I’ve been thinking about it again. I would love to be able to create the ultimate Star Trek MMO game. Star Trek Online is great, but it’s not the ultimate. The ultimate doesn’t exist, except in my imagination. I’ve got great ideas, I think, but nowhere near the skill to create it by myself. Heck, STO took a huge team of at least 75 – 150 people to make, if I recall. But I can dream of some of the thing I’d do…
I’d love to be able to take the STO space combat and preserve most of it’s basic concepts as is, such as the 4 shield placements, weapon firing arcs, things like that; though I would do several important changes. For one thing, ships would have multiple hit-boxes; engines, shields, weapons, Primary Hull, Saucer, etc. I’d give all captains ability to either target the whole ship in general or target specific hitboxes, but it would have to be balanced against just targeting the ship as a whole. Targeting specific hitboxes would probably require a higher accuracy stat, and though it’d damage specific abilities or subsystems, would probably do less outright damage overall. I’d also make the effects of hitting those subsystems much more noticeable in combat; attacking weapons knocks out either phasers or torpedoes for a time, taking out engines greatly reduces mobility, etc.
I’d keep the three ship types of Escorts, Cruisers, and science ships, but the benefits, drawbacks, and uniqueness of each would be greatly changed up, and I might add additional ship types like Frigates and small craft/shuttles. I’m not sure I’d do the same kind of “modular” ship design for aesthetics that STO did, though the paint jobs was a great idea I’d expand further. I’ll get to interiors in a sec 😉
I’d make space PvP more about territory control and less random team matches in generic arena-style maps. Set up systems where players have to transport crew down to be able to capture a control point, then the ship has to defend enemy players from beaming down their own crew to defend, and give the faction that controls it most in a set timeframe faction-wide rewards. Rewards like missions for that faction’s players give bonus dilithium fora few days or they earn extra marks for a few days. Something to make PvP worth paying attention to.
Ground gameplay would be vastly different, though. I’d make the ground experience closer to things like Destiny, Mass Effect, or Skyrim. Anyone played the Star Trek game for console that came out just before Into Darkness? It was pretty bland, right? But it hit on a good concept with the tricorder gameplay. Just expand that even more, adding more uses for the tricorder than just repetitive mini-games. Make player skill choices affect tricorder use, and allow people to use tricorders to find non-combat solutions to problems, or even to find non-lethal solutions to combats. Award players in different ways for the different kinds of options this opens up to them.
Incorporate cover-shooter mechanics and multiple hit boxes for all characters, player & NPC alike. Allow first or third person view. Make headshots, and even limb shots, matter. Enhance melee combat, taking lessons from Skyrim, or even something like Tera or maybe DCUO.
Make it possible to fail missions, even if you allow a way for those missions to be re-played when failed. Make “stun” setting mean something and useful; for example – if your mission is to capture a Naussican criminal and bring him in for questioning, the player’s best option is to stun him or otherwise incapacitate him (perhaps utilizing the environment, such as knocking containers down onto him), and if the player accidentally kills him, they fail. Have options for diplomacy for missions more often.
The Foundry would be totally overhauled. No more making 3D maps with a 2D interface; make the interface 3D. For this, take lessons from the old Neverwinter Nights creation toolset; make snap-together tile pieces for interiors, and simple terrain tools for exteriors. Ship interiors would be customized this way as well; there would be default layouts, but players can go to Utopia Planitia (or their faction equivalent shipyards) to customize their ship interiors. They could even purchase additional decorations, texture sets, or tiles through the cash shop. ALL chairs, beds, benches, etc. would be functional and interactive. Also, in player-made foundry missions, allow authors to make branching mission paths, conditions for failing the mission, and Player class specific objectives (TAC, ENG, SCI), as well as options for non-combat objectives and placing mini-games. Give authors the tools to really be creative.
MORE VANITY PETS AND TROPHIES/COLLECTIBLES! Players should be able to customize their ready room and personal quarters with all sorts of things, such as wall trophies or vanity pets, and should be able to make their ship the equivalent of their own player housing.
Also, I’d like to have more “context sensitive” mission events; things that a player’s stats or BOff stats could enhance or open up options for, but that are unique to that specific mission and event. And they need to be more creative than “go to that console, read these numbers, then come back to me and select the multiple choice answer with the right numbers.” More custom cutscene events in missions with dialogue options, like in SWTOR or Mass Effect or Dragon Age 2.
Bridge Officers would be somewhat less customizable in physical appearance, but they’d be more varied as well, and skills would be just as re-trainable as they are now. Players can assign them to departments, and when they’ve gained enough “expertise” experience, can be promoted to department heads, giving them more options to specialize.
I’d give each “class” (science, tactical, engineering” 2 or 3 “specialization” sub-classes to choose from, for both players and NPCs. Specializations would work similar to SWTOR’s do. The current “kits” system is… interesting, but I’m not really finding that it works as well as intended, even with the recent changes. Ground abilities would be completely rebuilt from the ground up. Grenades would not be an ability, but instead would be an additional consumable slot. Instead, ground abilities would use Mass Effect for inspiration, improving and expanding on tricorder abilities that the recent Star Trek game for console barely touched on.
Voice Overs would be most definitely a standard. EVERY NPC would have a voice, especially for mission cutscenes, and players would have several options for their own character’s voice to use for dialogues. Additional full voice over sets could even be purchased in the cash shop. Mission intros would then use these voice-overs for “Captain’s Log” opening monologues, and player “alignment” could alter these slightly (see below).
Interstellar travel would be very different. Players would be spending more time in their ship’s interiors; when they want to go to a star system, they go to the bridge where they can access Conn commands. This would open up a Stellar cartography menu, where they can search by system name, manually wander the map to select a system, or there will be active mission destinations they can select. The ship would then set a course, and travel time would be more relative – “ships engine speeds” x “distance from current location” will determine travel time, but it should never be more than a few minutes in length, and there will be abilities or options to greatly shorten that time. There will also be things players can do inside their ship during these travel times; assign Duty Officer tasks, crafting, mini-events like random conversations with NPC crew and their Bridge Officers, etc.
Player character creation would be expanded, adding a backstory system similar to the Mass Effect games and Guild Wars 2. Bridge Officers (senior staff) would also be created using this system (although on a somewhat more limited scale than what players have access to), though the background choices would be randomly generated by the game upon acquisition. NPCs would also be much more interactive. Players could ask for recommendations from them when they are stuck, and have conversations during travel time etc.
I’d make the game interstellar travel map one single map, not multiple zones. Then I’d set up where unexplored space is compared to explored space. (Exploration gameplay is the one area that will be toughest to pull off and may not be able to be as in-depth as anyone wants, so I’m always open to ideas on this. It’s possible that it just might not be do-able in conjunction with all the other gameplay.) Exploration could actually be handled in ways not too dissimilar to what the game “No Man’s Sky” is doing, though not on nearly as grand a scale. It would be limited to directions not already occupied by a known species or faction (NPC or otherwise), but would be definitely doable to some extent. Besides, if the story missions and PvP are handled right, exploration wouldn’t likely need to happen quite as steadily, and there can be time limits or caps to community exploration areas that are discovered. There’s already a huge number of alien worlds in STO that missions can be done with, and players should be introduced to, and interact with, more of these. The previous exploration was poorly low quality for the Star Trek franchise, and I think players should be given more “distress calls” or “requests for assistance” type missions as well. Or, instead, have Foundry authors be the ones to create new worlds and species, and those become places all players can later explore.
Player “alignment” and crew moral would become an important part of the gameplay, and Ship’s Counsellor (or the other playable faction equivalent) would be how players check on those “stats.” Enemy faction reputation would be affected, which in turn will affect how different enemies react to you, from being kindly diplomatic to attacking on site. It would not be a matter of “good vs. evil” so much as “aggressive vs. diplomatic,” because Klingons aren’t evil but they are aggressive and they respect strength more than gentle kindness.
Allow options for player ships to be boarded during some kinds of PvP space combat, and allow players the option to board an enemy player’s ship. Don’t make it mandatory, but have it available for players who want to play this way. This makes targeting shields have more than one purpose, and give bonuses to players who board and successfully “capture” an enemy vessel. Perhaps make this a new 1v1 duel game type, rather than a mainstay in general PvP, with goals of first disabling the enemy vessel then boarding to capture Engineering and/or the bridge. If done right, both players could even sometimes board each other, then rase to capture each other player’s control points first. This also gives players options for defensive internal ships systems they could upgrade, like internal force fields, EMHs, and better trained NPC security crew members.
Crafting, equipment/consoles, and enemy drops would be vastly different than it is. First, I would remove all equipment and consol drops from combat that were higher than common quality. Leave mission rewards with higher quality stuff, though. Then add more crafting materials as item drops, and those can have various qualities. Then, give players the ability to “salvage” equipment and consoles, learning new “blueprints” for basic gear like different kinds of energy weapons or gun types, which would then each cost a small amount of EC to replicate. Then, crafting from there would be basically experimenting, unlocking recipes for higher quality gear which has better bonuses, resulting in higher quality gear. Allow a chance of failure in these experiments, though, and in the crafting of higher quality recipes. Make these items unbound as well, and make mission rewards character or maybe account bound, depending on the item. Ground item upgrades could perhaps also or instead be done by an upgrade system similar to SWTOR, where players can craft equipment/weapon modification parts which, for example, would slot into a weapon and give that weapon the desired bonuses; this could be done for anything from a slight bonus damage, to changing what energy damage type the weapon produces (Phaser, Tetryon, Antiproton, etc.) and can be done for weapons, shields, perhaps even enhancing tricorder functions (greater range, more power reserves, stealth detection, etc.).
For the gathering system that is currently in STO which randomly dotted around the maps, that has to go. I’d instead make certain scenery “prop” pieces each have a chance of having a specific thing be a gathering node; like a specific console or rock formation. Each specific object would have it’s own list of possible crafting materials it could hold. I’d then greatly expand how many “set pieces” are capable of being crafting nodes, and then each map would have an equation that took the number of possible nodes, made a certain percentage of them “inactive”, then setting the remaining nodes as “active” gathering nodes, and then producing the gathering items. Each node would have items based on the individual list for that “prop.” This would carry over into the Foundry player missions, though Foundry mission maps would have an even lower number of maximum available gathering nodes.
Fleet Holdings and Fleet Starbases would be designed to be much more accessible and much less of a grind to build up, and I’d give them more functionality than just shopping. They’d have basics like the tailor, exchange, etc. from the start. Though I’d do away with Fleet versions of starships entirely; I don’t agree with it and feel it creates an elitist barrier between players. However, allowing extra fleet decorative customization options, like paint jobs or ship hull materials, is still viable. The Dilithium Mine fleet holding would actually produce dilithium for the Fleet, and any Fleet Holdings projects that require dilithium would get it from the Fleet Dilithium Mine. Plus fleet members could go for their daily “mine dilithium” mission to the fleet dilithium mine instead of the main one currently near Bajor. Fleet Members might not get Dilithium themselves directly from the output of the fleet mine, but it’d make Fleet projects far less of a Dilithium sink. I’d want to make Fleet Starbases more desirable to visit, and that requires functionality; I’d like to set them up to be a social hub, but also not make the faction “home bases” (Quonos, ESD, Romulan Flotilla) obsolete. Also, Fleet Embassies would be expanded to more than just one on New Romulus. I’d want to give these locations more functionality and purpose, perhaps also producing items and commodities for various fleet projects. Currently, all Fleet Holdings are pretty much nothing more than a currency sink and grind; I want to give them actual purposes, and these need to be in line with the Star Trek mythos.
Romulans would be a full faction in their own right, with starbases and ships and equipment all their own. All 3 factions would be given the same development treatment; uniforms, playable races, all on par with each other. Each would have their own general theme and style, as well as their own stories. Federation focuses on diplomacy, Romulans on intelligence and subterfuge, Klingons on Honor and strength. In STO, the Federation faction has been getting favored by the devs, and as much as I love playing a fed, I don’t agree with the other two factions getting so little. Each faction should have the same level of options for gameplay and customizations, even if those options are unique in style and function to each faction. For every federation ship, there should be a Romulan and a Klingon ship. That doesn’t mean they have to all be identical, but they should have just as many options.
Stats and traits need to be refined and simplified, both for space and for ground. There honestly are too many stats to keep track of right now, and they all interact in far too many ways. Ground stats especially, but space stats too. Also, stat boosts by equipment need to be also simplified. I think starship traits should be more exclusively come from either equipment or Bridge Officers, not from player characters; Player Characters should have a “leadership” stat which enhances the space abilities of her/his Bridge Officers. And I think that traits should give more options for active and passive abilities, rather than simply stat boosts. I want to see more focus on player skill and less on buying equipment bonuses.
This is not even all the ideas I’ve had. Don’t get me wrong, STO is an amazing game, but sadly what ended up happening is Cryptic got shafted and were forced to slap together something barely playable, and ever since, they’ve been trying to just tweak and add onto a flawed system as best they can. They’ve done amazing things with the limitations, but sadly the features I’ve outlined here just aren’t within the capabilities of that system, and may never be. For the MMO game that could truly capture the spirit of Star Trek, I am beginning to think Star Trek Online would have to be rebuilt from the ground up.
What do you guys think? Do you think my ideas would work well? Let me know in the comments.
EDIT: One thing that grinds my gears over the past year about STO is how they have been giving enemy faction ships (Dominion, Cardassian, Undine, etc.) to players. I’m sorry, but that annoys me. I can see where collecting them would be fun, but honestly, I think it’s silly and breaks immersion so much that I get annoyed when I am at ESD and see an undine warship fly past me swerving like they’re drunk. I’d make them available for “hollodeck replays” of past missions, where you can try playing through those missions you’ve finished using a ship you normally couldn’t with abilities you normally don’t get access to, but that’s honestly pushing my limit of “canon” and “gameplay.”