How to Support Multifaction Content in STO: A Simple Analysis
One of the issues with supporting multifaction content in STO is that, no matter how Cryptic slices it, fewer players will play non-Federation than Federation.
It would not surprise me at all if the total number of Cardassians, Romulans, Dominion, and Klingons combined is approximately equal to or less than the number of Federation players. (And if any growth incurred by adding factions doesn't also increase the Federation totals to keep the total number of non-Federation, in the most ideal scenario, to less than half of the population.) It would not surprise me because I've played and been an administrator on fan run Trek games going back to the MUD days and that is how those populations distributed in many games. Some games avoided the pitfall by opting for a single faction and social roleplay focus while more PvP centered games almost always had to institute quotas and waiting lists to balance out the factions... or adopted a model where NO players played Federation (ie. Federation was restricted to NPCs and administrator control only), resulting in fairly equitable distribution among the remaining factions.
However, there is an additional solution in a game like STO and it boils down to an analysis of the official map that Cryptic uses as inspiration in sector design:
What you will notice is that the empires that were portrayed as equally matched on the shows do NOT occupy equal space on the map. This is partially because the Klingon Empire stretches a bit south of the map's limits. (However, the Federation does as well.)
You could chalk that up to popularity. You could chalk that up to number of episodes the characters were featured in. (There is some relevance to this idea in that the maps were constructed by trying to place adjacent episodes in close proximity to one another while also cross referencing maps that were seen on screen.)
By that standard alone, the Cardassians are far too small.
However, there is a simple solution and it both fits canon tendencies and applies to content development for STO.
Federation space is not wholly definable as the space the Federation controls. Rather, it's basically all explored space that the Federation encountered minimal resistance in. The Federation scouts quite a bit while putting very little emphasis on HOLDING. They zip from planet to planet but expend no resources conquering and minimal resources recruiting.
The Klingons follow more of a pillaging pattern but slow down on their expansion more because they are more concerned with absolute control of the territory they seize, in particular agriculture, livestock, and weapon making resources. Still, they do some zipping around but at a slower, more confined rate. Even then, however, the Klingons don't fully occupy or demand absolute fealty from every world in their space and will ultimately just blow up someone if pushed.
The Romulans are more interested in fealty, in the undying loyalty of their subjects. The Romulans, like the Romans, are interested in trade routes and tributes from the worlds they occupy... and they occupy a few less because of Hobus.
The Cardassians are all about control. A given officer will spend his career in an entire sector or even decades on a single planet. Democratic reforms have likely shrunk their sphere of active control even further while focusing a redoubled effort on the planets they control.
In a nutshell, what does this mean for content?
The Federation visits a new planet every week, which has required lots of maps.
The other factions, in order of popularity, are more likely to spend more time in fewer places. Meaning less maps.
The Federation patrol. The Klingons, Romulans, and especially Cardassians spent far more effort holding than patrolling, focusing their equal strength to the Federation over a smaller area.
Take the existing Klingon maps, for the most part, and you can create new missions for them.
Take "Alpha." You could have five episodes built around that map, with an officer spending an extended stay there, hopping between ground and space. The Ketha Lowlands and orbit of Qo'noS could support more missions without additional asset development.
This is somewhat more true for Romulans, where ten level blocks could largely consist of one or two ground and space maps each and a focus on intrigue over a very narrow span of terrain per front.
By the time you get to Cardassians, practically an entire tour of duty could be mined out of maybe three to six REALLY well done maps consisting of a fairly fleshed out Nor, a city region with an outlying cave or two, and the space around it, with a career based on prolonged, focused occupation of a single system and prolonged relationship with a set of NPCs, really hammering home the DS9 showrunner ethos pushed by Ron Moore, which said, "We don't go places. We stay put and see what happens in one place, dealing with consequences."
For Romulans you could do an entire story arc about investigating the Hobus Supernova. Maybe even reuse most of the maps used in the Fed eps with the Romulans. I'd LOVE to see the Romulan side of that ep with Zelle...
I still wish I could Execute Zelle..... I saw it coming halfway through the mission even though I'd never played the mission before. But, the story doesn't have a branching path.
Its a good analysis, but I wonder how far it can go before it comes under threat of being homogenized to accommodate player requests. "I want to patrol on my Cardassian, not my FED. Why should I have to X to do Y" etc Your analysis didn't rule out any path for a specific faction, but people will always want more. It would be an interesting thought though to see how such development would pan out.
I wonder if some element of shared content could actually have a hand in things as well.
A series of new maps are made (or one big map with a lot of nooks and crannies). More often than not, it will become Fed content first - as they patrol/explore it. Then when they move on, after potentially saving the day and meeting the alien of the week - perhaps the Klingons roll on in and lay down the law. Its re-used, but in a way that could perhaps encourage further plotlines where the Federation return to help out the locals. Maybe the Romulans had a secret base there all along and decide now is the time to strike. Surely its easier to create mission content when the overall map doesn't have to change - other games have demonstrated this and STO could too.
You premise is flawed. You assume that a fully fleshed out faction will not attract the same if not more players.
You do realize that this game is attracting more than trekkies right? Given the choice between the United Nations in space or Space vikings I think you would have found a lot of people who only cared about blowing stuff up moving to the Klingon Side. The problem with the Klingon side isn't just that it isn't fleshed out. The problem is that it has always been a gated faction.
That's a good point. Throwing "Space Romans" into the mix does seem like a nice idea.
My post is about looking at how to realistically add those missions.
And even Trek fan run games attracted more than Trekkies. I used to play on one that had more than 500 CCUs, which is a lot for a fan game (there are probably points where Champs had less than that), and it also made concessions to non-Trekkies and it had to install quotas.
There is no correcting the popularity contest. You can attract more space vikings but they'll bring more Federation players in tow with them.
What you can do is look at the expense of content.
I'm saying that if you look at how the shows managed factions and you look at how the maps are drawn up and THINK about it, Klingon content should be offset by being cheaper to produce than Federation content. Romulan content is cheaper to produce than Klingon content. Cardassian content is cheaper to produce than Romulan content. It happens organically if you're true to the factions.
This was NOT true for the old text based games but for an open world game, it is largely true if Klingons hold and occupy territory, staying in one place longer than Federation. And if Romulans hold and occupy a narrower region longer than Klingons. And if Cardassians hold and occupy a more narrow region longer than Romulans.
Now, this results in reflections on quality that are nuanced based.
But some of the best games in the last 30 years were centered on very narrow tracts of virtual real estate.
And you can always have FEs and DSEs and STFs that are faction neutral. And Fleet Holdings that are distinct.
But I'm not talking FEs. I'm talking leveling content.
I think the best way to finish Klingons and expand beyond is to focus on giving Klingons the same number of leveling missions as Feds but with more map repetition. And then Romulans get the same number of leveling missions as Klingons and Feds but reusing fewer maps for more episodes. And you get down to Cardassians and you're prospectively down to the idea of a career "planetary occupation" assignment where you have 50 episodes on the same 5 maps. And if they're good maps and the stories make compelling use of the limitation, it works.
Leveling takes, what? 30 hours? Look at how many Resident Evil games offer longer gameplay than that and take place in JUST. ONE. HOUSE.
So I'm not talking starbases, STFs, FEs, etc. But leveling content doesn't necessarily need tons of maps to have tons of missions.
Going to have to agree with the analysis, plus this would be a good thing. What has held back STO is the lack of developers and resources to just get by with Fed content and I believe that is now not so much of an issue as it was (20 developers to 40 etc).
But, I hope people understand even if Cryptic went ahead and decided to implement this it could easily take 6 months to a year or more to fully complete, heck I wouldn't expect to see anything meaningful for 6 months and we have season 7 and 8 already planned as far as I can tell.
Cannot wait to be able to start at level 1 on the KDF, have a Gorn science officer and a engineer Ferasan I'd like to do, and as for the Romulan's, well probably a science officer as I like the look of their ships and if Cryptic can capture the overall identities of these factions we're in for a treat.
I think a really big part of this idea is that even though most Trek fans will predominately play as a Fed Captain...,
If and when other factions get added/fleshed out, most of those Fed players will probably create and play other toons in the new factions as well...
I know I have and will.
Even though I don't play my Klingon toon regularly, I do fiddle with it now-and-then and have bought items from the C/Z-store for him.
This could be a really good means to bring in more funds to continually upgrade the new factions.
I wonder how this would compare to how/if people do the same thing in WoW...?
Are Trek-Folk more willing to play multiple factions than WoW-folk?
In the 18 months I played WoW, I never thought about making a Hoard toon, but I made a Klingon toon within the first 3 months of playing STO...
And will make a Romulan toon as soon as They give me the opportunity to do so.
WoW-folk have a good 60% of their quests shared between factions. I've said before, the problem is partially a design flaw. Quests should have been, "Go to planet, encounter problem." Instead they were, "Your orders are to proceed to..."
In terms of people who just want to shoot, queued missions and open zones will satisfy them.
In terms of story, there's a rationale for recycling more heavily based on faction, as factions were pretty much predisposed to "capture and hold" based on popularity, with the post popular being most movement and exploration focused and least popular being very focused on small terrain, held well.
That is, until you get to Ferengi or Talaxians, in which case the paradigm shifts to "play all factions' content." The Talaxians for friendship (if they reach the Alpha Quadrant) and the Ferengi for profit.
I think Cardassian content would be focused on an almost Silent Hill or Resident Evil level of terrain control (heck, think just one faction from Secret World at most; I think they're STO's TRUE competitor for reasons I could go into) and Federation would be the more "grab and go" approach we've seen, with everyone else being in the middle.
I'll concede; I was a MUD admin addict (managed over ten) and I follow Bartlett (talked to him about STO; he's the father of the MUD) but my studies have really taken me into Warren Spector territory, which I think is gold for MMOs.
It's funny because my Master's thesis hinges on a narrow analysis of MMOs and even Cryptic's CEO lead me to study Richard Garriott but whether you're talking Garriott or Spector, it all kinda hinges on Deus Ex as a template and its action antecedents like Bioshock, which is very Trek in scope, down to Armin Shimerman starring. I'm not going to lie, my focus on theory eclipses my focus on MMOs and I'm not an IT guy, despite some background in programming and modding.
But there's one thing I think Gozer had VERY right. He commented in his "Stranded in Space" revamp that he used the transporter room as an "establishing shot" of sorts. My school of thought is very much in the vein of using setup to initiate the player and letting gameplay be gameplay. Not using conscious cues but sublimating the player into the unconscious realm.
The problem is that film pushes the audience/player totally into the designer's mind and people have (falsely) used it for a model of gameplay. Whereas pure gameplay is no more satisfying than playing soliataire.
Pushing aside disputes over the validity of hypnosis, a good game lures you into a hypnotic stance where pseudorandom gameplay is entertaining, keeps you there, and then delivers you back into mechanical gameplay considerations, prepared to thrust back into the imaginary world again.
Done right, the low number of maps or even repetition of mechanics can be a perk IF they reinforce the musicality of play. It's no better or worse than a song with lots of chorus repetitions... IF handled artfully and IF you know when to kick in a new verse.
It's taken me awhile to articulate that and I suspect CERTAIN game development job interviews would have gone differently if I'd mastered the language sooner and spent less time griping on forums.
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