Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Selective Compression

There is a concept in model railroading called “selective compression,” wherein you might model a few houses to represent an entire neighborhood, or a single factory to represent an entire industry. I think MMO devs do the same thing, with lesser or greater success. The sometimes drastic transitions in WoW (and I am sure other MMOs) reflects this desire to represent in a small space (even virtual space isn't unlimited) a wide variety of environments. I'd be interested to see exactly how big Azeroth really is in real space.

At Disneyland, there is a building (sorry no picture) that transitions from jungly Adventureland to old west Frontierland, with all the strangeness that implies. But the Adventureland side (end) fits, and the Frontierland side (end) fits. Having been there, many times, I can say the transition is fairly seamless.

I had a big issue with one reviewer of STO who complained about the galactic map representation of Warp Space, because I thought it was one of the cleverer ways to represent getting "from here to there" right when I first saw it.

Overall, it is not at the edges of a game environment where you should judge its effectiveness, but the middle. Do you feel like you are in the middle of a strange planet, or a starbase, or a jungle, or a medieval town? Someday we'll actually have holodecks where you can truly immerse yourself in the game. But honestly, you don't really want a game world as big as the real one, because in the real galaxy there is a lot of "empty" where nothing is going on.


  1. By galactic map representation of warp space, do you mean sector space? What was the specific complaint in that review you read, by the way? I've heard many criticisms of it and I don't understand why people dislike it. While I don't think it's perfect, I thought it was a pretty adequate representation. The developers wanted to convey space travel a certain way, and they achieved it to the best of their ability. Maybe it doesn't fit the lore? If that's the case, I can't really comment, since I don't really know my trek. I've also seen the term "being on rails" used to negatively describe sector space travel. I could never really understand what was wrong with that...wouldn't it make sense for spaceships of the future to have some sort of autopilot? What's the difference between that and getting on a gryphon and clicking on a destination? Besides, if you truly wanted to explore, it's not like you couldn't do it manually if you wanted to.

  2. You know, it's funny that I knew it was you from the way you write.

    The review I mentioned was from GameSpy http://pc.gamespy.com/pc/star-trek-online/1069983p1.html . I got it from the official game website http://www.startrekonline.com/reviews . "Time-sinks like plodding through sector space -- shoebox-like chunks of empty galaxy dotted here and there with star systems -- are plentiful and irritatingly obvious." While I agree that it is a time sink, I do not think it is unique, as you have said.

    As an aside, I appreciate the honesty of Cryptic in including the crappy reviews alongside the stellar ones. I personally think the game is somewhere in the middle