To start, I categorize a "Character Piece" as a mission where in a non player/crew character is heavily involved with the storytelling in a mission. It can be done many ways, but at its core is the inclusion of one or more characters who's identity, personality, or actions greatly influence the mission if aren't actually the point of the mission/story as a whole.
There were many episodes of the Trek series that I would categorize as this, some of them being the best or most thought provoking episodes of their perspective series. "Inner Light", "Ethics", heck... "Where No Man Has Gone Before" even.
Now the reason I bring this up is I find myself at a personal quandary. I like character pieces, but, when making missions for an MMO I want to stray away from them. Mainly because the most important character is the player, everything else should be supporting cast. You can still do them well keeping that in mind, but, it is a dangerous threshold to Suedom and one I'd rather not flirt with.
All that said; two of my three published missions are character pieces. (3 of 4 if you count the one I made for my fleet and don't advertise.) My duel perspectives project I am finishing up now comes dangerously close to being called one because of the respective titular characters and their importance to implying each factions perspectives. Any more missions of mine that include Amanda Barclay with anything other than a passing glance will be stolen by her, I know it. She's just too fun to write. And most of my list of "next projects I want to do" (A revisit to the Galactic Barrier/A non-combat Diplo mission involving Trill Symbote ethics/Story of an Aging Klingon hunting for a good death) get most of their importance from one or more very important and unique character.
The one mission type I don't want to use and I come up with my best stories with it. : /
I guess I am asking, what are your thoughts on missions I call "Character Pieces"? As authors, as players, as Trek fans, MMO enthusiasts.
I don't know that it has to be one way or the other. In my own missions I feel like I have a fair amount of character interaction, but I don't think they would count as Character Pieces. I suppose maybe Perilous Prize would to some extent, but even there it's still about the player and their role in the whole scheme. I guess it's a question of what you consider to be a Character Piece.
Personally, when I come up with a Foundry mission, I pretty much start with the story of what the player will be doing. Then, the other characters that are involved may modify that story, or play a part in it. But I generally wouldn't focus the entire story around one character. I feel like that's more of the attitude to take when writing a novel, not when you're creating a mission for a game. In a game you always have to give some deference to the player's character, and their role in the story.
But, if that's what you naturally come up with, then you have to run with that. You have to cater to your own strengths. Like, with my own missions, they are all fairly long and involved, but I never really questions whether that was the way to go. I wasn't initially sure whether they would be well received, but that didn't mean I would have changed had they been a failure. Rather it was a question of whether I'd make Foundry missions at all.
You can make some changes to how you create your missions, but if you change so much that you don't cater to your strengths then the quality of what you produce will suffer.
Also, it's important to consider what inspires you. In my experience with coming up with missions, writing stories, or any other creative pursuits, inspiration is invaluable. You can get more done in one hour on an idea that inspires you, than you can in 10 hours working on something where you're trying to force it. So, it's just not efficient to force yourself to create stories other than those you are inspired to create.
All that being said, I guess my advice would be to do what you want to do, but maybe try to temper your character pieces just enough so that the player feels like he's playing an important role.
Some of my favourite Star Trek TV episodes are the ones where the characters are either feeling no inhibitions ('The Naked Now', 'The Naked Time' etc.) or where the captain and crew are forced to act out of type ('Qpid', 'I, Mudd' etc.) so that's the type of mission I tend to feel like writing.
One of my first missions makes use of this as part of the main plot, that the characters are forced to focus on Starfleet protocol when they find everything funny. Good fun! But some of the feedback for it in the reviews indicates that more than a few people really didn't appreciate themselves and their crew being forced to act in a certain way. And that's a fair enough comment too, I reckon. Quirkiness just irritates some people, and video games are the one place where we should feel like we have absolute control.
So what to do?
In my next mission, I made 3 fresh academy recruits part of the story and applied all the quirkiness to them. So that I could still apply the storytelling that I wanted to, but wouldn't be compromising the integrity of the players character and crew.
In this example, I found Character Pieces to be more of a necessity than a choice. But there's still plenty of mission I haven't written yet, so who knows?
An excellent question, XR-337 - great food for thought.
Mainly revolving around my main toon and his bridge officers.
However in each of them while the story/circumstances of the missions are shapped and involve said characters the story is about you, and how you over come the challenges you are faced.
Memory Lane deals with this character's history, yet. As an MMO mission it's about how your character overcomes the obsticles they face. Whether they decide to help and potentially risk death or not... and have a greater chance of survival. In otherwords the story may be about this other character but it always should be driven by the player.
These are just my thoughts on the topic.
If you want to create a character piece - go for it.
I've got many more missions planed. Some character pieces... some not.