Amid a flurry of almost non-existent hype, StarQuest Online launched on September 21, 2007. People had never heard of it, and comments of "This looks like something I could play on my Armstrad 464" were rampant. No one had ever heard of CastleThorn Software. Now, the game is pretty much in the same boat. The graphics have improved drastically, but are still not DX10 material or even close. So what does the game have fully in its favor.
Player crews, something that is scarce in MMO's, and not looking like thats going to change. I have played SQO for over two years, plenty of time to see the good and the bad of the issue. It has been mentioned that not all players like grouping. SQO does not force you to have a bunch of players on a ship to run it. You can run a ship solo. Others were worried about their tactical officer running off to get a drink during a firefight leaving them high and dry. The answer here is in the class system. Or rather, the lack of it. In SQO, your skills determine your class. Your class does not determine your skills as it does in most MMO's. If your tactical officer stops responding, order someone else there or go do it yourself. SQO's player crews work because the players are not forced to use them. Some others are worried about what would you do while your console is not in use? Say your docked to a station, what is there for the helm officer to do? Actually, there is no problem here since the SQO devs didn't take any shortcuts. The ships are fully explorable, you can go to any nook and cranny in them you want to. Anything you can do on a planet, you can do on a ship, not counting harvesting resources. There are things the ships have that even planets do not, such as science labs where you can make chemicals that were never seen before in-game. That said, if you are in a active environment, there is very little time when you are just waiting. Hyperspace is something else entirely, and you most likely will be inactive, but there is no need to be manning the stations in hyperspace. Go have a ball doing something like playing tag with disrupters, just make sure its not on a lethal setting or your friends may never forgive you.
I got a chance to talk to two of the developers, team leader Bardon Thorn and software programmer Durango Montana. These questions were taken from the players on the official StarQuest Online forum.
Q: Player crews has been considered a shaky proposition at best in space MMO's, why did CTS decide to use this mechanic?
Durango: At the time we started this project, no one had done anything besides the "play as a ship" concept. I don't think there's anything "shaky" about the concept. The only people who are saying that it is are those making excuses for those who are taking the easy way out. Think about it, with a non-player crew approach they don't have to model much of anything for ship interiors, besides maybe key areas like the bridge. Building every deck of every starship is a huge amount of work they don't have to do before they release their game. And yes, that is the real reason, despite any other comments they have floated to the contrary.
Q: Have you ever had thoughts of taking player crews out of the game to make it more playable for the casual players?
Durango: No, that will not happen. The second "M" in MMORPG stands for multi-player.
Q: You don't seem to be advertising the game, beyond my writing there seems to be very little about StarQuest on the internet. From what I have seen on the forums, this game has a lot of potential, and you are planning a lot of great additions to the game. Wouldn't you have a bigger playerbase if you hyped those additions more?
Durango: There are two reasons for this: 1, money and 2, money. In actuality, we have tried this a few times. At the level we've been able to do it, it is simply not cost effective to spend 100 USD to get a single 9.99 USD subscriber. That's how the math has worked out.
Q: While I have been able to successfully play solo, it isn't as "fast paced" as it would be if I joined Fleet or another group. Is there any plans to expand the solo side of the game? There is bounty hunting in-game right now, but it seems kind of lacking compared to the rest of the game.
Durango: We're always ready to make improvements to make things more fun and interesting for everyone, but remember the second "M."
Q: You mentioned that you plan on making other races playable. As much as I enjoy being one of the 3 upstanding races of the United Systems Alliance, I'm one of those used to playing one of the "bad" races. Any update on those other races being made available to players?
Durango: The Klinshayan race will be in general release very soon. That's all I can say right now.