Priority One Podcast // Ranting Redshirt: The Mindless. The Unthinking. The Pro...
Ranting Redshirt: The Mindless. The Unthinking. The Programmed.
No that’s not a B movie remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, it’s what the NPCs, Non-Player Characters, of Star Trek Online are. We’ve all seen them from ESD, DS9, Qonos and even within our own ships interiors, but what function do they serve other than the sandwich filler to make these areas seem less vast and empty. They are the Furniture, but what if they were more?
Now we’ve all been there, either standing at a vendor, using the exchange or simply standing still, and then these Starfleet personnel crash into you often forcing you out of their way. In fact at the time of writing this leaving my Vulcan in the exchange room he’s had this happen at least four times. Now I could understand if I was directly in the NPCs path I would get caught up in their drag but this was just standing at a console, I would touch on how often this happens in first city but even the Borg queen couldn’t bring order to the chaos of NPCs there.
We have NPCs patrolling the station with their guns out, have they never shot from the hip before? While I understand it’s a time of war, I think a Gatling phaser gun is a little over kill but more on aesthetics a little later.
It takes a special kind of program to want to annoy a Vulcan; perhaps the NPC pathing is programmed by Tom Paris of Voyager but I digress, the pathing of some of the NPCs is quite strange indeed.
I followed one engineer from the Exchange who was heading to the requisitions area. Now he started normally, stopped, noticed my vice admiral and made a reference to my completing ‘Diplomatic Orders’ back when I was still levelling, started heading back the way he came, then turned back around to access a wall panel, headed towards the windows of the corridors between the two areas and then looped back to the Exchange only to start the trip back all over again. I think he might be overworked.
This brings us to our next topic
Animation and Stance
Now anyone who knows me knows I hate the Cute and Seductive stances, and this blog is called Ranting Redshirt. Now of course there would be people out there who want their characters to use those stances, but for Starfleet personnel stand at attention in such a manner looks quite out of place. It’s funny really seeing the grown older lady in the Exchange stand as though she needs to use the bathroom with her ‘cute’ stance, and that wasn’t my observation it was my mothers.
Moving on from the Exchange into the requisition area there’s a lot of strange animations going on here, people shouting at supplies while wielding a 2 handed weapon near the tailor, one guy is having a very riveting conversation with a cargo container, the one Andorian in the shipyard who’s been thinking deeply for almost 3 years or all the very creepy people in the stateroom who salute and follow your character around the room.
Maybe we should discuss about the disgusting DS9 NPCs who come up to you and cough on you; I know the infirmary hasn’t been implemented but still this is quite an epidemic. You have 3 Vulcans near the old omega vendors who are drinking, laughing and coughing and then there is the rather violent Vulcan who randomly throws a swing at their conversation partner near the entrance to the shipyard.
All these animations seem rather off, unless they’re all species 8472 trying rather poorly to blend in. What really needs to change is restrictions within the animations, not allowing the system to assign really emotionally charged gestures to a species whose emotions are never on show and maybe get a doctor in to treat that cough.
We all know that the UFP have species that are diverse in physical appearance however they can’t seem to choose what uniform to wear, it’s always a mix bag of Antares and Sierra. It’s called a uniform for a reason. Now granted both uniforms were worn in Generations, in the old TNG and the new DS9 but they all had the same uniform come the next season, so with the game almost coming into its 3rd year shouldn’t they have settled on single a uniform by now? I’m sure everyone would have gotten the memo.
Heck even the Crew of the Enterprise F aren’t even in the same uniform, the Federation’s flag ship and no-one can decide what to wear. The uniform classed as “Odyssey” is available to players whose fleet has unlocked their starbase tailor, so why not use that as the official STO NPC Federation Uniform. Everyone who I’ve spoken to felt that the uniform was well made and very nicely designed, moving away from the over complicated Antares and Sierra uniforms and into the sleek and wonderful uniform that we’ve come to love from the shows.
Now we’ve got the movements and the looks, we got to be able to “strut our stuff!” or in this case be of benefit to players new and old alike. Now if you’re on ESD and you’re trying to find something you basically run around till you find it, or follow those Fisher Price ‘My First Starbase’ icons above the doors, really now? What am I three?
Having played other MMOs I’d always liked the social hubs such as Orgrimmar and Stormwind from World of Warcraft. I have played Horde for quite some time so I didn’t spend as much time in Stormwind however when I was there I didn’t quite know the layout, but instead of having mindless drones wandering around you could talk to guards and ask them where things were even when the Cataclysm expansion came out and the layouts of both cities changed you never felt lost as you could ask an NPC for assistance.
Another idea that could be even easier then marking the place on the map, STO actually has a navigational path when you first land on ESD after the tutorial that shows you the way to Admiral Quinn’s office, this is helpful! It’s says “This is the way to go!” without being patronising towards your users, and it’s not even something used in just the beginning of the game! Featured Episode: Boldly they rode, as much as I hate it, uses it to show players where to go around DS9 while it’s occupied!
How about we actually get some NPC officers who aren’t afraid to talk to us? Janeway even had to ask where she was going in “Good Sheppard” down on deck 15; it helps people find things around the starbase which could also include Foundry doors. Can’t find where exactly the mission starts on ESD? Ask the NPC ‘How do I access the holodecks” and they could highlight all the possible foundry starting doors on the map.
While on the topic of making ESD and other social hubs more functional there are various NPCs sitting on the benches. It would be great to make those sit-able for players much like the ones we have on our fleet starbases, 1 click is better than having to try all the sitting emotes trying to figure out which one actually looks good.
While this will require a fair amount of work on Cryptic’s part, once made these changed would pay off quite quickly by helping areas feel more alive and intractable.
Improvements to existing assets:
- Plotting clean paths for NPC, making them more ‘logical’ and not sporadically drunk
- Improving the AI to detect possible collision with players who are currently interacting with objects
- Outfitting existing NPCs in the latest uniform as opposed to randomly generated ones, thus creating a sense of passing time with the game
Now of course all this could make these areas so much more useful but there are assets that would have to be created from scratch.
Possible assets could be:
- New Social animations for conversations between 2 or more NPCs making the NPCs feel like they are having a chat and not overreacting to every move each other make
- New Scripting that could increase time between animations (Some animations fail to finish before the next one starts especially on DS9) or ensure the previous animation completes before starting the next one
- Categories for animations so Vulcan don’t act aggressive and Klingons don’t act logical
- Adding the above into the foundry
This has been Ranting Redshirt and I have and always will be ranting!
Star Trek Online ™ & © 2012 CBS Studios Inc. All rights reserved. STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.