Star Trek Online free-to-play details revealed

Sci-fi MMO Star Trek Online is set to go free to play, but developer Cryptic Studios isn't aiming for the traditional model.

Executive producer on STO and Cryptic's chief technical officer Stephen D'Angelo wanted to go F2P right from the start, he explains in an interview with IGN. "We've always wanted the game to be free-to-play," he says, "in fact we tried to make it free-to-play at the original launch, but our publisher didn't want us doing that."

Armed with the knowledge of how not to handle a move from a subscription basis to free-to-play thanks to its ill-fated previous title Champions Online, Cryptic has announced that STO will be handled quite differently. The move is expected to happen on the 17th of January with some minor downtime as things are reshuffled, but what about the promised changes?

Normally a free to play model limits non-paying players to certain areas of the map, or puts a cap on the amount of experience they can earn or perhaps cuts back on their potential to grab the high end gear. However, Cryptic are going for something different with this game - and it all focuses around 'dilithium.'

Dilithium is the only material in the game that can be used to get hold of the high end gear. It also cannot be bought outside of the game. What Cryptic plans to do is to make this the only material players can buy from one another with 'Cryptic Points' which, of course, can only be purchased from the developer itself.

Using these, players can then buy dilithium from each other. This allows those in the game with more time than money to get dilithium their way, and those with more money and less time to go an alternate route that provides a level of income for Cryptic.

To help keep demand healthy, there's a maximum amount of dilithium that players can harvest in a day, although the company has suggested that this may be increased later down the road.

With rival MMOs like Lord of the Rings: Online having done well out of a move to free-to-play, it will be interesting to see what happens to Star Trek Online in the coming months.