Star Trek: Combat and… What Else?

For instance, will I be able to role-play a Nazi Vulcan, or will that be against the EULA?

The very first Star Trek video game I ever played was a cheaply programmed space combat simulator on DOS, featuring a duke-fest between the Enterprise and an infinite wave of Klingon ships.  I remember back then feeling pretty disappointed that the combat was the be-all, end-all of the game — that’s it?

In fact, the only Star Trek game that’s come even close to balancing combat with all the other elements that make Trek Trek was Star Trek: 25th Anniversary — and that was in nineteen-ninety-freaking-two — which added adventure and problem-solving elements to the equation.

So every time I hear anything about Star Trek Online, it worries me that all that’s being blasted from Cryptic’s loudspeakers is combat, combat, combat (and character customization).  Yeah, sure, combat’s a big part of MMOs and a slightly significant part of Star Trek, but Trek isn’t an action show at the heart — it’s a space opera with adventure overtones.  So here’s my question before I start thinking “That’s it?” of this upcoming title: what is there to do and experience outside of combat?  Is this just the same DOS-era combat simulator updated with fancier graphics, or is there depth past the combat layer?  After Champions Online, which is also combat-centric to the exclusion of almost all else (and creating a shallow world as a result), do I have a cause for concern?

I guess what I’m looking for is how much of a “living world” (or living universe) will STO have for us beyond the quest/combat model.  I find that MMOs rich in features such as crafting, pets, player housing, social hubs, achievements and so on are ones that I tend to want to inhabit longer — I’m able to plant deeper roots as a result.  At least from some reports, STO has a good Trek “vibe” to it.

Here’s what I’ve been able to dig up, and I’d love to hear more if you know something I don’t!

  • “Diplomatic missions”
  • Exploration
  • Walking around the bridge – Cryptic’s shoehorned this in as a semi-last minute feature, allowing players to explore their virtual bridge and use it as a social hub.  Will it be?  Who knows!
  • “Star Clusters are a part of the exploration content of STO. They provide endless procedurally generated combat and non-combat missions for both ground and space.”
  • Memory Alpha – This seems to be a collection feature, where you pick up relics and info on missions, bring them back, and if you finish a collection you get a nifty reward or new ability.

I contacted Cryptic and sent them ten questions along this line of thought — no word yet, but if they respond, I’ll be glad to post their perspective!

    P.S. – Awesome to hear that they’ve also snagged Leonard Nimoy for a few voiceovers as well!

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    15 thoughts on “Star Trek: Combat and… What Else?

    1. royale December 22, 2009 / 11:35 am

      I’m trying to stay positive about STO, but I haven’t heard anything good about it yet. I think you do have cause for concern, but only time will tell.

    2. Thac0 December 22, 2009 / 11:46 am

      I have exactly the same questions and I hope we get a good answer. All i see is pewpewpewphazors and yes i feel like its going to be just like Champions with a ST skin on it. Champions felt like a paper thin world where i could easily put my finger through and see the machine underneath. Very shallow.

    3. Slymie December 22, 2009 / 12:08 pm

      Don’t get your hopes up too high on a sandboxy type of immersion factor. It’s just not going to happen. Episodes are going to be the primary means of leveling most likely, and most episodes are going to be combat oriented. It’s easier to code a klingon to shoot you in the face with a disruptor than it is to code him to cunningly plant bombs or hide in an alcove to assassinate a diplomat.

    4. Werit December 22, 2009 / 12:30 pm

      Echoes of the Past on the Genesis was pretty good too 🙂

      That is my big fear with STO. I’m just not sure how they can make non-combat matter without any sandbox elements.

    5. James December 22, 2009 / 12:31 pm

      With regards to the small portion I’ve played
      1) Yes, most are simple though, but show potential.
      2) It’ll be part of the end-game
      3) NYI, but DS9 looks funky
      4) Same as 2, it’ll be the main part of the end-game
      5) I have yet to reach the level required to visit Memory Alpha

      *cowers in fear*

    6. JoBildo December 22, 2009 / 1:07 pm

      Just an aside… I really loved that Interplay classic. No game in the Trek universe has ever been as good at capturing what the show was in videogame form.

    7. lukane09 December 22, 2009 / 1:59 pm

      Syp, I thought you were in the closed beta, or maybe you can’t tell me because of the beta agreement, just like I can’t tell anyone that I’m maybe not NOT in the beta either.

      And because I have to be so secretive about any involvement in said games, said beta, I will just offer up some fears about this future game that I might have some experience in:

      I fear that combat might be the only thing to do as well (aside from moving stuff around in your inventory, oh and customization).

      I fear that I will never see the inside of my spaceship even though a lot of people have said this may be coming out in the future (this would do wonders for immersion, and give me something to do besides pew, pew)

      I fear that there will not be enough content to keep people playing klingong, because maybe they level faster, but there is maybe not enough content (one space battlefield, one ground battlefield, one public quest, maybe).

      I’m hoping that they make all my fears seem foolish in a couple months. The feel and look are great, so I hope they can make a game that can hook people. We’ll see.

    8. We Fly Spitfires December 22, 2009 / 3:33 pm

      I share your concerns about Star Trek Online. Personally, I just feel like it’s being rushed out to meet a deadline rather than anything else. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong but I don’t think STO is going to be the game we want because, as you quite rightly pointed out, there’s a whole lot more to the ST universe than combat.

    9. Starayo December 22, 2009 / 4:25 pm

      What more can you really do with a modern MMO? That’s the real problem. No one’s willing to innovate when the tired old formula is still so popular.

    10. Leper December 22, 2009 / 5:06 pm

      A cynical interpretation of some terms based upon how most games implement features.

      “Diplomatic missions” – kill wave after wave of respawning mobs until their leaders sue for peace or someone else has to run the quest and they instantly revert to violence.

      Exploration – you can travel to various themed areas and once you’ve been to all of them, you get the warm satisfying experience of having explored the known universe.

      Star Clusters – randomly generated dungeons, which are constructed from a variety of pre-designed pieces and plugged together in different manners. Players will be repeatedly sent into these to either kill 10 space rats, kill the leader of the space rats, or retrieve some items left behind by the last NPC sent to kill the space rats.

      Memory Alpha – its like LotR’s Deeds or Warhammer’s Tome of Knowledge, but in space.

      Sorry if this appears more pessimistic than cynical, but MMO players and Star Trek fans do deserve better than what I described.

    11. Wilhelm2451 December 22, 2009 / 8:10 pm

      Funny you should use that picture. I was going to “Patterns of Force” bridge uniforms for one of the possible pre-order bonuses, but thought it might be in bad taste.

      Maybe “A Piece of the Action” suits instead?

      As for what we’ll find when STO goes live… I’m actually trying to divert my attention elsewhere. I know I am going to play, I’ve pre-ordered already. So now I am trying not to spoil any sense of wonder I might feel when I actually get in the game.

      I do hope they will push the MMO boundaries on some front. I realize that innovation is not what investors want right now, and Cryptic has to play a conservative game since Paramount will want their piece of the action every month, but I can still hope.

    12. Dv0rak December 23, 2009 / 11:33 am

      I fear that the hardcore Trekkies will be unhappy unless the game is an unmarketable sandbox with all the subtlety of their favorite episode, and unless Klingon quests aren’t in Klingon with English subtitles. Meanwhile, they will rage against features the game may have which are un-Trek, like the ability to arbitrarily decline orders from a commanding officer (quests), the inclusion of an auction house, and crafting. “Huge dissapointment”, they will say; “a real tragedy that we didn’t get a REAL Star Trek MMO.” 

      At the same time, the MMO crowd will ding them for ship fights that take several minutes to complete, and quests where you don’t fight at all, just talk to some stupid guys about some labor dispute. More generally, they will say “Only guns are phasers, disruptors, and torpedos? LAME. There’s no Lich King here, Aion has better graphics, and EVE has better combat. KTHXBAI DIAF CRYPTIC” 

      Cryptic has a difficult task ahead, as they’ve chosen two of the most nitpicky and demanding groups of fans to base their game on. If they can figure out how to weld the expections of both groups together, they may have a shot at success. However, there are going to be big camps in their customer base loudly asking for directly incompatible changes/directions for the game to go. May get ugly.

    13. foolsage December 24, 2009 / 1:23 pm

      I liked the main article, and I felt that lukane09’s post was well written and worth thinking about. We Fly Spitfires is also generally a good source of food for thought. I don’t agree with Dv0rak’s assessments or concerns though; it’s likely that both Trekkers and MMO fans can be satisfied in theory with STO, but it’s always questionable whether either or both will be satisfied. As the main article noted, having available content other than combat might be crucial in this regard. Many people feel that the Star Trek IP is based on exploration, diplomacy, and combat, and that a game that heavily features one of the above and pays scant attention to the other two might not satisfy.

      Careful readers will note my judicious use of language above and will draw their own conclusions.

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