STO's Buggy Anniversary
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 6 February 2013, 6:41 pm
I haven't played much Star Trek Online since capping out one character on each faction last year.  I enjoyed the duty officer minigame far more than the space and ground combat that made up the traditional portions of STO, but I mostly ran out of stuff to do with my duty officers.  Thus, the annual anniversary event, with free starships for each faction as a rewards, was an opportunity for Cryptic to get me back into the game.  Unfortunately, they blew their chance to make a good impression through several bugs.

The Case of the Missing Bridge Officer Skills
Empty bridge officer skill slots - not a good plan, as you kind of need these.  (This was actually due to a second issue, see the end of this post.)
First up, I signed in to discover that none of my bridge officer skills were available in the space combat window.  I spent 10 minutes trying to mess with settings to figure out what I was doing wrong - time that proved unnecessary because the anniversary mission does not feature any combat in your regular starship, but that's beside the point - and eventually fired up Google. 

Apparently, this was an intentional bugfix of some sort made in a patch back in November but that incidentally requires that the player unassign all of their bridge officers from their slots once and then reassign them.  The comment from Cryptic when players complained on the forums was that they had mentioned this fix in the patch notes.  That would have been a somewhat unsatisfactory way to communicate if I had been actively playing at the time, but it was especially underwhelming several months later, when I could not find those patch notes if I wanted to read all of them. 

If you are going to break people's characters, however temporarily, you really need to provide some sort of pop-up notification that includes how to fix the problem.

The Mission That Would Not Complete
Having successfully reassigned the bridge officer skills that I turned out not to need, I headed off to complete the new anniversary mission.  A free ship is a reasonably big deal in a game where new ships are generally reserved for the cash shop.  In fact, the second anniversary festivities were what convinced me to try the game in the first place shortly after its free to play relaunch, and I was happy that I took part when I finally got to take my Odyssey class cruiser out for a spin at level cap. 

The new mission was a spinoff from a highly popular episode of TNG and featured a guest appearance by one of the show's original cast to voice their in-game character.  Most players had a good experience.  My experience was good... until I got to the end of the mission and did not receive credit for completing it.  I tried again, and was sent back to the mid-point of the mission to repeat a bunch of puzzles and story scenes... and not get credit again.  I tried and failed a third time. 

After this, it was back to Google for a second time in the evening.  It took a bit of digging to find the right search terms, but I eventually found half a dozen threads on the STO forums started by other players who got stuck in exactly the same place on the 3rd anniversary mission.  I saw no official confirmation from Cryptic that there was a bug or any plan to fix it, but a commonly re-posted workaround was to assign your NPC companions to tackle tasks that are NOT the tasks they say they are good at.  This is non-sensical, but it worked for me.  At least I knew the mission like the back of my hand at that point and was able to complete the Klingon version in under 20 minutes. 

As a little added thank-you bonus, the mission separates you from your normal bridge crew and therefore I ended the evening as I began it, with my bridge crew slots once again emptied for reasons beyond my control. 

Quality Assurance FTL?
Bugs happen, and sometimes Google is your friend - in my case, apparently the failing was to assume that I had done something wrong - twice in one evening - rather than immediately jumping to the conclusion that the game was broken and Google could tell me how to fix it.  I also get that you can't sell bugfixes for an additional fee in the cash store, and that is going to be the focus of a free to play game.

Even so, for an anniversary event like this one that is designed to bring back returning and/or curious players, a little quality assurance really might have made a difference.  If things had been fun, I might have settled in to work on some of the numerous missions that I never completed in my first trips to the game's cap.  As it was, I used up the extra time they could have spent trying to sell me on returning to the game trying to find workarounds for significant bugs.  I don't know whether that's more my loss or Cryptic's, but it's unfortunate. 

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