Sunday, February 5, 2012

Star Trek Online: Supplemental

It's been about two weeks since I've returned to STO, and I wanted to go ahead and provide new links to some old information that is now very, very outdated for any new and/or returning players.  I'll also make some recommendations for new and old players in order to make playing the game a tad easier.

First, there is the shiny and new STO ship chart in all it's high res, rendered glory.  This chart is a huge step forward from the old wire-frame profile chart from about 2 years ago.  By the by, happy 2nd Anniversary Star Trek Online!  Also, for KDF players, here is the KDF version of the shiny and new ship chart.  Something you might notice on the Federation chart is a rather large ship for Vice Admiral/Lieutenant General (level 50) called the Odyssey Star Cruiser.  Everyone gets one as part of the 2nd Anniversary celebration.  (Hell yeah!)  You also might have noticed that a similar ship is conspicuously absent from the KDF chart.  Don't worry, they guys at Cryptic don't hate the Klingon faction; they just didn't have the designs for the Bortas (Vengeance) Class Star Ship ready for the latest graphical chart.  However I happen to have some images of the beast.  Many Bothans died to bring us...wait, wrong universe.  Here's the picture:

The picture isn't that great, however I can tell you from personal experience that while it turns like a wounded beached whale (just like the Odyssey) it's an amazing ship.  Like I stated earlier both the Bortas and the Odyssey are level 50 ships, so by the time you can use it you'll have the devices and console items necessary to make those boats real fighting machines.  And lets be honest; a free level 50 ship is hard to beat.  Especially when you look at the cost of the other level 50 ships.


Second, I want to talk about a tool that I loved back in the day that some wonderful lads over at Star Trek Online Academy have revamped to keep it updated to make it useful for players.  I am talking about the Skill Planner.  I cannot stress enough that if you're planning on creating a new character, or you need to respec an old one you need to visit the Skill Planner to make leveling your character up as easy as possible.  Now in the last two years, the folks at Cryptic have made changes to the skill tree; making it more streamlined and more user friendly...but the problem remains that if you aren't familiar with what abilities you're going to have access to at maximum level, you're apt to make mistakes on assigning points to the various skills you have to choose from.  This is where the Skill Planner comes in..or at least where it should come in.  You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the three classes available to play and the basic roles they each perform.  Tactical officers will focus primarily on dealing out massive quantities of damage, however Tactical officers cannot take massive amounts of damage.  I often refer to them as "glass cannons".  I don't play as a Tactical officer with either faction.  I find that the inability to take hits from large groups of enemies is a huge drawback...because I like to solo!  It's a personal choice.  My brother, Fred, started playing when the game went f2p, and he runs a Tac officer.  He enjoys it, but he likes it better when we're teamed up because I can take attention away from him.  Engineering officers fill the "tanking" role that is familiar with most MMO players.  This class is what I would recommend to all new players because when you solo, you have the highest chance of survivability.  Finally there is the Science officer which focuses on buffs and debuffs (or you could call them expose attacks/abilities and exploit attacks/abilities).  Sci officers are not nearly as robust as Engineers, but with their enhanced shield abilities and enhanced shield recharge rates they can take slightly more damage than Tac officers, but they still don't do as much damage as Tac officers. 

To summarize, each class is superior in one of three areas: Damage, Defense, Expose/Exploit.  Tactical officers are superior damage, moderate defense, weak expose/exploit.  Engineers are superior defense, moderate expose/exploit, weak damage.  Science officers are superior expose/exploit, moderate damage, weak defense.  Yes, I said weak defense.  And I'll tell you why.  With the way shields behave vs hitpoints for your ship, shields don't really fall in to a defense category.  Science officers get more access to abilities to buff/enhance their shields than any other officer, but other than those abilities shields are the same for all classes.  Defense comes from the ships you pilot.  And Science officer ships have the least crew and hitpoints.  As soon as a Science officer's shields are down, the ships they are in tend to explode quickly, and beautifully.

Now that I've said all that, let me continue on with my point.  My point is that after you decide what class you want to play, you ought to spend the time looking at all the abilities your class is granted, and what abilities your class will allow you to train your Bridge Officers with, and plug all that information in to the STO Academy Skill Planner.  The important skills for your planned build will be marked with star in the upper right-hand corner of each skill, and those you'll most likely want to have at least 6 ranks in each skill in order to unlock trainable abilities.  Each skill will also tell you what player/bridge officer abilities it affects (if any), and what power/damage/defense/shield bonuses it provides.

Unfortunately I don't feel that this is a game you can just jump in to blind.  Star Trek has always been the "thinking-man's sci-fi" and as such, I feel it needs a more logical and objective approach than other MMOs where you just roll up a character that sounds neat and hit the ground running.  Think of it like this: you're playing a character than is a graduate of the Starfleet Academy (or Klingon equivalent).  In that time, your character would have taken coursework leading him/her down whichever career path was best suited for the character.  The character would have the grounding in all those abilities that the player knows nothing about.  Everyone knows what a "fireball spell" is and how it works; regardless of what MMO you're playing, if you can cast a fireball they're pretty much all the same.  But who knows exactly what a Photonic Shockwave is and how it affects objects in space?  I didn't before I started playing, and really I should have taken the time to figure all that our before I fudged up my characters back with the original release 2 years ago.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of "d'oh!" when you realize you effed up your character 20 levels ago, and you haven't earned a respec for your character yet.  So your either scrap the character and start over, or you resign yourself to buying a respec...because playing a flawed character just hurts.

Live long, and prosper.

-Bonzo out

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello 2012

I believe this is my official first post for 2012; so happy new year and all that jazz!

Kicking off the new year I want to address a trend in the MMO world that I'm becoming more a fan of every passing day.  This trend is the "free-to-play MMO".  Developers are aware that we're still in a down economy with little to no end in sight, and as such more and more f2p games are coming out all the time.  I'm going to take some time to talk about a few that I keep coming back to, and one MMO that I used to play quite heavily that has just recently gone f2p.

As players have known for quite some time, Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO) has been f2p.  Turbine has a fantastic model for game developers to follow on how to make a free MMO work with balanced play and for-sale content.  I've stated in previous posts that Turbine allows all players (free and subscribers) to earn the currency that you can spend in the DDO store so there end up being few differences between free and subscribing players. Which is nice.

World of Tanks started out, and remains f2p for the player base.  And as previously stated, while I have enjoyed playing WoT quite a bit, restrict some of the in-game currency to RMT (real money transfer) thereby limiting their player base on what the players have access to.  As I've pointed out before this is essentially selling power.  Despite that, I still play the game because it is fun.  Well have recently announced that World of Warplanes will soon be available for closed beta testing.  Should their model for WoWP follow the model of WoT, WoWP will be in open beta not too long after the closed beta beings.  Needless to say I am waiting for the beta signups to start. have announced both the American and German Flight Trees, and have shown a few glimpses of the aircraft available; they have yet to announce what the third (or fourth) flight trees will be yet: Russian, Japanese, British, etc, and I am very excited to find out.  There have been rumors that since both WoT and WoWP will share account information and the "world" that when clan wars begin any clan with a success in WoWP will have an airstrike available to them in WoT.  I have no idea how feasible this is, but it is interesting.  I also have no idea if will continue to feature the three "classes" of craft.  In WoT you have tanks, tank destroyers, and Self-Propelled Guns aka artillery.  I can see having fighters and bombers filling the tank and SPG roles, but I really can't think of any aircraft that would fill the tank destroyer role.   Additionally, if the Brits don't have a substantial amount of warbirds in WoWP I may have to go with the American tree for two reasons: the F-4U Corsair and the P-51 Mustang.  Yummy.  As a final notation about the games have, they already have a website set up for World of Battleships.  I could easily see how the three "classes" of craft would fit in here. Battleships would be tanks, aircraft carriers would be SPGs, and submarines would be the tank destroyers.  There is almost no information available on WoB yet, but I'm sure you can tell I'll be on the lookout.

A new (to me) MMO that I've encountered is this fantastically amazing game called Vindictus.  Nexon have done a fantastic job with the graphics and the physics in this game.  The game currently features four playable "classes" that are gender locked (currently 2 male, 2 female) but despite that they are all pretty fun to play.  The storyline in the game is very well done, and the NPC interaction has been done in my opinion, brilliantly.  Only the players, and monsters in dungeons are fully rendered.  NPCs are simply 2D pictures that display different facial expression depending on the tone of the dialog.  Picking up new quests and turning in quests to/from NPCs is incredibly simple compared to other MMOs in a similar genre.  Take the time to play this, it is fantastic.  I'm on the West Server.

Finally this morning, I want to mention that Star Trek Online (STO) has finally gone f2p, with the official announcement this week.  Perfect World have a series of f2p games that I have tried out about a year ago and never bothered to post about because while they were graphically very pretty, after leaving the starter area and getting out into the rest of the game worlds, it felt like I was being forced into purchasing content in order to complete quests.  However very little has changed in STO since I last played.  Cryptic had made several updates to the game to make it more enjoyable and they increased the level cap (which is nice).  A note for anyone interested in playing STO now: after downloading the game and installing the game, it will auto prompt you for a CD key.  Do not fear!  Close down the installer at that point since it's complete and go create a log in through Perfect World.  You can get the link from the website for Star Trek Online.  If you happen to already have a Cryptic sign in, you can use your old username/password and log in to your old characters.  With a new account...well you know what to do.  Since so many changes have taken place during the time that I was away, I have elected to restart with some new characters, and I have to say that the game is just as, if not more, fun than when I played the first time.

I'll leave it at this point for now, but I want to encourage you to look at f2p MMOs, and to not just discount them because they are free to play.  Game developers are people too, they live in the same economy as the rest of us, and for the most part understand that gaming can be expensive - they're looking out for us too.

-Bonzo out