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Reader Comments (23)

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 9:47AM Tom in VA said

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"This is totally conjecture, but it kind of sounds as if players aren't necessarily logging a whole lot of hours -- they're hopping in for dailies or for the new weekly episodes, as Stahl mentions, but not doing much else."

Perhaps that's because there's not that much else to do.

I have been playing -- and enjoying, mostly -- STO for the past couple of weeks.

Once in a while I'll happen upon a quest series that's pretty fun and reminiscent of what Star Trek is all about. I really like that.

But so many (too many) of the exploratory missions are uninspired: beam down to a planet and collect 5 plant samples. Sheesh. Beam aboard a space station and access 5 (5, always 5!) computers. Yawn. Destroy 5 (5 again!) squadrons of Gorn/Klingon/You-Name-It ships circling a planet/asteroid belt/nebula. Deja-vu all over again.

I do not side with those who say STO doesn't "feel" like Star Trek; I actually think it does, but only occasionally.

My recommendations for this game are:

(1) Revamp Sector Space -- In my opinion, you should just be able to map travel (a la Guild Wars) to your desired location. Getting around in this game is beyond tedious, like watching paint dry.

(2) Add more PvE Klingon-side content (adding a Mission Creator may address this issue in part)

(3) Allow players to customize their Mission/Episode log so we don't get "faked out" by PvP and/or repeat missions. I would love to be able to restrict my missions by type of mission (repeatable, diplomatic, exploratory, PvP, story, etc.) -- most of these I only want to do ONCE, thanks all the same. After that, they need to disappear off my radar.

(4) Improve the AI customizability of the Bridge Officers. (Look at the Heroes in Guild Wars as your model, Cryptic.)

Fortunately, I think Cryptic is on the way toward making improvements in all of these areas; whether they can do this quickly enough to keep me in the game is another matter.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 11:33AM Meurik said

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(1) Revamp Sector Space -- In my opinion, you should just be able to map travel (a la Guild Wars) to your desired location. Getting around in this game is beyond tedious, like watching paint dry.

Personally, i'd like to see it revamped like this:

Keep it exactly the way it is right now, although modify it so that your ship is moving around at "high impulse" speeds. The moment you've selected a course by selecting a system name in the "System List", you engage your warpdrive, the camera "distorts" and your ship flys off towards it's destination. While at warp, you generally can't be interrupted by outside influence other than spatial anomalies, or "very powerful enemies". If the player decides to turn his/her ship even slightly, the ship will "drop out" of warp and you'd be back at high impulse speeds.
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Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 9:49AM (Unverified) said

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I can tell you Im a life time sub. I log on now maby once a month. I find that anytime I need to be a on the ground its very bad. Severe ruberbanding at this point is past the point of rediculous. When this happens I just log out. When something stops being fun then whats the point. At this point I really have buyers remourse.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 9:52AM Ocho said

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I think for the most part, you're spot on in your assessment, albeit maybe a little too "glass half empty". When it comes to the "churning", I feel that every game goes through that and in my opinion, "churning" doesn't sound like they're gaining or losing as much as just holding steady. The increase in lifetime subs, though, is encouraging as, you point out, people have decided to bust open the wallet saying "I really think this game is going places." And when you have enough people paying $300 to say that, thats encouragement indeed. (Sidenote, my guess is most people buying lifetime are either new or haven't played for a long time... if you sub for a long time, spending the extra doesn't feel as much of a value as just shelling it out all at once... and people want value)

The microtransations I see as a revamp of their image. Sure, they have a shop, but thats to allow a small stream of income on top of the subs... but I believe he's saying that he's trying to change the game's image from "pay to win" (as lets face it, those ships have better stats than the ones you can just purchase in-game) to convenience or cosmetic items only.... and if its just convenience/cosmetic items then you really can't call their shop out of line. Why would they kill a lucrative portion, if not that its compromise would invite more revenue?

But the good stuff sounds nice. Ground combat sounds like they're turning it into a FPS for those interested. Which is nice, but doesn't thrill me too much. I'd much rather have fixes in enemy and NPC AI and more controlled combat, instead of the frantic-pace/people running everywhere type thing we have now. I guess I'd rather have it be more RTS than FPS, but thats just me, and I'm sure the FPS is going to be more fun, but it certainly won't 'fix' ground combat.

The part that excites me? Revamping of Sector Space. I have an idea of what it could be in my head, but thats a longshot and don't want to get my hopes up too high. But any real improvement to sector space would be a huge improvement to the game. The rest of it... better loot (for the stat cruchers), class importance (for the WoW crowd), and the redesigned remote contact display (for the ST fans)... all sound like they'll appease and make the game more enjoyable for everyone.

Just my long, rambling thoughts...

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 9:55AM Snichy said

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I have a lifetime subscription bought not long after it was released but dont play nowadays. I logged in again a few days ago to check out the changes since launch and started a new character (incidently, there were only 90 people online across all instances in the starter zones, dont know if thats relevent!). After a few days of entertaining play, I still got a bit bored of its lack of depth and immersion and it again got me thinking how good this game COULD have been and what I would have done different, and in the end these negative thoughts made me decide not to persevere with it as I just couldnt see myself sticking with it until max level and beyond.

However "new ground combat" and "revamped sector space" in the fuure will definitely result in me playing again once its implemented (if its done properly). Say what you want about Cryptic, they are trying their best to implement improvements based on player feedback...!

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 10:20AM (Unverified) said

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"This is totally conjecture, but it kind of sounds as if players aren't necessarily logging a whole lot of hours -- they're hopping in for dailies or for the new weekly episodes, as Stahl mentions, but not doing much else."

This is what happened to me as well. I played the game every day, but after a while it came down to finishing my dailies and upgrading my ship. Once I had all the upgrades I wanted, there was nothing else to do. I felt like I beat the game since I had everything I wanted, so I ended my subscription. This was before the new weekly missions, but even those haven't interested me enough to come back just yet. I may come back in a year once there is more to do.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 10:23AM Skyydragonn said

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All I can say is that I'm blessedly reminded of all the reasons I avoided the title.
Everytime I see an article about it, I remember why I stayed away, and why I dropped CO as well. Frankly Cryptic has rehashed the same game three times now and somehow managed to sell it enough for people to buy simply based on the attached licence. Shameful really.
As much as I am a fan of the star trek franchise ( DS9 ftw) I feel sorry for anyone who thinks this game was even remotely faithful to its licence/setting.

Posted: Sep 24th 2010 5:11AM Snichy said

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Strong words, considering you never actually played the game!
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Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 10:24AM (Unverified) said

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If they make sector space function more like EVE, and incorporate exploration and random encounters with that type of open travel, then they'd be onto something. I don't know if that engine can handle that kind of openness, though.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 10:46AM benfolds said

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I think the engine Cryptic has could handle the things Xytty includes in his comments like open travel. I don't really think they need to instance it to incorporate it. If you really look at their engine, they have an amazing one, and I don't think it has even come close to being pushed to the limits. I play STO reguarly and it has improved greatly since launch. I does have a way to go, but think of what it could be another 6 months into existence. We have a very good Exec. producer in DStahl, and he is proving his worth IMO. That move alone has paid HUGE. If you read his state of games or engineering reports, you can't help but be positive about the games future.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 11:00AM (Unverified) said

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Sooooooo why is the word "churn" so vague? It's a term that is actually used in business! /gasp! And for people who work in such businesses, the word churn is definitely NOT the "least alarming euphamism" a person can come up with. It means a loss of subscribers or a loss of clientele (or a loss of workers, for that matter). It means people are leaving. A 'churn rate' would refer to how many people are leaving compared to how many are joining. It applies to a company's customers and it applies to their workforce as well. Churn is a very bad word to folks in the business world & there's nothing cryptic about it (pun not intended).

For some odd reason, i'm a bit offended that the author did not know this.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 6:10PM SocksForYou said

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Exactly. "Churn" is almost always referencing something negative in a business context.
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Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 11:39AM J Brad Hicks said

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I agree with you on the churn and why it's worrying. On the other hand, EVE had high churn its first couple of years, too; in MMOs, steady improvement is what wins the race. Stahl is right to be inordinately proud of Weekly Episodes, and should be even prouder than he is that STO ships a major upgrade every two months.

I think you're reading "statistical play data" wrong; I don't think the stats he's talking about are about the previous subject, but about game balance and how people are actually playing the game. There are a ton of complaints about PvP balance (in particular, you almost have to be a masochist to fly a bird of prey or a science vessel in PvP.) There are even complaints about PvE balance. I think their data mining about which powers people actually use, and how they use them, are why the last several ship designs, basically everything since the Kar-Fi carrier, have had more versatile bridge officer station layouts, less specialized, and he's also said that the person in charge of ship design wants to go back and revisit bridge officer layouts on all the ships that were available on launch day, and stats on a few of them. Data mining is good.

(I hope they're also data-mining the fleet actions, which are horribly un-fun and horribly inefficient ways to level as well; it'd improve the game for me if every single one of 'em got rebalanced and the whole UI for fleet actions got improved no later than season 4.)

I'm a little disappointed that he didn't mention my biggest complaint about the game: all indoor instances look like garbage. When they designed their Genesis System for creating instance maps, they did a nothing less than amazing job on planetary surface outdoors areas, I'm routinely struck, even after all these months, by how beautiful wilderness areas are. But as soon as you go indoors, we're back in 1985 nethack with surfaces that wouldn't look unusually detailed by Castle Wulfenstein standards.

I'm glad that he admitted that he's as unhappy with the state of ground combat as we are; the single biggest complaint about STO is that ground combat feels nothing like Star Trek. Nor are the complaints new; they are the same complaints we were making before the game even hit beta, back when Emmert first announced the design: characters in Star Trek don't stand or crouch out in the open and shoot targets six to twelve times to wear them down. This is not something that sticking a first-person aiming reticle onto the game is going to help, frankly. The problem is more basic than that:

1) Players in MMOs hate missing. Energy weapons in Star Trek are horribly inaccurate (except when they're not); most shots go wild. That's why, in real Star Trek, almost every on-screen character with a name, any equivalent of a miniboss or end boss, can only be defeated via melee. (And I will say, in passing, that unarmed combat in STO desperately needs about a 25% DPS buff. It never took Archer or Kirk anywhere near this long to beat people down.)

2) Players in MMOs hate getting one-shot killed. In Star Trek, getting hit even once with an energy weapon means that you are down until a medic gets to you.

3) Players in MMOs expect in-combat healing. In Star Trek, there is no in-combat healing; if you get stunned, you lay there until the fight is over.

4) Cryptic Engine, even Cryptic Engine 2, doesn't support cover. The game has no way to calculate, on the fly, what percentage of you is showing to the enemy at the exact time they fire their disruptor or phaser. So there's no easy way, in game, to reward players for shooting from behind desks or behind crates or behind door frames or behind bulkheads.

If you accept that what they had to do was design a game around those constraints, what they came up with was actually probably about as good as anyone could make under the same constraints; the away team design is, I still think, nothing less than brilliant.

Problems 1 through 3 could be fixed without any changes to Cryptic Engine, but it would take real guts, especially now that the game has shipped. They could give every minion-level NPC a 0% chance to dodge ranged, and throw tons of them at you in waves; they could give player characters and away team NPCs and minibosses and end bosses a much higher chance to dodge ranged. Given that you almost always have five characters with you, they could allow one-shot perma-stuns, where as long as one player or one away team NPC is still standing at the end of the fight they can get everybody up. And if they went with one-shot perma-stun, they absolutely could eliminate in-combat healing; to make medics even vaguely useful on away teams, they'd then need to eliminate injury-removal consumables and make injury removal a medic-only ability, replace the rest of their abilities with (say) out-of-combat long duration buffs. Problem 4 could conceivably be fixed if they copied the design that SWTOR is using for smugglers; mark invisible spots on the floor that are linked to invisible triangular "shadow" debuff zones, crouch in such a spot to apply an accuracy debuff to every NPC that's standing or crouching in the shadow zone; it'd be insanely expensive to go through and edit those zones into every map, but it could be done.

But even if they did all that, even if they made ground combat actually Trek-like, it would be a bold design, unlike any other MMO out there, and that's financially risky; the more so, now that people are used to it the way it is. (Comparisons to SWG CU and NGE would be inevitable.)

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 11:49AM benfolds said

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The author of this column I think is really good at what he does. No need to flame on him. Don't like it, don't read it. Just that simple.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 6:58PM Samael said

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So basically if you have nothing nice to say about the game do not say anything? I see how that works.
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Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 11:53AM (Unverified) said

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Unfortunately, Cryptic seems more interested in stuffing the C-Store full of useless stuff and cosmetic enhancements instead of fixing what's severely wrong with the game and what finally drove me away.

1. Ground combat and away missions are tedious and more something to just be done with rather than enjoyed. Like someone previous to me mentioned; beam down, collect some samples and beam up. Mow through monotonous groups of baddies, click a console, mow through more baddies, beam up.

2. Planets are seriously underutilized. Although I don't play SWG anymore, look at how they did planets. You've got living worlds to explore with cities and places to be populated.

3. Space combat is all the same. The enemy models change, but that's about it. Let's get some new abilities in there and some better AI to change things up. Make them do the unexpected and keep the players on their toes.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 12:14PM Controlled Chaos said

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I have to admit, the whole thing reeks of damage control. When I read that and the article, I lapse back to the Simpsons episode of when his roast pig gets tossed away, "It's just a dirty, it's still good! It's still good! It's just a little damp, it's still good! It's still good!"

I honestly feel a little bad for the lifetime subscribers for the simple reason that they aren't able to pull out of this mess if they want to. The game is reasonable, it has its fun spots, but dear lord, how little content, how many bugs and how much crap can one put up with before they say screw it and just leave the game? People's complaints, I figure, are completely valid because they are paying $15 a month, plus C-Store transactions, to play a game they claimed from the get go would be good. If you're steadily paying for something, it better be good.

Also, the phrase, "New ground combat -- "We have a new ground combat mode in testing that allows you to switch to a target reticule and shoot your weapons where you are aiming."" makes me shake my head a bit. We'll let you shoot where you're aiming! Seriously, most people would read that and go, "...what? It doesn't let you shoot where you aim?"

Come on, Cryptic. Do your fans an actual service.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 2:34PM Lateris said

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I am going to wait until fall 2012 to see how the game is. By then these issues should be fixed.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 3:13PM Pojoh said

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I really enjoy STO, and am having fun, but it's a distraction title for me. When I'm tired of Deed grinding in Lotro, I head to STO for a break, and enjoy all the pew pew. I think Novembers big update will resolve alot of issues, and am looking forward to it.

Posted: Sep 23rd 2010 4:05PM Harley Dude said

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"Not only is Cryptic seeing "an increase in lifetime subscriptions," new players also "continue to log in for the first time.""

Yawn. If one person bought a LTS since the last SotG, that statement can be factually correct, but meaningless at best. Same with new players logging on. Don't they have a free trial? If there sub numbers were growing, why not just say so?

More BS spin.

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