Tobold's Blog
Friday, November 13, 2009
New MMORPG will come out in February 2010

The headline is deliberately obscure, because I'd like to make a point about expectations. What do you think if you hear that there will be a new MMORPG coming out in February of next year? Normally the reaction to such news is rather positive, and the hype starts spinning into overdrive. But in this case the new MMORPG is Star Trek Online, and there are lots of bloggers who responded to the announcement quite negatively, believing it won't be ready for launch. Cryptic Studios currently appears to have not a good name in the community, and thus people project their negative expectations on their next game.

Star Trek Online is a game I am certain to check out. I'm not really a "Trekkie", and only like the original Star Trek series with Captain Kirk (yeah, showing my age here). But I'm hoping that Star Trek Online will offer a somewhat different gameplay than the current MMORPGs. There are far too many fantasy MMORPGs, too few of other genres, and even games like Champions Online which supposedly aren't fantasy play pretty much exactly like the fantasy MMORPGs.

Will Star Trek Online be any good? I can't tell before I played it. I'm keeping an open mind. As far as I know it wasn't the same team that made Champions Online and Star Trek Online, so the quality of the two games doesn't necessarily correlate. And as I have zero information about how far advanced the development of Star Trek Online really is, I'm not joining the chorus claiming STO is rushed out of the door quite yet. I am pretty certain that there will be some open beta period where I can test the game for free and be able to decide for myself whether the game is good or not.
Well has there been that many games in the last few years that were actually not rushed out the door? I can only think of one game at the moment that I think was relatively ready for it's launch, LOTRO.

Even WoW back in it's launch days wasn't really ready for it's launch since it had the extremely annoying loot lag bug.

I think that it's actually the rule more than the exception that MMOs are rushed out the door.
Nothing wrong with preferring the original series. After all, it was clearly the best )

As to STO, there's simply no way to develop a quality "full featured" MMO in the roughly two years that Cryptic has been working on it. Actually, not even two years, more like 18 months. Cryptic is probably out of cash, out of time, and out of luck.
My opinion is, and has always been, that if an MMO is "playable", it should be played. I would far rather play an unpolished, work-in-progress game now than a polished, "perfect" game a year from now.

But then, I love beta-testing and testing in general. Where a released game has a full-time Test server that allows permanent characters, that's where I play by choice.

In a decade of MMO gaming, the most enjoyable period I had was my first year in EQ, which was pretty buggy and not well-understood either by me or the playerbase in general. The second most enjoyable period was my first six months in Vanguard, from launch until the summer.

I don't believe for a second that I'd have enjoyed either of those games more had they been more polished. They were both fully playable for me (I realise Vanguard was quite literally unplayable for many, but my machine ran it well from day one). There were many, many bugs and glitches, some of which were annoying or frustrating, but equally as many were amusing, entertaining or just plain fun.

Only yesterday Mrs Bhagpuss and I were reminiscing about a persistent bug in Vanguard that meant her Shaman's pet wolf often turned and attacked my Disciple in the middle of combat, making me shriek "Get that damn dog OFF me!" Then there was the bug that made ghostly copies of the pet appear so that after a few minutes we had not just a wolf but a pack of wolves following us. I could give dozens, scores more examples of memorable and interesting MMO bugs.

There have been many, many of those bugs in MMOs I've played that have enhanced my gaming experience. They're like unexpected sights or happenings on a hike through otherwise familiar countryside. Provided the game is stable enough to play, doesn't crash (too much) and saves your character data reliably, I'll play it and happily pay to play it if I like it enough.

It's when the bugs are almost all squashed and the polished has been burnished to a sheen that I tend to notice how repetetive and dull the gameplay actually is.
I never cared much about Star Trek.

Then again, I didn't care for Star Wars until after I played Biowares Knights of the old Republic. After which I went and saw all the new movies. I loved the first three :)

Who knows, the Star Trek game might do the same.
I'm curious about Star Trek Online also, but not enough to buy the game to try it out.

I didn't get into the closed beta, so I guess I'll have to wait for a free trial to come out or, if the reviews are not all horrible, wait for the game to be about 20 euros or so.

We will see.
I too prefer the original series! Kirk is probably the pinnacle of likeable arrogance; they don't make them like that anymore. Comparing, Picard comes accross as a annoyingly politically correct wannabe who cannot stand in the shadow of Kirks shadow. Ill probably pass on this mmo.
Ohh boy you did NOT just start Kirk VS Picard on Tobold's blog!!!
Do you feel you can go from scratch to a production ready MMO in 2 years?

Because that's what has happened with STO.

From the wiki article:
"On January 14, 2008, Perpetual announced that it was no longer developing Star Trek Online. The license for the game and all of its assets except for the code were transferred to another developer, now known to be Cryptic Studios."

So, if you think 2 years and 1 month is plenty of time to go from zero code to full production MMO, AND you believe Cryptic Studios is capable of putting out something worth playing, then sure, STO might be good.

Myself, I think it's going to be a disaster.
I just wonder what will they sell in STO cash shop... Perhaps will take the step a bit further and sell, i don't know, fuel for the ships? :D
Heh. I can tell you're not a "Trekker", because you used the term, "Trekkie". Apparently, "Trekkers" get offended by the term, "Trekkie".

Go figure...

FYI, I'm not a "Trekker" either. =D

I wonder if they're not going to end up going head-to-head with the 11 million pound gorilla in the room. MMO Champion recently uncovered a new WoW achievement for obtaining a "Love is in the Air" (Valentine's Day) item from a Forsaken NPC in Shadowfang Keep. There is currently no such NPC in SFK, and we know that the instance will be updated to level 80 and modified to reflect the conflict between the Forsaken and the Worgen. Smells like a possible release date to me, though it seems too soon for Cataclysm.

All that aside, I haven't been following STO except casually, but I'll definitely be trying any open beta they might have.
Do you feel you can go from scratch to a production ready MMO in 2 years?

I have heard that Cryptic inherited not just the license, but also significant parts of Perpetual's work on STO, at least art work. How many years worth of development that represents, I don't know. But I do have a certain respect for Perpetual's work, being one of the few people to actually have played their God's and Heroes, which wasn't half bad.

According to this news story:

"The license, as well as the game's content - but not the code - have been transferred to another Bay Area development studio where work will continue."

Now maybe since that date they re-entered negotiations and got some of the code, but I'm thinking not.


"Cryptic made some offers to some of Perpetual’s people, but none of them wanted to leave San Francisco for the suburbs of Los Gatos."

Doesn't sound too friendly.

I really do hope that the 50 employees on the STO project are super duper talented and have created a great game.

I just don't think that's a likely outcome given the huge number of launch failures in this genre.
Did no one see the videos of Federation Humans and Klingons standing 3ft from each other locked in mortal combat? One swinging a battleth and the other firing a phaser waiting for each others' personal shields to go down.

Won't be getting star trek online, doesn't intrest me at all, and to double check I even checked out the information so far and I still don't want to.

Not my kind of MMO :(
I'm dubious about the game being ready in February also. Cryptic has a track record of launching with too little content.

I mean, the game should be done right now if they want to launch in three months. These remaining months should be for balance and polish.
The original Star Trek was very much like a d&d style game. Every episode appeared to be generated by random. You'd have a random mission doing a random thing on a random world, populated by a random race never before seen (with random racial characteristics), and upon conclusion you'd have a random next destination. "This is the Captain's log, Stardate d20." They may as well have been rolling dice to generate the show and it's content.

Next Generation and Voyager brought "story arcs" into the picture. Themes and situations started to go from one episode to the next.

As to Kirk vs. Picard, Kirk is very much the laughable product of the 60's. He-man macho macho snarky. I think Yeoman Rand really dug him, thinking he was groovy. He's a bit too Austin Powers for me. I prefer Picard and his delivery. He's the adult one of the two.

I've watched every Star Wars movie, and maybe half of the Star Trek content, and I'll probably pass on both MMO's. The wife's not into SciFi, (though she really enjoyed the recent Star Trek movie, and loved the Star Wars "love story") and unless they can pull off "open-ended sandbox" the stories might both be too linear to last.

And, call me fanboi, I think Blizzard is going to segue into their successor to WoW with all of us buying it, and none of us the wiser that we'll be spending another five years with it.
@Tobold & co. I may well pick this one, but I'll prolly wait for the first word from the blogosphere before I do. I personally liked the second generation ones more, but the first ones were very entertaining, and no, I'm not a trekkie, I just watched them as a kid. (and later watched the reruns at college when bored) I posted the minimum system specs for the game on my blog btw if anyone wants to see them.
Kirk a laughable product of the sixties? Ha, I know who's ship I'd want to serve on. Kirk never took crap, he was a brilliant tactician, and he knew when to cut through the BS and get things done. He saw a problem, he dealt with it, and didn't worry how to explain his actions to Starfleet until after the crisis had been resolved and the hot alien chick had been bedded. And God help anyone or anything that messed with his crew.

Kirk was the bravest Captain.

Kirk was the shrewdest Captain.

Kirk was the most resourceful Captain.

Kirk was the best at thinking and acting under pressure.

Let's face it. Kirk is the Alpha and every other Captain has been the beta.

Not to knock the Frenchman, or the Soccer Mom, or the guy who ran that shopping mall in Space, but let's get real. When your ass is on the line and the known galaxy needs to be saved, you want the best available Captain, and that's always going to be Kirk.
The bits of the game design and demos I've seen suggest that, rather like Pirates of the Burning Sea, this is almost two MMOs in one - pseudo-naval ship combat, then very differently structured avatar combat. There's a potential for having one or both of the gameplay stages be poorly delivered due to the split focus, and keeping players interested in whichever stage of game play they might not personally enjoy - the demos make both space and ground seem mandatory - could be difficult.

Yes, they're both core parts of the IP, but one of the complaints I've heard about Pirates was "Liked the ship combat but avatar boarding quests put me off the whole game" and there are few things more intrinsic to general piratical IP than swashbuckling.
Do you feel you can go from scratch to a production ready MMO in 2 years?

Why not? If they have something that is reasonably playable and somewhat ok from a content perspective I think that will be great.

Any MMO developer that manages to move away from the 5+ years of development cycles and produces reasonably good games in much shorter time (and thus also lower costs) has my vote.

Will Cryptic manage to do that? That remains to be seen.

At least toolset and engine is something they already have in place to a large extent, so development times _should_ decrease.
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