gamercard

Here are all of my various online gaming identities so you can add me to your friends list and play with me.

  • Valve’s Steam: SimbaLion
  • EA’s Origin: smblion
  • Ubisoft’s
  • Blizzard’s Battle.net: SimbaLion#1219

Why is Star Trek Online still garbage?

When people think of Massive Multiplayer Online games, they think of World of Warcraft. They also think of billions of dollars in profits that World of Warcraft has raked in.

What they don’t realize is that World of Warcraft was a freak sensation. Not because an MMO can’t be good, or because an MMO can’t be profitable, but because most MMOs are not either of those things.

A perfect example of this is Star Trek Online, which has been a persistent failure since it’s debut in 2010. The company that operates the game has changed owners at least 2 times in the past 6 years. They give the game away for free and they still can’t get a decent number of players.

Is that because nobody is interested in Star Trek? Hardly. The latest Star Trek film grossed $60m on it’s opening weekend alone. The reason Star Trek Online is failing is because it is garbage.

There is a lot of content in the game, a _lot_ of content. There is so much content you will never see it all because you will be sick of playing after a couple of days. Rather than spend any decent effort on creating a very solid game, they have focused on constant content updates. Content updates are great, but you need a solid core first.

I’m going to point out one specific area, Inventory Management. Your inventory space is very limited, and you collect a lot of gear by completing quests and PvE “Dungeons”. There’s no means to recycle gear into crafting materials, but you can sell it. However, the marketplace interface is almost non-existent. When you go to sell an item there is no indication of the going rate for that item. If you want to sell intelligently you have to search for each item by hand. And because the market is flooded with duplicates because there are no players, this means you need to make extensive use of the filters. There is a filter for rank, which does not match the rank on the items so you have to guess which item ranks go with which player ranks, then there’s a filter for rarity, and filters for item types. All of these have to be set individually, to sell one item. And then for the next item you will probably have to change all of them again.

It is literally a grind, it’s not fun, and it is enough to make me, a die-hard gamer and star trek fan, quit playing a game that is completely free. That is a recipe for a failure and in any normal business environment people would be fired extremely fast. But in this environment the people making the decisions do not know anything about the game industry or playing games. The developers who actually play the game don’t have any say in development priorities. The entire system is broken.

Massive Multiplayer Online games are great, and the free to play model can succeed, if done right. Let’s get rid of everyone destroying the scene presently, and replace them with real gamers who have a clue how things should work.

Why are Video Game Companies hostile to gamers?

Atari Controller

Inspiration of Gamers

captain power toysWhen I was a child, they had these toys which were combined with interactive VHS tapes. You would hold this space ship like a gun, and you’d watch a VHS tape of enemy space ships, and you’d shoot at the screen. The controller would record hits and misses. It was a pretty novel idea, and for many people this was the first real “video game”. My imagination was sparked.

Birth of the industry

People like me grew up and in the 1980s, began experimenting with writing video games on the IBM PC platform. Video games back then were very rough, very simple, very linear. There were lots of really terrible games, but every now and then something remarkable and fun would emerge. Most of these games were created entirely by a single individual.

Goldrush of venture capitalists

Sierra Online logoVideo Games started making money, and businessmen showed up like sharks smelling blood. They would find these especially talented programmers and hire them to make games exclusively for their labels. This was the begining of the modern video game industry. Sure there were console video games and Japan was doing it’s thing, but the real explosion happened when PC games appeared on the scene with ground-breaking titles such as DOOM.

Billion Dollar Industry

Today, Video Games are a multi-billion dollar industry. They make more money than Hollywood. That is a huge leap to have occured in only 20 years. It is partly due to the incredible talent of game creators, but it is mostly due to the giant hole in interactive entertainment which video games have filled. Businessmen are not necessarily gamers, in fact many of them don’t play any games at all. And many who claim otherwise would be found to only dabble in click-games on their cellphones, which is not really the same thing as being a “Gamer”.

Transformation – Ripping off the customers

Blizzard entertainment logoThe widespread availability of High Speed Internet has had a huge impact on the video game industry, both positive and negative. I am going to focus on the negative for the purpose of this rant. We now have Massive Multiplayer Online Games, which are by themselves a great concept, but are being completely abused to rip all of us off. We also have downloadable content, again a great concept, but again it is being abused to rip people off instead of to improve the gaming experience.

In MMOs there are two business models, I will discuss both:

Subscription Models

First is the subscription model, which is the original MMO model. The idea is that operating a persistent world requires a lot of infrastructure and manpower, and when sales slow down the money to support that has to come from somewhere. Why not ask the customers to pay for it? This seems reasonable at first, but why does every single MMO publisher charge the same $15 per month fee? If you know about server and datacenter costs, you know that that is way more money than they need to maintain their infrastructure, especially for a game like WoW that has many millions of subscribers. They are following the rule of supply and demand, setting their price to the highest possible amount that the largest number of their customers are willing to pay. This has created a hostile environment for competition, which means fewer successful MMOs, which is bad for gamers!

Microtransactions

The other model is microtransactions. At first this might seem like a great idea, spending a few dollars here and there rather than $15 per month, but when you look at the sort of things you’re expected to pay for, most of it is stuff that you used to get with the game when you buy it. Nowadays it seems you are buying a preview or a trailer, with a neat packaging, and access to purchase the actual game brick by brick. And if you do the math on all the microtransactions required to purchase the whole game, it is usually several hundred dollars.

Downloadable Content

The other big way we are being ripped off is downloadable content. Video game publishers have their $10 and $20 DLCs planned out well before release. They are charging you top dollar for the game, at this time that is $60, with the intention of squeezing you for another $20-$40 in DLCs bringing the actual game’s price to $100 or more. But the amount of total content hasn’t changed! To use a grocery store analogy, they have reduced the number of chips in the bag, and are offering to sell you the chips which used to be in the bag, at 200% or more mark-up.

Why do we tolerate this?

Why do we tolerate being ripped off by the industry which we created, which we supplied with funds, and which would die if it were not for our loyal support? I suggest there is no reason to tolerate it. Stop paying companies for games which are ripping us off. If the game has Day-1 DLC which is not free, do not buy the game. If the game has overpriced subscription models, do not buy the game. Is a few hours of “fun” really worth the price of your dignity? Are we all really suckers?

WARGAME

Important:

This is a work in progress. I’ve been wanting something like this for a long time. I based this on another system which had some simple rules for resolving conflict, but I felt it was lacking the depth required to have large scale battles. This project is essentially ‘open source’, I invite comments and playtesting to improve upon this, so that we can all have an excellent system which is easy to learn in minutes, and completely free.

Necessary items:

  • 1d8, tho more is better
  • Miniatures, they can be toys, empty bullet shell casings, anything really.
  • Scenery objects. Abstract or precise, use anything you like.

UNIT TYPES

Infantry

Soldiers

  • Rifleman / Grenadier
  • Scout / Sniper
  • Support

Vehicles

Air

  • Jets & Planes
  • Helicopters

Land

  • Armored Personel Carriers
  • Tanks

Sea

  • Squad Boats
  • Destroyers
  • Submarine
  • Battleship
  • Carrier

WEAPON TYPES

Small Arms

Pistols

  • Semi Auto
  • Full Auto

Carbines

  • Sub-Machine Guns

Rifles

  • Combat Rifle
  • Light Machine Gun (Heavy)
  • Sniper Rifle (Heavy)

Area of Effect

  • Rocket Launcher (Anti-Vehicle, Heavy)
  • Grenade Launcher (Anti-Infantry, Heavy)
  • Heavy Machine Gun (Anti-Infantry, Heavy)

RULES

Standard unit of Measurement: 1cm

Turn Order

  • 1. Initiative
  • 2. Action Phase
  • 3. Free Actions

Initiative

Roll dice for initiative, highest roll wins.

Action Phase

Each player gets 2 actions. All players use their actions during this phase, in order of initiative.
Actions include:

  • Movement
  • Attacking
  • Using skills

Free Actions

Each player has an unlimited number of free actions. All players use their free actions during this phase, in order of initiative.
Free Actions include:

  • Entering/Exiting a vehicle
  • MOVEMENT

    Each movement point allows 10cm of travel. Rough terrain costs double, as does moving up or down. Changing direction mid-move is allowed.

    Movement Points

    • Normal Unit: 1
    • Hero Unit: 1 + Agility
    • Vehicle: 3

    COMBAT

    Attacking

    Attacker rolls 1d8. A result of 1 is an critical failure. A result of 8 is a critical success.

    Success table

    • Adjacent 2-8
    • Short 4-8
    • Long 6-8

    Defending

    Defender rolls 1d8. A result of 8 is a success. For each point of armor or agility a unit has, decrease roll target by 1. So a unit with 2 armor needs a 6 or better to deflect a hit. Cover decreases roll target by 2.

    Area of Effect

    AoE blasts count as an automatic hit wherever they land, and all spaces adjacent. In the case of a miss, roll 1d8 to determine direction of the miss, and 1d8 to determine distance in units.

    RESOLVING COMBAT

    • Critical Success – Unit is defeated
    • Hit
      • Normal unit is defeated
      • Hero unit is wounded
    • AoE Direct Hit
      • Normal Unit is Defeated
      • Hero is Defeated
      • Vehicle is Defeated
    • AoE Splash Hit
      • Normal Unit is defeated
      • Hero is wounded
      • Vehicle is unaffected

    UNIT VALUES

    Army point values should be equal or within an agreed upon handicap

    Infantry

    • Rifleman: 1pt
    • Grenadier, Sniper, Support: 3pt
    • Hero Unit: 5pt*
    • Vehicle Unit: 10pt

    Hero Buffs (Maximum of 5 points)

    • Armor+1: 1pt (Max: 2, cancels agility)
    • Agility+1: 1pt (Max: 2, cancels armor)
    • Accuracy+1: 2pt (Max: 1)
    • Morale+1: 3pt (Max: 1)

    HERO BUFFS

    Morale gives a +1 to all rolls for units within 10cm. Accuracy gives +1 to attack rolls. Agility gives +1 to movement points, and +1 to dodge rolls, but cannot be used with heavy weapons or armor, and is useless in vehicles. Armor gives +1 to deflect rolls, and cannot be combined with Agility.

    SPECIAL VEHICLE RULES

    Planes & Battleships can only perform special AoE attacks from off-map. Carriers have no weapons and are used as platforms to launch air attacks. Submarines are used for anti-vehicular sea combat. Destroyers are used to attack submarines and defend Battleships and Carriers. Squad boats carry infantry on maps with rivers, and to launch amphibious assaults from carriers.

    Squad boats have 1 heavy weapon mount and 2 light weapon mounts. Infantry can attack from the boat with a -2 penalty.

    Planes can either attack with rockets or machine guns. Helicopters move like land vehicles, and can use rockets or machine guns. Submarine torpedos and Destroyer depth charges are treated like rockets. Battleships fire a salvo of artillery.

    Machine Guns fire 5 round bursts, each shot is treated like AoE but does no splash damage. Artillery fire 3 round bursts, each shot is treated like AoE with splash damage.