I’ve been itching to try Star Trek Online for a while now. When it was still in development, I tried to get into the beta, but had no luck. Then I tried to find a demo or trial to play, but at first they didn’t offer one. And that’s a big mistake that most other online games make; if I can’t try a game, I’m not going to buy it. I’m not going to spend my money on a game I’ve never played, unless it comes from Blizzard.
Fortunately, there’s now a demo for STO, so I eagerly loaded it up (through Steam) and tried it out.
I knew exactly which type of character I wanted to make: a Vulcan Science Officer. Clichéd, I know. But I wanted to play as the captain of a science vessel, and fortunately I got to do exactly that. There’s a huge variety of variables to tweak to make your characters look exactly the way you want them to. However, my character looked exactly the way you’d expect a Vulcan Science Officer to look. You just don’t mess with the classics.
My ship, pictured above, was the USS Douglas Adams. It’s well-established that most science vessels in Star Trek are named after famous scientists or influential authors, and I couldn’t resist picking one of my favorites. And apparently I wasn’t the only one, because I saw a ship called the USS Heinlein, and a few others I’m forgetting. (I almost named mine the USS James Randi, but I think it’s bad form to name a ship after a living person.)
From there, I began choosing a bridge crew. Through mission rewards and captain “credits” (influence, or prestige, or whatever) I picked up 4 new crew members. The first was a Bolian Engineer, but I screwed up the personalization and rather than looking cool like I tried, he wound up reverting to the default look. Lame. I decided to jettison him at the first opportunity.
Next, I grabbed a Ferengi tactical officer. I’ve always thought it’d be really cool to see a new Star Trek television series with a Ferengi as the second-in-command (preferably Nog from DS9). I made my Ferengi a huge, muscular meatbag (though he was still the shortest member of my crew).
As long as I was shattering cultural and racial norms, I next chose a female Klingon as my science officer. Oh, this would make for quite an interesting television show.
Finally, I replaced the Bolian with a gruff, veteran Andorian with a regulation haircut and well-trimmed white beard.
Unfortunately, since I was only playing the demo, I couldn’t really do anything else. I had access to one mission, and then the demo was over and I couldn’t do anything more than zoom around the sector map (but never enter any systems or pick up any new missions). Unfortunately, I couldn’t even walk around on my own bridge and admire my crew, because that wasn’t part of the demo either.
Then I thought, I’d be willing to pay for a month or two of this. I’d probably get tired of it after a while, but I hadn’t yet gotten my fill. The combat was ok (ship combat was much better than ground combat), but everything else was really cool.
Unfortunately, they won’t let you just start paying a subscription. They still want you to buy a box copy or digital copy for $30-40.
This really seems like a case of “so close, yet so far”. They came closer to getting my money than any other online game besides WoW. They let me try it out first, at least. They showed me that the game is worth paying for. But they’re still clinging to an old, box-based business model. And I’m not willing to spend $30-40 on a box when all I should need to do is pay a monthly fee.
If I was more interested in the game, maybe I’d be more willing to pay that initial amount. (After all, I’ve done it for WoW and two expansion packs, and I intend to do it again.) But I’m just looking for a distraction, not a new hobby. And the people who made STO need to change their business model to also cater to people like me. They could’ve made at least 15-30 bucks off me, but now they’re still at 0.