How would you make an intelligent Star Trek game?
I was excited about STO, then hated it as soon as I found out about Cryptic’s version of it, then loved it in beta, then hated it again as time went on. Overall, in spite of my love/hate relationship with the game, I never took it as anything more than an action based game targeted at the casual gamer. My post is lengthy, but it is going to attempt – with hopefully the feedback of those who wanted STO to be better – to answer the question, could a game really be made to satiate the wishes of the fans who don’t like the current version? This post is for those who wanted to see on some level, a starship simulator along with exploration, diplomacy and combat in a Star Trek game.
This post is disjointed, as in most of it, I am just brainstorming. I'm not even sure why I'm writing this. I guess to just expound on what I feel could have made the game better. But also to speculate, for those of us that wanted something closer to a Star Trek simulator, could it really have been done?
The real challenge to making Star Trek feel like Star Trek is the fact that the Federation’s universe is based on things like money or currency not being an issue any longer. The other challenge is how to handle immersion the way I hear Star Trek fans say they had hoped the game would be. A few things have to be at least a little non-Star Trekky to make it enjoyable for everyone. Here was how my idea started. Now, grant you, I am not a developer, nor do I pretend to be. I know some things about computers, games and programming, but I could never undertake something as complicated as creating my own MMORPG. I’m just a nobody gamer. I enjoyed STO for a very short while, but I expected a lot more from it. Here are the ideas I have. Some of them are based on the impression I got from PE’s version, some are just based on how would I make it work…and even so, there are still gaps that I can’t fill. I’m just approaching this idea from a more script-writing standpoint.
Earth, San Francisco, Starfleet Academy is your starting point. Time frame would probably be Next Generation.
As a starting Starfleet Academy Cadet, there would be quests, combat missions, even quizzes, a final examination in a holodeck and daily Academy graduations (that you had the option of not attending). But you would first have to work your way out of Starfleet Academy. Along the way through Starfleet Academy you would be asked personal questions about what you feel your strengths and weaknesses are, and personal tastes, and be tested on them through Academy missions and assignments. Much like in Star Wars KOTOR when you are determined to be a Jedi Consular, Sentinel or Guardian, these would determine what your specialty will be when you receive your assignment.
Overall, graduation should be both fun and fulfilling, and require a small bit of challenge to obtain, so you have something to feel accomplished about. Or, if many of you disagree with that, then just make Starfleet Academy the ‘newbie zone’.
At graduation, you would receive a voucher for a permanent shuttlecraft (roleplayed as the ability to use a shuttlecraft on any ship), the rank of Ensign, and your choice of ship assignments. This shuttlecraft voucher would be permanently bound to a player account, this way you have a means of leaving your assigned ship if you have a place you need to go, or want to go. Shuttlecraft would have warp capability, but on the whole be slower than starships, and not have as good a range.
Aboard the starship, multiple decks would be explorable, and useful. The primary function of the starship interior would be geared towards doing your Starfleet job.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky. Here’s where I’d need suggestions from other people. What could you do aboard a starship at a workstation? I’d rather keep things towards a more free-roaming thing, the game must NOT feel like work. Like teamwork at times to accomplish a goal, but not like work. Everyone knows Starfleet Starships have tactical stations, an engineering section, stellar cartography, etc., but what about other areas of the ship? A Galaxy class starship has a crew of 2,000 families, crew members, and officers. Could there, or should there be a civilian option aboard a starship just so you can explore it?
Immersion is the most difficult question to answer here. Players obviously aren’t going to be able to login all day or to stay up all night to work their ‘shift’. Plus, what if there are 4,000 people online wanting to work at one station? The first question is easily answered, the second question is not. NPCs can take over when someone logs out, or A.I. The second question is not so easily answered. Perhaps this is where multiple ships come into play.
Combat… ship captains can select their crew, perhaps ship captains could be the only ones to form guilds (or fleets), and those fleets would be restricted to their own ships. The captains could earn some kind of merit with Starfleet by either valor in battle or exploration and diplomatic missions with other species, and thus earn newer ships. Up and coming Federation officers who are anxious to obtain a command position can then be promoted up, and be promoted either by Starfleet or a Captain to command of that ship when the Captain leaves it. I’d have to think on this more, how it would work.
Combat would obviously have bonuses pertaining to a live crew of real players performing together as a team, where as any unmanned stations running on autopilot would have reduced effectiveness. And...one of my personal pet peeves, your ship would have a LIMITED complement of photon torpedoes. If you exhaust them, you exhaust them. Go back to space dock and restock. If your phasers overheat, then they overheat, that's what your crew is there to overcome.
I would start out the game with just the Federation, with Klingon NPCs and NPC ships.
I would make the space and star systems more like SWG and EvE Online. There would also be cruising time for systems further away (but not ridiculous amounts of time).
The ships would be the playground/sandbox for the players. Much like the current STO, rank (Ensign to Captain, Admiral would be very hard to obtain, and an end game goal), and specialization (there would be more of them…science, tactical, command, mix and match, sandbox type ranking system with skillpoint limitations).
Player associations could be determined, as stated before by ships being ‘guilds’. Players could be given the option of grinding up through their specialties, and new boxes can become available to them to grind and mix and match with every new rank. Captains would be given the privelege of promoting officers within their guilds, but players would not be required to stay within that guild. They could apply for a transfer to another ship (on an NPC terminal of some sort).
What happens if you are missing an officer in an unpopular area of the ship? Well, the game can provide you with an NPC officer, but NPC stations on ships would by nature be programmed to be far less effective than a human being. But they would get the job done.
Players can socialize and level up on the ship, or they can level up as a group when the guild/entire ship undertakes an important mission. Be it a sudden Klingon attack, or an acquired exploration mission. Missions could even be geared towards cooperation between multiple guilds/ships to achieve a goal (Example, albeit a lamely contrived one, I’m sure you pure Trekkies can do better): Using multiple deflectors on multiple ships, perfectly timed, to seal a rift in space, maybe while simultaneously fending off attacks from Klingon interference.
Ship captains and their guilds can choose to be a combat oriented group, or a strict PvE group, a little of both, or whatever they want to do.
Admiral could be a heavy end game goal, require a lot of work, for the heavy grinders. Admirals would have the ability to form fleets for end game content (with the consent of ships Captains).
Interdependency is the key. From 10 Forward to entire armadas of ships with multiple crews and captains working together. Both at the ship level and at the overall game level.
For those that don’t want to join guilds, and are a little more solo, make space stations, and positions on them that could be part of an interdependent part of the game. You can fly around in your shuttlecraft. Maybe in an expansion, you can join the Maquis and pilot one person craft.
Or, for those that want to be in Starfleet but work solo, there can be ‘slug’ NPC ships that allow you to accomplish your grinding goals alone (but more slowly, as there would be a guild bonus to working with others on a ship full of live players).
Future expansions would include (once bugs were fixed on the Federation side), to add the Klingon side, and Klingon ships. Then the Romulans, Cardassians, etc.
I could go on and on with ideas and possibilities, but I know a game like the one I’m describing would be an incredibly massive undertaking. Something tells me the lag would be enourmous, but who knows.
Still, if it could be done, I’d wait 5 years for someone to write a game like this. But something like this, imo, would appeal to a massive audience.
If anyone has any other ideas, feel free. I’m just one person.