Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay +

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
Well, the Mirror Universe concept has been floated out there for some time now. And aside from the technical merits of the proposal, I have serious problems with the underlying assumption that there are divergent and exclusive desires on the part of both types of player that can't be satisfied; I don't even particularly believe they can be so easily quantified.
As I said in another post, I also think that that Star Trek Online will work best if all those who come to it -- in particular, the MMORPG players and the Star Trek fans -- realize that they need to let go of some of the things they're used to.

That's what I think should happen. It's not what I think will happen. People aren't that rational.

Are players who like today's MMORPGs likely to accept limits imposed on how aggressively they can play in order to satisfy some "Starfleet" fiction of non-aggression? Are players who like Star Trek likely to accept a world that looks nothing like the Star Trek they love because it's filled with Starfleet officers running around looking for stuff to kill?

I proposed the "allow players to create their primary characters in either the regular Star Trek universe or the Mirror Universe" idea because I do think that there's a real and significant difference between the typical MMORPG player and the typical Star Trek fan, and one set of rules is likely to feel too wrong to both kinds of potential subscriber to a Star Trek MMORPG.

I've played MMORPGs. I've been to Star Trek cons. The people in these two worlds are not the same people; they don't think the same way; they don't act the same way. The Star Trek fan, the person who values Star Trek for its optimistic and constructive/cooperative universe, is going to be repelled by the constant killing and looting that constitutes the gameplay in most current MMORPGs and which many current MMORPG players enjoy and expect. Meanwhile, the MMORPG player, the person whose enjoyment comes from a feeling of dominating the game or other players, is going to be bored by Star Trek backstory or purely social content, and some will even become angry at the very idea of developers wasting their time on such stuff when they ought to be adding more weapons and phat lewt.

Are these generalizations? Yes. Are they overgeneralizations? I don't think so.

Is it possible to build a single common gameworld with one set of rules for everybody that both these kinds of potential subscribers can enjoy? I think people can be pretty creative in an environment where ideas are encouraged, so sure, I suppose it's possible. I also have to add that I personally would prefer this kind of solution -- I think gameworlds are more interesting when people with different worldviews and interests get to mix.

What I'm arguing is that doing this well will be a lot harder than using a known bit of lore (the Mirror Universe) to support the creation of a two-worlds-in-one game, where each world is optimized for a particular playstyle. In proposing this, I am not claiming that two-worlds-in-one would be easy, either technically or in terms of social engineering or gameplay design. I'm also not suggesting that the two worlds should never meet; there has to be some porosity or it really would be two separate games. All I'm claiming is that this might -- might! -- be a more effective way of satisfying the expectations of more potential subscribers to ST:O than assuming that these people aren't all that different and thus that one set of game features and rewards will be equally satisfactory to everybody.

Let me add that I see the same problems with this proposal that have already been expressed, namely, that it prevents different kinds of people from interacting. I acknowledge this as a problem with this proposal. But what's the practical alternative? I'd like to hear an equally concrete counter-suggestion for how both these kinds of potential player can be equally happy with one set of game rules before I agree that the Mirror Universe approach is not worth considering.