Long-Term Game Sustainability (aka Why I continue to play STO)

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.

 

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6 thoughts on “Long-Term Game Sustainability (aka Why I continue to play STO)

  1. Well said. That’s honestly why I’ve stuck with STO for the past 5 years too; because it’s Star Trek. Had it been just some generic sci-fi game, I doubt I would’ve stuck with it very long. It’s the whole Trek universe and franchise, and all the lore associated with it. I just hate the damn grind. I also agree that STO’s really starting to show its age nowadays and the graphics look kinda primitive now. It could use a bit of a freshening.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s mainly it, yes. Mostly it’s the ground characters and animations, and a few of the space animations as well.

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  2. Been busy with school but am up for a breath of air and just caught this.

    Yup I agree. For me the feel of missions is very Trek. Show up in orbit, talk and learn what stuff is going on in this system. Beam a team down to do something about the situation personally. Probably in multiple locations, probably with actual Trek actors involved. Each step develops the situation a little bit with revealed info and cut scenes. The key thing is “personally”: while there are big world-shaking events going on the missions are about that one klingon who crashed his raptor into a doomsday machine while singing, or that one Vorta who believes one crazy founder is hurting dozens of other founders, or that guy or this guy, or that other dude. STO is about people, the plot is just along for the ride. Back to orbit for the finale or have a big climax on the ground with just a brief farewell from orbit. That’s the multi-act pacing of every Trek episode right there.

    Every other MMORPG is loaded with “go to X kill Y of Z mob and click N glowies then return to get a new mission”. No matter how they dress it up or use fancier versions of “glowies” to click, that is what 90% of MMORPG missions boil down to. STO missions are actual stories.

    The interface and how it is controlled, yes needs to be addressed. I’ve heard it mocked as spreadsheets online. Which has some merit. I handle it by mostly not worrying about them. I don’t grind. I log in, do whatever I want to do, and log out. If that means that I have characters created from before the dyson sphere arc who still haven’t finished a single reputation… so what? They’re still fun to play. Grind is only grind if you let it be. But I do so wish the devs would PLAY Guild Wars and Halo and Mass Effect, and Star Wars, and Stardew Valley and X-Com. Really explore the different ways different games do the same things. There’s so much that could enrich the STO experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. On the topic of grinds: I admit I do daily grinds, but I also try to set some realistic goals. For instance, right now I’m grinding a lot every night, because I drained my dilithium stockpile to almost zero during the last Dilex crash (Heidy was down to 750 refined dilithium!). So my “realistic goal” is to rebuild that stockpile, say 500K dilithium on most of my toons for buying Zen in the future; once I get there I’ll go back to just playing my main toons.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Nah, EVE is “Spreadsheets Online.” STO is a cake walk compared to EVE. I took one look at that game and said “nope.” lol

      But I totally get what you’re saying and agree. There’s so much more that they could do with STO.

      The story aspect of STO’s missions is a good thing too as some of the better ones have the feel of a real Star Trek episode, especially since we’ve got some of the original voice actors in it.

      Like

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