I'm actually not critiquing the appeal of optional objectives that present a challenge or require certain class combinations, species, diplomacy rank, or what have you. It isn't that they are too hard but, instead, I think, that the thinking behind current STO optionals (in missions and STFs alike) is flawed.
What I am critiquing is the philosophy behind them.
Jane McGonigal describes games in her book "Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World" as unnecessary challenges. Challenges without the stress of real life challenge (possessing flow) but which provide genuine sense of accomplishment (fiero).
I think it stands to reason that in a game, game mechanics should be game-like.
The problem with STO's vision of optionals is that they are all, in some respect, essentials. Nobody would choose not to do them. This is true in missions with profession based optionals or "save all the ships" based optionals. This is also true in STFs where the optionals align with the most efficient way to play through a piece of content.
Optionals shouldn't be exactly the same as what is necessary (which they are to proceed with most profession based optionals, barring the ones Heinig created for the Devidian arc -- although even those are conducive to efficiency or shortcuts). Optionals shouldn't be exactly what everyone would do if they could (Khitomer Accord ground) or what they would do if they were informed and had a rational desire for efficient rewards (Infected space and ground, The Cure space and ground).
Optionals should somehow involve unnecessary challenge (which is game-like) not the avoidance of unnecessary challenge -- which is anti-game-like and at its extremes, what motivates game explotation. The optional that is driven by maximized efficiency also bad from a community management perspective because it pits highly achievement motivated players against less achievement oriented players rather than encouraging players to collaborate for common objectives.
Deliberate inefficiency is what should drive optionals. An extra boss fight. Defeating Rebecca Simmons using all melee weapons. Completing a Borg encounter with one energy type. Doubling back through a map (which makes the hidden melee weapon in Coliseum and fighters in Sphere of Influence better optionals than the stated "optionals" we have, in my eyes). Defeating Infected Space with 5 shuttles. Completing ground STFs using only a single energy type attack.
The difference is that these kinds of things actually involve invoking a choice rather than doing something that no player would or could choose NOT to do. The current optionals encourage people to take actions that the player cannot or would not choose not to do. So there is no CHOICE in the current setup, merely success or failure.
And that's not an optional. That's a wedge driven between players.
Last edited by stoleviathan99; 11-09-2013 at 01:36 PM.
The discussion about people leaving fleet alerts early shows, that your deliberate inefficient optionals don't work. Either something is worth doing, in that case it will essentially be non optional. Or otherwise people will skip it and rage arises from those who would have liked to do the optional anyways.
While I agree with you in theory I am not sure how something like this could be implemented, atleast for the group based content, without creating a huge wedge between players even worse than we currently see.
Although their is one event that currently contains an optional boss fight so maybe.