The Fan Dance – Foundry: Get Your Priorities Straight
By Mike Medeiros
Several years ago, Star Trek Online released the Foundry, a tool that allows players and authors to create their own playable missions. I’ve dabbled in the Foundry and have even had a couple of my missions spotlighted in game, on STO’s website, and even on Star Trek.com. Foundry was an amazing tool that sparked the imagination of players and encouraged them to tell their own stories within the Star Trek Online Universe. Communities and podcasts popped up touting the possibilities that the Foundry will bring to Star Trek Online.
There was, however, a fatal flaw in Foundry’s design and implementation that many within these communities have fought against repairing from the beginning, and now we are starting to reap the results of letting it go unaddressed for so long. I have spoken and written about this flaw and even offered constructive ways to overcome it, only to be shouted down on the forums by the community I was a part of. In the end, it forced me to walk away from the community and to an extent the Foundry itself.
What is this fatal flaw? Monetization – a dirty word for those in the Foundry Community. From the beginning the Foundry has been made freely available to STO’s player base. At the time of its release, players could buy a few extra foundry slots for their missions, but once those were purchased, that ended the potential revenue stream that Foundry offered Cryptic / PWE. And here begins the problem.
As we have discussed on our show in the past, Star Trek Online is a product created by a for-profit company that is looking to generate profits from their work. In today’s day and age of free-to-play MMOs, one time purchases and subscription models don’t work. What they need is a way to generate a significant return on investment for their work that people will continue to pay for over and over again. And since Foundry no longer generates any significant profit, is it any wonder that Cryptic / PWE spends the bare minimum attention to it?
The Foundry community doesn’t seem to realize that you get what you pay for. And in this case, since they aren’t putting anything into Cryptic’s coffers for Foundry, can they honestly expect the company to continue throwing good money into a feature that only hemorrhages money?
The simple answer is HELL NO.
Since Foundry’s release, we’ve seen one major update and a spattering of new objects and assets trickle in as employees spend their free time between higher priority projects to code objects specifically for foundry use. Couple that to the system breaking down for weeks and months at a time with nearly every major update to the game, some assets and costumes that have been in game for years still unavailable for Foundry use, and the removal of features, maps, doors, and some assets when they break or become obsolete, because they would be too costly to repair properly. And, meanwhile, the Foundry Community’s request for features, assets, and objects get longer and longer with no proper incentive for Cryptic / PWE to deliver on any of them.
With the upcoming release of Season 9.5 to Star Trek Online, the Foundry community has already been informed that Memory Alpha will be removed from the game, and its door will cease to function as a Foundry mission starting point, though its map will remain available. It’s also been said that the update will be removing all of the exploration zones currently in game. The rumor mill suggests that foundry doors will be added to where those exploration clusters once were, however that remains to be seen.
One Foundry Community has taken the news of the removal of exploration zones as a possible indication that exploration will soon be redesigned with the hope that Foundry will be a part it. (I am much more skeptical and don’t believe Foundry will be given more than a cursory consideration if at all.) But, that hasn’t stopped that community from organizing a new project to create a Foundry sector block to fit into one of these theoretical exploration areas.
Their proposed project seeks to develop everything from the sector block’s layout, planets, species, cultures within the region, and more. Then, they seek to develop a series of missions that tell a specific story while other related missions, termed official, will expand the region’s lore, while all other missions that take place within the region would be considered non-canon.
I know some of the people in this community and consider many of them friends. They are intelligent and creative people and some of the best storytellers that I know. However, I find this latest project disturbing, because they are once again avoiding the bigger issue with Foundry.
It’s my opinion that this community should focus their efforts in brainstorming ideas on how to monetize Foundry to justify Cryptic / PWE’s renewed investment in the feature. If anyone could figure out how to turn Foundry into a money-making opportunity for the company, this community can. However, coming up with ideas is only the beginning. The community should take it another step forward. They need to develop a proposal to submit to Cryptic / PWE with their idea. Then, they should focus on community outreach to change the hearts and minds of foundry users to accept and support their proposal to turn Foundry into a revenue stream. It is only then that the company will take Foundry improvements seriously and begin devoting resources to its improvement.
Foundry authors must be willing to change and work with Cryptic / PWE to find ways to make Foundry profitable. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before it is completely stripped down, abandoned, or worse, completely removed from the game. After all, Money talks and bullshit walks.
But, wait. There’s more.
He is the co-owner of Busy Little Beaver Productions and is the producer and co-host for G & T Show and Gates of Sto’vo’kor. He’s directed voice actors, and produced and edited audio podcasts and dramas because he doesn’t have the face for video. He plays well with others and is always on the look out for the next project, the next thing, the next next. If he wasn’t working on something with a half dozen other projects waiting in the wings, somebody please check to make sure he’s still breathing.
During the day, he’s a mild-mannered computer repair man who dabbles in web design in his small, rural, Central California community. He lives with his lovingly dysfunctional family and loyal canine companion and spends most of his time in the closet concocting some hair-brained scheme or another. He’s got an unhealthy obsession with Lego video games, Klingons, and Star Trek Online that borders on the neurotic.
Despite all this, he still finds the time to write the words. Find out what he's doing here.
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