Saturday, February 20, 2010

STO: OK, So It’s Broken

Post Soundtrack: “I See A Different You” by Koop

After another session battling non-intuitive tab-targeting and the delightfully irritating three-handed control scheme for space combat (left hand on WASD, middle hand on cursor keys for shield reinforcement, right hand on the mouse) I gave up and cancelled my subscription to the game.

Pretty ships alone do not a Trek game make

The tipping point in my decision was coming across the opinion piece here (and the corresponding review here), which summed up the growing dissatisfaction which I had until now been unable to coherently express, both in the lack of Trek in the game (from the first article) and the shallowness of the game and its mechanics (from the second).

This excerpt from the first piece quite accurately sums up one of the things I found most irritating about space combat:

Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 2409.3

The crew of the USS Spacebaricles continues to display a startling lack of combat ability. We engaged a Klingon Bird of Prey at 0600 hours today while patrolling the Regulus sector. After establishing phaser lock on the Bird's weapon systems, I gave the order to fire. The enemy vessel's shields took extensive damage, but it was clear that victory would require sustained battle. Unfortunately, and to my utter surprise, the bridge crew stood gazing at me hopelessly after the initial volley.

"Fire! Fire all weapons!" I yelled at the slack-jawed imbeciles.

They fired. And then they paused to stare at me again.

"Continue firing! Fire all phasers! Fire!" I cried, and continued crying, until the Bird finally fell. Hoarse and enraged, I retreated to my ready room to record this log.

I am beginning to suspect that a space-borne virus, perhaps designed by Klingon or Undine scientists, has affected my crew's ability to comprehend and perform simple tasks like sustaining phaser fire on a military target until being told to cease. I am engaging the ship's self-destruct sequence to stymie the spread of infection to other Federation vessels. If anyone should stumble upon this log in the scorched wreckage of this ship, please contact Admiral Quinn at Earth stardock and tell him that I always hated him. Tell him his beard is stupid and those spots on his face look like targ sh--LOG CORRUPTED

While I can understand why the devs may have felt it necessary to remove auto-fire in order to keep some semblance of interaction in combat, the accompanying shield reinforcement mechanic as it stands (pressing one of the cursor keys to reinforce the shield quadrant in that direction, or clicking on the centre of the shield graphic on the UI to reinforce all four quadrants) is just frustrating in its entirety, especially the way it fails to fit into the remainder of the control layout (see my comment above, re- three-handed control scheme).

While I’ve cancelled the subscription, I’m still going to dabble until the free 30-days that came with the game has run out – in the feedback I left the devs when they wanted to know “Why I want to unsubscribe”, the game is actually not bad if you approach it as a single-player combat simulator that just happens to have Trek art assets.  It just doesn’t have the content or length to justify a subscription fee, nor is the in-game experience social enough to be considered an MMO.

But it’s not a bad game, if you want to go pew-pew in Trek starships.

Heading out...  of the game

I just wanted more.

(And don’t worry, there’s more pretty screenshots coming)