Cryptic Studio’s Star Trek Online provides simple ways to reach out quickly to your fellow Players via the In-game chat window. You can send them a private message (PM), or talk to them in a public channel. In-game e-mail also lets you make contact with your friends.
Players know that great games look for ways to enhance the social aspect with better security, customer service, account customization, and efficient communication features. STO does a great job encouraging us to connect with one another, however, sometimes players need assistance in finding that support and clarity.
Without efficient, user-friendly social tools, certain game design elements can cause unnecessary tension, discourse, frustration, and confusion within the STO community.
Add these issues to other player needs, desires, or lack of clarity about a certain aspect or feature of the game, and it can be the last straw that leads some players to complain on the forums or completely quit the game. The need for social interaction is important to many people and complications or misunderstandings can be devastating to an online gaming community.
Encouraging and assisting social interaction is essential for many reasons including helping a player find answers before they get too frustrated and quit, helping a player find support to improve their skills or ship builds, and helping the player find real company within and connections to this fictional game world. From roleplaying to running missions, from building to promoting groups and Foundry creations, social clarity is key.
Currently one scenario plays out the most within STO, and is in need of assistance:
You, the Player, log into the game. Your Friend (either a close friend you play with, or a stranger or acquaintance you “Friended” in the game), who had logged into the game before you did, sees this notice pop up in their chat box, “@YOUR PLAYER NAME logged in”, and immediately sends you a private message.
You don’t see this message and likely never will (the reason why, if you don’t already know, will be addressed later). The Friend then wonders why you don’t respond and either feels confused, bothered, or ignored. The Friend may quickly become sad or confused and follow it up with another PM, asking why you haven’t responded, or just continue their one-sided conversation to no avail. They may even unintentionally harass you with continued chat messages that express these feelings.
You may or may not ever see their messages but the end result is that either A.) the misunderstanding is cleared up, but not without annoying delays for both players, or B.) it isn’t cleared up and a Friend is “un-Friended” or truly ignored, being seen as “needy”, “insane”, or “immature”. This situation wasn’t something that they should be blamed entirely for, even if they didn’t handle it well or figure out the real issue.
What your Friend may not realize is that there are many factors that contribute to them not getting a response either immediately or ever from you. Chances are, if they’re still on your Friend List, then there was something you liked about them which should lend itself to giving them a second chance before you delete or ignore them after a bombardment of messages or inquiry about your lack of response to them. Likewise, they should give you the benefit of the doubt, but here’s a better explanation of what’s happening behind the scenes that caused the grief…
Reasons for why a player may not respond to a private chat message:
The player logged in, waited for the game to load, and was sent to the Character Selection Screen, where they could choose to go into the Foundry or into the Game itself.
In this selection screen, there is no chat window.
Sometimes it takes a bit of time for the player to create a new character, delete one, rename one, alter one, or figure out which one they want to play. Maybe they want to buy another character slot while they’re there.
When they finally decide to go into the Game, there’s more loading time, and that includes loading up the chat window on their screen and maybe other visuals depending on their computer’s abilities.
During this whole procedure, any private messages being sent will never be seen. Additionally, if they are creating or altering a character right after they arrive or then go to edit their ship in the Shipyard, both processes that can be long ones for some players, they will not see PMs, as those edit screens currently have no chat windows in them.
The player might have decided to go into the Foundry from the Character Selection Screen. If this happens, they will never see any private messages, email, or community chat, as there is currently no chat window or inbox in the STO Foundry. So, although the player’s Friend within the Game sees that they’re online, they will be unable to reach them while they are here.
When a player enters the main game and is no longer in those loading screens or editing areas, they will never see any past PMs they missed either, due to the way the game is currently programmed.
So here are a few ways to fix this problem or assist in helping the community through it:
– Spread the word on how the game works with regards to currently programmed social tools’ limitations and possible scenarios between players. Be an ambassador for good social community health and awareness!
– Ask Cryptic to program a small private messages box on the Character / Foundry Selection Screen that shows all PMs since the player logged in. This would be great if I needed know about an opportunity to join in a role-play session (RPG), STF run, or mission with people and had to select a specific character (KDF or Fed faction, or focus on type of character species) ahead of time in order to do it. It would also let me connect with someone and let them know that I might be working on a character, Foundry, or ship build for awhile and will not be available to play or chat until later.
– Ask Cryptic to program a chat window into the STO Foundry so that players can advertise their work-in-progress to the public, keep their eyes on chat events, and still answer PMs. Or, at least provide a note within the Game’s chat window under “Friends / Player Location” that shows them being in the Foundry rather than “Unknown”.
It’s also important to note that there is a chat window feature in Cryptic’s Neverwinter Foundry that the STO players have been waiting to also get for their game. This is a good example of features that will likely make it into STO at some point.
Bazag (STO player and BazagStabs.com host) and DJ Deyvid (TrekRadio.net) informed me that the Tribble server currently has a beta feature accessible only to Gold Members, which allows them to use XMPP-compatible chat clients such as Pidgin or Trillian. This feature connects them to in-game, player-created chat channels such as the Fleet channels, RP channels, the RED ALERT channel, etc. This enables them to access frequently used channels to chat with friends and fleet mates while using the parts of the game that lack chat function, like the Foundry, and character and ship customizing areas. This chat feature would require them, however, to have another, separate window open or a second monitor dedicated to this chat program and it currently does not allow access to default channels like the Zone chats of Earth Space Dock or Qo’noS. On the upside, if they use the external XMPP-compatible chat client to join a new channel that did not already exist, that new channel will be added to the game and other players will then be able to join it. Another bonus is that they can archive chats with many of these external chat programs.
This may be our community solution for now, but most players won’t be able to test this until it’s made available to everyone and some players may not want to use a separate external program for chatting with in-game players. If you have used this method though, I’d love to hear about your experience and thoughts. For more information, players can go to this link and see the details and community comments so far.
Meanwhile, I urge players to continue to encourage each other in social networking and sharing tips with one another. Cryptic may already have thought of the solutions to these issues, and if so, we can do no harm in discussing our desires and experiences while we eagerly await updates and upgrades.
STO is a great game that we’re lucky to have and keeping our community as strong as it can be surely helps our overall experience, as well as helps the game continue to grow and develop new tools for us. Join me in supporting our fellow players and our online social network!
~ Adrianne Grady
Priority One Podcast Host & Community Manager
Copyright © 2013 Priority One Podcast.
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