Sunday, December 30, 2007

First Officers in a Star Trek MMORPG +

Originally Posted by Hoplite:
it's difficult because you need to give everyone something to do, and if they aren't flying the ship and/or shooting, what are they doing? looking at some sensor read outs? damage reports? how does that remain fun for long periods? i know some of us might like to do that, but as a mass appeal thing? it's problematic.
Only if you define the "masses" as the people who like today's killing/loot-centric MMORPGs.

Maybe with a broader definition of gamers, content that's about more than just killing things and taking their stuff becomes more appealing.

Instead of rank and position being just another badge to be collected by grinding missions for prestige, what if rank and position were earned by service to other players? What if earning -- and keeping -- rank depended on how much fun you make the game for other players?

In a game like that, the role of executive officer might look considerably more attractive. When the game is about nothing more than your personal immediate gratification, when rank is just one more pellet that drops once you personally have pushed some magic number of arbitrary levers, the role of XO doesn't make much sense. In a game where rank is about service to other players, however, suddenly being a ship's executive officer becomes a desirable role -- and having content for an XO role makes sense -- because it offers lots of ways to be of service to other players.

In the broader sense, what can multiple players in the different departments do (other than the usual kill/loot/repeat cycle) that's fun for long periods? I don't consider this problematic at all; in fact, it's already been discussed in multiple threads here.

In my Skill-Based Minigames in a Star Trek MMORPG blog entry I offered just a few notions for "what players can do" that occured to me, and I'm not a Professional Game Developer. I expect the folks actually making a Star Trek MMORPG could come up with lots more things that are even more fun than the things I dreamed up. There'd be combat content, of course, but I hope the above suggestions show that there are plenty of things players could do that go well beyond mindless killin', as long as we're willing to see beyond Star Trek Online being just another MMORPG like the last one we played except with different graphics.

I know how creative people can be. There is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that if its developers want to do so, they could definitely create a Star Trek Online in which XOs have a useful role to play that's highly enjoyable for the gamers who like helping other players have fun.

The only question is whether the developer embraces this broader definition of "mass appeal," or if their vision is limited to seeing gamers only in terms of today's games.

If the latter, we can forget about XOs being part of Star Trek Online. After all, who could possibly want to manage crew or ship systems when they could be grinding missions for prestige to buy rank that lets them grind more missions for more rank?

You can't have more than that, or the next thing you know some players would want to be able to play Uncle Owen, or bake bread, or forge swords, and where's the blood-soaked, loot-whoring excitement in that?