Some time in January 2019, I saw an ad for a new game called Star Trek Fleet Command. Being a Star Trek fan, and having played an earlier game called Star Trek Timelines, I decided to give it a try. It was my first real foray into a real-time, multiplayer game as I usually prefer going solo.
Having joined a deadbeat alliance, I found I was often talking to myself or getting monosyllabic answers from other players (presumably English wasn’t their first language). Worse, I would get raided as I didn’t have enough alliance credits to keep buying long shields. So I thought I would quit the game soon. Eventually, CEOPatrickstar, leader of Titans (one of the largest alliances) invited me to join him. Some time passed; I provided solutions during a small crisis and he announced that I would be his deputy. I was stunned but flattered.
And so I started to get more and more involved with this game – playing no longer just for myself but because I felt increasingly responsible for others. We had to manage internal issues like players gone rogue, wars and skirmishes with rival alliances, and then we merged with our biggest rival, Unity Collective, (which itself was the product of another merger). So I inadvertently ended up on the leadership team of what became the largest alliance on our small server, Titans Collective.
It’s been a heck of a ride with everyone. We’ve had our differences but we have either closed an eye or dealt with them. In the past 2+ years, our players have shared their real-life challenges like:
- Losing a spouse to cancer
- Surviving cancer themselves
- Coming out of real-life wars and suffering from PTSD
- Undergoing divorce or breaking up with their partners
- Having new babies
- Losing their jobs and closing down their companies
- Relocating to new countries.
We have been sounding boards for each other and have also celebrated our small joys together. I was proud to be the first F2P player to have built all three epic faction ships (the Enterprise, D4 and Augur) and still feel pretty good that they’re over 2m each. One week ago, I brokered peace between our alliance and the second largest alliance over a small dispute, which likely saved a lot of angst and repair bills for over 100 players. There have certainly been some good memories and online friendships made.
Recent incidents, however, are turning me off. A few days ago there was an ‘auction’ to win all the blueprints required to build the ISS Jellyfish, which is a game-changing ship for players who want to get through level 39 and beyond. My alliance was supporting me to win the next Jellyfish auction. Being a pure F2P player, I saved hard and spent some resources to get it – then found out there was a bug allowing other, bigger players who already had the Jellyfish to win it again. Many players commiserated with me and told me to try again in two weeks’ time, when the replacement auction event took place.
Last night, we learned of a server merge. We always knew we were on a pretty dead server and we had it easy for a while, with lots of mining nodes, a good chance to come in first on the leaderboard if you tried harder, with very well policed miner hits. We knew how chaotic other servers were, how their whales would make our whales look like minnows, and how some of their whales had made it to the exclusive USD25K club (only for players who had spent that much on the game each – which I think is absolutely crazy and a waste of good money especially when the world is fighting COVID at the moment). We knew our honeymoon was over. Our Discord chat was buzzing overnight with players asking what the next steps were.
I’ve been happy with how I’ve interacted with most players in my alliance and even across other alliances. How this game even taught me some leadership skills and deepened my cross-cultural understanding. We complained endlessly about the bugs (as they seemed to be never-ending) and the inconsistent customer service. We know this game is run by Ferengis (who are in turn driven by their venture capitalist owners) who want us to keep paying for more packs to keep up with the Joneses. And still we’ve tolerated the game and kept playing on, because the pluses still outweighed the minuses.
But starting all over again is not what I want in a game. I anticipate any of these happening a couple weeks down the road:
- Losing and having to rebuild our Territories, or not even being able to hold on to any Territories if we’re too weak
- From being the biggest alliance which always comes in first, to becoming a small alliance on the newly merged server
- Our whales may leave us for a bigger alliance
- Having to compete for limited spaces on mining nodes with 500 other players
- A much lower chance of coming in first on leaderboards (say goodbye to my chances of winning the Jelly auction…)
- Losing more ‘friends’ that I made in this alliance, as other smaller players will likely leave as well
Come on, you may think. That’s the fun of the game, starting over again. Well, I am happy with less demanding games that I can start and stop playing anytime. I am happy with games that don’t make me stay up late keeping an eye on my miners or the leaderboard, or playing aunt agony to players who have misunderstandings with each other. I don’t expect to be regarded well in a server filled with whales flying around in their Kelvins, because I don’t believe in levelling up quickly or paying money to advance, or even to participate in some events (which seems to be the direction Scopely is taking).
So, after 2.5 years, I may bid goodbye to STFC. Scopely won’t miss me, anyway. I never paid a cent for this game and am glad I never did.
– Commodore Vantan of Server 196, signing off.
PS. Star Trek fans will understand the significance of the title of this post.