Sunday, March 23, 2014

Holodeck/Holosuite

**First, I have to apologize for the lack of game-based pics. There aren't a whole lot of holodecks around and they pretty much all look the same. I don't like repeating myself and whatnot, so try to work with me here. I also apologize for the delay in the update, as well as this not being my best post ever. I'll come back and do some edits as soon as my head is clear. Thanx.

Holodeck. The term immediately brings a million different ideas and images to mind. Holodecks (and holosuites) have been an integral part of Star Trek since their introduction in TNG. Sadly, STO hasn't used them to their full potential. In this post, I will explore was of incorporating in into the game without breaking it. I'll be using the terms holodeck and holosuite interchangeably to avoid being redundant. I know -decks are generally on ships and -suites are generally stationary (on space stations, presumably in vacation facilities, or privately owned). I'm just trying to keep it interesting here.

Looks familiar...
I'll start with Nog. Okay, he isn't officially named, but you can actually find him at the Academy fiddling with the holoprogramming sequencers. It isn't clear in this pic, but this is a Ferengi Engineering cadet. It's a nice little Easter Egg.

Entrance
"Computer--ARCH!"
Looks a lot like Voyager's holodecks, doesn't it?
The entrances are clearly marked. And inside is nothing more than a gigantic creative void left unfilled by our beloved dev monsters.The door is screaming something is missing here, yet remains completely silent. It's contradictory and confusing, given the versatility of such a feature.

Hallway
There are, in fact, several Holodecks in the hall gathering space dust. Inside, nothing happens, aside from Nog's near-constant rewiring. The wall controls do nothing and are not interactive. Nog isn't interactive. Worst of all, the last time these particular holodecks were used was when Worf was giving away his sash. And even then all he did was stand there and talk. There was no mission.

Useless control pad
Helluva likeness. Link here.
Fortunately there is a mission that uses the holodeck. Well, more like a holosuite. Of Bajor has several training sims in the Train for Combat Against the Dominion Ground Forces section. This brings to mind another training-based holoprogram: Insurrection Alpha. My thought is that this idea can be adapted to simulate a mutiny on a starfleet ship. Such actions are all but unheard of (besides the Pegasis. And Voyager. And the Equinox. And the Enterprise. And the Enterprise. And the ISS Enterprise. Did I mention [almost] the Enterprise?).

Another thought is to have plants in the crew. I'm talking X-Files Lone Gunmen conspiracy theories. Basically, they would be trained as Starfleet officers, Academy graduates, the whole nine. They could even be born enemy species and cosmetically or genetically altered to look like friendly species (Dominion genetic engineering, perhaps?). But then the time comes to execute their mission and they commit their own type of mutiny. I know, it sounds a lot like Seska. I took most of it out of real life events. Trek does a lot of this, while it seems the game really doesn't. Such a story would be as compelling as Tuvok's failed training sim. Hell, it might even make a decent feature episode. Think about it: the most knowledgeable officers are the ones who have been there and done that. Say the story has several lower ranking officers who happened to be assigned to the same ship at the same time to complete a specific mission (which involves incapacitating or killing the captain and whatnot)? It sounds unlikely, but it HAS happened, and we all remember it. Hell, Trek isn't even new to such things--look at Commander Archer (and the other Hoshi Sato, for that matter). The game needs more realistic storylines, and the holodeck would make a perfect excuse. It was designed for training purposes, and doesn't really influence the main arc.

They know your real name. AND where you live.

So what else can the holodeck be used for?

Let's continue the training idea. It seems the best way to avoid violating the LoR thing STO has going on. I'm of the mind that the feature episodes should be unique and standalone, while the main arc should be continuous and seperate. The last few episodes haven't exactly been that way. Even the Dyson content has some weird connection to LoR. Yes, I rolled my eyes, too. Among other things. But enough of my bitching. On to the fun stuff.
  • Melee Combat: To start with, swordplay is often practiced in holosuites. Firstborn, Blood Oath, New GroundSons of Mogh and other examples come to mind quickly. In game, these sets can be used in the tutorial as instruction for melee combos. Given that ALL weapons have at least one or two melee moves, it would be smart to have someplace to practice. This could be as simple as an automated holosim like we had in the Academy Event, or be as immersive as a personal trainer with a weapons locker that brings up a list of generic weapons.
  • Shooting Gallery: A phaser range would be AWESOME. We would get practice in both standard targeting and shooter mode. Other targets could be integrated for grenades and misc weapons (like the Ferengi Energy Whip, Tholian Crystals, and such). Best of all, it's holographic. Read: not real. So we could conceivably try out various unowned weapons without actually keeping them. This would be useful for testing new character builds and trait respecs.
A Matter of Honor
  • Space Combat: Like the above mentioned shooting gallery, a simulated space range would be a great way to learn how to effectively fight in space (possibly making PUGging less unpleasant). Maneuvering, use of powers, and timing attacks could all be in play here. This can even include shuttle training, like Titan's Turn and the Kolvoord Starburst. Testing builds and BOff slotting would happen here. Again, not all of the items would be currently owned, but they be despawned upon ending the program.
     **On a side note, I realize there would be a considerably long list of weapons, consoles, ships, and such to be added here. Thing is, it's all there in the foundry. A similar system could be employed to minimize the work by the devs. It may not be as easy as it sounds, but it would be far from impossible to add. I'm betting a good portion of the coding can be copied and pasted.


What about playtime? There is almost no end to the ways the holosuites were used to escape the stresses of Starfleet (and non-starfleet) life.
  • Sports: Fencing, raquetball and anbo-jyutsu could all be used as mini-games. I mentioned this in my Academy post, so I won't be repeating it here. I would add others, like hoverball, velocity, and perresies squares. Given that most of these were not well developed in screen, they are essentially open-ended. The mini-game itself could function with or without a popup window. Most of these involve a ball, and they all require some type of movement. It could work if there was some combination of movement and melee. Again, this is all holographic. None of it would have to be precisely accurate. The outfits could be mission-only, and possibly used as rewards. Some representation of non-work activities would be great. It would also serve to tie the game closer to the TV universe.
I doubt we'd be able to cheat...
  • Space Alien Sexuality: Okay, I get that it's a family show, so to speak. I'm not saying we need explicitly pornographic imagery here. I wouldn't even go as far as God of War. I would, however, make mention of LaForge's creepy holorelationship with Dr. Leigh Brahms. And Barclay's implied-to-be-weird holofantasies. What about Nog's "favorite holoprogram?" Then there was pretty much the entire crew of Voyager. Remember Tuvok's Pon'Farr? I also remember multiple instances of bat'leth foreplay between Dax and Worf (not to mention Worf and Troi taking a "stimulating" walk on the beach...). OH, and didn't Commander Tucker get knocked up in a holodeck? Yeah, safe bet the holodecks could use a touch of romance somewhere, even if only implied.
"This isn't what it looks like, I swear!"
  • Intense Therapy: Remember Schisms? Well, we have counselor DOffs and a DOff mission called "Recover Repressed Memories" from a refugee. I'm thinking it would be great if these were all combined into one mission. Say we get to Earth (or someplace) and recieve an urgent mission to pick up a local refugee. This person would have information that would help catch a criminal (name the crime). The problem is, being a refugee, the person is so traumatized that he (or she) can't remember the person, place, or thing clearly. It's so bad that a mind meld yielded nothing of value. All we have to go on are fleeting images. So then the ship's science officer says we should take the refugee to the holodeck. We'll keep things simple and go to the Academy. Once there, the person would give vague descriptions and we would have to choose the best answer. If the end result is the noun in question, we finish the mission. If not, it restarts. This is basically what I mean. The actual mechanic would be similar to part of Night of the Comet where we have to make a nerve tonic according to specifications. The big difference would be vague hints (which would require critical thinking) rather than asking someone for the answers.
  • Access the the library computer: One thing this game needs is a central archive. We could then tie it to the holoemitters currently in use and use it to visually extrapolate data (not Data). This has happened more than once, namely in TNG and Voyager. I would like to see something like the forensic crime TV stuff that's popular now. Think about this: LaForge actually used holography for crime scene reconstruction. We could have some sort of puzzle, hidden in plain sight, based on this idea. There's a murder on, say, New Romulus, and the dead guy was important somehow. So our mission is to take the info given to us by some official and create a hologram. Once constructed, we'll have to use visual cues, either stationary or in motion, to answer questions the official (quest giver) is asking. Each one would just be listed as an objective and checked off like normal. Okay, so it isn't really the real world. But it is a genre we're all familiar with and can get into.
Tell me this is not the library computer...
  • Celebrations: In First Contact we got to see Worf get promoted (despite the obvious). They're all out in a wooden sailing ship and they do the ritual hazing. I think we should have a similar experience upon reaching max rank. It would be simple -- we would go on board a wooden ship (or even a lightship) and the admiral presiding would say some things and a formation would appear, and the dog and pony show would happen. And at then end we would be officially pinned Vice Admiral. We have a stateroom on ESD -- why not use the same set there and do the ritual in the holodeck? 
  • Entertainment: The ideas for this one are mostly developed already. This would be more immersion than actual unique story telling, just to be fair. Captain Proton, LaForge's imagionary girlfriend, and Dixon Hill are great ideas for missions. I'm not gonna go down the list, but I will say canon not lacking in ideas. Well, maybe TOS, but I'll give CPT Kirk a pass. I would really like the see a Cardassian version of 007, or Data's version of Sherlock Holmes, but those are all copyrighted (thus why there was only one 007 episode). Anyhow, at least one of these would be welcome. I'm just asking for some representation of the random WTF type stuff we occasionally saw on TV.
  • Mindtrip: Okay, Frame of Mind didn't take place on a holodeck. But, for our purposes, we could do something similar. Future Imperfect would serve as a template. (Supposedly) enemies kidnap our character. We'll blame the Tal Shiar here, but the True Way, Orion Syndicate, or any other bad guy we already have would do, so long as it isn't the Borg. Story would be something simple yet awesome. They try to extract intel by tossing us into a holosim based on our own memories (these, of course, would be taken from past story missions). Throughout the mission we have to find out who's the friend and who's the enemy. In the end we escape and the final battle would be fighting our captors in that creepy lab. Maybe even a few unfinished holograms, like in Homeward and Insurrection would add to the confusion and give it away. There wouldn't be a lot of new material for this one, as everything is supposed to be real. It would just have to be written well to be pulled off.

So, as usual, I have random cool pics that I don't want going to waste. Also as usual, I expect to have random afterthoughts on this one. I'll do it when I come up with some.

Can I help you, gentlemen?

I'm SO ready to be done with this semester...

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