Tuesday, January 26, 2010

End of Star Trek Online Beta

The servers are down right now, which in effect means the end of the beta for me as it's a WoW raid night tonight. All in all I think I was able to get in around 12 hours of play time but would have liked to have been able to put in many more as I was still short of LCDR rank. Only having risen to LT 5 there was still much of the game I never gained access to, though I poked around every nook and cranny I could see. My earlier impression about the game being more akin to a first person RPG still stands. While you may see other people running around in sector space you never interact with them, except in the smallest way -- i.e. joining in on public quests, etc. Reinforcing that feeling are the limited communication abilities. Perhaps I am wrong, but I never discovered any specific communication channels created when joined with others. In fact in whatever public quest I was running at the moment I hardly noticed I was actually grouped with anyone else at all as there didn't seem to be any tools to help coordinate the various ships joined together.

I also didn't get to participate in any PVP. I had really wanted to level to the point where I could create a Klingon and see what that was all about, but evidently fell short. The unfortunate aspect of the horrible AI evident in both the ground missions and the space missions makes me want to PVP all the more, where I'm thinking the real gem of this game may reside. At least that's my thoughts on it now and freely admit I may be wrong. If getting into PVP proves to be too hard then I really can't see myself staying around very long. The missions you're asked to run are of the most inane sort imaginable. Other than the sure amount of damage you can take from missions there simply is nothing difficult about them (in general) and they tend to become very boring very quickly. It's a simple matter of rotating your ship to preserve shields, using bridge officer skills and equipment to buff shields, limit the enemies ability to target you, and wear down their shields to kill them. Yet the enemy NPCs never seem to use any strategy or special abilities when combating you. They simply fly around in circles and shooting at you.

There is still the very nagging question in my mind regarding what the end goal of this game is. Perhaps that's simply a question of me being too low to discern, but the available information on the STO website and ingame certainly doesn't clear it up either. You complete missions and kill targets to accumulate different "currencies" and skill points. The skill point system looks interesting, but the currency required to "requisition" higher level ships seems pretty steep. The open question in my mind is is the purpose of the game to level up and acquire more currency to buy a better ship? Only to level up more and but a better ship? Eventually you'll get to the point where you're an Admiral and are flying around in that monster heavy Cruiser, or Fleet Escort ship. Then what? In WoW we have raiding. What does STO online have to occupy the players at the higher levels? Really wish someone could answer this question for me.

In any event those questions will all have to wait until the game launch. The beta was of the typical sort -- which is to say buggy, unstable, and ever changing. However one thing I was greatly surprised that Mythic did not have in place early was a queue system. A great deal of the instability over the weekend was due to the number of people logged in. There wasn't anything in place to keep players from logging in and making the servers unstable, requiring a hardware upgrade on Saturday and a queue test yesterday. These are the sorts of things that make me look back at previous Mythic MMOs and groan hoping those problems aren't to be had here either. Only time will answer this question as well.