Star Trek MMO Log, Stardate 2010.16

In this third MMO Log for Star Trek Online, we feel the ravages of free time, explore episodic missions, and reach the sobering revelation that I still know Monty Python and The Holy Grail by heart.

When last I left Star Trek Online, I'd just finished taking a turn as the Klingon-affiliated Orion slave girl Verdania, exploring strange new player-versus-player sections of the game and shooting them dead. My goals for this next week? To try and find a nice, mature Fleet to call home, and possibly make it to Commander, securing a pretty new ship.

Let's see how that goes.

Tuesday, February 9, 7pm Eastern

It is amazing how many Fleet and friend invites you generate when you place your in-game contact information at the bottom of an MMO log posted on Kotaku. After publishing last week's log, I decide to hop online and generate some experience points by catching up with some of my Federation character Qix's mission back log, but it's hard to do when you are instantly flooded with private messages and Fleet invites, both solicited and non-solicited.

I'm eager to join a Fleet to see if it enhances my game experience, but I'm not one to integrate myself into a group of people without knowing anything about them, so I thank everyone for their kind consideration and indicate that I plan on making a decision at a later date.

I spend about an hour doing a couple easy quests that I missed during my Lieutenant days. First I drop onto a planet where peace talks of some sort are being held with the Klingons, only to discover a rogue group of king crab heads has planet bombs all over the settlement where the talks are taking place. At the first bomb my ground crew and I quickly dispatch several lower-level Klingons. Then I use my advanced bomb diffusing skills (I hit "F") to take care of the problem. One down, five to go.

Before I get to the next bomb, my away team stirs up a nest of troubles. For some reason the Orions seem to be in on this Klingon plot, and there is definitely something wrong with this mission, as I am fighting a non-stop stream of enemies for nearly 15 minutes. They just keep coming. Science Officer Steve goes down, but that's nothing to worry about; if a crew member falls, they are fine and dandy by the time combat is over. If I die, on the other hand, I start over at the beginning of the mission. The enemies I've killed will be gone, but I'll still have a long trek ahead of me, no pun intended.

When the battle ends there is a tearful reunion with Steve, my mullet-headed science officer we saw get killed, and we continue on. Once we clear the five other bombs away, we are tasked with entering the conference hall to deal with the leader of the radical Klingon group.

Note that I keep saying "we" here. After several away team missions, I started to think of my NPC crew members as real people, even though they are, in design, simply extensions of my character. I've started assigning them specific weapons, though they can use any, simply because they fit the personality I've mentally assigned them. Steve carries a giant, two-handed gun that fits with my vision of him as the biggest lumbering idiot ever to stumble his way through the Federation Science Academy, while lithe Vulcan tactical officer T'ria favours dual phasers. If I had the time and/or inclination, I could fill out biographies for each of my officers, but I don't.

The Klingon leader is a tough customer, but we are tougher still. We save the day, I get another three Fleet invites, and I log off.

Wednesday, February 10, 9pm

Sometime overnight I received an email from a nice gentleman from a Fleet called Armada. He was very well spoken, speaking of his Fleet in glowing terms. "We're sticking to being a mature fleet. We're not tolerating douchebags." Being strictly anti-douchebag myself, I decided to join up.

Besides, Armada is a really cool name.

My contact says I can join after he gets home from work, so I do a few important things like eating before hopping online around 9.

I'm having a little trouble finding my groove with the Federation side of things, after spending so much time on more Klingon matters. I don't feel like committing to a long story mission, and the prospect of visiting any planets or star bases is dulled by the horrible lag I've been experiencing lately any time I leave my ship.

I spin around in space for a while, waiting to hear from my contact. About 15 minutes after I log in I receive a message from him. No one who can invite is online. Lacking any real motivation to stay connected, I disengage.

Thursday, February 11, 8pm

My invite to the Armada Fleet went through sometime last night, so when I log into the game this evening it's floating there on the screen. Confirming my choice I join the Armada Fleet, immediately giving me a group of people to talk to without having to worry about gold famer spam, an issue with the game since before the beta ended. Who buys in-game currency during a beta test?

So now I have a new group of people to talk with. Lovely! Unfortunately I'm too shy to speak up. Yes, that's right; I am feeling shy this evening. It happens.

Instead I tool across the galaxy to take care of the last absurdly low-level missions in my logbook. I picked up a mission to take on enemy signal contacts (random space battles) when I was a Lieutenant Class 3 (level 3.) I am now a Lieutenant Commander 3 (level 13, more or less), so the Klingon ships I take on in these missions are laughably easy. My weapons tear through them like cardboard, my shields deflecting their weapons handily.

The mission is a success, and I head out to a remote area to explore some unknown systems I was asked to check in on.

During the long, slow trip across the sector, I watch and participate in a zone chat performance of the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, realising that if there is one thing that sets Star Trek Online apart from other MMO games, it's the community. There are bad apples, but you'll find them at any Star Trek convention, and really, that's what this is like. One giant Star Trek convention, only you can only buy virtual items and you can't smell anyone.

After the performance I find myself bored, and wander off to watch my Monty Python DVD.

Saturday, February 13, 10am

Living in Atlanta, Georgia, most of my Friday was dedicated to running back and forth between my computer desk and the window, shouting about snow. There was a lot of it yesterday, perfect for snowballs and snowmen. Needless to say, I didn't get much done on Friday.

This morning, however, I do plenty. After a few smaller scouting missions, I've taken up one of the game's episodic adventure type missions. Ranging from a half hour on up, these missions are never simply fetch quests or kill X number of enemies deals. These are, effectively, the game's equivalent of a full television episode.

A starbase is missing some explosives, and I've got to determine where they've gone.

Beaming down I am greeted by a location that looks extremely similar to another starbase I visited during my first MMO log. Recycling locations seems commonplace here. As with my previous adventure, my investigation leads me to the cargo bay, where I scan crates of an explosive material known as kemocite. After several scans, I determine that one crate is filled with a fake compound that reads as kemocite but is actually an inert material. One of my crew determines that it was taken by pirates, likely using a Ferengi cracker to gain entrance to the base.

Having determined that the material was stolen, I beam back to the ship and begin scanning vessels for traces of the material. The first few scans are negative, though one captain thanks me for doing my duty, glad to see the Federation is taking action in the area. It's a nice touch.

I scan a third ship, which turns out to be filled with Nausicaans, which in this game look like undead Klingons. I open fire, figuring this is an easy end to the mission. Not so much. The Nausicaan ship takes off like a bat out of hell, and I'm forced to give chase through the system.

I barely keep up, unable to switch to full impulse as I foolishly fired my weapons, after which you have to wait until battle stations drop before kicking your speed up a notch. I finally catch up with the ship at a remote base, where I do battle with two other ships before beaming down.

After fighting my way through several corridors worth of Nausicaan lackeys, I face off against the Ferengi and his crew. Once the smoke clears I tag the Ferengi for transport, and my mission comes to an end.

Before I am done for the day I take on another story mission, one involving Klingons kidnapping Federation scientists to build ridiculously powerful weapons. It involves disabling disrupter turrets, a battle through a Klingon base, disarming warheads, and then blasting my way through blast doors to get outside the range of teleportation inhibitors before the base's self-destruct sequence goes off. It's good for another half hour.

At this point the girlfriend wakes up, and we head off to go pickup her Jeep, which was trapped on ice the night before. A Jeep, trapped on ice, relying on my Nissan Sentra to make it through. Something is wrong with this picture.

The Game So Far

What, that's it? Only four days of play in this week's MMO Log? What gives?

Look, I am a very busy man. I had a SOCOM review to get done, and I had to spend Sunday with the girl getting tattooed. On top of that, I was tasked with creating this gigantic gaming graphic, all by my lonesome. I'm surprised I had any time to play work on this at all!

What is interesting is the fact that even with a clogged schedule, I could get online a few times during the week, take on an episodic mission, and be done after only a half hour or so. Everything in Star Trek Online seems to be quick and contained, perfect for those who want to get something accomplished without taking an entire day to do so.

What's on my plate for next week's log? I want Lieutenant Commander rank, and nothing is going to stop me.


    I hit Captain on the weekend, so have slowed down my playing a bit. It's too easy to level up when you dedicate a solid block of time to this game, you're better off just doing one mission now and then. Unless you want to shoot to the top and hit the endgame ASAP (which there isn't much of so not really a good idea)...

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