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Opening the universe for Star Trek Online

January 25, 2010

Opening the universe for Star Trek Online
By Michael Lafferty

How a movie may have opened the door for anything to happen in the upcoming MMO

Star Trek, as a license, has gone “where no one has gone before.” Ok, maybe others have tread the path, but certainly not with the style and longevity of the Gene Roddenberry brainchild that first left space dock in 1966 and ran for three seasons on television. That TV show is iconic for several reasons. It was cancelled and then renewed after the outpouring of letters and calls from the television-watching public. And it was the first prime-time television series to have an interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman.

And, of course, it was just darn entertaining. It was a western set in space with a playboy captaining a spaceship, getting the damsels in distress, saving civilizations, breaking the prime directive at almost every turn and serving up enough one-liners to sate generations to follow.

The original television series started the rich lore that is the foundation of the Star Trek universe ...

Of course, there have been books, movies and a couple of other televisions series (The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise). In 2009, the latest Star Trek endeavor hit the big screen in the form of a film simply entitled Star Trek. The latter was particularly important because rather than build on the legacy of everything that had gone before, it reinvented the franchise. Spock was allowed to show emotion, and even had a love interest in Uhura. Scottie was given a sidekick and the viewing public got to peer into the psyches of Bones and Kirk.

But in many ways, the 2009 film gave the developers of the upcoming Star Trek Online an incredible sense of freedom with the license. Sure, maybe that was planned all along, but the movie paid homage to everything that went before and still managed to come across as a fresh take on the license. It broke with the legacy and wealth of background material that would have restricted the vision of the filmmakers. It put the entire Star Trek franchise on a different course, an alternative path where the characters were similar but definitely not the same figures from the earliest television days.

The movie allowed a freedom to the upcoming massively multiplayer online game, or maybe it gave the developers all the excuse they wished to ‘trek’ in different directions.

... but the movie in 2009 opened the universe to new interpretations ...

Sure, the Klingons are in the MMO, as are the Borg. Both pose a threat to the Federation. And yep, listen closely and that is Leonard Nimoy doing some narration.

Unlike the opening lines of from several television series, STO is not really going where no one has gone before. What it is hoping to do, however, it do what few science fiction-based MMOs have done – attract the attention and support of mainstream MMOers. EVE Online is arguably the best of the online space titles in the MMO field. Star Wars Galaxies tried to do space and that met with limited success. EVE has a fervent community, though it is not a huge fanbase despite the terrific game design. Why? EVE is a bit more hardcore than many more casual MMOers care for. And EVE does not offer ground-based combat. Other space-based games have tried and failed, but STO captures the essence of the license rather smartly. It is like a space-based pirate game, with land and space battles, with ships turning to strongest shields, and ground-based combat that beam the player into the action and then allow him or her to beam out when the contest is settled. It pays homage to the license and source material but is not totally hampered by it.

... and opened up a whole realm of new possibilities for Star Trek Online.

It has vision, it has scope and it has the name recognition. Give Cryptic a lot of credit for undertaking the design of a game that will be nitpicked, analyzed and ripped apart if anything steps outside the bounds of the Star Trek universe, whether inferred or completely contrary to anything heretofore published.

Will the game will truly be a success? Well, only time will tell. The game hits retail on February 2, but those who prepurchased and electronically downloaded the game will get a head start on the action on the 29th. And that is when the adventure begins anew. After all, “these are the new voyages of the starship *** …”

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