A View From The Road: Boldly Going Nowhere

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A View From The Road: Boldly Going Nowhere

Are games like Star Trek Online missing the point?

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i wholeheartedly agree, now star trek may be the only MMORPG i haven't played but unless they took the heavy rain approach it would always be untrue to its roots, which is why it never should have materialized, an single player star trek game could be great, give the ip to bioware tell them to forget all they knew about ME and you could have a great dialog based game with a little action here and there.

but a star trek game where each murder isnt justified or have a reason beyond xp and maybe an upgrade is just weird.

swaki would love to see the forgotten star trek episode where Picard goes on a killing spree for a new hat

Great article but I have to correct you on a mistake you made when writing this article.

Star Trek Online does not have over 1-million subscribers to its game.

Cryptic fogged up the numbers.. in reality they have over 1million people who have made cryptic accounts. Ie.. You sign up on their forums that counts for one. You register to try out a beta and that counts for one.. What makes it worse is that also included their numbers from people who play champions online.. and yes they include the people who played in beta and people who made a forum account. When called out on this cryptic admiited thats how they were counting numbers. As opposed to counting the number of people who actually had active star trek online paid accounts. There was a story about this on massively.com with refrences in case anyone thinks I am making this up.

Live long and prosper.
Jaiyeson

The Firefly MMO could possibly work. As MMO's are nothing but a single player game where everyone is playing on the same game. Like a crew a la Mass Effect. You're the captain and your Crew is NPC's. Ones that are picked for you after a short series of questions. And you can create a small clan of like 5 ships. I dunno ...

Wow. A Harry Potter MMO. Now that would be milking the license for all its worth. I wonder where the hat would put me? Probably have to answer a bunch of stupid moral questions first. Or, have several small moral-based missions prior to the sorting, and have the hat base its desicion upon that. But now I'm going off topic.

The fanbase is usually the whiniest bunch; get that right, and the rest of the pack will quickly fall into place, queue money. I must admit, I haven't been following the success of STO very closely, but from the sound of it, the hardcore fans appear to be satisfied. I mean, I haven't picked up any news articles about Trekkie boycotts lately, so I'll assume that the missions are interesting and passive enough to adhere as closely to the source material as possible. I for one prefer to see more adventurin' in my MMO's, so perhaps I should give STO a look, if that's the direction in which they chose to head.

Premonition:
The Firefly MMO could possibly work. As MMO's are nothing but a single player game where everyone is playing on the same game. Like a crew a la Mass Effect. You're the captain and your Crew is NPC's. Ones that are picked for you after a short series of questions. And you can create a small clan of like 5 ships. I dunno ...

That would be kind of cool. Me and my friendds had talked about the idea alot in the past and there is certainly some intresting possibilities if a Firefly MMO was made...

And, not toally out the window...I mean, come on. We had a film made from it so why not a game!

Great article. I would really love to see MMORPG developers come up with some new ideas to make games true to their IP's instead of just slapping in the same MMORPG grind.

One thing I would say in STO's defence is that the Federation and the Klingons are at war and the intro really makes it feel like you're under attack from all sides. I believe Cryptic did a good job of setting up the universe to justify the game play. It feels more like Deep Space 9 in the Dominion war than Kirk boldly going where no man has gone before.

Still, I agree that that's not the heart of the Star Trek franchise.

It's a good point. I'm not a trekkie by any means. But of the bits I've caught, I don't think I've seen any murderous rampages.

John Funk:
And for that matter, what do you do if your engineer hasn't logged in for over three weeks?

Well, duh. You fire him and hire his smoking hot girlfriend to replace him.

Hate to tell you Funk, but you'd be a Hufflepuff.

A View From The Road is now officialy my favourite article to read, it's just consecutively a good, interesting read.

I was well on my way to playing Star Trek Online until I made the realisation that my character would not be the man I wanted him to. It's perfectly fine being a vicious little thing when I'm playing something like The Elder Scrolls or Fallout, but when it comes to Star Trek I just don't see me enjoying the fact that my role play value would no doubt be affected considerably. Unless I simply avoided any quest which involved killing, then I'd probably be at a disadvantage. It just wouldn't let me play my character out how I'd like.

However in Harry Potter I see it being different, at least for me. Because I'd most likely end up a Slytherin and I'd enjoy being an evil little sonovabitch, hopefully working my way up to becoming a Death Eater.

I like to think that the zero-point space of Eve is part of the universe my Star Trek mother warned about when you left the space station. A place where the free enterprise system, you wits and ship get you through the day.

I would like to see a place for the Utopian Trek in gaming landscape; and maybe Cryptic will give the core Trekies fan-base their five acre Oklahoma land rush deal.

And somehow squeeze in enought free-enterprise Fire-Eve.

There's a big difference in the Star Trek setting we're familiar with and the setting Cryptic went with in Star Trek Online: In STO the Star Trek Universe is in a "Hot War". The treaty with the Klingons has broken down and the Klingon Empire has organized itself almost as an "Anti-Federation" with Gorn, Orions, and Naausicans, The Romulans aren't as a coherent state anymore. Also the Borg are an active threat in this area of the galaxy again.

The original Star Trek (when it wasn't "Doing it's own thing") was basically a universe in a "cold war". TNG and DS9 were "New World Order"-type setting. Enterprise tried to be Post 9/11. Voyager made the mistake of taking out a lot of what liked about Trek, and tried to go the Odyessy/Robinson Crusoe route. However they were hamstrung by the fact their writing pool had become burnt out.

Although, I personally think the music direction in Trek has stunk ever since Roddenberry stopped having anything to do with the show. You watch the old Trek and you hear some great music, Post season three TNG the music was bland as hell. STO made some good steps in the music department, but there not enough of it.

They could do something similar with Serenity if they decided to write the game so the was a new "Browncoat" colonial revolution and different parts of the Alliance (read 'Social Hubs') "decalared neutrality".

Even in WoW, slaughtering a village of quillboars because they raided a cart felt a little excessive. But I guess it all goes back to D&Ds kill-and-loot backbone, and I was just standing there and, technically, they attcked me, or at least would have.

But bottom line, in a post-WoW world this is just lazy game design. Whatever gratifiation I once felt in leveling up by slaughtering woodland creatures was fulfilled by WoW many times over. In the end, it was only battlegrounds and to a lesser degree instances and raids that kept me going.

Any game that follows this model will almost certainly suffer when compared to WoW.

Never really thought about it like that. But it's an excellent point. Any MMO that "beats" WoW can't beat it at it's own game. Blizzard has had too much time perfecting the formula and insane amounts of money to keep the system working (relatively) smoothly. Maybe this means that an MMO could beat (or co-exist with) WoW would be story-driven.

Also, I thinking during his article when he talked about a less combat-driven Star Trek game, does anyone else think that a Star Trek Bioware-style RPG would be freaking awesome?

Yes its sad, we may never get anything close to our dream worlds, except we might but there will be omnicide present and accounted for

Interesting question. I haven't played STO but I think part of the problem is something I've noticed myself, everyone seems to think an MMO has to be a WoW clone. There are some Properties that the WoW mold just doesn't work for, true, but why does this all of a sudden mean you can't make an MMO out of them. We need to remember that MMORPG stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game and not WoW Iteration #5326.

So on the Harry Potter MMO, you'd be a muggle in real life, pretending to be a wizard on a game, pretending to be a muggle. What if while you were pretending to be a muggle and you had to play the Harry Potter MMO? Aaggh

In a true Star Trek MMO you'd start out in star fleet academy or a similar setting. You'd then get a job on a star ship or space station.

Not everyone would have their own ship and each ship would require a full crew and not just a single person to fly. You may ask about what to do if your pilot is offline but, that's simple, a ship doesn't have to have just one pilot. People died on the Enterprise all the time but there was always replacement crewmen. It wouldn't be difficult to have crew members that are trained at more than one job. Also, the missions would need to be more fitting to the Star Trek universe of exploration, negotiation and cultural exchange.

People on space stations could have jobs like security, running various shops, political positions and so on.

However, such a game would require real work and a lot of talented writing. These are things that are extremely rare in video games these days and you'll likely never see it happen.

This is probably a bit off topic but i felt i should share after reading all the posts.

The other day i watched the movie "Pandorum" while not a very good movie the ending gave me a spark of an idea i would love to see explored by some development company.

Giant last hope colony ship crash lands on a life sustaining planet. Humans awake from cryogenic/hyper sleep and must(tutorial aspect)escape the ship. From there its a bleak dark world where every person must band together in order to survive the planets denizens and other harmful pitfalls.

There could even be an opposing race that had collided with the human colony ship. Introducing PvP.

I dunno, but i have always wanted a good survival MMO but i do not think any development company is brave enough to try it.

SO yeah watch pandorum and pay attention to the ending and see if you understand what i am jabbering about.

Part of me wants a Harry Potter MMORPG to exist if only so we can finally see the Hufflepuff common room.

That said, if someone can manage to adapt the MMORPG paradigm of "kill things, get reward, repeat," to an IP and not the other way around, I will be quite impressed. (I know of very few memorpagas, so feel free to hammer me with "I can't believe you forgot X" replies. ;) )

What's most interesting to me is how Myst Online: URU Live (which recently went back online) followed the philosophy of exploration and discovery over action and looting, something Mr. Funk seems to be touching on with the whole Star Trek IP thing. I wonder how something like URU will stand up in today's market of action-adventure MMOs.

swaki:
i wholeheartedly agree, now star trek may be the only MMORPG i haven't played but unless they took the heavy rain approach it would always be untrue to its roots, which is why it never should have materialized, an single player star trek game could be great, give the ip to bioware tell them to forget all they knew about ME and you could have a great dialog based game with a little action here and there.

but a star trek game where each murder isnt justified or have a reason beyond xp and maybe an upgrade is just weird.

swaki would love to see the forgotten star trek episode where Picard goes on a killing spree for a new hat

Honestly, anyone but Bioware. Star Trek has always been about complex moral decisions. If you think Bioware's up to the task, I'd ask you review Shamus' plot analysis of Mass Effect 2. Bioware has proven incapible of presenting complex moral situations. In the words of Yahtzee it's "Mother Teresa or Baby Eating" with Bioware. Obsidian or even Bethesda would be a much better choice for the caliber of writing you're talking about. Bioware does a lot of things right, moral choices, the very nexus of Star Trek, isn't one of them.

That said, the game has the potential to evolve into that. There's a dialog system that could be tweaked into a genuine RPG format. There are non-combat missions, though, at the moment, a lot of players are shouting those down because there isn't really a lot of variety to them.

This article reminded me once again of CCP North America: that part of CCP, which is currently working on World of Darkness Online. Considering White Wolf's IP - and I own about 70 RPG books to back that claim up - combat is only a minor part of what makes games like Vampire: the Requiem great. I desperately want to the creators of a very successful MMO to bring something different, something that works, to the table.

Time will tell.

You make the comment about how developers need to move away from the warcraft model and I just have to ask how?

I can't lie to you I don't see how you can make an mmo that doesn't in some way make you think of WoW. I can look at the classes and break them down into what they correspond to in WoW, I look at quest and chat interfaces and think "christ just do it like wow so this doesn't suck so hard". I mean the whole method of play we're just so stuck in it to show us something new would be like showing the iPhone to a cave man using smoke signals to talk over long distances.

I guess what I'm trying to say is I can't imagine a world where MMO's don't follow the WoW model

While I'm at it I'll drag up another thing about other MMO's. Nice graphics are great and all but I for one have trouble running most MMO's that aren't WoW. I can run WoW at 60fps with the graphics set to melt face, but games like Champions, Warhammer, or Star Trek my computer chokes. Maybe I'm just behind the times but I know one thing that keeps me playing WoW is I can view their world in all its graphical glory, but other MMO's set the graphics bar so high I'm forced to play a game made up of blurry pixels and metallic skinned characters. So my question to those developers is why should I have to buy a new graphics card to play your game? Why can't you recognize that the average players can't afford to buy a new card every time a new game is released?

All I ever hear is gameplay this, gameplay that. Man screw your gameplay it doesn't mean bupkis without decent sound and art, and writing direction. I want a soundtrack that expresses the mood for the area, is subtle enough so that it feels like it naturally belongs there, and f'ing loops so it doesn't die away after 2 minutes and leaves me listening to birds chirping and the wind whistling through the trees. I want the world around me to be vibrant and alive, it doesn't have to look like I'm viewing it through a freshly cleaned window it can be STYLIZED or be less technically demanding and still look really freaking good. Last but most certainly not least, make me care! God almighty what happened to story writing for games, especially MMO's? Make your story suck less, a well written story in an MMO is not only conveyed through the quests but it also blends with the quest objectives. You don't need to have your NPC tell me they need 10 wolf hides just have them say "I need some wolf hides to make your cloak of might awesomeness" and then have at the bottom the objective "collect 10 wolf hides for your mighty cloak of awesomeness".

It's like MMO's developers are schizophrenic, they try so hard NOT to be like WoW that they forget how to design a good game. You know what, I wish more MMO's were like WoW because WoW got it right. Its not gritty and realistic, its not overly complicated (you've got stats you need, they go up, you suck less), they spent time weaving their quest stories, and their bloody soundtrack loops(are you listening to me cryptic?).

I've heard alot that WoW took alot of stuff from Everquest, I don't know I never played it. You know what though? I say kudos to them on that because now Everquest is old news and Blizzard is the one making money hand over fist.

Good grief where was I going with this, oh well my nerd rage at MMO's has subsided for now so I guess I'm done.

Star Trek: Online - "Boldly going forward, because popularity can't find reverse."
Thanks Dr. Demento.

Two points:

1) The Firefly MMO licence exists, but it's pretty much stalled at the moment. http://www.fireflymmo.com/ will tell you as much about it as is out there, since there isn't even an official site.

2) If you're looking for different gameplay in MMOs, look at EVE, and A Tale In The Desert. Both very different to WoW, and each successful in their own markets.

Ok, a couple points, as people have said you're in the middle of a very heated war in STO, so that helps understand why there's so much violence involved. Another is, the game is set after DS9 and the end of the TNG movies, all of which have been embroiled in multiple nasty wars leading into this game, meaning while you might not have seen an episode of TNG where Picard went on a murderous rampage, we certainly saw alot of it in the movies. And finally, lets face it, the people who actually care about the away missions are in the minority. The people that sign on for STO are all about ship to ship battles, STO's player base is formed off everyone's desire for Star Trek Bridge Commander on a grand scale. Many of us former bridge commanders started playing EVE simply because we wanted that bridge commander MMO, and now that STO is finally here, delivering it, I would not be surprised to see EVE's playerbase take a hit.

Robo_Doc:
What's most interesting to me is how Myst Online: URU Live (which recently went back online) followed the philosophy of exploration and discovery over action and looting, something Mr. Funk seems to be touching on with the whole Star Trek IP thing. I wonder how something like URU will stand up in today's market of action-adventure MMOs.

Honestly? In the view of most of the gaming community, it doesn't.

Plenty of people play an exploration game and come up with, "Okay, so what do you actually DO?"

That's one of the reasons why Uru failed (twice) on a pay-to-play model. Nobody wants to play a story-based MMO and pay for it.

The medium decides the delivery.

A book has ALOT of fat in terms of storytelling and adjectives while a movie will compress the book into a capsule sized helping cutting out all the meat.

While in movies and series Star Trek might be about contacting new life forms and setting up treaties with diplomacy, it would make for very iffy gameplay in a very competitive market. It's not very cool, but that's how it is.

What I'd love to see from an MMO is that other players are treated as more than party members or enemies in combat (PvP). It'd be nice if your decisions affect theirs, for example. You are busy with quest and you have a chose to make. So you make a bastard choice and that causes a quest to spawn across the map that sees a player try to right your choice.

Vampire from World of Darkness is being made into a MMO and I'd LOVE to see a spawning area where instead of CHOOSING a race (Vampire, Mage or Werewolf) yourself, other players can "turn" you either by surrendering to them or fighting them off to stay human as long as possible. THAT kind of interaction between players is missing even from World of Warcraft.

Make it so.

A thoughtful examination of the idea at hand.

I might just think it is thoughtful because it mirrors the analysis I have done, but still...

I suspect I'd be Gryffindor...

John Funk:

Are games like Star Trek Online missing the point?

Agree completely that STO misses the point of Star Trek by many orders of magnitude, and while I wish things were different, they probably won't be for quite a while.
Killing stuff for loot is a proven concept, it's also what people expect when you say MMO. Blowing stuff up in space is also a concept that works (Space Invaders anyone?). It's just way easier to do the same old thing again than to try something new.
And when I say easier I mean financially viable. MMOs cost too much, and to risk developing one with radically different goals and gameplay means risking to fail. Most publishers/developers aren't willing to take that risk, instead choosing to focus on a safe quick buck.
Until one MMO dares to break the mold and, more importantly, succeeds, I'm afraid we'll be stuck in the same old patterns.

Raithnor:
There's a big difference in the Star Trek setting we're familiar with and the setting Cryptic went with in Star Trek Online: In STO the Star Trek Universe is in a "Hot War".

During DS9 the Federation fought two big wars: one against the Klingons, and one against the Dominion, and even then most episodes that dealt with the wars didn't focus on blowing stuff up, but on the people involved and how it affected them. ST didn't focus on killing the enemy, but making peace with them somehow. Even the Borg. Hell, Picard could have destroyed them with Hugh, but he chose to go for a long shot of actually trying to find peace with them. There's just such a dissonance between what ST and STO represent. Apologies for ST geek references.

swaki:

swaki would love to see the forgotten star trek episode where Picard goes on a killing spree for a hair transplant

Fixed that for ya ;)

STO alternate time line from the ST:Nemesis movie. The federation is currently at war in all fronts, Klingons, Ramulans, Remans, Gorn, etc. In this time line the Star Trek universe isn't exactly about exploration when you have these many factions at war with you.

The shows are about exploration but the show never happened when the federation was at war. They spoke of the wars of the pass but we never got to see it. This game fills in that blank. Lets you experience the nitty gritty of what war is like in the ST universe.

Plus you are mistaken if fighting wasn't in Star Trek, seeing that Kirk was more akin to the "Shoot first, Ask Questions later" kind of captain. also he got to sleep with strange alien women (still waiting on that in STO) so please play the game first before you critique the game. Otherwise its just wrong.

edit: for the sake of all that is holy STO is probably one of 3 games that isnt a completely copy of the traditional MMO model set forth by UO, EQ, on which WoW is a clone of. SO cut it some slack for trying to be a clone of Pirates of the Burning Sea in space dammit! XD

DTWolfwood:
The shows are about exploration but the show never happened when the federation was at war.

Khm, khm DS9? I know it was considered the bastard child of ST(ironically because it had wars) but it still existed, and was a damn fine show.

DTWolfwood:
so please play the game first before you critique the game. Otherwise it just wrong.

I have played the game(through the beta, head start and still am playing, free month and all, but won't after it's over), and I approve John Funks message ;)

VanBasten:

DTWolfwood:
The shows are about exploration but the show never happened when the federation was at war.

Khm, khm DS9? I know it was considered the bastard child of ST(ironically because it had wars) but it still existed, and was a damn fine show.

DTWolfwood:
so please play the game first before you critique the game. Otherwise it just wrong.

I have played the game(through the beta, head start and still am playing, free month and all, but won't after it's over), and I approve John Funks message ;)

ah yes DS9 the show that happened almost exclusively inside a station showed a lot of exploration alright. And the lovely fighting that incurred in the last seasons of the series was very Star Trek too.

Someone make a space game with the depth of EVE and the tactical ship combat of STO and ill be all over it.

I'm pretty sure when you talk to a trek fan what they want most in Star Trek, Is to fly a starship and probably to sleep with alien women XD so its close but not quite there yet.

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