Friday, August 24, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay

Originally Posted by Frederickkay:
I still want SF to be a goodguys orginasation and all, and morrality to be a main subject, but to make that interestin STO should ask players questions about their own morrality. People do like luxory items and people do tend to fight. This thread is about if we should concidder adjusting canon to make STO more fun and make ST more realistic. How far should we go? how dark should it be?
My take on this is that Star Trek Online needs to be a unique new blend of both Star Trek and a MMORPG, and not just one with some flavor of the other. For that to work, the Star Trek side is going to have to give a little bit... and so will the MMORPG side.

In general, I think that means Star Trek ceding some ground on the utopianist vision. I don't think we can turn the Federation into a bunch of utterly amoral dealers of random death -- that would be going too far -- but they do need their principles challenged, and sometimes we might fail those challenges. Despite being better people than those crude 21st-century types, humans at the dawn of the 25th century are still human.

At the same time, the MMORPG/game side also needs to yield some ground for it to be able to coexist with the core Star Trek vibe. To my mind, a Star Trek MMORPG simply cannot just be another shooter/looter -- there must be strongly realized characters; there must be stories with heart to them (not just thinly-veiled excuses for action); and, most importantly, there must be less emphasis on destruction and winning-through-accumulation.

I'm not saying Star Trek Online shouldn't have combat or interesting items to acquire. That would be asking the MMORPG/game side to give up too much. What I'm saying is that the ratio of those things to the rest of the game can't be as extreme as is the case in pretty much all other AAA-title MMORPGs -- not if the "Star Trek" part of this game's title is to mean anything. For this game to properly leverage that part of the Star Trek license, there must also be significant content that lets the better angels of our nature emerge.

That doesn't mean everybody has to be a goody-two-shoes all the time. It means that a character's making the harder choice not to solve every problem with violence ought to generate the greater rewards to that character over the long term.

So to answer your question directly, no, I don't think Star Trek Online would be more fun if players can be as "dark" as they are in other MMORPGs, killing randomly and constantly just to collect more stuff. In fact, I think that would make this game much less fun than it should and can be. As you said, content that forces us to confront hard questions about our morality is a good idea. I'm just going a little further to say that this game should allow the answer to sometimes be more than just power growing from the barrel of a phaser.

A truly memorable game would include not only content that acknowledges the evil of which humankind is capable, but would also offer at least as much content that unapologetically says that peace, justice, freedom, understanding, and a proper respect for sentient life are preferable (even if we fail sometimes to measure up).

Other games are all about the darkness. Star Trek Online can be better -- it can admit the darkness while showing that light is better.

In summary, I think a Star Trek MMORPG can have plenty of action and excitement without turning every player character into a mass murderer. There are already enough games out there like that.

It's time for an alternative. And Star Trek Online can and should be that alternative.