Star Trek Online: Explore Strange New Worlds, Seek Out New Life and New Civilizations…and Kill Them: Looking for Science in Star Trek Online Beta

Posted on 25th January 2010 by Ryan Somma in Geeking Out

For the past two weeks I have been on a quest. A quest in which I have invested over 20 hours, at the expense of doing much more productive things, like bathing and other basic hygiene tasks. My quest has been to find the science in Star Trek Online’s (STO’s) beta test.

Vulcan Science Officer ideonexus Looking Forward to Exploration and Discovery
Vulcan Science Officer ideonexus Looking Forward to Exploration and Discovery

STO is the Star Trek answer to World of Warcraft (WoW), a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG). I have been extremely excited for several years now over this project coming online. I love MMORPGs, but I get very bored with fantasy, which romanticizes medieval times, making them exciting with monsters and magic. I prefer science fiction’s aptitude for romanticizing the future, where there are aliens and technological magic. As I’ve gushed before, Star Trek best embodies enlightenment values with a positive view of the future.

Standard-Issue Ship Cruzing the Sol System (Before I Modified it to look all cool and stuff)
Standard-Issue Ship Cruzing the Sol System (Before I Modified it to look all cool and stuff)

STO is @#$%&ing BEAUTIFUL. The planets I visited are amazing in scale and diversity, some with beautiful rings, moons, atmospheres, asteroid belts, resting in nebulas, orbiting different types of stars, city lights glowing on their darksides, and even one with a large bite taken out of it from a mysterious alien being. The game opens with you standing in a lounge at a starbase, where you can see a battle being waged between the Borg, a hive-mind alien civilization, and Federation ships. From there, you will engage in space battles between star ships and phaser battles on board ships and planets.

USS Waygate Cruizing the Sol System
USS Waygate Cruizing the Sol System

In this universe, I have gone free-range, wandering from system to system to see what missions I could get into, as well as taking missions from Starfleet. The missions are where I start to have a problem with STO. I was ordered to patrol a sector of space, where I moved from system to system, and engaged in starship battles with Orions, Kinglons, and Gorn. I was ordered to explore another sector, where I battled ship-to-ship with Orions, Klingons, and Gorn. I was ordered to go find a missing ship, where I had to engage in starship battles with Orions, Klingons, and Gorn.

In Star Trek Online You Fight, and Fight, and Fight, and...
In Star Trek Online You Fight, and Fight, and Fight, and…

Don’t get me wrong. The ship battles are very nice, reminiscent of the old Starfleet Battles Board Games, where energy to weapons and shields must be balanced as well as taking advantage of the talents of your crew. It’s just that this isn’t my favorite aspect of the Star Trek universe. Star Trek is a world where characters will simulate a game of poker with Newton, Einstein, and Hawking, where characters write their dissertations on missions, and where knowledge of xenolinguistics can be used as a pickup strategy at bar. In your average 50-minute episode, there is usually less than 60 seconds of action, if there’s any action at all.

Sector View, Flying Between Systems
Sector View, Flying Between Systems

STO is designed to support any type of mission, and, in fact, the one mission I was sent on that I absolutely loved involved no combat at all. I beamed down with my away team to a planet where the miners had gone on strike. My mission was to interview the miners and learn what their different grievances were. When I returned to their leader, I was given a quiz on what I had learned. This human-interest story took maybe 15 minutes of my time to complete, but was far more engaging and memorable than the hours of space battles that have filled the rest of my time.

The key term in MMORPG is “roleplaying“. In roleplaying games, players are given the option to pursue a wide variety of identities. In Dungeons and Dragons (now Pathfinder) players can assume the roles of healers (Clerics), researchers (loremasters), magicians (sorcerers, wizards, etc), in addition to being able to play a hack-and-slash, brute force fighters. I joined Starfleet to study science, just like I joined my local Star Trek Fanclub for access to the Vulcan Academy of Sciences.

Approaching Memory Alpha, which Looks Just Like it Did on the Original TV Series
Approaching Memory Alpha, which Looks Just Like it Did on the Original TV Series

I thought I had this when I learned Memory Alpha still existed in this Trekverse. From the original television series episode “The Lights of Zetar“, Memory Alpha was a planetoid where Starfleet stored all of its scientific and cultural data. From Lt. Commander D’Egen at space dock, it was suggested that there are other paths of adventure in STO, paths of exploration and discovery. I had to find Memory Alpha.

My Quest for Memory Alpha

Here’s the steps I took to try and unlock the science missions in STO:

  1. Accept the mission from Lieutenant Grall to explore the Delta Volanis sector. Visit three systems there, kill things, and contact Star Fleet. This will unlock the option to request a science mission, where you will be told to contact Lt. Commander D’Egen at Star Fleet.
  2. “Dr. Egg” is located on the ground floor of Star Fleet. When you transport in, go through the door to the left, turn right. The doctor will assign you a mission to find Memory Alpha and deliver Biological Samples to Commander Jenna Romaine.
  3. Memory Alpha Lounge, the Cluster of People are All Players Trying to Get Anything Useful Out of Commander Jenna Romaine
    Memory Alpha Lounge, the Cluster of People are All Players Trying to Get Anything Useful Out of Commander Jenna Romaine
  4. Memory Alpha is located near Teneebia in the Alpha Centauri Sector Block.CDR Romain is located in the Lounge. She will tell you to deposit the samples. The deposit location is just a few feet away at a console.
  5. Once deposited, CDR Romaine told me to keep up the good work and the other scientists at Memory Alpha still weren’t willing to give me science missions. Starfleet told me to go back to killing things.
Commander Jher Gwenn, Can I Get Some Science Missions? PLEASE???
Commander Jher Gwenn, Can I Get Some Science Missions? PLEASE???

BUT I DON’T WANT TO KEEP SHOOTING THINGS!!! I’m like LCDR Data, “I just love scanning for lifeforms!” Give me a science class vessel and let me go take soil samples all day, even under enemy fire! Let other people fight the Klingons, I want to tour STO the way I tour Second Life!!!

I see an immense educational potential in this virtual universe… should the game-designers take advantage of it. There is a huge, organized Star Trek fanbase, people who want to hang out in STO and engage in enlightening gabbing the way they do in their monthly meetings. This weekend, STO goes out of beta, the universe I played in will be reset. The developers have made incredible improvements to the game in just my last week of playing it. I know they will continue to improve on this fantastic universe that holds infinite possibilities, just please take some time to code some diversity into the gameplay. Please.

Think On It.
Think On It.
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