Monday, February 9, 2009

Player Ship Interiors and Star Trek Online... Again

Well, here we go again.

Cryptic, the current developer of the Star Trek Online MMORPG, has mentioned in an interview that player ship interiors would probably be viewable only as instances during certain missions. The potential feature of letting characters walk around and interact with key locations of starships, such as the Bridge and Engineering, is now being described as unlikely to be included in Star Trek Online when it launches.

From the interview with Craig Zinkievich conducted by Irdnova on behalf of Hailing Frequency:

HF: We know from the Vegas trailer and from discussion on the STO Forums that ship interiors are going to be available, however we still do not have many details on these, so can you tell us how much freedom will players be allowed in their ships – are we just going to see key areas like the bridge and engineering available, or will corridors and turbolifts and all of the other locations that are typically on a ship, be available?

CZ: At launch, we are probably only going to have ship interiors available during mission instances, however we hope to add the ability to players to freely walk around their ship and host gatherings in an expansion pack.
Over on Cryptic's official Star Trek Online forum, this comment has already spawned the same responses and counter-responses and failures to listen to what anyone else says that went on for months when Perpetual, the former developer of Star Trek Online, made its similar announcement.

These responses come in a few distinct forms:

1. This feature was absolutely critical for me. The developers are a bunch of liars; they obviously don't understand Star Trek or value Star Trek fans. They're just rushing a WoW-clone to market to make a quick buck. If the game that ships doesn't implement key locations of our personal starships that we can walk around in whenever we want, I'm not going to play it, period.

2. This feature was very important to me personally, and its loss is a severe disappointment to me. I don't mind rules-based gameplay, but I really wanted a Star Trek MMORPG that created the world of Star Trek for me to "live in." For me, a richly detailed (and graphically semi-realistic) world isn't an alternative to gameplay, it is gameplay -- it's just not the arbitrary following of formal win/lose rules that other people enjoy. I was really hoping to get to do things like perform sensor sweeps and align phasers and have detailed diplomatic negotiations with alien races, so a ship that's just a "mount" is pretty upsetting. Without being able to walk around as my character through the key locations of the starship I command, this game just won't feel enough like the world of Star Trek. I'm considerably less likely to play it now as a result of this design decision.

3. This feature was important for a Star Trek MMORPG and for the MMORPG industry as a whole. Starships were virtually starring characters in Star Trek. So cutting both the player crew feature and player ship interiors (outside of some mission instances) is a failure to understand that this is one of the most iconic elements of the entire Star Trek IP. Not richly rendering starships is a failure to take advantage of what's probably the last major opportunity to create a richly realized IP as a major MMORPG. I'm somewhat less likely to play this game now.

4. This would have been nice to have, and I wish they'd included it, but I figure the developers know what they're doing. Maybe not implementing key locations on player ships makes sense given their previous design decision (such as Cryptic's decision not to allow players to work together as crew on one ship). Without that capability, there's probably not enough value in letting individual players walk around key locations of their own ship. So I suppose cutting this feature is just the developer being realistic. I guess I'll probably still play it as long as they don't cut anything else.

5. Huh? I don't care about walking around on some ship, I just want to start shooting stuff. What's all the complaining about? Where can I download this game? Can I be in the beta, like, right now?

6. The developer is going to give us interiors as instances for missions. So for you few oddballs who claim to like that kind of thing, you can do all the walking around and staring at consoles you want -- you'll just have to do it as part of a developer-provided mission. I'll definitely buy this game, and I'll probably play it for at least a year or so while I level up my main character and alts.

7. All you people who say you want interiors are just a bunch of whiners. IT'S NOT GOING TO BE A SIMULATOR! SHUT UP! The only valid definition of "gameplay" is flying places and shooting people and taking their stuff. All that other stuff like stories and sandboxes and how long a day lasts is just a distraction from real gameplay content. The devs aren't going to spend a single minute making that crap that only a few weirdos want, and I'm glad. SHUT UP! Go back to your mommy's basement, you retard trekkie losers! This is MY game! MINE! MINE! I'll buy this game, but I want to play for free forever, or at least until I beat it in a couple of months and quit.

8. Everything this developer does is wonderful! Anyone saying anything negative about this or any other decision they make about Star Trek Online's design should go away. We should only talk about the things we're all happy to see announced. The only way I would not buy the Collector's Edition of this game is if it gets cancelled.
I'm probably around a 2.5 in my reaction. I understand that things get cut when making a game; I just don't think it should always be the features that make the gameworld more interesting and that are iconic to a licensed IP that lose that contest.

The Star Trek IP would have been a terrific basis for a major AAA-quality MMORPG that deliberately gives equal weight to story and world and rules-based play.

It's too bad Cryptic aren't going to be the ones who profit by making that balanced gameworld.

Who will?

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