Star Trek Scrambles To Yellow Alert

CRYPTICCCC!

As we’re hitting the one-month point for STO, which is a significant milestone for every MMO, two questions loom above all.  How many people are sticking around for a second month of a paid subscription, and what is Cryptic doing or promising to convince them to do so?

I think it’s significantly telling that I haven’t read anyone who’s absolutely delighted with the amount of content in the game right now, particularly at the level cap — which several folks have hit without breaking a sweat.  Sure, there’s delight in aspects of what the game has to offer and many voices happy with the space combat, the Star Trek feel and the ownership of a ship, but that doesn’t stretch to blanket the whole package.  It’s merely parts that are clung to instead of embracing it all.

For me, STO became a complete Champions Online redux, with all its highs and lows.  Its combat is solid, graphics attractive, and gameplay aimed right at the casual player.  Yet it was obviously launched too soon, it’s too instanced to give the feeling of a cohesive universe, sector space is an atrocious way to navigate, their microtransactions a PR bruise, and the end game skimpier than spring break on Miami Beach.  Whatever the  reason for shoving it out the door quickly — and then defending the move as saying how brilliant they were for  bring a MMORPG to market in two years — they’re now tasked with both running a live game and scrambling to shore up its weak spots.

Personally?  I don’t hate the game.  It’s fun for what it is.  But what it is is not a $15/month title.  What it is is half-baked, and needs more time in the oven.  I think that, like Champions, players coming to STO a year from now will find a far more mature and fully-fleshed out title — and fewer players than they’d like.

So let’s take a look at what Cryptic is doing, particularly with their new community relations focus, on getting STO to where it needs to be.  They recently sent out a survey to current players — which they incentivized by giving players 240 Cryptic Points for filling out (the cost of the Federation Klingon race) — and Tipa has a terrific response on her blog to this.

You can’t help but read their latest State of the Game post and not hear this as a direct plea for players to stay in the game.  As always, it’s easy to promise the sky in regards to the indefinite future, so with that disclaimer, let’s take a look:

  • They emphasize just how hard they’re working.  This is a plea for sympathy and also reassurance that they’re not sitting on their laurels.  I don’t envy any dev team in the first month of launch, and I can’t blame them for trying to communicate just how it is on their side.
  • They’re continuing to increase server capacity and stability, and shorten queues — all good, all necessary, all fundamentally unforgivable if players can’t play what they’re paying for.
  • The big promises with an indefinite timeline: Respec, Death Penalty, Difficulty Slider, More open auto-fire, Replayable missions, Improving Memory Alpha, Fixing those Commodity missions.  All of these are significant issues that almost every STO player will agree need to be fixed or implemented, and it’s great that at least Cryptic is acknowledging them.  BUT.  I want to take a rolled-up newspaper to the side of their head for making lighting strike twice by messing up the whole “respec” thing two games in a row.  Is there a reason they couldn’t anticipate this?  Or why they neglected to create a death penalty until after the game launched?
  • As has been said, Memory Alpha is a huge joke of a “crafting” system, and man, they need to get that black mark off their record sooner rather than later.  You know it’s bad when you don’t even hear any marketing spin for what they think are its good angles.  It’s the very definition of a half-assed feature put into a game just to have another bullet point on the back of the boox.
  • Raids are on the way, soon.  These aren’t just nice, they’re going to be the lifeblood of every player who hits the level cap and doesn’t want to PvP or reroll an alt.  I just hope they not only deliver, but are compelling enough to handle the burden of being the premiere end game content.
  • Other vaguely-defined future promises: ship interiors, first officers, fleet advancement.  Sounds good, and also sounds like things that should’ve been there on day one.  But that might just be me.

The letter kind of ends on a curious note, with the author separating the audience into those who “get it” and those who don’t.  It’s an interesting tactic to take — sort of emotionally rewarding those who continue to be a proponent of STO while at the same time trying to label those who have withdrawn support as those who just don’t get it.  You’re with us or against us, that sort of thing.  Maybe I’m reading into that a little too much.

He also says “We guessed [that STO would be polarizing and only appeal to some folks] and still we made a conscious decision to not water things down and go ‘mass market’.”

Um… you mean you didn’t go “mass market”?  I guess I’m not sure what that means, then.  As far as I can tell, STO’s combat-centric nature and eschewment of several Star Trek traits that weren’t as easy to sandwich into a MMO meant tells me they were trying to appeal to a wider market than a narrower one.  You made a game where stuff blows up real good and some of the guys have bumpy foreheads, and put stuff like “diplomacy” and “problem solving” and “character relationship building” on the back burner.  I don’t think you could make Star Trek more appealing to the general masses than that.

All in all, I don’t think this letter gives them a free pass, but for those who are looking for a reason why they should stick with STO — or to come back in the near future — there’s a lot of tantalizing concepts here.  We’ll have to see how quickly these ideas can become reality.

11 thoughts on “Star Trek Scrambles To Yellow Alert

  1. James February 26, 2010 / 9:06 am

    This is similar to what people were saying about WAR when it launched!

  2. Thac0 February 26, 2010 / 9:20 am

    The whole “mass market” comment really get under my skin. They insult our intelligence with that one. How harder could they have tried to make the game more generic mmo?!

  3. Longasc February 26, 2010 / 10:51 am

    I wonder why they do not adapt & copy the “Territory War” features of the ages old Starfleet Command series for MMO use. It cannot be that hard.

    This game (SFC) was inspired by a rock solid board game and STO’s space combat – arguably the best part of STO – is a direct ripoff from this game. Including the atrocious turning rates of the Federation cruisers. In both games I liked the Klingon ships so much more.

    Unlike STO, Federation, Klingons, Romulans AND Borg had story mission arcs and random missions in between.

    There were the “Dynaverse” online servers which never really worked well till Taldren went down and fans took over. I did not test them, but apparently they did/do very well.

    If Mr. Zinc goes on that players “did not get it” I think he does not want to insult people, but it is no wonder that people do not get it. STO is based on a tactical space action sim and not on MMO foundations. And the part that Cryptic apparently developed themselves, ground combat, works quite good in PvP. But it is an outright catastrophe in PvE, the first impression people will get of ground combat.

  4. CreepTheProphet February 26, 2010 / 12:21 pm

    Honestly diplomacy and exploration were two of the elements of the Star Trek shows and movies I liked the most. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of explosions in the Star Trek shows or movies. Don’t get me wrong, I like ‘splodies, but there is a white knuckle excitement that comes from being seconds from firing the photon torpedoes but rather finding a peaceful resolution.
    Guess I’m gonna have to try this one out and just see what it’s like.

  5. Lukane February 26, 2010 / 1:37 pm

    I played the game in beta, but thankfully I never spent one cent on it. I sometimes wonder if the people at Cryptic actually believe their own hype.

    Two great genres where they promised us the Sun, Moon, and ALL the stars during the development cycles, and we received two games with less content than Free Realms. I stayed with Champions for a couple months because Billy Boy Roper came out a couple times and said “But we are not done!” I’m not going to make that mistake again.

  6. ScytheNoire February 26, 2010 / 3:41 pm

    Cryptic, in my opinion, has shown that they are a company to be avoided, much like NCSoft, which ironically they used to be part of. They release buggy games (love the video cards burning out due to maxfps bug), unfinished games, offer poor support, use horrible PR speak that insults players, try to scam as much money with “limited” life-time subscriptions (we’ll call it Flagshipping), and try to triple dip into players wallets (box copy, subscription, RMT). I just hope people have realized what Cryptic is all about and do their best to not trust them any more. They really have put the nails in their own coffin. I’ll be surprised if they are around at the end of 2011.

  7. Utakata February 26, 2010 / 4:52 pm

    The best thing they could do right now is letting go of their C-Store. I think this has caused more issues and contentions with both their games than anything else. Sub based games with far less have released successfully without an MT component. Because those games are good, well designed and looks like they had a lot of love put into it….they don’t have to worry about tying *their game to “value added services” to make up any shortfall.

    If not, at least look into incorparating DDO’s model. It appears to have worked for Turbine more than they could imagaine. Perhaps Cryptic needs to get Bill Roper’s shoes out of their unmention’bles…and take a good hard look at this.

    *Note: I know CoH and even WoW added such later. But not as lifelines to save themselves from financial ruin, but a way to make even more money on their product, once the product was well established. Not that I agree with them whole heartedly for doing that.

  8. PeterD February 26, 2010 / 5:28 pm

    I pretty much agree with your take Syp. I won’t be playing past the first month, not because I don’t like the game, but because I’d rather spend my money on a full featured game until they get some major patches under their belt.

  9. Ryan February 27, 2010 / 12:21 am

    It’s a little sad Cryptic sucks so bad, because I was really looking forward to this game. It could have been amazing, original, deep and fun. Boo on Cryptic.

  10. Alarmist February 27, 2010 / 12:23 pm

    Cryptic & Atari should look seriously at Turbine’s new DDO business model. STO, a fun casual mmo experience, would retain players as a F2P base game and lure them back again and again with new micro content and “episodes” sold via the c-store.

  11. We Fly Spitfires February 27, 2010 / 1:26 pm

    Any excuse to use that Khhhaaaannn! photo eh? 😀 It’s a goodn’! 🙂

    Anyway, yes, it’s going to be interesting to see how STO fairs within the next few weeks and months. My guess is that the blog posts about it and interest in it will die down quite rapidly…

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