Star Trek Online: Explore ‘Em Up

By Jim Rossignol on August 26th, 2008 at 9:52 am.


VG247 point out this fan Q&A in which Cryptic studios executive producer Craig “Zinc” Zinkievich affirmed that players in Star Trek Online would be expected to explore space, and not just grind missions for Starfleet.

“So we don’t view exploration as a ‘break’ from other gameplay – it’s integral. Expect to be encouraged to boldly go! And as an incentive to explore space, discovering new civilizations is one of the major ways to open up new resources and equipment and make new alien recruits available to you, your fleet and your faction.”

That sounds pretty positive to me – although I wonder how quickly gamers will explore up the galaxy if it’s pre-made. (“We can’t land here, it’s a level 36 planet!”)

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17 Comments »

  1. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Luckily, the Star Trek universe is an advanced one and restrictions can easily be explained by red tape. (“We can’t land there, we need a G-52 red form signed by an Admiral.”

  2. Duoae says:

    That sounds pretty positive to me – although I wonder how quickly gamers will explore up the galaxy if it’s pre-made

    That sounds really confusing… i mean, i’d understand if exploring availed the exploring player the resources and alien crew members etc but the faction/other players? How are they going to balance this? If i join the game a year after release is there going to be anywhere left for me to explore? Unless they plan on exponentially expanding space/the universe or set limits on actual travel through space meaning that time taken to travel somewhere is a factor i’m extremely sceptical of this mechanic :/

  3. Esha says:

    I’m not all that skeptical, this could be incredible if done well. And to be honest, I think I know how they’re going to pull it off.

    Who remembers Daggerfall? Hands up! It’s not that old, so you all should. That used a procedural system for generating land and dungeons. You could go into a dungeon and it would be a custom dungeon crafted primarily for that dungeon run. It was incredible, it was incredible at the time and I’ve played it recently too, it’s still incredible. Morrowind and Oblivion are MUCH less incredible because they didn’t embrace that.

    Also, take a look at Love, the MMORPG that has landscapes that look as if they were painted. Screenshots that show amazing vistas and views have been presented to us, everything from rolling fields to shattered, rocky lands. The variety in Love has been astounding, and almost all of it is generated on the fly by procedural code. That’s fantastic.

    I suspect you, dear reader, already see where I’m going with this?

    Take what Love has and put it in the hands of a developer like Cryptic, with the funding of the Star Trek license behind them. What you might end up with is a procedural system made with today’s technology. I salivate at this concept. Procedurally generated technology, cultures, planets, aliens… the whole lot could be handled that way.

    “Hello Earth-thing, we are the Eptulons, known throughout the quadrant for our beautiful, sentient tapestries that tell you the future! Behold our barren and rocky planet, while unhospitable to your primitive eyes, it is beauty in motion to us.”

    So basically, one could pick a direction, or a quadrant and “warp” there, warping could be much like entering a dungeon in Daggerfall. And as I mentioned above, you could enter into your own procedurally generated sector of space, created just for you to explore and benefit from.

    The game could then provide the option of refining the generated mish-mash into something more cohesive and special by indoctrinating the race into the [faction] and guiding the development of their culture and Sciences. Once a generated sector has been “claimed” in this way, it could be made open and added to the Universe so other people could see what you’ve discovered, but due to the way it works only you could’ve discovered it.

    “I’m a Klingon, I have 2 million neutron cannons aimed at your Planet. Now repeat after me: My race is known as the Dill-Rats.”

    So if they did take the procedural route, and they did it well, this could be one of the better MMOs out there for people like myself, who prefer wandering and discovering over all that slapping “enemy players” with “swords”. (I couldn’t resist, sorry.)

  4. CPY says:

    Beam me up Scooty! XD
    I love startrek series and i wonder how they do the game, like you roam on space ship and teleport for missions or what?

  5. alphaxion says:

    Starting to sound a lot better.

    As long as they stay away from “I need you to mine and run x amount of delerium to my trading partner in the gamma quadrent”

    Tho an aspect I might find interesting would be the ferenghi – space salvagers.

  6. Shadowmancer says:

    Is it just the federation thats playable or can you play as borg or klingon?

  7. Chaz says:

    Star Trek tip: Never visit a strange planet without taking a few guys wearing red jumpers with you.

  8. Sal says:

    sounds like it will be turned into explore missions…therefore be a grind

  9. Citizen Parker says:

    Also worth reading is Tom Chick’s writeup on the game. I was never much for Trek, but this is sounding pretty enticing.

  10. Carl Van Ness says:

    Noctis++ ?

  11. kenoxite says:

    Well, lots of promise there. Let’s see how all this ends.

    @Esha: while I’d love to see all that procedurally implemented as much as you do I don’t think that’s what they mean with “open up new resources and equipment and make new alien recruits available to you”. It looks to me it’s just like Sid Meier’s Pirates taverns and ports. That’ll be all you’ll see from the planet “culture, people et al”. A preset place with preset options. You may have the procedural planet topography to fly by, as in Infinity, but that’ll be probably just all. I wouldn’t be too excited about this feature, TBH.

  12. Esha says:

    @Carl Van Ness

    Thank you! I was trying to remember that name almost all the time I was writing that post, it never came to me so I couldn’t use it as an example. But Noctis is another fantastic example of an exploration-biased procedural game/experience.

    @kenoxite

    [quote] while I’d love to see all that procedurally implemented as much as you do I don’t think that’s what they mean with “open up new resources and equipment and make new alien recruits available to you”. It looks to me it’s just like Sid Meier’s Pirates taverns and ports. That’ll be all you’ll see from the planet “culture, people et al”. [end quote]

    I never claimed anything of the sort. I was actually just talking about the overall appearance of the planets, the layout of the solar systems, the names of various things (perhaps even the names of resources).

    The only other thing element I implied is that you may get the chance to do some dialogue bits with the aliens (woe betide Cryptic if they deny us that) and what the aliens say about their World and their culture might work on a similar algorithmic basis.

    It would actually make perfect sense to have static options as to resource gathering (including sentient bipedal resources) and use, but that would be something entirely different to the exploration element I was talking about.

    What I was trying to convey was that there would be a procedural element to the look of things as you explored a new area. I don’t think they’d have many fans if all they did was had different solar system configurations and called it done (which would tie into the ports/taverns element of what you said). I think they’ll go a little further than that with the visuals and the dialog.

    But that’s just my opinion, I just wanted to make it absolutely clear as to what I was giving an opinion on.

  13. Duoae says:

    @Esha:

    While i understand your idea – and it’s not a bad one – reflected by the link to Tom Chick’s article:

    Player vs. player combat will be a part of the game. Also, there will be some sort of “infinite exploration” to encourage gameplay beyond combat. The implication seems to be dynamically generated worlds and civilizations, which give players who discover them bonuses in the form or resources, technologies, and crew members.

    I just don’t think it would work. If it were one or two people doing this exploration in a game (starting from scratch when you started a new character) then it would be fine. But the logistics of having possibly hundreds of thousands of players each ‘creating’ tens of solar systems a day seem to be unworkable to me.

    If each solar system was ‘clearable’ and did not affect the game in a long term sense then i could understand this feature but if they are usable as resources then they must also be available to other players to be found and turned to their own uses or destroyed to reduce the influx of resources to a rival faction. Otherwise there’d be a neverending escalation of resources.

    If there really was a system of dynamically generated content then the universe would spiral out of all sensible control and end up being un-navigable and be very confusing. Plotting these new systems on an ever expanding map would be impossible….. especially to be available to every other player on the server.

  14. Jochen Scheisse says:

    The point is, depending on where the system is, chances for visits to it would actually be rather small and those systems could be stored on a room base, where systems and planets get set up as soon as you actually go there.

    My fear is that the task is just too mammoth, but I wish them good luck. The game they are planning sounds awesome.

  15. kenoxite says:

    @Esha: Ok. I guess they are seriously thinking about procedural systems and planet creations, though, as it seems to be the next-big-thing-that-is-not-so-next (at least in singleplayer space games). The rest, we’ll see. As Jochen and Duoa already said it’s a gigantic feature depending on how they implement it.

    Anyway, I hope they include a quick way to go back to the “known space” to repair, go shopping or whatever you need to do to keep trekking in space. Being 2 hundred light years away from the last gas station and run out of fuel (or whatever they use) doesn’t sound pretty. Space Leatherface would probably slaughter all the crew (non-virgins and weed smokers first, obviously).

  16. malkav11 says:

    Daggerfall is an excellent example of why I seriously distrust the idea of procedural content generation on a large scale. There’s not much “exploration” to be had when there’s nothing interesting or distinctive to discover and the land is entirely populated with slightly randomized clones on autopilot. It’s huge, but there’s more interesting stuff to do and investigate in one of Morrowind’s towns than in 10,000 of Daggerfall’s.

  17. Noc says:

    I remember reading an interview with the guy behind Dwarf Fortress where he talks about how, if you get down to it, you can distill most fantasy stories down to a bunch of discrete types of events. And what DF does is create a system for procedurally generating those events, and the result does, in fact, read a lot like a proper story. At least it does once you get past the clearly modular syntax.

    Since Star Trek, and it’s brand of sci-fi in general is almost as formulaic as generic fantasy, I can see the same sort of thing working here. You’ve got a lot of modular bits to work with (It’s a [Frozen, temperate, desert] planet with a [tribal, pre-industrial, space-age, developed] civilization, with [one, two, three] dominant nations which are at [peace, cooperation towards a mutual goal, recently at war, eternally at war]. The dominant system of government is [Theocracy, paganism, democracy, totalitarianism], the civilization tends to be [peaceful, warlike, nomadic, mercantile, monastic], and interestingly they seem to [practice slavery, need a specific resource to survive in the climate, have a prophecy that deals with outsiders,] etc etc etc.) Given these elements, a way of coming up with and assigning idiosyncrasies, and a procedural way of generating face-putty variations, you’ve got a pretty solid basis for procedurally generating plenty of planets that wouldn’t look out of place in the Star Trek setting.

    All they have to do then is a) paint over the seems so it’s not painfully obvious how cobbled together it is (something DF’s never really been concerned with) and b) come up with some meaningful ways to interact with the civilization. The danger, of course, is that you’ll start repetitions of the same theme (Oh, it’s just another warlike desert tribe again), but that’s the design challenge, isn’t it?

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