Kiryn's place for rants about stuff. (version 6.0)

More STO Tips

February 9th, 2012

1. Don’t go out of your way to scan for crafting materials.

This really sucks, because I LIKE being all sciency, an the minigame is kinda fun I guess. The problem is that there are so many different kinds of crafting materials, and you only get one or two of them for completing the minigame. I need like… SIXTY of a certain type of material to craft a single item!

Crafting materials are nearly worthless to sell on auction, they will eat your bank space if you try to collect enough of them to make anything, and they will magically fill up your bag space if you try to pick them up while questing.

I only even get crafting mats any more from scanning things with my Duty Officer missions (as a side product when I’m just trying to get science/exploration EXP) and I just toss them in the fleet bank.

You’ll say, “but I need crafting materials to CRAFT things!”

2. Don’t bother crafting anything, ever.

Every item I have ever searched for on the exchange that is craftable is selling for less than the materials would cost if you sold them instead.

In order to even MAKE these items, you will need to spend a ton of items to level yourself up to that point. There are no Bound crafted items that I’ve ever seen, so everything you could craft, you can instead purchase from other players who have crafted it.

Here’s an example for you. Rick and I hit 50 last night, and I started looking at what gear I should get now that I’m technically at end-game. Starting epics are the Aegis 3-piece set.

Each of these gear pieces are selling on the Exchange for about 1.3 million energy credits. Wow, that sounds like a lot of money! Okay, let’s do some math. I am able to craft these items for various materials plus 18 Uncommon Unreplicatable Materials.

How do you get Uncommon Unreplicatable Materials? I mentioned this in my last post, but they cost 1,000 Dilithium from a vendor in Memory Alpha, and are worth about 90,000 Energy Credits if you sell them on the exchange instead of crafting things with them.

So even BEFORE you factor in all of the materials you need that are not Uncommon Unreplicatable Materials, you are looking at about 1.62 million Energy Credits. Even if you craft them during the crafting event that reduces Unreplicatable Materials cost by 20%, you STILL wouldn’t get below 1.3 million. And that’s the lower end of the Uncommon mats value — I’ve seen them selling for over 100,000 each at times.

After going through all of that, I wish I had just ignored the crafting system altogether. I don’t know why other people are crafting these items for a loss, but I have to assume it’s because they don’t understand the basics of opportunity cost — they gathered these crafting mats “for free” and are using them to craft things. I am thankful for this, because it allows me to obtain crafted items for very affordable prices.

3. Kerrat System warzone quest is repeatable and EASY.

At a certain level, I’m not sure what, you can get a tutorial quest by talking to someone in Starbase K-7. (I get a transwarp teleport to there, now that I’m rank 2 in Diplomacy — it’s so nice being able to pop back and forth between “Daily Quest Sector” and “Home Base” like that.)

This quest allows you to enter a War Zone at the Kerrat System. This is meant to be a battleground, but there are hardly ever any Klingons inside.

The quest requires you to fly to the various points and scan them, then destroy four “repair hulks”, which don’t survive more than a few hits. The borg cubes and spheres in the area will generally not attack you at all unless you attack them first. All in all, the quest takes a couple of minutes to finish, even if you’re doing it by yourself.

Once you finish the quest, hail Starfleet to turn it in, and pick up the same quest again. After you finish the tutorial, you need to complete the warzone three times for each quest completion, but it rewards a ton of skillpoints and Dilithium, and can be repeated as many times as you have the patience for.

Each time you finish the zone objectives, it will take a few minutes to start again, but you can just switch to a new instance using the minimap button and find one that’s up. We’re easily able to reach our daily dilithium refine cap by doing this. We used to travel all over to finish our various dailies, but since we discovered we can just repeat this one indefinitely, we have no reason to do anything else.

This will level you up super fast. I didn’t turn in my promotion quest for level 45 until I hit 49, because I was leveling up so fast and simply didn’t go back to Earth during that timeframe.

4. Your Defense level is partially determined by how fast you are moving.

Not just your Defense stat. Not just your Engine power. But how high up the throttle is. So for example, if you put all of your big guns on the front, then fly within range, point yourself towards the enemy and slow down to minimum so you don’t fly past them and you still have some maneuverability, it turns out that this drastically increases the amount of damage you take.

Makes sense, because “Defense” and “Evasion” in this game are largely two words for the same thing. Hard to evade attacks when you’re moving really slowly.

5. Shorter-duration duty officer assignments usually have better rewards.

Assignments that take many hours often have just barely higher rewards than assignments that take 30 minutes to an hour. The idea here is that the game is rewarding you for staying logged in enough that you can send your people on many 1-hour missions back to back, rather than one longer mission.

For maximum commendation XP gain, don’t just take whatever missions you see. Pay attention to how long you plan to keep playing. If you’re going to play for several more hours, fly around and only accept missions that take an hour or less to finish. If you know you’ll need to log off for a couple of hours, take missions that require a couple of hours to finish, so they’ll be done when you get back. If it’s getting late, and you’ll be logging off for the night soon and know you on’t be back until tomorrow evening, take the longer missions that require 6, 8, or even 20 hours.

For the most part, don’t bother picking up any quests that take 20 hours or more, unless you will: (a) definitely not be logging on for at least 20 hours, or (b) they give special rewards that you can’t get through shorter-duration quests (such as the duty officer recruitment missions or the special colonization missions in the star clusters).

6. Save the colonists, prisoners, and contraband you get from duty officer assignments.

You can get colonists from assignments in any federation-owned sector, and it always seems like there are more missions available to get RID of colonists than there are to GET them. But don’t just toss them back out to the Resettle Colonists missions, because you’ll NEED those colonists for the special star cluster assignments.

You can get prisoners only through critical success on “Uncover Information Leak” or something like that. You CAN hand them over to Starfleet, but if you take them to an enemy-owned sector instead, you can do a Prisoner Exchange for a special duty officer instead.

You can get Contraband easily, usually from Inspect Ship for Contraband missions. You CAN trade these in three at a time for Dilithium, which is pretty nice, but make sure you hold on to a few of them for the rare assignments that allow you to craft things from prototype plans.

There are refugees too, but I haven’t figured out how to get those yet.

STO’s Strengths

February 6th, 2012

Okay, okay, I know my last post was full of complaints. Here’s the flipside of that.

Let me paint a picture of a general complaint I have about WoW.

Let’s assume that the general difficulty of a WoW dungeon is approximately the same if you’re a level 15 or level 50, if you’re both fighting against level appropriate content. Now, the level 50 character could come and run their level 15 friend through their dungeon, killing everything easily while the level 15 trails behind picking up loot, but that’s not fun, that’s a chore.

The entire game starts to revolve around what level you are. Grouping with anyone who’s more than two or three levels away from you is pointless. Considering how fast you level up, the chances of actually encountering anyone who’s within your level range is low, and the early game is all about soloing. Level as fast as you can so that you can play with your friend.

They won’t come help you, because it won’t be fun for either of you to have a max-level person (or even a considerably higher-level person, if they’re not maxed) one-shotting all of your quest mobs for you. They can’t queue for dungeons with you, because they’re outside of the correct level range. In order for both of you to have fun, they need to leave you alone.

Or, on the other hand, they can roll a new character specifically to play with you. What if you want to play when they’re not around? What if they decide they like that character a lot, and are itching to play it, but they can’t without you?

If one of the pair does any quests at all, they’ll be out of sync with the other person, and will have to wait for them to catch up. If they do something other than quests, like go to battlegrounds or random dungeons, they’ll get XP and be too high level to be anything other than a babysitter for the lower level character.

Now let me compare that to STO.

My character was in her 20s by the time Rick started his character. He did some quests on his own, and a few times, I jumped in to play with him, because missions are repeatable. I can scale down to his level, and we can turn the difficulty up to medium (also increasing the rewards) to compensate for the fact that we’ve got teamwork on our side.

Most importantly, the REWARDS for the story missions also scale to your level. If I go off and do something else, and level up twice as much, and then we go complete the same story mission together (with me scaling down to his level) then I get a higher-level reward that’s a pretty nice upgrade for me. I can do these story missions at whatever level I want to, and the rewards I get will be appropriate to whatever level I am when I finish them.

We decided that we would save the story episode missions to play with each other. That’s perfectly fine in this game, because if one of us is higher level, it doesn’t matter. If one of us wants to play more, they’ve got a TON of things to do:

1. Completely randomized quests in the various star clusters, ranging from delivering supplies to needy colonies, scanning for crafting materials, shooting randomly-generated-alien-du-jour in space or on the ground, or scanning non-crafting materials on the ground. There’s a daily to do three of these pretty much anywhere, and because there’s a huge pool of random quests, it’s a daily that doesn’t get too repetitive.

2. Other dailies: I only know of a handful now, but there’s a big list on the wiki. You can go to the academy and answer a lore question about the Star Trek universe, you can go to other systems and repair communication satellites or something. Get lots of dilithium.

3. Repeatable public quests with random groups. If you do lots of damage, get first place and win a purple item! Then sell it on the Exchange for mad cash.

4. Duty Officer system! I swear I spend more time poking at my duty officers than anything else. I’m still finding new things to do with my Duty Officers. (More on that later.)

5. Queue for PvP. Always Klingons to fight! Haven’t tried it myself, though.

6. Fly through the sectors, looking for borg. They pop up at random, but I’m not sure whether it’s worth it. Other people don’t cooperate enough, so it fails a lot.

7. Patrol missions for the various systems throughout the sectors. Each one has its own little mission, and you get pretty good XP for completing them. I just wish there were some way to keep track of which ones you’ve finished. Achievements or something.

8. I’ve seen lots of other things in various places, like random Klingon attacks in sector space.

9. If you get bored with those, you can check out the community-authored missions! Yes, you can make your own quests that other people can play and rate. I heard some people talking on Zone chat the other day about how they were making Star Wars-themed missions. That’s just wrong. However, there is a daily quest to complete three community-authored missions, so you can get more stuff by doing them, and these have the potential to be much more interesting than the randomly-generated ones in the star clusters.

I can see the two of us playing this game as our main MMO for a long, long time.

Here’s a few bonus tips for you that we recently discovered:

1. Don’t bother spending Dilithium on gear upgrades while leveling. Not because you want to save it for max level as all of the players on Zone chat will tell you. (Though that might not be a bad idea — you don’t get a free ship when you hit level 50 like you do at all of the other 10th-level milestones.) A better reason is that it’s not efficient. If you really want to spend your Dilithium on gear upgrades, it’s far more cost-effective to convert it to Energy Credits first. Every thousand refined dilithium can be used to purchase one “Uncommon Unreplicatable Materials” from an NPC on Memory Alpha, each of which sell for at least 90,000 Energy Credits on the Exchange. Once you’ve made your money that way, just buy whatever gear upgrades you need from the Exchange. A single piece of gear at the higher levels can start to cost you several thousand dilithium, and it’s quite easy to buy it more cheaply from other players.

2. You know what you CAN spend Dilithium on (other than earning mad cash)? Bind-on-Pickup Duty Officers. Nobody told me this until a few days ago, but once you have reached a rank through some kind of duty officer XP and purchased an officer using the token, you will be able to purchase any of the Duty Officers of that rank using Dilithium. Well, except for Diplomacy Duty Officers. I’m not sure if that’s because they’re KDF people, or because it’s possible (but slow) to get Diplomacy ranks without doing any Duty Officer stuff.

3. Speaking of Duty Officers, there is a hidden questchain (assignment-chain, I guess) for each star cluster. You basically perform a variety of tasks to build a new colony in that area. Each one will have text in its description stating something like “Completing this assignment opens up other assignments in this cluster.” Once you’ve completed all of them for a particular cluster, you get a special duty officer!

4. There’s also a super-rare El-Aurian bartender Duty Officer (basically Guinan from Next Generation, with a different name) that you can apparently get from a super-rare temporal anomaly assignment in one of the sectors. I’m not sure how I found her, because the reward listings for assignments are often not very accurate. I was just looking over my Duty Officer roster one day, and there she was! Purple-quality telepathic bartender.

Star Trek F2P

January 30th, 2012

STO has gone free to play, and you may remember my last post on the subject nearby two years ago when the game first released. I’ve gotten a few people into it now that there isn’t a monthly subscription fee, and overall, I feel the game has improved a great deal. Some little annoyances with the UI have been fixed, and a lot of new content has been added. My favorite are the Duty Officers, because they give me a menu to poke at when I can only log in for 15 minutes on one of my breaks at work.

However, I feel like there are a lot of things about this game that are unfriendly to new players. Both major and minor issues that I am putting up with because I love Star Trek and it’s free, but I’m sure a lot of people are being driven away by these things.

1. The game feels like it is intentionally confusing.

There is a lot of information that I feel like I should have known several levels ago that I am just stumbling onto (I don’t think I realized I was given Evasive Maneuvers at level 2 until around level 8, for example), or simple questions I have where the answer is hidden deep down a submenu rather than being explained. What is your Auxiliary power level for? The other three power levels are self-explanatory, but I had to dig through the Library Computer specifically looking for this information, finally finding it in an advanced space tactics page.

The game often feels like it is hiding information from me. It almost feels like this is intentional, following the old Everquest mentality that if you make the game hostile, the players will need to band together to defeat it — if you make the game confusing, players will need to talk to each other to figure it out.

This is a problem from the moment you first create your character. Even the “simple” explanations of the traits you need to pick don’t make any sense, because you don’t know what any of it means yet. Improves the power transfer rate of my ship? Is that useful? Increases Warp Core Efficiency? I feel like I need to play this game with a browser window open to the wiki to look things up at the same time. (Not that the wiki is good at answering most of the questions I have…) I feel like picking Traits should be something I do later, maybe around level 10, once I’ve had a chance to play the game a bit and have a better idea of what these things are for.

I will have conversations with other people who just started, and point out a few things to them that took me a long time to figure out:

  • Right-click your space weapons and they’ll auto-fire. Makes combat infinitely easier when you don’t have to constantly spam the space bar to fire your phasers, but I stumbled onto it by accident.
  • Right-click your armor/kit to turn of visuals so that you can actually see the uniform you just spent 20 minutes perfecting. (I’ve spoken with several new people who ranted at me about how stupid it was that their armor covered up their uniform, and they were extremely appreciative of this hidden function.)
  • Check your power window, your quest log, and your accolades window every time you level up, because you probably got some kind of reward and you need to dig for it.
  • Yes, Sulu IS in the Admiral’s Office, that thing you think is a window behind the Admiral’s desk is actually a viewscreen and there are stairs down to a lower area behind it. Not that it matters, because the patrol missions he used to have were removed from the game and there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to talking to him any more.

In a lot of other situations, new people ask me questions and I have to honestly say “I have no idea” and move on. What do the numbers on your skills MEAN? It’s increasing something by 10, 10 what? 10 percent? 10 points? Where can I see all of these stats? Most of the things affected by my skills don’t appear anywhere in my stats panel. Unless there’s some hidden extra “advanced details” panel I have to open by right-clicking on something unintuitive that I haven’t chanced to right-click on yet.

I find it especially annoying how often I’m faced with complicated ship parts that say they give +10 in Shield Emitters or EPS Conduits or whatever, and I have to go dig through my skills menu to find out what that item actually does. I wouldn’t mind the tooltip being a bit bigger if it would just have a little sentence saying that it increases power drain or shield healing or something, just like the bridge officer tooltips tell you what their traits and skills do.

2. It’s hard to keep track of what all of my powers do from their icons.

They are all the same color, and the icons on them are very abstract, with little or no connection to what the powers are used for. I have a very color-oriented brain, and having a dozen buttons on my hotbar that are all exactly the same color scheme makes it very difficult for me to remember which icons do which things. I’ll probably learn them eventually through pure repetition, but when I’m constantly switching out my bridge officer skills to try out different things in order to figure out which combination is best, it’s going to take a while.

This digestive system icon is the Evasive Maneuvers skill. What? It’s a silhouette of a person, showing a line going down their throat, into their stomach, then to the side into their intestines. Tell me you don’t see a simplified diagram of the digestive system there. I know that it’s SUPPOSED to be a curving line to represent the fact that it helps you move around, with the person outline to represent… I’m not sure. That you’re using it on yourself? But I can’t look at it and see anything other than digestion.

I wish I could at least have little customizable color sliders to make all of my damage abilities red, all of my shield-healing abilities yellow, all of my hull/health healing abilities blue, all of my buff abilities green, all of my debuff abilities purple… I’m used to playing games that have abilities in a wide range of colors! Or even better, give me a macro system and let me use custom icons for said macros. I’ll be happy to design some myself that actually help me remember what they do.

Right now, when I’m running low on health or shields in a panic, I’m just hitting all of the buttons I have that are off cooldown in hopes of hitting the one that will help in this situation, because by the time I mouse over all of them to read their names/descriptions and remember what they do, I’ll probably be dead.

Also, it’s incredibly irritating when my bars rearrange themselves without telling me. Maybe I’ll temporarily be on a different ship for a quest. Maybe I’ll just load into a different sector. Suddenly half of my abilities are gone and the rest are on the wrong buttons, but I don’t notice this until I’ve loaded into a space combat mission and am trying to figure out where my Beam Target Shields button went. I KNOW that I just arranged those buttons yesterday….

3. I continue to have constant rubberbanding issues.

The game constantly slams my characters into walls when I’m just trying to walk in a straight line down a hallway that I recently turned onto, or pulls my ship backwards when I’m moving in a straight line through sector space. One time, I was standing in a doorway for several seconds, shooting at someone, before the rubberbanding pulled me safely back into a hallway. I failed the “slingshot around a star” quest the first time because my ship got yanked to the left just as I was about to fly through one of the rings.

I use a wireless router at home, but it should not be necessary for me to snake an ethernet cable through my house to my computer in order to play this game. I have been playing online games for many years and none of the other games I have ever played have had this problem. I might be unable to loot something or my attacks might stop dealing damage for a moment as the server catches up, but I have NEVER been slammed into walls due to lag except when playing Cryptic games.

This is the sole reason I stopped my subscription to Champions Online the month after it was initially released, and also the reason why I have never returned to that game for more than about 30 minutes at a time. I keep checking back on a regular basis, and every time I’m surprised that nothing has been done to fix this yet.

4. I don’t like how many of the passive traits are species-specific.

I like one trait from this species, but I don’t like their other required trait, or I want to make a character with a certain look. Why are so many of the good traits locked away in specific species? Can Betazoids really be the ONLY empathic race in the galaxy? Is it impossible for another species out there to have a symbiont similar to the Trill? It seems pretty silly that you can’t use a lot of these traits on Alien characters. If it’s for balance reasons, then why are some races given multiple good traits while others are given multiple bad ones? For example, is there a legitimate reason to ever play a Pakled character?

Just saying that if you put certain trait unlocks on the C-Store, along with an item that lets you reset your traits, I would definitely buy it. I’m rather surprised there isn’t already a race/trait reset item, since you tend to make this decision before you know how it will affect you, and are forced to remake your character from scratch once you have learned.

Good to see this game accurately portrays the racist mentality of the show. You know, the “oh, maybe this cardassian ISN’T sneaky and unscrupulous… oh wait, yes he is” that constantly pops up in the episodes. We don’t care what color your skin is, but “I’m sorry, Surisa, but you’re a saurian, and this betazoid obviously makes a better science officer because of her racial traits. You’ve been a loyal officer since I was level 5, and I haven’t even met her yet, but the choice is obvious.”

5. The Reply to Tell feature makes me very nervous.

A friend of mine sent me a tell, and it’s very hard to figure out how you’re supposed to have a conversation this way, other than by typing /tell and their handle, or by right-clicking on their name in chat, every single time. I was later clued in to the fact that there was a keybinding for that, but the fact that you have to take focus OFF of the chat menu in order for that keybinding to work makes it rather annoying to attempt to have a conversation via tell.

You can’t enter a separate channel for tells on the dropdown, and you can’t see if the front of your message contains the /tell tag after you’ve typed enough for it to scroll to the side, so I’m constantly second-guessing myself and deleting my message to make sure it started with /tell. I get very nervous that I’m going to mistell something embarrassing to Zone chat (my friend actually did this within a few minutes of starting our conversation), and have ended up making custom channels for any conversations more than a couple of messages long.

Also, one time someone PMed me at DS9 to tell me that I was still displaying the Lieutenant title even though I’m a captain, and when I tried to respond to thank them for the heads-up, it told me that “new accounts cannot send tells to non-friends.” Excuse me? I created my account over two YEARS ago. I don’t think I qualify as “new” any more.

You know what would be really neat? If you could open a chat window that’s like a subspace communication, like the windows you use to talk with NPCs — it could have a picture of the other person’s character, like I’m having a video chat with them like people do in the show. I could minimize it while I’m in combat, make it flash when there are new messages. Maybe I could have buttons to make my character do little animations on screen when I want to smile or something.

6. Minimap zoom amount is very inconsistent.

I often find myself on ground missions where my minimap only displays a bunch of blurry pixels and is completely useless to get my bearings. I try to zoom out, but I can’t zoom out at all, I can only zoom in to what is even more blurry and useless. It would be nice if I wanted to know exactly how all of the enemies within 5 feet of me are arranged without actually looking at them, but is completely useless to find out where I’m supposed to be going from this room without opening up the zone map.

7. Quests are often extremely unclear about where I’m supposed to go.

One of three situations will happen. Either I’m supposed to inspect several objects, and the highlighted zone on the map is the ENTIRE map, which is not helpful at all. Or the thing I’m supposed to inspect is so tiny that the scaled-down edges of the selected area are nearly invisible on the zone map. Or there is no highlighted area on the map at all.

Oftentimes, the quest gives me little information other than “use the computer” or “scan the rocks” or “administer the antidote.” Who am I administering the antidote to, and where are they? Where are the things I need to scan?

I try to look in my quest log, and it only shows the description for the overall quest, no help for the specific subquest that I’m currently working on. I look through the log at the things my bridge officers told me, and they’re not much help. They might tell me who to administer the antidote to, but I still have no idea where this person is. They tell me that I need to scan the thingamabobs, but they don’t even give me a general direction.

It’s nice that I can use my V-key scanner to look for interactable things, but it doesn’t help at all in some situations. Scanning finds both quest items and anomalies. Several times, the anomalies are underground or inside a building and I can’t get them to go away, but the scan keeps pointing towards it. I just have to run around the giant circled quest area in hopes that I’ll stumble onto one of the things I need to find, because my scanner has been neutralized completely.

8. Bridge officer recommendations for duty officer assignments are often not the best choices.

I keep trying the bridge officer recommendations, but I am constantly finding that there are other people in my roster who are not being recommended and are better for the task.

This isn’t just a case of the recommendation choosing a green-quality person with no matching traits when there are white-quality people with several matching traits. I’m talking about my bridge officers recommending white-quality people with NO matching traits, when there are several white-quality people who DO have matching traits as well as green-quality people with no matching traits.

Here’s an example. One time, the three that were recommended to me were all white-quality officers without a single matching trait between them. Out of curiosity, I clicked to see the full list, and there was a fourth person — a green-quality officer with TWO matching traits. Selecting one of the non-matching officers left me with 8% critical and 92% success, but selecting the matching person DOUBLED my critical success! Isn’t a higher chance of critical success better?

What kind of criteria is it using? Is there some reason other than RP for slotting certain bridge officers as the leaders of certain departments? Are some bridge officers better at making recommendations than others? Or is there some reason I would WANT to use someone with no matching traits over someone with several? This goes against how the duty officer system was explained to me, and also what the percentages are when I compare these officers.

Edit: Ooh, I’ve got screenshots!

Take a look at my recommendations for this assignment. Nothing matches!

Let’s look at the full list, shall we?

I’ve got 10 officers in my total list who match at least one trait, two of them matching two traits. I’ve got ten officers who are green-quality, some of them matching traits. And there, in the middle of the list, is Nemekra, who not only matches two traits, but is green quality! Why is she not being recommended to me? Why are NONE of these people being recommended to me??

9. It is very time-consuming to travel to other places to complete quests.

I log in, and find myself sitting at Earth Spacedock, where I often log out for the night. I poke at my Duty Officers to get them all set up, I toss a few items on the exchange, and then I look at my quest log. I think to myself “hmm, I think I’d like to get a few quests done.” I ask the diplomacy guy where I’m going today, and he tells me “the opposite side of the quadrant!” Ugh. I don’t want to fly all the way over there… I think I’ll just log off and watch an old episode of Voyager.

It’s great that the main story missions give an easy way to teleport directly to them, but why isn’t there an easy way to travel to the other zones quickly? Most other MMOs give easy ways to travel long distances. I feel like flight paths have been abolished and I’m being asked to run on foot all the way from Stormwind to Blasted Lands every night. At least in WoW, I could hop on a gryphon and fly all the way across the continent while I go do something else, but in STO, I need to actually be paying attention while I travel in order to say “Yes, I do want to warp to the next sector” and then wait through a loading screen, aim my ship in the proper direction, then wait for the next sector-change popup. It’s nice that I can auto-route to systems within a sector, but that doesn’t help me when my destination is three sectors away.

More wormholes/transwarp locations, please? I love that I have one for Earth so that I can jump home when I’m done with whatever I was doing in the far corners of the galaxy, but the trip over there in the first place takes way too long.

In a similar vein, loading screens take WAY too long. It can take me five minutes to get into Earth Spacedock or DS9. Occasionally, it would get up to 94 or so and then just hang there. After a few minutes, I’ll give up and restart the game, and it loads me in just fine. But more often than not, I’ll start flying in a straight line through sector space or encounter a loading screen and alt-tab out to read some blogs. A half hour later, I’ll remember that I was playing STO and alt-tab back to the game to find that I’ve been logged out due to being idle. I wouldn’t do that so much if travel wasn’t so time-consuming.

10. Where are the Borg missions, and how are they triggered?

I seem to run into these at random when traveling. I want my friend to come help me so we’ll be more likely to succeed, and it takes five minutes for him to travel to my location. It seems specific to not only my sector, but also the instance of that sector. I need my friend to be exactly where I am in order to come help, and the quest is mostly over by the time he gets there. I really wish there were an easier way for party members to join in on these, especially since they’re timed.

I could understand if it were an hourly event, say every hour on the hour, there is a borg attack. But for there to be a borg attack at THIS time, in THIS instance of THIS sector, and nowhere else, is just weird. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it, so that if I want to fight some borg, I can never find them anywhere, but they’re always popping up when I’m on my way to do something else.

11. The economy is totally screwed up.

Not that I’m complaining, but why the HELL are people willing to pay 8,000 Energy Credits on an item they can buy from their own ship’s replicator at any time for 10% of that, or from cargo ships in sector space for even less? Is it because people are idiots, or aren’t paying attention? Is it because the game does a really bad job of teaching players where they can buy commodities, so that when they encounter a quest requiring these items, they think they HAVE to buy them at that price in order to complete it? Is it a side effect of having a 40-item limit for the Exchange, meaning there is not enough supply to meet the demand?

I’m not sure where people are getting all of these Energy Credits, but I think there’s something horribly wrong when I can earn huge amounts of money by buying common items from NPCs for pennies and relisting them. In our WoW terms, this is like those people who sell individual glasses of milk on the auction house during the holidays because there are people too stupid to know they can buy it from the innkeeper 20 feet away. You scoff because you don’t think anyone will actually buy them and those people are wasting their time, but you know deep-down that whoever’s listing them wouldn’t do it in the first place if they weren’t actually selling any at that price.

Rules for my Second Playthrough

November 30th, 2011

This is mainly to give me further challenge and try to break my bad habits in this game, but also to feel more immersive and try to put myself in my character’s shoes.

1. No dragons. Complete no quests in the main story past what you need to do in order to get out of the tutorial. This way, no random dragons will spawn in the world, and you can go about your business peacefully. I’ve already completed the main quest chain, and I find the dragons more annoying than anything else at this point. This rule also equals no shouts — even though you’ll occasionally find a word in a dungeon, without absorbing dragon souls, you have no way of using them.

2. No stealing or otherwise breaking the law. Not even untraceable gold and coinpurses. I will bend this rule slightly if an NPC gives me a quest that specifically requires me to steal something or break into someone’s house, and then I will ONLY steal the thing I am told to steal, nothing else. Lockpicks can be carried and used, as long as they are only used to open doors or chests in dungeons. (I am forced to make this minor exception because Skyrim has no “open lock” spell as Oblivion did.) This basically means no Thieves’ Guild and no Dark Brotherhood (mainly because I’ve already finished Dark Brotherhood and have no interest in furthering the Thieves’ Guild quests).

3. No non-magical weapons. I must do everything with spells. The only weapons I am allowed to equip are staves. This will force you to use tactics and take advantage of all of the different utility spells the various magic skills have to offer.

4. No light or heavy armor. I make an exception ONLY for when I happen to find a piece of heavy or light armor that has a non-combat enchantment on it that I will equip only while using that non-combat skill, such as a steel plate helmet of Alchemy.

5. Drastically limited looting. I am only allowed to pick up the following objects: potions, alchemy ingredients, food, wine, jewelry, gemstones/soulstones, ingots of gold or silver, money, cloth armor, staves, rare books (especially the 50+ gold ones that grant skill points), spell tomes, and any enchanted light or heavy armor pieces that have interesting enchantments that you want to disenchant for use later (such as the aforementioned steel plate helmet of alchemy), and obviously quest items. (*note: You are allowed to carry ONE set of heavy armor + weapon for the express purpose of giving it to prisoners on the road when you free them, if you plan to do so. You can replace this set if you give it away for this reason, or trade in pieces for better ones you find.)

Your main source of income should be unwanted potions and enchanted jewelry. It doesn’t really make sense to be carrying around dozens of sets of armor in your backpack, and this tries to reflect that. If you’ve already got enough food for the next week, try to avoid stuffing every potato and loaf of bread in your backpack. That stuff is heavy, and there’s no reason to hoard food when you’re going to have plenty of time to find more before you run out. Avoid carrying entire wheels of cheese, because you can’t split them into smaller slices in any way (new cooking recipe, anyone?) and it just doesn’t feel right to be devouring two pounds of cheese for lunch.

6. No companion characters. You’re going this alone, except for your various Conjurations. Companion NPCs are too easy to hurt with destruction spells, especially the spells you get at the higher levels that are all about AoE. You are allowed to purchase and ride a horse if you wish, since most of your combat is going to be inside of dungeons where the horse cannot follow. Dogs, however, are not allowed. If you happen to unlock any housecarls from quests, they can go ahead and live in your house while you’re gone, but they’re certainly not following you on your adventures.

7. You must sleep every night. This game tries to ignore sleep, but your character must be exhausted from staying awake for weeks at a time. When it starts to get later than 8 pm and all of the shops close down, try to find a room at an inn if you don’t own a house in that city. If you’re away from home, try to clear out a bandit camp or something with tents you can sleep in for the night. Sleep until at least 6 am the next day if you get to bed early, and sleep in later if you stay up past 10 pm. Try to think about how tired your character would be after a day of solid adventuring. Do try to get an early start before starting on any particularly long journeys, so that you’ll have plenty of time to explore that cave and get back before dark.

8. Eat meals on a regular basis. Carry around food and beverages, not to devour during battle when you need health restored, but so that you have plenty to eat when you’re away from town. At each mealtime, try to select a realistic variety of foods that might make up a real meal, like meat, vegetables, starch, wine, and dessert. You can eat vegetables raw if you have to, but always prioritize the cooked ones, and never eat raw meat or fish. Try to put yourself in your character’s shoes, and see how you would feel about having nothing but a bushel of raw potatoes for breakfast.

9. Stick to the roads. No cutting through the wilderness directly towards the arrow on the compass, which usually results in wallwalking and carefully falling down steep cliffs in order to reach your destination because the road to that place is far from obvious on the map. Liberal use of the Clairvoyance spell will lead you to the proper roads to your destination.

10. No fast travel. You must walk on the roads manually between any of your destinations, dealing with any enemies you encounter along the way, and picking up any alchemy reagents you find. In addition to reducing the chance that you’ll accidentally stay up past your bedtime, this encourages you to focus on quests that are near your current location, and not hop all over the place through the countryside.

11. You must increase your Magicka every time you level up. Stamina is of no use to you except in running away, since you don’t use weapons and you won’t be looting enough to be overburdened. Having low health will encourage you to be more tactical and avoid getting hit instead of taking the blows. And of course, having as much mana as possible will help you cast as many things as possible.

12. When you level up, you must put your Perk point for that level into whatever skill caused you to level up. If you leveled up from casting a destruction spell, put it into Destruction. If you leveled up from enchanting some rings, put it into Enchanting. If you leveled up from selling something, you put it into Speech. Et cetera. There are two exceptions to this. The first being if you leveled up due to finding a book that taught you a skill point in something you’re not allowed to use, such as heavy armor or archery. The second being if you have no further perks available in that skill, since you have taken them all already and do not yet have a high enough level in that skill to learn the next. In both of these situations, you can choose a perk in any skill of your choice.

13. No blacksmithing except for jewelry and magic staves (which are craftable using a certain mod). This mostly goes without saying, since you’re not equipping any armor or weapons, so you have no need to craft them or improve them. You’re also not picking up any of the materials that would be used to craft them.

14. No stashing of loot in your house, except for placing rare books and spell tomes on the bookshelves. If you’re getting overburdened for whatever reason, sell off your extra potions or something.

Mods used to assist with this:
1. Novice level destruction perk makes novice spells free rather than half cost. These spells do so little damage, they’re basically just used to give you a “basic attack” when you’re out of mana, or so that you can spend your mana on more tactical things like summons, frenzy, armor, or healing. I basically only take that mod and the staff crafting one from this pack.


2. Various other destruction tweaks to allow it to scale better with level, such as adding a third rank to increased elemental damage perks and causing the expert/master perks to increase spell damage further. Improvements to the cloak and rune spells to make them more worth using.


3. Cooking recipe additions, allowing you to cook things that already exist in-game such as baked potatoes and grilled leeks, as well as several new recipes. This should cut down on the number of raw vegetables you’re carrying around.



4. Optionally, remove the compass at the top of the screen to reduce your temptation to walk towards the arrow, and force you to find where the enemies are on your own by looking around and seeing where that arrow came from.


My new character is a thin wisp of a high elf (because high elves are best with magic y’know) with green eyes and a suitably elven name that I cannot remember except that it starts with an M. She is a bit high and mighty and disdainful of getting blood on her hands and clothes. She tries to kill her enemies from a distance with destruction spells and summoned creatures, and certainly isn’t going to go running off of the path to hunt and skin a deer or something. She has no interest in stripping her defeated enemies down to their underwear so that she can drag a giant bag full of quasi-valuable leather armor to the nearest shop. She’s not even sure she knows how to hold a sword.

She is currently level 10 and has joined the College of Winterhold, though she has no interest in following them on their little field trip. She plans to join the Stormcloaks when she returns to whatever cold-themed name that city had, halfway because my last character joined up with the Imperials and halfway because she’s trying to overcome racial stereotypes, or something. I’m still working on this RP stuff.

Skyrim Musings, Part 3

November 28th, 2011

I’ve finished with most of the main quest chains in the game — I only have the thieves’ guild and the bard stuff left, and pages upon pages of sidequests that I’ve mostly been ignoring in favor of getting the spoiler-rich main chains done. So if you haven’t finished these quest chains, I’m warning you of spoilers now.

Here’s something to listen to in the meantime.

I’m disappointed with how structured the main quest was, and how abruptly it ended.

I went through all this trouble to learn the Dragonrend shout, so that I could use it on Alduin, so then I’m like “cool, I’ve got a shout I can use to force dragons to the ground!” Then I encountered another random dragon, and immediately went to use my Dragonrend shout. It made the dragon glow blue, but otherwise did nothing at all to it. I said “well, that’s kinda lame” and continued about my business.

I got all the way to Sovngarde (a.k.a. Valhalla), finally got to Alduin so I could fight him again, and tried using the Dragonrend shout. It made him glow blue, and otherwise did nothing. My three ghostly companions then yelled out “Use Dragonrend!” and I was like “I just did, it didn’t do anything!” but I sighed and did anyway, and this time it pulled him to the ground. So, what, you teach me this shout that would actually be really useful in gameplay for fighting the random dragons that show up all over the place, but I’m only allowed to use it against Alduin during a certain part of this fight? Why can’t you give me an IN-GAME reason for why the shout has no effect? Because it isn’t explained at all. It simply doesn’t work in any situation ever unless NPCs specifically tell me to use it.

After I kill him, the guy in Sovngarde congratulates me, gives me a new shout I can use to summon a dude to help me fight (a reflavored conjuration spell) and I’m sent back to the mountaintop, which is interesting, because that isn’t where I started (it wouldn’t have made more sense to send me back through the portal I used to get there?). Once there, the dragons yell incoherently and fly away one at a time. The old dragon who was helping me said some things about how he was going to convince the other dragons to stop killing people now that their leader is dead, then flew away. The dragon I caught earlier who gave me a ride flew down and said I could call on him when needed, then flew away. Quest done, nobody else has anything to say about it.

I go to the Jarl, to tell him that the great evil has been slain and we can all rejoice that the end of the world has been averted. These NPCs all seemed very serious when we were negotiating the truce, and I had to constantly remind them that the fate of the entire WORLD was at stake. “Neither of us want to put aside our petty differences, the only reason we’re even entertaining the idea is because Ragnarok is at hand and the hero of legend is asking us personally. We’re only calling a truce temporarily until this end-of-the-world business is settled.” Now that it is, there isn’t so much as a dialogue option to mention my victory to him offhand.

The only acknowledgement I get that the citizens even KNOW about it is because the guards mention it as one of their random phrases as I walk past, in between asking me to enchant their butter-knife sword and warning me not to steal anything lest they cut off my hand.

Maybe this is just something that Elder Scrolls games just do at the end of their main story quest. I don’t know, I’ve never finished the main story in an Elder Scrolls game before. I just find the lack of any closure to be very unsatisfying. I’m not expecting a PARADE, but I’d at least like a “thank you” from someone who isn’t a dragon.

The mages’ college questchain also ended on a very unsatisfactory note. I honestly have no idea why they made me archmage after all of that.

The mysterious hooded guys, who barely said a word to anyone other than me before that moment, said that I will be archmage. The other people at the college decided that was a wonderful idea, despite the fact that I completed their quests using only the apprentice-level spells that were required for a couple of the puzzles, and used almost no magic otherwise. I spent most of my time shooting mana beasts with my bow. My magic skills are rather sad, since I almost completely stopped using all of my destruction spells about 20 levels ago.

The only reason I was sent on half of those missions was because other people were too busy doing more important things, or thought it was kinda a longshot that the thing they were looking for would be there, so basically said “knock yourself out” and sent me on my way. The only reason I was the one to go retrieve the staff at the end was because the Archmage was dead, the lady who’s second in command was seriously injured, and my professor was busy keeping the situation under control so that it didn’t get worse. Or something.

It wasn’t even a situation of “the archmage secretly wrote in his journal that he wanted me to be the next archmage before he died” thing that the Companions did. The guy didn’t even really like me. I don’t remember him saying more than a few sentences to me before he died. It was less of a “the archmage wanted you to have this” and more of a “the archmage told me I’d know what to do with this when the time comes, and I’m deciding that I need to give it to you.”

And then when the situation is resolved and the Object of Unimaginable Power was removed from the college and everything was back to the way it was before (minus the archmage), they decide to make ME the new archmage? WHY? They just say “What was that the strange hooded man just said? That you would be archmage? Sounds good to me!” What about the girl who was actually in second in command of the college? Or my very wise professor who I hadn’t taken more than one class from? Hell, even the orc librarian would make a better archmage. I’m barely even able to meet the entrance requirement of summoning a flame atronach. I’m hardly fit for leadership.

On second thought, I’m just going to assume that everyone at the college has just been mind-controlled by the psijics into agreeing with them.

And what the hell is up with that quest the Blades give me to kill Parthenax? I’m leaving the peace talks, and all of a sudden that Blades girl catches up to me on the way out and tells me that they know he’s a dragon, and that they refuse to help me any more unless I kill him, because they’re sworn to kill all dragons and they can’t in good conscience help someone who’s a dragon sympathizer. She makes a very convincing argument that even though he’s helping us now, he betrayed his master once before, and it’s not exactly unlikely that he’ll betray us too in the future (dragons do live forever, after all).

So I’m sad, but I head up to the mountaintop, and I go talk to Parthenax. I tell him that the Blades want him dead, that they don’t trust him, and he’s very understanding, says they’re wise not to trust him, he doesn’t trust any other dragons either, and it’s only through constant vigilance and meditation that he’s able to overcome the natural draconic urge to enslave humanity.

That doesn’t do anything to update the quest, which still tells me to kill him, so I’m sad as I sneak behind him and ready my bow. I hit him for half his health in the first blow, he doesn’t attack me or anything, so I think maybe he’s accepted his fate and is just letting me execute him for the good of the world.

I hit him with a second arrow, and he continues standing there, perched on the edge of the wall like before. His health goes down to zero and his health bar disappears. I keep shooting him, but he can’t die. Okay, now I know he’s bugged.

Now, I get that I’m not supposed to be able to kill him because he’s a story NPC, and he had some very important things to say during the ending sequence later, because I gave up on trying to kill him and just went on with what I was doing. However, if that was the case, why give me a quest to kill an NPC if I’m not actually able to complete it until later?

Maybe I can go kill him now that the main story is over, but I really don’t know why I would want to. I only needed their help to find out how to kill Alduin. I’ve got the information I needed now. I can kill dragons just fine by myself, thank you very much, with or without that stupid broken Dragonrend shout. Their refusal to help me doesn’t really bother me very much, as I’ve mostly forgotten where their new base is anyway.

The game gets way too easy towards the end. I spent so much time crafting in town that I had crazy high bonuses. Once I focused on being a thief archetype (having no interest in wearing heavy armor or getting up close to the enemy, and finding the magic system in this game to be so limited and anticreative that it’s pointless) and put almost all of my perk points into sneak and archery bonuses, I rarely actually fight anything any more.

I sneak through dungeons, pick off all of the enemies from the doorway with one shot from my bow, then move through collecting the arrows and other loot before saving and moving on to the next room. Very rarely do I encounter enemies that survive the first shot, and most often it’s actually because I tried to fire an arrow through a narrow opening that had larger collision than it appeared to, the arrow got stuck in the empty space NEXT to the doorframe, and the enemy hears the noise and comes to investigate.

Like this:

I pick up valuable weapons and armor and gemstones and ore and animal hides, and I stash them in my house “until I need them”. My smithing and enchanting are maxed out at 100, I’ve got the best weapons and armor I can make, I have no need to craft more things.

I don’t need the money from selling these things. I haven’t had anything I’ve particularly wanted to buy since I stocked my house. I have no reason to buy more houses, because the first one holds all of my stuff just fine. Since containers hold an unlimited amount of stuff, I can stuff everything I own into the smallest possible house and it works fine.

I find myself with twelve thousand gold on a regular basis, so I splurge and spend it on five skillups from the local trainer just because I can. Trainers no longer have skill limits as they did in Oblivion — any trainer for a particular skill can seemingly train you up to the max of 100, rather than requiring you to search the country for the one person living in an abandoned shack who can train you the rest of the way.

But I’m starting to question why I’m picking up anything at all, since I don’t need money and my gear can’t really get any better. I still pick up gold and potions, though I’m not even sure why I even do that any more. I have far more potions than I have any use for, with how few fights I’m actually in. I gave up on carrying food 10 levels ago when I realized I had 50 pounds worth of health potions (due to my obsessive need to pick up all alchemy ingredients) sitting in my bags that I could use instead of devouring that pile of 100 potatoes.

I should have just ignored enchanting completely. Most of the time I was leveling up, the stuff I could make through enchanting was pathetically weak compared to the loot I was finding in the dungeons. By the time I leveled up my enchanting enough to actually make stuff that was better, I had no need of it any more because my archery/smithing perks already caused me to do so much damage that increasing my bow damage by a percentage on top of that was just overkill.

Actually, I should have probably ignored all of the tradeskills. I could have continued to chug potions for health restoration, but I could have spent my money from looting tombs on just buying more health potions. The smithing bonuses are just insane once you get to a higher level, as well.

Cooking is absolutely pointless, and I was just wasting alchemy reagents (salt and garlic) on turning a piece of meat that weighs 2 pounds and restores 1 health into a cooked piece of meat that weighs 2 pounds and restores 5 health. Maybe 10 if I’m lucky. They make it so easy to steal things from towns because it ultimately doesn’t matter, because all this stuff is worthless junk even if it has “value”. Even stealing gold from people, which has no downside because gold can’t be tracked (unlike mass-produced mead bottles and pieces of fruit), has no purpose because there isn’t really anything of interest to spend the gold *on*.

So for now, I’m not going to bother to keep playing, at least this save. I still need to finish the quest chain for the Thieves’ Guild, but I don’t really like them and have no incentive to want them to succeed. I’ve barely done anything with the bard’s college, but since it doesn’t appear that I can actually play any of the instruments I find in this game, I’m sure most of it is just going to be “diplomacy while someone near you plays an instrument” or something like that. Maybe some more “go search ancient tomb X for this forgotten verse” because I’m obviously an adventurer, not a bard, and isn’t that cute, look, she wants to be a bard. How dare I try to have any profession in this world that is unrelated to plundering ancient tombs for their mummified loot.

I will probably come back to this game and play it a second time later on, when the mod creation kit has been released and people are making mods to fix the stupid things about this game. Hack my UI to make it not stupid. Get a mod to add a bunch of spells and create new spells like I could in Oblivion, and make an exclusively mage character who only wears robes and staves and throws crazy lightning bolts everywhere and exclusively spends her level-up points on mana. Make an exclusively melee character with heavy armor and a two-hander who is ethically bound to not ever steal anything or sneak around like a sneaky sneaky thief.

I can make “challenge” rules for myself, like “no companion characters” or “no stealing” or “no magic”. “No fast travel to hop all around the world willy nilly” and the corresponding rule “no staying awake for weeks at a time” where you MUST sleep through the night, which would mean mostly doing local quests around a certain location and always staying at the inn or camping out in a cleared-out bandit hideout. Or “no picking up items if I’m not planning to actually use them myself” to limit my money input to what I get from quest rewards or the gear I’ve found upgrades for.

As much as this game allows you to mix and match multiple archetypes, it really does work best if you focus on one “class”. Sure, you CAN make a heavy-armored thief who kills things with destruction magic, but the game (and the interface) really punishes you for it. If you want to be a paladin who uses heavy armor and a sword/shield but swaps back and forth to restoration magic to heal themself, you’ve gotta deal with the fact that you can’t have weapons and spells equipped at the same time, forcing you to open the favorites menu constantly during a fight in order to swap back and forth. (And before you suggest it, I haven’t had any luck with binding favorites combinations to number keys. It’s fine with two-handed weapons like bows, but as soon as you start trying to save certain combinations of spells, it really doesn’t like you.)

Even though I can continue from where I am now and complete all of the quests as my overpowered self to see all of the storyline, I’d much rather start over completely, completely ignoring the quest chains I finished the previous time in favor of becoming an unattached bard who completes odd sidequests for the towns she passes through. Probably not even doing the initial quest that causes the dragons to start flying around, so I won’t need to worry about them randomly attacking me.

I don’t really have much of a use for the shouts. The ones that actually worked were of quite limited usefulness. The only ones I’d really use with any regularity were the aura whisper to see where the enemies were in the room up ahead so I could sneak up on them more easily (because apparently “detect life” is not a spell that exists in Skyrim, or if it does, I’ve never found it) and the ice form to CC that bear and run away before it bites my head off.

And I’ll stop reading books. I’ve got them all on my kindle now, so I can read them at my own leisure and stop worrying about finding them all in-game.