Holonerds: A Star Trek [Online] Rant

The Star Trek Online twitter put up the above poll. Pretty self-explanatory. I’ll tell you what I voted for, why I think other people voted the way they did, and then why I don’t like the holographic helpers that Trek does occasionally (which came to mind because it happens again in the above episode).

First off, I voted for the TFO as my favorite new thing this time around. Partially, that’s because I just plain like it. I like ground combat generally. And this queue (Cryptic calls them TFO’s because they have to be special snowflakes) avoids most of the pitfalls that make ground queues bad: there are no convoluted mechanics, there are no time gates, and it’s not just wave after wave of mobs. There is some mechanical involvement (get your bug-buddy to the red monolith), but it isn’t difficult. There is a timer, but it sets a maximum time the group can spend in a task: it’s short enough that if your team fails, it’s not a huge drag, but long enough that your team has to go Full Packled to fail it. I also like the enemies: the Elachi are somewhat interesting in that their shields are a lot tougher than their health, so shield-penetrating weapons – which typically have less pure damage to balance the fact that they go straight through shields – are viable here. This lets me use my tommy gun, which is great fun. Lastly, the queue itself is short, which is great for repeatable content like this.

Another reason I picked the TFO as my favorite is that the other stuff just didn’t excite me. The episode was pretty much just pure STD, despite the tricks Cryptic made to make us think it was for the modern timeline. That, and it heavily featured themes I heavily dislike: multiverse theory, holonerds, and bad pulp biology becoming bad sci-fi plot devices. I’ve ranted on this already, so I won’t go on. I also wasn’t impressed with the patrols, which all have an “undending wave” style mob at the end of the traditional patrol, which I feel is unnecessary and unfun. And the new event system…it’s just a ui element. I can understand why the devs think it’s great and hype – it’s apparently way different for them – but as a user, it’s just a menu that places the relevant content in an easy-to-access place. Nice, but nothing to get excited about.

As for the rest of everyone, their thoughts seem to be the opposite of mine. Understandable. The episode being the main popular thing makes sense – people tend to play the game for the story, and there it is. Some people seem to actually like STD, so getting one of the main cast is cool for them. Though I think that a lot of people picked the “event system” because they didn’t like the rest. The patrols are kinda blah, but not offensive, and if you want to level your ships, they’re a really good place to go. And ground queues tend to be rather unpopular with the players in general (they want spaceships to go pewpew, not layzorgunz), and apparently there’s a huge afk problem, though I have never seen it myself (might just be that I play at a low-traffic time).

Now, I’ve told you all that to get to the rant. It’s about a think that Trek has done a few times, that STO does here in this episode (and has done before), what I will call the Holonerd. Basically, it’s using the holodeck to recreate a person with expertise to help solve the problem of the week. It was first used in the TNG episode “Booby Trap,” where Geordi makes a holographic recreation of one of the Enterprise’s design engineers, Leah Brahms, to help him figure out a way out of the eponymous booby trap. (It’s also a holowaifu episode, since of course that huge nerd can’t get a real gf amirite?) It’s done again at least once in Voyager (adding an additional ethical problem, because they recreate a Cardassian Mengele to solve the issue), and as I said, here in this episode of STO, where they recreate Stamets from STD, because he’s an expert on space shrooms.

Why does this bother me? Well, because it makes no sense. It’s not like the holodeck actually has the soul, or even merely the memories, of the person in question. All it has is, at best, historical recordings of the person, and whatever research they’ve done and is in the computer. Now, I can get how a problem-solver might want to have a personage to bounce ideas off of, rather than just a terminal, or disembodied voice. But there is no reason to try to recreate an actual person, because they aren’t the actual person, no matter how they might look and sound (as Geordi found out later, the real Brahms was not the holowaifu). In STO, there was no reason to get a Stamets hologram, certainly no reason to get the personality (although the episode did lampshade this a bit, since the computer initially brought up a grouchy, retired Stamets first, before the more cooperative Starfleet Officer version). And of course, the holonerd doesn’t actually think like the person in question, nor have their memories and expertise. (Again, to STO’s credit, they bring this up with the holoStamets – he can’t really help you, in the end, until the shroom people just happen to give the faker the real deal’s memories/soul/whatever that was left behind when they went there in that one episode – so now holoStamets is as close to a Real Boy as possible [this is not to STO’s credit, in my opinion].)

Basically, what the holodeck is doing is making an avatar of the ship’s computer. That’s actually kinda neat (and I believe the show Andromeda does this), so why not just go with that? It still gives all the other aspects of the plot (such as the holowaifu thing, or the ethical dilemma of using the gains of evil), and it isn’t just plain dumb. As far as STO goes, it gives a reason to use STD’s cast (since it’s 160 years after the show, you can’t just have the characters show up). But in the rest of Trek doesn’t have this excuse.

While I’m here, I’ll rant on another bad use of the holodeck, this time reserved for STO specifically. In the episode “Butterfly” the Allies have built an Anti-Plot Gun, which erases whatever from time itself, in order to change the past so we don’t get shreked by the Iconians (who are a whole Kardashev level above even Starfleet). (It’s the same weapon Annorax used in the Voyager episode “Year of Hell”.) Since changing even a little thing can lead to huge changes down the line, of course we want to make sure that we’ve got it all calculated out: the whole thing with “Year of Hell” was that Annorax tried to change history by erasing things, but he could never get the history he wanted. But in STO, we use the holodeck to recreate what might happen if we made this change or that. Now, why do we need to enter the holodeck and run some simulation of some particular event. Indeed, what the PC is actually doing is just grabbing some historical info at the end of the simulation. The simulation didn’t need to be run – the simulation that the PC goes through is based entirely on the simulation of history the computer has already run! It’s literally a waste of computing power (it takes a lot to simulate all that stuff going on) and time (since the computer already has the answer before you even go into the room, or at least before the end!). Even in “Year of Hell” the computer doing the simulation just did its calculations, then displayed the results – no need for holomumbojumbo.

So, this is another instance of writers not thinking through the implications of their plot devices. Though this time they go for the more complicated answer, rather than the simpler solution!

Everyone of you reading this…

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