Star Trek and Star Wars are always do things differently. Star Trek space battles play out like large naval ships swapping cannon fire and Star Wars space battles play out like World War era biplanes engaged in dog-fights. On the ground, Star Wars is all sword and sorcery with a sci-fi coat of paint, while Star Trek alternates between cowboy-style fist fights and cowboy-style shoot-outs with hand phasers and phaser rifles replacing six-shooters and shotguns.
People are going to compare the upcoming Star Trek Online to the upcoming Star Wars: The Old Republic, so I might as well throw in my two credits/latinum as well.
When it comes to revealing the back-story of their MMO, SW:TOR has remained fairly consistent. Every few weeks you can expect some kind of little video consisting of barely-animated concept art on the screen while a professional voice actor tells you what happened in a specific battle in the war. Their latest installment concerns the Battle for Bothawui. It’s a delicate balance for Bioware which allows them to give just enough information to stay interesting but not so much information that they will run out of back-story to reveal before launch.
Star Trek on the other hand is not consistent with how it reveals it’s back-story. For months, the Cryptic strategy to engaging potential fans in the story of Star Trek was to release an occassional wall of text known as “The Path to 2409“. It’s really hard to convey how boring these updates were without copying and pasting a wall of text about how a fictional Federation president has declined to run for another term. But this month, they changed strategy. Rather than giving fans another boring fan-fiction detailing the difficulties of diplomatic talks, they just put out a couple videos on gamespot in which guys in Star Trek T-Shirts talk about Klingons destroying their enemies while gameplay footage plays in the background. Holy cow! Talk about a change of pace.
When it comes to what features the two developers are focusing on and highlighting, they couldn’t be more different. Star Trek is most proud to show off their space content whether that’s in the background of their latest video, or in their old trailer. Their space ships are front-and-center while ground combat is never shown for more than a few seconds. Meanwhile Star Wars: The Old Republic exclusively shows ground-combat in their game-play video. Developers from Bioware won’t even confirm the existence of space combat for their MMO.
Star Trek Online’s character creation engine promises to be one of it’s strongest points. The engine is so robust that you can create your own race if you like. And what would you expect from a company that can boast their current MMOs have the best character creation process out there? On the other hand, TOR’s character creation options are a low priority. You can count the number of different hair-cuts that appear in TOR’s game-play videos on one hand. They have promised it will get better when the game is closer to launching, but it’s clearly not a priority for them in the way it is for Cryptic.
Based on Bioware’s past work and their claims to have recorded “40 novels worth” of voice acting, it’s pretty safe to say that story telling and content are priorities for Bioware. Cryptic’s track record with content hasn’t been stellar with Champions Online and City of Heroes. STO players will be lucky if they are given some tools to create their own missions and story arcs out of the box to fill out the parts of the universe that Cryptic doesn’t.
This isn’t to say they don’t have their similarities. They both have set the year of their game to the point which gave the most freedom to mess with the license. For Star Trek this meant the future and for Star Wars this meant the past. Your NPC companions in SW:TOR are analogous to your NPC bridge-officers in STO. Both games seem like natural evolutions of what these companies have done with their previous games. When one of these games sets a release date, the other won’t be far behind.
The only question left is… which will you play?