Star Trek Online has, in my admittedly biased opinion, gone downhill in several ways. The stories are wonderful, the characters and familiar voices induce geekgasms, and in many ways it’s a wonderful game; but there’s a lot that, in recent years, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The foremost has to be the way that Cryptic has set up lockboxes.
Lockboxes are currently randomly dropped from destroying enemies in STO’s missions, both space and ground. They often have wonderful prizes inside, from some simple consumables to weapons to even ships. The ships are often the most coveted, exclusive to that type of lockbox only, and hardest to get. Thing is, every time you open a lockbox, it’s random what you’ll get; you could open one or two and find that awesome super-rare ship you’ve been hunting for, or you could open a hundred and never get a ship at all. It’s all determined by an RNG. Some items, like the special Lobi crystals currency, are guaranteed to be in them, but how many crystals is random. The ships, though, and the higher rarity items, are not guaranteed to even drop at all from a lockbox.
This wouldn’t be so bad… If not for the fact that the only way to open a lockbox is with a special key, which costs 100 Zen in the cash shop or can sell for hundreds of millions of Energy Credits in the exchange. Sure, you can just buy zen for Dilithium, but the price for Zen in Dilithium fluctuates based on the player made market. And even when you have a few keys, the lockbox rewards are still determined by an RNG. So it doesn’t matter how much time, Dilithium, or Zen you spend.
This, to me defeats the purpose of the dilithium exchange and the whole concept that Cryptic was pushing that players who want to get things through spending time playing instead of spending real money would get fairly rewarded. No one’s being rewarded fairly; it’s just an overglorified slot machine. I understand wanting to give players rewards in lockboxes, but lockboxes in their current incarnation basically make a lot of things in the game unbalanced and unfair.
A F2P player will have to spend weeks upon weeks of grinding for dilithium, for several hours per day, to farm enough dilithium to get enough keys to have a decent chance at getting the item they wanted in particular, with no guarantee of ever even getting it. A player spending money can buy keys relatively cheaply, but because it’s an RNG, there’s no guarantee fo how much he’ll need to spend to get that one ship he really wants.
The only “legitimate” way to bypass the whole lockbox system is with the Exchange that uses Energy Credits (EC) instead of both Dilithium and Zen. Buy a key from the C-Store, then sell it on the exchange for several million EC. Then use that EC to buy the ship you want from someone else who’s selling their duplicate on the Exchange. Personally, I consider this entire method a waste of time, because if the lockboxes were well balanced and worth using as they are, this bypass wouldn’t even exist.
Now, remember my mentioning Lobi Crystals? They’re a special currency only available in lockboxes, and which can only be spent at the Lobi Store on items that are also exclusive to the Lobi Store. All lockboxes will drop some, the only thing that’s random is the number of Lobi Crystals you’ll get. Personally, I think that having these rare ships only as completely random drops out of lockboxes isn’t working. It makes more sense to make them also as purchases in the Lobi Store; that way even if the ship you want does not drop from the lockbox, you aren’t totally SOL and can still work your way to the one you wanted. I’m okay with there being some randomness to getting these ships, but not when that randomness is all there is and it alone determines whether you get those ships or not.
I get the need to have a cash shop. I get the idea behind lockboxes. I think both can be fun and useful, if done right. But right now, the lockbox system is hugely unfair and just an unbalanced mess.