Thursday, January 14, 2010

Well, I have to complain SOMEWHERE...

Being a houseful of Star Trek nuts, we decided to engage in the open beta for Star Trek Online (STO). I played a bit, then went to the forums to give some input...but because *I* don't have an actual open beta account, I can't post anything there. Thus, I have come here, to the tiny audience that is my friends, to complain about what's wrong with this game. In no particular order...

1: The Aliens of the Federation Are Badly drawn Cartoon Characters - Seriously, the avatars in-game are poorly proportioned. I figured it out immediately. During character creation, you have to adjust the size of the avatar's head and the feet to something smaller. Then they look a little more...well, not realistic, just not as silly, either.

2: Distance and Speed Do Not Apply - Ever watch Star Trek TNG, or any of the associated shows and movies? Someone might say, while traveling at full impulse, "Slow to 50,000 kph." So now you're in space, and the avatar of your ship appears during the tutorial. You have a variety of missions where you have to travel from object to object, and the game gives you a bearing. That's great. Your target is 20 km. away, you kick your ship to full impulse, which equates to a rounded figure of 1,080,000,000 kph, and CRAWL at at agonizingly slow speed toward your target. Seriously, people who were in the zone ahead of me were blasting targets before I got close...and it probably took them a few minutes to get there. Of course, we humans would probably never be able to react in time for that absurd speed...but as I watched my ship's avatar move, I was kinda hoping the crew would hop out and push to make it go faster.

3: Have the Ophthalmologist on Standby - As you navigate your ship through space, the heads-up display lets you know where other things are. If these targets are behind you somewhere, these notations are at the edge of the screen. The ones I saw were dark blue or brown...against the black of space. In addition, they are tiny. In order for me to see these bits of data, I had to take my glasses off and lean in close to the screen to see them. After some time, I had to get up and walk away to rest my eyes.

4: Casual Readers Need Not Invest - If you plan on getting this game, I suggest you take speed-reading courses, because there's no pause in the action when communications from the game pop up. I completed one mission and the next mission came up, with no option to delay the message until I was in a safe place. Oh, it's a message from Captain So-n-so! Well, I'll just sit back and read the details of this, since I enjoy the storylines of such games...and as I'm reading, I'm being attacked by Borg probes. Yeah, they're small and don't do much damage...unless they're swarming, which is what happened while I was reading the game content. Star Trek has always been more about the stories than the action, but this game doesn't seem to feel the same way.

5: The Tutorial Doesn't Teach Much - "Here's how you move; here's how you interact with people and things; good luck!" Wait...what?!? Where's all the information about all the complex stuff you need to do in-game? Where's the eye of the storm amidst the action to practice various skills? There isn't. Your best bet is to hope to get through the tutorial and find a quiet corner of the universe (almost literally!) and then sit down to read everything in the "ship's computer." Because if the tutorial did try to teach something else along the way, I was too busy trying to avoid crashing my ship, or getting killed by the Borg to read it.

6: My Biggest Complaint of All - Once again, we have a great idea for an MMO that has been sullied by the mind of Jack Emmert. I complained about him when it came to City of Heroes. I was ultimately depressed that he had anything to do with Champions Online. Now he has stuck his fingers into STO, and as you can see from the things listed prior to this, he's destroyed yet another gaming concept.

When does he take the hint and realize that he's not good at this? When does he wake up and say, "I think I'll take up basket weaving instead of destroying one good game after another"?

Ultimately, I'm THRILLED that he left City of Heroes behind so the OTHER developers could do great things with the game. Like the "enhancement incident." Oh, this made many players nuts, and caused more than a few to abandon the game altogether.

You see, there are these little things called "enhancements" in CoH. As you level up, certain levels grant you powers, while others grant you enhancement slots. Each power starts with one slot, and you can eventually add up to five more for a total of six. A good player mixes things up, and will place perhaps two accuracy enhancements into a power, and then maybe the rest boosting the damage. Alas, Jack saw that people were doing such things as slotting six damage enhancements into each power, effectively giving them a 200% bonus to damage and wiping out HUGE groups of bad guys, and Jack said, "I don't think that's fun." So, despite the fact that players were enjoying the game, and clamoring for new content, Jack felt in more important to introduce "Enhancement Diversity," or "ED." The more you sloted the same type of enhancement, the less each one would be worth, until the most you could hope for was a 4% boost instead of the 33% we'd all come to know and love. (It was always that fourth enhancement that dropped so seriously in value.)

Thankfully, the OTHER developers thought of a way around that...kinda. They created an invention system, and "invention sets" of enhancements that you could slot. Under Jack Emmert's reign of terror, you could hope for a 66% accuracy increase and a 95% damage boost with about five slots in one power. But now, thanks to those sets, one power can have a 66% boost to accuracy, 90% boost to damage, a 63% reduction in power cost, and a 63% reduction in recharge, all with five enhancements. The numbers might seem a tad smaller, but to pull that off with Jack at the helm, I'd need nine enhancement slots to get all that...and the most anyone can have in one power is six slots. (Or did you forget that already?)

So...It is with great disappointment that I report that STO doesn't seem like it's worth investing whatever price for which they might ask. (Probably around $50 for the game, and $15 a month thereafter.) Especially if you're a genuine Trekkie and would hate to see your beloved science fiction butchered. Of course, if they went with a far more traditional sense of Star Trek, in which there is no hunger or homelessness, they'd give the game away and let everyone who wants to play do so for free.

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