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Author Topic: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?  (Read 6616 times)

Offline Zach

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Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« on: 05 March 2008 05:13 AM »
OK, so i was over in the Next Gen Graphics topic having a good old rant about how i would prefer story over graphics when i ranted into a good topic for discussion.

The overall Storyline AND Quests System - How should it be done in a Trek MMO?

Most MMORPGs that i have played, have fairly slow moving storylines - or some times no directed storyline at all. Examples -  Matrix Online, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Eve Online.

You run around in these games, do quests, run missions, but you are left wondering at the end of the day - What is the overall story here? Where is it going? Is it going anywhere? What difference am i making? Is there any point to running these missions other than leveling my character?!

Even Worse, you find yourself doing the same quests, over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over again. At best, they just variate around the same mission, go here, kill this person, do that. Go there, kill THAT person, do this. Over and Over. The wheels on the bus go round and round - But where are you going?

How the hell should this be handled in Star Trek Online is the question i am here to ask?!

I mentioned in the other thread that i wouldprefer they spent less time on the graphics, and more time thinking - "OK - What can we do to make sure that players arnt doing the same mission over and over, 10 times a day, in different parts of space. What can we do to create a wide enough variety of missions. How will we budget to keep people writing new missions all of the time. And importantly, How can player affect the story on a global scale.

I want to know how they are going to deal with these things. I dont want to be playing the same quest a dozen times a day, dozens of times a week. I want a different mission to do for every hour. I want missions and quests to take more than 20 minutes to do. Sure i want short quests, things i can do when i only have an hour or less, but i would also like long quests, something that i can really bite my teeth into if i have 2, 3, 4 or more hours to play.

More importantly, the actions of one person need to be able to affect things around you. A succesful first content with a planet needs to result in good relations with that planet, a bad first contact needs to have appropriate repercussions. If one captain decides to go rogue and attack a klingon outpost - will this go unpunished, or will the klingons retaliate?

Missions and quests need to have some sort of purpose - they shouldnt just be there for the sake of leveling up. Your actions need to have repercussions.
 
One man can make a difference was the saying from Knight Rider, and i like to believe this is true in STO, because it is true in the real world.

In the show, you had captains like picard, sisko, that were so amazing that they became legendary. Spoke about everywhere. Should this be the  same in STO? Sure, if the character works hard and earns it.

Also, you need to have a team of writers on hand, dozens of them, and have them, all day long, monitoring whats going on in STO, talking to each other about it, and keeping the storyline dynamic.

I'm not quite sure what i am trying to say here, i guess, i just dont want to get bored with playing STO after 6 months or a year because things get too repetative. Moreover, i want to feel like i am making a difference in the trek universe if i put that work in.

How do you all think the Storyline and Quests System should be handled in STO?

Do you agree with my views, or perhaps you have a different take?


Offline Random Redshirt

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #1 on: 05 March 2008 06:17 AM »
Zach, this is a hell of a topic, and I think you are headed down the path most of us would love to see STO go!

However.....one, tiny, itty bitty problem.

What you are suggesting is essentially a live action, fully playable Star Trek series!

This particular topic has plagued my mind for some time now. How do you build an MMO that would make the player feel as if they are a part of Starfleet? How do you make an MMO that will reward players for being the first, but not fill a server full of firsts that can never be done again, without becoming an "end game psycho raid guild" based MMO like World of Warcraft, and make every day a chase for the next available Gates of AQ type event?

To create a system this complex, would require much more writing time than a standard game, for sure, because the effects of what one person does would need to have a complete impact on the whole of the game. You would need some futuristic, fully adaptive game AI and programming that could take a player instigated event such as an illegal crossing of the RNZ, and apply repercussions across the entire server, as well as apply alternate effects if a diplomatic player works on behalf of Starfleet to rectify the border crossing with the Romulans, which would have the efect of easing tensions across the server.

In all honesty, I don't know that the technology or programming code exists to allow something of this magnitude to take place in a game as adaptive and changing as an MMO, where the play experience would need to change from minute to minute to take into account the effects of other player's actions.
« Last Edit: 05 March 2008 06:19 AM by Random Redshirt »
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Offline Sarevok

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #2 on: 05 March 2008 09:13 AM »
I like the idea of player actions affecting the rest of the game, but I do think you'd need some way to stop griefers. Because I guess some people would enjoy just running around shooting at anyone (non-starfleet) they see.

Otherwise, I really like your ideas. :)

Offline Zach

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #3 on: 05 March 2008 05:28 PM »
What you are suggesting is essentially a live action, fully playable Star Trek series!

You're damn right i am - And should we demand anything less of a Star Trek MMO?

Stargate Worlds is going to have elements tied in to the tv shows, and vice versa - there are rumours going around even that the new stargate series thats supposed to be starting after the second movie, will be tied into the game.


To create a system this complex, would require much more writing time than a standard game, for sure, because the effects of what one person does would need to have a complete impact on the whole of the game. You would need some futuristic, fully adaptive game AI and programming that could take a player instigated event such as an illegal crossing of the RNZ, and apply repercussions across the entire server, as well as apply alternate effects if a diplomatic player works on behalf of Starfleet to rectify the border crossing with the Romulans, which would have the efect of easing tensions across the server.

You are exactly right - the technology and time going into Star Trek Online should be cutting edge because that is what star trek has always represented on the screen. The cutting edge of technology.

In all honesty, I don't know that the technology or programming code exists to allow something of this magnitude to take place in a game as adaptive and changing as an MMO, where the play experience would need to change from minute to minute to take into account the effects of other player's actions.

Oh come on now, they can build chess programs that are unbeatable now, you have adaptive AIs all ove the place, heck, you got robots that can learn now, are you telling me, seriously, that the technology does not exist to do a proper ST mmo?

It would take research, and devlopment, but is it possible? You bet your damn ass it is. The hardware exists too. You have cell based servers than run with 32 cores, from IBM, which can run as fast as an entry level supercomputer - i am talking multi-teraflop servers. They exist and they are becoming cheaper and cheaper by the day.

Offline MrJuliano

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #4 on: 05 March 2008 06:56 PM »
Unfortunately, the problem with highly adaptable AI isn't server-side, it's client-side. When the server makes calculations, the information has to be transferred to the user's system quickly and easily, so the program knows what's going on.

Approaching quests in STO will also be largely based upon whether the design of the game is based mostly on instances, or world quests. These quests all must be repeatable, by many different users, and include rewards that can be used by many different types of players, based both upon class/profession, and play style.

Also, if the game gives you exactly the reward you want exactly when you want it, then the time you'll spend playing drops drastically. You want players to be encouraged to keep playing for a long time, so making you repeat quests over and over to try to get some certain piece of equipment is beneficial to keeping subscribers around. This is absolutely essential if you want a long-term, dedicated playerbase.

I am a fan of instances because they allow several groups of players to attempt the same quests at the same time. World quests can be "camped" by one group of players, and others will be prevented from gaining the rewards from that quest.

How the devs decide to approach their game philosophy will affect how this question is answered.
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Offline Crazyfist

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #5 on: 06 March 2008 08:18 PM »
Something I'd like to point out, is that each shipclass has its own purposes, for instance

Nova is a science vessel. Not much more.

Galaxy is a more versatile vessel, exploratory and useful in war times.

Intrepid is a very good exploratory science vessel. Superb computers and very high warp.

So, nova class ships get scientific missions, galaxys get diplomatic, peace enforcing, all kinds of missions, etc etc.

And now, each ship can be fitted specifically for one, to do it very well. That makes the ships role more focused on one task.


Remember, starfleet ships often have continuous missions, and often encounter anomalies and distress calls along routes.
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Offline Zach

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #6 on: 06 March 2008 09:14 PM »
I agree with your points, however, i fail to understand your post in context with the rest of the topic? Please elaborate :)

Offline SpeakThoseWords

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #7 on: 21 May 2008 07:40 PM »
Also, you need to have a team of writers on hand, dozens of them, and have them, all day long, monitoring whats going on in STO, talking to each other about it, and keeping the storyline dynamic.

You want players to be encouraged to keep playing for a long time, so making you repeat quests over and over to try to get some certain piece of equipment is beneficial to keeping subscribers around. This is absolutely essential if you want a long-term, dedicated playerbase.

So here we have the two extremes.  One player who believes that the current solution: bland repetitiveness, is not only the best solution but the only solution... that it is absolutely necessary that MMOs not offer variety.  Another player who wants a team of writers on hand to constantly write up more and more storylines.

Unbelievable.  Strangely enough, as much as they are linked, storyline and quests are two separate entities, design-wise.  Quests are the metrics we dress storylines with to connect them to player advancement.  Storylines, themselves, are the work of a good writer, numbers be darned.

Content
Me personally? I believe that, as opposed to a team of writers, a "content Generator" should be created, much like the instance generators that many MMOs use today to make and populate maps on-the-fly, only an order or two (or three) more complex.  By having the standard MMO team adding new modules to this content generator all the no-name planets and anomalies and day-to-day missions can be relatively fresh and occasionally offer an unexpected surprise.

Missions
But that's not really a mission system, that's just a content plan.  In my dream STO, The Main Mission Generator is a cortex of sorts that all the Captains have access to.  Accepting a Mission of varying length and scope, perhaps involving hundreds of objectives, the Captains then go into their Mission Screen and break the mission objectives out into departments or another order of their choosing and assign them to their senior staff, who then take these missions and separate the objectives further and distribute them down the command chain.

Of course, it could just as easily go the opposite way, where same-department Lts. PC or not, act as mission generators for Ensigns and etc. 

Also, soloers would need mission terminals on Starbases, where they could go and dock and get alerts and summons and cargo and etc.  Or perhaps, if they solo on an NPC ship, they could get missions from the Captain NPC or some such.  Keep the options open.

In my head, missions come from higher ranking officers, and involve, naturally, a wide variety of mission types, from dangerous recon/patrol to anomaly/planet investigation and etc... more often than not, missions should offer surprises... and 'go kill X mobs' missions should be non-existant, imho.  If you want to kill x mobs, go for it, but that's not some important goal that needs to be met for you to advance in skill.  That said, you should probably make sure you're alive after they get done attacking, eh?

Consequences
Excellent.  I think it's important that consequences come from both sides.  Neither the Federation nor the Klingon Empire are going to be happy about Fed ships brazenly goofing off in the Neutral zone.  It's bad for everyone.  The Feds ding your prestige, perhaps even take some toys or give you a bum mission.  The Klingons are then sights-set-on you for the next month or so of real time... the kind of aggro that doesn't go away after you lose line of sight.  That's just for making them mad... if you can't excuse a skirmish (missions provide excuses, randomly wandering and gunning doesn't) you might find repairs more expensive with the Feds, and Klingons with an eye on you (ie all Klingon ships aggro on you first) indefinitely.  Obviously there are missions to undertake to shed permanent aggro, but they're a lot of trouble.

Those are the kinds of consequences I'd like to see, all around consequences that are reversible if need be.  I don't think that rogue Fed pilot should be a viable lifestyle, but because some who will feel attracted to STO will not be agreeable to doing something other than shooting everything that moves, I suggest the Maqui be playable, even at launch, and the Briar Patch be open PvP... just for the utterly bloodthirsty and rebellious.




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Offline Zach

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #8 on: 24 July 2008 08:45 PM »
Well a round of applause for STW - I think he just hit the nail on the head.

That sounds perfect - Content Generators and Mission Genetors for Captains only - Perfect - I think that this is the generation of MMOs where, no only that can be done, but d one WELL!

Offline Fraek

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Re: Storyline / Quests - How should it be in a Trek MMO?
« Reply #9 on: 25 July 2008 12:55 AM »
I am always quick to state it:  I abhor the idea of quest-driven plotlines in MMOGs.  That is to say, I hate the idea of having a story arc set up that multiple people can go through at different points in time.
If a threat has been averted, it has been averted.  If a product has been delivered, it has been delivered.  If an artifact has been recovered, it has been recovered.  When an Ensign is asked by the Captain of Starbase 220 to investigate a situation that he asked me to investigate when I was an Ensign, it sends a clear message to me:  That my actions in-game have no effect; That my story is not my own; That the world is not living or dynamic, but static and populated by phonies.  Indeed, questing is futile.
To me, a MMOG is all about creating my own story; if I want to play some author's story, I'll play a single-player game with well-scripted dialogue and excellent gameplay.  The strength of the MMOG is that you have a large world inhabited by intelligent - if not always intellectually stimulating - people.

I, too, would like to see something like a random mission designer; one that takes a mission template and fills in some random parameters (those of you who are familiar with the Bulletin Boards in Ultima Online or the Mission Consoles in SWG will know what I'm talking about).  The mission might be "Kill [fname1] [lname1] to save [fname2] [lname2] at the request of [fname3] [lname3]; [name1] was last seen near [randomlocation]."; not very innovative, perhaps, but the point is that it creates unique sets of circumstances, thus hindering them from violating continuity:

"In the course of yesterday's convoy duty, I killed a pirate by the name of T'rel Simp."
"Oh, really?  I had convoy duty last week, as a matter of fact, and I killed a pirate by the name of Sen B'del."
OK!

"In the course of my convoy duty, I killed T'rel Simp."
"Oh, really?  I killed T'rel Simp last week on that mission."
wtf...?  (Unless there's time travel involved; if there is, then OK!)


The point now is not to tell a story, but to give players some achievable goals to make playing around more worthwhile, and to allow them to earn experience points a bit more efficiently.

Now, some will argue that the experience of randomly generated missions is not as rewarding as completing a completely pre-determined one.  I personally don't see the logic in this (where's the point in accomplishing something...  ...when it is not accomplished at all?), but I would be okay with there being mission arcs in-game, as long as I am not forced to take part in them!  I cannot stress this enough; as few game elements as possible should be forced on a player, and certainly this should include something like questing which takes up a lot of playtime shouldn't.  If people want to rescue Earth from a Borg invasion that's been stopped hundreds of thousands of times before, that doesn't bother me, as long as I can get my dream ship and my dream position and all that in the way that I choose.

That being said, I am certainly all for GM-led events!  I'd love to take part in stopping the Borg from invading Earth, as long as my accomplishments remain accomplished!

By the way, SpeakTheseWords, I like the idea of missions giving you permission to do things that you wouldn't otherwise be allowed to do, such as going into the Neutral Zone.  Of course, I still want them to be randomly generated ;)

---

Okay, so on top of having randomly-generated missions that only affect the person who accesses them, one might imagine one that affects a region somehow.  Here's an example I put on STOnet a long way back (before most of you were even born):

Every X number of minutes, the server places a regional mission in a random location.  This time, it chooses Sector 221.
Sector 221 has an Outpost, so it chooses a mission suitable for such a location.
The mission template it picks is one which involves some ships stirring up trouble.
At random, the server choose a race...  ...Klingon.
At random, it chooses a sub-category...  ...rogue Tribble-hunters.
At random, it chooses what sort of ships they should be...  ...a small squadron...  ...four K'Vort-class Birds-of-Prey and a B'rel-class BoP.
At random, it creates a bio for the main bad guy:

Now, all players who enter the area receive the following message:

If the player is interested in trying to solve this problem, he or she selects the outpost, chooses "Open hailing frequencies", then "Offer assistance", the "The Klingon situation".  The player will now receive the following message in return:

The player is also given access to any information the Outpost has on the attackers; perhaps the bio shown above, if they've identified vel'Iq, or sensor scans that the player can analyze to receive information about the enemy ships; their threat level and how one might hunt them down.

To me, one of the fun things would be that you'd receive this mission regardless of your rank, so you'd have to make the judgment:  "Is my ship strong enough to take on a small squadron of mainly K'Vort-class Birds-of-Prey?  If not, how much assistance will I need?"
There should be incentive to group up, even if you're powerful enough to take the ships on all by yourself; the matter of how to accomplish that deserves a thread of its own.

Now, until the threat is dispelled, civilians (NPCs or, hopefully, PCs) would run the risk of being attacked by this foe.  If there are PC traders and the like in-game who can't defend themselves very well, this would make hunting down these Klingons truly meaningful (much like when Orcs invaded the miners' city of Minoc in UO).  If not, defeating these Klingons would at least allow people with ships unable to endure an encounter with these ships to pass safely through the area (you don't want to be all alone in your Norway-class ship when five Birds-of-Prey uncloak near you).

Now, you'll get the most prestige out of this mission if you're able to use diplomacy to solve it...  ...but you'd need epic diplomacy skills if that's to work in this particular situation (might work better with Romulan rebels, Human pirates or Cardassian separatists), and then of course it shouldn't be as easy as clicking "Use diplomacy"; again, how to implement diplomacy is a matter deserving a thread of its own.  Anyhow, I suppose having a powerful fleet backing you up might help if you want to use your Intimidation skill, and some sort of knowledge about your opponent if you want to use your Persuasion/Bluff skill.
Now, the next best thing is to disable as many ships as possible and to take their crews captive.  Of course, in the case of Klingons and certain other races, you'll have to consider the fact that many of your opponents would rather die than be taken captive; a heavily damaged Klingon ship is likely to use its last strength to perform a powerful suicide attack.
However, as the mission description states, it's okay to just blow the enemy to smithereens; you'll get fewer experience/prestige/whatever points, though.


Whether you complete the mission or not, similar ones will pop up in other sectors fairly regularly.  Anyhow, it helps to be in the right place in the right time if you want to earn some extra points towards your next rank, although it's not necessary.  Most important of all, each of these missions is unique (although perhaps not innovative) and your accomplishments remain accomplished...  ...and may even count for something!

---

Edit:  I should like to point out that I'm completely okay with completely pre-scripted holodeck missions; call me a hair-splitter, but as long as it doesn't grossly violate continuity or common sense, it's fine with me, and I might even take part myself.  This would also open up for people who want to play some historic missions (the battle of Wolf 359, for example; it could be our "Onyxia" ;)) or fly out-dated ships (such as an NX- or Constitution-class starship), and thus allow the developers to make use of some of the stories and content that have been written in these past few decades!
« Last Edit: 25 July 2008 01:15 AM by Fraek »