Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay +

Originally Posted by Jerosh Skitari:
I could be confused on what is gameplay features, I'm assuming this means such things as the economic system, skill training, ship operations, etc. If this is the case, then I believe that they should all be justifiable with the lore, if not explicitly justified with the lore if you catch my drift. The devs don't have to handhold us and tell us the whole story, but might provide bits and pieces along the way.
By "gameplay features" I mean the kinds of things that players do in the game, and ways that their character can interact with the game world.

As I noted in my original post, this would include things like:

  • local movement (walking? animal mounts? vehicles?)

  • distance travel (player-initiated instant travel? waiting for a shuttle?)

  • collision detection (can mobs be blocked? what about other PCs?)

  • grouping (how many in a group? what effects does grouping cause?)

  • character skill application (how do skills allow or improve character actions?)

  • character skill improvement (how do characters improve skills or learn new skills?)

  • containers (can characters carry or wear containers? how many objects can be stored?)

  • object creation (can characters create new objects?)

  • object possession (how many objects can a character carry? should weight/size matter?)

  • object exchanges (under what conditions should characters be able to give each other objects?)

  • object usage (what effects do objects have on the game environment?)

  • NPC interaction (what can characters do with NPCs? kill them? talk with them? take missions?)

  • mob AI (how do mobs behave? how "aware" are they of changes in their environment?)
What's worth noting about these gameplay features is that the basic code behind them is "pure" gameplay -- the forms may change, but the capabilities are essentially identical across all MMORPGs. (This is particularly true of MMORPGs stamped from the DikuMUD mold.)

The question then becomes: how do you take these soulless gameplay features and make a unique world out of them? Particularly when there's a license involved, how far must you go to wrap these and other pure gameplay features in the somewhat intangible but commercially vital elements that make the license distinctive?

How much artwork, quest text, major characters, and background audio based on the source material are needed to flesh out the pure gameplay features before the typical license owner is satisfied that their property is being appropriately exploited?

With respect to Star Trek Online specifically, how much time and effort should be spent on these non-gameplay things for the gameworld to "feel" like the universe of the Federation?

Should any time be spent developing Star Trek-y, world-y assets that have no direct gameplay functionality at all?