Focusing the Experience - Latest MMORPG Blog
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Join Date: Dec 2007
04-08-2009, 07:27 AM
Originally Posted by
Let us break this down shall we....
Oh, let's. Let me wander back out of my happy place to break this down with you, me lad.
And what do you do when the captain does not need the advice of the Engineer, Medical or Ops officers? What is their content when the game does not call for their roles? Do the sit in Ten Forward and drink?
While the use of terms like "Transporter chief" ect... might seem hyperbolic to you. It is accurate that not everyone on a player crew can be someone who will be involved in the "action" at all times. In fact outside of the Captain of said player crew all characters will have to "wait their turn".
"But design content that involves everyone you might" say. That is far easier said then done. Even the writers of Trek could not include every major character in every episode, and they didn't have to program methods for those characters to interact with the sets or scripts.
Here's how it works in the real world.
Multiplayer ship content will have to be focused. The main focus will have to be combat. Now you can leave hooks in for the ship's computer or assorted stations to relay data specific to a mission but the design will have to have a combat focus centrally simply because combat's where we see the most drama on the bridge.
The bridge is really the epicenter of action. There's not an episode of Star Trek: TNG, which really is the core of the whole concept, where the crew isn't on the bridge together. Even Geordi will wander up on a turbo lift to man an engineering station on the bridge during alerts.
So the bridge should be the main focus of the design. Other elements can come later as the developers figure out how to make them "functional" (which is the plan now, evidently), be used primarily as mission locations (as they are now) or just be for entertainment purposes (like Ten Forward, the Captain's Ready Room or the Observation Lounge but potentially including Sick Bay and Engineering and The Holodeck as important locales players might like to visit for their own reasons).
Now, the correct approach is to look at this combat bridge in the middle of a battle and ask yourself what should the players be doing?
Well, what do bridge crew do during the show? They focus on knowing things relating to their roles and relaying that information to a captain that's acting as a human CPU. This will require some new approaches but not alien ones to veteran gamers. The key is restricting information flow. No external views, yes I'm serious (and the dramatic potency of this approach is made clear in many sim games), and the captain should be dependent on the intelligence about his own ship and the tactical situation his officers relay to him.
This communication flow will echo what we see on the series.
This means ship battles, as they've already been described anyhow, will have to be measured and paced tactical affairs. This means a captain's got to learn how to understand
and will have time to react to information before the situation evolves too much.
The Engineer will be constantly monitoring the state of the engines and energy output (which fuels all other systems) and assigning which other stations get how much power. He'll be assigning repair teams. Now this doesn't sound thrilling on its own but when you're on a bridge with other, excitable, people and all hell is breaking loose outside of your cabin...boy howdy. There's pressure on you. But it's fun, that kind of teamwork builds friendships that can last outside the games that forged them.
Likewise the con will be busy relaying and inputting navigational information as the captain issues orders.
Ops will be the main sensor operator identifying threats, the status of threats and other tactical information. Ops may also be managing the resources other than energy and security deployments required by the ship. Ops will probably also be the guy who manages fighters on carrier ships though he may share that with tactical.
Tactical will be managing weapon and shield systems though he too will have some of the information available to ops. He will also manage security deployments and assign tactical away teams.
Medical will be there to patch people when panels blow and to assign medical teams to decks that are taking casualties. Which decks are most important given finite reesources? He's got the same kind of decisionmaking to do as the engineer with repair teams.
The Science Officer and others who aren't central to the tactical situation can well serve, on a "blind" ship, as additional eyes and ears on sensors. Maybe they'll each follow separate targets or navigational threats as they're assigned by Tactical or Ops or the Con. As these targets change states they'll hand off that information to The Captain.
Now the question is what do crews do while they're "en route" to a destination? What do people do in any MMO when they're waiting for a party to form or traveling? Checking inventory, preparing items they might need and chatting. Because we're on a starship, with replicators, odds are there will be items and things we can put together on the ship itself while we're going somewhere.
There will also be some people on station to monitor for "random encounters" or, if it's possible to incorporate this, anomalies with the ship's systems themselves.
Travel times won't be incredibly long but we do know the developers want a sense of distance to be in the game. Insta-travel isn't in the cards. Personally, after doing some long hauls in Eve Online alone on a ship I'd very much welcome having friends on board to get a sense of real socialization in the process rather than just chatting on a CB to distant truckers.
As far as simulation goes, this can be abstracted. You can create a layer of complexity between the fundamental singleplayer game mechanics and the input/output of the consoles. This means multiplayer ships, especially if you include the bridge-only view, will be much less effective in every situation than single player vessels but...not everyone coming to STO is obsessed with uberness. Some will be obsessed with Star Trek.
Multiplayer ships will be an option, not a requirement, for PvE play and will primarily be a diversion (or a focus for many) from the regular game. Over time though, I predict players will gravitate more and more to them just for the fun factor alone assuming that, unlike SWG, STO does have some original and exciting space content that can sustain heavy use over time.
Singleplayer ships are the priority though. I don't think being a solo-preference player or someone who enjoys squadron level tactical gaming should be penalized. They should have access to the same ships and Cryptic is correct to design for the single-player first. Even devoted ship-based crews will have players that spend more time playing alone when their friends aren't online.
Anyhow, this is what I want to see eventually. It doesn't have to be now. And note that the bridge roles I'm describing are functions of the bridge design. Any character should be able to fill in on any position but people with the right specializations should have more options or be more efficient at managing the stations.
If possible, and this might be harder to do, perhaps having the option for NPC crew to fill in on empty stations should be explored. However, NPCs simply wouldn't work the same way at all as a player on a station so it might not fit. One might have to have a full, basic, crew of four or five and room for a full "party" (including this core) on the supplementary science stations on the bridge behind tactical.