Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Loot as a Reward in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Avery:
... couldn't one also argue that [Borg "looting"] is the same thing the Federation is doing, parsec by painstakingly small parsec? I mean, the whole idea behind "Seek out new life and new civilizations" in a small way shadows that of the Borg phillosophy, though on the complete opositve end of that same spectrum.
Absolutely there's a similarity. In fact, I would argue that we are supposed to see this similarity; that the Borg are intended to be a warning to us.

The Borg are the Federation -- i.e., us -- gone bad. They are us if we choose to see only what technology can give us and ignore what it takes away. They are what we will become if we ever allow pure goal-directed utilitarianism to pwn our humanity.

In short, the Borg are the Federation without individual choice. They loot individuality.

Originally Posted by Avery:
Arguably though, you have to have loot in some aspect of the game, because it is an instant gratification reward for defeating something else. And it's the little rewards that stack up and count in these MMOG's. Most players want or even need that instant gratification to feel like they are accomplishing something in the game.
The merits of encouraging instant-gratification-thinking in any environment -- including a game -- strike me as dubious at best. (The notion of MMORPG as Skinner box is explored in an interesting interview with Jon Blow at

From a pure game design perspective it's true that most of the MMORPGs we've seen so far focus on supplying small, tangible rewards on a short frequency. And I have and would argue that it's a valid form of reward for some kinds of gamers.

But is it really something that a Star Trek MMORPG should copy without also offering other, less accumulation-driven kinds of rewards for other kinds of gamers?

Originally Posted by DOAM:
why do you (and others) constantly only cite the extreme, and poor, examples of looting? Especially when most of the posts here, for looting, have been about moderate-to-low looting?
Because as I said earlier, having a little looting in a game rarely stops there. It's just too easy to let it take over a game.

Compared to adding other kinds of content, whipping up some new bit of loot is freakishly simple. And so of course that's exactly what time-pressured developers do. And that attracts more people who like collecting loot, and who loudly and often demand more loot and more powerful loot.

You see where that goes.

I don't want to take (and I don't think I'm taking) an extreme position here. I think some short-schedule tangible rewards are necessary to help any MMORPG, including a Star Trek Online, appeal to Achievers. But Achievers won't be the only people playing a Star Trek Online, and therefore accumulatable loot isn't the only appropriate reward.

Basically, my cautions concerning loot as a reward aren't about what kind of game Star Trek Online would be at the start if looting is enabled along with other kinds of rewards. It's where the game would end up if that kind of thing isn't strictly and continuously limited.