Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Star Trek Canon vs. MMORPG Gameplay +

Some people, perhaps looking to show support for the previous developer’s intentions of making Star Trek Online a typical game-y MMORPG, have lampooned the requests of folks like myself for a more world-y design as demanding and expecting "The Sims Online: Star Trek Edition."

I think this overstates the case just a tad. (1 tad = "a lot")

Nobody's demanding a full and perfect simulation of Star Trek. That's an unfair charge to make because it has nothing to do with the reality of what any reasonable person has suggested.

The reality is that there are some gamers (myself included) who think a massively multiplayer persistent-world game based on the high-tech Star Trek universe needs to include some Simulationist-friendly features (such as puzzle-based minigames and fairly detailed representations of space and certain technologies) to get full value out of this particular license. It won't feel like Star Trek if the whole game is just firing phasers and grinding for XP to level up to Admiral. Instead, we're more interested in the chance to pretend to be Starfleet officers who get to operate neat advanced technological devices and systems in order to explore new places and meet interesting aliens (only some of whom will want to kill us right away). That is the kind of content that will persuade us that this game is worth a monthly subscription fee.

But who ever said that's the only kind of content that Star Trek Online should have? Why does the mere suggestion of including some simulationist content seem so threatening that it needs to be ridiculed as an all-or-nothing demand so that such ideas will be dismissed out of hand?

Even if ST:O's designers could be persuaded that some people actually find understanding and operating complex systems to be an enjoyable form of play, in no way would that lead to turning the whole game into a perfect Star Trek sim. Even if such a thing were possible, it would be dumb because then it wouldn't appeal to the many gamers who obviously enjoy the very game-y nature of current MMORPGs.

Based on developer comments thus far, I think it's safe to assume that the vast majority of Star Trek Online will be comfortably familiar to anyone who likes those other MMORPGs. Whether that will be enough to satisfy Explorers, Socializers, ex-SWG players, and Star Trek fans, all of whom are more interested in immersing themselves in a richly detailed world than in following a collection of arbitrary rules for killing things and taking their stuff, is debatable.

A Star Trek MMORPG doesn't need to be a pure sim, but I don't think it'll win if it's as much about rules-based gameplay as WoW is, either.