Been spending some time playing Star Trek Online of late. Over its three year life, they've done some interesting things. Perhaps the most worthwhile was creating a number of different play modes- you can do nothing but ground missions (typical MMO stuff), or nothing but Space Missions (fly a starship), or nothing but order your crew around in Duty Officer Missions (compared to a type of farmsville by some players).
Or do a mix. And while doing any of the above, you can help your guild (called a Fleet in this game) build their Starbase and other things. For an MMORPG, the ability to play in so many different ways is a welcome change from everyone doing the same thing.
One of the downsides is that it's a textbook case of 'game balance', 'assumed advancement' and 'player choice' destroying the realism of the setting.
-Everyone gets to be a vice-admiral. And vice-admirals still command single ships, just like captains, or Lieutenants for that matter. You can't swing a cat without hitting a dozen vice-admirals.
-At the top end, all the ships have to be roughly equal. No matter what they should actually be. This becomes more strange when (due to the need for player choice), you have ships in play with service dates that are hundreds of years apart according to the official timeline. Small ships, medium ships, huge ships, old ships, new ships, future ships- all the same.
-It's very common for Federation Captains to use non-Federation Ships. They might be Breen, Ferengi, or Jem'hadar. Whatever the case, they make up half the Fleet. But no Klingon ships... because... well... it beats me why that is now that I think about it. It's likely to make sure that there is some difference in PvP... yes, the PvP that most agree doesn't work well (IMO it's because the Klingons just flatly have better ships so there's no reason for a Federation player to go in there- unless of course he's flying a non-Federation ship).
-While everything is roughly equal, the truth is that small advantages are big deals for many players. So the 'uber' players chase those small advantages. Oddly enough for a Federation centric TV show and game, those small advantages are found on the non-Federation ships. The fact that those ships can only be gained by buying 'keys' for random content 'lockboxes' is perhaps the biggest money maker for the makers of the game. And the reason so many Federation players fly ships that don't belong to the Federation.
All the above is frankly silly at best. Downright stupid in fact when matched against any standard of simulation and realism.
But in the end I think it's unavoidable. It's driven both by the needs of a MMORPG and by the sheer size of the setting that it's attempting to model. How does the game attract players like me who liked the TOS but not the latter stuff? Simple, by having some of TOS stuff in the game that's playable (this needs more work actually as they really don't have anything outside the uniforms and ship interiors). And the reverse applies.
In a real sense, the game can't ever make sense due to the requirement to appeal to too wide of a user base with multiple subgroups thereof having serious expectation differences. Add in the need for MMO 'balance', and realism/simulation is not just dead- it's been buried, dug up by ghouls, and eaten.
But that's been the case with Star Trek for decades now. One just ignores it and plays the game.
There's a advantage and lesson here for players of table top PnP RPGs.
The advantage is that their settings can be alter to make sense to the players that make up the group, they are not bound by the concerns that bind an MMO- and for that reason they are very different hobby.
The lesson is to be careful of the holy concepts of balance and choice- it is often little more than deciding to be dumb.
Way of the Wicked
2 days ago