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Fleets - Their role, balancing, and the future

Ben, one of the QA gurus for Wicked Realm Games, did a streaming interview / Q&A on Timelines Talks yesterday. I found it very informative and enjoyed the peek behind the curtain, as it were. One of the questions posed was a very simple question, and Ben easily answered it definitively and, in my opinion, accurately. "What kind of game IS Star Trek Timelines?" The answer was something in the ballpark of "First and foremost, Timelines is a card collecting game." That answer brought me back to a long-standing question that I've had for some time but could never articulate.

Why are there fleets?

STT is a card collecting game. You get cards, you choose which to do what with, and you do things that advance you down the path of doing those things. That's it in a nutshell. As far as games go, STT isn't much of a "game" (in that there is no final "win" state to achieve) as much as it is a perpetually evolving immersive hobby where the goalposts continually move further away to allow a player to keep up the chase in perpetuity. Which is not a bad thing in my opinion. I think we all know what we signed up for, or figured it out very soon after playing a few days. My point here is that all of that is done on a purely individual level. Player X from your fleet isn't sending your shuttles out or picking your voyage crew. He/she isn't doing your missions for equipment and component gear. All of the actual card collecting mechanics are done purely as a lone individual.

I imagine the brainstorming session by the developers might have gone something like this: "How do we inject variety and short-term goals into the experience of what is, at its core, a long-term card collecting activity? We can bundle them into groups of 50 and let them compete as a group in weekly competitions with the cards they've collected individually. Plus, it'll promote social interaction with other players and bring tons of interactive immersion as they form themselves into these groups. Hmmm, dealing with other people can be frustrating though. We're going to need to entice them to do this and make it worth the effort. Maybe we add some perk mechanics to these groups, some bonuses that they get that makes the juice worth the squeeze. Heck, we could even structure it so they have to do something to gradually earn the bonuses themselves instead of just giving the bonuses to them all at once. Something like a star base that they have to 'build' as they go. It'll be another layer of goals to work for to keep players interested and working towards. And just as icing on the cake, we'll make the rewards for ranking high in the competitions a very lucrative prize, like early access to crew cards that everybody will eventually be able to get, but they'll get it pretty far in advance."

Obviously I am taking extreme poetic license in the above fictional account of what may have possibly been an actual developer meeting. To be perfectly clear, I have no issue with any of this at all and I think it's good game development and smart game development. My point was to draw attention to what fleets actually do and don't do, and what role they do and don't play in the card collecting of a card collecting game. I've always viewed fleets as "it's an option, not a requirement. If I want bonus stuff, I have to do bonus stuff."

Back to Ben the QA guru and his answers to a lot (if not the majority) of the questions he fielded in the interview that revolved around the future of STT, possible content that may be coming, and some of the ideas and future mechanics that he mentioned are currently being discussed by the development team. Most everything seemed to hinge on fleets. Fleets doing this, fleets doing that, fleets doing the other thing, fleets doing epic "boss battle" scenarios, possibly trading crew cards with members of your fleet, fleet group gauntlet... fleet fleet fleet fleet fleet fleet fleet. The general takeaway I took from it is that being in a fleet it going to become a de facto requirement, not an option.

I think it's already a little janky that fleet bonuses apply to crew in gauntlet. Am I facing off against The Caretaker, or The Caretaker and 49 of his friends? I've never been too upset about that because I personally don't care about gauntlet that much and I assume that it's core code that would be a royal pain to try and change at this point, so I just take that one on the chin and accept it as "it is what it is." Moving forward with implementing fresh, brand spankin' new ideas and mechanics and content, however, I personally implore the dev team to take a good, hard look at the implications of possibly basing so much content and game activity so that it revolves around and hinges upon fleets and being in one. At some point that line between choice and requirement is going to get crossed. I am worried that all future content might be like gauntlet, with unfleeted players at a disadvantage in the core game and all ancillary aspects, not just the fleet event competitions.

I certainly don't want to take away anything from the game experience that other people (clearly most people) enjoy just because I don't. Maybe there's a possible middle ground here? Perhaps, and I'm just spitballing here, there could be a toggle box added to the fleets interface that says "I want to fly solo" (or whatever) and becomes active once a player reaches level 50. If that player ticks it, they get all the bonuses from a fully leveled star base applied and they stop being listed in the fleet suggested recruit roster list and cannot be sent fleet invites. Solo event threshold rewards and rankings would still apply and be available, but obviously not the rewards for fleet rankings. And for future content that might hinge upon being fleeted, maybe just figure out some sort of handicap system like golf? Like I said, just spitballing here. The people who enjoy the competition and/or social aspects that a fleet provides can still have it, and those of us who don't won't feel forced into it.

TL;DR - Star Trek, as a brand principle, prides itself on inclusivity. Those of us who don't enjoy what the fleet experience has to offer would like to remain included and viable in the actual core card collecting game and not feel like second class citizens in the ancillary components of the game. If nothing else, just take all this as feedback as to the concerns of at least one player who feels some trepidation about where things might be going and if there will still be a fun, enjoyable place for me there once we arrive.
A pirate I am, a pirate I be, two plus two minus one is three!

Comments

  • Dirk GundersonDirk Gunderson ✭✭✭✭✭
    Keep in mind that fleets pre-date almost every game feature. Fleets existed as a purely social construct in the early days of the game, when away missions, ship battles, scans, and shuttles were the sum total of the game experience. Before the Arena, the Gauntlet, events, collections, stat bonuses, and voyages, there were fleets...places for getting together with friends old and new, united in a common purpose, goal, or shared interest.

    As the game grew, fleets grew as well. Introduction of events led to the introduction of ranked rewards for squadrons and crew shares in Faction events. Starbases, starbase donations, and daily fleet threshold rewards were added to give fleets something to work together on every day rather than just in events. Starbase room bonuses provide more than just a passing chunk of chronitons as a reward for contributing to your fleet, and demonstrate how groups of people can be more than just the sum of their members.

    Making it so people could randomly just enjoy the benefits of having a fully leveled starbase without actually having a fully leveled starbase would have some unfortunate unintended consequences:

    -Fleets that are well-organized in private forums, Discord/Line chats, or by some other means would continue to exist. Probably not as an in-game Fleet unless they have already maxed out their starbase, but members would still socialize. Everyone else who strictly uses in-game chat would be faced with the choice of staying together to take a stats penalty or break up their fleet.

    -Veteran players would have an artificially larger advantage against new players that aren’t able to join a fleet that already has maxed out their starbase.

    -New players who wish to go solo will have an even harder time reaching level 50, thanks to powered-up veterans being able to dominate them even more in the gauntlet, voyage resource farming for events, and directly in events.

    -This still doesn’t address the inequity in Faction events of not being able to share a crew with your squadron to gain extra VP or to use your squadron leader’s shared crew for improved shuttle success rates.

    Working together with other people, helping lift each other up, is a part of life as much (if not more) than the game. You want to be antisocial? That’s fine, but that choice comes with consequences...if it’s really a problem, create the Antisocial Fleet and recruit like-minded people to quietly build a starbase together or join a fleet that doesn’t really talk much.

    Shameless plug time: Browncoats Beyond has only three active members left, but we also have clawed our way to having a level 97 starbase as we’ve been around since basically day one...not to mention, I usually have some good crew to share during Faction events.
  • I see what MK-Ultra means..people are complex, and sometimes social gaming isn't wanted, at least not all the time. A fleet can be a good thing for bonuses, events, and the future of the game. My semi-solution to the fleet is: allow people to be social or keep to themselves. I have a lot of slots available at my Starbase, so maybe they're a tough sell sometimes?

    Stellar Treks- Turen 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿
    Admiral Turen Counterpoint at Avalon's Galactic Armada and Captain of the U.S.S. Divinity
  • DavideBooksDavideBooks ✭✭✭✭✭
    I can see the advantage of an active, talkative fleet. I can see the appeal of going solo. For me, I found an active fleet that gets all the daily rewards but is excessively laid back. I love it. I can post stuff and answer questions when I want, but feel zero pressure and can do things on my own with no one caring. Fleets don't have to be a source of pressure.
  • Cool..thanks for your insights, DavideBooks. It sounds like you have it good. Good! A Fleet shouldn't be a fleeting thing..ugh..Best Treks All!
    Admiral Turen Counterpoint at Avalon's Galactic Armada and Captain of the U.S.S. Divinity
  • I can see the advantage of an active, talkative fleet. I can see the appeal of going solo. For me, I found an active fleet that gets all the daily rewards but is excessively laid back. I love it. I can post stuff and answer questions when I want, but feel zero pressure and can do things on my own with no one caring. Fleets don't have to be a source of pressure.

    This is how I run our fleet. All we ask is that you participate.
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