Boldly Going Nowhere

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I’ve been spending some time protecting the galaxy recently. I’ve saved it from many a poorly scripted alien coated in so much prosthetic make-up that it makes them all blend together into roughly what you’d get if you put an Action Man in the microwave. Was that Xenophobic? I’m a disgrace to the Federation.

Yes, I’ve been playing Star Trek Online. This isn’t my first foray into the world of MMORPG and I’m sure it won’t be my last, but it’s certainly one of the strangest.

There’s a certain personality associated with MMORPG playing and it isn’t a particularly good one. I’ve never played World of Warcraft and I never intend to, yet even I have resorted to referring to (what I believe to be) bad players as the type of player wasting virtual air in WoW. Perhaps Blizzard made it just too easy to play and that’s why it sent out a homing beacon to every Halo elitist, noobpwner, rage quitter, Leroy Jenkins and eight year old child on the internet.

Whether it’s true or indeed fair to label a player base in such a negative way, the fact remains that this stigma is present in people’s minds when you talk about MMORPGs with them. WoW isn’t the only culprit naturally, but it has so many players, and is held up as a prime example of a MMORPG that can make good money so often, that it’s hard not to fall back on it. I should point out that regardless of how it may or may not play and how its players may or may not act, it was neither of these things that put me off playing WoW. I just couldn’t bring myself to play a game that looked like a child’s Sunny D fuelled coma.

The point I’m trying to make is that once in a while an MMORPG comes along that you might assume attracted a different kind of player to the trend. Star Trek, ignoring the recent movie remake in which Sylar and a poor man’s Matt Damon bastardised Trek history, isn’t something that’s really attractive to the younger game players today since most fans of the franchise base their fandom in the Kirk years of sexing up green space women or the Picard years of being bald around the galaxy. This was the frame of mind I went into STO with. I expected people my age and far older to be interested in living out their dreams to be a Starfleet captain and that there would be an air of maturity the likes of which has never been seen in a MMORPG. This isn’t to say there is no such thing as a mature teenager or indeed a childish adult, but I’m talking about the ratio of good player against bad here.

To provide me any hope at all of ever fathering a son, I should swiftly point out that I do not consider myself a Trekkie. Yes, I have watched some Star Trek. I grew up when it was at its peak so it was unavoidable and since I quite like Sci-Fi, aspects of it appealed. The running joke that the human race will one day do away with money and simply live peacefully together in order to improve as a species always gave me a laugh.

Anyway, I got STO. My first dilemma was how to interact with my fellow players. There was a strong possibility that (since it is played on one huge world broken into hundreds of instances) I would at some point run into some serious hardcore role players. These dangerous creatures strike without warning often leaving me without time to think of an acceptable way to act and, in order not to offend or break the fantasy they are indulging in, pretending to be mute. Eventually, I settled on making my character a Vulcan. I figured that that way my real life miserable personality might give at least the impression of role playing.

I didn’t even get through the tutorial missions before I started to notice alarmingly familiar MMORPG traits. People arguing in the open chat. People fighting over limited spawning tutorial related monsters. People spamming incoherently. Still I pushed on. I explored ground combat and then tried my hand at piloting my first Starship – it might have looked like a 60s B-movie UFO with skis attached but it was still more entertaining than almost two weeks of EVE Online.

Some things were different though. Some arguments were going on between hardcore fact spouting Trekkie machines. These were delightful to behold. They argued over ship sizes, correct positioning of torpedo tubes and I even saw one occasion where no less than four people were arguing over the ethics of the Prime Directive during a mission. If I was lucky enough to catch one of these moments I just stopped dead in my tracks and read it. Not to feel superior, more to experience ambivalence – to feel both amused and horrified at the same time.

I'm fairly sure Starfleet officers shouldn't go on killing sprees...woops.

Within the TV shows our race might have evolved beyond puny necessities like pay cheques, but STO hasn’t. You don’t actually get Energy Credits from completing missions and only get it for selling unwanted items, but that still didn’t stop them. You know who I mean. Those groups. Those horrible people that have ruined other MMORPGs I’ve tried. I started getting random whispers and mail from them.

100k Credits for as low as $15!!!”*

*I’ve done you the service of making this sentence slightly readable. The people that spam these gold farming messages don’t so much compose messages as batter their hands wistfully off the keyboard just hoping to get lucky.

Get lost. I’m trying to save the galaxy here. Well, maybe not save it. More like go from system to system trying the diplomatic option of talking for about a second and then taking part in a battle against the same three ships with different skins over and over again. It’s quite fun at times though. If it weren’t for all those pesky other people I’m sure it’d be really good.

I continued my exploring and moved up the ranks getting new ships and discovering new levels of blandness with each sector I gained access to. On those rare occasions I found a mission that interested me, I headed straight for it. Of course, as I travelled to my destination there was another argument brewing in the open chat (this time about why one ability sucks compared to another) and then I got another spam whisper trying to peddle credits to me just so they could get enough pennies together to eat a hot meal and by the time I got to my destination, I couldn’t remember why I was going there in the first place.

Perhaps this is just down to my own expectations, but I can’t believe I’m the only one who thought that the player base of Star Trek Online wouldn’t be the same as World of Warcraft or any other normal MMORPG. But I was wrong. I’m sure there are a few in there exploring the galaxy that aren’t like the rest, that are more mature and don’t particularly care about the DPS of their phaser banks or the DoT of their plasma torpedo and just like the feeling of being ‘in’ Star Trek…but I haven’t found them. I’d go looking for them, but then I’d run up against those stereotypical MMORPG problems over and over and…

You know what? Sod the galaxy. Can I join the Borg?

Can you see your house from here?

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Written by Ian D

Misanthropic git. Dislikes: Most things. Likes: Obscure references.

7 comments

  1. The secret trick to MMO’s is essentially to completely ignore Zone chat or open chat or whatever it calls itself in a particular game. There are some very nice, well mannered people out there playing them, but they’re the kind of people who look at zone chat and sigh with disdain rather than contributing to the mess.

    Unless you’re part of a gaming community that plays games together though, it’s pot luck whether you stumble across one of these so called ‘normal’ people.

  2. steven g /

    Well, a mate of mine has waited 2 years for this game, and so far isn’t that impressed. It seems like a huge IP stuck on top of a very limited IP. There are too many artificial barriers to exploring the universe which suck you out of the imaginative world. Plus the combat sounds clunky and repetitive.

    They have clearly sold a bucket load of copies, so I hope they don’t just run away with the money but invest it in making the game develop. Not just new content, but a version 2.00 of the actual gameplay engine would be ideal in around 12 months. But don’t expect any major changes earlier than that.

  3. Honestly when I first started playing the game I quite enjoyed it. Then the trolls arrived.

    Like many games time will tell and there is alot of development work needed. But the way you can pop in and out of instaces and play big space battles is quite fun.

    Ground based play needs to be developed however the later levels are full of interesting things. WOW Bored me to death with constant DPS bullshit and Gearscore in the end I dropped it

    One thing that is annoying though, you pay 49.99 for the game and Crypic would like another 3.75 to allow you to play as a klingon or ferengi…. RIP OFF anyone

    They have hedged their bets allowing the univers to go subscription free and work off micro transactions or a little of both.

  4. KrazyFace /

    I have no interest in buying this ever, I just read it coz I love your humour Ian! All the ‘Treck aliens look like action men blasted in a microwave, just brilliant.

    Well done.

  5. Thanks very much, Krazy.

    If anyone is interested in those races you need to buy the ability to play as; Cryptic is running a player survey right now that lets you tell them what you think (no need to be kind) and for doing that you get 240 of those Cryptic Points which is enough for either of them.

  6. I have played the open beta and liked it somewhat. It is the star trek, and it is not. I expected something similar to Myst online, where different crew members would have to solve puzzles together, with bare minimum of combat (as seen in TNG) when playing as federation. This could provide tv-like scenarios, which would create long campaign, but it seams that Cryptic opted out for easier solution – arcade and open space with a lot of combat and (have no idea why) warp speed tht is slower than impulse… or snail.

    On the other hand, it is star trek, and I will play it (downloading client now, should start tonight to redo all thing I’ve done in beta). And about trolls… well… the best and worst of any mmo experience are the people. 🙂

  7. half_empty80 /

    A good read Ian D. The best Star Trek game has already been made. “Star Trek TNG A Final Unity”. All original voice cast and script, away missions, combat, point n click interface and published by the mighty microprose.

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