Thursday, January 28, 2010

Star Champions Online Trek off the Starboard Bow

Originally as this entry formed in my thinking meats, I was simply going to do a counterpoint to Syps Six Reasons why he is excited for Star Trek Online. Then as I sat down earlier with a coffee in hand, I caught up on my Massively. Specifically the Kitchen Sink patch.

We’ll deal with Star Trek and come back to Champions. Syp gives his own personal points why he is excited for the game. If you are at all interested in the game or even on the fence, go over and see what he has to say. It may well swing you in the games favour and who am I to stop you? My points though… my points are negative of course.

The first deals with Syps points 4&5, the fact that STO shows marked improvement and potential. Star Trek, as a game, as an IP and as a phenomenon should be commanding attention in the online market. Eve players should be eyeing up gorgeous ships with envy. Cryptic fans should be touting the jewel in their crown. Star Trek vs Star Wars debates should be suffering a blow as STO is out the gate well in advance of TOR. Cryptic made much of the fact that they have voice work from Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto. They’ve worked with the plot point presented by the latest (and for me greatest) Star Trek movie. They’ve had all the breaks, all the chances and all the support and fans they could want. The game should be shining as it comes out of beta. Not “improving”, not “showing potential”. Star Trek is so deep within popular culture now that a poor execution of the game wounds fan spirits greater than if it was a newer ip. It’s launch shouldn’t be marred by last minute controversy. In light of the goings on with Champions (the two games being practically joined at the hip) the idea of a big content update 45 days after launch, requiring you to be into the second month of paying is just a further insult.

My second reason for disliking Star Trek Online is a little more airy. Shannon and I were watching the special features disc for the movie recently and Michael Giacchino made a fantastic point that had never really filtered into my mind before he voiced it. They left the theme of Star Trek right to the very end. They had flirted with it at various points through the movie but the cast and the crew had not yet earned it. As the movie closes, Leonard Nimoy talks us through it, the music swells and the ship, the crew and the franchise leaps into warp speed and the future. Love it or loathe it, the people behind the most recent Star Trek movie loved what they did, strove to be worthy of Star Trek and earned at least my adoration. Cryptic on the other hand has never (in a visible manner) given the same effort. They delivered a game based on an engine that isn’t suited for it with complaints everywhere. They slapped something together, stuck a combadge on it and partied like it was 2399. At no point in the beta build up, the marketing campaign or the public test did they earn the right to create or run Star Trek. IPs have huge power, but slapping an IP on a game you’d already built and calling it a day is nothing less than a gross insult to the fans of the IP. Just because it has the label of Star Trek, this in no way means they earned it.

The Champions debacle is an entry on its own. However there is something that I have taken away from Cryptics pricing, tactics and my own coloured views of Star Trek. This isn’t the game we deserve, this isn’t even the game that should have been. It was thrown together hastily using whatever was handy, marketed and shoved out the door. Why? I say because of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

So much of the industry nowadays is focused on WoW-killers and the next WoW and Bioware could topple Blizzard that they panic. Farming cash from the Star Trek IP in this way says only that Cryptic as a developer and Atari as a publisher had no faith in what they created, they didn’t think it’d survive contact with a Bioware Star Wars and they didn’t even bother to make a new game. Instead of being a virtual world where humanity has grown beyond some of our worst features, instead of being the shining light of hope that Star Trek strove to be, this is an extended exercise in lining ones pockets at the expense of a fanbase. Personally, my heart is broken.


Unknown said...

Nice article! I heartily agree!

Jayedub said...

It will be interesting to see if Cryptic handles STO like they have with Champions. I wonder if all those who have bought lifetime subs are still happy with that purchase.

Anonymous said...
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Nero said...

Well said. Unfortunately I think they will still turn a profit on this in the end.

heartlessgamer said...

I guess I shouldn't have quoted the "I'm givin' er all shes got captain" line, as apparently Cryptic is not.