Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
Niccolo Machiavelli's Advice on Star Trek Online Development
an open letter to the developers of advice, caution, and (sometimes) praise

Background:
There are a wealth of good ideas that may seem unscrupulous and others common sense. I suppose it depends on your perspective.

What follows is largely based off applying a quotation from Niccolo Machiavelli's works, including The Prince. They are all available at Project Gutenberg.

What follows is either game criticism as pretentious ****ery or good ideas expressed in new ways or neither.

You be the judge!

On a side note: I am a huge supporter of the game, in case some sections make this unclear.
A Dialogue with Machiavelli about Star Trek Online Development:

Quote:
Benefits should be conferred gradually; and in that way they will taste better.
Cryptic largely gets this principle - have rewards at different ranks and different grades. At RA1, you don't have access to all Mk X Purples - neither do you have access to commander bridge officer slots as commander - nor that cool class ability earned a Commander x.

Increasing the variety of rewards (and spacing them apart) is important.

Rewards should stagger frequently to give the appearance of "a great many carrots running before our noses" rather than "a bushell of carrots just down the road."
Quote:
Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.
Crafting should not only be challenging but varied. Create more niches within crafting: unique gear to craft (Efficient Engines, Polarized Tetryon Beams, etc.) and gear that is useful at higher tiers (such as [Pla]x3 shields).
Quote:
God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.
Give us a feeling of leaving an impact on the universe. Some sign that our presence was more than just a blip in the expanse (which is actually is).

Fortunately, Cryptic has avoided Deus Ex Machina endings in missions (a sin sometimes worse than zerg content).
Quote:
Hatred is gained as much by good works as by evil.
Faction relationships should be set up. Courting a particular faction in certain diplomatic activities would lower your standing with other factions.

That cure that enabled those Federation colonists to prosper in a system on Romulan border territory. Yes, the Romulans and Reman are going to be angry.
Quote:
I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
Market differentiation is important to any MMO. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of MMOs according to MMORPG.com's gameslist. Making sure your product stands out from the pack based on its own merits (and not the IP solely) is key to gaining market share.

With that in mind:
How can Cryptic set STO apart from every other game in the future?
What features can be highlighted in marketing that it already does bettter? (i.e. character customization is incredibly deep, as with every Cryptic game)
Quote:
If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.
Failure is sometimes as useful as winning to understand how well we perform. The Advanced/Elite death penalty is great start.

On the contrary, how many defend missions exist where we don't have to worry about *actually* defending the ship or pulling aggro?

It would be nice to raise the stakes and know that ship *could* actually blow-up.
Quote:
It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.
Increasing the variety not just of PvE but PvP is a good thing. Some prefer competition, others self-improvement. Some prefer "top" recognition, others prefer camaraderie.
Quote:
It is double pleasure to deceive the deceiver.
Any chance of a PvP power to make our ships *look* like an enemy faction's vessel?

If we can fake fleets out of photons, we can fake appearances - please?
Quote:
It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.
It's not the mission reward that honors the player - it's the fellow players who see their new reward that honor the players.

Some accolade titles should be incredibly hard to achieve (or even include unique gear). This is an idea that WoW brought to an art: unique sets of armor for different tiers and seasons. Gear was largely about having something cooler than the next person - even if only cosmetically.

Given the abundance of ideas the art team has for characters - what about the same love given to gear?

Player armors and kits that are rare and beautiful - or ship "pieces" that fresh off the ship-drafting NX-lines at Memory Alpha. Something earned that makes other players stand back - even if it isn't actually functional.
Quote:
The new ruler must determine all the injuries that he will need to inflict. He must inflict them once and for all.
A simple tutorial mission to help steer players toward their ship's/class' strengths would be useful at each tier.

Have a mission that encourages players to heal another vessel, tank (or pull aggro) with it repairs, or DPS a main vessel.
Quote:
The one who adapts his policy to the times prospers, and likewise that the one whose policy clashes with the demands of the times does not.
Cryptic adapted to the marketplace with STO's business model. Increasingly costly development windows is cost prohibitive. If WoW cost $70 million USD and SWTOR costs $100, would every $120 million USD game be a success necessarily?

Higher costs mean fewer new ideas can be injected (why do something new when you can just do what works and do that well, which was WoW's original model).
Quote:
The promise given was a necessity of the past: the word broken is a necessity of the present.
Whether developer or player, everyone shoudl understand that plans sometimes change. Broken words can be a sign of shifting agendas, different needs, and other issues. Don't get caught up in blaming Cryptic for delaying 1.2 a week, especially if you realize how radical the changes were on Tribble the past few weeks.
Quote:
The wise man does at once what the fool does finally.
Getting the foundation out there for projects is essential. I'm glad to be hearing about Diplomatic, UGC, Open PvP sectors as ideas on the table for the next year - rather than years away.
Quote:
There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first kind is excellent, the second good, and the third kind useless.
Know your target audience, know you current players. Without knowing how either group experiences content, a company is bound to fail.

Cryptic has done well by catering the game to both casuals and "hardcore" demographcis with the difficulty slider and raidisodes versus story missions.

Keep this up!
Quote:
*There is no avoiding war; it can only be postponed to the advantage of others.
Changes are sometimes necessary. Space combat had a few broken parts to it: thanks to developers and players on Tribble, we have changes that are balanced for the introduction of new powers.

It was better to fix or change things for balance now than build Jenga towers over the next few seasons until the entire game was unplayable.

Ground combat should similarly be reviewed sooner rather than later.
Quote:
There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
Any new gear, power, or ability in the game does not exist ex nihilo - or outside of other contexts. Much of the game arises from inter-connect game mechanics (buff/debuff, heal/damage, etc.)

Understand the context for a change; understand the change for a context.
Quote:
To understand the nature of the people one must be a prince, and to understand the nature of the prince, one must be of the people.
To understand the appearance of developers, one must view things as a player. To understand the appearance of our community, one must view things as a developer.

This maxim should help us argue less and build more.
Quote:
War should be the only study of a prince. He should consider peace only as a breathing-time, which gives him leisure to contrive, and furnishes as ability to execute, military plans.
Cryptic generally gets this. Each season comes with a set of follow-up improvements (x.1, x.2, etc.) to address concerns. There are a myriad of channels through which to receive information of the developers (some open, some not but all varied).

Make plans, conceptualize now. Development is the tautological goal of a developer.

Players love to see screenshots of in-development work or a calendar updated to show what the future has planned.

Cryptic's multi-front approach of State of the Game, dev postings, Engineering Reports, and a Calendar is superb (when they get updated).
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
06-10-2010, 03:51 PM
Fun thread for the most part, although I didn't get any sense of criticism in the slightest despite the OP starting with a clarification of intent ;-)

I'll touch on one things:

Quote:
I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it.
Give STO a neutral faction, or allow people to start as citizens and then choose their path of progression towards piracy, citizenship, or eventual membership within a particular faction (could work nicely with the reputation system Darren mentioned).

A lot of these things suggested had been asked for by the community prior to the game's launch, however due to time constraints and an inflated scope, they were not able to deliver these things which would have ultimately allowed STO to stand at least on par with what is on the market now, if not stand out from the rest.

Regardless, let's wait for a season or two, and then perhaps STO will be fabulous for a lot more people than it already is.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
06-10-2010, 04:21 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by JacobFlowers View Post
Fun thread for the most part, although I didn't get any sense of criticism in the slightest despite the OP starting with a clarification of intent ;-)
Well, criticism is a tricky thing. Some criticism is calling out bad ideas; other criticism is suggesting ways to ameliorate an issue. I tend to swing in the latter camp. Any proposal I've worked on is technically an indictment of some existing mechanic but framed in the best possible terms and constructive tone.

I have the appearance of supporting the existing game while requesting extensive overhauls (implicitly meaning that something is wrong or inferior).
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