When is a Faction Not a Faction?
The snarky answer would be, "When it's Klingons."
But I read this post by Dstahl and it affirmed I've thought before...
I think we need a real overhaul of what a faction IS and how content is designed for them, honestly. It's the harder route in some respects but, I think, the more forward thinking and more tenable one.
I'm going to use the WoW analogy because it's the big and dominating paradigm, not because it's the best fit.
What we have currently is something like:
Federation Tactical = Alliance Death Knight
Federation Science = Alliance Paladin
Federation Engineer = Alliance Warrior
Klingon Tactical = Horde Death Knight
Klingon Science = Horde Paladin
Klingon Engineer = Horde Warrior
What I think we need to shift towards is something like:
Federation = Paladin
Tactical = Retribution spec Paladin
Science = Holy spec Paladin
Engineer = Protection spec Paladin
Klingon = Death Knight
Tactical = Blood spec Death Knight
Science = Unholy spec Death Knight
Engineer = Frost spec Death Knight
I realize the analogy isn't perfect because you need situational hostility and alliances between Star Trek empires/factions. But, at the end of the day, I think FvK combat is basically like a Paladins vs. DKs battleground. The professions in STO are not divergent enough to be the real analogy for classes in other MMOs. (And a profession respec IS demanded and makes snese, IMHO.) In turn, the fanbases for various factions are not large enough to support treating them as conventional factions.
As it stands, an STF is five captains working together, imperfectly modeled on, say, The Dominion War where you might have Captains of a single faction team up. Now, I know there has been discussion for ages about cross-faction teaming as an option in STFs. I'd go one further and suggest that STFs (and teaming in general) should be scenarios like "Day of the Dove" where Kirk and Kang team-up, "Allegiance" where Picard is in a chamber with a Bolian Starfleet cadet, a Mizarian, and a Chalnoth, etc.
This is a radical redesign. This isn't just "let Klingons and Feds team-up" or "open some (or most) Federation missions to Klingons." I'm suggesting that what a mission is shouldn't have faction. It should be a situation which anyone who encounters will have a stake in and participate in the same side, potentially, in.
Star Trek Empires are basically classes with hostility flags that are situational. Science, Tactical, and Engineering are basically trees, not classes. This is the only way anyone could effectively support a twelve faction game. A two faction game isn't really viable for the IP, even with hundreds of millions of dollars.
As a matter of basic proportions, I think Stahl's observations are right but that what they show is that Federation is just the popular "jack of all trades" class when modeled properly in an MMO and that other empires are not "equal and opposing factions" (all the opposition is very un-Trek and the numbers don't support it, in terms of prospective player populations) but other classes, simply with a class-based hostility mechanic thrown in.
Whether your idea is good or bad really doesnt matter. The fact of the matter is, its simply too fundamental a change to ever actually happen at this point. Cryptic is going to continue developing distinct factions with a huge content imbalance for as long as this game exists.
Also it'd be really, really lame if distinctively unique cultures that were never meant for total inclusion get mashed together in a single faction. Romulans, Cardassians, Klingons, Jem'hadar and Humans all in one big alliance? Sure, would make mission design a lot easier. At the same time it would totally take the flavor out of these species, for they'd be relegated to being nothing more than "skins", lacking content that is geared towards their unique culture and way of looking at things. Even worse, it would turn the entire game into some "good vs evil" (players vs NPCs) crap instead of the shades of grey we currently have.
Also, I fail to see how independent factions are supposed to be "un-Trek" when that's exactly the situation we've had in the series since its beginning. And where exactly are things unrealistic? The Federation has always been the numerical superior faction in the Trek universe, geopolitically balanced by its unwillingness to commit to fighting wars and preferring peaceful coexistence. The situation right now is that it gets ganked by virtually every neighbor simultaneously, creating a somewhat balanced stalemate.
This is an NGE magnitude change but those DON'T always go badly: a good comparison would be the introduction of raids and battlegrounds in WoW which happened over a short period and were what exploded the game from under a million players in the US to two and to three million.
The payoff is, once you've done it, you can start releasing empires two or three at a time. Heck, I think that's Cryptic's goal pretty much and they're trying to make the KDF into something that can be a blueprint for that, hence PvP-based at first, then exploration, then a handful of thematic missions, then sorties. They're trying to find a way to create a template for a faction that will allow them to mass produce factions and I think they're banging their brains out trying to develop something that can be copied and reskinned into a new faction quarterly or biannually, with a team of maybe twenty people managing it.
I'm saying... The problem with that is treating KDF and Starfleet as factions rather than as classes (with the added feature of class-based, situational hostility flagging). On one hand, the extent of the conflict is un-Trek. On the other hand, even with Orion and Gorn and Nausicaans, KDF population isn't there for a "full and equal faction" and it never could be and managing how to do that is a Kobayashi Maru scenario and one that constantly leaves Cryptic wanting to tap the market for other factions but unable to because they're stuck developing a small but dedicated sub-element until "it's done" but trying to do that in a way that can be replicated rapidly and regularly once it is done.
It's like trying to make City of Heroes/Villains but with Blasters vs. Blasters with two sides of equal content built around that and constantly missing out on people who want to play Scrappers or Controllers or Masterminds or Brutes.
I want to be a Night Elf Hunter and look like an idiot!
I'm NOT saying Klingons and Federation should be friendly or eligible for teaming with eachother in most cases.
I'm saying that they should encounter the same third party scenarios and have distinctive play mechanics for dealing with them.
Now, endgame raiding, yes, I think those situations should be so dire that a Romulan, a Klingon, a Jem'Hadar, a Space Nazi, and a Tholian would team up. Because STFs shouldn't be about diplomatically factionsed cooperation. They should be mutual survival or mutual annihilation, with no third option regardless of what your culture is, and no barrage of orders dictating what you do.
Does not make me think any better of it. I really dislike the idea of alliances switching virtually every hour. Might just be because I'm a roleplayer, but I generally appreciate a sense of consistency in my game. The current situation in Omega Leonis is okay and can be expanded upon for more teamwork between the factions, but it is only okay because it is limited to a single area and an overwhelming threat. If you apply this kind of thinking across the board we can just as well trash the entire idea of a war, and PvP with it, and have every faction be best friends with each other.
There is virtually no parallel between TOS Federation/Klingons and ******** Alliance/Horde, except on the most superficial level.
Klingons were one of many threats encountered. They weren't imbued with a distinct psychology that promoted fans seeing the world from their perspective until TNG practically. The first glimmers we saw of that in TOS were intended as a parallel with the Soviets, showcasing that peace with "the other" was possible.
The Horde is not "the other" in ********. Nor is The Empire in Star Wars on the other extreme.
The Empire in Star Wars are "The Bad Guys" until you get into the crazy stuff in the very late novels where they become the "fascists who were trying to save us all" vs. the "people who value freedom enough that they'd die for it."
There are no "Good Guys" in ********, just competing series of atrocities with no moral high ground but is ultimately the story of two opposing forces being played by two opposing forces (The Titans and the Old Gods).
The Klingons in Star Trek are one of many cultures used to signify ourselves. It's not dualistic. The Klingons are not the opposite number to the Federation but one of many groups which, together, are allegories for humanity, with a dream of unity tempered by the reality of the differences between us.
There is a fundamental difference between:
- Warriors and Rangers as two opposing factions in an RPG. (What we have now.)
- Warriors and Rangers being able to team up freely. (The standard, when you recognize that Klingon fans are not a larger or more important part of Trek fandom than, say, Rogue fans are in ******** fandom.)
- Warriors and Rangers are two of many classes. They ordinarily can't team up and hurt eachopther but they are simply classes with class-based factional hostility flags. (This is what I'm proposing. Effectively, empires in STO being treated as classes but with some classes unable to team certain directions outside of certain situations and, perhaps, other classes like RSE being ABLE to team with everyone else but also being able to flag hostile at a moment's notice and teamkill... and being unable to enter Klingon space.)
I'm suggesting KDF and Starfleet beam down to the same planet. They encounter the same situation. (Missions shouldn't be granted by superiors beyond a "go here and check this out" generally in the Star Trek IP. Missions are dictated by the situation and general rules you'll be held to after the fact, not by explicit orders.) That doesn't mean that they team, necessarily, or even share the same instance.
There are situations like Omega Leonis where they do team. And when they do, I tend to think Klingons shouldn't be Federation with a red UI. They should be running the same content (together, when it threatens mutual survival, part when it doesn't) but the content should play out differently. Almost the way it is with weeklies but not quite far enough with it.
I'm not sure, frankly, that KDF or Romulans should have the same abilities as Feds. The skills trees should be flavored. There should be buffs and nerfs which make the factions play differently at a mechanical level.
And when they DO team up, zone chat should read, "Klingon LFG Infected, looking for a group with a Tholian, a Cardassian and two Federation."
I'm not arguing against Klingons having factional parameters (ie. always flagged hostile to Romulans, generally hostile to Federation). But I'm saying to define them as a class with factional parameters rather than a faction with three largely similar classes.
Unfortunately I just dont see this happening. Its too big of a change to get all the people who would need to approve it to agree.
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