A couple of days ago was the three-month mark since I started playing Guild Wars 2 full time. I have been plugging away pretty diligently at GW2, essentially sidelining STO for the duration, and got all five of my characters to max level. They are nowhere close to being fully kitted out; in fact, I haven’t even started working on Ascended Gear for anyone yet. But my exposure to this very different gaming experience got me thinking about the long-term sustainability of MMORPGs.
Keep in mind my experience with MMORPGs is still rather limited, between STO, GW2, Rift and to a much lesser extent, Champions Online. I’m only going by what I know.
I originally tried out GW2 because I was getting seriously burnt out by STO’s incessant grind. The way STO structures the daily grind was — and still is — very annoying: Click, scroll, and click on R&D tabs. Click/scroll/click on Reputation tabs. Click/scroll/click on Admiralty. Click/scroll/click on Doff assignments. And often you need to get to crowded locations where lag is order of the day, which makes the click/scroll/clicking even more frustrating.
I picked up GW2 and immediately noted how refreshing things are. As I mentioned before, compared to STO, GW2 feels a lot more polished and well thought out. The Dailies, in particular, are especially well designed — they are account-wide, and a random list is generated daily, which promote doing different things every day (yes, STO should really pay attention to this; it’s something that can be easily adopted to enhance gameplay). As for the game itself, GW2’s graphics are fantastic! By comparison STO’s avatar-toons look almost primitive. I realize that STO’s basic engine was originally adapted from Champions Online — and yes, Champions OL’s toons look far worse than STO’s — and it’s definitely showing its age next to the newer generation of games.
Another thing that GW2 (as well as Rift) does well is game balance. Sure, there are certain metas that are favored, but in general no class is “useless”. Same goes for weapons; in GW2 different weapons grant different skills to different character class, as well as which hand is wielding it. This makes for a large number of possibilities, and everything is potentially useful for someone. Unfortunately STO doesn’t do balancing very well: witness the overwhelming number of tactical characters compared to engineers and science characters, as well as the number of ships that no one flies. Will the upcoming rebalance reset the board? To some extent, but expecting it to fix everything will likely result in disappointment.
Now you may be wondering, if GW2 is so much better than STO in so many respects, why would I even consider continuing to play STO?
In one word: Because STO is Star Trek.
As much as I adore GW2’s graphics and gameplay, and the amount of backstory built into the world of Tyria, it’s still an original fantasy setting known only to a very niche audience. Unless you delve deep into the setting as a roleplayer, it doesn’t fire your imagination like Star Trek (with the franchise’s decades of rich history) does. When it comes to gameplay, unless you’re into hardcore PvP or WvW — which probably requires heavy investments into crafting competitive Ascended Gear — there really is no “goal” once you hit max level. While you could argue there isn’t an endgame “goal” in STO either, the fact is Star Trek feels like a living, ongoing universe where there isn’t necessarily an endpoint. Sometimes I am content with just parking my ship near ESD and checking out the rest of the fleet; other times I get in orbit of some planet and admire the view. And the Foundry is still the best idea Cryptic has for STO.
This may sound odd to many STO players, but often I’m happy to just do these things without firing a single shot. This is also why immersion is such a big deal for me on STO, and why things like playable Ent-J piss me off so much; the franchise is the biggest draw for me, and if the game can’t stay true to the franchise, instead going off the rails with stupid things, then there’s little to keep me interested in the long run. I can turn a blind eye to a lot of immersion-breaking things, but when there’s an Annorax, a Vonph and three Ent-J’s parked around ESD, it gets a bit difficult to ignore.
Cryptic is lucky to be able to snag the Star Trek franchise, so I sincerely hope they don’t squander it for the sake of quick cash.