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!