Wednesday, March 18, 2009

STO: Design a Mission #1

Star Trek has always been about more than just combat. Problem solving, diplomacy, trickery, plot devices are all part of how things get done in the universe. In MMO's, quests are nearly always Kill X amount of this, go get this or go click on this. Trying to shoe-horn this into STO would be a very big disappointment for me.

Making quests better is easier said than done. Luckily, the Star Trek Universe has a huge amount of situations to draw from. It might be a fun exercise to take an episode and make it into a quest chain.

Episode: The Masterpiece Society (Season 5)
Goal: Save the colony

Start: Given a mission to investigate the Stellar Core a fragment.
Step 1: On arrival (or on scan), human colony detected. New mission, Save colony.
Step 2: Go to colony and make contact. No answer from colony. Mission text/scan results hint at older technology. In the episode, Picard just tells them to use an older method. For a game, I would envision just a multiple choice question here.

  • Send down an Away Team to make contact (Effect: Fails, lowers reward and/or makes rest of mission more difficult)
  • Use older frequencies and try again (Effect: Success)
Step 3: Contact has been made. Dialog with leader reveals their genetic past and concerns. Evacuation is not an option. In the episode, they immediately know they cannot affect the fragment with their standard equipment. For the game, it might be good to allow the player to discover it on their own. New mission, try to destroy/alter the path of the fragment.

This would be a combat mission if we can't use the tractor beam. Player would engage the fragment, and find that weapons/tractor beam are ineffective.

Step 4: Here we come to the tricky part. In the episode, they figure out Geordi's visor can be used to make the tractor beam work on the fragment. That does not exactly translate into gameplay. If we went the traditional route, we could just turn it into a series of quests to find item X, which would of course include fighting. I really don't want to go down that route.

Using dialog alone to find a solution would end up being very quick. It think Cryptic has also said they don't want STO to be full of mini-games.

One choice would arise from dialog. The player would be given the choice to bring up Hannah to help or to leave her on the planet. Bringing her to the ship will affect the missions, buy making them easier. leaving her on the planet will make them more difficult.

I am at a loss of how to play out the 'find a solution' aspect of this episode in terms of good non-grindy gameplay. So I will use a standard solution.

Sensors have detected a crystal on a nearby planet that could enhance the tractor beam. Player goes down with an away team, fights through local wildlife to find the crystal. The location and difficulty would be different depending on the choice with Hannah.

Step 5. Now that a solution has been found, the player can go to the fragment and alter its course. Return to the colony.

Completion: Depending on your earlier choice with Hannah, the ending dialog would be different (based on the episode). That choice would also affect your rewards. If there is some sort of prestige/reputation given for completing missions, those could be adjusted based on decisions.

I think the choices aspect would add a lot of Star Trek flavor to these missions. They should not ruin the mission for you, but affect the outcome.

Finding alternatives for the traditional MMO quest is the really tough part.

How would you turn this episode into a STO mission?


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