Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Stargate Worlds = Tabula Rasa?

I've been seeing more information across the blogsphere about Stargate Worlds as their developers start finishing off the last couple of design phases before production. The game still needs a lot of polish as evidenced by recent gameplay videos, but it looks like a lot of the content has already been completed. Cheyenne Mountain has done a great job in lifting some of the environments straight out of the television series and transferring it to a game format. In particular a lot of the cultural elements from the Egyptian areas look well done. As I mentioned earlier the developers think the game could release this year, but they don't want to get lost in the WoW vs War conflict.

It's a smart decision and gives the team a time to polish a couple things. In particular I'm worried about how similar their gameplay design looks to Tabula Rasa. Both games use a sort of auto-targeting FPS combat style which heavily factors "cover" into damage taken. It's a style of combat that confuses FPS fans who are used to being able to instant kill targets with headshots. Standard RPG fans are a little more forgiving, but can be put off by the itemization for this type of combat. Indeed one of the problems I had with Tabula Rasa was that items were basically disposable and constantly replaced. During a single level my character might change every available armor slot more then three times as I got upgrades.

Luckily, I think Stargate Worlds will be better with its itemization since it's source material was so heavily oriented on real world weaponry. I think that's partially why the show was so successful in an underground kind of way. Every episode of the show had military weapons and equipment used in semi-realistic situations. It was almost encouraging to see humans outsmarting evil aliens by using things like unmanned aerial vehicles and liberal amounts of C4. The writers would always come up with advanced alien weaponry that was more powerful then our stuff, but it was always badly designed. Thus you could have a staff that shot energy bolts, but it was inaccurate as hell.

Some of the squad mechanics in Stargate Worlds look interesting and could eventually do what Tabula Rasa was never able to accomplish, introduce a reason for players to actually group. I can't help but think that NCSoft's insistence on over instancing might have been a major problem for the game establishing a community. Most missions could be done solo/duo and base defense was usually just short term convenience grouping. There really wasn't anything like a real MMO dungeon or arena that gave players a reward for working together. Without a reason for grouping most players simply followed the path of least resistance and played the game like a solo shooter. This made it much harder for a community to form around the game. After all who wants to pay a monthly fee for a single player FPS game?

If Stargate Worlds wants to avoid the fate of Tabula Rasa they need to do a few things.

1. Better Itemization that appeals more to RPG fans
2. Areas that encourage grouping: dungeons/arenas
3. Use the Stargate IP to its full potential.(scenarios from tv episodes)
4. Better group mechanics (sum is greater then its parts)

2 comments:

Scott said...

I doubt instancing itself had anything to do with TR's lack of community (if in fact there is a lack of community?) or grouping, it's simply that there was no reason to. Or more to the point: no incentive to group. Give people an incentive to do something, and they'll do it. Most games these days are wisely making tons of soloable content, because that's what we want. But when we want to group, we're too often penalized for it rather than being rewarded. Add to that the difficulties in simply putting a group together, and it all starts to become too much work and too much time wasted, so we skip it and just solo our way to level cap. Just like HGL, I have no interest in paying money for what ends up being a single-player 3PS since no one wants to waste time grouping.

I should probably check back into SGW though and read up on what new things are going on. They lost me at some point last year when the devs made a comment that the game would have a low level cap, you'd get there fast and roll an alt. Huh? I may have been reading into it too much, but that smacked of a lack of intended content if they just wanted me to cap fast and roll and alt, rinse, repeat.

Openedge1 said...

Agreed.

And...

Nothing..I just agree.

Oh, and it looks like the Gold Sellers are having a hey day with your blog...
Good luck with that..