Saturday, 28 January 2012

The Possible Affect of Star Trek Online

Picture Courtesy of Cryptic/Perfect World 
When you talk about red letter days, the 17th of January 2012 may go down as on of the defining moments for the marrying of Star Trek and Second Life, its when the Star Trek Online (STO) game moved from its subscription based model to a free to play alternative. Now anyone can jump in and fly their enterprise around space and go on away missions to distant planets.

STO's clear objective is to give people that elusive feeling of being a captain of a star ship and traversing the universe. Its debatable whether or not it totally achieves that as the storylines aren't that in depth and there isn't a real sense of the ship you command being run by a large crew or anything like that.

The USS Turtle approaching a space station
The basic premise of this online game is to move further up the ranks by completing missions and tasks which are given to you. Space in STO is broken up in a handful of sectors and within those sectors are star systems you can travel to, each unique in its own way.

Missions usually consists of space battles where you have to take on your enemy firing your phaser banks and lobbing torpedo's their way whilst trying to protect the shielding on your ship which is at the front, back and side of your vessle, you'll find yourself spinning round to hide the weaker side until shields in that area regenerated. With a bit of practice and the ability to upgrade your ship as time goes on with better more capable features, you'll soon be the pride of the fleet.

STO in action with highres graphics switched on. Pictures Courtesy of Cryptic/Perfect World 
Away missions takes you from outside of the ships perspective to a 3rd persons view on the ground of a planet or inside a built structure. Your usually accompanied by a small team that you have been given or offered and you have to battle your way through fire fights and, clicking, activating, taking objects and completing basic puzzles, nothing too taxing and seems more of a way of breaking up the game play.

Of course there's a hand full of other missions you can do, also the ability to create a fleet, fight against each other or other online members, so far the game has kept many Star trek fans busy over the last week or so its been on.

The ultimate question now then is how does this affect TREK in SL?

I think the first thing which has to be looked at from a STO perspective is that the game gives players a sense of achievement from the get go, there is a requirement to achieve and level up or you'll be left behind your friends. There's nothing worse than people going on missions and your told, sorry, your at the wrong level for that, which then gives you the incentive to go off and do some more missions. It has a built in incentive which is totally socially influenced and is probably its strongest pull. Also it has a good Trek feel about it, some of the buildings like the academy are well made and its great seeing locations populated with all manner of races.
LT.Com Desade on an away mission in STO

The advantage SL groups may have is the ability to totally create content, there could be an argument that  much of what was seen in STO could be capable in some form in an SL group. From a technical point of view, most things could be inplemented in a manner, probably would look and feel a bit clunkier but similar systems could be put in place, but here is the major issue. The tech from STO is all put together by the creators then it becomes part of the game and can be slotted seamlessly in.

Anything done in a TREK group would more than likely be bounced around from person to person and even if it was made, where would it slot in to that group, who would claim their people should be doing it and would that be the death nail of any concept?

SL is made up of content creators and players, were as STO is made up of just players. Any trek group out there who wants to compete with STO would have to take a look at its present set up and ask the question, why would a player now come here, what do we have to offer what they can't get in STO, as they did join a trek group for the trek experience. STO has thrown millions of dollors in to achieving that, SL groups have to use the free time of members to achieve something similar in a laggier game engine.

SL Trek has to deal with real people to get every aspect of anything done which could create a lot of red tape and availability of members which are required to further other members progress. In an online game like STO much of that is automatically done by the system.

Sets and Scenarios in SL can look fantastic with the right Skill, Talent and organisation like here in the Gibraltar RP 
What SL has is a strong sense of community, the ability to just hang around and relax around your friends, where as STO locks you into a environment which to be honest you can't really change much, missions in themselves are linear in their nature.

RPing in SL could be seen to work 2 ways. Most Trek like rp's place you on  a bridge with buttons which play sound effects to something your going to imagine. If your being attacked by a Klingon ship then you more than likely going to get as picture of a Klingon ship appear on the viewscreen and the rest is all about imagination. The advantage you could say is at least the players can in a sense become the story writers deciding between them how the story flows, this way 2 rps are never the same.

The Second type of RPing SL is noted for would be found in the 24/7 hardcore rping sims. There you'll be expected to be in character all the time and have an understanding what is happening in that region. We experience that kind of rping under Opfor when we spent a bit of time in Al Raqis. If anything, hardcore rping I expect to be less affected by something like STO as its a living breathing scenario with its own worlds, rules, characters. Coming there is like visiting a new planet. Unless STO adds the ability to create your own environments people can travel to with user created content, systems in place then hardcore rping will be the least effected by it as the experience and expectation has a totally different feel.

Whatever happens with STO, it has definitely raised the bar for other SL Trek groups to follow, the biggest challenge will be which groups have the set up and imagination for change to compete or add to the experience.

Research's Away Team Projects was set up to create incredible looking Sets for RPs in the GFC, the kind of thing which will be needed to push the trek experience forward again.
Its uncertain if there would be any long term effect for SL Trek, but to believe there would be no effect is probably naive or hoping the fad blows over may not be the best course if action.

SL Trek groups will have to react in some way, be it taking ideas from STO and incorporating them within their group, strengthening what makes them different or working to marry the both concepts.

Examples of a few Past GFC achievements. 1,2,3,4,5,6,7

1 comment:

  1. Snapper, great article. And you're absolutely right... STO is a 'threat' to SL Trek, in a way. But, as you say, SL has more user created content.

    It's going to be interesting to see where this leads...