In June of 2003, a much hyped science-fiction MMO launched. It was the first MMORPG to take advantage of such a lucrative license. Unlike previous MMOs, it had a “skill based system” of advancement. Due to either a lack of time or a design decision, very large open areas were populated with randomly generated content. The system used to generate the random content was called the “dynamic spawn” system and championed as an innovation. Despite a long development time, the game felt incomplete when it launched.
Anyone who’s been intently following Star Trek Online already knows how Cryptic’s game compares to pre-NGE Star Wars Galaxies.
Back then, Star Wars fans were asking, “Why can’t I start as a Jedi?”, “Are there smuggling missions?” and “When can we play in space?”. These days, Star Trek fans are asking, “Why can’t I start as a Klingon?”, “Are there diplomatic missions?” and “When can I have my friends on the same ship as me?”
The way Cryptic answers these questions is similar to how SOE handled questions about SWG. Like SWG’s pre-launch developer chats, the STO dev-chats have phrases like, “You can’t start as one, but…”, “Not at launch, but…”, and “Some day you may be able to…”, . They find themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to both hype their game and curtail unrealistic expectations.
But maybe I’m being too hard on Star Trek Online. SWG launched with far less going for it. The lack of space-combat in SWG was probably harder to swallow than the lack of multi-player ships in STO. The grind-heavy process to unlock a Jedi is probably more frustrating than the grind-light process to unlock a Klingon. The robust character creation system of Star Wars Galaxies actually looks primitive compared to what we’ve seen in leaked footage of STO’s character creation process. And honestly, it was the lack of content, randomly generated or not, that made SWG’s dynamic spawn system such a boring way to fill empty areas.
At the end of the day, I expect a lot of the people who are extremely hyped for STO to be disappointed. But I also expect a lot of people who are not MMO fans will be drawn to STO, and fall in love. Like SWG, people will look back years from now at the early days of STO and say, “Remember playing before the Next Generation Expansion? That was cool.”