Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay +

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
Should players be activity encouraged, by way of the game's mechanics, to go out and destroy, such as through the inclusion of a loot system? No.
This is the heart of what I'm trying to address. It's where I think typical MMORPG gameplay is at odds with Star Trek philosophy. The good guys don't shoot first, they don't go looking for trouble... but that's exactly what's rewarded in virtually every MMORPG. And because it's very nearly the only thing that's ever seriously rewarded, it's now what current online gamers expect every MMORPG to offer.

The impression I get -- and please correct me if I'm wrong on this -- is that you feel there's no problem for Perpetual here: trouble will come to the Federation in multiple forms (old enemies, new threats, crime/piracy), and these will provide enough opportunity for combat gameplay that's consistent with Federation principles to satisfy everybody.

If that's the direction Perpetual is headed, I can't say it's wrong. It might work. But this, I suspect, is one of those things where the devil will be in the details. A system that encourages players of Starfleet officer characters to go looking for enemies to kill (whether by providing loot or prestige) walks a fine line, even if all the enemy mobs that spawn are on Starfleet's "approved for killin'" list.

Here's a question that I think gets right down to the core of this discussion: Should the game itself prevent Starfleet characters from firing the first shot in any conflict, or, if this freedom is permitted, meaningfully penalize Starfleet characters who fire first?

If not, if there are no lore-based and game-enforced limitations on expressions of typical MMORPG hyperaggressiveness in Star Trek Online, then I think it's reasonable to expect to see that behavior become typical in this game as well. So doesn't that do serious damage to ST:O from the POV of the Star Trek fan? Does that matter enough that it should affect the design of combat?

To sum up, the concern is not whether there will or should be combat in Star Trek Online. There will be, and there should be. The concern is how this combat gameplay will be implemented. How can players of main-universe Starfleet characters engage in all the combat gameplay they want in a way that's consistent with the Star Trek rule that the Federation and its Starfleet muscle will never be the aggressors?

I think allowing players to create Mirror Universe characters is a relatively neat way to accomplish this goal, but as I said, it's not a perfect solution and I'm open to other concrete suggestions. (I'm also open to arguments that making combat satisfying to both the "play in" MMORPG fan and the "live in" Star Trek fan doesn't need to be a goal for ST:O, but that's going to be a much tougher sell.)