My SWG experience was probably an atypical one. I started off in beta with a slew of not only players but player associations hell bent on starting a player city. Those were happy times. Two things SWG got right at the time were wilderness and crafting. Roleplaying a colonist-refugee, as were most of us, was an astoundingly good fit at first. Dangerous creatures with believable AI, scattered resources of with a slew of assorted traits and all of us helping each other out in a world where there was nothing useful on the bazaar for quite a while. We bootstrapped. We barnraised. We ultimately did it. They still talk about Vagabond's Rest on Starsider.
Eventually, though, what other folks were noticing eventually effected us as well. There was no Star Wars to be found. Where was The Empire? Where were the Jedi (or, alternately, why should Jedi be in the game in the Rebellion Era)? Where were the space ships? Where's the adventure? Why is everyone using pikes and battleaxes and wearing the same armor which we never saw in the movies?
We really started losing players due to lack of Star Warsiness as many of us were roleplayers, or Star Wars fans, looking for that experience.
In time there were Jedi. Be careful what you wish for. Because it was such an arduous grind only powergamers looking for PvP advantage, for the most part, managed to pull it off. If you see Ben Kenobi on the road kill him. Or he'll kill you. And then tea-bag you while pointing out, constructively, your newbness. No, somehow this doesn't seem like the Jedi I remember from the films.
Space, and starships, strode in proudly with Jump to Lightspeed. I have to admit I was blown away. SWG could have done much worse than following a space sim model. Multiplayer ships in particular had folks cheering. It was really a dream come true. Sadly, one does tend to wake up. There was no real content in space after grinding through the initial set of missions. PvP-RPers and space simmers on Starsider, using typical roleplayer ingenuity, designed and ran PvP scenarios which were popular and the idea migrated to other servers as well. But PvE was lacking. Multiplayer ships were pointless. They were a weak link in PvP as well. Worse, there was no cargo, no passngers, no trade lanes and certainly no contraband or Imperial blockades to run. In space, nobody can hear you yawn.
At that point, though, the damage had been done. Casual gamers thought SWG was freakish and certainly not about Star Wars. The Star Wars fan community was in open revolt. PvPers were running amok and completely dominating the forums with their usual set of complaints ("Make everyone PvP - it's called Star WARS!") and internectine battles about who and what should be nerfed. Roleplayers, the ones who'd already formed strong communities, weathered this as best they could and created their own alternate realities and improvised systems. Kosterites, those who did find aspects of the original game design fascinating despite its delinkage from Star Wars, also hung in. There was, in fact, more than a little overlap with the last two categories. Crafters, entertainers, politicians, pilots and beastmasters tended to be well represented in the roleplaying community.
But SWG was in trouble because of its failure to convey the setting even before NGE hit. The NGE hit the Kosterites and the few post-WoW PvPers pretty hard. We won't dwell on this. Everyone knows the story. SWG is slowly recovering, a little at least, but it's not Star Wars. It's su generis now. A weird thing with some great features, alot of bad ideas, and an eclectic but loyal player base.
So what to expect from Star Trek Online?
What drew me into to STO was a comment about multiplayer ships in an unrelated thread. I remembered, I thought, that STO would have them. As it turns out, well, not so much. This is a problem but I think Cryptic knows that. To most Star Trek fans the dream really is crewing a ship, and going on adventures, with their friends just like their vicarious heroes in the series do. Even people with a casual, passing, familiarity will likely assume this is what to expect.
It's to Star Trek what the Empire and The Jedi should have been to SWG.
Yet, I'm still very excited about STO as a roleplayer and a gamer.
One of my constant refrains in the SWG forums was that terminal missions needed to be both randomized and more in depth in structure and content. My examples at the time were a solitaire card game (now a PC game) called Hornet Leader and the classic X-Com. If these relatively simple variations in structure can hold players interest why can't MMOs use the same techniques to generate nonrepetative adventures? Well, maybe, we're going to see that for perhaps the first time in STO.
There's also talk about noncombat elements in mission resolution. Science and diplomacy will have roles to play. How will this work? I don't know. But I really, really, want to see what they come up with. Let's face it, MMOs are mainly structured on never ending, pointless, violence because that's relatively easy to do. I think it's time for us, as players, to move out of the cromagnon stage of thumping each other, and every baby seal in sight, with clubs. Well, y'know, at least a little bit. No violence at all and we end up with Sims Online and nobody wants that. Literally.
I think it's possible to both want player crews and be excited about NPC crews too. Why? Because I am. I'm a pet guy. I loved my CoV Mastermind on Virtue. My crusty old freighter captain in SWG is a hardcore beastmaster (as my friends know too well "Grim's obsessing on the petgrind again?!"). Having a crew of NPCs, assuming they're created as in depth and persistent entities with customization in both appearance and skill sets, will be just too much fun. I don't even have a rational explanation for it. I just like it.
Lastly, while I'm no Trekkie or Trekker, I do loves me a good setting. Remember the deeper the setting the deeper the roleplay. I think the community here, as long as the purists remember newbies are people too, will be fantastic for roleplayers. Being a Federation officer means something that no other game really conveys. There's a sense of unity, family, decency, curiousity, open-mindedness and justice that's kinda lacking elsewhere. To the extent that ethos can carry over to the players as well we might have something unique on our hands as roleplayers and as MMO players.
Or, there will be an XBOX invasion and we roleplayers will be begging for multiplayer ships just so we can have an island of sanity in the madness.
Ah, but, no. Must be openminded and decent and remember console gamers are people too. It's the Star Fleet way!