Monday, September 10, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay +

Originally Posted by CINC-UFPForces-Cardassia:
I'm willing to say that, but perhaps that comes from just not being willing to agree that there is such an incredible divide between the Trek fan and the MMO fan. I think the notion badly, badly belies the facts. I can't help but think of the long, long list of MMOs and common MMO experience our members have, spanning a whole range of different games of different types. I'm thinking of all the people in the poll which asked whether respondents are Trek fans or MMO fans, who complained that "Both" wasn't a choice. I'm thinking of all the people who left Star Wars: Galaxies because the social and community aspects which they loved so much were stripped from the game.

I think the assumption that such a divide exists relies on a stereotype of the MMO player and a glorified vision of the Trek fan. Having had a vastly greater deal of experience with (and being) the latter, I think it's relies in a very narrow definition of who a Star Trek fan is, and who is not. The Star Trek fanbase is far more diverse, for better or for ill, than we see presented here. By all means it's your view to have, but I don't think it's the foundation of a game.
Having spent some time thinking about this, it's a pretty darn reasonable statement of an alternative perspective. As it happens, I don't disagree at all with the belief that there are some people who are interested in both Star Trek and MMORPGs to a nearly equal degree -- heck, I'm one of them. The question is, how many folks like us are there across the total population of people who might be willing to play a Star Trek MMORPG? Are we the norm?

My experiences in studying people generally and MMORPG players and Star Trek fans specifically leads me to continue to see significant differences in the people likely to identify with these two groups. Most people will be more interested in Star Trek than they are in MMORPGs, or vice versa. Of course many of them will say "both" if asked... but that tells us nothing about which is more important to them. What the typical MMORPG player will want from a Star Trek MMORPG is likely to be very different from what the typical Star Trek fan will want, even if there are some people with one foot in both worlds.

That doesn't mean I think a Star Trek MMORPG should be designed to be all things to all people. I don't think that's possible; some things are mutually exclusive. And that is, in fact, an argument for a two-worlds-in-one design -- it's a way to give the people who prefer a particular kind of gameplay more (not all, but more) of what they want, rather than trying to smush everything together into a single environment where everyone winds up losing too many features they consider critical.

I'm sure MMORPG players and Star Trek fans have some gameplay feature interests in common. But yes, when it comes to online games I am persuaded by what I have observed and by the thinking and modeling I've done that their interests are more different than similar. On balance, I think the MMORPG players have a Gamist/Experientialist outlook, while Star Trek fans have a Narrativist or Simulationist worldview. And I think that translates pretty directly into what these folks say they want Star Trek Online to look like, and that when (if!) ST:O launches they'll prove it with their pocketbooks.

My hope is that a Star Trek MMORPG will be constructed to offer enough to both of these audiences to attract and retain many of them, and in so doing will also appeal to those of us who enjoy both forms of entertainment. I hope we can at least agree that that would be a Good Thing, even if we disagree on what's necessary to get there.