Seven Bruises of STO Beta


This past weekend I gave a few more hours of time to playing the Star Trek Online open beta.  While I have enjoyed some parts of the game, there is an uncanny valley between the game Cryptic is offering and the Trek game I would love.

Anyhow, there are a few things I encountered  over the course of my playing that left a bruise when I woke up today.  I felt these were worth documenting so I can recall them later and see how or if they changed over time.

Of course my standard beta disclaimer applies: 
I know beta issues are not always reflective of the released game. I get that, but that has zero impact on me recording my experiences and watching to see how things end up.


1. Performance was often terrible.
Loading into instances would take long time to load, and often drop me back to the log-in screen. Sometimes I would enter an instances as the wrong avatar ship when I should be humanoid and vice-versa. Several times I encountered ‘rubberbanding’, and odd skips/jumps between enemies and players.  I would expect all of these issues to go away when in retail, but they did make beta “interesting”.

2. Inability to log-in.
The beta could not handle the number of people trying to log-in. Cryptic recognized that issue publicly and are working to resolve the issue.  If on launch day the server cannot handle the demand, then they may not have to worry about handling more demand in the future.

3. Encounter Difficulty not balanced
Some encounters (or steps in a mission) feel incredibly to hard, while others are in their simplicity dull.  I suspect much of this is caused by the auto scaling of encounters based on group size. With “allowing open groups” on by default many people enter mission instances in pugs where there is little to no communication or coordination.  This makes encounters much more difficult than for a pre-made group that is communicating.

Also the game does not have UI or controls set up to help facilitate group coordination. Things like target of target, group members targets, or a command to auto assist a group mate, ability to set targets per weapon, and auto re-firing weapons would all be handy.

4. Things take to long
Time to complete missions (and encounters with no rewards) is too slow.  When I cannot over my lunch hour make some meaningful progress in the game, I mark the game as Fail.     The difficulty of the encounters plays into this, but much of it is design.

Example: I have a mission to “patrol” 5 systems.  This requires me to travel to each system and complete a sub-mission at each.  Some those sub missions require me to defeat 4-5 enemy patrols, each of which takes several minutes to complete. This results, if I don’t have to restart, in a sub mission taking about 20 minutes to complete.  I think that would be a good duration, if I was rewarded at the end of that work: alas I am not.

5. Anachronistic gameplay makes Hulk angry! 
The game is set in the 24th century and ships don’t have the ability to “auto fire” weapons, or have weapon battery specific targets? 
Yes, I know those might be concepts that the standard WoW player might need a few minutes to grasp, but that is no excuse.   Why must I wear my keyboard key out spamming the fire weapons key?  Why?

A quick brainstorm solution suggestion:
Leave the system that is current in place, with the addition of a right click menu for each weapon/ability. One option on that list is “Select auto fire at current target”.   Then you can have this action path:  
1) Select Target.
2) Right click on weapon/ability.
3) Select auto fire at current target from list.

Done!  You can now target several enemies at one time, and not spam your fire keys.

Another gameplay-y issue I have is the lack of group target information.  An advanced option to show group member targets would be a simple solution to this problem.  With a single checkbox players would be able to see who everyone in the group is targeting.

6. Bugs. They have to be Bugs.
Unmovable dialog windows that pop up (sometimes repeatedly) in the middle of the viewscreen. – Let me drag these off to the side, please thanks.

Dead stopping my ship when the above dialog window appears.  If this is not a bug, then fail.

Its not easy to click on a group member unit frame and have the game actually make that member your target. The “target of target” frame is also very touchy.  players should be able to click anywhere on those frames and swap their target to whom they selected.

7. Race to loot. Lack of Loot.
This sort of falls into #5 above, but it makes me shake my head so bad it got a number all to itself.   I believe all loot should be handled by a common loot system and the default should be a roll window of some sort.  Though no matter what the default is, crate and anomaly loot should follow that system.

Racing for loot is bad, but when it comes to me seeing people enter a system loot an anomaly and leave the group/ system, then game=fail.

Oh and while I am talking about loot; the lack of meaningful loot drops is a bit disconcerting.  In all of my open beta time, I have only picked up two items that were upgrades for my ship, and a handful of away team gear.   I don’t mind the number of consumables I picked up, but the total amount of loot felt very low, and the ratio of consumables to upgrades felt a bit off.


End

While I feel as though I am forgetting something, those seven were the big ones that haunted me this morning.  And heck, I did not even get into my complete lack of an interaction with any sort of exploration or trading systems.

Good thing is this is still beta and they might be able to get the “beta-y” issues like perf and bugs get resolved.   The bad is, I suspect the core mechanics will not change, and that is what will keep me away.

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