My Christmas Job

I’ve got a part time job over the Christmas period! It’s just a short term placement, you understand, running for the 35 days up to and around the festive day. It’s quite light weight; I only have to put in half an hour a day and I can work from home which is always convenient. I do have to turn up every day, but I get ten days off, so I can spend the big day itself with my family, which is very considerate! Each day, I have to turn up and run around a highly unsafe and slippery race course, chased by some kind of space monster or another. No one has explained to me why this is necessary, but they’re paying me an entire spaceship for my temping contract, so I thought it best not to ask.

Yes, I’m doing the ridiculous Star Trek Online Winter Event Thing, and I’m finding it hard to explain why.

It’s a usual kind of MMO Xmas event, although I’d never been to the STO one before. That rascally Q, a being whose power is only matched by his petty ennui, has created some kind of Standard MMO Winter Event Instanced Environment in which many festive dailies are to be found! There’s special Duty Officer Missions which sometimes turf out rare baubles which act as yet another set of currencies, which can be traded for the usual earmuffs, snow boots, scarves and so on. There’s some kind of regular snowman invasion event thing which I keep missing; you need to use the piles of snowballs to take them out. There are little snowmen hand-to-hand combat dioramas about the place, complete with bat-leth’s made of twigs, which did make me chuckle. It’s all very familiar, what with Cryptic Studios having made it and the place is eerily reminiscent of the Pocket D Ski Chalet of City of Heroes.

Frolicry and good cheer abound, but the real reason most folks are there are the slippy racing missions. There’s a competitive one on a regular timer, “The Fast and the Flurrious”, which pays out tags which can be traded for Chistmassey versions of the new Epohh mini pets, added in Season 7, and of course, my new part-time job, “The Fastest Game On Ice”.

This one is conducted on a large flagged wiggly circuit which is highly slidey, against a randomly spawned NPC opponent. It’s a somewhat tricky affair at first glance. Going flat-out will almost certainly see you slide off the course on the first bend and fail the mission, or simply have so much backtracking to do that loss is inevitable. It took me a few goes to get the hang of the thing, and the winning technique seems to be to use the default speed of standard jogging where possible, and only to Shift+W sprint in short bursts on straight-ish sections, slowing to an almost full stop for any of the 90-degree turns. Double-tap combat rolling works to bring you to a complete stop if sliding out of control. Also worth noting is that the little lamp things are not the actual course edge. The flags on sticks seem to be that, so minor corner cutting works to gain distance.

So not too difficult and one to two goes will show you the basic technique and mastery follows in two or three more goes. I’m not sure what is gained by the subsequent twenty runs though, but to get the big prize out of it all needs 1000 signed glossy 10×8′s of Q, which are exchangeable for the Breen Chel Grett Warship. You get 80 glossies per successful run. I have no idea why 80 and 1000 – wouldn’t 1 and 25 work? At any rate the whole event only lasts until January 13th, meaning that as I write, only 35 days remain. (If you’re interested you should start soon!)

The whole thing is preposterous, but I find myself oddly compelled and am currently 1/5th the way there on two characters. Part of it is how grudgingly they hand out spaceships in that game.

You get one when you start, obviously, and a free token that can be exchanged for another when you reach Lvs 10, 20, 30 and 40. For L50, and if you just want more anyway, you have to work hard or buy. My Fed was lucky enough to be around when they had an anniversary event and managed to bag an Odyssey Cruiser, such a capable L50 workhorse tanky-healy cruiser that I’ve not felt the lack there. My KDF on the other hand has done a lot of hard work. I’d been pottering along refining dilithium from dailies and converting them to Zen points (PWE’s micro-currency) for the best part of a year on both characters and only recently managed to scrape together enough to get the Marauder Flight-Deck Cruiser, finally getting them out of the freebie Hegh’ta Heavy Bird of Prey.

 

This lengthy exercise was a kind of F2P experiment really, testing to see if it is actually possible to work in-game and earn the Precious Things without cash-shopping for them. The answer is, yes, but you have to be unfeasibly patient and dedicated and I could have just paid $20 for the ship and saved myself 11 months of patient grinding.

There are other ways to get ships; paying dilithium in-game without going through the Zen shop. My Fed is currently attempting this, having an eye on the Advanced Escort as a DPS based alternative to the Cruiser. This costs 120,000 refined dilithium, which if I worked as hard as possible, would still take 15 days of maxing out the daily dilithium refinement allowance. I typically work a lot less hard than that and often spend dilithium on other things; duty officer upgrades, etc, so 30-45 days might be more realistic. There is a fair selection of those sorts of ships available, but the really impressive ones are bought for Zen or found in lockboxes.

I’m not much of a gambler, so don’t go for lockbox keys myself, but those can be bought for Zen ($1.25 per key, slightly cheaper in bulk), and interestingly, can be sold in-game to other players for Energy Credits, the somewhat obsolete base currency, providing a way to just buy EC if desired. Keys go for about a million EC a go, and apparently, have a 2.5% chance of giving you a spaceship at all, and only 0.4% chance of coughing up the much broadcast Temporal Science Vessel. For every broadcast you see spammed across the screen, 249 other keys (Costing $311.25 in total) only turfed out junk consolation prizes. In other words, PWE earn $312.5 for each Temporal Science Vessel spawned. Sort of. I don’t even know if they’re any good!

Seems like a mug’s game to me, so I diligently grind instead, choosing to be a different sort of mug entirely!

So free spaceships are quite a big deal, and the limited timeframe of it all does tug at me a bit. Mostly though, I find a perverse sense of amusement in the sheer madness of the whole thing. It’s so silly I can’t help but give it a wry go. Also, there is a curious sense of satisfaction, in this age of paid-for shortcuts, to have gained a thing by the slow path, to have put the effort in and gotten something as a proper reward. Value is subjective, but I certainly appreciate my Marauder. It’s widely regarded as inferior to the Kar’Fi Battle Carrier in almost every way, and you don’t see many about, but this one is mine and I worked hard to get it. I expect to regard the Breen ship in a similar manner.

I haven’t entirely taken leave of my senses mind you; I happen to be going through a phase of STO interest anyway, exploring the Season 7 stuff, pottering with Duty Officers, pimping up the Marauder and so on. If I hadn’t been, I’m not sure this would have been enough to bring me back. The skinner box is pretty transparent, but knowing it is there and how it works, I’m still pushing the bar anyway, half bemused and half eager.

Whether I can stay the course and complete my Christmas job before losing interest and wandering off, remains to be seen. I’ll be fascinated to see how many of the Breen ships will be out and about after the 14th. 20 dailies to go!

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