Online RPGs and Freedom

I’ve been wondering this for a while and I’m hoping some of my more gaming-inclined friends can help me out.

This weekend at Comic con the folks behind Champions online and Star Trek online were there drumming up excitement for their games.  The Star Trek one looks really cool and the best part seemed to be the character creator — play an existing Trek race or create your own.  Yay!  I immediately thought of creating a whole race of super awesome black people and then tearing up the universe with them.

Anyway, I asked one of the people there if players were allowed to get together on one ship and ride around the world as a self-made crew and if they had to follow pre-set quests/storylines or if they could make up their own the way tabletop gamers do.  She said that each player has a ship of their own, so you can get together with buddies, but you’d all have a ship.  Also, there were quests you could go on or you could just explore.

As cool as I find the concept of MMORPGs, I feel like this is kind of a flaw.  And maybe this is a flaw of just Star Trek Online.  It seemed to me that WoW and Everquest and such was a lot like playing tabletop with the exception that you couldn’t create your own dungeons.  But you could still put together a group and go off adventuring together.  Everyone having their own ship is fine, but it’s not the same as putting together a crew, yanno?  And she didn’t mention if you could be part of a planet and then form planetary alliances and such.

I feel like there could be so, so much depth to a game like this — creating your own race, your own planet, your own government that then interacts with the Federation or your own space-faring military and other people’s planets and races and such.  That kind of freedom within an online game I could get behind.  I would pay good money for it.

As I said, I am not really a gamer, though, so I have no idea how realistic this is or if other MMORPGs do this better.  Anyone care to enlighten me?  I’m really curious!

3 thoughts on “Online RPGs and Freedom

  1. The developers of City of Heroes/City of Villains are currently hard at work on Issue 14: Architect. The title refers to the new Mission Architect feature, which will allow players to create their own missions with custom factions and enemy groups. It sounds awesome–but I know it’s been taking them a long time, because coding it all and making it work within the existing game structure–and making it difficult for players to abuse–is a nightmare.

  2. I think the closest thing to the sort of free-form player-led game like that out there at the moment is probably EVE Online. I haven’t played it, but I understand that you can form alliances and control territory and have your own fleets of ships and FTL travel gates. You also get interesting events like the recent collapse of Band of Brothers, the largest alliance in the game, when one of their high-ranking members defected to a rival alliance.

    Sadly, I think the problem with such a free-form game world is that it’s hard to make one where the players can interact with each other so freely, but where it’s still a level playing field between the casual player and the ones who spend 40+ hours a week in the game. If you can build up your own little alliance and military, it might be prone to being crushed by an alliance of hardcore gamers with higher skill levels and enormous ships, and if you remove the player interaction then you may as well not be playing an MMO.

  3. I feel like it could be interesting to have a fractal kind of game, in which you could play members of a crew on a ship, or captains of ships in a fleet, or heads of state in interstellar diplomacy; the problem is that that stops being something you can do easily in an MMORPG. Maybe if someone fiddled with Reign for long enough…

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