So Cryptic has created a beautiful game for us to play with and I for one is glad to have it. But it isn't really running smoothly yet, so here are some thoughts for consideration.
First off, I'd like to point out, that people do pay for head start, I am one of them. Yet the servers are down constantly. Ok... so there are issues. I get that. But that isn't an excuse if you ask me. A product sold, is a product that should work. It would reflect well on Cryptic to refund 2-3 days worth of playing time, because head start was for a lot of time, "stare at screen for many".
I do have faith in Cryptic to fix the problems but I also do think, it should have been addressed before launch.
The major issue I have with STO is the endless loading screens. Ok.. so I am not a programmer and not a server administrator, but... loading between sectors? "Space.. the final frontier inhibited by loading screens". And if that isn't bad enough, you have to load into the sol system and then move for 10 seconds before ... you guessed it a loading screen pops up for the earth station itself. I am not sure what to suggest here, but I quite certain it could be done a bit better.
I know that you can't do away with them all, I get that, but some of them are downright stupid and effort should be made to prune out unnecessary game time wasted. I am paying to play you know... not waiting.
Now. The absolutely worst part of the game, which is incidently linked to the endless loading screens, is the fact that you can spend a significant amount of time just trying to play with your friends, as the game does NOT necessarily send you and your team mates to the same instances. Sometimes it does, but most often it does not.
So what am my buddy and I forced to do? Oh yes... spend time looking for an instance that has room for both of us. That is made hard by the fact that the information displayed is not the same for the both of us. And finding an instance number is made harder by the fact that they're not in numerical order, but order of free space. Only thing... those lists are not the same for everyone and so it is a jungle.
And the problem here is yet more time wasted trying to play with your friends instead of enjoying the game. Surely not what you're aiming for Cryptic. The answer for me is pretty simple. Make sure that grouped people always - without excuses - end up in the same instances, so they can enjoy the game together.
That would be a huge improvement, and one I suspect would be managable to put in the game rather fast.
Another thing I mused over the other day, was the server downtime from 3am - 5am. Now. Servers do need to down for maintenance and all that. Kudos getting up early local time fix things. What I am wondering is, if this is normal practice for Cryptic? If it is, do consider that you would then be taking down the servers in prime game time in Europe. I guess that's the problem with sticking with global servers. You end up stepping on someone.
Speaking of global servers. I must say I am impressed about the amount of lag I get, or rather the lack thereoff. As a european player, I had (and have reservations) about being forced to play and think in US time zones. But the technical issues have actually been rather limited. Ok. The server has failed to respond a few times, but all in all much better than expected. I hope that continues!
On a positive note, it is good thing to see that this game has a signifcantly larger play area than Champions Online. CO was mired down by the fact that you were stuck in the same areas for so long, that you were crying to see something new. STO delivers beautiful star systems galore and allthough you sometimes feel like you're doing nothing but dodging large chunks of rock, it does have a larger "feel" to it. Well done!
The flipside is that STO do suffer from another CO problem. The "Massive" is lacking from the Massive Multiplayer Online game thing. 20 people in a zone... not very massive. Part of the attraction of MMO's is that you can run into people or rather their avatar's but you get the point right.
The issue I have with the current system (which I know won't be changed, but I hope to plant a few ideas here) is that you don't meet anyone you know, like on a realm structure. Which is why I am large fan of the server / realm structure in wow. Cryptic want to create accessibility to a large player pool and in that regard they succeed beautifully.
Do they succesfully create room for societies by association? No. The current server structure absolutely make that impossible, which I think is a shame. In wow I often run into people I know. I am in a guild, with the best reputation you could wish for. I can say I am an officer in a guild, who has a reputation for being helpful and respected by all. Can that happen in STO? I somehow doubt it, because you're constantly thrown into random instances... and there is no guarantee that your fleet mates will be in the same one. This eliminates the sense of community that makes wow so great (at least for me).
I don't know if it is possible to make the populations of areas larger and having a system, that would - at least - attempt to make sure fleet members, as much as possible end up in the same instances / shards. Again, this would mean you're *sharing* the game with someone and enchance the game experience.
What I would love is having the entire galaxy map one instance with loads of players spread around. To get that feel that you're really in space, sharing it with people, and not a very tight corner boxed in by - yet more - loading screens. That give the game a feel of true epicness I think.
And for people that would start worrying about lag and such. I don't buy that it isn't possible. Easy to make? Probably not, but you don't make great games by taking the easy solutions. I for one is hoping that this will come one day.
What I am trying to say, is that for many, half the game is the social aspect and not just getting the next episode done / manage the next endlevel raidboss. The social aspect could be improved upon and I hope Cryptic will read this, for what it is. Some thoughts on the subject and a wish to improve the game, because I have been positively surprised with STO. I want to see it improve.