As much as I like Star Trek Online, I’m looking forward to finishing it and moving on. I suspect it’s similar to how I’d approach Star Wars The Old Republic, inasmuch as I want to play the story and then move on to another one. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, and I’m not burned out on STO (and I still highly recommend it, flawed though it is at times, like any other game)… I just have a lot of other games I want to play, and I need to move on instead of getting stuck in a rut. This also means I’m less likely to burn out on the game, since I’m not feeling obligated to play past the point where I’m having fun, whether because I’m in a raiding guild or paying a subscription I want to get good value out of.
It’s remarkably similar to how I approach novel reading, actually. I liked the Harry Potter books when I read them, but I don’t feel much impetus to start over and reread them. On occasion, I do pick up one of them and just start reading somewhere in the middle, just for fun. Likewise, I’ll pick up I, Jedi once every few months and reread a random passage, just because that’s the era of Star Wars that I like the most. It’s a lot like my bookmark system that I wrote about back in my Turning Back Time article, where I can just jump into the narrative wherever I feel like it. I do similar things with DVDs when I’m working in the evenings; I’ll fire up a movie or TV show I’ve seen but maybe I’ll skip around to the parts that interest me at the moment as I paint or design.
We don’t see that much in games. Between autosave systems like Batman Arkham Asylum/City and MMOs and their “always on” nature, the biggest games I’ve played lately aren’t all that amenable to replay unless I flat out start over. Y’know, I don’t always want to do that. Sometimes I just want to jump into the parts that I loved most the first time through and replay the fun bits, maybe with some tweaks to my approach.
Maybe World of Warcraft is tinkering a little bit with this, as Big Bear Butt suggests over thisaway, by letting players bypass the grind inherent in gearing up alts, but that’s not quite the same thing as replaying some of the narrative bits or trying something as a different class (I’ve argued before for full character respecs, all the way down to class, as I note over at BBBs’ place). Sure, we can replay a dungeon here and there, but what about the stories out in the world at large? I don’t think there’s any way to replay a world quest without firing up a new character, and that’s a time sink.
It might be fun, sure, but it’s like starting a novel all over again just to get to that cool part one third of the way in or watching a movie on videotape. Sure, you can fast-forward a bit, but you can’t skip ahead like you could with a DVD. We’re totally spoiled by DVDs and their instant access to varied scenes in a movie. I have a hard time watching movies on VHS these days. I’d like to see more of that sort of spoilage in gaming.
This is where STO really shines. I’m convinced that the best writing in the game is in their Featured Episodes, each a handful of missions with some tight scripting and play. No, there’s not a lot of player autonomy or choice for Bioware-flavored gaming fans, but sometimes that’s OK. Yes, I’d love to see more simulationist MMO gaming and player choice, but just going along for the ride can still be good fun, especially in bite-sized chunks of time. (Though I maintain that it’s a Very Bad Fit for subscription MMO gaming, I do love a good Final Fantasy or the like sometimes, just like I love Minecraft sometimes. They can both be good fun, just different.)
Anyway, the Featured Episodes are replayable pretty much whenever you’d like, so long as you’ve done them once. They autoscale to your level (and there are three selectable difficulty levels) both in challenge and in rewards (experience aside). This is fantastic, as I can just go replay the missions I loved most without starting a new character. It’s simpler in STO, thanks to the instanced nature of missions, but man, it’s a great core design decision.
It also might be worth noting that I could get all the fun I’m getting out of STO if it were a single player offline game. Sure, I’d need to go online to catch up with Longasc or BlueKae or Tipa in-game (though I’m not so good at that anyway), but I’ve been playing the Featured Episode missions entirely solo since Longasc helped me through one of them some eight months or so ago. STO is a good game solo, and it’s a good game with friends.
…but it’s about time to move on. I’ll finish the game, plunk it in my “good game” memory and move on. Maybe I’ll come back just for fun one of these days (a huge strength of the nonsubscription model), but it will be because I enjoyed it and want to again. Maintaining that positive mentality toward a game is a Good Thing, methinketh. I’ll probably play through the new Feature Episodes on the 11th, and then go play Batman Arkham City or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Tally ho!
Oh, and here are some of my favorite screenshots from my STO play. I have a LOT more, but these are my favorites.
…and a few other random shots.
This illustrates my favorite ground combat trick: my Science Captain’s “endothermic field somethingorother”… basically a nice Area of Effect ground fire. It’s a blast to use on stationary targets. It’s also good to use on NPCs, since standing in the fire confuses them, and they don’t use special abilities or move out of the fire. Then I turn the Cryogun on them for a little fire-and-ice action. Yeah, I love AoE attacks on targets that just sit there.
150 or so over on the Google hivemind. Resistance is futile.
(4200+ not shown. Yeah, I take a lot of screenshots.)