In the grim present of Cryptic Studios, Inc.’s free-to-play massively multiplayer online (MMO) game Star Trek Online players have known only war for the past five years. In what is known as the Iconian War arc, STO has continued a long-tale of warfare and strife for the Star Trek aligned game—but that is coming to an end. Sometime this month or the next the final episode of the Iconian War will be published and the next season, dubbed “Season 11: New Dawn,” will rise for players.
Cryptic’s game follows a very similar pattern to the TV series it’s named after. In game missions that provide content for players are called “episodes” and what other MMOs would name expansions are called “seasons.”
For the past 10 seasons, players have been at war with some other faction in the game—Klingons, Jem’Hadar, the Borg, the Tholians, the Voth, the Vaadwaur, and finally the underlying threat the Iconians. All iconic enemies from the various Star Trek TV series.
Season 11 hearkens back to the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the movie Star Trek: Insurrection when he said, “Can anyone remember when we used to be explorers?”
The new season also promises to bring new gameplay options via the Admiralty system, since Star Trek Online captains are now ranked “admiral,” it’s time for them to command their own fleets. With this system, STO players will be able to send ships and crews on important, lengthy missions, possibly to explore, do diplomatic missions, or other humdrum operations to bring back rewards to their admirals.
The new season will also bring in more voice acting from the Star Trek franchise including Chase Masterson to reprise her role as Mirror Leeta. Previous seasons brought Jeri Ryan (Seven of Nine), Aron Eisenberg (Nog), and Robert Picardo (The Doctor,) Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris.)
Star Trek Online and exploration
Star Trek Online launched in 2010 with an exploration system in the game—only to have it removed in 2014. The exploration system, while flawed, provided an echo of the hallmark of the TV series in that the objective of the narrative was to explore space and “to go where no man has gone before.”
The system worked by asking players to fly around unexplored spaces and visit planets. At these planets a number of pre-scripted events could occur: a civilization might ask for aid and the captain would deliver medical supplies or perhaps entertainment provisions (the latter felt a bit silly), perhaps foes threaten a colony or planet that needed to be fought in space or on the ground, and sometimes strange energy readings would be detected and an away party would go down to scan them.
In all, the number of scripted events were extremely limited and repetitive. And sometimes—due to the mad-libs style of randomization—the scripted events were extremely silly. Why exactly would the Borg—a hypertechnological collective that destroys what it cannot assimilate—be messing in the petty politics of some backwater city in a distant star system?
Indeed the exploration system needed a revamp.
Returning Star Trek Online to the time honored tradition of storytelling through exploration and human experience may bring players back to the game as well.