Side-kicks, Companions, and Crews

One of the  features in the upcoming Star Trek Online is the built-in crews that every player has on their ship.  Like EVE you’ll have a ship, but you’ll also have your own Spock and McCoy to hang out with after you land on the surface.  And who knows?  Maybe you’ll also walk around inside your ship and interact with your different NPC group-mates.

This feature doesn’t promise to stay unique for long, as Star Wars The Old Republic is also reportedly going to have companions like they did in their single player games to hang out with.  Knowing how this played out in KOTOR, you’ll probably gather potential artifical-group-mates by doing quests like the RPG Suikoden and then swap them in and out depending on the upcoming quest.

In LOTRO, it has been confirmed that the next book-update will include “customizable soldiers that you can train and bring into skirmishes.”  What does that mean?  Well it sounds pretty similar to the above.

Are NPC friends in MMOs the future?  And is that future a good thing or to the detriment of the multiplayer aspect of MMOs?

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Suzina

Suzina is a 27 year old who usally plays the same MMOs as her husband. Games played: UO, EQ2, FFXI, SWG, LOTRO.

17 thoughts on “Side-kicks, Companions, and Crews”

  1. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Guild Wars and its customizable “Heroes”.

    In their current state, NPC support units are a crutch being used to make small group content accessible in games where grouping is too insufficiently rewarded to be prevalent.

    I do think there’s a missed opportunity, though. We’ve yet to see an MMO where players would control a small squad of somewhat simpler units that could be customized to provide internal synergy towards one role, or battlefield self-sufficiency. Large-group content could involve multiple players each controlling such a squad, and would lend to a sense of scale.

  2. “We’ve yet to see an MMO where players would control a small squad of somewhat simpler units that could be customized to provide internal synergy towards one role, or battlefield self-sufficiency. Large-group content could involve multiple players each controlling such a squad, and would lend to a sense of scale.”

    Working on it. :)

  3. From what I’ve heard of Star Trek Online, the bridge crew will be like pets, while the rest of the masses will be simple NPCs. This should work out pretty well, Cryptic seems to have to pets work well.

    The only problem I can see with LotRO and other similar games adopting this system is the frequency with which NPCs get stuck on pixels and go into anti-exploit mode. I noticed a number of mobs in Lothlorien which do this at the slightest whim, only coming out when you go to run away.

  4. Perpetual was going in this direction with Gods and Heroes. It was unfortunatly never realised. Beta testers got a taste of the system before it got shut down and it was really interesting.

  5. I always liked the GW idea of henchman. I liked in Diablo 2 when not only could you have a mercenary, but when you could actually equip them as well.

  6. Didn’t they add something like this to EQ recently as well? And then there is the MMO where your “character” is actually a party, Sword of the New World.

  7. I can’t wait for more advanced AI so I can get NPC friends in real life. Then I can dump these crummy humans.

  8. I had this idea for a crafting system once – if, for example, you’re a blacksmith, you’d have your own shop with NPCs inside. You’d tell them what to produce, they’d tell you what kind of ore etc. they need. And they’d give you quests to learn new recipies (“Seek out the master blacksmith in the Misty Forest”, you get it). And the NPCs could double as automatic vendors for your stuff. In a sci-fi scenario, that’d be a lab or something, the idea stays the same.

    I always thought, if I am this great hero, crawling through dungeons and slaying dragons, why should I get my hands dirty?

    Anyway, this concept could be adapted for your Star Trek ship. Probably will in some form.

  9. I like that idea a lot xwn. Just remember, not every crafter wants to slay dragons. Now expanding their store (and subsequently employees) might be right up their alley.

  10. xwn and bonedead, isn’t that basically the Shadowbane crafting system? It sounds a lot like the pre-release plan, at least.

  11. I’m a little worried about the companions thing. There’s a lot of good potential, but there’s also many avenues where it can be used to pump out cheaper content by just using the bots to adjust balance.

    For instance, LOTRO has a new dungeon / instance coming up that’s supposed to scale depending on the size of the group you take. Now will they actually scale the instance, or will they just make it balanced for 12 players and pad your group with companions if you have less than that?

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