Star Conquest, the 2018 Saga
Posting in multiple parts, because it's so long. What can I say? I love to write.
In the summer of 2011, I was introduced to Squidsoft Entertainment's Star Conquest, a space-themed moo that promised respite from the repeated slaughtering of animals for XP and aimless wandering that had become the norm for me on other games. It delivered.
You will not start in a newbie area here, nor will you be talked through equipping your shortsword and going out to kill your first rabbit. The galaxy is fresh from an alien invasion it managed to escape by the skin of its teeth, and you are a cadet newly graduated from your alliance's flight school. Alliances are political governments arranged throughout the game universe, and are as follows:
The League of Old Earth Democracies (The League)
Old Earth is our earth, but a thousand years in the future. In the Star Conquest universe, that means the entire planet, in the wake of the invasion, became one huge European-style socialist government.
The Alliance of Extrasolar Unions
A handful of explorers who went out into space once upon a time and began carving their own niche and government. A pretty obvious in-universe parallel to the USA, complete with the remnence of bad blood between them and The League--apparently The League tried to govern them at some point and got their collective nose bloodied.
The Federation of Fringe Worlds (The Fringe)
A slightly grittier place and power structure, characterized by poverty, crime and some of the more combat-oriented ships. Seems to be based on South America, with its Spanish names, and less pretty but more boomboom aesthetics.
No real government or structure, just a bunch of rogue pilots being roguy and hating all things authoritative.
Part I. - The Beginning
I found cadethood to be a solitary, sometimes lonely existance. In lieu of levels and experience, Star Conquest has a points system, referred to in-character as license points. The more points you earn, the more equipment and game features you gain access to. As a cadet you are capped at 30 points, which can pour right in if you're enjoying yourself. Some of the activities to gain points and money are pretty engaging, some of them are a bit on the grindy side, but pretty much all of them you're doing by yourself.
Attempts were made to bypass this. My cadet chatted up a nice gal in the local pilot lounge and scored an invite onto her ship. Hilarity ensued when she asked me to wait in the control room while she got into something more comfortable, then slunk out and back in wearing some clothing that was decidedly non-efficient for piloting a spacecraft. She poured wine and purred about how comfortable the sofa was (yes, there was a sofa in her ship's control room), while I scowled and tried fruitlessly to launch the ship into space. Unfortunately, the ship in question was owned by a pilot with many more license points than I had at the time, and thus I couldn't control it. Said pilot put on a robe and explained this, and then promptly kicked me off said ship.
Part II. - The Next Step
Once your point cap is reached, there is quite literally nothing to do but sit around and emote at your fellow pilots, all of whom have better things to do than sit and sip coffee with a cadet. Tough to blame them, really. I probably wouldn't slum it with some undergrad if there were millions to make and stars to conquer elsewhere. Would you?
To no longer be a cadet, you have to write a character profile, going over your character's history and personality. Pretty standard for a lot of RP enforced MUDs. I like writing a fair bit, so this never tripped me up much, but I've heard stories from other players of hosts rejecting profiles multiple times with little explanation. As there is no way anyone but game admins will ever read character histories, being as selective about what will and will not unlock the game to you as has been suggested seems unnecessary. Further complicating the process of graduating from cadet into full pilot is the addition of concepts on top of profiles, which we'll get into a little later.
Part III. - Piloting and Gameplay
Escaping cadethood is good times. You are able to team upwith players more and join in on more of the game's group-oriented features. For example, it takes an entire crew to run certain ships on combat missions. The gunboat requires a pilot to move the ship, an engineer to keep it together, and three gunners to blast enemy ships and give enemy ship engineers something to do. They only get bigger from there. It is also possible to join ground squads of pilots in different brands of specialized power armor called battlesuits, and move around zones blasting baddies apart.
For the solo fliers, it's possible to just drift around space collecting salvage and selling it. Or firing off low difficulty beacons to call in low level enemies so you can blow them up yourself. There's more, but you can try it out yourself if you're curious.
Speaking of curious, the game offers quite a lot of support for ... shall we say, one on one RP. I know that most RP games with adult characters will carry a certain adult element--it can be an important part of character development, or sometimes people are just in the mood to get their jollies off. No judgement. But yo, they coded in handcuffs and writing crops. And plugs, and clamps, and hoods, and blindfolds, and gags, all of them functioning. Some work definitely went into these props.
Part IV. - Host/Staff Involvement
The game hosts get involved, which is almost always a plus. Primarily what they do is write up fun little in-universe tabloid headlines and news articles to flash across the screens of news devices every character comes equipped with. "Aroo brand of spacedog food company donates money to veterinary clinics across Noogabooga System", or "Nigel Pinkleton Loosebritches III of Wobblety Bobblety street defends his title in upcoming tea-drinking extravaganza!" Stuff like that, to add a titter and make the world feel a little more organic and living. I've heard they run plots and involve characters as well, but I've only ever seen that happen once excluding single night holiday events. Halloween parties and so forth. Which are fine, but they aren't character driven plots.
Part V. The Beginning of the End
In early summer of last year, a handful of friends and I found ourselves bored and in need of something to do. They were all League of Legendsed out and I had beaten Mortal Kombats 9 and X for probably the thousandth time. I had taken a break from Star Conquest the way you do over the years with games, but remembered positive experiences with it, chief among them just how awesome it is to wreck pirates and aliens in a fully manned ship. So I pitched the idea and it stuck. Six of us rolled in, most of us choosing AEU as a faction because lasers and Spacemurika. We all received alerts that we would be given certain bonuses because the AEU was at that time very low on players. We would soon find out there was a very good reason for that.
With our enthusiasm and pooled efforts, we made short work of the cadet alotted 30 points. We then found ourselves facing the profile monster, which has feasted on many a player before us. When I went to submit mine, however, I was given a concept prompt. Basically, before you can even submit your background and history, you now first have to boil it down into a single line. This tells hosts if they should even let you write your profile or not. Luckily for me, I got through. My concept was approved, and my profile after that. I was a pilot! I say luckily, because while six of us applied, three of us made it through on the first try, two of us needed to resubmit anywhere from two to five times, and the last never made it past concept. I attribute it to luck because all six of us were veteran MUDers by that point, and you don't RP as long as we all have without becoming at least semidecent as a writer.
I don't want to speak too much on someone else's experience, but it's worth noting that for the rest of this tale, our sixth friend submitted concept after concept after concept. Rejection notes ranged in helpfulness and specificity from "too generic" to "Is this really the best you can do?" Finally, the hosts told her something to the effect of "Take a week or two, roleplay and think about it a little more". That's about the time she made her exit, and no one this side of the staff veil blamed her.
Continued in the comments.