Friday, November 23, 2007

Sensors and Star Trek Online +

Some additional thoughts:

Originally Posted by Or'ab Ibo:
If the game could be played by just selecting the button and scanning, then this is best for those that don't wish to take the time to learn the intricacies of such a system.

But if you do wish to take the time, there are plenty of options to allow you to uncover any hidden object as long as you know what you are doing. With this many options you could also very well make things more difficult for yourself also. (really just take longer before finding a solution.)
Or'ab, if I were the lucky developer who got to implement a system based on this stuff, you just described how I'd look at doing it.

Specifically, I'd have "the computer" do the basic interpretation of raw data. It would essentially perform the initial interpretation of the raw sensor data for you (just like a good ship's computer or tricorder should). And the sensor display should then present those initial findings in a way that's easy to understand in terms of "OK, now what do I do with this information?"

As your character gains new abilities related to reading sensor data (e.g., Short-Range Sensors III, or Computer Ops IV, or Data Analysis II, or Sensor Calibration V, etc.) the amount of useful detail that he or she could extract from the data would increase. A real pro should be able to figure out very quickly what kinds of scans work best for particular phenomena, and where the most value lies in the data that's returned from those scans.

The result should be that a raw cadet fresh out of the Academy (i.e., a new player) should be able to turn on the sensors, see objects and energy sources, and be able to tell the ship's captain (if we're talking ship's sensors) or away team commander (if we're talking tricorders) in general what's in the area. The computer would perform the initial work of classifying the raw incoming sensor data. The player (partly using the character's skills, partly using his own wits) would then take that information and analyze it and integrate it with other information to develop knowledge that's useful for the mission.

In other words, a character who is really talented/experienced at sensor ops would be able to use sensors to obtain very detailed information about what's being scanned. The player, however, would still have to figure out how that knowledge helps with whatever situation he or she has gotten his character into... but that's where the fun of being good at riding sensors comes into play, isn't it? :)

Note that in terms of pure gameplay, the information returned from sensors would have to be integrated appropriately into the design of the current mission based on the challenge level of that mission. Basic or moderately difficult missions wouldn't be much fun if having a Legendary sensor operator in your group meant that every puzzle could be solved immediately. For some missions it might be necessary to run into aliens with unscannable technologies, or whose bio-signatures can be masked or spoofed -- that sort of thing.

Have you ever noticed how many people say wonderful things about the crafting system in SWG? Well, I'd bet that most of those people would be equally enthusiastic about a sensor system in Star Trek Online that makes effective use of a high percentage of the information I've collected here.

Whichever developer gets the chance to do the sensor system is going to have an opportunity to become very popular with Explorers.