Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Starfleet Academy

As promised, this is a long one. With that in mind, I broke it into sections to make it more digestible. I'm skipping the orbital view here because there pretty much isn't one, unless you want me to needlessly post a pic of a bunch of ships docked at ESD. So I'm fast forwarding to the ground stuff.

San Francisco

We all know Starfleet Academy is based in San Francisco. There's this beautiful view of the city from one of the memorial plaques. The one pictured is the one for George and Gracie. You can't see it in the screenshot, but there are animated shuttles coming and going along the Golden Gate Bridge.

"It doesn't look that much different." -- Sulu

One of the most striking features of the entire place is this huge tree...

Shouldn't there be a bench, or a chair, or someplace to sit?

Sorry for the pic of Q. I couldn't conceal him as effectively as it would seem.
This is obviously the tree CPT Picard spoke of when he told stories about Boothby. While he is mentioned in one of the plaques, I feel like Boothby deserves more than that. CPT Picard's respect was not something to be taken lightly. The way I see it, we should have a holographic Boothby that we can talk to. He could answer questions about the Academy, some of its history and training, and notable officers he would have known. He could also go into his grounds keeping, talking about how he hated bug killers and such. He could offer directions around the place. The whole thing, of course, would be done in the voice and character of Boothby, grumpy old man, father figure, and nice guy alike. Not a mission, just something cool.

The Buildings

Notice how there are several buildings here. Presumably one of these buildings is Starfleet Medical. It isn't labeled or mentioned, but we have to assume it's in here somewhere. There also isn't any clearly defined entrance or exit. It leads me to wonder if beaming and shuttle travel are the only ways of getting into the place. That would also imply that this is not really a training academy, but a military compound...yeah, I'm not going there.

Take a good look at the above pic. Upon running around a while it becomes clear something is missing. That's right -- turbolifts. ALL the buildings have multiple stories, yet we only have access to the ground floor. It wouldn't be hard to fill the space. We have DOffs of every major specialty. One would assume they were trained here. So why not have labs and areas relating to their specialties?

For example, an Astrometrics Scientist would have an Astrometrics Lab. A Photonic Studies Scientist would have a lab like Data's. A Botanist would have a mini-arboretum. None of this would have to be interactive (though it would be cool if they gave us DOff assignments). It would just add to the cool factor and make this map look like a place of learning.

Another thing worth mentioning -- there are no identifiable dorms! There are so many cadets on the map (more on this later) but nowhere for them to live. While it is conceivable that transporter technology makes planetary travel irrelevant, I don't think it's likely. Joseph Sisko said that when his son went to the academy he expected him to transport every night for dinner and return to the dorm. So it would make sense to have some sort of living quarters here.

I've had this thought that a random mini-mission could revolve around the cadets here. It would require talking and running around, but it would give a bit of character to the place. The only real reward would probably be diplomacy, and maybe a small amount of expertise.
  • First, something happens between two or three cadets (think college--it can be anything trivial).
  • Your character has to talk to both parties and find out what happened.
  • Predictably, one would return to the first cadet and decide what to do about it.
  • There should be an option at this point -- involve the dean or not.
  • If you report to the dean, that will effectively end the mission. Later (on a different visit) you can check in with the same cadet somewhere else on campus to find out disciplinary action was taken.
  • If you don't involve the dean, you have to try to work things out yourself. This would go in the obvious, back and forth way with right and wrong answers. The end result is either you resolve the situation or you don't. Upon visiting the cadet later, you find out if he's still talking to the others involved and whatnot. 

There also needs to be a gym for the security officers to train. This would be a great way to incorporate hand-to-hand and melee combos in game. The current tutorial doesn't really explain them. There needs to be a place to practice. Hell, this could even be used as a place to try out new weapons with a sparring partnerSpeaking of the tutorial, it would be nice if we got a class ring costume piece for finishing it.
  • A gym could be used for sports-based minigames. For example, simplified versions of fencing, racquetball, and anbo-jyutsu could be used for expertise and EC. Tournaments could be held as a daily PvP-type mission with DIL as a reward.
  • It would also be cool to have a storage locker (similar to the one below) inside the gym. The instructor will say, "choose your weapon," and you'll have to go to the locker to get it. Just a little touch, but it would be great.

Storage locker used in the tutorial

Inside the main building, there is a huge corridor. It contains numerous doors and an implied turbolift, but none of it is functional. Cadets just walk up and down the hall and talk near doors and walls. No one goes in or out. Why not put in desks and a guy in front teaching something? Of course, the uniform would indicate (or imply) the type of training being done. It could even be on a loop -- it would just create the illusion of this being an academic institution.

WTF hallway
The hallway ends with a prominent door. I assume it's either a turbolift or the entrance to something that requires a load screen. I can only wonder what it could lead to. I like to think it's the transporter to and from the dorms. Maybe it's the secret entrance to Red Squad's secret underground military headquarters? We may never know. Would be nice if it actually did something.

The NPC Population

It's been mentioned that there are a number of purposeless NPCs on this map. It kinda gives me flashbacks of Defera, actually. The behaviors are identical -- randomly walking to and from nowhere, stopping to scan nothing important and moving on, never stopping to sit down anywhere. Okay, the last one didn't apply to Defera as that planet has NOTHING to sit on in any area.

One would assume these NPCs would at least be doing something class related. They aren't. They're just a bunch of reskinned Deferi zombies. I'm really not sure what can be done to make them look more like Starfleet Cadets, aside from the aforementioned classroom and specialty area ideas. If we had different buildings for them to wander, I would think their uniforms would mostly match up. For example, the medical school would be populated with mostly medical cadets, but the odd security or engineering guy would pop up from time to time. It makes sense since everyone has to take basic first aid and field medicine courses. Little things like that would really add to the ambiance.

Going to class or walking past the room?

Where are they all coming from?

At least they move with a sense of purpose...

Then there's this:

I'm not sure if it's a practical joke from a college-educated dev, or a really strange coincidence. If you haven't been in college, you'll have LOTS of lines to look forward to. I swear I spend as much time waiting for stuff as I do trying to forget I'm actually in class. It's probably not true, but it certainly seems like it. They're all waiting in line for a guy at the desk that says and does NOTHING. The only other possibility is that the dev behind this monstrosity was a government worker of some kind and hated working with the public. Such a person would constantly have to fight urges to randomly kill people and redecorate the walls with their entrails. I can only imagine. 

We need more of these little personal touches in game.

Starfleet Medical

Ah, Starfleet Medical. The famous, the infamous. Question is, where is it? I've gone over this already, so let's ignore that the game seems to think it doesn't exist.

Fast forward to it actually being there. Inside all the instructors would wear blue. Their lectures (as described previously) would involve anatomic diagrams and medical tricorders. Ideally, there would be a teaching hospital on grounds, but a few rooms with patients inside would suffice. The main goal here is to create something that resembles a medical school.

As far as missions go, we could have a chain. Or, possibly different wards or rooms with readable tags. I can see those rooms with windows that doctors used to us way back when to study psychiatric patients. But, in this case, they would actually be studying the progress of these diseases and how they effect the patient. Okay, sounds B-Horror movie-ish (especially if the zombie Vulcans are involved). I think something like this would be cool. And it would also make mention of diseases in game (and possibly also the people who discovered and/or cured them). Perhaps an accolade could be given for reading all of them, much as there is for the memorial plaques.
  • Barclay's Protomorphosis Syndrome stands out because it was engineered. We could have a mission that involves such mircomanipulation to create a vaccine against an alien virus.
  • Speaking of Barclay's Disease -- how about Holo-transference Dementia Syndrome? This one could even be done in the context of Quark's holosuites (DS9 is coming later).
  • Bendii Syndrome was known for being uncommon and not well studied. It would be interesting if there were Vulcans making use of the facilities here for their research. The "mission," of course, would mostly be talking to them and possibly handing them instruments and equipment.
  • Iversons Disease Was similar to Progeria in that it caused rapid aging and loss of motor skills as it progressed, so some mention or mission of researching it would help tie the game to the real world. It would also demonstrate that, even in the future, sometimes genetic mutations can't be prevented. That humanity is essential to medicine, and to Starfleet as a whole. Well, it was supposed to be. Not going there...
  • Irumodic Syndrome, or human senility, is another one worthy of mention. no matter we try, we can't keep our heads forever.
  • Given CPT Archer's behavior, one might wonder if he had Multiple Personality Disorder
  • Nanoprobe Virus simply must be mentioned somewhere. The Borg are an active threat in game and it would make sense.
The list goes on and on. It could also involve drugs like Cordrazine and Tri-ox Compound. I'm pretty sure I've made my point.

On a side note, it would be pretty cool if there was an NPC named Crusher somewhere. Just saying.

Random afterthoughts

Just a place holder...I suspect I'll have a few. Always do.


Anonymous said...

I have to really disagree with all your points on this.

SFA has several purposes as is - its the main location for Duty Officer acquistion, its got a history daily associated with it and the map is used for events in game like the anniversary or Junior Officer Appreciation Weekend.

Adding more detail to SFA - a place your character has graduated from and doesn't work at is silly. You have access to the commons and the officer requisitions office. Exactly what a starship captain should have access to.

Also something that I get kinda cheesed off with in your reviews - those "empty hallways of doors" aren't meaningless. They're actually foundry doors and alot of authors have used them to show the areas you want added to the map.

Sol Morek said...

It seems wasteful to design an entire map for the sole purpose of occasional (currently random and annual) events. While it is used in the tutorial, this map still seems underutilized. I feel like the academy should be more interactive than a few events and weekly doff missions (yes, I know the DIL refinement mission is there, too).

As far as the empty stuff goes, I don't see a reason to keep certain features foundry exclusive. The same statement can be said for the bottom floor of ESD. Why would there be negative space in an MMO? There could be fillers for normal game play that can be altered in the foundry. It wouldn't be difficult.

The last point here is that every social zone is basically the same. The main difference here is the doffs. And even those can be purchased off the exchange almost everywhere else. I dunno, maybe I'm an idealist.