Star Trek Online, PC and consoles might share same servers

There is a new FAQ on the Star Trek Online website that gives us the usual pre-release guff about taking different roles (Engineer, Tactical Officer, Doctor, Science Officer, etc), what races will be available (Human, Vulcan, Andorian, Klingon, Orion, Gorn, and several others), not having decided about the monthly costs (expect them to be about the same as all the other MMORPGs out there), and, my favorite, will you need an internet connection (ha ha…yes, by the way). There is also the news that developers Cryptic are strongly considering putting PC and console players in the same universe on the same servers at the same time.

“We would like that to be the case. There is nothing technologically keeping us from making it so.”

So not definite then, but certainly an statement of intent. This is something that has been knocking around for a while, I think I remember that it was supposed to happen with CoD2, but it has never actually happened (a quick bit of Googling seems to confirm this but I could be wrong). As Cryptic say, now that the current generation of consoles are pretty much as powerful as most PCs and work in a broadly similar way,minus the Wii, there is nothing to stop them from doing this. But just because they can do something it doesn’t mean they should.

To make this work they would need to think very carefully about a number of things. The control system for instance. A PC game is obviously designed for keyboard and mouse, so you have a lot of icons to click and many actions mapped to hotkeys on the keyboard so a vast number of actions are almost instantly accessible. A similar system for a console would not work as well and would at the very least put the console gamer at a disadvantage as he would not be able to hit the icons as quickly. There would need to be a clever menu system that can be quickly accessed with a series of button presses. This can be done, but it would be difficult to make both systems fair.

There’s also the issue of upgrades. I am not talking about extra content, consoles would have no problem coping with that, no, I mean graphical and gameplay enhancements that require extra computing power. As PCs have become more powerful over the years games like World of Warcraft have taken advantage of this and have improved their graphics accordingly. Those players who do not upgrade their PCs have the option of “turning down” the graphics so their game still runs smoothly. This is not possible on a console. The hardware does not change so eventually the game you play on a console would become inferior to the game on the PC. If the changes are purely cosmetic I don’t suppose it matters much but still… it’ll piss off a lot of people. You know what boys are like with having the best gadgets.

As you can probably tell, I can’t make up my mind as to whether this is a good thing or not. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet, even though there is nothing technical stopping them, means that the points above, and others I haven’t thought of, make this idea a bit of a non-starter. I would be very happy to be wrong though.