Isn't It A Little Early For A Star Trek Online Winback Weekend?

Illustration for article titled Isnt It A Little Early For A Star Trek Online Winback Weekend?

Atari and Cryptic Studios have mounted a huge push for players in Star Trek Online, featuring a referral program, veteran rewards, a free demo, and an invitation to lapsed players of the three-month-old MMO to try it again for free.

Has Star Trek Online really lost so many of its launch players in the past three months to warrant a Winback Weekend? It seems a bit early to me, but then I've not had much time to play since the first month myself. Perhaps I'm a trendsetter. Perhaps players were maxing out their rank too quickly and getting bored. Either way, this weekend old players are invited to log back in and see what they've missed in the 5-10 weeks since they stopped playing.

The Winback Weekend is part of a four-pronged attack to bring in more subscriptions while keeping existing players playing.


A downloadable demo of the game is now available, allowing perspective players to experience the opening missions in the game for as long as they'd like.

For players needing that extra push, the new referral program doles out in-game items, skill points, and Cryptic Store currency for those that manage to trick their pals into playing with them.

Finally, to keep players coming back, Cryptic has lined up special titles, items, and bonuses for players who keep their subscriptions active for 100, 200, 300, or 400 days with the veteran's reward program.

I think Star Trek Online is a fine MMO for what it is. It still needs a little polish, but on the whole it's a solid release. Hopefully Cryptic and Atari can draw in enough new business to keep up this continuing mission.

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1. Cryptic failed to finish the game.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Maybe no one at Cryptic has ever heard that old adage; if they had they might not have delivered a half-finished game.

Star Trek Online is unfinished. It was unfinished at release and it's still unfinished, today. And not in just a small way, either, like things need to be polished up or there needs to be a little more content. No, STO is unfinished on an intergalactic scale.

There were suppose to be two playable factions – the Federation and the Klingons. The Federation side is well fleshed out with a good variety of things to do; the Klingon side has nothing to do but PvP. Except for a few grind quests, there's zero PvE on the Klingon side.

In any MMO, at least half the players want to play the bad guys – also known as the Klingons in Star Trek lore – but Cryptic didn't give those players the opportunity. If you wanted to play Klingons, but weren't that keen on PvP, chances are good you left the game and chances are good you left as soon as your first month's subscription expired.

2. Atari and Cryptic failed to keep their greed in check.

From the very beginning, Atari and Cryptic Studios have been too greedy. They went with the too-popular, $14.99-a-month model and made players pony up some extra cash for the collector's edition of the game. That's fine. Gamers are reluctantly getting used to this formula.

But STO has gone a little too far. Right out of the gate, they've behaved like they're successful and have a solid player-base they can rely on to buy their stuff: There's so much desirable stuff in the STO cash store, you'd think it was a free-to-play game.

If you want to play a Federation Klingon like Worf it will cost you money. So will playing a Ferengi. Do you want to respec? More money. Rename? More mullah. Special ships, emotes and bridge designs are all being touted in the cash store, and you can't get them in the game.

More character slots? STO only allows three. That's right. Only 3! Is there another pay-to-play MMO that only allows three character slots? If you want more, you have to buy them from the cash store.

All this nickel-and-diming of the player-base only helps to drive people from the game.

3. STO fails as an MMO.

Cryptic failed to provide some basic tools that enhance the social aspects of STO. For instance, simply communicating with other players, a single click or keystroke in other MMOs, tends to require two or three clicks in STO.

Guilds are important to the player community of any MMO, because they serve as centers of camaraderie and provide a ready source for partying up and doing quests; but Cryptic has paid little attention to fleets in STO, providing players with almost a bare minimum of fleet tools.

There are no alerts for when people in your fleet come online. You can't tell which fleet people belong to, because the fleet isn't displayed with the character name. There's no competition between fleets, because there's no fleet ranking system. If you want to join a fleet, there isn't even a way to search for them.

By ignoring some simple social tools, Cryptic has made it harder for a STO player community to develop. If an MMO community is slow to develop, player are likely to leave a game like STO faster than they normally would.

4. Non-PvE activities fail.

STO has minimal crafting – it's really just a store where you exchange your materials for gear – and the quest rewards are so much better than anything you can get from crafting there's little reason or motivation to spend your time crafting.

PvP is imbalanced. It should favor the Federation, because the Feds have all the PvE quests and get all the great world drops, but the ironic thing is the Klingons tend to dominate. They dominate, because all they have to do is PvP. The same group of Klingons will end up playing together all night long and often, because they play together so much, they'll end up dominating the Feds. The unfortunate result is many Feds quit or just totally avoid PvP.

With no real crafting and PvP being imbalanced and frustrating for many players, there aren't any alternative activities in STO. If players don't want to PvE, they just don't log in.

5. The endgame fails.

There's very little to do once you hit the level cap in STO. You get a daily explore mission and a daily PvP mission (See item 4.) and a couple of Special Task Force missions, essentially PvE dungeons, you can run. That's it.

This lack of endgame content might not be so bad if players didn't hit the level cap so fast. Even an fairly casual player can max out in about a month and there are stories of more hardcore players doing it in a week. That short leveling curve means lots of people are getting to the endgame and they're getting there fast. And once they get there, they're finding there's not much to do, so they leave.

At this point, it would be pithy to say, "STO fails." and end this article at that. But STO doesn't fail, not completely. It's a game with a lot of potential. The space combat and ground combat works. The Federation side has some good content and the little bit of endgame content that is there is pretty good. In fact, if Cryptic added some more endgame content and finished the Klingon faction, STO could be a supersweet MMO.

Cryptic seems to be scrambling to fix the game and flush out its content. But will it be enough? Have they already dug themselves too deep a hole by releasing STO too early? At this point, the hole seems awfully deep, probably too deep. If it is, STO will quickly devolve to maintenance mode and join a growing list of MMO failures.