Star Trek Online please don't be another Champions Online

Published on Jan 04, 2010 Games « Prev Next »

I have to admit that one of the games I am looking forward to in 2010 is Cryptic’s, Star Trek Online.

Some might wonder why the single most popular science fiction franchise in the history of media has taken so long to be turned into an MMO, myself included – But I think it’s a better use of our efforts to instead not speculate too much on the why of it but rather to channel that raw emotion and energy into the heart felt desire for STO to not suck.

Let’s be honest here, Cryptic Studios is very good at bringing out games that look kinda keen, but have zero long term playability.   City of Heroes and City of Villains suffered from this, and the successor Champions Online (City of Champions?) was even worse.   They looked great, but for whatever reason they just didn’t have the sticking power to keep players interested.

Will STO be the same thing?  Look good initially and maybe be fun for a week or two, but rapidly drag down into a grind-tastic mess?  God I hope not..

I can’t actually put my finger on what it is about CoH/CoV and CO that make them lose their fun.  I will say that of the three, I think City of Villains was the best with regards to game play but that was primarily due to the controller character architecture.  What can I say; I enjoyed having a pack of zombies at my disposal..

Game play wise though, all of them got very boring and repeatative very very quickly.

One of the main cool points about the game was the ability to make all your characters 100% unique, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if that was part of it’s downfall too..  When you look at games that have a more ridgid class structure you end up having a sort of community around that class, and with that community you have competition.  “Oh yeah? Well I’m a better Warlock than you are.. and I’ll prove it!!”  etc..

Players end up putting a lot of time and effort in to trying to make their cookie cutter class stand out from all the other cookie cutter classes.  That in and of itself forces a person to form a bond or an identity with their character making them want to keep playing..

When you can start your characters virtual life as being 100% unique, you have one less thing to strive for..  So while it’s really cool I can go out of my way to make my character look completely different.. it doesn’t lend itself to longevity..

This also completely ruins the whole sense of community around a given class which is a problem.. What’s more community is completely thrashed by the total lack of classes where group play happens..  The open architecture of characters, while initially cool, makes group forming painful because suddenly you can’t say “We need a healer” and know that there are only 3 or 4 basic classes that heal..

STO appears to have classes with regards to ships; tanks, dps, and support ships.  So that’s a damn good sign.  I’m hoping the realize the issues I described above and are working to correct the issue.. But I still have fears about the game as a whole..

For example; I absolutely cringe at the notion of wandering around a space station and having random NPC’s run up and yell about how awesome I am like they did in CoH/CoV and CO..  Please rip that page out of the CoH/CoV/CO hand book and burn it..

I also worry that the game’s look (read: graphics) are dated even before the game has been released.  Cryptic has always intentionally made their games sort of “middle of the road” with regards to hardware requirements so it’s very likely that the game will not be super high quality, but even so they screen shots look very lack-luster.   These could all be beta shots with poor textures or something, but I doubt it.

I’m the first to admit that gameplay comes over graphics every time though, so if the game play is good then I can forgive just about any graphics decisions.. But then they aren’t known for their game play so its easy to jump to conclusions..

I guess my greatest fear is that Star Trek Online will end up being “City of Star Trek” and will be to Star Trek, what the original Star Wars MMO was to Star Wars. (Read: Horrible)