Story of Star Trek OL
When Star trek Online first launched I quickly gave it a try. It was not a bad game, in fact I enjoyed it very much for the first few weeks but it soon ended up suffering terribly due to excessive repetition. Every single mission followed the same exact formula. As you level up, you get he same mission structure with only more stages. If in the first few levels you’d get a space battle and ground battle stage when you level up more and more all you get are additional missions that consist of more stages. A single missions can consist of many different space battles and ground battle with only a few variations. Some times you get the occasional scanning objective and some interaction here and there but for the most part, its fight and fight some more. Even worst then this every space battle follows the same formula with very few variations. In space battles you either get 3 or 5 waves of ships that are consist in class for the same level range with the only differences being the races while in ground battles you fight groups of 5 enemies with the only variation being the race and class type of said enemies.
The story is engaging and after a while it feels that the battles are just the necessary evil that will ultimately reward you with the continuation of the story. As acceptable as this is after a while you end up unable to take it anymore, fun turns to frustration so eventually I stopped playing. Recently Star Trek Online went free to play so I thought of giving it a second chance. Something that was introduced since the last time I played was player generated content. You see Star trek online lets you design your own quests/missions and then after being peer reviewed anyone can play the missions, rate them and also tip the author if they are found enjoyable. This is an amazing feature that very few MMOs implement.
There are many many such missions and most of them had high rating. I started with one of the top rated ones and boy was I impressed. The first player generated mission I played had at most 5 minutes of combat and it took me way over an hour to finish the whole mission. Unlikely missions offered by the official game this player generated mission was heavy on the story. The mission was well done and way more immersive and enjoyable then any official mission I have played in the game. I quickly tried others and surely many followed this same successful formula, all of them had a bigger focus on the story then combat and for me that works fantastically.
User Generated Contents
I couldn’t help but think how players put the story focus first while official missions put combat first. Granted that users had the advantage of knowing how the game feels and plays and thus could have learned in hindsight that focusing mainly on combat becomes old very fast. It is possible that developers feel players are more interested in a challenge then reading lots of text in order to follow a complex story line but what is sure is official missions feel like you’re playing the same thing over and over again while each user generated mission felt like something completely new.
The number of user missions available is staggering, I would not be surprised if they outnumber the official missions. Something I found puzzling is that custom mission creation is only available to paying customers. Not sure if it is wise to lock content creation as it is essentially freely enriching your game.
I was so impressed by the quality that I wonder if more MMOs might adopt the model in the future. There are already a few games that do this, namely Battle forge, city of heroes and Second life. More such MMOs seem to be on the way as well.
Thinking about it this also makes a lot of sense, players are generally very passionate about their games and the stories involved. This can be clearly seen by the huge amount of fan fiction one can find. Lack of variety is always an MMOs worst enemy in my humble opinion and allowing your users to contribute to the content of the MMO they love can greatly enhance the longevity of a game. That being said I can imagine quite a number of challenges and it might not be feasible to simply give free reign to players. For starters some might take the game’s overall story in a direction not really desired by the game owners. Different missions might conflict with each other in terms of storyline and some will undoubtedly design missions in such a way to get maximum reward from the least effort possible. Striking a balance between these factors is without a doubt pretty hard but in my opinion well worth the effort. User generated content gave Star trek Online new life for me and I am eager to see where the market goes and how many other MMOs will follow this concept.
I am curious as to what others people experience is with user generated content in MMOs, feel free to comment your views. Is user generated content something you desire or is it something you’re afraid of? I would appreciate if people were to share their experiences if any on this subject. Thanks a lot.