Friday, November 16, 2007

Non-Combat Gameplay in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by YYC:
It's still an MMORPG. Non-combat side fluff is fun and important to have in the game, but I think combat is still going to be the main thrust. Beverly Crusher may not have spent most of her time phasering down bad guys, but I doubt you're going to be spending most of your time sitting in the Sick Bay, pointing a tricorder at scraped knees.
For what it's worth, not everyone considers non-combat content to be "fluff."

Think about it in Star Trek terms for a moment. Suppose that, as a character who's chosen a Medical specialization, you have the opportunity to figure out how to cure a plague that's infecting your whole crew or the population of an entire planet. Would the people you just cured consider what you did to be "fluff?"

Or suppose you're the Chief Engineer on the only vessel around when a strange and enormous alien craft -- which appears to be a malfunctioning weapon of some kind -- is found to be headed toward Earth. By figuring out the mechanisms of the ship, you're able to repair it, saving potentially millions of lives. To that Engineer, and to the people saved, do those engineering actions really seem like "fluff?"

It's certainly true that most current MMORPGs are heavily tilted toward competitive-acquisition gameplay -- killing things and taking their stuff. Clearly there's a good market for that kind of game... but where is it written that that's the only market we're permitted to consider? More specifically, where's the evidence or reasoning to support a view that a MMORPG based on Star Trek does the most/best business by being another game catering to the competitive-combat/loot-accumulation market?

This isn't an anti-combat rant. Most MMORPGs offer "kill it and take its stuff" gameplay because some people like that kind of thing and because it's relatively easy to imagine and implement. So it's to be expected that Star Trek Online will also be designed to appeal in some measure to those players. The question is, what's the right proportion of combat content versus exploration content versus social content for this particular game?

Pretend for a second that you could classify every bit of content in ST:O as Combat or Non-Combat -- what percentage of the game's active gameplay content should be specifically about combat?

20 percent?

33 percent?

50 percent?

80 percent?