‘Cryptic’ Does Not Stand For Quality. #sto #fail

Bed Bug
Sweet dreams: don't let the STO bugs bite.

I haven’t been playing Star Trek Online much lately, and what time I have spent has been marred by bugs new and old. From bugs in recent special events to those around for months–and even since beta, this growing infestation is sucking the fun out of the game for me. Consider these cases:

Cryptic recently hyped its remastered episodes in a week-long event.  One of those episodes, Stranded in Space, was remastered months ago and had a laundry list of bugs from the minor, like the double engine trails on the Azura, to the infuriating, like the security accolade mission consistently breaking in multiplayer runs.  None of these bugs were fixed for the special event. Cryptic really should fix content before they spotlight it like that; otherwise, they end up spotlighting the bugs more than the content.

One of the new rewards for playing Stranded In Space is a device that calls a freighter providing access to mail, bank, etc.  I played the mission, got the reward, and tried it. Nice. I played some more and swapped it back into a device slot–an annoyance which hints at a kludged implementation.  The countdown was still on 4 hours.  OK, maybe it has to stay slotted to count down.  I left it in the slot and played more: still 4 hours on the countdown.  I reported it as a bug and got back the boilerplate “this is a known problem and please be patient”. An advertised feature in a small release should not be that difficult to deliver correctly.

This week’s sale is 50% off extra slots, including extra bridge officer slots. There happens to be another months-old bug where the extra slots don’t increase your maximum number of slots correctly, so you stop gaining slots as you approach level cap.  After three frustrating tickets later, I got no resolution like a goodwill refund for something being broken that I bought with real money. Now they’re featuring it on the store, and it’s still broken. And there’s no warning that it’s bugged and may not work for some players.

Cryptic broke the interaction between cloaking devices and dialog boxes in January 2011, probably by adding some special features to one of the Romulan featured episodes [Serious Cloak Bug thread, STO Forums]. If you’re cloaked or using Mask Energy Signature and you respond to a dialog box, you decloak. Cryptic’s FUD on the issue is that fixing it requires fixing every single interaction in the game.  Huh? They caused the bug my changing a base mechanic for a feature episode mission.  They aren’t willing to break or recode that one episode now to fix a bug that affects the entire game.

Beyond just concentrating on quality and bug fixing, Cryptic could spend some time to get their bug tracking and reporting system fully working. The bug system now appears to do a search for similar bugs before activating the submit button, but I’ve reported the same bug many times over months and never seen my earlier bug reports. There’s no way to browse the bugs database to see what’s broken, how many times it’s been reported, if any root-cause analysis has been done, or when the bug is likely to be addressed.

I have been on both sides of this problem in my professional life, and a well-run issue tracker that lets people see what problems there are and when they’re likely to get fixed is a big factor in building trust between developers and users. The fabled Cryptic transparency only includes new and fun things; they are particularly silent and ineffective on the less glamourous front of admitting and fixing mistakes.

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