Star Trek Online: Defining the Undefinable

For those of you who don’t know, Cryptic (the bods behind City of Heroes and Champions Online) are busy beavering away rebuilding the ill-fated Star Trek Online.

Star Trek, for me, has always been a sort of benchmark to compare other Sci-fi shows to. It set the standard all those years ago for story-telling, action and technology. Despite being the archetype it still retains it’s own unique style, mainly because so many sci-fi shows are trying their best not to be Star  Trek. How many shows have you seen where the ships look anything remotely like the ungangly mess that was the original Enterprise. How I’ve watched the movies, or TNG and thought that the ship looks weak, so many thin protrusions and bottlenecks that a single well placed shot could sever the ship in two.

This was somewhat rectified by the Defiant in DS9, smaller, faster and stubbier, looking like it could hold out in a fight (Which it did). Then they went all Enterprisy with Voyager and while it looked slightly more robust, it still looked like a well placed shot would slice of the nacelles.

Step in Star-Trek Online and it’s list of new ships – Splitting them into 3 Categories. Cruiser, Explorer and Science, with the Enterprise (Galaxy Class) being the Explorer, Defiant as the Cruiser and Voyager (Intrepid Class) as a Long-range Science vessel.

Each class of vessel has it’s own style. Explorers seem to look very frail and vulnerable. Non-threatening in a way that should put any reasonable species at ease just by looking at it. Cruisers having a thinner profile, but ultimatly contained, like classic starships they’re practically just metal bricks with warp engines. Intimidating, deadly and obviously so. Science vessels tend to be somewhere in the middle. Retaining the vulnerable looks of the Explorers while being more streamlined and sleek. Indeed, the Discovery class ship is a prime example.

I definitly think Cryptic – who have always been one for artistic vision – have got the design side spot on, merging existing ships into categories that not only expose their function, but also their shape and basic design.

There’s only one thing that’s worrying me. I’ve never been much of a trekkie, I’ve seen enough of it to know the difference between a Romulan and a Cardassian, but not enough to care what colour their blood is. What I am however, is a die-hard fan of sci-fi engineering. I love my sci-fi that tries to make sense of itself, keeping within it’s own rules. Things like combat, sensor readings, anomalies and the likes are always mired in Treknobabble. The Deus-ex Machina that saves the day 15 minutes from the end that seems to be random words picked out of a hat.

The problem was always that they used more than one writer for a series, working alone with only a rough outline of what was allowed. Even after canonising the warp-scale, they still on occasion mis-used things like Warp 13.

To make a game from all that nonsense will be challenging. Will, while fighting off a marauding band of Klingons, have to invert the polaron flux polarity through the deflector, initiating an tangental gravametric wave that will decloak the Klingon ships?  Are they going to ignore 40 years of buzzwords and invent their own vocabulary?

Cryptic are tasked with defining something that defies definition. They’ve succeded so far by defining the roles for starships out of what was a very grey area, here’s hoping they succeed in untangling the spaghetti that is Treknobabble.

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