Cody "Micajah" Bye, Managing Editor
An epic battle is drawing ever closer, one that will pit the very basic
champions of geekdom against the other. Science fiction fans from
across the world will band together on their own opposing sides,
pitting their own worthy prize fighters against the other. In one
corner is Cryptic Studios' Star Trek Online
, where a
contingent of dedicated Trekkies are practically drooling with the
possibilities of an entire virtual universe full of player created
aliens, never-ending worlds, and momentous exploration. On the opposite
side of the ring sits Bioware's as-yet-unannounced Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
massively multiplayer online game, ready to introduce gamers to
thousands of Force-wielding warriors, scruffy scoundrels and heroic
pilots. These two games represent the pinnacle of science fiction IPs -
Star Trek and Star Wars - and hundreds of thousands of individuals will
be eager to jump into the two divergent universes represented in these
But what does the convergence of these two games mean for the online
gamer? How will the release of two of the world's largest intellectual
properties impact the market? How will science fiction fans choose
between the two massive games?
pace of Star Wars and Star Trek are very different.
These are the questions that come to mind now that the existence of
these two games has been confirmed by the executives at EA and Cryptic
Studios. While many of the answers rely on a number of variables, I
will attempt to narrow down a few of the critical areas that will cause
a division in gamers, change the MMOG marketplace, and or influence
gamers in general. In this editorial, I'll pick three major differences
between the two "Star" games and how these
Every Solid Story Sets a
One of the biggest differences between Star Wars and Star Trek lies in
the pacing of the two IPs. From the first day it hit the air waves,
Star Trek was a slow-moving, intellectually stimulating sci-fi series.
Due to the lack of high tech special effects, Star Trek had to rely on
intelligence, wit, and the thrill of new experiences to win over their
core audience. Rather than titillating viewers with action-filled
sequences, the continued series relied on snappy dialogue and a small
bit of sex appeal. Any ship combat in the show was generally more of a
head-to-head sort of confrontation that seemed to orbit around
intimidation, bluffing, and scare tactics rather than any sort of
physical skill. Physical confrontations often resulted in bar brawl
showdowns with the "beefier" of the races involved winning the day. Of
course, no one could stand up to the Vulcan nerve pinch, or a solid
blast from a phaser.
Star Wars, on the other hand, has always been about high-flying,
daredevil antics with a focus more on the physical demands of both
space combat and ground battles. In the very first scene in Star Wars,
the tone for the entire series was set when dozens of Rebel troops ran
down a hallway in an attempt to withstand the onslaught of an Imperial
regiment. Shots were fired back and forth as troops ducked for cover or
tried to maneuver there way over fallen comrades. Ships combat was
played out on a similar scene, with the space vehicles constantly
dodging and maneuvering around the larger, bulkier capital ships,
hoping to score that one lucky shot that could take down a shield
Trek space combat will be much slower and more deliberate.
It's easy to see the differences between Star Trek and Star Wars fans
with this sort of pacing in mind, and it will be equally different in
the two MMOGs as well. Although Cryptic has stated that ground combat
in Star Trek Online will be fast-paced, we have been assured that space
combat in STO will be tactical and slow-paced. When the Knights of the
Old Republic MMOG is released, rest assured that space combat in that
game will not be slow-paced. Star Wars has always been dedicated to the
idea of in-space dog fights.
But how do MMOG fans handle the two different pacing styles? Frankly,
there seems to be little consistency on how gamers react to the various
paces of gameplay. While a few gamers did appear to enjoy the slower
pacing of Pirates of the Burning Sea, many more MMO enthusiasts stayed
with World of Warcraft and the moderate pacing of that online game.
However, a whole slew of MMOGs are coming out in the next few years
that are more action oriented. The developers at Funcom have already
shown at an action-oriented game like Age of Conan can achieve a
measure of financial success and garner a portion of popularity.
Whatever happens with the popularity of these two games, it's realistic
to predict that whatever combat engine each team - Bioware and Cryptic
- comes up with, these engines will be emulated in future titles due to
the potential popularity that each of these games could acquire. Like
EverQuest and World of Warcraft before them, these games could each
pull well over a million fans each in the first year of their releases,
if all goes well, and with those sort of numbers, the features in these
games could truly become the standard for the industry.
Trek will likely offer gamers more in the way of exploration and
Another major difference between Star Trek and Star Wars is the idea of
exploration and diplomacy. Though Star Wars has a degree of diplomacy
and exploration in its expanded universe - the universe that Bioware
would be drawing from with a KOTOR game - it doesn't really compare
with what gamers will see in Star Trek Online. In his live webcast,
Jack Emmert discussed the main elements that are going into Star Trek
Online, which included the concepts of diplomacy and exploration. While
we haven't heard about the feature details in Star Wars, diplomacy and
exploration, at least in the classic sense, won't be a major striking
point in Star Wars.
Throughout the lore of Star Wars, the majority of the factions are
constantly warring with each other. Although truces and diplomatic
agreements are struck, the focus of the Star Wars story does not aim at
any of these talking portions. Instead, conflict and warfare are
constantly behind the storylines, which makes for an epic and
action-packed setting. Star Trek Online may have conflict in their
game, but it's not going to be the same sort of "good versus evil"
fight that we constantly see in Star Wars.
Although Star Wars and its constant conflict won't inspire any
particularly new features aside from improvements to combat mechanics,
Star Trek's exploration and diplomacy features, if done correctly,
could truly inspire some really intriguing new mechanics in upcoming
games. Except for Vanguard, few MMOGs have attempted to foster any sort
of diplomatic conversations between characters in any form, especially
to the degree that Emmert described for STO. On top of that, the level
of exploration that STO hopes to bring to the MMOG marketplace is
beyond anything we've seen. Emmert described it as "unlimited
exploration", which is a mechanic that many MMOGs wish they could brag
Perhaps the biggest difference between Star Trek and Star Wars is each
IP's use of the fantastic in their games. Obviously the one crucial
aspect of Star Wars that isn't even considered in Star Trek is the
Force; the mystical energy that binds and surrounds all pieces of the
universe. The Force allows its wielders to enhance their strength,
speed, dexterity and foresee events before they occur. Individuals
using the Force can blast lightning bolts from their hands and pull
entire starships out of orbit. An individual's perception is greatly
enhanced, allowing them to see far afield and hold their breath for
much longer than normal. It's a magical piece of Star Wars, and
certainly doesn't belong in the Star Trek universe.
Wars will feature the Force, a major draw for many gamers.
Without this magical fantasy element, Star Trek diverges even further
from its rival and every other MMOG on the market. Even other sci-fi
massively multiplayer online games like Tabula Rasa and Anarchy Online
use their own versions of "magic" to help their characters have a
variety of abilities. Without their own "magical realism", Star Trek
will stand alone as a true science fiction game without the smallest
bit of fantasy involved. Although this will set STO apart, it will also
hold Star Trek Online to it's own standard; a pinnacle for true sci-fi
games to aspire to.
But Star Wars - unlike Star Trek Online - will be much more familiar to
the common MMO gamer. Bioware will certainly cash in on the many
aspects of Star Wars that mesh with more popular MMOGs. Force powers
will certainly play a prominent role in any Star Wars / Jedi-based
game, and Knights of the Old Republic will certainly have it's fair
share of Jedi to contend with. In fact, many Star Wars critics have
claimed that the Star Wars movies have much more akin to a fantasy
story than anything written up by a sci-fi author. Still, that sort of
magical realism may ring true with the common MMOG enthusiast.
Of course, there are many, many more differences between the two
different IPs, and I encourage all of you to explore those differences
in the Ten Ton Hammer forums. If you have any opinions about what I've
already discussed, I also encourage you to drop me a line on the forums!
The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed are those of
the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and
viewpoints of the Ten Ton Hammer network or staff.