Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mission Generation in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Demosthenes:
In some games, when you complete a mission the 'rewards' you gain usually come in the form of loot, cash reward and experience gain, for instance... but are they suitable to STO? What exactly should be achieved by completing a mission, beyond the experience/rank gain which could be awarded at the end of the mission or dependant on your actions within it. The idea of looting and cash rewards doesn't really sit well with me, so how else could missions be made rewarding to the player upon completion?
Excellent question!

I'm really not wild about the idea of cash or object rewards. In particular I hope not to see Star Trek Online turn into a phat lewt game (as I noted in my Loot as a Reward in a Star Trek MMORPG blog entry) -- that just doesn't seem right for Starfleet types. (Might work if non-Starfleet careers are implemented, however.) Rewards tailored to one's Starfleet career might be the most fun.

For system-generated missions, one thought that occurs to me is a "mission debriefing" in which your performance is evaluated by the appropriate NPC officer. It might be fun, useful (for figuring out how to get promoted), and a good use of Star Trek lore to hear whether your performance was adequate, exemplary, or outstanding.

For this to have value, missions would probably need to be more interesting than just "kill 10 pirates." Suppose that the typical mission consists of a major objective and several minor objectives. That would allow for some variation in the rewards for completing the mission:

  • XP/prestige (branch-specific? general? Command?)

  • gain Federation faction

  • recognition in Federation newspapers (large gain in Federation faction)

  • commendations

  • medals

  • opportunity to request reassignment

  • offered command of "better" player ship (0 prestige cost)

  • offered choice of commands of several kinds of player ships (0 prestige cost)

  • insta-promotion (for completing every objective of an extremely difficult critical mission)
As for missions assigned to players by higher-ranking players (a concept I support enthusiastically), this is a very different kind of beast. The usual reward structure might not be appropriate.

The problem is that "the system" can be assumed to be fair in generating missions and handing out rewards, but you can't always assume that about players. What if I only give the "good" (low-risk, high-payoff) missions to people I like? What if I only offer "bad" (high-risk, low-payoff) missions to someone I dislike?

Both the structure of player mission assignment and rewards (if this is implemented at all) need special attention compared to system-generated missions. I'd suggest the following features:

  • mission-assigning players supply the reward (so they have a stake in the assigned player's success)

  • assignable missions have a defined difficulty level

  • reward values (whatever the form of the reward) are calculated by the system from the mission difficulty level (so Admirals can't turn their favorites into instant Captains)

  • successfully completed missions provide some alternate reward to the assigning player (so that assigning missions is desirable)
There are probably more features/constraints needed for player-assigned missions, but you get the idea. It's hard to talk about specific rewards without knowing the general structure of how player-assigned missions could work.