28th Feb2010

Hey Star Trek! gotchoo FIRST, BEST DESTINY!?

by jerad.formby

Captain of a starship. Is it your first, best destiny?

Star Trek: Online thinks it is and now that we’ve played through Beta and the first month of it going live, we thought important to communicate our true and real impressions.

The last time we visited this topic, admittedly, the post was not serious in anyway and was written without experience with the game.

The MMORPG is an exciting beast in the world of videogames. They are adventures in real time that you can share with people from around the world. And we’ve never played one before.

We remember when Star Wars: Galaxies launched, but we did not play it. The Internet cafes were ablaze with Star Wars fans carving out their own little chunk of a galaxy far, far away. Someone remarked to a friend of ours that he had logged eighty hours practicing his space instrument: a space flute.

Our friend said to him: “Dude, in eighty hours you could have learned the real flute.”

This story made us chuckle, but we knew deep down inside that, if we had the opportunity, we’d carve a delicious slab of Star Wars and veg-out for all eternity. So we didn’t try it.

City of Heroes was another people were excited for and of course the elephant in the room was (and is) World of Warcraft. When that game launched lots of people immediately close to us dropped right into a world of fantasy and spent hours of their time “leveling up,” participating in cooperative missions (which were scheduled), and doing things called PVP (player versus player).

All of it sounded exciting to us, but again we never went near it.

The Star Trek universe, however, is too hard to resist. As the launch date grew closer, we read information passively and silently made the promise that we wouldn’t play. We just understood that our time could be spent better in other ways.

Then it occurred to us that there are a handful of wasted hours in a lot of our nights. Those hours are spent usually refreshing our facebook account, reading through twitter, or clicking on links of nerd news.

Running a Starship could definitely find a slot in those sorts of odd hours. And so we got one.

Immediately, Darren Benjamin from our own favorite podcast ensured I had the ability to use my microphone to speak with other members in our fleet. This strange bonus has made the game just a little bit more fun.

To speak with old friends and new friends alike while running around the galaxy is one of the most exciting uses for the Internet we’ve ever encountered. If you’ve never been, it’s highly recommended.

We’re writing you from the Regulus Sector.

Yes, this game is combat heavy. Yes, there are a few missions where combat isn’t necessary.

Yes, the combat is fun –but we prefer the ground-based missions (where all of our hardwork in making a hot girl to look at pays off).

One thing we’re really enjoying is the programmer’s interest in giving us a Star Trek story. There is an introductory mission early on in the game where you need to “escort the Vulcan ambassador to P’jem.”

The mission is very Star Trek in nature.

Once there, the Klingons meet you in orbit and want to take the Ambassador by force. They claim the ambassador isn’t truly Vulcan, but a monstrous alien from species 8472 –you remember those guys from Voyager?

After making dust of the Birds of Prey, you beam down to the planet’s surface and engage Klingon ground troops on your way to the monastery. The ambassador waits patiently on your aptly named Starship while you make it safe.

Once you’ve achieved the second goal, you discover…

After failing to kill the Ambassador, you end up fighting the Klingons some more.

This is where we stop the phone call.

Wha-wha-wha!? How can we now dispatch Klingons when we know now that they were right about the Ambassador? Isn’t this the point where the Klingons ally themselves with you and together you scour the planet’s surface to look for the creature?

Maybe it’s the invented politics for Star Trek: Online that won’t allow for such an allegiance, but try telling that to Deep Space Nine’s “To the Death.”

This disappointing experience with Star Trek: Online is not enough to make us walk away. It truly is too much fun to run around familiar locales while talking to friends and earning your character merits (which gets you promotions).

The disappointing details are not enough to make us stop playing, but we can’t help but wonder if they wouldn’t mind patching that story to make it better. A “patch” is new game code that will download to your game when you launch it. This is how they correct problems –we think they should sneak in some story tweaks too.

I (My character) attended my (her) promotion ceremony from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander (a single nerdy tear might have fallen). This in-game moment was spectacular (our own Damon from Detroit even came by to watch). I (She) turned from the podium to find a room full of characters saluting me (her) all at once.

In a huge hurry, I sought the command to salute them all back.

And then I (my character) walked away, touched and excited.

It occurred to me (me) after the fact that the entire moment was entirely not Star Trek. The disappointment is found in the salute, gentle reader!

Brothers and sisters, we’ve written about how Star Trek’s Starfleet is not a military organization!. We know some of you dispute this claim, but even if you don’t take our idea to heart, you should listen to Gene Roddenberry.

He fought against saluting actively through the Original Series and didn’t let the salute into Star Trek: II (the introduction of a more military Starfleet). This detail, which has been lost on the game’s programmers, definitely needs a patch.

What we would suggest as an alternative would be having these NPCs simply stand at attention in your presence and if you want to blow out the ceremony –perhaps have them stand in two lines facing you. Then you can proceed on a walk through with all the respect given Admiral Kirk when he stepped onto Spock’s Enterprise.

Maybe it’s not as formal as the salute, but it’s as formal as Roddenberry ever wanted Star Trek to be.

This isn’t a storytelling complaint or simple case of differing opinion about what Star Trek is. This is Star Trek: Online flying in the face of its creator and this detail should be taken out of the game.

Again. The existence of the salute is not enough to make us stop playing. The game itself is a lot of fun. There is something to be said for designing and naming your own starship. There is something to be said for designing your uniform.

Another thing we love about Star Trek: Online is that the uniforms are customary. You can wear an outfit from any era of Trek or pick from their own line of “current uniforms.” This approach feels very Roddenberry (especially when you remember the Original Series featured different insignias depending on one’s ship).

Overall, we can’t recommend the game enough. We’ll understand if you won’t pick it up for one reason or another (we’ve certainly let many go past us). We’ll understand if you want to wait and see if it has any staying power (some of these games stop because they lose popularity).

But we will send you a postcard from the Alpha Quadrant.

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  • http://Trekcast.com Alpha Flyer

    thanks i have been um and ah about this game hearing good things and bad plus my graphics card is only 128mb, so i guess i need to upgrade, but at least i am closer to gettng a new laptop and playing this game.

  • Geohazard

    I hate to break it to you, Jared, but Starfleet IS a military organization! The Federation isn’t, but Starfleet is the military branch of the Federation (it’s essentially their Navy). Saluting in the game is very appropriate because you ARE a military officer. If Roddenberry didn’t want this, he wouldn’t have given them ranks, and we would have something closer to “Firefly.” Also the mission you described in STO DOES have you ally with the Klingons to destroy the Undine ship, so your complaint isn’t valid. If you had read the dialogue prior to combat the Klingons attack you after you return from your ship because they think you have shapeshifters onboard (if you question the “trek” feel of that, then you must not like Season 4 of DS9 do you?).

    Finally I am playing the game at full resolution, medium graphic detail at 40 FPS on a 5 year old iMac running windows xp sp2 through boot camp. Any computer made during or after that period of time with a similar graphics card (ATI X1600) will play the game just fine. No more excuses no get out there and play STO! It’s not the best game but it’s a damn fun Trek experience!! Q’plah!

  • http://twitter.com/super_spock jerad.formby

    @gemohazard Yeah, I played the mission and I read the dialogue, my friend… but dang dang dang was that a tough push (through my supposed allies) just to get back up to the ship so that I could join up with the Klingons –and I read their final harrowing words of warning.

    And I loooooooove Season 4 of DS9. “To The Death” which was referenced in this article was the exact instance of Trek I wanted to see rubbed on the Klingon ground mission.

    The saluting issue is still an issue because while I grant you that Starfleet is perhaps an “armed” branch of the Federation, it’s peacekeeper, etc… it is a more evolved concept for sure. As far as Roddenberry not wanting saluting, believe me, I’m not making that up. The ranks are intact because someone needs to make the big decisions, but as far as the requirement of demonstrating respect… that was never required in Star Trek. The respect was already there.

    It’s the ritual of demonstrating the respect that Roddenberry had a problem with. He envisioned a future that wasn’t hung up on something as archaic as a salute. I’ve heard that in some Trek literature salutes are said to be ancient, fallen out of use, and hardly ever used –but when used it’s the highest form of respect.

    That works fine, but STO stands as a gigantic work –the newest contribution to Trek in an exciting new form and as such ought to re-examine its creators wishes and take care of this uninspired bit of coding because it’s not part of Star Trek proper. The proper Star Trek order of respect has always been “stand at attention” and “hands at your sides.” It’s been that way through all of the canon Trek and so I see no reason for STO to go out of its way to embrace something that lazily calls back the “real world” we all know now.

    I can play the game just fine and I am. Unfortunately, for now I am AFK in a big way (out of state) and can’t wait to return and level up my career.

    Thanks for your remarks!