Defining canon races. How the trait system forces serious players to go alien.
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Join Date: Dec 2007
Defining canon races. How the trait system forces serious players to go alien.
02-25-2010, 10:24 AM
What's the Problem?
StarTrek Online allows players to create their own alien races, which is a lot of fun, but you quickly realize when you get in the game that there is an absolute overabundance of aliens. Especially in ground PvP you quickly realize that the Klingon Empire aparently doesn't have a single Klingon in it.
Of course you could atribute that to the simple fact that people prefer to do their own thing to playing a canon race, but the truth is, there are simply no incentives to play as a Canon race. Their abilities are in most cases understated, their weaknesses are not even adressed in their traits, and the simple fact that they don't get to pick all of their traits makes them less customizable.
Another huge problem is that Space Traits and Ground Traits occupy the same slots. Much like the skill system, people want to ignore ground related expenses as much as possible due to the simple fact that expose/exploit works without a single skillpoint spent, and is drastically more powerful than any non exposing kit power, race ability or standard attack.
When all is said and done: Being forced to take ground traits on your character isn't something most players want, and the unique traits that canon races get are not powerful enough to make them truely interesting.
Ground and Space, not happy together
One of the most damning characteristics of both the skill and the trait system is that space and ground are mixed together. Especially on the Klingon side of things this poses a major issue, since the majority of their content is based around the PvP queueing system where the player gets to choose wether or participate in ground or space combat. Any player with a preference either way doesn't really have to deal with the other at all. The same is true for federation players in some regard, since PvE content is not very challenging in this game and every ground battle can easily be mastered with a character who has no ground traits. Also ground PvP is so entrenched in using the expose/exploit mechanics and focus firing that a lot of traits and skills simply seem meaningless. The 30 some damage you take from hyperonic radiation are not even a tenth as deadly as the 10% expose chance it has; by the same token there isn't any real importance on ground traits.
There are two possible ways to alleviate that problem:
1. All Traits should have a bearing on both ground and space. For example, the Nausicans have the trait "Pirate" - which sounds really cool, but its a ground trait, so most people won't want to pick it up. If the functionality of this trait was expanded to also include a hefty bonus to boarding parties and resistence to boarding attempts, it might be considered more interesting by players who are interested in that skill for space combat. Of course this would be hard for traits like "Corrosive Blood". (I'll get to traits like that in a later section)
2. Traits should be split into two distinct categories, ground and space, and every character picks two ground and two space, or four ground and four space traits. This would allow people to build a character that has unique properties in both areas of gameplay.
Either way, something has to be changed about the way that the trait system predestines characters to be stronger in either space or ground combat. If the game made a real effort to make ground or space combat more defined by the traits of characters it would create a division between ground and space characters, which would be a problem in a game where the two exist as a duality.
Canon races are ill defined
I think that one of the things that really makes the trait system disappointing to people is that it doesn't sufficiently represent the races that they want to play. I'll use two examples, Betazoids and Gorn.
Betazoids and Gorn are a great example of how the trait system takes a race that is supposed to be very specific in its characteristics and understates their unique characteristics to a point where they don't really provide a unique play experience.
Gorn in Star Trek are primarely defined by two things: They are incredibly strong and tough, but they are pretty slow. In STO Gorn are defined by three traits: Cold Blooded (Fire and Plasma resistence), Reptilian Strength (17.5% increase to melee damage and knockback strength), and Resilient (+5% energy and physical resistence). Gorn have a unique trait called Bite that deals ~100 damage over 12 seconds in melee with a poison DOT, but this one has to be picked from their trait list, meaning, it would be their fourth trait.
I feel that the Gorn are ill represented by the trait system. Their slowness is not adressed anywhere. Their incredible toughness is grossly understated with a mere 5% reistence and extra resistence to fire and plasma (relatively rare damage types), and the fact that they have to pick up bite as an extra trait, and don't even get the ability to hurl rocks like the NPC gorn do means that their most iconic combat moves aren't even provided in the basic package.
If I designed the traits for the Gorn race it would be one single trait that would look somewhat like this:
+20% melee damage and knockback (Gorn are very dangerous in melee combat)
+50% additional hitpoints (Gorn are tough to kill)
Additional Ability: Bite (Like the standard trait, but instead of a DOT it slows the enemy 20% for 10 sec., 12 sec cooldown)
Additional Ability: Hurl (Allows the Gorn to hurl a large boulder/piece of equipment causing damage/knockback, 1 min cooldown)
-20% movement speed. (Gorn move slowly)
This would cover everything that makes a Gorn uniquely Gorn in a way that acctually defines gameplay as this race, and leave the lasst 3 traits completely open for them to pick and choose.
Betazoids are another race that is done no justice by the trait system whatsoever. The defining characteristics of a Betazoid in Startrek are: Incredibly powerful telepaths/empaths, a very pacifistic race that abhores inflicting pain on others. In STO they are represented by two traits: Telepathic (+20% stealth detection, +1.5% chance to expose, +1 second expose duration), and Empathic (-20% threat generation, +5% out of combat health regeneration aura)
Once again, this race is simply ill defined by the system. The fact that they aren't at all good fighters because they feel all the pain they inflict themselves through empathy is not adressed anywhere, but their raw telepathic power is understated in a major way. Betazoids know what people are thinking, can get in your head, know your feelings, and can even project their own feelings into you.
If I designed the traits that defined Betazoids it would once again be a single trait:
+20% Stealth Detection (It's hard to hide from a telepath)
10% chance to apply a 2 second placate to an attacker. (The PvP viable version of threat reduction)
Ability: Peacemaking (Using a combination of diplomacy and projected positive emotions the Betazoid AoE placates enemies, 1 minute cooldown)
Ability: Mindreading (AoE, 10% damage reduction for 10 seconds, 10% chance to expose, 12 sec cooldown. A telepathic version of tricorder scan that reduces damage the enemies deal rather than increasing the damage they take and gives Betazoids an additional AoE expose chance)
Empathy: (Aura heals a portion of everyones health near the Betazoid every 3 seconds, +5% health when in combat, +25% when out of combat)
-20% all damage done with weapons.(Betazoids are just not good fighters)
-20% expose damage. (Being a pacifist can trip you up sometimes, Betazoids rely on others to do the killing)
Of course not every race in Startrek is an example that is equally extreme as Betazoids and Gorn, the reason why I'm throwing these two out there is because they demonstrate well how certain species should have a very unique gameplay style, but simply don't provide it.
Without my suggestions a Gorn and Betazoid are pretty much the same thing. Sure, they have some differences, but when all is said and done they play pretty much exactly the same way. On the other hand, if my race traits were implemented that puts the key characteristics of the two races into two very defining traits they would be very different and a lot more conform to what they are meant to be.
The Gorn would acctually be a huge lumbering behemoth that is deadly as can possibly be in melee, and the Betazoid would acctually be a support character that can provide considerable advantages to his team, but is pretty bad in a fight by himself.
I think every race should have a single race trait that defines all their atributes. The race traits for most species would not be so extreme. Permanent -20% movement speed is a pretty big drawback, but you have to pay for all the goodies somewhere. -20% damage and -20% exploit damage is a huge drawback, but once again, you get a bundle of awesome stuff in exchange. A Bajoran or Orion wouldn't get any big drawbacks from their race trait, but they also wouldn't get as many abilities and advantages.
There is currently no real reason to pick a canon race for your character. The division between ground and space traits makes it impractical to pick a race that is forced to take ground traits if you neither need nor want them. The races themselves aren't really worked out to the point where they provide the gameplay experience that people expect. Especially races that represent extremes, like the Gorn and Betazoids I spoke about just need more tailored gameplay, but all races should have their most defining characteristics and iconic moves rolled into one trait that carries drawbacks for races that deviate so much from standard gameplay that they can't just have all their bonuses without some penalties.
If you're a minmaxer then there should be a race that makes a perfect character for you other than alien. Alien characters should primarely be there if you want to create something unique, not just so you can create something a lot more powerful than any of the canon races.