Sunday, January 26, 2014


Let's start with the orbital view of Vulcan. 

Over the decades, the appearance of Vulcan has changed. In fact, it does't look the same from one show to the next. Let's go chronologically, shall we:

It starts with Enterprise -- the planet's surface resembles a deserted wasteland from space:

Someone has to feel bad for T'Pol. 
Then CPT Kirk has to do some ritual designed to suppress the Vulcan libido. His first visit is botched because he forgot to bring his antiquated BluRay viewer:

Some special effects, huh?
So upon realizing his mistake he goes back home to Iowa and digs said viewer out of his garage. He immediately returns to find the ritual in full swing in his absence.

When CPT Picard drops in, he finds a planet with geology similar to Earth. The polar ice caps are nearly identical. It's fascinating.

"Data, is this the right planet?"
And so we're in STO. The planet looks like a craterized moon with bits of water here and there. But it's just a game, right?

Well, there's a bit more to it than that. One side has ALL dirt, while the other side has ALL water:


My point here is, the orbital view doesn't seem all that critical here. Andoria was done beautifully, but it seems the dev's didn't put as much effort into Vulcan. Nothing actually happens out here at present. So, while annoying and obvious, it isn't all that important.

The system entrance has an orbital platform which is never mentioned or used at any point in game. I guess it's assumed that Federation planets have these huge things to act as relay towers so they can communicate. And there are several mentions of them orbiting Earth in TNG and DS9 (although none are visible in Endgame, but Voyager doesn't count), Even so, these towers are so critical to the Federation I feel they should somehow be incorporated directly rather than being used as scenery.

Enterprise had an episode (I forget which one) where they find this cool-but-conditional automated ship repair facility. For the purpose of the game, perhaps there could be one at Vulcan (minus the kidnapping and killing aliens in stasis part). It wouldn't have to be an exact duplicate -- just a repair station with a dry dock and an automated component would work. We still have the shipyards at Utopia Planecia and Jupiter Station to be considerate of. This would be more like a rest stop -- just a tune up and an oil change while you're in town. Maybe some munchies while you wait.

So something goes wrong (memory core gets hacked, a space microbe attaches itself to the hull and feeds on the metals available, the planetary grid misses a tiny space rock and it destroys something)...the catalyst itself isn't critical. I'm thinking it could be done like the first part of Coliseum, with various consoles to activate and puzzles to solve. The cause itself is a mystery until the end when conclusions can be drawn. Was it sabotage? No, it was just a bloody space rock! I would lean away from having enemies there to kill, unless they're deranged Trellium-D addicted zombie Vulcans. Okay, that seriously would NOT work here. It would be much more Trek if there was a non-violence based mission somewhere in the universe. And Vulcan seems the perfect place for it.

This could be a chain of mini-missions, or just 2 or 3 optional extras. There is a random diplomacy mission in the Bajor system that isn't spoken of, nor does it unlock anything. This could be one such mission. You come to Vulcan for something else, check in with the relay/repair station prior to beaming down, and they say something's wrong. If you accept the mission, it begins like any other. If you decline, nothing happens and they say they can handle it. This would be a nice repeatable for expertise.

So now we're on to the ground.

There's only one mission on Vulcan that isn't related to the PVE content (and only one that is). You have to run around talking to people. And finding them in random ass places that make NO logical sense. Really. After that, there's no real reason to come back to Vulcan. So I'm going to skip that part and get to the planet and its map.

The beam down point appears to be a temple complex. Vulcans are known for their temples, after all.

Looks sacred, don't it?
Walking down the stairs a bit -- more temple looking stuff
Eventually there are buildings and statues and such, but none of it serves much of a purpose outside of the fountain. It's the landmark mentioned in the mission where the Romulan guy is standing.

Looks like they stole water from Disneyland.
The buildings are just structures. This one could have been a home or a meeting place of some sort. It could also have been a place for an NPC to hang out waiting for you to come up and initiate a mission.

Nice place ya got there.
 Unfortunately, the door is only ornamental and can not be activated in any way.

It's a Vulcan Keep-Out House
As for the rest of the map, It looks pretty standard. It's a desert, so they based most of it on the Vasquez Rocks. Ad Nauseum. Have a look.

Remember the rocks from The Arena?
No semi-dead Gorn here.
Generic desert rocks
The city from a distance
The base of the big hill
Halfway up the hill
It's all very predictable and boring until this point. We're at the place where Spock has his Pon Farr. This ritual fighting ground could be used SO much more effectively. How about a mini-game where we learn Suss Mahna (in our terms, it would be melee combos involving lirpas)? Or we fight the koon-ut-kal-if-fee? Or some damned thing. This platform, as it is now, only exists for show. There are are no lirpas around, ornamental or otherwise.

And at the top of the platform (behind the ritual area) is the entrance to -- something. Okay, really nothing. It's a Vulcan temple that we don't have access to.

 See -- no access. Not even a monk there to say humans aren't allowed. You'd think they'd be eager to tell what we can and can't do on their planet. It also isn't logical to refuse to say what is inside, even without access. These Vulcans may or may not be monks, but they certainly look like they're standing guard. I'd like to know -- over what? Why? And is there a potential mission hidden here?

See -- more guards. And no interactive Vulcans in sight. I'm starting to think maybe they could make this into a library of ancient scriptures. You know, the sort of stuff that takes decades to decipher and there's too much of it to get to all at once? Well, maybe stone tablets and such. We have a few others in game, as well as in DS9.

The mission could then be to find the right tablet (or scroll, or whatever). Maybe a few relics would have the answers but they're hidden around the map? I remember there being an entire cellar full of sacred relics somewhere on the planet. It would make sense if we had a mission where a monk needs help going through the massive volume of treasures to find a few specific pieces to complete a text or prove a point. Vulcans can be arrogant, hard-headed bastards. Maybe the issue could be that two researchers disagree on certain events for lack of information. They have two different interpretations and don't see eye to eye. Then we come in and gather the info needed to prove the quest giver right.

Then I came across this odd rock formation. It looks like it was supposed to be the entrance to something. Given that there are vast networks of caves on the surface of Vulcan, it comes as no surprise that there would be a few here. There could be sehlats hiding inside that attack randomly. And there could even be evidence of an unconfirmed underground movement that embraces mind melding. And God forbid -- they could hang a few IDICS around. Not too many, but a few. You know. Because it's VULCAN.

And then there are the random organized meditation groups. These could be monks, or apprentices, or who the hell knows. They're just there. Maybe they're young Vulcans learning how to mind meld. The proper technique does take practice, provided they don't want to cause Pa'Nar Syndrome.

Upon seeing their formation, I wondered if these were Vulcans undergoing the ritual of Kolinahr. They were out in the desert lost in their own world, presumably in some altered mind state. This wouldn't make a huge difference to gameplay overall. But some mention of Vulcan ritual and spirituality would add a lot to the immersion factor.

So the last thing I want to point out is this group of Vulcans. They all appear to be talking about something, but there's no interacting with them. A cutscene of their conversation would make a perfect intro to a mission start. They could be discussing the research I mentioned above, or some missing artifact, or any number of other things. Maybe someone is lost in the desert and isn't doing Kolinahr and the mission is to find them.

Or even better -- how about using one of the famous Vulcan temples for a non-story mission? We could examine the ruins of P'Jem (the one Shran destroyed) on that unnamed planet (and possibly even the ruins of the listening post they hid there).

Let's not forget the one where the Kir'shara was found, given that it was actually ON Vulcan. The bodies of the ancient Vulcans could be hiding something. Maybe a new corpse is hidden among the old ones? Or there's a crypt that appears to have been looted long ago, but is actually hiding something sinister?

And what of the Kir'shara itself? Shouldn't it be on display in its own temple somewhere? Or how about making it the centerpiece of a museum of Vulcan history, with a mission that involves investigating certain artifacts?

And here's an idea for an arc.

Okay, we all know Enterprise had a million opportunities to be something, only to piss them all away. Let's not go there. Remember instead that T'Pol was a drug addict. This was the first time Trek actually *almost* dealt with the issue first hand (rather than second hand, like in TOS and TNG). While my personal feeling is that it would have made a lot more sense if a human was an addict, the Vulcan thing opens the door to other exploration of the species. For one thing, T'Pol would have to completely relearn how to suppress her emotions. This is wonderful for us, as all we know about is that the training starts in early childhood and ends with Kolinahr. We could potentially see the middle part, and add some purpose to the temples Vulcan is so famous for. You know, aside from killing random Klingons and bloodshed in sacred places and whatnot.

 I came up with this chain of potential missions.
  • There's a Vulcan medic (doctor, scientist, something similar) who discovers that one of his patients is addicted to (*add substance here*). Trellium-D (or beetle snuff or Ketracel White) could work here, but really any fictional substance could serve the game's purpose.
  • You have to help him find a treatment. The treatment would consist of gathering materials (including the substance in question) to keep the patient stable.
  • Upon gathering the materials, a lab would be used to test biochemical reactions to the compound (much like the one on Deep Space K-7).
  • Since the damage is permanent (thus incurable), you would have to take the patient to different temples around the planet for different rituals. What they consist of and how the player interacts would largely depend on the devs. I would say simply escorting the patient to and from each temple would suffice. Maybe some simple interactions would be more emmersive, like lighting candles or preparing meditation rooms for use.
  • Each temple or ritual would show a different level of practice, or a different method of emotional suppression.
  • I also had the thought that part of the journey could involve a valley, a dust storm, and sehlats. Maybe one of those "you have to protect him from the beasts to get to the temple" kinda deals.
The end would be something like, "thank you for your help," and a unique item. I'm thinking an IDIC medallion costume piece would do nicely. The idea here is to make a random optional chain mission. I don't know about you, but I think seeing all these places in game would make it worthwhile. It's a lot of running around for cut scenes (of talking to monks and whatnot), but it's better than running around looking for ass random monks in one tiny area of a quad that serves no other purpose.

Random afterthoughts

Given the lack of interiors on Vulcan, I'm thinking it would be nice if we could see the ShiKahr Academy. Or better -- how about the Vulcan Science Academy? You know -- that place whose council members pissed off Spock in the reboot? Its purpose could be simple -- DOff science missions relating to the planet, BOff training in less common skills, or something similar. A few random cutscenes would be nice just to introduce the place and whatnot. I dunno...just hit me suddenly.


Wombat140 (of STO forum) said...

Only just seen this via STO forum. Good point - it struck me too that both Vulcan and Andoria seem to have been set up with some care to provide hooks for all kinds of missions, which then never happened.

I can see advantages to doing a drug addiction story with a Vulcan, actually. (There's an obvious problem with explaining why they ever started, but I can think of several scenarios and I'm sure you can too.) It establishes from the start that the addict is someone you have to respect as an equal - he (or she) can't be dismissed as "some weirdo", this is somebody as sensible and intelligent as you are, at least, and he still can't manage it on his own. There but for the grace of God, etc. Reminds me of an OCD support forum I know. Again, sensible, intelligent people doing all the right things, struggling with something that cares absolutely nothing for logic. You really should see the daily conversation on there. "Have you been doing your CBT exercises? - Of course I've been doing my exercises. Not helping so far. How's yourself? - Couple of panic attacks today but nothing got broken. - Have you got plenty to read? - Sorry, too jumpy to read anything. - Takes me that way sometimes too. Breathe in to the count of 7 and out to the count of 11"... You know, everyday life(!) Sorry, here I am rambling, it's a bit late at night.

Sol Morek said...

Yeah, I didn't go into too much detail on that one because of all the ways it could go. There are infinite possibilities, being that it would center on a Vulcan and not a human. I mean, a human addict story would be more relatable and all, but I think doing it with the intent to feel emotions one is denying one's self is a wonderful opening to a Feature Episode, or at least a planet wide development arc.

Most of the canon in this game is purely spectacle. There is very little left of the characters we know, save a few appearances and references sprinkled around. Should they keep to canon (at least the Enterprise version in this case), they could write a VERY compelling story here. Problem is storytelling doesn't make money -- action and explosions do.

Thanx for your input. I'll be posting Starfleet Academy later this weekend.

Anonymous said...

Overall, good ideas. However, Cthia does not advocate the total suppression of emotion; the idea that it does was the teaching of the false orthodoxy which had dominated Vulcan for untold ages, *until* the Kir'shara was rediscovered, and the views of the Syrranites thereby vindicated.

Sol Morek said...

You get the idea :)