The Cult of Dakka

There’s always a tension between gaming and blogging: if I’m blogging, then I’m not gaming, and in a world with a finite amount of time, why would I forego playing a video game in favor of writing about playing a video game?

This is my obtuse way of apologizing for my long blogging absence.

Suffice to say, I’ve been really busy in STO. For starters, I got my Romulan to level cap in the second or third week after Legacy of Romulus was released. For those of you familiar with my MMO-gaming habits, this is a big deal. I’m usually unable to commit to a game for an extended period of time, so I surprised myself by so consistent logging in and leveling up. It didn’t hurt that the EXP rewarded from storyline missions is absolutely absurd; I was gaining at least a level per mission. This, combined with my +5% experience boost for being a veteran, made leveling very easy.

But I’ve been done with the Romulan story arc for several weeks now, and I’m still consistently playing. This is another first for me; I’ve not hardcore committed to STO’s end game, but I’m still logging in every day or every other day, earning dilithium and slowly gaining Romulan and Nukara marks. It’s actually a pretty fun experience, slowly working toward some long term goals.

This, finally, gets me to my post’s title: I love my Mogai Heavy Warbird.

For the vast majority of my STO playing experience, I’ve been a fan of beam arrays. In my mind, beam weapons are the quintessential Star Trek weapon. In the same way that Gene Roddenberry said that the Federation wouldn’t have cloaks because good guys didn’t “sneak around”, I’ve always associated beam weapons with the (good) Federation and cannons with the (bad) Klingons. On top of that, I’ve always seen cruisers as the “true” spirit of Star Trek (more random childhood assumptions on my part!), and cruisers and beams were made for each other.

I’ve always known that there was a world of escorts and cannons out there, but I didn’t want to try them. That is, until I read about GeeCee’s continued love of cannons and escorts. So, slightly intrigued, I thought I’d try out cannons on my Mogai.

I… I don’t think I can go back. Decloaking, obliterating my enemies, and recloaking — truly, what is best in life?

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Layout Change Up

I changed my blog’s theme. I liked the colors and general layout of the old theme, but I finally got tired of how wide the margins were and how narrow the post column was. On the whole, though, I’d say the change wasn’t a very big departure from the past. Slightly less colorful, but I’ll live.

Anyways, my suspicion is that more and more people read blogs through RSS feeds and reader apps, making the actual layout of a blog less important.

Tovan Khev

I’ve got lots of happy, nice thoughts about the the Legacy of Romulus expansion pack. In my experience, however, if I plan on making a lengthy post enumerating many different points, I either never do it, quickly burn out on blogging, or both. So in the hopes of keeping my blogging leaner, meaner, and longer lived, today I’m just posting about one aspect of the new release that I like: Tovan Khev.

One of the major features of the new Romulan story line is that it’s a story populated by actual characters: during your missions you meet and recruit named bridge officers as the plot progresses, not to mention the fact that you meet a series of heroes and villains that you have routine interactions with. A cynic might say that Cryptic is taking a page from The Old Republic‘s “story driven” plot and its personable companions. However, it’s worth pointing out that Star Trek has always been about the character interactions of the bridge crew and away team.

To be fair, the vast majority of your interactions are one-off — you meet a potential bridge officer on a mission, they have a few lines of voiced dialogue, you recruit them, and then they never speak again. The one major exception is Tovan Khev.


Tovan Khev is the first bridge officer you recruit. In fact, he’s the first person you meet in the game. He can’t be dismissed, and the majority of his lines are voiced. Torvan’s dialogue and story adds a personal dimension to the overarching plot arc. He is, for all practical purposes, the main vehicle through which the plot gains resonance.

He’s also, if the official forums are anything to go by, a divisive figure. Some people don’t like having a bridge officer forced on them. For a while, he couldn’t be customized, which added insult to injury. Others point out that everyone running around with the same bridge officer breaks the illusion of MMO individuality.

Maybe running around with companions in TOR has inured me to having the same companions as everyone else, but it’s even less a problem here than in TOR, as you almost never see other peoples’ bridge officers in this game.

For my part, I like Torvan. He’s well voiced and relatable. He also says what I, the player, am thinking a lot of the time, so he’s also a nice voice of reason to have around. Here’s to him, and to me not having to write the backstory of another bridge officer.

Blogging Update

I’ve been back blogging for a few weeks now, so I thought it was worth doing a short “assessment” post of how things have gone.

Statistics
Counting this post, I’ve had nine posts in the past two and a half weeks; before that, my most recent post was 14 months ago. Given that there are only twenty one posts on this blog, that’s quite a prodigious output. It also means that I’ve been posting roughly every other day, which is pretty speedy!

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that my uptick in posting has also seen a sharp uptick in visitors. However, this is a “sharp uptick” over a very, very small amount, so the actual numbers are quite modest and not worth mentioning.

Friends
I’ve slowly been reaching out to all of my old blogging friends, and a few new ones. It seems that much of “the old crew” is still around, but either with very limited posting, or they’ve gone on to other games. At least it looks like Blue Kae and Harbinger Zero will be in STO! In that vein, I was able to renew my membership in the Federation News Service fleet — once I get promoted above the rank of intern, I can start contributing to fleet projects!

Future
My brother is looking to get back into STO, so we’ve talked about each purchasing the Steam starter pack and flying around in Steamrunner-class vessels, one of his favorite ships. There are also ROMULANS on the very near horizon.

Also, I saw Star Trek Into Darkness and thought it was great.

STO’s Economy

By all accounts, STO’s Exchange is buggy and hard-to-navigate. About the only way I can sell something on the Exchange is by undercutting everyone else’s prices, and that makes me part of the problem, not the solution.

However, like in most long-term MMOs, there’s still a developing history behind the economy. I was just made acutely aware of this in the comments of my last post: the price of the Galor-class cruiser has apparently been on the upswing over the past several months. And a tad bit of research has uncovered that the Dilithium:Zen exchange rate was once lower than the value it is at now, the price of 1 Zen having risen over the past several months from roughly 90D to its current present of roughly 130D.

STO doesn’t have the in-game tools necessary to analyze long-term economic trends, but that hasn’t stopped one man, Walshicus, from breaking down the game’s economy. His website, MMO-Economics.com, is absolutely fascinating. I highly recommend it — it’s been an invaluable tool getting me up-to-speed on how STO has changed since I’ve been gone.

Legacy of Romulus, i.e. Talking Myself Down From Buyer’s Remorse

This deal is getting better all the time.
– Not Lando Calrissian

In a fit of madness, I purchased LoR’s Legacy Pack. I… don’t completely know why I did. I convinced myself that I was going to get the Remans (so 600 Zen, or $6), and the Starter Pack ($20). And then there was some sort of mental gymnastics in which I said, “well, I’m already going to spend $26, and $99 isn’t that much more!”

This is why my wife runs the budget of the household.

Regardless, I’ve really not been feeling much buyer’s remorse, mostly because I’ve deluded myself into thinking that I’m going to maximize every drop of play out of these half dozen plus ships. (“And a Special Reman Duty Officer Mini-Pack! Oh man!”)

Anyways, today STO’s devblog announced two separate updates concerning the Romulan ship line, both of which make the Legacy pack a better deal. First, the Legacy pack now comes with the Haakona Advanced Warbird, as well as the TOS Romulan uniform costume pack. I hadn’t originally been sold on the Haakona, both intellectually or actually (ha, see what I did there?) — but the new pictures, plus the “vector mode”, make it much more interesting. While a ship that is actually shaped like a warbird is a little silly…

… it’s also completely awesome, shut up. And while I think the TOS uniforms are terribly gaudy, at least I now own them.

Secondly, the consoles that come with the Refit and Retrofit versions of the same ship can be combined for a passive set bonus. This makes my purchase of all Romulan C-Store ships a more comprehensive purchase, too. Especially that turn rate bonus for the D’deridex…

Server Stability

Since I’ve returned to the game last week, STO’s server stability has been a bit… spotty. The game was down several times last weekend, and apparently this morning Tribble collapsed under the weight of the open Romulan beta. Worse yet, when one of Cryptic’s games — STO, CO, or Neverwinter — goes down, they all go down. Cryptic has repeatedly stated that all of their games aren’t on “one server”, and independent from that, I’m pretty certain that the hardware mainframe needed to support STO, CO, and Neverwinter probably can’t be summed in “server,” singular. That said, it’s clear that each game’s stability is nonetheless influenced by the stability of its sister games. There were suspicions that STO’s downtime last weekend was brought about by Neverwinter’s soft launch, and there’s a general humming and hawing on the forums that May 21st will see STO crash yet again.

For me, all of this is neither here nor there. I’ve been minimizing my time in STO, and plan to do so through the release of LoR. I figure I’ll try to get a leg up on all of my real-life work, thus ensuring an unadulterated day of enjoyment. So server crashes in the here-and-now mean litte to me; it’s server stability on the 21st that I’m eyeing wearily.

I sometimes spelunck into STO’s official forums. Like all official forums for any game, ever, they are filled with terrible people saying terrible things. I’ve learned that Science captains are terribly gimped; I’ve learned that Engineers are terribly gimped; I’ve learned that the game is now “Escorts Online”; I’ve learned that PvE is so easy that the previous three claims are moot. But, again, like all official forums, there are some really informative threads, and there are some really good jokes. I personally liked this one:

Trials and Tribble-ations

HZ’s post yesterday, on bad habits and flaws, got me thinking about my own on-again, off-again blogging habits. I think one of my biggest issues is that I treat blogging as this incredibly ambitious project, and then abandon it as soon as I feel it’ll take any sort of time or effort.

I don’t really have a solution, except to try to be a little more realistic with my blogging goals. So, for instance, watching and reviewing every Romulan episode in preparation for Legacy of Romulas? Not going to happen! But posting a few thoughts on a few episodes, in a post where I update readers about what I’m currently up to? Now that’s a little more doable.

This Weekend’s Tribble
STO is doing one of their Tribble Test Weekends, and as always, there’s the promise of an unannounced reward for players who test the server for over any hour. Tradition dictates that it’s probably going to be a tribble, with the most popular guess being a tribble that grants a Romulan mark every hour. That certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I’m personally hoping for a DOff.

I’m patching for the test server even as I type. Getting an hour in won’t be that difficult, even if I am going to generally avoid all of the Romulan content. I hear there’s new beginning Klingon missions; I think I’ll try those out!

Classic Romulans
Thanks to Amazon generous Prime Instant Watch offerings, I was able to what two of the three Romulan episodes from The Original Series — in HD and remastered!

Balance of Terror – The big draw of this episode is the scenes set on the Romulan warbird. Mark Lenard‘s performance as the Romulan commander is really engaging, and it’s clear why the actor was brought back later as Spock’s father Surak. Outside of that, though, I found the episode a little lacking. For instance, it isn’t clear what tactical advantage the Romulan’s cloak provides, as at this early juncture the Enterprise is still able to track the Romulan ship even when it is cloaked. Furthermore, the entire episode plays out like a destroyer-submarine fight (it was apparently inspired by The Enemy Below), with the Enterprise using phaser shots set to “proximity blast” like depth charges.

The Enterprise Incident – Look, any episode that has Kirk being declared insane is on its way to being a great episode in my book. And there’s this cool story about the Enterprise being sent to steal a new-and-improved Romulan cloaking device, with Kirk’s faux insanity used as plausible deniability. But, as always, The Original Series writes female characters absolutely terribly, and so the sexy Romulan commander‘s only defining characteristics were 1) her sexiness, and 2) her infatuation with Spock. At the least, Cryptic did a really good job recreating those absolutely gaudy 23rd century Romulan uniforms.

I know that the Romulans also make an appearance in “The Deadly Years“, but I’m not really inclined to watch it. I guess I still have “The Good Troi Episode” from TNG. And “The Defector“, naturally.

Other
I finished Spec Ops: The Line last night. Wow, that was something.

Republican Values

I’ll be frank: I have never really been a fan of Romulans. I already like one militarized, duplicitous race of alien imperialists, and they paint their ships ochre. In fact, all I’ve truly ever wanted out of Star Trek Online was the ability to play a Cardassian — not an alien-gen, but a Species: Cardassian officer who was committed to rebuilding the Cardassian Union as a force for good in the galaxy.

So I’m quite surprised at how excited I’m for STO‘s first expansion pack, Legacy of Romulus — especially given that it is completely focused on a race that I’m “not that into.” And heck, that’s growing less true by the day; I think I’m going to watch some of the more Romulan-centric episodes of the various series through Amazon Prime. I seem to remember GeeCee pumping herself up for STO in a similar way, so maybe it’s a time-honored tradition?

Also, it doesn’t hurt that I’ll be playing as a loyalist of the Romulan Republic. In essence, it’s the “reform” or “restoration” story that I wanted for my Cardassian: in the wake of an unmitigated disaster, attempting to create a more representative body politic against the militant opposition of the old order. But in this case, I’ll have pointy ears instead of a sinewy neck. That motivation speaks to me far more than the STO‘s Klingon “we need to fight because that’s what we do, and also honor.” And it makes the duty officer missions I run that much more significant, ya know? I’m not simply sending my astrometric lab technician to a conference; I’m proving that the Romulan people will once again be a leading power in the galaxy.

Now the only question is: pure Romulan, Reman, or Liberated Borg Romulan? Honestly, I’m leaning toward the first choice, though I’m strangely drawn to that female Reman character design…