What can you accomplish in Star Trek Online in ten minutes? As it turns out, quite a lot. More importantly, you can earn rewards while doing things that normally have consequential rewards as well. It’s a win-win for something we’d do anyway.
It’s like you’re getting paid twice for your efforts.
Now before I go down that path that some will see as discussing an exploit, or leverage an unseen mechanism in a way the developers had not visualised – let’s have a conversation about what constitutes an exploit. Having been around since the move to F2P, I’ve seen and participated in many things that ultimately were identified as exploits.
This is not to say I sought out to exploit – but rather looked to where I could get the best return in terms of rewards for my in-game efforts.
In a nutshell – that’s every player in every MMO. Find the best route to your objectives. If it’s running the same three raids or STF’s over and over – that’s acceptable use of your time if 1.) the reward is right and 2.) it doesn’t take much effort or challenge. The real question is that process interesting enough to keep me engaged.
In Star Trek Online, historically they have a liberal interpretation of what constitutes an exploit. As they try to identify them quickly, understand the mechanics behind them and then release a patch that hopefully doesn’t impact other systems, they are cautious not to call them out. A fictitious example might be that by consuming a certain fleet skill bonus, at the fleet dilithium holding, you triple your percentage chance when opening a Lockbox*. Clearly, they would not want to communicate that to the player base. The same applies to the next release of the wickedly successful Phoenix Lockbox. It will never be advertised in advance because it would play havoc with the dilithium exchange, as players could easily exploit that knowledge.
The team at Star Trek Online is also cautious when to officially call something an exploit. If it’s a widely accepted game mechanic – or worse – a constantly returning glitch that allows players to gain an advantage – the team is cautious when and where they draw the line. Usually, a dev will let it ‘slip’ it’s an exploit in an unofficial channel.
I’ll add that my Romulan characters never take advantage of those extra duty officer opportunities – on purpose, that is – when that bug reoccurs at each seasons introduction.
I should also point out that the team at Cryptic takes a dim view of anyone sharing the details of an exploit – especially while they are still accessible.
So when is an exploit not an exploit?
If you’ve been an active player in the past 6 months you might have encountered some odd player behaviour during some limited-time special events. Recently the game added Bozeman Montana as the site of the First Flight / First Contact Day celebration. Well thought out, immersive for all factions, and fun for most players – it is an event worthy of the Star Trek franchise. The best part was the snippet of ‘Magic Carpet Ride’ by Steppenwolf which happens during the launch phase of the ‘race’. Clearly, the creative team put their hearts into the event.
It was fun for me until it became clear I didn’t need to play the game to earn the rewards. Whether by intentional design, or flawed execution, players only had to stand there long enough to collect the reward. Truthfully this aspect wasn’t initially visible – I had a fun time running around fighting interplanetary spiders while collecting parts. It was a huge letdown when we realised that regardless of your effort, the final outcome was random. In fact, even the quality could be achieved by spamming the ‘f’ key during the quality improvement test, and it was completely unnecessary. You could ‘win’ regardless of the quality of your build.
Suddenly it wasn’t fun anymore. “It” wasn’t even a game or an event. The only thing fun about it was a glitch that would carry over it seemed at random intervals when you’re back on Earth Space Dock – and you’d launch your Phoenix rocket again. That unintended consequence made me smile everytime that happened.
See Ya in 10 Minutes.
I didn’t think of it then, but what if instead of playing the special event, that I stood there and did my dailies? Y’know the usual R&D progression for those toons not yet at 20 at every school. The Admiralty missions with their generous rewards. And of course, the duty officer assignments on the personal tab, and from the department heads. Stuff I would normally do on each of my 14 alts, over and over, that is until my time in the game became less and less. As a side note – 14 alts are way too many for a part time player. But I digress…
Was that the intention of the event’s designers? Create an event so stupid-easy that an AFKplayer could reap the same rewards as an engaged player by not playing? I honestly don’t think so, but that type of game mechanic design has inadvertently crept into the current Mirror Invasion.
Time for an obligatory Wargames reference.
Mirror Invasion – game mechanics so badly thought out, it encourages
exploitation you not to play. And after years of complaining, I’m ok with it in private games.
That’s right. I’m fine with having ten minutes of free time to catch up on my dailies, while I await the final phase of the special event. Sometimes the station doesn’t even get attacked. If you close the final five rifts in a certain way, the rewards are even higher. No point in playing normals, advanced rewards are better, on average, than a fully engaged team on normal. You win by not playing. How that all works, the order in which you close the final five – I won’t post here just in case this is an exploit.
I don’t believe that bad game design is an exploit. Now to be clear, joining a pug and then going AFK with Mirror Invasion has been a problem since this version was introduced. Some puggers have been taking advantage of other players, with a clear disregard for their teammates. That’s a dick move, and something needs to be done. I’ve whined about it for years. But if all 5 clearly enter the premade knowing everyone will AFK, I don’t see the issue. In fact, I’m enjoying the AFK group mentality. I was going to my dailies anyways, so why not do it elsewhere in the game when it’s allowed by design?
Morally (if such a description could be applied here) is it wrong? If someone leaves a fresh pie on their window sill to cool, would I take it? Heck no – my mother raised me better than that. That is stealing. If someone built a bank with only 3 walls, would I enter the open side and help myself? No sir, but the bank would have a hard time explaining why they lost the money through an exploit in their design.
“Lootcritter says it’s ok to exploit” isn’t what I’m saying here. But when the design is so poor that it invites problems – you have to question the thought behind it.
- How does the Mirror Invasion event improve a players experience?
- Are we adding value to the game with it?
- Are we proud of it?
My recommendation – give everyone who’s earned 1 Interdimensional do-dad the max reward, and pull the event with an apology. (Yeah, yeah, there’s only 2 days left.) Give it a serious review, create something worthy of being repeated a few times yearly for players of all levels (yes, that means elite as well), and be proud of the result.
Now if you will excuse me, it’s time to do my dailies 😉
LF4M MIA AFK #thankyouverymuch
My Two Bits,
*I wonder how many people will be trying this by the end of the week 😉