Having read about the varied pre-order bonuses for Star Trek Online (a game I am excited about, but hesitant to embrace due to the overwhelmingly monotone space battle footage I've seen), I was surprised to receive an email from Cryptic Studios, the game's developer. Cryptic was informing me of a pre-order bonus - the subject of the email is "Star Trek Online Pre-order Exlusives!"
I glanced at it and nearly deleted it before I noticed the lack of plurality in the exclusives mentioned. There was no list of various pre-order locations and related bonsues, no comparison or information on the various (and very different) options available at different retailers. Instead, there was only this: "Pre-order Star Trek Online from GameStop and get your own limited edition Constitution class starship; a ship Captain James T. Kirk would be proud of!"
That's a tempting offer - the Constitution class is, well, classic. Unfortunately, Cryptic seems to ignore their use of the plural "exclusives" in the subject, and doesn't list these other great options:
- Best Buy: Pet Tribble or Targ (based on faction)
- Amazon: "Liberated Borg" Bridge Officer with "unique nanotechnology augmentations"
- Direct2Drive: Multi-Spatial Personal Shield (regenerates itself and player health)
- Wal-mart: Bonus Skill Points (bestows additional skill points)
- Target: TR-116 ground weapon (micro-transporter beams projectiles to target, no line of sight required)
- Steam: Chromodynamic Armor, improves critical hits and damage of energy weapons
Now I have no idea which of these is the best. I can tell you one thing - Cryptic seems to have ignored the very important fact that any player can get a Constitution class ship in the game. The only thing that makes the GameStop offer unique is it has blue lasers. But other than that, I of course have no idea what item is best. And I am sure I'm not the only person who is getting frustrated by the idea of offering different pre-order options at different retailers.
Many, if not all, players of an MMORPG will attempt to get the best items they can and create the best character they can. This requires learning about the various skills on offer and creating a build that is superior to all others. A good game will have enough balance to offer a variety of optimum builds.
There are only two ways that I know of to learn about the skills and items and figure out what is the best path to pursue for your character's development: doing it yourself, or learning from someone else. Either way, it takes time in game (by either you or someone willing to share their information) to get there. The most frustrating problem with pre-order bonuses to me is related to this issue.
If I don't yet know what the rules are, how I might want to develop my character, or what items are available or what their stats may be, I have no way of knowing what pre-order bonus is best. And given that I want to pick the best one but only have a 1-in-7 chance of doing so, I feel that I am leaving up a part of my character development to chance, rather than to information or skill.
Beyond the serious gamer's min-max obsession, however, I fear that developers will not test the items they offer as pre-order bonuses. As a result, either they will be too powerful and skew the gameplay (even if that is a matter of unbalancing just early levels), or they will be pointless items that are used for 5 minutes before being replaced by something better. Of course, without inside information, it is impossible to know what will occur, and what to do. In the meantime, I hope I get something having, and don't regret my purchase - a feeling I would hope the developer aims to ensure I don't have.