Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Admiral-Level Gameplay in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Randydandy:
Maybe a good way to facilitate this would be to have a gain/loss approach to promotions. In the larger scheme of things, your graph outlines this. But to make it practical, maybe you could set the promotions up so that you GAIN potential skills,xp, etc. but LOSE a few skills, xp, etc from. You would loose skills or advancements in certain skills in the area you are moving away from. For example a character promoted from Lt. Commander to Commander would lose advancements made towards tactical skills and gain the potential to increase those skills necessary to perform duties in operations.
Taking things away from characters is always problematic in these games. Players tend to regard it as a kind of punishment for success, and usually react very badly to it even if it's an otherwise functional mechanic for gameplay balance.

Still, you've got a point. One of the unhappy possibilities of a Star Trek MMORPG is to see grizzled old admirals leaping over their desks with a phaser in their teeth to do hand-to-hand battle with NPCs. If advancing in rank means retaining all the old tactical skills while adding new operational and strategic capabilities, then that unhappy possibility of admirals going tactical on NPCs exists.

My assumption was that the game itself would counter that by the kinds of challenges offered to characters at particular ranks -- admirals just plain wouldn't get offered tactical content. But that sort of begs the question: what's stopping captains and admirals from seeking out tactical content on their own? Should the game try to prevent these characters from taking a break from the leadership and planning content?

This is something for which I don't yet have a satisfying answer. I'm still inclined to try to think in terms of an emergent approach, in which it's not necessary to impose game rules to get some behavior because the game is designed such that most players themselves will want to express that behavior. I'd like to think that if you like strategic play, and if you became an Admiral to gain access to that kind of content, and if there's so much strategic content that you don't run out of it, then you won't be interested enough in tactical play to revert back to it.

Lots of "ifs" in that, aren't there?

Is there some other way to minimize the "two-fisted Admiral" situation other than taking away skills when a character is promoted?