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Star Trek Online Went Free-to-Play Today

By on January 17th, 2012 12:43 pm

Star Trek Online is a sci-fi MMORPG set in the Star Trek Universe, in the same fashion as World of Warcraft is Warcraft’s MMO or Star Wars: The Old Republic is Star Wars’ MMO.

I didn’t play Star Trek Online yet but word is that it had a very rough release. Back then people stated that the game was very incomplete (at the time of release), featuring very repetitive gameplay and not offering enough content (lack of stuff to do). The game has received only average reviews and word again was that Star Trek fans, desperately wanting to have a MMO experience of the same caliber as other MMOs of that type, had a huge disappointment.

Almost 2 full years after release Cryptic Studios, under CBS Studios (that holds the Star Trek franchise trademark), seem to have decided to try to bring new life to its MMO by “re-releasing” Star Trek Online, now following a free-to-play business model. You can find the game’s features matrix here. There you can find what to expect if you decide to try and play the game for free (Silver Player credential) or fully featured (as a Gold Member).

STO Features (as in STO’s wiki)

  • Act as the captain of your own ship.
  • Control the ship’s engineering, tactical and science systems by keyboard/mouse or using an on-screen console.
  • “Beam down” and move around as a player character in various settings with access to weapons and specific support and combat skills relating to their own character’s class.
  • Two combat systems that get intertwined throughout the game: away-team missions feature fast-paced “run-and-gun” combat, while space combat stresses the long-term tactical aspect of combat between capital ships.
  • Star Trek storyline and emphasize ship positioning to efficiently utilize shields during space combat, as well as the player’s away team’s positioning in consideration of flanking damage and finding various weaknesses to exploit during ground combat.

I’m not much of a MMO guy myself so I think I’ll pass on this one too (as any other MMO for that respect in any case), but maybe you will find STO’s experience an enjoyable one, specially if you like to play online games and you’re a big fan of Star Trek.

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  1. Aristabulus says:

    I’ve been playing this a little since the F2P gates opened… Here’s what I’ve got so far:

    The character customization system is pretty solid. There are a handful of good presets, but you can fiddle with a lot of details in the advanced settings. Starship customization doesn’t have quite as many choices or options within each choice, but is still pretty good.

    Your starter ship is a Miranda-class vessel, as commandeered by Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek 2. (Light cruiser when it was a new hull in TOS era, would probably be reclassed as a destroyer in post-TNG era) It has two full cosmetic variants, and you can mix and match parts between them for a custom hull. Some of the more advanced hulls also have visual variants. The cash shop hulls only have one part set, as far as I can tell.

    The tutorial mission arc does a decent job of showing you How Things Work… but the writing is horrid. I won’t spoil anything, but it had me rolling my eyes more than a couple times. The two post-tut quest arcs I’ve done were a bit better.

    Ground combat is straightforward, with a good control scheme when your crosshairs are up (3rd person chase cam with 1st person FPS controls (mouse & WASD+). Space combat… is a little fussier. Acceleration and turning feels a little muddy at first. I had to turn on forced chase cam to keep my XYZ bearings. I wish I could zoom out far enough to play it from a “commanding from subspace” perspective. Otherwise, the conventions used in both combat types are pretty standard for MMOs. Target locks, cooldown timers, etc.

    The window dressings of the game are very much Trek, but there’s no mistaking that you’re in a mumorperger. You can always tell the PCs from the NPCs by how they’re moving; clogs of PCs around warp-in points; mostly useless public chat.

    The installer is about 3.5 GB, and it’ll want to patch another 500 MB or so on first run. I’ve been running it with default (good-ish) video settings @ 1920×1080 on my nothing special dual-core with minimal framerate chugging. Some of the load screens between zones seem long, but that might just be my crappy rural connection.

    I’ve noticed some dynamic patching while I play, don’t know if that’s affected load times (maybe) or gameplay (probably not). The download handler (dedicated closed circuit torrent, essentially) also left a process running that was seeding even when the game wasn’t running. (Pando Media Booster, “PMB.exe” process in XP) I don’t have a problem with seeding per se, though it would’ve been nice if the installer had explicitly declared that bit. I mention it mainly because it might matter for overall performance for someone.

    Is it worth trying out? Probably, if you’re not dead set against mumorpergers. Is it worth spending money on? Magic 8 Ball says “reply hazy, ask again later.”

    • Adam Solo says:

      So, after all that explanation (which I thank you for), did you have fun or not? :) That’s the most important part.

      It was the first time I saw the term mumorpergers (boy, hard to write). I understand it is some kind of parody term to MMORPGs? What exactly does it mean?

    • Aristabulus says:

      I’ve only put in about 5 or 6 hours, not rushing on anything, so it’s still a little early for truly measuring fun. In a way, I’m still killing rats with my Waterlogged Club -1. ;) I haven’t ragequitted yet, which I suppose is a good sign…

      Mumorperger is something I picked up from watching Zero Punctuation. Yahtzee uses it as a pejorative, and I mostly use it as one also. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have picked it up at all if not for the Star Trek wrapper. :)

      • Adam Solo says:

        Ok :)
        Yes, if you’re hanging there in the “killing rats” phase then it’s definitively a good sign.
        Same feeling here. As it is Star Trek I installed it (Am I losing my mind, I installed a MMORPG?!!) Hehe. I didn’t have a go yet though, that’s why I was asking if you’re having fun.

  2. Abinns2 says:

    I have played Star Trek Online since open beta, and i can say the game is fun when you have missions and such but the game gets really boring due to the long travel times to mission locations I am a huge trekkie but sto lacks the core star trek ideals i understand the need for action for the casual gamer but true trekkies hate this game all you do is fight. you have some diplomatic missions but they are so dull you have no choices that cause a different outcome with each choice. since this game has gone freeish to play i predict i will die a slower death but it will die.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Boy, so much drama. But who knows probably you’re right. This means that this is the perfect MMORPG for me to try since it seems I’m not in risk of staying numb for years playing a MMO :D

      I played my first 30min of STO just now. I liked it. Was better then I was expecting, but then again I was not expecting much so that helps. I had fun, I will return to play a bit more. See what’s happening? But it’s Star Trek, so I need to try again at least a couple of times more. If not for a long time at least to experience the good Star Trek atmosphere. It does really feel that you’re part of the Star Trek world playing STO. At least for the first 30 min it does :)

    • Abinns2 says:

      Also check out the Foundry missions i will admit i played one yesterday and it was better than the crap Cryptic releases forgot its name but it was a very popular mission took over 3hrs to complete due to the reading, and like the series it has more dialouge than combat which is a plus.

    • Aristabulus says:

      I haven’t been minding the travel times. For short hops, it’s enough to deal with duty officer stuff. For longer ones, I can go AFK and get a snack or use the WC.

      I’ve only glanced at the foundry, but it looks decent; a parallel to player made modules in NWN1. I was gonna save those for last… There’s a lot of things to do in STO, quest-wise. I daresay too much.

  3. Aristabulus says:

    I hit L10 (start of Lt. Commander) shortly before logging out, and I got a freebie ship upgrade… so don’t pinch your pennies thinking you’ll need to buy a new ride.

    A lot of the interesting gear binds when you equip it, but don’t fret over that. If it’s useful, use it. If it’s not, sell it off and use the scrip for something you can use. The only thing I’ve really needed to buy so far was a couple of 360 degree turrets for my new ship. (most weapons are limited arc)

    • Abinns2 says:

      You buy ships with energy credits ingame they used to give ship tokens, but the item shop ships usually have a special ability that is sometimes worth the money. also you can sell dilithium for c-points

    • Aristabulus says:

      A player can double click on the the upper left where it shows your level and rank, it’ll show you what sort of automatic rewards each level gets you.

      The game is already starting to develop cracks in the facade for me… Combat is _very_ mumorperger; find mob in comically open spaces, pull aggro, spam whatever you’ve got until someone falls down. (doesn’t matter if it’s ground or space.) They designed space movement so the maximum plusZ or minusZ you can go is 45 degrees, with no good reason why a _space_ game is limited like that. Some of the writing is really immersion-breaking. The various technical glitches have not been helping either.

      There appears to be a proper Iron Curtain between free players and the cash shop stuff… absolutely no way to get your hands on any of it without spending money. I’m not surprised, but a little sad. (Kingdom of Loathing doesn’t do that, and I think it’s a better game for it. KoL’s equivalent of cash shop stuff is accessible at some price even without money.)

      Overall, I’m unlikely to spend any money on STO, and probably won’t hang around long enough to max out my Federation toon. Ultimately, a lot of the criticism I’ve heard over the last two years is accurate.

    • Aristabulus says:

      @Abinns: Where can you trade dilithium for C-points? I’ve not found it, but I haven’t checked out every nook and cranny yet.

    • Aristabulus says:

      Doh, found it. I’m really not fond of the mini-map / menu ‘s so small and crowded. The only way to make it larger is to make _everything larger. :P

      I suppose the Dilithium Exchange makes it a little less bleak, but with the limit on refinement, you can only generate about 28 c-points a day…. very grindtastic.

    • Abinns2 says:

      Also look me up ingame my Tag is Omni@omnivore lol

  4. csebal says:

    /me points at all those people who bought the lifetime subscription for mere 260 USD and say (using my best Nelson imitation)


    Nah seriously though, considering how well free to play schemes are working, I’m still not entirely sure why MMOs are made with the classic subscription model. the new star wars MMO will also go down the drain IMO and either go free to play or get closed.

    • Adam Solo says:

      Yes, it seems like there’s really no other way now. The pandora box was opened, so now as you say every MMO must begin as, or go, free to play in order to succeed. WoW is now FTP, STO also went FTP. So will SWTOR probably in not much time.

    • Abinns2 says:

      MOst game companies want that constant stream of revenue so they start out as a p2p model then switch to f2p but most games are not realy free to play you need to spend money on gear and other items to keep up with other players that can afford to spend money like that.

      As someone once told me there is no such thing as free to play.

      • Adam Solo says:

        It definitely isn’t “free to play everything the game offers”. That’s why they are not “free” games but “free to play games”. However it sure is a very clever marketing line since it may confuse some less experienced players to believe that the game actually is free, which is not of course, at least not the full game.

        But if you look at it what would be the best alternative names for these kind of game’s business models? Free to trial is not accurate since you can play indefinitely. What some people do, in the Android market for example, is to call those F2P games as “Lite” (light versions of the full games).

        If I’m not mistaken this all free-to-play business stuff started with the smaller companies (mostly browser games indie studios) in order to attract the biggest audience for their projects as they could and then try to cash-in on that. Now, applied to the “AAA” online titles this seems to be an unstoppable (and unavoidable) force. I don’t have a firm position yet on this subject but currently I have nothing against F2P, by the contrary. As long as long as it’s crystal clear what you get and don’t get.

    • Aristabulus says:

      P2P carries a certain amount of up front commitment from both the devs and the players… In theory, the devs are getting a fairly predictable revenue stream, and the players are getting a fairly predictable content stream. The reality has been much uglier for a lot of releases. The VG industry is all too willing to shovelware an incomplete game out the door, and a lot of goodwill has been burned because of that… and not just in the present, but future goodwill is lost from the whole industry also. Only terminally stupid people keep buying crappy products.

      F2P is free at the door… but depending on who is running it, you may be getting hassled to buy things on every menu (D+DO); you may be treated like a third class citizen if they are using a Freemium model and you don’t sub (STO, others); there may be a hard limit on how far you can progress without spending any money, either extrinsically by pay-wall (Hellgate) or intrinsically by how the power levels scale vs. the challenges (a lot of the Eastern “pay to win” games).

      Some F2P games do well at not being greedy bastards… KoL just wants to keep their cool quirky little game going. League of Legends is low key with their spend-money-push, and IIRC there’s nothing in their cash shop that alters gameplay balance; it’s all cosmetics.

      The difference between P2P and F2P is partly ideological. The motivation for making a game F2P is purely financial, especially if it’s converting after starting P2P. For some, it’s a way to get players in the game without demanding they cough up money for the box and then more for the sub. For others… they see it as a way to remove the ceiling on how much they can wring out of each person that opens their wallet (chasing the “Zynga whales”, as it were).

      For STO specifically, I’d say it’s a combination of the above… The game was really half baked at launch, the devs didn’t hold up their end of the bargain content-wise, and a lot of gaming Trekkies were offended. (“…prevented from holding up…” is probably more accurate; recent interviews suggest that Atari didn’t support Cryptic well prior to Perfect World Entertainment taking the reins) There were a lot of bugs at launch, and there are still a lot of bugs in the current game. Numerous visual glitches, inconsistent responses from input, broken daily missions, etc.

      And all that is before you get into Bad Design Decisions, which I will not try to cover here. >_>

      If not for F2P and PWE, I believe STO would probably be in a shallow unmarked grave by now… Though I’m starting to wonder if that’s where it really belongs. :P

      @ Adam: I think it’ll be at least a year before EA even considers going F2P with SWTOR. Too much money was spent on making it, and EA wants to recoup their costs.

    • Adam Solo says:

      ” @ Adam: I think it’ll be at least a year before EA even considers going F2P with SWTOR. Too much money was spent on making it, and EA wants to recoup their costs. ”

      You’re probably right because MMOs based on strong franchises should manage to pull off paid-subscriptions-only, at least for a while. Star Wars is probably as big as a franchise cat get anyhow. And if the game is very good (contrary to STO as it seems to be) then maybe they will be able to stretch that for 6 months more or a full year. But, eventually they will be forced to adopt F2P, unless their game is better then WoW or something revolutionary.

  5. Aristabulus says:

    As could be inferred from my last comment, STO has not been faring well in my assessments… the more I play, the more it’s looking like a pig wearing lipstick. :P The bugs and glitches are numerous and pervasive. It feels like I find at least one new bug/glitch every time I run a mission.

    I started a Klingon toon last night, and during the first space combat segment the camera flipped out and started spinning like a top. >_< I damn near ragequitted at that, as the Bird-of-Prey I was flying had narrow firing arcs. I muddled through by using the big map to keep my bearing on the target, and only had to respawn twice. On the just-out-of-tutorial first mission. :P

    I've gone from playing Star Trek Online to playing Starfleet Pimp Online. I log in briefly a couple times a day to flog my duty officers, and that's it. I still need to do a little digging for the sake of understanding some of the gameplay structures in place, but I'm unlikely to spend any more real time playing, and they will never get a dime of my money.

    I doubt that I'm unique in my experience…. This does not bode well for Cryptic.

    • Adam Solo says:

      From your words it seems that STO will definitely die fast as Abinns2 (a fan) was also suggesting above. It would be great to have more opinions on the game though. Is there anyone here who likes to play STO? :)

  6. Eric says:

    I’ve started playing again after getting playing the first few months it was out and the difference is night and day. The amount of content has at least tripled and that’s not including the hundreds of foundry missions (many of which are actually good). I’ve had almost no problems (one bug that was resolved by zoning out and back in with no lost progress) and it runs great at 1920×1200 with most everything maxed. They’ve also fixed about 10 pages of problems from launch.

    As for the cash shop this is the first F2P game where you can probably play all the way to max level, get regular upgrades on the way and never spend a penny. The vast majority of cash shop items are cosmetic and you still get your free upgraded ship at 10-20-30-40. Also every bit of content is available from the start with the exception of the Klingon side where you have to hit lvl 25 first on the federation side.

    Can’t deny it’s not rough around some edges but there are regular updates and the devs seem to be kicking into high gear again and fixing a lot of problems Atari never cared about. Also, this is also written by someone who is a Star Trek geek so take it as you will :) I can say that unlike SWTOR I actually feel like I’m in the ST Universe (even if it is the new Universe from the latest movie).

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