Emergent Gameplay

So you’re trying to hide from the Tzenkethi and you brought the crystals they’re looking for here? ARE YOU ALL IDIOTS!?

Season 14 for Star Trek Online has landed!  So let’s take a peek at where things are at with the latest release.

This season, with the moniker of “Emergence”, is appropriate in so many ways.  The most obvious one is that we finally get to see what’s behind the maniacal quest of the Tzenkethi to wipe out planets with protomatter weapons.  Obviously, some kind of crystals are involved, based on the events of previous Episodes, but in the new feature “Melting Pot”, secrets are laid bare.  Partially because the new colony of the Kentari and Lukari decided to examine some odd crystals from the moon of their new colony world.  Which, of course, matched the composition of the ones that are being targeted by the Tzenkethi.  You get warned that the scientists are eccentric, but man, does THIS take the cake.

Fortunately, you aren’t alone.  As indicated in the last episode released, Geordi La Forge is here, along with the Lukari Captain Kuumaarke.  Like proud parents, they’re happy to show off the colony that they hope will be the new home for a reunited Kentari and Lukari species.  Enjoy the tour while you can.  Not only is it going to become ground zero, but it’s also the last time you’ll see it so pretty unless you’re in a large active fleet.  This colony is also the new Fleet Holding, which is more on the scale of the Starbases than others like the Mining Asteroid or Romulan Embassy.  I’ll hold off on any long term judgments as to how doable even getting tier 1 is, but I’ve not heard encouraging things.  (Small, mostly inactive fleets like, say, the one I’m in is probably right out.)  Also like the Starbases, you will see the colony go from a skeletal framework to something to be proud of as it advances in tiers.  One of the more interesting aspects of this holding is being able to trigger a Tzenkethi invasion where up to ten captains can try to repel.  This requires access to tokens gained via fleet projects.  How well this would work out for small fleets, I’m not entirely sure.

This was sadly predictable.  I admire La Forge’s ability to remain cool with things blowing up all around him.

The episode itself is another one that has a feel of the Next Generation series, although it still has more of those “phaser everything!” moments that you don’t expect from the series.  Maybe from the films….  If it weren’t for the revelations that take place during the episode, I would’ve said this was just to taunt players with what the colony world holding will look like when it’s fully built.  It’s probably mildly spoiler-ish, but I’ll also say that it is also refreshing to find a rational Tzenkethi who does something crazy and actually TALKS to you.  (This is a good thing.  Because maybe those Tzenkethi actually have a good reason for going nuts with protomatter weapons….)

Of course, there’s a little bit more with the new Season than just a fleet holding and an episode.  There’s a new specialization geared towards the Engineering branch:  Miracle Worker.  Guess you can’t guess who inspired that name.  I haven’t had any characters put points into it yet (I may have Dathiro go into it, should I take him that far), but from what I can tell from looking at the tree, it feels like a very defensive sort of tree that will see best expression on a ship that can do lots of healing and take lots of damage.  In other words, cruisers and the like.  I haven’t looked at the kits available for this specialization yet, so can’t speak to that-but the fact that it does have a ground component is a welcome sign.  Likewise, I haven’t seen a ship with Miracle Worker bridge slots yet, but you can be sure it’s coming soon.  There’s also a new pair of queues:  the Dranuur Beach Assault, which is a ground scenario where ten captains can push the Tzenkethi off planet (this is double the usual number for a ground queue) for level 50+ characters, and the Dranuur Gauntlet, a battle in space to stop the invading fleet from an assault before defenses can push them back, for level 60 characters.  Finally, there’s a new Red Alert available where the Tzenkethi are out to protomatter bomb more planets out of existence-so your ship is called upon to help repel the attacks, for level 50+ characters.  I will probably at some point detail my thoughts on each of those as I put a character or two through them.

So there’s a lot going on with the new Season under the belt.  The major storylines that have been building have started to converge here, and it’ll be interesting to see where things lead from here.

A further note:  “Beyond the Nexus” has apparently been placed, of all places, prior to “Temporal Ambassador” for all factions.  This seems to me to be one of the dumber places they can put this mission.  In the first case, 2409 is a year prior to when the Nexus was supposed to be back in the neighborhood again, and the kickover to 2410 tends to be during the Delta Rising stuff, if memory serves.  I suppose there could be some wiggle room to work with, though, particularly in light of the fact that we never really know how late into 2409 the game starts, or the exact timing of the Nexus’s last visit (was it near the beginning or end of its trip through the area at that time?).  Secondly, while the devs managed to remove comments on the Lukari/Kentari (which by this time haven’t been met yet), he mentions having met you again-I’m not sure when the first time was.  His ship did appear in a previous mission, but unless that mission got updated to include comments from La Forge, I’m not sure that really qualifies.  Have to make a note to replay that one and see if something happens.


Emerging from the Far Side of the Galaxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Building Character: On To The Third!

Over the weekend, Xenon became my second Delta Recruit in Star Trek Online to finish up his run through the pre-Solonae content, and wrap up his temporal investigation arc.  And unlike Raa’th, my Gorn representative, my Romulan completed all the tasks available for the Delta Recruits (Raa’th didn’t because he’s not a part of a fleet; given that all the rewards for that action are fleet holding related, I’m not losing sleep).

Commander Xenon with his crew

Commander Xenon with his crew

So that leaves me with my final recruit, Dynah the Starfleeter.  She’s likely to start up in earnest sometime later this week.

Where did I leave Xenon?  Well, Xenon didn’t get as high as Raa’th did-Raa’th was level 55 in the end, while Xenon was at 53.  Xenon chose a Piloting primary specialization, and went with a Command secondary.  Why do I mention the secondary?  Well, stupid me, I didn’t consciously realize that by simply selecting a secondary, the character got a baseline benefit.  I’m going to have to go through my characters and check to see if their secondary specializations make sense to me.  Well, I never claimed to be anywhere near perfect, anyway.  Unlike Kelleth-my KDF main who flies a Bortasqu’ cruiser-Xenon didn’t pick up the Piloting primary to compensate for a weakness.  He did it to enhance what he already had.

Which is to say, this.

I’m not sure if it was something that slipped under my radar back in the day when I was first messing with Romulans after the Legacy of Romulus expansion or if it happened later, but I don’t recall retrofit starships available as Tier-5 starships for the Romulans.  But this fact meant that I didn’t have to grab one of the Scimitar variants-again, half the point of me messing around with the Delta Recruit thing was to do stuff that I don’t usually do.  So since I had a tactically minded captain, I went with a tactically minded sort of ship-the Mogai Retrofit.  These babies are already pretty maneuverable, so tacking on even more from Piloting seemed like it could be an interesting thing to do.  Plus, with the vet material and patterns, it looks pretty cool too-at least it does to me.

So Xenon’s in a good place.  One last thing I haven’t really worked on to wrap things up for him is to finish up his Mark XI tactical kit; it’s got four Strategic modules in it and 1 Assault module-but I haven’t gotten enough Strategic modules to slot in yet.  I could buy common versions to slap in, but I’m stubborn that way.  Plus, heaven knows when I’ll come back to Xenon-after all, the target in all of this is to finish the Delta Recruitment associated missions, and I’m working on the last of the three.  I haven’t planned far enough ahead on what to do next-I haven’t done the new Iconian queues yet, and haven’t even researched them, but I figure it’d be nice to get at least one character to the point where he tops out the Iconian reputation-and it’ll probably be Kelleth, since he’s effectively the top dog for now.

On a side note, my fleet is finally constructing its Industrial Fabricator at its starbase to tier 2, which is a significant step to pushing the base itself to tier 3.  Looking at pushing the science projects next.  Ironically, the big roadblock here isn’t the Dilithium (yet); it’s the duty officers.  Fortunately, I’ve been leveraging alt characters to help out on that, and other members of the fleet have been helping out there too (I think one of them snuck in roughly half of what we needed in one day for the fabricator).  The Tactical projects will be expensive, but it has the benefit of already being at tier 2 and working to tier 3-and the starbase doff guy allows purchase of common Tactical doffs.  And my Starfleet main has racked up a heap of fleet credits over the long, long months of work-so at least that’s one issue that’s not a major concern.  I can’t begin to guess on when the fleet will reach its goal, but I feel certain that it’ll get there.

Building…Other Stuff

Things have gone pretty well lately for my primary characters in Star Trek Online.  Since the last Building Character post, both my Romulan and my Starfleet mains have reached top level, and the Romulan finished the Delta Rising episode arc.  The Starfleet main has a couple of missions to go before wrapping; if I’m not done with him this weekend, I’ll be surprised.  It’ll be just in time to run through the new episode that’s coming very, very soon, and as will be the case going forward, it’ll be KDF first, Romulan second, and Starfleet third.

As the characters reach their individual apex, though, I look at a bigger goal now.

As mentioned a couple of times in the past, the characters (well, not the Klingon) are in a Fleet, and the Fleet has a couple of Fleet Holdings that have advanced to something resembling something.  It has a tier-2 Starbase, and a tier-1 Embassy.  The Starbase has been my primary bit of work and I let it wind down after getting to tier-2 (with help, admittedly).  Another Fleet member was the primary driver on getting the Embassy to tier 1 (with some help, admittedly-including a bit from me).  But the idea of getting the Starbase to tier-3 is one that’s been in the back of my head for a while.

Why?  Well, first and foremost…vanity.  The appearance of the Starbase changes with the tier it’s in, and a tier-3 base looks more impressive than tier-2.  Second, also of note, is the availability of a special Tailor in the Starbase, which unlocks new uniform variants for members of the Fleet.  It’d be nice to have that available.  And thirdly, by getting to tier-3, it requires getting to tier-2 in a couple other sub-branches (eg. Tactical, Engineering, Science) which opens up some more neat stuff like fleet equipment-and of course, one of those branches will need to go to tier-3 as well (Tactical being the leading contender, but we’ll see).

The downside is:  it’s not exactly easy.  It either requires a big investment in common duty officers or a big investment in Dilithium just to get to the point where you can start the upgrade projects.  And there’s a heap of an investment in those upgrade projects-it took forever to get the Embassy to Tier-1 on that upgrade project alone.

All that said:  these challenges are not insurmountable.  It just takes time.  I do have a fair number of alts in the Fleet, including a pair of Romulan Republic characters-this helps me get past the duty officer issues in a way, since each of them can run recruitment duty officer missions; heck, the Romulan ones can run twice as many since they have the Romulan versions of the missions as well as the Starfleet versions.  The various materials only cost energy credits, and I’ve got reserves as far as that goes.  Even Fleet Marks needed may not be horrible-as I’ve completed various reputation grinds, I’ve started taking Fleet Marks instead of assorted Reputation Marks if given the choice.  Finally, the recent Crystalline Catastrophe event allowed me to have a number of characters get 50K Dilithium each, to a grand total of 200K; in the past, I’ve used the event to get the real vanity special projects, where it added decor to assorted holdings.  This time…I’m holding onto it for the big upgrade projects, which require a heap of Dilithium.  Conservatively speaking, we’re talking nearly 1.2 million Dilithium.  Good thing I won’t need this all at once; it would take 148 days to refine Dilithium rewards on a single character to get that much.  It’s also a good thing that the plan is to spread mass gains like from the Catastrophe across multiple characters.  And heck, some of those spare marks from the Reputation grind can be turned in for Dilithium….

Clearly, this is not a goal that’s going to happen overnight.  Thanks to a couple other built-in limits (like how often I can run recruitment missions), it’ll take some months to do.  But you know, I’m not going anywhere-and heck, depending on how things go with Delta Recruitment, I may or may not have a new character to feed stuff into the grinder.  That’s sort of iffy, though, since I’m probably building a KDF guy for it.  On the other hand, I am an altoholic….

As a closing note, I’m not the only one who messes with the possibilities of expanding holdings; at least two others in the Fleet have looked at stuff to upgrade; one did the work to upgrade the Embassy to Tier-1, while the other is presently putting effort into getting the Dilithium Mine to Tier-1.  All of the holdings are uphill tasks for my Fleet, but we’re in no hurry.  We’ll get there.

How Much Grind Is Too Much?

  Star Trek Online has begun hyping its next major publish in “Season 8: The Sphere”.  The intent on it is to advance the game’s storyline with regard to the “Big Bad” that’s been hinted at since day one (which I’ll keep my mouth shut on just in case there are folks who don’t want to know because they haven’t gotten that far in the game yet), and bring in a few more Voyager elements.  Previous content has hit on many of the Trek series, with Deep Space Nine being a bit favored, but not neglecting Next Generation and the Original Series, but Voyager hasn’t gotten much love.  And that’s not shocking-most of its goodness was in the Delta Quadrant, and that’s a long way from the setting of STO.  Nonetheless, things are coming in a big way.

The Next Fleet Holding. Yeah, It’s Big.

  One of the things coming is a new reputation system (eg. individual grind) and a new fleet holding (eg. fleet grind).  This is in addition to the grinds that already exist in STO.  To put it in perspective:  there are no less than four individual reputations on an ongoing basis:  Omega from dealing with Borg content, New Romulus from dealing with the Tau Dewa content, Nukara from dealing with Tholian related content (mostly in the Nukara system-shocker!), and now the new one for Season 8.  Most of that requires separate marks to gain, along with dilithium (usually), and energy credits which are the basic currency-or items purchased with said credits.  And they tend to require a lot of them.  THEN, if you’re in a fleet, you have similar projects to deal with for your fleet:  the starbase, an embassy on New Romulus, and a dilithium mine-and now a new holding with Season 8.  Those projects also tend to require significant resources, including duty officers and fleet marks gained by doing fleet content (well, group content, that is.  It’s an interesting fact of life that you don’t actually need to be in a fleet to get fleet marks).

  God help you if you have multiple alt characters….

  Still, it seems from reports coming from the Tribble test server that things may not be as horrid as they sound.  Maybe.  While the fleet holding may still require heaps of grind, it appears that the devs are looking at ways to make individual reputation less of a horror for alt characters.  This includes a different means of accounting for doing the new content to replace the marks currency for that holding (which may or may not carry over in the future to existing reputations), and will also include at the top reputation a project to create a special voucher to give to another of your characters to give them double reputation xp, which would mean the work required would be cut down dramatically in terms of projects needed to advance reputation.  (How that would translate to actual cost is a bit dicier; I don’t believe it’s a 50 percent discount as a result, but it’s still a pretty significant chunk.)

  The grind exists on multiple games, and it’s pretty much par for the course.  The challenge has always been to find a way to disguise it in some way, to make it seem like less of a grind.  Star Trek Online hasn’t done the best job of it, but it isn’t exactly the worst, either (I remember WoW grinds).  Grinding may be one of those necessary evils, however.  Given the proportion of time it takes for a developer to create content versus the amount of time it takes for a player to complete it…well, it’s in the best interests of developers who don’t want to go mad to have content that can be repeated often so that players have something to work towards before the next big content push.

The Purity Foundry arc

  Fortunately, at least in STO, there is always something else around if you’re willing to look.  The Foundry, which allows dedicated players to play missions designed by other players, and while most sadly share an attribute with the old Architect Entertainment woes in City of Heroes-as in, many farming missions of one sort or another-the ones spotlighted by the devs tend to be of better quality, such as the current “Foundry Feature” episodes by the folks at StarbaseUGC.  With the Foundry having spotlight episodes for both Starfleet and the Klingons, there’s at least something that gets pointed out every week which can make for a nice break from the grind.

  Late Breaking Edit:  Seems that my post is timely.  A few hours after the original posting, Cryptic puts up a blog on the new Reptutation, including the part about the doubled rep xp vouchers.