Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
I know that for a first post the title is very provocative but stay with me for a moment. I'm not actually going to say "Yeah, Cryptic sux, STO fails, n00bs!" or something along those lines but want to provide and discuss some suggestions that could make STO more enjoyable for those of us who would like a higher degree of "realism/simulation" in their game without (completely) messing with the current ease of access into the game for new players.

The following list is my collection of "proud nails" I have with STO and each contains a suggestion on how to improve it.

1. The tutorial
ISSUE: A captivating and engaging tutorial is necessary to get the more casually inclined players to understand the game's mechanics and controls. However, is it really, REALLY necessary to throw the most evil and biggest badass the whole setting has to offer at the player in the tutorial? Not only are the Borg in the tutorial ridiculously easy to defeat, they also don't follow the mechanics of Borg encountered in a later section of the game (adaption to weapon fire).

This greatly cheapens the Borg as an adversary and gives a false impression to the player right from the start. Also, it really doesn't fit the background of the setting where the Borg "invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back." Over 11000 Starfleet members died at Wolf 359, tough ships being shred to pieces ridiculously easy by the cube, but when the player first encounters the Borg they somehow forget how to fight efficiently?

SUGGESTION: Remove the current tutorial and replace it with a completely different. The new tutorial should take place in the Starfleet Academy, with the player starting out as a cadet. In this tutorial the player would "attend" various classes introducing him to the different gameplay elements (from weapons training on the phaser range, to crafting in a replicator control class, to learning the 101 of controlling a spaceship). The tutorial should conclude with the player completing the Kobyashi Maru and a scripted sequence afterwards where the character graduates from Starfleet Academy (similar to what's been shown in the F2P launch trailer).

2. Character advancement
ISSUE: Currently we level up like in almost every other MMO out there: gaining XP by doing missions and killing enemies and once you have enough XP collected you gain one level. Does it work? Sure, countless other successful MMOs are doing it. Does it fit the Star Trek flavor? Barely. Just as you don't advance in the US military from 2LT to MAJ by going to Iraq and killing 1927 terrorists, why should you go from ENS to VA by grinding Klingons, Gorn, Breen, Borg or whatever?

Further, it sort of really breaks suspension of disbelieve to have a VA running around, taking orders (!) from a LT or CPT and doing stuff that in the movies or shows would be delegated to some sort of medical team or engineering squad. Ranks above CPT are rarely shown as being in direct command of a single ship, but usually are either busy with some kind of organizational stuff in Starfleet or command whole fleets in large scale operations. So why exactly is my VA rank character running around in rusty space stations and wrestling with Breen instead of commanding a fleet against the Klingons?

The current character advancement is very "gamist" - it's purely based on a game mechanic and does nothing to support the lore and background of the game. So my suggestion is to lower the "gamist" part and increase the "simulation" aspect of this game element.

SUGGESTION: Remove the skill points based system and replace it with an advancement strategy based on "Recommendations" which are gained from successfully completing story missions. Also, limit the maximum rank of a player character to CPT to avoid having highly decorated flag officers crawling around all over the place. In the new system the character would gain a recommendation for each successfully completed story mission, and once he attained 20 recommendations he is promoted one rank. Currently there is a total of 74 story missions, which is not enough to advance a character from LTJG to CPT with the suggested required 20 recommendations, so a little tweaking is required in that case. This would not only slow down character advancement but also stay more in line with the established background, where promotions are not related to your killboard but rather to what you achieve for Starfleet (and considering how often you save Starfleet's backside throughout the various episodes they sure should hand over some new pips for you).

Obviously, this doesn't mesh well with the current skill and ship-access system, so that would have to change as well. For the skill system I can imagine some "talent" based system to work. Each recommendation would grant you three (3) talent points which you could invest into several skill trees. All skills you would currently gain automatically at certain ranks would become available by advancing through the talent trees. I'm working on drawing some mock-ups of the suggested system, but the basic idea is that there are 4 categories of talents: Command, Engineering, Science, and Tactical. Command talents would govern the general skills every captain has access to, as well as ship access and performance. Engineering talents would control the current engineering skills (hull repairs, resistance boosts) and provide bonuses to the performance of Cruiser class ships. Science talents would control the current science skills (debuffs, crowd control) and boost the efficiency of Science Vessel class ships. Tactical talents would control the current tactical skills (maneuverability, damage boosts) and make Escort class ships more efficient.

Ship access would be handled by advancing certain Command talents (e.g. "Cruiser Command", or "Escort Command") to higher ranks. The higher the rank in those talents, the higher the tier of the most powerful ship you can command. These talents could not only regulate access to higher tiers of ships, but could add bonuses to lower tier ships' performance and thus allowing players to fly their prefered ships (e.g. the normal Defiant class) for a much longer time than current game mechanics allow.

3. Combat mechanics
ISSUE: The combat mechanics for both space and ground combat suffer from the same problem as character advancement. They are very gamist with little to no connection to Star Trek's background. In many occasions STO plays very similar to WoW or Allods Online only with different textures. Death, Respawn, Death, Respawn, Death, Respawn, etc. etc. are about as disconnected from the setting's flavor as it can get.

SUGGESTION: Remove the respawning mechanism from space and ground combat and replace it with something else.

Ground combat could instead of the character dying and then respawning have:
* An EMH materializing next to the character and patching him up.
* A dead-man trigger on the character firing and initiating an emergency transport to his ship, where he is patched up and beams down again later.
* Q showing up and making the character play a silly game before sending him back with full health.

Space combat could instead of the ship exploding and then respawning have:
* The enemies open a channel demanding your surrender and you use the time to reroute power to boost your systems.
* An emergency short range warp to get out of the combat zone to perform repairs with experimental adapted Borg technology.
* Q showing up and making the character play a silly game before sending him back with full health. (Yeah, Q's just that annoying! )

All options would take exactly the same amount of time as respawning and getting back into the action, but with more variety and not a big disconnection from the setting flavor.

4. Missions
ISSUE: Currently missions are very linear and provide very little ways to truely differ the available careers from each other. From my knowledge there are only very few missions where an Engineering captain has really different options than a Tactical or Science captain. Also, optional mission goals are always "hit or miss" - either you can easily and completely solve it or you're never ever to complete it.

SUGGESTION: Change the system from the current binary system ("either you are a[n] Engineering/Tactical/Science officer and can complete the optional or you're not") to a system that allows a more diverse approach that also takes into consideration that the player's character is not alone but in command of a ship with possibly hundreds of crew members. My idea would be that instead of requiring the character to follow a specific career to complete an optional mission goal, the game should award points for completing optional targets.

For example, imagine the mission confronts you with a Starfleet officer who was severly injured and gives you the optional goal to save him. Currently you can only achieve that goal if your character is a Science officer. Applying my suggestion to the situation would lead to the following options:
* If you heal the injured officer yourself you are awarded 4 points.
* If you let one of your BOFFS heal him, or have your ship beam him to sickbay, or request a medical emergency response team from your ship, you get 2 point.
* If you just stabilize him with a hypospray and leave him to his fate afterwards, you get 1 point.
* If you ignore him and let him die, you don't get any points.

The same principal would apply to Engineering/Tactical bonus objectives. At the end of the mission you'd gain a bonus reward depending on the number of points you achieved. I am aware that obviously some missions couldn't make as much use of the system as would be required (especially all time-travelling missions), but at least you could be allowed to delegate handling those bonus objectives to the other members of your away team.

Further, make missions more complex with more options available to the players. Give the different careers more to do in each mission (at least 2 unique bonus objectives per career per mission) with those bonus objectives influencing the rest of the mission. For example, imagine a mission with the following flow: [see next post].



Still with me? Great! You made it past this tactical cube'o'text and I'd really like to hear your opinion on my suggestions. Do you think they would make STO a better game? Would they make it a worse game? Although I know that the chances of actually seeing any of those ideas implemented are rather low I'd still like to discuss them.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
03-12-2012, 04:25 PM
And here's the image of the mission flow I talked about in the OP but which couldn't fit into the character limit any more: http://img528.imageshack.us/img528/6156/missionflow.jpg

A mission with such a flow would play more different depending on the career the player chose for his character and would have a much higher replay value (either with a team or with a different character). Further, this would move the missions much more towards the "interactive narration" thing a certain other recently released MMO seems to have made very popular.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
03-12-2012, 04:33 PM
So, in short...you want the devs to redo the tutorial..the leveling system, the skill system, and the combat system?

While some things definitely have merit (namely a Starfleet Academy based tutorial), what you're talking about is nothing less than a fundamental rewrite of the game, which is impractical to say the least.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
03-12-2012, 04:42 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by RevRaven View Post
So, in short...you want the devs to redo the tutorial..the leveling system, the skill system, and the combat system?

While some things definitely have merit (namely a Starfleet Academy based tutorial), what you're talking about is nothing less than a fundamental rewrite of the game, which is impractical to say the least.
Don't worry, I do realize that the list is pretty extensive and my suggestions would need several things to change. Since I'm myself working in the computer gaming industry I know how many things work and that such changes would at best be mid- to long-term goals.

Also, some ideas sound more complicated than they are. The combat mechanics change for example should have probably been called "Respawn changes" or something like that because it actually is only this - a change to what happens once you hit 0 health/hull. The combat mechnics themselves (damage, chances to hit/miss, skills and abilities, etc. etc.) would remain unchanged.

And the suggested changes to missions also sound more complicated than they are. Especially since Cryptic apparently is already going to revisit some of the missions. In that case it shouldn't be that complicated to introduce some more decisive points into the missions. And I'd rather have missions where I can really feel like a captain with a crew at my command and important choices to make, than cheesy cutscenes in an engine that doesn't lend itself to it and moderate voice overs on some of the NPCs.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
03-12-2012, 04:46 PM
"Back" in star trek online?

Like the 3rd mission has your avatar walking into a bar and killing everyone there AS A STARFLEET OFFICER.
There isn't much"trek" in STO
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
03-12-2012, 04:53 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Staran View Post
"Back" in star trek online?

Like the 3rd mission has your avatar walking into a bar and killing everyone there AS A STARFLEET OFFICER.
There isn't much"trek" in STO
Much as I lament the lack of diplomatic options, even phasers not on stun don't seem to automatically kill in STO... otherwise there would be no 'resuscitate' option available for downed crew. If anything weapons are a lot less lethal than in Star Trek.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
03-12-2012, 05:20 PM
I'd love to see a change that would allow you to set your boffs on non-class objectives. It's just weird to see an engineering objective and think, sure I can't do this, but there IS a Commander level engineer standing right beside me.

If Kirk found your dying Starfleet officer he wouldn't ignore his wounds cause he's a Tactical captain and he would do a half-arse job slapping on bandaids. No, he'd order Bones to take care of it because Bones is a top notch doctor. That's what crew are there for - because a captain can't be expect to do everything.


Of course to keep players from off-loading everything onto their boffs I would not let boff actions count toward accolades and I would assign a chance that the boff screws up based on class, rank & race... etc... sort of like a mini-doff mission.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
03-12-2012, 05:45 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Staran View Post
walking into a bar and killing everyone there AS A STARFLEET OFFICER.
There isn't much"trek" in STO
That was pretty fun. I kept the immersion by thinking of my captain as some sicko who gets promoted again and again in order to avoid her total nervous breakdown and crashing into ESD or the academy with a cruiser. Since she's an admiral, she doesn't meddle with diplomacy, what's a relief for her, her subjects, and the admiralty.

The 'trek' I found is on the Klingon side. The 'shoot to kill' nature of conduct suits them, and I can easily forgive or ignore the 'flaws' listed in the OP.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 9
03-12-2012, 04:48 PM
The intro was made that way purposefully to tie in with end game content, such as it is.

SPOILER!

In the STF Khittomer Accord you discover a temporal gateway leading back to that very invasion in the intro. You go back a little earlier and lay waste to the borg and damage them significantly enough so your previous self can defeat them with ease.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 10
03-17-2012, 12:27 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gingie
The intro was made that way purposefully to tie in with end game content, such as it is.

SPOILER!

In the STF Khittomer Accord you discover a temporal gateway leading back to that very invasion in the intro. You go back a little earlier and lay waste to the borg and damage them significantly enough so your previous self can defeat them with ease.
This was before they butchered the STFs. Now they just don't make any sense.
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