Sci-fi MMOs are, in my opinion, nowhere near the level of tapped out that fantasy MMOs are…probably because the whole spaceship things is hard to design around. Making a spaceship a character as much as your character is a character is likely a challenging thing to make work. Some of the best sci-fi stories involve interesting characters and equipment that were characters on their own.
So I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that most sci-fi MMOs seem to do one well and not the other. EVE has ships only and they are wholly unique characters, but your avatar looks pretty damn stiff and weird. TOR has stories around you class but a dogfighting PvP mode that appears to be thrown away by its devs now. STO has both, but neither really feel terribly fleshed out.
To the subject of EVE, though, the character inside the ship isn’t really up to the developers, but up to the player. I’m not sure how many social locations there are in EVE as I haven’t logged in to the game in years, but I have a hard time thinking that there’s a memorable capsuleer that can be identified by his or her face. It’s still all about the spacecraft
This all leads up to explaining why I’m a supporter of Star Citizen. This game has been the poster boy of Kickstarter success and failure both–the example that people use to show how the new guard is taking over…or how the MMO genre is suffering another slow death at the hands of shifty business practices. Chris Roberts has become a new Jesus, with about as many fervent followers and vitriolic disbelievers.
But shoving all of that static to the side…I support Star Citizen for the reason that it has plans in place to make the character matter as much as the craft. The FPS gameplay mode will mean personal skirmishes will matter. The fact that players can fly medical transports and pick up wounded players will matter. Multi-crewed spacecraft will mean that helmsmen, gunners, and any number of other skill positions will matter.
This is the stuff that makes these internet spaceship games more compelling to me. The people inside the stylish, blinking tin can.
Who’s to say this won’t end up like almost every ship piloting experience in a co-op shooter, though? How many people reading this have played in a game of PlanetSide 2 or Battlefield or even Unreal Tournament 2K-whatever and been the victim of a crappy pilot? Well, I think we’re probably going to be seeing significantly less of that, since piloting is the thing that everyone has to do in this game.
While the FPS and other out-of-ship activities are still things, the cockpit is where most players will live and die. So since this is part of standard gameplay, there’s less likelihood of people derping it up at the stick. If anything, we’re gonna have most arguments likely directed at the turret gunners. Star Citizen’s version of bitching out the DPS.
Right now, though, all Star Citizen is is a lobby game with a couple of spaceflight modes and a hangar where one can walk around and crawl about inside their purchased ships. I have, right now, an Aurora ES–the game’s verion of a school bus. That said, what it lacks in style…and substance…and armament…it more than makes up for in the fact that it has a working engine. Basically, that means its provided a good learning tool to get used to piloting in this game, and I’ve found some enjoyment out of just tooling about in the open free flight mode.
Like many crowdfunded games that are in the cooker right now, this game is about funding the hopes and dreams and looking towards the potential…and what’s here now screams that. Flight feels spectacular and direct, even to someone who isn’t playing with a flight stick right now. The differences between ships is not only cosmetic, but palpable, too. During the weekend when they gave all backers a free little dogfighter to take out for a spin, the sensation of power and movement was immediately apparent after having flown my Derpy Tube.
These ships have character.
So the fact that Star citizen’s ships are full of character leads me to think that the personal stuff will carry just as much weight and difference. Mercifully, it won’t take too long to find out if my hunch is correct–the FPS Module of the game is due to release in 2015. I’m not really going to hold my breath, because these roadmaps are always nebulous…but at the same time I can hope that the in-head stuff will be released and will be just as good as the in-cockpit stuff.
These games deserve to be more than just The Adventures of Tin Can With Blinky Lights. We all deserve to be our own Captain Kirk. Or Han Solo. Or even an R2-D2.