Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Star Trek Online: Weekly Episodes and Design Inheritance

I'm not playing Star Trek Online, but I have been following Tipa's descriptions of the weekly episodes that the STO Live team is putting out. Each week they put out a new short quest line. The story arc completes over several weeks and then a new arc starts.

I thought it was a really good idea, because it fits in beautifully with the source material. Star Trek was an episodic TV show that aired weekly, and mimicking that structure has a certain resonance. What they are doing just feels very Star Trek-y to me, as an outside observer.

And of course, it gives you incentive to subscribe, to "tune in" every week to see the new episode.

Tangentially, before this, Star Trek Online always seemed like the design inherited from the wrong games to me. Inheriting design from DikuMUD style-RPGs like EQ and WoW, with destroyed enemies dropping loot and gaining levels and ships never seemed to quite match the feel of the televsion show. I remember seeing that you could buy and sell officers on the auction house/marketplace, and--green-skinned Orion slave girls aside--that felt really out of place in the Start Trek universe.

I've always thought that the better games for STO design to have inherited from would have the Sims games. Focusing on your officers, and giving them needs and desires, and then balancing that against the various adventures you go on, might have fit the IP a bit better.

4 comments:

RJ said...

I love the weekly episodes. They're pretty high quality, and are a blast to play through. It really gives me an incentive to log in every now and then, even at max level. While I love STO, it's end-game isn't... as fleshed out yet, though it's something Cryptic is working on.


Also, just as a side note, many of the Trek strategy games have you "buying" and "selling" officers (if you ever played Starfleet Command, for example), but the disconnect for STO is that it's using the "regular" currency instead of the "honour" currency. If you bought BOs on the exchange with Starfleet Merits (a slightly rarer currency used for respecs, promoting BOs, buying new skills for them. and renaming your ship), then it would have logically made sense; you are gaining "merit" for giving up a promising star, and losing "merit" for pulling strings to acquire one.

Bronte said...

"I've always thought that the better games for STO design to have inherited from would have the Sims games. Focusing on your officers, and giving them needs and desires, and then balancing that against the various adventures you go on, might have fit the IP a bit better."

Never thought of it that way, but I suppose that makes sense. However, you also gotta keep in mind that controlling and keeping ONE sim happy was the whole game and focus in The Sims. Now extrapolate that to a whole ship's crew worth of individuals and it will become a daunting task. I know you are not saying it needs to be an exact replica of the sims games, perhaps a slightly dumbed down version, but the point stands: I think it will become too complicated and time-consuming for you and drag the rest of the features down with it.

Rhii said...

I haven't played STO but with the rumors that it might go F2P flying around, I could consider trying it out. How long are the weekly episodes? Is it like the current Twilight Cultist/Elemental Invasion event in WoW where we're just having little bits of quest added in periodically, or is it something substantial? I feel like if I could complete the weekly episode in 40 minutes or something, I might not feel like playing any more than that. I don't want a game update to turn into a chore...

I do really like the idea of a Star Trek game that focuses on the actual crew more than their "adventures". I definitely feel that it's a better fit for the IP as a whole, where yeah, the adventure was there, but it was always about the people.

Also, wut? Selling people in the Federation?! It can't be done! :P

RJ said...

The weekly episodes take varying lengths of time. Some of them are 10 minute dialog affairs, and some can be 40 minute combat sequences.

In general, STO's primary plot missions (Featured Episodes included) are roughly as long as an episode of the show. And in a lot of cases, are written and paced like one, too. That's one of the things I like about STO, though it does mean that I can't always just sit down and plow through missions on my alts like quests in WoW.