ToT: And Now For Something Completely Different

A good heist always begins with a good plan. Of course, these are Ferengi we’re talking about.

Report from Commander Two of Five to “F.D.”:

Sir, I regret to inform you that I can find no information on what First Jalot’iklar has been up to for the last week.

I thought that my cover had been discovered when I was told in no uncertain terms to disembark from the Indomitable.  At the time, I was simply grateful that I wasn’t being summarily executed.  It wasn’t until they left Deep Space Nine that I began to question the real reason I was asked to step aside.  Upon their return, I was re-invited aboard the ship, but nobody will say what had happened-you know how disciplined the Jem’Hadar are.

What I do know:  the ship had been in combat.  The damage on the ship seemed almost familiar-not polaron damage, like I might have expected if a Dominion Civil War had broken out.  Nothing like the damage inflicted by Hur’q weapons.  I do not want to speculate on the source of the damage, because if my speculation were true, the Dominion may have stirred up the one possible danger that exceeds even the Hur’q in magnitude.

There are also other rumors I’ve heard aboard Deep Space Nine while awaiting reassignment-which I realize is no longer necessary.  I hesitate to mention this, because it sounds unbelievable, but rumor has it that a number of Ferengi were spotted boarding Indomitable.  That sounds insane-why would a Jem’Hadar allow any Ferengi aboard?  Even more insane, why would a Ferengi even try to board?  I realize there is only one answer to the latter question:  profit.  But why would Jalot’iklar cooperate?

I am in no position to question him; he’s a captain in the good graces of Ambassador Odo, and I have no authority to compel answers.  It may be best to ignore this for now-if the worst possibility happens, there’s nothing we can do to prepare, and if nothing comes of it, it does not matter.

Agent Two, out.

The Dominion War in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a running thing in the last few years of its run.  Given how much of it tended towards the “Federation is having its hind end beaten like a drum” happened, things could get pretty grim looking.  But every once in a while, we got breather episodes.  The kind that were less serious, or less war focused, just to give the viewer a break.  Some fans hated them, some fans liked them.  And several of these breathers involved the resident Ferengi, Quark, or his family-or, in a couple of cases, even more members of his species.

This is the case with the Star Trek Online episode “Quark’s Lucky Seven”.  And not to put to fine a point on it, your player captain is not the main character here.  Oh, the captain will play a role, sure, but the stars of this episode are the Ferengi-and their goal is a heist like few others.  And the subject of the heist…well, let’s leave that for spoilers below, right? Continue reading

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ToT: Where Loose Ends Get Tied Up (Somewhat)

It’s never good when you find this many stasis tubes. What do you think the odds are that they’re all about to open, based on past experiences?

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

The more we follow Ambassador Odo, the more questions I have.  The Founders continue to clash against each other, here as elsewhere.  The Ambassador has commanded that I watch, learn, and exceed my fellow Jem’Hadar.  So it is with those eyes that I see something between these two gods.  They have a history that goes beyond my mere handful of years.  This colors their interactions.  I do not fully understand the nature of this history, only that it is there.

Ambassador Odo is determined to see what lies ahead.  He is determined to learn what is being kept from him.  His fellow gods are keeping something from him.  I do not know if it is right that I continue to assist him, but as he is still a god, I will follow to the best of my ability.  He is a Founder.  I am Jem’Hadar.  This is the order of things.

The order of things.  I cling to this as my lifeline.  Ambassador Odo is trying to change the order of things-he is disrupting it.  But as long as there is still a Dominion, I will obey.  That is the only way I shall see myself and my crew through this.  I will obey the gods, as my crew obeys me.  I am certain that whatever the Ambassador learns, it will be something he is meant to learn.

How else could it be for the gods?

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir.  You really need to read the report attached to this message.  This could further antagonize the Klingons, and they’re already doing their best to stay out of this whole mess.  Recommend that we suppress this information before it gets too far.

I’m not sure how much longer I can continue sending these reports.  The Jem’Hadar aren’t stupid-and Jalot’iklar is even less so.  If I’m discovered, I doubt there will be much mercy-I understand that the Dominion has not forgotten the Section’s role in the Dominion War.

Agent Two, out.

Let’s talk about “Doomed to Repeat”, a little history lesson in Star Trek Online.  This episode manages to not only move along the Hur’q storyline, but also draws the player captains deeper into the mystery of “what the hell is going on with the Dominion?”, not to mention give some significant insights on the nature of the Hur’q-and at the same time, brings it back to one of the longest-standing mysteries in STO, up to now!

With a buildup like that, you know I’m going to have the spoiler section below armed and ready!  First, however, an non-spoilery comment.  I’ve noticed an awful lot of late that bridge officers seem to have trouble following the player captain, and it goes beyond just pathing.  The whole point of being able to set waypoints is so that you can direct where individual officers go, but it seems more and more, you can’t even do that to get officers to go into an area.  This leaves the player captains exposed by themselves in places that are really NOT meant to be dealt with by themselves.  It’s enough to make you want to execute the officers for cowardice in the face of the enemy.  I don’t know if it’s something to do with the maps, or something to do with the officer AI, but something needs to be done to FIX THIS.  It’s intolerable to have episodes that are balanced against you and an away team that wind up being against you and no support.

Okay, rant over.  Without further ado….

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ToT: Search for Answers

What’s Jem’Hadar for “WTF!?”

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

I am troubled by what we found on Karemma.  Worse, I am bothered by what it implies.

It was a routine mission at the Dosi system that began these events, but it led to….

I cannot say it.  I can barely think it.  We have been betrayed…but I cannot decide who the betrayer is.  The gods are in conflict.  But the gods cannot be wrong.  So how can there even be conflict?  Dukan’Rex is of the belief that we must begin to question everything.  Has he gone mad?  Or is he seeing more clearly than I can?

I do not know.  All I do know is that the Dominion remains in danger.  The Hur’q remain a danger, no matter the conflicts between gods.  My duty remains the same.  Serve the Founders.  Serve the Dominion.  If I remain true to my duty, that should be enough.

It must be enough.

Appended notes from Commander Two of Five:

Sir.  Given what we now know, I feel that we must treat the Dominion as hostile.  The Vanguard Jem’Hadar may prove to be a useful wedge, however, and I urge that you allow me to remain at my post.  I feel that it is in our best interests to avoid open conflict until Starfleet Command is notified of the situation-particularly since I believe that Command has yet to be apprised of the truth of the situation.  It is important that we remain vigilant and look for openings that may be exploited.

As always, if you believe I should pull out, I am ready to do so at any time.  If you believe I should take action, I am likewise prepared.  I will continue observing, and will await further orders.

Agent Two, out.

Response to Commander Two of Five from “F.D.”:

Your orders are unchanged.  Continue your observations.

Well, take what you know about the story in the “Victory is Life” expansion for Star Trek Online, and prepare for a story of betrayals.  “The Search” is an interestingly titled episode, because it shares the same name as an original Deep Space Nine episode.  That episode, amusingly, also covered a journey into Dominion territory, and included a surprise from the Founders (in that case, who they really were).  Perhaps you can draw some conclusions on that.

This episode could almost be an episode of DS9 by itself, given the number of show alumni with significant speaking roles here.  By my count, we have no less than five characters from the show with face time in this episode (and speaking parts, to be more specific).  Your character is almost an afterthought, which bothers me a little.  One of the big dangers of including so many characters from the previous shows is that they can take away the spotlight from where it should be-on the player character.  This isn’t to say that the NPCs have to be incompetent and all, but one would like it if the player captains had a bit more of a role than saying “agreed” so often.

Let’s get into the spoilery nuts and bolts after the image.

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ToT: Prison Break

Warm welcomes.

Report from Commander Two of Five to “F.D.”:

Sir:  as hoped, I have successfully been embedded on the vessel “Indomitable”, commanded by First Jalot’iklar.  In the short time I have been observing, I have become increasingly alarmed.

The Jem’Hadar have been an unknown quantity for over thirty years, having had little to no contact with them outside of the incident at Deep Space Nine in 2409.  [I will note that even then, the Federation’s primary interactions were with temporally displaced Jem’Hadar.]  Accordingly, our information on the Jem’Hadar is based upon observations taken during the Dominion War.  In that time, our intelligence reported that the Jem’Hadar were rigidly disciplined soldiers, physically formidable, but vulnerable to the fact that their life experiences were limited and thus, unable to match the creativity and knowledge of Alliance captains.

If there are many of the breed of Jem’Hadar that Jalot’iklar represents, we will need to revise our intelligence.  He and other “Vanguard Jem’Hadar” are proving far more mentally agile than their predecessors.  He has demonstrated something short of empathy, but something that approaches it.  While I had not beamed down to the prison moon in the Olt system, I was involved in the battle over the moon against the Hur’q that followed.  Kai Kira was good enough to meet with me afterward to inform me of Jalot’iklar’s actions, and his willingness to put himself in harm’s way for the prisoners on the moon was impressive.  It could be rationalized as his willingness to serve Ambassador Odo-I understand that he gave the First explicit instructions to make sure no harm came to the Kai.  But I am coming to believe that this is not unusual behavior from the First.

Sir, if this is typical, then we may be looking at what humans would call “a new ballgame”.  The Section needs to put more assets into examining the situation; if the Dominion comes out of this situation intact, and if they start looking to expand once more, a new Dominion War could go as easily as badly as the first.

Agent Two, out.

Time for my thoughts on the Star Trek Online episode “Armistice”!  This mission hails back to the very first season of Deep Space Nine, where the crew had to abandon Kai Opaka, the Bajoran spiritual leader, on a prison moon where the prisoners could never die-at the cost of never being able to leave the planet.  Doctor Julian Bashir and Kai Kira are on a merc mission to deliver a cure developed by the Dominion to grant the inhabitants freedom.  This isn’t necessarily because of mercy-it’s because the Hur’q are rampaging through the quadrant, and they’d be sitting ducks.  The good news is that the satellites around the moon are still tough customers to get past-they don’t like visitors.  The bad news is that no security system is perfect….

Before I go into the spoilery section of this post, let’s make a couple of non-spoilery notations.

First:  the DS9 lighting issue.  I had gotten suspicious about things during the previous mission, when I noted that faces of characters at the conference table were really low-res, not really rendering properly.  So I took a look at my graphics settings, to discover that somehow, they’d all gotten reset to minimum settings!  Look Cryptic, I know I don’t have the best computer in the world, but when I have the graphics set a certain way, I expect them to STAY that certain way, not have them reset by one of your patches.  Once I managed to fiddle with the settings to get them more-or-less back to where I wanted them to be, I was able to see the light-so to speak-on DS9, so I’m not stumbling around in the dark anymore.

Second:  I’ll get more into it in a later post, but the entirety of the Gamma Quadrant is effectively a battlezone, but it’s obviously very different than the standard ones we’ve dealt with, since it’s also sector space.  That’s not the point of this remark, though.  The point is the use of the Mission Tracker.  The battlezone info that tells what percent of each section is complete obscures roughly half of the tracker.  And it’s an actual part of the tracker not a new window-so you can’t move it elsewhere.  You can, however, resize it, which is what I did so I could actually see my ACTUAL mission objectives.  Do yourself a favor:  edit your HUD so that the mission tracker extends downward substantially more.  You’ll be happier for it.

Finally:  one might presume that, given the weekend and all, I might have actually completed more than a single episode since my last post.  That’d be an accurate statement.  But I’d hate to throw all that content in just a single post-let’s savor the journey, shall we?

Potential spoilers incoming!

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ToT: The Conference

When a Jem’Hadar is in a diplomatic conference as something other than a guard, you know something has gone wrong.

Transcript delivered to Starfleet Intelligence:

A pair of Jem’Hadar overheard on the Promenade of Deep Space Nine; one has been identified as First Jalot’iklar.  The other has not been identified.

Unidentified:  It is true, then.

Jalot’iklar:  It is.  Our fleet is all that remains.  Had I not heard it from the very lips of a Founder, I would not have believed it.

U: Then these refugees?  They are from the Dominion, as they claim?

J:  They are victims of the Hur’q.  They blame us.

U:  It is not right!  We have done all we can!

J:  In their eyes, it was not enough.  Look at them.  It is our duty to serve the Founders.  It is also our duty to protect the Dominion.  They are here.  They are not on their worlds.  How do you expect them to react?

U:  First…is this the end?  Is this the end of the Dominion?

J:  No!  We still live.  We still serve.  We are the Vanguard.  This is our greatest test.  [barely audible]  This is my test.

U:  First?

J:  We are being called upon to do things that no Jem’Hadar has ever done.  We must speak to these leaders.  We cannot rely on our weapons and our reputation for this.  We must be…diplomatic.

U:  That is the Vorta’s role!  That is the order of things!

J:  The Founder has commanded this!  We will speak directly to our former enemies.  We shall make of them allies.  My command will assist the Federation Starfleet against the Hur’q.  We shall assist them, so that they may assist us.  The Founder commands this!

U:  …This feels wrong.  Jem’Hadar are the soldiers.  Vorta are the diplomats.  Can we do this, and still be Jem’Hadar?

J:  We continue to serve the Founders.  We continue to serve the Dominion.  I will do what is necessary to preserve both.  That is the order of things.

U:  Victory is life.

J:  Victory is life.

End Transcript

It’s stormy weather (metaphorically speaking) at Deep Space Nine in Star Trek Online, and the first shared mission between all factions reflects that, in “Storm Clouds Gather”.  The focus of the mission manages to pack an awful lot going on.  From a Jem’Hadar’s point of view, it must feel like being thrown into the deep end.  Right away, he’s dealing with the heads of galactic powers, as what we could call “lesser lights” represented by the old cast members of the DS9 series.

Unfortunately, lighting is still an issue on the station, and that continues in this episode.  The conference room is lit okay, as well as an action set-piece, but the Promenade is like walking in deepest shadow.  There’s a post on the official forums to try turning shadows off and on again to see if that fixes things, but no-go for me; I didn’t even have shadows on.  (Might be time to look into a new PC sometime….)  So that continues to be a source of consternation for me.

A couple of other non-spoilery thoughts.

I ran into an issue on DS9 where the “manage ship” terminal was only usable by one person at a time.  Fortunately, that’s been fixed in a patch since, so it saved me from having a rant dedicated to it here.  A different bug I ran into was the seeming absence of any duty officer assignments on DS9.  I don’t know if that’s Jem’Hadar specific, or if other factions have the same issue.  I’ll have to experiment.

I’m a few battles in with the Jem’Hadar Vanguard Carrier, and it’s been an interesting experience.  The carrier has what you’d call a heap of assisting ships.  Let’s count ’em off.  First, you have a ship separation sort of thing going on, similar to Galaxy and Odyssey class saucer separations or the small ships at the back end of the Bortasqu’ and Odyssey tactical variants.  That means you have no control over that craft, but it’s presumably tough enough to do damage on its own.  Then you have the hangar craft.  Hangars tend to come in two varieties in the game:  fighter hangars, which can deploy up to six fighters each, or frigate hangars, which can deploy up to two frigates each.  The Jem’Hadar carrier uses two frigate hangars, and each group can be given general commands-you know, “attack my target”, “defend my target”, “hang back”, that sort of thing.  Then, unique to Jem’Hadar ships (at least the Vanguard ships, I think), you get a pair of “wingman” ships, which can be commanded to do some more specific assistance for you, including repairing your ship’s hull and shields.  They can also mix it up with your current target, too.  Now, if you also make use of the Support Fleet command you get when your hull drops to below 50 percent, the Jem’Hadar could have a total of nine ships, including itself, fighting its enemies!  That’s a minifleet all by itself!  That said, the effectiveness of all these ships in unison is still being tested out.  The Hur’q are a nasty foe, mainly due to numbers.  There are just so many targets around that it’s hard to deal with them all at once.  Episodes like this one and the one previous are a good justification for any bridge officer abilities that affect multiple targets, especially torpedo spreads, beam fire at will, cannon scatter-shots, and mine-deployments that drop a LOT of mines.

Still pretty fun, though.

Okay, I think that’s as far as I can go without spoilage, so note the break below-going beyond the picture there means you’ve arrive at Spoilertown!

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ToT: The Beginning of Jalot’iklar’s Chronicle

Welcome to the Alpha Quadrant, Jalot’iklar. Hope you survive the experience!

Computer:  Open Ship Log.  Date: Stardate 96032.45

As of this date, I take upon the duties of First for the DV Indomitable-54188, for the Dominion.  Like most in its class, it has been granted a name in addition to a numeric designation.  The Founders have said that this practice will improve the loyalty of the crew to the vessel.  I do not understand this, but it is not necessary that I understand:  only that I obey.

Obedience brings victory.

Victory is life.

The crew is eager to cross the Anomaly.  I share this eagerness.  Few Jem’Hadar have crossed over beyond Dominion space since the Quadrant War, and the crew is eager to see if the tales of the Starfleet and the Klingons are true.  I am told the Romulans are not what they once were, and our former allies, the Cardassians, have not yet recovered from the Dominion’s final strike on their homeworld.  But I have been told that all have joined a larger alliance in the wake of the Iconian attacks, and they remain so.  But it is known that they all have no love for the Dominion.

My actions have earned the trust of the Founders.  Weyoun and Loriss have informed me that I may speak to them directly if the need is present.  Loriss tells me that I am an experiment, one of the Vanguard, engineered to be better than any of the Jem’Hadar that came before us.  Physically, we are superior.  Mentally, we are a match for the Vorta and more.  I believe that this has caused the Vorta some consternation.  The Vorta do not like it when the Jem’Hadar become more independent.  It goes against the order of things.  But the Founder Odo wished to establish a new order-and who are we to argue with a God, in this time of turmoil?

End log.

It’s finally here:  the Victory is Life expansion has landed for Star Trek Online!  This is likely to be a pretty abbreviated chronicle compared to previous ones such as Rick Masters and Dathiro’s.  This is mainly because of the brevity of the campaign.  Like the Agents of Yesterday story, the number of missions is very limited.  Unlike Agents of Yesterday, only the first mission is Jem’Hadar specific, and the Jem’Hadar start at level 60-not a lot of room for them to improve over 5 levels.  Nevertheless, there’s a bit more to the expansion than the episodes, and I’ll try to explore each of those in this chronicle.

This post will go into the first episode, so there may be spoilers lurking!  As usual, there’s a break below to help separate the spoilers from the non-spoilers.

First, the non-spoilerish stuff.  First off…well, the DS9 lighting issue continues.  It’s not as dark as it was in the early days on the test server, and I had actually thought we were okay now, as the last time I was on the server, the lighting seemed good.  But nope-we’re somewhere in between.  It is just DS9, as well, because Earth Spacedock is still as nicely lit as ever.  Secondly, well, it seems that with every publish, the power trays are screwed up somehow.  I had to redo the power tray for Walt when I was looking over some things in space.  Annoying.

Having made a purchase prior to release, I decided to start making immediate use of its bounty by making a Vanguard Jem’Hadar.  The backstory is…well, pretty much what I alluded to in the fiction above.  It’s sort of implied that there are a couple of differences between the Vanguard and the standard model Jem’Hadar.  From what I can immediately tell, though, there really isn’t much; they have a trait that allows them bonuses to space and ground (as opposed to just ground), and maybe a few different appearance options, at best.  I named the character Jalot’iklar, trying to stick with the naming standards you see off of the DS9 series Jem’Hadar, and immediately stuffed him into a carrier.  I haven’t played much with dedicated carrier starships in STO; while I’ve certainly flown ships that have hangar slots in them, such as the Scimitar ships, I haven’t really flown a ship that’s dedicated to the task.  Going further on the character, I eschewed the Tactical specialty that you might expect from Jem’Hadar; I mean, cripes, that’s been my go-to half the time, and I couldn’t stand that.  I like to balance things up.  So I looked over my primary characters.  I had a Tactical Starfleeter, a Science Romulan, an Engineering Klingon, and an Engineering Temporal Agent.  So, going really against type, I made Jalot’iklar a Science captain.

Since the Jem’Hadar start out at level 60, you might expect to have a lot of skill points to allocate.  But…they’re all pre-allocated.  I’d have liked to choose some of the abilities that came with having so many points in such and such path, mainly involving hangar pets, but ’tis not to be.  The specialties were trickier.  The carrier has Intel bridge officer slots, so it sounded logical to take Intel as one of the two specialties.  The tricky part is because the specialty points have already been allocated.  A respec can alter the skills if you so choose-there are probably respec tokens built up-but it turned out that I automatically had a Command primary and an Intel secondary, and you can’t respec that stuff.  It’s worth adding, though, that some of the Jem’Hadar you have in your bridge crew are good enough to have just about EVERY specialization available, so you will have no problems fitting crew to boff stations-which was the case with me and the carrier.

A final note on last week’s work:  thanks to double xp, I was able to push all three of my Delta Recruits, plus Vesehn and Jenled and Fralex all to level 60!  (Plus two or three others who have yet to appear on the Cast List, which I really should start up again soon.)  It helps that they were all at post-level 50, so I didn’t have to worry about that many missions.  Some characters dealt with things better than others; ships with not quite as elite equipment as my main characters’ ships (and my definition of elite has a pretty low bar) had trouble with some fights-I still won, but they were long and drawn out affairs.  So I’ll have lots of characters who will now be in striking distance of the new maximum level of 65.

Okay, enough prologue!  Read on for a brief synopsis and my thoughts!

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Hm, Since There’s Double XP Just Lying Around….

I’ve mentioned recently that, thanks to the Victory is Life expansion coming next week for Star Trek Online, I’ve been reluctant to start up a new character for the other games I frequent.  This is because I didn’t want to get involved with those characters and then put them back on the shelf for what may-or-may-not be an extended period.  So I was on the fence as to what to do about it.

The answer came to me over the weekend.  Star Trek Online has a double XP event going on right now, up until next Monday-it’s like they want you to be ready for the expansion, right?  And it occurred to me that I have loads and loads of alts there (not quite to the level of my CoH roster of characters at their height, but it could still get there), most of which are sitting at approximately level 50.  The reason for that is this:  at the time I did most of these characters, level 50 was the maximum level-and for the other characters, the Delta Rising XP grind was so ugly that I couldn’t bring myself to go through the abuse again and again to get them to level 60, the current maximum level.

But that was then, and this is now.  The XP grind was made less onerous, and the double XP event means that it’s conceivable to get two levels per episode completed.  That means, at worst, I’d have to do five episodes per character.  And that’s not necessarily a difficult thing.  So, I’ve decided to start pushing some of my older character through to level 60.  None of my main characters have this issue-which means, my primary Federation, Klingon, Romulan, and 23rd Century characters-but I have a lot of other characters, including some who have been with me since the very first week of the game’s existence.

I figured it was time that I brush the dust off of them and give them a spin again.  Unfortunately, there’s always a catch:  some of these characters have been on the shelf for so long, they still are using the kits that existed before the kit revamp-which effectively means they have no kits now, since those old kits are just lumps.  Some of them have been on the shelf long enough that their skill points are completely reset, so I have to go in and allocate them again (and some predate the skill revamp).  And that’s to say nothing of the fact that their power trays are screwed up so I have to rebuild those to fit their abilities and any kit modules I pick up on the way.  Heck, one character even had a bunch of missions that can’t be acquired anymore, but were still available to play.  (Disgustingly, that only applies to “doing the mission”.  There’s nobody to turn the mission into anymore in those examples, so there was no way to claim rewards.  One character even still had a mission to craft a Delta Flyer!)

So, we’re off!  I’ve pushed a couple of characters through to 60-for those who recall the “Cast List” posts (Hm, those should be due for a comeback…), they’d be General Fralex,  Raa’th, and Bill of Borg-and the next ones on my list are my remaining “Delta Rising” Delta Recruit characters, Xenon, and Dynah.  They’re at various interims between 50 and 60, and I suspect that I should be able to get both to level 60 before the event ends.  Maybe I can even get Vesehn the Reman too….

Calm Before Victory

I’ve hit a quiet moment on the MMO front recently.  I’ve taken a brief pause in Star Wars: The Old Republic, after completing my work on Anthrandos, before I pick up with Sorshan and get her wrapped up.  On the other hand, I’ve kind of held back on any major activity in Star Trek Online, because the “Victory is Life” expansion is coming up in a matter of a few weeks (no, I don’t have an official release date for it as of yet, except “June”, so playing the odds here.  I’m a bit dubious, since the last time I was on the test server, the lighting in DS9 was pitch black and it still hasn’t been fixed to my knowledge unless you’re using the more machine-intensive “Lighting 2.0”).  As a result, I don’t want to start a new chronicle when I’m already expecting to do so with the Jem’Hadar (which will probably be a very, very brief chronicle due to how they’re being handled).  I’ve spent a little bit of time with Captain Rick Masters there, my Temporal Agent, who I figured could use some reputation ground gear, and since he had maxed out his Temporal Agent reputation, it seemed sort of obvious.  So, I figured the best way to get temporal marks would be to hit the Badlands adventure zone.  I never covered it with Dathiro, because, well, it’s a max level zone, so by the time he could go there, I was done with him.

The general conceit is this:  the Terran Empire from the Mirror Universe is attempting a foothold in the Badlands, and you (along with everyone else in the zone) want to kick them out.  It’s pretty similar in nature to the Undine adventure zone, where your ships are attempting to capture sections of the zone, which has one of three possible minigames; those minigames make a reappearance when all the sections are captured, as three starbases from the Mirror Universe appear-including the Mirror DS9-which require you to pretty much do all of those minigames to shove them back to their universe.  After that, if you manage to push out all three, you get the big fleet battle as Mirror Universe ships assault, including the I.S.S. Enterprise.  For the most part, it’s pretty much the Undine zone with a Mirror Universe paint job.  It seems to still be reasonably popular, though; there were usually about 8-15 people in one instance, which is enough, with some effort, to do the job.  Thus, I’ve gotten Rick two thirds of the ground rep gear, and the third may get enough marks any day now.

But that’s pretty minimal activity needed on my part to log in, do a capture of a section to get the marks, and log out.  And since the expansion could be landing at any time, I’m not sure about starting something new and having it get interrupted almost immediately.  One possibility is a new Champions Online chronicle, but my concern is that it’ll wind up too similar to Willforge’s; while CO isn’t as linear as SWTOR and STO, it’s still got a fairly repetitive path.  Another is to commit myself to pushing Sorshan in SWTOR since I need to get her through anyway-although I’m not greatly concerned about timing on that, since it seems the next story content is months away.  EVE Online isn’t the best choice, since it really does require a certain level of commitment to the game that I’m not prepared to give.

So, decisions, decisions.  We’ll see what develops.

Sinking the Subs

Recently, Star Trek Online made an announcement that I found…well, interesting, anyway.

It was nestled in a post about their new “Elite Starter Pack”, which sits in the C-store for 1500 Zen.  It includes stuff like bank slots, retrain tokens, credit cap increases, a character slot, stuff like that.  In other words, all the stuff that would unlock if you were to subscribe for a month.  They would stick around forever, so a lot of people would subscribe for a month, and then cancel and reap the benefits of having all the unlocks.

Cryptic/PWE seems to have finally noticed it, and effectively scrapped monthly subscriptions in favor of this starter pack.

It doesn’t do anything to current subs; they can keep on with whatever plan they’ve got-but the only real benefit they’re gaining at this point is access to vet rewards as they reach the usual 100/200/300/etc day marks.  (Oh, right-and the stipend of 500 Zen per month.  Can’t forget that.)  Lifetimers are in the same boat, except they don’t have to worry about time-gated vet rewards, since they get them all immediately upon taking the lifetime sub.  The big thing, though, is if the monthly subscriber were to stop subscribing at any point…they can’t re-subscribe.  There’s no more monthly sub to subscribe to.

On the one hand, it’s a little baffling.  Why get rid of a revenue stream?  I mean, sure, they’re having to give out 500 Zen per month, but that’s countered by the fifteen dollar monthly sub fee (well, possibly less if you had gone with a different plan-discounts happened for subs in blocks greater than one month at a time).  And it sure doesn’t impact the lifetimers in any way (yet).  This also kills the vet reward program entirely for any new players.  Are the devs considering the vet rewards to now be lifetimer-exclusive?  It sure seems odd.

The only thing that makes sense to me is that they’re planning a new revenue model.  And that’s where the misgivings begin, because I can’t think of any that wouldn’t be worse than what was there.  I can’t believe that they plan to continue to exist based on Zen sales alone; even with the lockboxes, they can’t possibly be getting enough to balance out the lost monthly revenue stream…can they?  If that’s a true statement, then that implies they’re looking at monetizing something else.  And I’d bet you that it’ll be revealed just prior to or just after the Victory Is Life expansion.  (That sort of strategy worked so well for Star Wars Galaxies, didn’t it?)

I don’t know.  I have a sense of dread on this sort of thing-maybe it’s needless.  But I just don’t see an upside to Cryptic/PWE on stopping the subs without having something waiting in the wings that they think will earn them oodles of money.  They have a couple of “Gamma Packs” with goodies on sale that go live with the expansion, but I can’t figure on the influx of cash being quite enough to counterbalance the loss of the monthly revenues.

Maybe I’m wrong.  I’ve often said that what the monthly sub gets you wasn’t worth doing long-term, and maybe a lot of other players agreed on that.  Maybe they aren’t really losing anything by doing this.  I don’t have access to the account books.  But something is still a greater value than nothing, and that’s why this whole thing puzzles me.

Stay tuned.  I’m sure we’ll be hearing about things before summer ends.