There have been many Sci-Fi MMO games available to choose from over the years, still few have truly set their own paths in the industry with success. While many followed standards, game-engines, and trends set by popularly successful MMO's, the Star Trek™ Online (STO) experience has managed to satisfy many MMO gamers whether Trekkies or not.
When STO was released it was minimally the game it has developed into over the course of its being. Driven during its release by the growing fandom that ensued not long after the J.J. Abrams reboot of the classic TV series onto the big screen; some may be surprised to find its current reality as impressive as it has become. Initially the game lacked in PVP amongst many other elements that have since been evolved into the game. Not unlike many today it is a free-to-play MMO, but began as subscription based and still has subscription benefits to offer players. Something strongly significant is the fact that no matter how enticing purchases may be from their money market within the game; progress and enjoyment of the game are not at all hinged upon such purchases. This may be true of other competitors as well, but STO seems to have blended some of the driving elements many Sci-Fi MMO gamers will agree made for the best parts of those competitors; ultimately making for a very worthwhile MMO experience especially for the more advanced MMO players.
Though many MMO gamers have their specific desires of pleasures offered within each MMO, STO developers have managed to address many of the fail points other MMO's have overlooked in their creation and development over time. While the mechanics alone are innovative enough when compared to the many cookie-cutter MMO's available, this is not at all the exclusive in their address to the current market and times faced within the industry.
Daily quest incentives
Many MMO games offer daily quests that are available within 24 hour rotations for the advanced players that have achieved the top levels within the game; STO however provides many daily quests that are capable of reward and repeat over the course of the players' advancement and still available for repeat upon completion of their level grinding. These daily quests offer rewards of not only experience but commendation marks and other commodities used for purchasing or crafting upgrades, items, and advancements for the player taking part in them. While other MMO's may have daily quests with such incentives as well, STO gamers do not always have a full 24 hours prior to being able to repeat several of these quests offered within their game; most daily quests are on a 20 hour rotation as opposed to 24 making the flexibility of play times for completing them much more relaxed and relaxing in planning for and around them.
Progress without playing
While not available initially when starting the game, once a character has advanced sufficiently in level and rank within STO there are missions available for the 'Duty Officers' of the crewman from the players star ship. These Duty Officers can be sent on quests that will run in the background whether the player is in or out of the game. These missions reward with experience for both the character and the department of Duty Officers' assignment. The experience for the character will assist with the overall level progression, while the department XP will unlock not only further advanced quests but upon each tier achieved in a department will award another Duty Officer to purchase using a commendation mark provided according to the tier that has been achieved. Initially a player (free-to-play or otherwise) will start with a roster total of 100 Duty Officers possible; some missions offered may only require one particular officer from a specific department, while others can require multiple roles filled for running them. The time to complete each of these missions can vary from as short as 30 minutes to as long as 3 days; in that time taken a player can then either log out of the game and return to collect the reward upon success or simply continue playing within other aspects offered.
Rewards for completion of Duty Officer missions will not only include experience, credits, and materials but sometimes even involve passengers and collecting new officers whether duty or bridge officers, that will also be available to assist. Each mission will have criteria that certain Duty Officers will meet better than others, when picking the officers to assign to each mission there is a pie graph to indicate the overall chances of success or failure based off of the officers chosen. This system leaves little question as to the outcomes you will be faced with, while there are still dice rolls involved in that outcome; knowing the odds greatly assists in achieving the outcome desired.
To expound on this element of their MMO even further, certain Duty Officers will offer bonuses for ground or space combat when assigned to the active ground or space rosters. While these officers are in such rosters they are unavailable for the Duty missions, but will without a doubt prove helpful in the actual game-playing once assigned strategically to such positioning for the bonus offered to take effect.
One of the major downsides to most MMO games is the extreme shifts in population that can take place. STO has played a strong hand in their efforts to ward off the negative impacts of as much with their 'single-server' approach. Initially, like many MMO's, this game opened with multiple servers to choose from for playing on; at some point during the progression into free-to-play, or possibly even prior, all the servers were merged into one server filled with instances of zones for their players to meet and enjoy the game within. This created several positive impacts for their game, two of the major ones being; 1- there is no need to concern yourself with remembering a 'server name' to join your friends on when starting the game anew, and 2- due to their handling of account names and character names, you are not denied the name you may desire for your character regardless of who else may share that name. Each of the accounts within STO are bound under the account name and not the character's. Due to as much no desired character name will be denied so long as it does not infringe upon their Terms of Service (TOS).
Every MMO out there has a degree of repetition involved, if not a great deal; while STO is not truly outside of this reality their handling of as much cannot go without notice. Akin to the popular TV series on which this title was based STO offers not only a fairly large range of different quests, objectives, and even hybridizations of those objectives- it also allows for several other nuances that can help break the monotony of repetition involved. Like many of its competitors STO offers both PVP and PVE driven quests for a character to advance within, but the PVP quests are rarely the first to instill the boredom of grinding through levels as a character is progressed.
Many of the PVE quests are similar in handling and ultimate resolution; however the real beauty of STO's handling of these quests is best described as being akin to the episodes of the series it came from. Perhaps you weren't in the mood for a ground based episode but wanted a space combat episode instead, or maybe combat wasn't of any interest one day and you'd rather be doing some resource gathering or mindless clicking without the needed concentration in combat. In STO there are 'exploration' quests for certain quadrants of space where several random quests become available. Exploring one star system may involve a warp capable species requesting delivery of some supplies, or perhaps a space base where raiders have been blocking their transmissions for assistance resulting in your need to remove the assailants from about, or possibly even a simple science investigation of anomalies either in space or from a planet's surface. Don't be fooled though, sometimes what may open with a possible space interaction could close with transporting down to the ground for further progress from there. Each encounter during these exploration quests could involve similar or completely different elements to one another, and the beauty of them is that they are not required for completion of any of the actual quests involved. If you find yourself in a mission you are annoyed or simply bored of performing, simply return to the 'sector space' and seek out another system to explore for another roll of the dice on the mission it will provide.
Aside from the repetition of questing, the game also offers what would be referred to as 'mini-games' to occupy a player. Gambling with Dabo, or even mining for Dilithium ore could be recognized as such; offering side entertainments that are a break from the run-of-the-mill daily grinding to level up. All the while a player could be running Duty Officer missions to further the advancement and investment of time.
Like other major MMO's today, STO also has innovative group finding tools along with queue options for getting involved in PVP as well as PVE aspects of the game that require a group to succeed in. Not a real sociable MMO gamer? Then simply queue up for the advanced team gaming and let the game find your group to play with.
Probably one of the most groundbreaking pieces of relief from the monotony that STO has to offer would be the 'Foundry Quest' events; an ongoing quest-line readily and steadily developed and voted upon by the players of the game. Don't feel like playing today, but have some great ideas to offer into the progression of the Foundry? Log-in and rather than play your character work on additions to the Foundry quest-line.
While most free-to-play MMO's cannot be played long before the sting of desired purchases becomes too much to withstand; STO has not only innovatively approached their money-market but their entire economy. Certainly it is as simple as inputting some credit or cash into your account to then make purchases using their Zen™ monetary system; but even those without funds can enjoy the credit of Zen™ by signing up for surveys and other means by which Zen™ can be acquired for online interactions. While the under 18 year-olds may not be able to reap these benefits as readily, the fact that there is another means to raise Zen™ versus simply handing over your hard earned cash is a stronger incentive than the Zen™ coins themselves can prove to be. That's not where the plus ends in addition either, the fact is within the game you can even trade in refined Dilithium crystals for Zen coins! Unrefined Dilithium crystals are a reward given for several quests as well as the option to mine them within select quadrants of space. Though these are unrefined crystals, in order to refine them it's nothing more than a click of a button from the 'Asset' tab of the character's inventory to make them refined; though there is a daily limit on how many can be refined per day, this is still a much stronger economic means for their game to address the current economic state of their gamers. Elements such as this make it that much more difficult to deny the passion for their game over the passion for your dollars.
While there are possibly MMO gamers out there that have abstained from giving STO a shot at biding for their entertainment, there are likely more playing STO that maybe weren't Star Trek fans to begin with but have found themselves further impassioned to the title due to the MMO it has offered the community. Considering the fact the game is completely free to take part in, creates so many means to get around actual cash investments, and ultimately houses a wide range of means to entertain once immersed; it isn't surprising that they still offer a lifetime subscription that players are still to this day finding themselves investing in.