Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
 
Star Trek Online lets you play the group

I'm not going to write much about Star Trek Online, due to the simple fact that it won't come out before 2011, and a lot of things can change until then. But I found the feature list interesting in some respects: "When you get your first ship, you will have to recruit your bridge crew. Your bridge crew plays a lot like pets play in other MMOs. They will be AI controlled, and as you play with them, you will have to increase their skill sets."

In other words, you don't play a single character, you play a whole party. Which is a type of gameplay which is quite frequent in single-player RPGs, but rather rare in MMORPGs. I only know of Guild Wars where you really can adventure with a full party made out of NPCs. Gods & Heroes was supposed to play that way too, but was cancelled just before release. Most other games just have some classes with pets, and in many of them you are limited to one single pet, or if you have several they are all the same.

Cameron from Random Battle is complaining that in WoW the first 20 levels are not complex enough, and he'd like to skip them. My reaction to that is that WoW doesn't get complex at all, as long as you play solo. I could have leveled my frost mage from 1 to 70 using only the frostbolt spell, getting all those other spells during my career wasn't really increasing the complexity. The point where World of Warcraft becomes complex is when you join a group, and have to start with aggro management. So if you want a more complex game, but still like the ability to solo, why not make a game in which you play the whole group?
Comments:
It's good to see someone trying different character mechanics in an MMO. The lore of Star Trek practically demands that you play a captain who manages his ship and crew. Who'd want to be Red Shirt #12?

As for WoW's first 20 levels, yes, Blizzard aimed at very low character mechanics complexity in order to maximize casual accessibility. The side effect is that low-level characters lack many of thier key class-defining abilities and can be a bit tedious to play, especially the second time around.
 
"So if you want a more complex game, but still like the ability to solo, why not make a game in which you play the whole group?"

But would playing a character with a bunch of AI characters who make up your group feel like solo play? Maybe if they were programmed to act like robots it would, but then there would be no complexity. Its an unusual concept for an mmorpg and it will be interesting to see how it develops.
 
By using an npc group you can teach players group mechanics, so at later levels when they're with other players they will be familiar with them. So you can learn about aggro when you pull mobs off your npc tank.

On the other hand, hunters in wow have their own tanks, and many regularly pull aggro and don't learn anything. So maybe it's pointless. :)
 
Guild Wars with the "Heroes" system does open up a new player aspect..

I can duo with my wife, we each take 3 heroes, and can have our player dynamic to concentrate on.
We can learn how the heroes approach certain aspects of combat and learn some things from this.

As well, it allows myself to play solo if my wife does not play or I cannot find a good group.

I find myself wanting to play more thanks to this mechanic. And then if I see others running missions, then I can join their group...if not, I am not stuck grinding away at "Kill 10 x" quests.
 
Mr. Gamer hit the nail on the head: It's not that I need a LOT more complexity. I'm pretty happy with WoW as a game -- it mostly does what I expect from an MMO, and it's fun.

It's that the first 20 levels, due to the very limited skills selection, are even MORE tedious than the next 50 levels.

I expect a little tedium from my MMO. How else would they drag hundreds of hours of gameplay out? But the days when I'm mostly auto-attacking and occasionally using one skill should be long gone, and I'm sick of doing 10-20 levels of newbie quests in every new game I play.
 
I've never really enjoyed playing an entire group. I couldn't get into NWN2 due to that. STO doesn't sound like anything I'll even try. I'll be amazed if they have any kind of success.
 
I'd love it
 
addendum: You need to be able to do tactical stuff with them and maybe even pause the game in some non-multiplayer zones. Either that or give them the kind of AI that doesn't really exist yet.
 
In theory, it sounds like fun.

Then again, I'm worried because look what's happened to the Star Trek franchise as a whole.
 
I've been 2-boxing with my wife's account, using Keyclone software on a single PC. We're running a protection paladin and shadowpriest combination (level 63 right now). Quite fun, and a very different experience than soloing a single character.
 
"I only know of Guild Wars where you really can adventure with a full party made out of NPCs."

To be honest even in Guild Wars the emphasis is heavily on the central character and your henchmen are nameless healbots and cannon fodder. Compared to a real group-based game, eg Baldur's Gate, even the Ranger henchman's pet hamster had more personality.

I very much applaud this and hope that they can actually make a good game. We don't need another Pirates of the Burning Seas set in space. We need a game good enough that if it weren't a MMO people would still buy it and play it single player.

I will await this one with interest.
 
As much as I am looking forward to WAR, the current culture of hype surrounding MMOs has really turned me off from listening to anything a company says about their product until it is in open beta.

My reaction is therefore the same as it was for WAR two years ago: "That's nice. Come back when you have something of substance."
 
@Scallyphant
To be honest even in Guild Wars the emphasis is heavily on the central character and your henchmen are nameless healbots and cannon fodder.
This was the old way, but now "Heroes" have more control.
You can choose their target, or you can make them not attack. Use flags to plant them in place or move them to locations out of combat.
You can even force them to use specific skills.
For example, Eye of the North has Gwen the Mesmer, and I can just sit back, and select her targets, and use interrupts on certain mobs, or I can force my Healers to res instead of continued healing if need be, or use them to remove hexes, etc.
Heroes is a true RTS players dream.
 
openedge1, thanks for the clarification. I'll add trying GW again to my long list of games I'd like to play at some point since it sounds really interesting.
 
are you sure that it won't come out until 2011? I thought the timeline wasn't finalized. The release of this trailer at the Trek convention in Vegas seemed to suggest it was coming out sooner, but maybe I am wrong.
 
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