badly for them.  Us.

The first action in the Runner got us involved with what appeared to be a rogue agency called “Section 31”.  We found out, though, that things weren’t necessarily as they seemed.

To start with

Alert:  the remainder of this entry has been redacted by Starfleet Intelligence.

Computer, end log.

Time to look in on my new Starfleet Cardassian, Selak, in Star Trek Online.  He’s broken the level 10 barrier; during that time, I went though the early missions again, and I’ve noted a number of updates since the last time I went through-for example, a very early encounter with Quark from DS9, and Captain La Forge being heavily involved with the early missions as well.  But once I got to level 10, and grabbed a new Science ship, I decided to go off the rails right off the bat.

The first thing I did was take advantage of a current queue being featured, the Romulan Minefield.  This is a pretty straightforward mission, where the gathered captains go to rescue freighters from the Romulans-and blow up the Romulans at the same time.  It eventually culminates in a fight with a Scimitar-class warbird, complete with thalaron weapon.  There’s a number of hints that are given out on how to deal with the queue at this level-I don’t know if that persists with later level brackets-and I didn’t really need them, but I think they’d be very helpful to new players.  So, props to the devs on that one.

That silhouette does not fill me with confidence….

The next step was fulfilling my promise to myself that I’d make heavy use the the Foundry for my leveling.  This means that it tends to be very slow-I mean, I can knock down regular episodes fairly quickly, but some of the Foundry missions are significantly longer.  But that’s okay with me; I mean, I’m at the point where I enjoy the experience.  If I were a power-gamer, I’d hardly be going through so many alt characters, I’d think.  So, I’m only running into the teens with my level, but I’m playing stuff that I’d be willing to bet most of the playerbase hasn’t.

Instead of selecting a mission through the Foundry interface, I decided to go a different route.  Popular missions that are “hooked” to a star system often come up as options to play when you are close enough to enter the system in sector space.  So, I stayed close to home and went to the Wolf 359 system-infamous for the first major fleet battle against the Borg (final score:  Borg: 39.  Starfleet: 0), and chose a mission.  And to make it more interesting, I chose the one that was “part one” of a multi-mission story arc.  Thus, Selak’s redacted log above, and thus, my following comments on “The Ice Cube”, written by TechieTrekie.

The mission opens with a seemingly routine mission-albeit a top secret one-by Admiral Quinn near Wolf 359.  It didn’t take long to get jumped by Klingons near a class-L ice planet.  It wasn’t long before a cloaked Starfleet ship revealed itself, captained by an operative claiming to be a member of the mysterious Section 31.  Okay, it’s not that mysterious, but figure this is a new captain with no previous exposure to that group.  Still, he had the codewords that Quinn used to verify that he was our contact there, and things ramp up from there.  While it seems at first to be a fairly innocuous “clean up the Klingon mess” sort of mission, it soon develops into a mission that involves a first contact-at a location that shouldn’t be there (but the arc does eventually explain how that something that shouldn’t be there IS).

These are pretty long missions, especially if you pride yourself on reading the material.  Additionally, the third mission doesn’t offer the standard Foundry rewards-which is acknowledged by the developer in the mission description as well-I recommend playing it through, though, since it’s very much story related, and heck, it’s the shortest of the four missions.  Why deprive yourself of the full story, right?  Folks out for mission rewards above all can skip it, though, without losing a whole lot.  Really, though, if one is only out for mission rewards, there are easier ways to do that than using the Foundry.

The plot manages to hold together pretty well, and inconsistencies that crop up turn out to actually have reasons behind them.  The ending is a bit of a cliffhanger, though-while it resolves the plot of the arc, it’s obvious that it was intended to lead into another story arc.  Unfortunately, this seems to be the sole arc related to this story.  It’s a pity-it did a pretty good job on showcasing what the Foundry is capable of.  But having looked at the Foundry editor myself and fiddled with it once or twice, I can appreciate the time it takes to put something like this together-and this was done for four missions!  Much respect to Foundry authors-it’s why I always make sure to donate dilithium at the end in appreciation.

The only regret I have is that, due to availability recently, and to the time taken by a Foundry mission (plus the time to take notes so I can figure out what to write about coherently) which leads to fewer rewards gained, I haven’t gained a lot in the way of levels.  Only midway through the character teens right now, so it’s slow going.  When I can free up more time, I expect things to go smoother and faster.

The Cast List: Introducing Jennifer Rodgers of Star Trek Online

When a new faction in Star Trek Online rolls around, I tend to try to make two or three characters in the faction, one representing each career:  Tactical, Engineering, or Science.  When the “Agents of Yesterday” expansion landed, my main character there-Rick Masters-was an Engineering guy.  So that gave me two other branches to play with.  Additionally, I had managed to acquire a temporal ship due to buying one of the cheaper packs on sale, so I had motivation to get at least another character up to level 50.

I chose to go with a Tactical captain for this one:  Jennifer Rodgers, another temporal refugee.  She’s a product of her time:  shoot first and ask questions later.  I usually try to go for a consistent look for each of my Starfleet characters and bridge officers (barring the “outsider” boffs), and I chose to go an unusual route-at least for me.  I kept the general color scheme of the current Starfleet “generic” outfits (the Odyssey outfits, for those wondering), but went with one of the Jupiter style of uniform.  I think it worked out great (check the picture to the left).  One of the bridge crew members has a visually different look to indicate her status as a medic.  There’s a style guide floating out there somewhere that had been released by the dev team as far as uniform colors for the Odyssey uniforms go, and I stayed with it for the most part even though I applied them to the Jupiter look.

The “final” starship for Captain Rodgers-the U.S.S. Champion-was indeed a Temporal vessel.  Specifically, a Paladin-class temporal battlecruiser.  In a bit of amusement, I named it for the tier-1 ship that Rick Masters had used prior to jumping to the “present” day.  I do things like that to amuse myself sometimes, even if it’s a bit of a paradox (after all, the storylines assume that your part in the story is unique-or maybe Agent Daniels really screwed up the timeline…).

As with most of the Cast List STO Captains, Jennifer has cracked into level 50+, but not much further.  High enough to be flying a T6 ship, but not enough to get a lot of use out of it.  One of these days, I should consider doing some kind of personal event where I break out all of my Cast List Captains and have them do something that’d tie them together somehow.  Maybe a bunch of Foundry missions in an arc, with a captain doing a separate mission and passing it on to the next?  I’ll have to think about that.  It just seems a shame to have so many characters lying fallow, and it’d be neat to give some of them an additional push for more levels.  Come to think of it, it’s an issue with most of the MMOs I play.  I’ll have to think about this some more.  Surely, I can find something to do with all these alts to freshen things up.

W&M: The Chronicle of Selak Kayal

Toasting with a class doomed to die…

Personal Log, Stardate 96196.53.

Today is Graduation Day.  Today, I can look back on the previous four years and marvel at the direction of my life.

If things had gone a little differently, I would still be on Cardassia, likely working as a clerk for the Detapa Council.  Or perhaps I’d be on one of the agricultural colonies.  I would’ve been a disappointment, to my family and to myself, squandering my potential.  But when the United Federation of Planets reached out to worlds other than theirs and offered a chance to join their Starfleet, I took a chance.  I’d be an alien, among other aliens.  I knew that many still hold grudges for the actions of my people during the Dominion War, decades ago.  Despite this, I felt that I had a chance to do something meaningful with my life-as a scientist, and perhaps as a Cardassian.

It is foolish to think that I can be an example to the Federation of a Cardassian uninterested in control.  I just want to do the best I can; being a representative of a people is too much.  That is more pressure than any Cardassian-any individual-should have to shoulder.

But maybe I don’t have to.  Despite the reputation of my species, I’ve made friends as well as rivals.  I’ve earned the respect of my peers.  I’ve honed my mind with as much as I could learn from my teachers, from biology, geology, astrometrics, temporal theory, xenochemistry and more.  I may not be a leading expert in any of these fields, but I’ve learned a lot about many-hoping that this would allow me a better shot at an assignment on a science vessel.

I’ve heard rumors that I may get my wish.  I’m cautiously optimistic.  I’m concerned that I might end up on the front lines of the Klingon War.  If that’s the case, I’ll go-I just think I’d be wasted there.  But I’m hoping for better.

From the banging on my door, it sounds like Flores is trying to get me to come out.  In a few hours, I’ll know where I’ll be assigned, and what my assignment will be.  I’d best go now.

Computer, end log.

Welcome to my next character chronicle.  (Hm, I should consider making an official category/tag called Character Chronicle….)

Since I had no real preference as to what game I wanted to mess around with again, I let Fate decide by rolling dice.  Star Trek Online became the winner on this one.  And of course, that set up everything that came after it-but I still had some room to do random determinations.

So, the next step was determining which faction to play.  I knew I was looking for one of the factions I hadn’t really done a chronicle with before, so that narrowed it down to Romulans or Starfleet (the current one, not the 23rd century one).  So flipping a coin got me in Starfleet’s shoes.  The next step was character species-and this one wasn’t one I’d be doing randomly.  Since the release of the “Victory is Life” expansion, players have been able to roll up Cardassian characters, with the caveat that they weren’t their own faction, but rather, available for either Starfleet or the Klingons.  I had planned to do the Cardassian experience next, particularly in light of the fact that I’d picked up their ships (but those are high-tier ships, so we’ll be flying strictly Starfleet issue for now).  So thus, Selak Kayal.  The random determination came into play again with the career he’d follow-which came up as Sciences.  I was pretty happy about that-I have mentioned in the past a predilection for playing Tactical captains, so I’m pleased to have another captain who isn’t in that mold.

With the decision to play a Starfleet character comes a difficulty.  See, while I haven’t done the Starfleet experience in one of these chronicles, I have done the 23rd century faction with it.  And the problem there is that…well…it means I’ve already done all the missions for Starfleet in the course of that chronicle, with the exception of the tutorial missions-which is covered in this post.  So what do I do to avoid repeating myself again?

The answer to that comes with what I’d planned on filling my KDF experience with:  the Foundry and queues.  Now, as readers may recall, I had a hard time leveling via just those to fill the time, so why would I think this would be any different?  The answer shouldn’t be surprising, and is saddening in many ways.

First command and already hitting the Borg. This is probably a bad career omen.

The simple truth is that there are a lot more Federation aligned characters being played than there are KDF characters.  I bet if I peeked at the Romulans closely, there would prove to be more Federation aligned Romulans than Klingon aligned ones.  Same with the new Jem’Hadar subfaction.  And of course, the TOS-era captains are Starfleeters with a different tutorial.  Everything in the game leans harder towards the Federation characters in missions designed for all factions; after all, most of them were designed for Starfleet first.  Even newer missions tend to assume that.  And it feeds on itself:  more content is designed with Starfleet in mind, thus more players gravitate toward Starfleet, which means more content is developed for Starfleet, from uniforms to ship selection to mission dialogue-which leads to people preferring Starfleet, which…and so on, and so on, and so on.

This also means that the bulk of the players inclined to develop Foundry missions are also Starfleet players first.  So there are a heap more missions available for Starfleet than for the Klingons.  I feel that this should give me a solid leveling experience-as long as the Foundry is up, that is.  The Foundry spends as much time down as it does up, it feels, thanks to content releases usually taking it down for a period of time.  Here’s to hoping things are good for a little while (the “Age of Discovery” shouldn’t be landing for at least another month or two, right?).

This also means that there are more people available to run the lower level queues.  But here’s the thing:  not everyone is an altoholic like me.  Which means a lot of people are usually running their high-level characters through high-level queues, which means that I may not be seeing a lot of activity in the lower queues.  That may not stop me from trying, though.

Despite everything I’ve just typed in, though, I think I may hold off on the Foundry experience until I get Selak to level 10 and into a non-starter ship.  I recently acquired the Oberth science ship, the only bottom-tier ship I hadn’t picked up over the years, so I can mess around with a ship type that I generally don’t fly often.  My plan is to stick with Sci-ships the whole way through, and I’ll likely use the T6 Intel-Sci Cardassian ship when the time comes.  But that’s looking far ahead.

Oh, and the “Ways and Means” chronicle name?  Well, I do want to explore a Cardassian outlook, and I was looking for a way to cleverly refer to the “True Way” faction of Cardassians.  Expect that to crop up in the log posts.  I’d hate to miss an opportunity to explore why this captain is different than all my other ones….

(Oh, and yes, I do know that the first pic above with the whole “doomed to die” thing doesn’t actually kill those bridge officers; but considering that I’m going to throw them all out the airlock and grab some blue quality boffs or better, depending on cost, off the exchange using my account bank for a change, they’re as good as dead.  I wanted to have a crew that was unique to the character from the very start.)

The Cast List: Introducing Teranok of Star Trek Online

While I keep things in suspense a little longer about my next character chronicle, let’s take a dip into the past with a new entry to the Cast List.  For those unfamiliar:  I have the Cast List category to highlight the characters who haven’t been given a chronicle, the ones who aren’t necessarily primary characters.  The intent was to feature characters from past and present games, but I haven’t really hit any of the past ones yet.  ‘Tis the danger of being an altoholic!  It’s been a while since I put up any entries on the List, and I felt that this would be a good time for a couple to make their debut here.

“The Federation defends. The Klingons avenge. I know who I want at my side.”

So here we go.  Back when the Legacy of Romulus expansion landed for Star Trek Online, we had the option of making Romulan characters who could ally themselves with either the Federation or the Klingons.  My main Romulan (for lack of a better term) chose the Federation-but I certainly could see the point of view with joining with the Klingons, especially given how the Klingons acted during the formative arcs for the Romulan Republic.  And given how I do things, it was only a matter of time before I created a Romulan to see the Klingon point of view.  Hence, the character of Teranok.

Teranok’s name hailed to the days of early Next Generation episodes; I wanted something that fit in with a name like Tomalok, an early Romulan nemesis for Picard’s Enterprise.  I was pretty happy with the name I came up with.  I wanted to make him a bit more authoritarian-so one of his uniforms tends to be less about Romulan Republic and more Romulan Star Empire (which means trading on the Tal’Shiar outfits).  Likewise, I wanted his crew to be an eclectic mess, less about looking pretty and more about looking like they’re out to get the job done.  I sort of saw them as a resistance movement against the Tal’Shiar and Empress Sela (not to mention our good friend Hakeev) than as a military arm of the Republic, and their looks had to match.  As I was looking to reduce my reliance on tactical captains, I made him an engineer.

The bridge crew itself made heavy use of the Klingon alignment.  While I kept a pair of Romulans, I grabbed a pair of Klingons, to fit the theme that I was going with this character:  they weren’t interested in defending the Republic, as avenging Romulans killed by the Star Empire and the Tal’Shiar.  This is a crew looking to do war against the enemy.  (Of course, one of those Klingons is actually a Liberated Borg; I get my money’s worth out of my preorder so long ago….)

As far as ships go, I gave him the Romulan version of the 1000-day veteran reward ship-a warbird destroyer, T6 version.  The RRW Vrelnec-the name manages to sound alien without having to throw in those annoying apostrophes in.  (Full disclosure-I’ll ruthlessly use apostrophes in alien names too.  I have no shame.)

Teranok is at level 50, but never got used further to bump him up those extra levels; so, no specialization points for him.  I’m not sure I can even call him top tier anymore, since we’re at a level 65 cap these days.  Still, because of his allegiance to the Republic and to the Klingon Empire, I like to think he’s a useful dagger to have in the offhand when the main forces of the Republic can’t get a job done.  If the Romulan Republic ever were to develop their own Intelligence service, I think Teranok would definitely be a major player in that profession.

An Age Undreamt Of

Yeah, sometimes it’s like waiting for a bus-nothing for an age, and a heap arrives at once.  Kind of like my posts sometimes.

The prompt for this post involves a little announcement from Cryptic concerning Star Trek Online.  First, they’re swapping out executive producers, which may or may not have greater consequences down the line.  At this point, I just roll with those punches.  It’s the second news point that is the subject of this post:  the next season is going to be heavily centered on the newer show in the roster, Star Trek: Discovery.

I bet you were thinking I was going to be talking about Conan from my blog title, didn’t you?

Much like the Agent of Yesterday expansion, it seems that the upcoming “Age of Discovery” is going to take characters back to the era of that show.  It sure seems like it’s aiming to have you start new characters in that era, based on the news post on their site.  (Yeah, it means I’ve got a new potential chronicle coming up later this year here.  Why do I do this to myself…?)  Also based on that post, it seems that we’re getting a “reimagined starting experience that allows players to create a Federation character from the Discovery era”.  I don’t know if this means it’ll be a new starting subfaction like the 23rd century captains, or if they’re replacing the Starfleet starting point with this.  (They can’t conceivably replace the 23rd century experience, after all.)  Since I doubt the entire game is being thrown under the bus, it seems that Temporal Agent Daniels is going to be busy-busy-busy in the near future.

The post goes on to say that they’ll be updating in line with the currently-running show.  I’m not entirely sure if that means what some forum posters think it means.  Posters seem to think this means the devs will be releasing content as fast as Discovery shows episodes, which would be an interesting trick.  On the other hand, I don’t think it’s a stretch to believe that this statement is simply indicating that yes, STO is making updates concerning a show while it is actually currently on-air.  I’ve seen people making comparisons to the great experiment with the show “Defiance” and its MMORPG, but I don’t think that’s what we’re looking at here.  I am prepared to be wrong, of course.

I’ll freely admit that of all the Star Trek stuff out there, movies and TV shows, I’m the least familiar with Discovery.  I’ve not done the “CBS All Access” thing, because, well, that’s not really my thing.  Plus this whole “Oh, Spock had an adopted sister we never knew about”; I wasn’t impressed when Sybok popped out of thin air, and I’m not impressed now.  So the show’s got two strikes against it right off the bat with me.  However, since I haven’t seen the show, I’m not going to arbitrarily consider the next several months of releases garbage (although I do regret that yes, it seems that we’ve gotten all we’re getting out of the Gamma Quadrant).  In some ways, I’m even looking forward to it, because my ignorance of the show means everything that happens will be brand new to me.  Whether it’s a good kind of new or a bad kind is something we’ll have to wait and see on.

There are more stuff coming at that time, too, but it’s the usual sorts of stuff you’d expect out of a new episode arc.  More info, naturally, will be forthcoming.  The only thing to be sure of is that the release will happen later this year-and given the relative size of the “Victory is Life” expansion, well, I woudn’t be shocked if it came at roughly the same time the next season of Discovery premieres.

ToT: Swarms and the Future

Despite appearances, this is not a racing lane…

Computer:  Open Ship Log.  Date: Stardate 96125.6

The aftermath of the war against the Hur’q has removed the threat against the Founders.  But the numbers of Hur’q make the Bashir Solution impractical in many situations, particularly when the Hur’q are already in the process of decimating a Dominion world.  I have been tasked with rooting out the infestations and assisting with evacuations if necessary.

My performance in this crisis has been noted by the Founders.  This, in turn, has made me more…visible, perhaps, to the Vorta-and to other Jem’Hadar.  As such, the Indomitable will likely be called to extended service and to take command of the situation.  This will not always be so.  Others of the Vanguard have served as well, and are my equals in authority.  We remain subject to the command of the Vorta under most circumstances, except where it conflicts with the safety of the Dominion or the will of the Founders.  It is good to have this structure in place.  It is not good to question things frequently.  Things will not be as they were, but returning to some structure allows the Jem’Hadar time to adapt to a future without the White.

We are approaching a world under siege by a swarm.  I should go.

End log.

It’s wrap-up time for Jalot’iklar’s chronicle in Star Trek Online, as I take a brief look at the queue designed for the Victory is Life expansion, “Swarm”.  It’s not exactly rocket science-few of the queues are-so there isn’t going to be a lot to go over.  Then I’ll kick around a couple of possibilities as to what I’m considering next for STO.

Unlike the battlezone queues in the Gamma Quadrant, the Swarm is a stand-alone queue that can be joined anywhere you’re located in the game.  Finishing it doesn’t give you any progress toward winning a battlezone-it’s basically just another source of marks for your Gamma reputation.  (Or fleet marks, which are helpful for people working on holdings.)  I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure why they left this as a separate queue.  If the battlezone had been a traditional zone like the Undine or Badlands zones, it’d be one thing.  But since the Gamma battlezone is pretty much all queues (albeit location-based), I’m not sure why they decided that the Swarm should stand alone.  Maybe coordinating locations for four queues was more complicated than three?  Couldn’t say.  I have a feeling, though, that because of this, “Swarm” is going to fade in popularity quickly.

Does it deserve to fade away like that?  Let’s take a look at how it works

…it’s an evacuation route. Unfortunately, it’s also a target.

“Swarm” is composed of three phases.  In the first phase, you need to engage Hur’q forces while attempting to repair a number of Dominion ships.  Every little bit of help is good here.  Needless to say, if you’re under fire at the time, you won’t be able to do the repairs.  There’s a timer rolling too, so you only have a limited time before the next phase begins.  When the phase ends, you can get a mission report on the progress you’ve made as far as gaining marks.  The next phase is to reactivate the planetary defenses-mostly this involves interacting with satellites, which in turn can allow you to launch tractor mines-very handy when you consider the speed and maneuverability of the swarmers.  Again, there’s a timer, and a progress report when all is complete.

The final phase is the evacuation.  There are three lanes of evacutation, and you need to assist ships in getting out alive.  This is pretty similar to another queue that’s been around in the past-one of the Undine ones, I think; I’ve done so many queues over the years that I’ve lost track of what does what-and you can still activate those tractor mine defenses to assist.  The more ships that make the journey from one end of a lane to the other, the more marks you get when the phase is complete.  At some point, a Hur’q dreadnought will show up, but blowing it up is optional-I’m not entirely sure how much of a bonus it gives you, if any.

As far as queues go, this one’s pretty straightforward.  No exotic rules, nothing incredibly insane.  Just a nice, simple, “get them before they get us” sort of deal.  Uncomplicated ain’t bad.

With this, I think it’s reasonably safe to say that the story of the expansion “Victory is Life” has reached its conclusion.  Which sure happened awfully fast, really.  I started up this chronicle on June 5th, and here we are in July wrapping things up.  It’s tough to say if there was more or less story here than there was with the previous expansion “Agents of Yesterday”.  (There is no comparison, however, to “Legacy of Romulus”, which beats almost all of them senseless, or “Delta Rising”, which-while reviled for certain mechanics-sure had a lot to do right out the gate.)  Maybe there’s more coming down the pipeline than what appears, but the recently released “Home” episode sure felt like it put a capper on the expansion’s story-not to mention the whole Tzenkethi thing that had been going on since the tail end of the previous expansion.

Not that I object to moving forward to something new, but man, it’s hard to call this an expansion in the traditional sense.  I liked the story, and I’ve always been fond of DS9, so I was predisposed kindly towards anything from that period (and hey, what about the whole thing with Sisko and the Orb of Peace?  There’s a loose end waiting to happen…).  I may be looking at things unfairly; AoY, after all, had no battlezones introduced, nothing really new as far as species go; it had a number of “tutorial missions” until it caught up to the current timeline, and then a few other missions available for everyone to wrap up the Temporal Cold War storyline.  ViL, on the other hand, has a new subfaction, a level cap increase, a new star system map with battlezone included, and a handful of missions.  One could make a case that an equivalent amount of work went into these expansions-it’s just a question, then, of what a player might enjoy out of the game.

Anyway, it’s time to move on.  I’ve got two other factions to play with in consideration of a new chronicle.  I haven’t done a standard Starfleet captain for one of these dives, but I’m finding that I think I want to delve harder into the Romulans-and for a change, align one with the Klingons, since I have so many Fed-related characters.  Of course, that runs me into similar problems that I ran into with running my previous Klingon character’s chronicle, but there’s enough Romulan-centric content that I think I can pull this off.  In the meantime, my attention is going to move over to another game that I’ve neglected for far too long recently, to close out another chronicle that’s been patiently waiting for me to finish.

ToT: Where’s a Can of Raid When You Need One?

Being shot at sucks. Being shot at by unending swarms sucks worse. Where’s my insect repellent?

Log copied from First Jalot’iklar’s ship log (encrypted and sent to “F.D.”):

The conflict is over.  And I am…confused.

The victory was not without sacrifice.  I want to believe that if the choice had been mine, I would have done the same thing.  But I am of the Vanguard.  I have been designed to think and to question.  I do not know what I would have done.

I can only reap the benefits.  I-and my crew-have been freed from the White.  Such a simple thing.  Such a profound thing.  If the Founders truly intend this for all Jem’Hadar…what will happen?  What will happen with those who are not of the Vanguard?  You can free us from a physical dependency, but can you free us from a mental one?  I am adapting well, but I was designed to think and to question.  The older Jem’Hadar have not.

Perhaps it will not matter.  Few Jem’Hadar reach an age that other species would consider old.  And even though the Hur’q threat is over, there are still many dangers that may see a weakened Dominion as a vulnerable Dominion.

That must not happen.  We forge new alliances, alliances unthinkable mere decades ago.  We do this so that the Dominion will survive.  The Jem’Hadar will serve the Dominion, unto death.

That is the order of things.

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir, at this point, I think we can safely remove the Dominion as a threat to the Federation…for now.

The Founders still have no love for any of us in the Alpha Quadrant, but even they recognize the damage the Dominion has taken, from within and without.  First Jalot’iklar isn’t wrong in believing that great changes are coming.  But I do have one concern.

The alliance forged here now encompasses nearly every great power in the Alpha, Beta, and Gamma quadrants, and even some within the Delta Quadrant as well.  We have a hard enough time keeping things together in the Federation, and while I’m sure that the President is hoping that we can form a greater Federation with all these governments, I believe that with so many disparate personalities and agendas, this alliance is reaching its apex.  From here, I believe the alliance will soon shatter-possibly within two years, no more.

When that happens-not if-the Section needs to be ready.  We must take advantage of the access granted by the alliance now, so when we need to act, we can end the danger before it begins.  To that end, I recommend I continue my assignment aboard the Indomitable.

As the Jem’Hadar say, Victory is Life.

Two out.

And just like that, the Victory is Life storyline is over.  Honestly, I figured this would go on a bit longer, maybe at least until Christmas.  But Star Trek Online’s newest episode, “Home”, has brought a conclusion to this story-and with its end, it leaves one wondering what comes next.  Of course, I had that sort of feeling with the end of the Iconian War arc, too, so I’m not too concerned as to what is next with STO’s story.  There’s a lot of Trek available to mine, and that’s not including anything new that comes to mind.  But that’s for the future.

For now, let’s throw up some thoughts as to the mission, conveniently put after the break below.  Spoilers lurk!

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