Monday, November 5, 2007

Admiral-Level Gameplay in a Star Trek MMORPG +

More comments:

Originally Posted by Captain Crowl:
It would be easy to assume that once the game is distributed and people have a chance to load and log-in, we'd be talking at least 10,000 people world-wide. The model I just proposed gives us around 200-300 admirals...that's 2-3%...which is about dead-on for a command structure upper echelon. Keep in mind that we're probably talking about thousands of starships (player and NPC ships).
I think you're probably correct as a starting point, but I strongly suspect things wouldn't stop there.

I see two likely paths for a Star Trek MMORPG. On one path, this game gets designed like conventional MMORPGs with level-based character classes in which a higher level number is always better... and "rank" is a kind of level. On this path, a lot of people will seek flag rank because the character design tells them that that's what they're supposed to want. You'll get people competing to become admirals as quickly as possible because that's how it works in the games that Star Trek Online consciously resembles.

And once an Admiral, always an Admiral -- can you imagine a conventional MMORPG taking levels away from a player? The more time that passes, the more admirals there'll be.

This is always how it goes in all these MMORPGs; the developers always wind up spending most of their time creating new "high end" content. That in turn attracts more people to seek the highest levels, and so the cycle goes.

I'm pretty confident that if ST:O takes this "more always means better" path, eventually there will be waaaaaay more than just 200-300 admirals. So on this path, yes, we might reasonably expect to see multiple levels of Admiral rank.

The other path is the one I've described, in which higher rank doesn't merely mean more difficult content of exactly the same kind, but rather that the kinds of gameplay available change. This is the tactical -> operational -> strategic shift I talk about.

If Star Trek Online were to follow this path, I think the result would be as I've described: players would voluntarily choose to stop seeking higher rank and focus instead on getting better at the kind of content (tactical/operational/strategic) that they're enjoying at that time.

At this point I make an assumption: most players prefer tactical content; some players like leading groups; and a small number of gamers enjoy abstract strategic gameplay. If that's true, then if my "rank defines gameplay" concept were implemented there'd need to be a large number of initial ranks and a lot of tactical content, a couple of middle ranks and some operational content, and one or at most two top ranks and a small amount of strategic content.

And that's why I conclude that only one level of Admiral rank is needed. If there aren't many gamers who want to mess with abstract issues of logistics and planning (hallmarks of strategic action), then having multiple Admiral ranks will either mean players stepping on each others' toes, or else the developer will have to create a bunch of strategic content, which wouldn't make sense from a resource allocation perspective if what they need the most of is tactical content.