Warning: this long-ass blog post doesn’t disclose anything you don’t already know about Star Trek Online. In fact, I’ll allude to things without giving details which will frustrate the heck out of a few Redditors (Gird yourselves Tusken38, ruinthefun) Also, an upfront apology: After meeting so many new people, if I don’t mention you by name (or handle), it’s ’cause I suck at remembering names and faces – especially if alcohol was involved;)
Lastly, a quick shout out to Tacofangs for letting me use pictures from his Flickr photostream. Thank you!
In vino veritas.
Star Trek Online’s Meet & Greet at iBar was noisy with many familiar names (and faces) from Star Trek Online, the Foundry Roundtable, Priority One (finally met Elijah, Kenna and Wynters) and even the former CM Branflakes. The atmosphere felt more like a family reunion than a party, and it was clear everyone was blowing off a little steam after a long convention day.
“One last question.“
Stephen Ricossa smiled, “I think that’s your fifth ‘last question’“.
“Sixth“, I replied while counting fingers.
Two days earlier we talked briefly about sitting down, but I had not followed up. As Stephen was due to leave the next morning, this was going to be our only chance for a face to face that weekend.
I had started my conversation with Salami Inferno by sheepishly throwing up my hands and admitting I knew ‘almost nothing’ about Star Trek Online’s in-game economy, touching on why I had the 2-Mil-Dil shirts made. Conversations with Borticus and Jesse on the previous day made it clear to me my depth of knowledge only scratched the surface. He laughed and referred to me as his nemesis, and after getting drinks, we sat down at the bar to talk.
Stephen is one of the most friendliest guys you’ll ever meet from the team. Don’t get me wrong, Maria ranks up there as a strong #2, but Stephen is hands-down the teams’ cheerleader. His sincere enthusiasm is infectious, which made me feel a little guilty when I started talking.
I vented on why I thought the Latinum Grand Nagus was poorly handled, and the surprise of the TOS Holoboff giveaway. We talked about the console’s potential, the scope of the player base and the recent license extension with CBS. On why a patch might not have details listed. We discussed the new items recently added to the dilithium store, and the 2-Mil-Dil shirt. Why didn’t the game have its own inbuilt parser, especially now with the console release? We talked about upcoming changes and surprised me with news about a pending addition that brought a smile to my face.
Sure, some answers were Cryptic® – but I knew going in there would be some topics he honestly could not answer with specifics. To his credit, though, he was willing to answer almost everything and I came away feeling Darmok and Jalad on the ocean.
CrypticSpartan has said – until you hear it from a dev, it’s not official®. But what about the EP? Oh yeah. Right. The entire conversation was off the record. Dammit.
As with most of the conversations I had that weekend, my discussion with Stephen ended on the economy and the lack of release note specifics when changes that impact the economy are made. The answer is really simple. Speculators and those who find ways to skew the system for their benefit take advantage of advance knowledge, and can harm the economy. So economy changes will never be discussed in advance, as it was with the surprise changes to contraband’s CD timers.
As a fan of the game, I came away from that conversation feeling very good about the game and what may be coming soon® 😉
I do have two regrets though – I didn’t get around to chatting with Captain Gecko (bad timing/availability on my part), and that Morrigan (@LaughingTrendy) wasn’t part of the team in Vegas. I was able to catch up with Morrigan, and players SirBoulevard & Zorbane for dinner a few weeks later in Seattle at PAX.
Friday was the high point of my trip, ending with the requisite In-And-Out Burger meal with a great group of new friends. Teacher Kirby & Hubby, Timberwolf & his girlfriend Karie, SARoss (Pilot Review Show), NewGuy and I sat down and took stock on the convention so far. Over burgers, we chatted about what we had seen that day or heard about, the goings on at the MAC Cosmetics booth (amazing booth), who has stopped by at the PRS booth and Teach’s growing signature collection on her 2-Million-Dilithium Shirt.
What’s the deal with the Two Million Dilithium Shirts?
A week before STLV#50, Star Trek Online quietly introduced a number of ridiculously priced items, raising the ire of many including myself. Character bound and very unique, these clothing items cost more than some starships in the game. Given the fallout from the Latinum Nagus, and how some items and rewards were withdrawn from the game, this addition to the dilithium store seemed hamfisted and further entrenched the feeling that exclusivity was becoming the norm. It should be pointed out that that the TOS Holoboff giveaway, while incredibly generous, didn’t help the exclusivity issue in the minds of many players who could not attend.
Part protest, part humorless joke, I decided to make up a few IRL shirts for myself. When I posted these on Twitter, people asked if they could get them as well. So after adding them to CafePress (carefully removing anything IP related), other players purchased a few of the shirts.
All credit goes to Teacher Kirby and her Husband who made sure that every actor in attendance she could get to, signed the front of the shirt and ultimately got most of the STO team to sign the back of the shirt. The darn thing took on a life of its own.
Thank you, Teacher Kirby 😉
Yup, Brent Spiner has never heard of Star Trek Online. facepalm
So why did STO add these high-priced items?
We learned from multiple sources that there is a small percentage (<1%) of the player base who are sitting enough dilithium, that could negatively impact the market. These items are a small step in mitigating that problem. If successful, we could see more. Now I have argued and feel that these dilithium sinks are not necessarily the best way to move forward, but if they were to include things missing from the game (missing accolades, costumes, exclusive items, event ships, boffs), it might be a better way to approach the dilithium issue and the growing concerns of exclusivity.
More on the subject of exclusivity in a future blog post.
Star Trek Las Vegas – @ The Rio
I arrived in the evening on a flight from Vancouver, sitting a few seats away from Robert Picardo, Voyager’s EMH. Trying very hard not to look like a stalker, I wasn’t sure it was him at first until he dictated to his iPhone. Yup, I’m now a certifiable stalker. It was hard not to notice the energy coming from a large number of passengers clearly heading for the big event – the Trek 50 shirts were a dead giveaway and I suddenly started to feel overdressed.
Arriving at the RIO was an experience in itself. Home to the convention for the next 5 days, it’s a casino that has become a little rough around the edges. While there was little signage about the event at the entrance, the line-up of fans made it clear if you’re a fan of Star Trek – this was the place to be.
Everyone was super-friendly and it felt like going to a family reunion for the first time. Despite the incredibly long check-in line, a cold bottle of water was waiting for me, and I was up in my suite relaxing within 30 minutes. Apparently, those who checked in earlier that day faced hours-long lineups for both rooms and their convention passes.
While I’m no stranger to conventions and events in Vegas, this was my first Star Trek convention as a fan. Add to that unique atmosphere a certain apprehension in meeting the STO team members face to face – the anonymity of the blog now gone – I was uncertain how they’d react in general. I had gotten to know Maria (Zeroniusrex) a little prior to coming, gotten to know the sadly absent Morrigan (LaughingTrendy), but for the most part, this would be a first on a number of levels. To break the ice I smuggled Tim Tams for Al Rivera (Captain Gecko) and made business cards with unique backs designed specifically for certain team members, if for any reason other than to make them laugh.
Getting my passes – especially after the stories of the line-ups from the previous day – was simple. Opening day there was a short lineup, but within about 10 minutes I was through with my badges and gift lists. After finding my seat in the main hall, and bumping into half a dozen series actors, I started to explore the event.
I cannot emphasize enough the number of actors and people responsible for the success of Star Trek, who were wandering around the halls. It was Trek Heaven.
From photo opportunities against backdrops to the Borg Alcoves, Transporter pad, the Guardian of Forever and a version of the TOS bridge – you could spend hours wandering the event.
I started in the Vendor Room by checking out who from the community was at the event. Priority One had a nice set-up near the entrance with Elijah, Kenna and Michael on hand for live broadcasts and recordings. Across from the STO booth was the G&T Show with Janet & Mike who in addition to having their own broadcast set up also provided a space to relax and play with coloring books 😉 Both booths were abuzz with activity, with people getting reacquainted with old friends and fans alike.
In the middle of the room, across from John DeLancie’s table was the team from the Pilot Review Show – and the only place you could actually play Star Trek Online live. Scott Ross, Timberwolf, and Teacher Kirby were on hand throughout the entire convention to offer commentary, to demonstrate the game and interact directly with the fans of STO – both existing and new. On his own dime, the Scott Ross/Pilot Review Show was streaming the game live throughout the entire convention. As it turned out, not even STO was set up to do game demos and the idea of players paying to be there to promote the game caught the attention of Star Trek Online team. Sadly the press passes didn’t give them access to the event floor, but by swapping out with friends they got a chance to participate in the events as well.
[RANT] There are a few vocal trolls in the game that besmirch the efforts of some podcasters, especially when those podcasters who use Patreon to help cover costs for equipment and trips. EC giveaways under the light of a disco ball is one thing – but nothing tops the weekly efforts of podcasters like the Pilot Review Show, Timberwolf, G&T, Priority One, PAL Gaming, ZEF Films and The Show for making our community as vibrant as it is. [/RANT]
My first encounter with the Star Trek Online team was at their booth. Jesse Heinig and Jeremy Randal (Borticus) were manning the booth with two large displays running video from the upcoming console release. Both were talkative and engaging; Jeremy took his card in stride [pic] defending the pricing decision, and Jesse eyeing the three of us (Timberwolf, Scott Ross and myself) while cautiously parsing his responses with the utmost professionalism. In a way, that initial conversation set the tone for many of the discussions I had with STO team members as the ice thawed over the next four days. They love the game as much as we do. They’re really proud of the console.
I can confirm there’s no truth to the rumor a picture of Oden Knight is on a dartboard near Borticus’s cubicle. There may be a picture of something, but the number of holes obscures the image.
Later that afternoon I got to meet the rest of the team on hand – Maria Rosseau, Samuel Wall, Al Rivera, Stephen Ricossa, Thomas Marrone, and the ever present Tacofangs taking pictures of everyone and everything.
That night I joined Maria and the Foundry Roundtable for dinner (RogueEnterprise, GreenDragoon, Drogyn1701, Zorbane, and guests) and settled in to relax after my first full day.
The highlight of the day: Klingons Live! with B’Tor(Gwyneth Walsh), Martok (JG Hertzler) and Gowron (Robert O’Rielly) is full costume and make-up.
Morning coffee line-up at Starbucks wasn’t too bad. In front of me was Tim Russ (Voyager, Tuvok), and a few minutes later a scruffy looking guy wandered into the lineup. Turned out it was John Billingsley who played Phlox on Enterprise. Cleary Vulcans and Denobulans (or at least their human actor counterparts) need coffee too. Both were talkative and John offered his take on the presidential election.
It’s interesting how much (or how little) of their personality make it into their portrayals onscreen. Tim Russ isn’t Tuvok in real life (thankfully), but a lot of John’s personality made it onscreen.
People were scattered around the main floor, checking schedules and planning out the day. If you ever plan to go to one of these events I strongly recommend you use a calendar app (I use Outlook). Thomas Marrone had sent out links for each day, and it made setting up where I had to be a breeze. Creation Conventions also have a nice feature where your seat is guaranteed – so no waiting in long lineups between events.
With my budget already strained from the vendor rooms, I focused on the days’ events on the main stage. Around lunch time the Ferengi’s took to the main stage with Rom (Max Grodenchick) and Nog (Aron Eisenberg) in costume and partial makeup. This was a lot of fun, and it’s clear they have a routine that they’ve practiced at other events.
The highlight of the day (and there were many) was the Whoopie Goldberg event.
I circled back with the team from the Pilot Review Show – Scott Ross, Timberwolf and Karie, NewGuy, Teacher Kirby and hubby – for dinner at Guy Fieri’s El Burro Borracho. Mr. Fieri was wandering the halls earlier that day along with more stars than I can list here, and it made for a very surreal dinner experience. I will say that of the restaurants on site at the hotel – this was by far the most economical, and really good.
Other than Star Trek Online’s Meet & Greet that night, I spent most of the day taking in the events in the main theater. Highlights included the Roddenberry Vaults missing footage from TOS, and the news that expanded episodes were coming soon. Story elements, excised for running-time in the 1960’s, segments are being added back that radically change some episodes outcome. Can’t wait to see these later in October.
The highlight of the day (other than iBar) was going to the Kirstie Alley presentation.
I don’t ‘do’ Cosplay myself, but I respect the people who do. The first two days of the convention I felt a little overdressed and immediately went out and bought enough Star Trek shirts to last out the week. But after seeing the diversity of the cosplayers in attendance, I may just try my hand at Admiral Quinn. Next year.
By end of the con I had seen Tholians, the Crystalline Entity, the TOS crews, the unaired pilot crews, more than a few Scotties from every era, Spocks in all shapes and sizes, Santa Gorn, the Skin of Evil, a Borg Queen, Khans (JJ, TWOK, and TOS), more secondary TOS characters than I can admit to recognizing – even a few Star Wars favourites with a Trek spin on their outfits. The coolest for me wasn’t the professionally perfect costumes, but rather the families in group costumes. The highlight for me was the family of Nibiru natives from 2009’s Star Trek.
Saturday morning I officially reached ‘peak Trek’ and was bordering on burnout. Even with the marvelous panels and presentations, I chose instead to check out the 50 Years of Star Trek Art Gallery until Kate Mulgrew took the stage. She is very much Janeway, and impressive to see onstage.
The gallery presentation was part of the event and free (it’s currently traveling the US right now). Check out Tacofangs great gallery here.
I skipped the William Shatner event (I’ve seen him multiple times) and instead took in the Priority One Trivia event in Quarks Bar. The event was a lot of fun, although some of the contestants clearly did not know their Trek trivia. Shame!
As trips go, it was an immensely fun week in Las Vegas. Was it worth the dollars for a Captains Chair ticket? I’m not so sure, although being closer to the main stage was nice, I still watched the big monitors instead. Staying at the venue was a HUGE bonus, and the food portions could have fed 4 people 😉
The highlight, of course, was finally getting to meet the team from Star Trek Online, and finally put a face to all of the players able to attend. The entire week was like coming home to a family reunion.
There were a few things I missed – I should have taken advantage of the G&T’s relaxation coloring books to fight the con-fatigue, and I never got a chance to sit down with Elijah at Priority One. Some things to look forward to for the next event 😉
Losing my laptop on the first day was a bit of a set-back. I’ll remember to bring my Apple keyboard so that my phone will work as a back-up.
My Two Bits,