by Gene Turnbow
If you’ve been following the gaming news here on Krypton Radio, you may remember our article on the trend toward free-to-play MMO’s. This seems to be the new business model for online gaming: give enough of the game away for free that people get hooked on the experience and are willing to pay to get more of the same. The Star Trek Online MMO opened to mixed reviews almost a full year ago, but they seem to be listening to their customers and fixing some of the more glaring problems with the game – and removing some of the barrier to entry that was keeping many fans away.
Cryptic Studios’ Star Trek Online has adopted a tiered free-to-play (F2P) model where nonpaying “Silver” players will still get to have a robust Star Trek experience, while reserving some of the more advanced game features such as creating guilds and playing multiple characters for the players willing to shell out the monthly $14.99 subscription fee.
For many of the game’s features, simply playing 20 hours in the game will put the free-to-play player on par with those who have bought a subscription. Users who have made an in-store purchase or who have previously purchased a subscription will also gain many of the paid perks without paying a cent. Cryptic also said that it had added new weekly episodes, the name that the game gives to “quests.”
“We couldn’t be more excited,” said Jack Emmert, chief executive of Cryptic Studios, in a statement. “Updating Star Trek Online to the popular free-to-play model removes those barriers of entry that previously kept fans and casual gamers away. Anyone can download and play Star Trek Online at no cost. There’s no better way to see how sitting in the captain’s chair feels.”
Originally launching in March 2010, Star Trek Online included cinematic space combat, a wealth of possible player characters, and a disappointing away-team combat mechanic, according to a PCMag review – but we understand they’ve been addressing these issues as well.
We spoke with one player, Dan Vanderwood, who had been playing STO since beta and whom we had contacted via our growing Facebook fan base:
Krypton Radio: What do you think of how the planet surface scenarios are being handled now. Has their been any improvement?
DV: The away missions to the planet surfaces are still clunky, but easy enough to use. Combat is still a pain. All in all, I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and prefer surface to space combat. Turning radius on my little engineering ship is horrible. Mind, I’m only a lieutenant 3rd grade right now.
KR: What would you say to the negative comparison of the planet-side part of the game to Second Life? Anything improved about the parts of the game that rely on diplomacy?
DV: The two really aren’t comparable. Second Life has a freedom to it, while STO is just a game. It would be like comparing SL to Halo. There are diplomatic aspects, but everything I’ve run into so far eventually leads to combat (a Vulcan ambassador being an Undine/8472 for instance). Keep in mind, I’m not very far into the game yet, but it’s much more linear than SL.
Personally speaking, I’m intrigued. I’m going to go try it as soon as I’m done posting this article, if my notebook can muscle it’s way through the massive 3.4Gb download it’ll require. Enjoy the video, try and game and post your comments on the game. Is this going to help Star Trek Online rise, or sink? What do you think?