Subspace Communiqué – Embracing Adversity

“I don’t believe in a no-win scenario.”—Captain James T. Kirk

Growing up, I was never a fan of extreme challenges. I’m a hard-wired perfectionist, easily thrown off by unexpected obstacles or changes of plan. Perhaps it’s this desire to get it right the first time that made difficult videogames so frustrating for me when I was younger. From Super Star Wars to Mario Bros., I remember countless instances of trial and inevitable failure as I sat before the glowing TV screen. And yet, I never stopped playing these games. I continued playing them even as they seemed to mock my as-yet undeveloped motor skills with their punishing difficulty levels. There was something indefinably compelling about those punishing videogames. As I grew older, my reflexes sharpened and games suddenly felt easier. The industry (generally speaking) settled into a very specific pattern of behavior: make flashier games with expensive cinematics, while creating very little room for actual failure. Rather than having an ominous “GAME OVER” emblazoned across the screen, most modern games treat character death as nothing more than a minor setback, something that can be easily rectified with another attempt. And this is where games have lost one of their essential qualities; victory means nothing without the threat of defeat.

Recently, I’ve been playing two games quite a lot: Dark Souls (a fantasy action RPG with a notoriously unforgiving difficulty curve) and FTL (also known as Faster-Than-Light, a sci-fi roguelike with procedurally generated hazards and enemies). Death is common in these games, but it also carries weight and meaning. In Dark Souls, death results in a loss of Souls (the currency of the game) and causes the immediate respawning of all enemies in the area. FTL, on the other hand, is a “play till you die” sort of experience. Your starship travels across various sectors of space, pursued by a fleet of Rebel vessels on one side and faced with the threats of the unknown on the other. The random generation of enemies and hazards makes every playthrough unique and tense. In both FTL and Dark Souls, the omnipresent threat of death and possibility of conclusive mission failure create a harsh (but largely fair) game environment that rewards forethought and punishes strategic mistakes. In my experience, frequent failure (or at the very least, the possibility of it occurring) is what makes the victories that much more cathartic in these videogames.

But what does any of this mean for STO? Over the course of the past few months, I’ve seen/heard discussions regarding the subject of endgame difficulty on the official STO forums, the STO Subreddit, and even on Priority One itself. While the current difficulty options for queued events— Normal and Elite—offer players a fair amount of choice as far as enemy scaling is concerned, many in the community have been pushing for a third difficulty setting. The more I think about the idea of an Advanced difficulty, the more I like it. How many times in Star Trek canon have we seen captains faced with apparently unbeatable odds? From the battle against the Borg in Star Trek: First Contact, to the climactic final confrontations in the Wrath of Khan and Nemesis, we’ve seen the likes of Kirk and Picard push their ships and crews nearly to the breaking point. Only through careful planning, coordinated teamwork, and sheer force of will do these captains lead their crews to victory. Why should STO be any different? A difficulty setting that affords each player on a team only one spawn during the course of the queued event, for instance, would create a tense atmosphere and lend a sense of urgency to the group’s struggle. No one said exploring the final frontier would be easy. Yet I’ve learned in the past few years that our most hard-fought battles are often what define us—be it as individuals, or starship captains.

Feel free to share your thoughts on difficulty in STO in the comments section below! Until next time, fly safe and plain sailing!

9 Comments ON " Subspace Communiqué – Embracing Adversity "
  • alt_example

    seannewboy April 10, 2014 at 4:16 am - Reply

    My biggest problem with the current higher difficulties is that the rewards dont really equal the extra time and batteries i spend having to run them.

  • alt_example

    Marcase April 10, 2014 at 7:10 am - Reply

    Agree +1.
    For many there really is no end-game level, no sense of loss or hair-pulling frustration coupled with the bouncing joy when one succeeds.
    I understand Cryptic in that they don’t want to raise the bar too high in fear of scaring away new players, but there should be a hard(er) difficulty with matching rewards. Especially rewards is important as otherwise there is no drive, like in the last Mirror Event where one could just do Normal with no real reason to do Elite.

    • alt_example

      Wesley Garis April 10, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply

      I definitely agree with you regarding Mirror Invasion. Not only were the rewards basically the same, but there also was really no difference between them in difficulty or mechanics. Elite simply had more enemies, and was just more of a nuisance in that sense.

  • alt_example

    Vivienne Anthony April 14, 2014 at 7:19 am - Reply

    I agree. I want end game difficulty. For example, going against unbeatable odds, ship damage that actually affects performance, damage cool downs, and also kill the respawn. If I get killed ship get damaged. I have to contact Stafleet or another close by ship to rescue me.

    This is Star Trek. What the company is lacking in the game.

  • alt_example

    Vivienne Anthony April 14, 2014 at 7:21 am - Reply

    I agree. I want end game difficulty. For example, going against unbeatable odds, ship damage that actually affects performance, damage cool downs, and also kill the respawn. If I get killed my ship gets damaged and disabled. I have to contact Stafleet or another close by ship to rescue me.

    This is Star Trek. What the company is lacking in the game.

    • alt_example

      Wesley Garis April 14, 2014 at 1:43 pm - Reply

      I really like the idea of having to limp back to Starbase after a really hard fight, and not just to get a quick fix from the “Repair Ship” guy!

  • alt_example

    Adam LaJuene April 14, 2014 at 9:14 am - Reply

    If you really want increased difficulty, use lower quality equipment or lower tiered ship rather than impose your desires on the rest of us.

    • alt_example

      Wesley Garis April 14, 2014 at 1:40 pm - Reply

      I have no desire to “impose” my desires on anyone. The current model of Normal and Elite would still exist in my hypothetical little proposal here. What I AM in favor of is providing players more options as far as difficulty is concerned. It’s true that deliberately nerfing myself would make endgame content more difficult. But that doesn’t address the fact that I think there should be an additional difficulty level built into the game itself. And there are plenty of other players in the community asking for the same.

  • alt_example

    cahlash April 14, 2014 at 12:14 pm - Reply

    I think altering the difficulty levels in the game should better reflect a “more risk = more reward” model than it does currently. While the quality of the drops do increase in the missions, I think maybe increasing the end of mission awards would be appropriate too.

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