I love space games. I love the Trek franchise in general, if not every piece of it. And I love MMOs.
So Star Trek Online (STO) is going to get some of my money. We can take that as read.
Still, I have some reservations.
The first is based off of my issue with Star Wars Galaxies (SWG). I never played SWG primarily because I could spot a flaw in it a mile away: Everybody wants to be a Jedi.
Okay, some people want to be Darth Vader… hell, I want to be Darth Vader. I want the Imperial March to blare out when I enter a room rather than having to hum it myself! Lore Sjöberg wrote in his Book of Ratings a perception about Darth Vader that I had at age 12, “…this is a man who made some good career choices.” This may explain why I like Star Trek better than Star Wars. In Star Trek I wanted to be Captain Kirk, but in Star Wars I associated primarily with the empire. Would I like Trek as much if I had rooted for the Klingons? Probably not. But I digress.
So SWG had to make a tough choice. Either let everybody become a Jedi, which will piss off the purists and possibly ruin the game, or stick to the Star Wars idea that Jedi are rare, and then the aspirations of most of your player base will go unfulfilled.
STO faces an issue that is similar: Everybody wants to be Captain Kirk, Picard, or other favorite command rank officer… whoever gets to say, “Set course for Talos IV,” that is us.
This isn’t nearly as bad as the SWG situation. Officers commanding Federation starships are a lot more common in the Trek universe than are Jedi in the Star Wars universe. Still, if everybody wants to be the Captain, what will the game be like? Will enough people follow the other professional paths to make for a viable, immersive universe? Or do we all fear to become the mild-mannered science officer Picard from the episode where he gets to see what would have happened if he had avoided that brawl during his academy days?
Peace in Our Time
My second reservation comes from my experience with a couple Trek themed MUD/MUSH games: Business as usual in the 24th century is boring. In the Star Trek universe the Federation is armed but peaceful. Even the page for STO has this quote,
“Stardate 77021.1: As the 25th century approaches, the military conflicts that have plagued the galaxy for untold generations appear to be coming to an end. The prime architect of this unprecedented era of peace, the United Federation of Planets, has begun beating its phasers into plowshares, and has set its gaze on the new frontiers first discovered by adventurous voyagers with names like Picard, Sisko, Janeway, and Kirk.”
Phasers to plowshares? I imagine most people will want to blow things up, to put it in the crudest form possible. You can design clothes in Second Life. You can become a trader or a miner in EVE Online. But if you come to STO, you probably want to join the Federation, visit distant planets, meet strange new races, and kill Klingons. And Romulans. And those strange new races once they start getting on your nerves, prime directive be damned!
The real outlet for this has got to be to let people get in touch with their inner Klingon. The limited information about the game says that you may choose from nine different races, but they will all be in the Federation. We will have to wait for a Klingon Empire expansion before we can shout “Hab SoSlI’ Quch!” and really mean it. According to the site though, such expansions are planned. Go Perpetual!
And, finally, there is the Star Trek curse. As a gaming franchise, Star Trek hasn’t exactly been stellar. The only game from the franchise I still enjoy is Star Fleet Command II, and that is primarily driven from nostalgia for the Star Fleet Battles table top game I played back in the 70’s and 80’s.
I don’t know if Paramount just partners with the wrong people, lacks vision, hasn’t built the brand, or is too protective of their intellectual property, but I am not holding my breath for anything like a LEGO Star Trek: The Original Series game any time soon. (And I so want to see the Star Trek cast in LEGO form! LEGO would own me with that franchise!)
Maybe it is the Star Trek fans themselves. Maybe we’re an aging demographic. Or maybe we’re all just waiting for immersive Star Trek experience. Could this be it?