STO: The real SWG2

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.

From STO’s use of skill-based leveling to their use of a the “genesis system” to generate random content, Star Trek Online is following in the footsteps of 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.”

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

20 thoughts on “STO: The real SWG2”

  1. It would not be the first game with some really good and cool ideas to fall from grace simply because there is not enough “content” for the players. As a subscription based game this is highly dangerous, disappointed people don’t come back.

  2. I don’t think any game can be heralded as SWG2 unless they make the same hard choices in the areas of crafting and the player economy.

    SWG had maybe 6 Master Weaponsmiths per server back in the day. And everyone bought their weapons from one of them.

    On the plus side Master Weaponsmith really meant something. Everyone on your server had heard of you. The crafting game was interesting and the meta game of collecting skill attachments was a genuine hardcore challenge. To get them you needed to have most of the server looking for them on your behalf because of the insane prices you were offering.

    The negatives were that most people couldn’t play as serious crafters, that stuff broke, that you gave up most of your skill points to do it and that you were restricted to two (I think, it may originally have been one) character slots per server per account.

    All those negatives are essential to a meaningful economy but are wildly unpopular. It’s unlikely a mainstream game could take such risk again.

    1. One slot per server, back in the day. Which is why I have 3 SOE accounts I can use these days, if I want to. ;)

      More on-topic, is there any crafting at all in STO? I’d imagine not — if you need something, just use the replicator!

      1. Don’t expect much in the way of crafting from STO. They say things like “In a sense ship customization is like crafting”.

        So, no crafting at launch. But they have space at least.

      2. From what I’ve read, there is crafting. You collect items in your travels which, when carried back to Memory Alpha can be used to create new items.
        As for replicators, I understand you earn “replicator energy credit” as a currency of sorts, otherwise every new ensign’s first impulse would be to replicate a full set of Tier 10, er, kits, and an iLvl 245 phaser.

  3. SWG was a little too sandboxy in it’s early days, which when you consider that it was launched in the days when there WAS no sandbox MMO, can probably be chalked up to the designers biting off more then they could chew. Early SWG was filled to the gills with some well thought out systems (like crafting and pet wrangling), but fell down in a LOT of others (the spawn example).

    STO, on the other hand, seems tighter. It’s not a sandbox; it only has two modes: ship combat and ground combat. In that respect, it’s the anti-SWG: it doesn’t create all kinds of partially designed systems to make the game seem bigger. They are focusing on the core gameplay.

    The “missing” aspects like groups on a single bridge are NICE, and SEEM like an obvious omission, but what would they add to the gameplay? That’s a social aspect, and a lot of modern MMOs have dropped the social aspect beyond what’s necessary to allow players to find groups (which in STO is handled by their Sol hub and the insta-grouping mechanisms).

    What we’ve got in STO is something that’s focused almost to a fault, unlike SWG’s open options. Ship combat, beam down, ground combat, beam up, ship combat, return to base, ship combat, beam down, ground combat, beam up…

    1. “SWG was a little too sandboxy in it’s early days, which when you consider that it was launched in the days when there WAS no sandbox MMO”


      1. I was under the impression that in 2003 virtually all MMOs were “sandboxes”, at least by the definitions generally applied today.

        1. Sandbox MMOs started with Ultima Online, and include EVE, Darkfall, and probably SWG and Asheron’s Call. In a sandbox, you are expected to create your own content by interacting with other players. If you are lucky, you get some tools like a mission-creator or a decorating system to help you create content for your friends.

          ThemePark MMOs started with Everquest and now includes as WOW, Lotro, and FFXI. In themeparks, there is lots of content, but to see all that content you have to play the way the developers intend. In WOW that would mean farming raid X so you can be ready to farm raid Y. In FFXI it means killing the designated worms area X until you are strong enough to kill worms in area Y. In Lotro it’s questing in X until you are ready to quest in Y. It sounds pretty lame, but because all those Xs and Ys are hand-crafted by developers, they might be pretty interesting.

  4. If anything, I think you’re giving STO too much credit. Not starting as a Klingon, a race looked upon pretty equal to that of the Federation, is not the same as not starting as a Jedi, a group of peaceful warriors with skills that take years to develop and master.

    And for the rest of it? SWG wasn’t just about combat, it had a huge level of non-combat skills. STO? Well, it’s just combat. Have you seen the latest “exploration” trailer? It doesn’t show anything even remotely close to exploration, unless of course you count running around on a planet surface with your phase rifles out as exploration.

    I guess we’ll see.

  5. I still say that STO really is SWG come again. Which is to say, a terrible marriage of license and game design. Star Trek is not about tooling around the galaxy in your pimped out ship, flying solo, and pwning NPC ships. Lots of Star Trek fans are going to try the game and wonder where the Star Trek part of it went. As it stands, it’s Earth and Beyond with a Star Trek skin. Much like SWG wasn’t really Star Wars in any meaningful sense, it was just a crafting-heavy sandbox MMOG with a Star Wars skin. And how much time did you see Luke and Han spend checking their robot miners to ensure that they were working properly, vs how much time they spend getting into and out of scrapes that they’d have largely preferred to have avoided in the first place?

    Someone needed to tell the people that paid Cryptic to make a Star Trek MMOG that very few people want to play a Star Trek MMOG that’s really faithful to the source material. And that a Star Trek MMOG who’s game design attempts to be a ‘mainstream success’ will inevitably jettison what people actually find interesting about Star Trek.

    Though, it’s not as if Paramount really understands Star Trek in any important way, anyway. So there’s not really a lot of new news here.

  6. I keep seeing the comment that people want to have a team of players crew a starship. That sounds really cool, but then the developer circuits in my head whirr to life and ask how much fun micro-managing the engines or diagnosing NPC injuries in Sickbay would be? It’s a concept that would be a lot of fun, as long as it’s equal fun for everyone on board, and not just the Captain and the guy targetting the phasers.

    Following on the original comparison, SWG had/has multiplayer ships. You needed other players on board to man the laser turrets and repair battle damage in real time. There was/is even a multi-player mining ship.

    Funny how I instinctively refer to SWG in the past tense…

  7. I can’t view anything as “kinda like SWG” if it doesn’t have an uber resource system and that crafting. That is what made the game for me.

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