Thursday, February 19, 2015

Exploration is Impossible

In a recent forum poll, STO players put Exploration Missions as their top priority (40%) for the coming year.  Star Trek Online used to have an exploration system, but it was removed.  I think they were just not happy with it and how it fit into the game.  It was basically sectors with randomly generated systems that had some randomly generated missions.  Overall, it was not very engaging.

Exploration is a core aspect of Star Trek, it's in the opening theme.  However, I don't feel it is possible to do it justice in a game.  They key to making exploration good is to make it meaningful.  The old system wasn't meaningful in any way.  But Werit, Elite Dangerous and No Mans Sky!  I don't feel that their systems are meaningful either.  Procedural content lends itself to quantity, not quality.  300 billion star systems is a great tag line, but so what?  What's happening in these systems, anything interesting at all?

Interesting.  In Star Trek,  exploration involved interesting crafted stories.  You need writers for this,  we're just not at a point where this can happen from procedural content.  Now, there are some thoughts that PWE might leverage the Foundry.  However, that relies on players making new content, as old content wouldn't make sense in an exploration system.  The rate at which players will explore will far out pace any content creation, so procedural seems like the only way.

Persistence.  If the worlds you discover just vanish when your done, how is it meaningful?  Making things stick around is not an easy task.  The way STO is setup with quadrants, I just don't see that as a possibility.  You would need a system to re-access every place you visited, as the standard mapping system won't support huge new areas.  However, if everything is bland and boring, why would you want to revisit?

While players want Exploration,  I just don't feel like they can be given a system that will actually meet their expectations.