Star Trek Online: Beam Me Up, Scotty?
Anyone who follows my various blogs knows that I'm an avid Star Wars fan. What you may not know is that I'm quite the Star Trek fan as well. Am I a geek? Hell, yeah. And proud of it.
As with any flashy film or television franchise, Star Trek has a checkered history when it comes to video games. For every Star Trek: Elite Force there's a Star Trek: New Worlds.
I first heard rumors about a Star Trek MMORPG (massively multi-player online role-playing game) in 2004. I had been a beta-tester on Star Wars Galaxies, which was my first MMORPG experience (I played Galaxies for another 3 years or so). I found the notion of a Star Trek game set in this format to be quite intriguing. As with Star Wars, Star Trek is a giant invention of worlds, beings, vehicles, and adventure. The possibilities were endless.
But the game's development seemed to go into limbo. It became one of those games that you hear about, but never see. Duke Nukem anyone?
In a nutshell, here's what happened: from 2004 to 2008, Perpetual Studios developed Star Trek Online-then went bankrupt. The licensing and all art design were transferred to Cryptic Studios, makers of the successful City of Heroes series of MMORPG games.
Set 30 years after the events of the film Star Trek: Nemesis, the game chronicles the crumbling of the Khitomer Accords (the peace treaty between The Federation and the Klingon Empire). They are now at war. Other alien species such as the Gorn and the Romulans have fallen in with one side or the other.
This doesn't sound like the Star Trek I know. You know, the "explore all worlds, seek out other life-forms" etc. It sounds more like a lot of ass-kicking.
Lots of promises were made concerning game-play. These include the ability to design your own captain and crew, (including hundreds of skills, weapons, armor, and equipment) and customizable Federation and Klingon ships that you command. It was also touted as being the first AAA MMO to contain both ground- and space-combat at launch.
AAA is just shorthand for saying, "Hey, we spent a ton of money on this game and its ad campaign."
MMORPG gamers (including myself) worry when we see this, as it usually implies just the opposite. In other words, while the company may have spent a ton on the product, we know that we're gonna get something that's full of glitches and probably unfinished.
But I must admit to getting excited as the little preview videos hit the Internet. First the trailer for the game:
Then Cryptic Studios released two videos covering specific aspects of the game. Here is the Exploration video:
Hmmm... looks like a lot of combat going on...
I feel that starship customization a very important element of the game.
Looks pretty cool, eh?
On February 2, 2010, Star Trek Online was released in the United States.
was greeted with mixed reviews. Many players praised the graphics and
the space combat mechanics. Some even went on to say that the game
captures the feel of Star Trek thanks to the immense amount of
references to lore and a story continuity that continues after the
events of the recent film (which opened up a parallel universe in a
totally different timeline).
Graphics and character generation were also praised, with the character creation being called one of the best available in an MMORPG.
As with many MMORPGs at inception, this game arrived with problems. The AAA curse is in full swing here.
First we have "grind" issues. "Grinding" is essentially performing repetitive actions to reach the end of a quest. Apparently Star Trek Online suffers from this.
Given the huge, compelling nature of the Star Trek universe, this should have been one issue easily avoided. Hopefully patches and updates of the game will resolve this problem, as it makes MMORPGs just plain boring at times.
Then we have the fact that it is not a true MMO. This is due to the game being highly "instanced." What this means is that no more than roughly 50 players at a time can be in the same area. While this avoids lag (a game-killing slowdown of graphics and sound), it also takes away the giant feeling of living in a huge, populated universe.
But the worst sin involves the twisting of the dynamic Star Trek universe into an action packed space combat game. "Alabaster Jones ‘perpenhopher'," in his review on Amazon, addressed the problem very succinctly:
"What Cryptic has done here is taken all the 40+ years of lore, all the potential for a massive and engaging game, all the many varied aspects of Star Trek, and they distilled it to a very, very simplistic space shooter that feels about as massive as a shoebox."
That's the kind of thing that churns a Trekkie's stomach.
But even with all of its problems, I find Star Trek Online intriguing. MMORPGs have the ability to not only expand in size and story, but to also fix the problems that players have-though that is quite tricky.
I'm willing to give it a shot and trust that the issues will be settled with updates and expansion packs. After all, the 2009 Star Trek film was pretty action packed-and also one of the best forays into that universe ever made.
Oh, and as a side note: "summitus" has posted a ton of his game-play-in chronological order, starting during the first hour of play-on YouTube. This is a really great representation of the current status of game-play for Star Trek Online: