wall of text warning, and opinions.
If you’re a casual reader of my blog, you know at times I will vent about issues I see in the Star Trek Online. My blog posts are most definitely opinions, but as with this weeks commentary on P1’s hosting changes, it resulted in the kind of heated conversation on Reddit that pushed more than a few buttons. Defenses were high, and it got a little out of hand. And I have to feel for LaughingTrendy who in addition to her normal jobs, suddenly had to slog through
250+ 270+ comments, counter comments, factoids and ramblings to get a handle on the mess we created.
I want to make this clear – I stand by the post and by Kam.
One point that was brought up in the Reddit thread was that I was posting opinion as fact without the benefit of the other side, or some form labeling that my post was editorial. While I had always assumed (mistake) that blogging about my thoughts was just that – opinion – I’ve also make regular posts about the game, and do reviews.
Moving forward I will mark opinion pieces as opinion, both in the preamble and in the tags (visible to the left hand side of my post) so that there won’t be confusion. You also know that when I’m wrong, or I’ve forgotten an attribution I will quickly make the changes necessary to set things right. As it should be 😉
One area I hope to do more is to offer more than my view on a subject. Moneybags approached me via email, and after a few emails I agreed to make this post. It’s unedited, and is a welcome take on this week.
Guest Blogger Moneybags
Disclaimer: Moneybags is a Star Trek Online player with 10.5 seasons of experience. He is currently the author of the Rules of Acquisition article series on the Priority One Website. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of the Priority One Podcast, the Priority One website, the Priority One Fleet.
Knowledge equals profit. You need a lot more than the information in patch related release notes if you wish to stay ahead of the curve in Star Trek Online, and without the knowledge constantly being disseminated across the various player driven communities outside the game; players will find themselves chasing trends rather than profiting from them.
Since very early in Star Trek Online the most useful knowledge one could find outside some of the official Cryptic sub communities (like PvP and Tribble) on the official forums was with the various player and fan produced Podcasts. For the first 5+ seasons of the game, the best Star Trek Online Podcast was STOKed. Full disclosure… I was in Jupiter Force for part of the production runs of STOKed, so my opinions on STOKed are based on my experiences inside the bubble dealing with people directly, and not second hand hearsay. Full disclosure #2, Jeremy and I never really knew each other well nor got along when we were in the fleet together.
In my opinion, STOKed was great because it had all the ingredients of a great game based Podcast. First, it was live video so it wasn’t simply what you heard, in many cases it also included what you could see. This went beyond seeing game mechanics; it also allowed you to see the hosts which gave viewers a personal bond with the individuals as it related to their insights and opinions. When Chris would smile saying something silly or Jeremy would give that ‘look’ when discussing a topic, over time the viewer gained a deeper understanding of context for the ongoing discussion based on the mannerisms of the hosts. The video aspect of STOKed gave the Podcast significant advantages over other Podcasts in that early period of fan based knowledge dissemination for Star Trek Online, but to his credit, Chris never saw other Podcasts as competition, rather he collaborated with other Podcasters until such a moment they discarded professionalism. Lack of professionalism is a common problem for player produced products in the game genre.
But an equally important ingredient in what made STOKed a truly great Podcast was that the hosts had great chemistry that worked extremely well when engaging target audiences across the various segments. As a Podcast, STOKed was essentially a STO weekly news style program that balanced host commentary with established topic centric segments. The environment of STOKed was casual for the intent of reaching the broadest possible audience of Star Fleet Online players, and after the show downsized to two hosts instead of three, the chemistry between Chris and Jeremy got so good the show captured a very broad audience across multiple subgroups of the STO population.
What most people may not be aware of though is that Jeremy wasn’t the one who developed most of the research and math utilized in the MATH segments on the show. The data collection, research, and analysis of Star Trek Online systems and mechanics were developed from a handful of incredibly smart European STO players who were in Jupiter Force. When Jeremy left to go work for Cryptic, all those European players who did the data collection, research, and analysis of Star Trek Online systems and mechanics were still in Jupiter Force and were still working with Chris for STOKed. But it didn’t matter, because STOKed after Borticus was terrible.
Borticus did what no one after him on STOKed could do… he could take the data collection, research, and analysis of Star Trek Online systems and mechanics that was developed by others, understand the information in deep detail, and disseminate that information within the established chemistry of the Podcast production to the broader STO audience Chris managed as part of STOKed’s brand. After Borticus left, the people who did all that data collection, research, and analysis of Star Trek Online systems and mechanics attempted to disseminate that information themselves on STOKed as a replacement for Jeremy, and while I think Nikki and Bridger and Irish and the rest of those Jupiter Force folks of that era are outstanding people whom I still love and respect, their chemistry on the Podcast with Chris was terrible, and when STOKed Radio tried to pick up the reigns after STOKed was retired – without the right chemistry in presentation the whole thing collapsed.
I point all of this out to highlight how STOKed died a long, ugly, and painful death because the people responsible for STOKed and later STOKed Radio failed to act quickly and decisively when it was abundantly clear the ingredients necessary to appeal to the target audience; and the chemistry necessary to create that appeal didn’t exist in the show once Jeremy left. Without Borticus, the best research being disseminated at that time on any Star Trek Online Podcast was completely useless to the Star Trek Online player community, because Borticus was the only person involved in STOKed who understood the deep details of the information being produced from data and research who could also disseminate that information to the player effectively. Chris couldn’t do it, because honestly Chris was a casual and – sad to say – fairly terrible Star Trek Online player who didn’t care enough to dive into such detail. Chris is a great guy, but simply being a great guy didn’t allow him to fill the role Borticus had filled on STOKed, and by trying to do exactly that while also manage his traditional responsibilities on STOKed – Chris burned out quickly of both the game and Podcast.
I note this as background as I observe the commentary related to the recent changes with the Priority One Podcast. With the retirement of Elijah and Cookie, Priority One Podcast is going through a transition phase as the production attempts to incorporate new host personalities seamlessly. I doubt navigating that change will be easy for Priority One, because it has rarely been easy for anyone else who has tried to do it, and the first obvious sign the challenge is fairly significant was when a very popular member of the STO community – Kam (SarcasimDetector), who was a frequent guest on the Priority One Podcast already, was hired to be a host and then let go after only a short time hosting the show. The last time I saw Kam was 2 seconds before he met with Elijah, and the last time I saw Elijah was 2 seconds after he had let Kam go. Folks like me who were right there in the next room didn’t know what was going on until it happened, and the very same comment regarding what happened with Kam on Priority One that Elijah gave Lootcritter was given to us in that very moment it took place.
But the speculative narrative attempting to explain what happened started with Lootcritter’s commentary which ultimately set the tone for this fascinating reddit discussion. Full disclosure, I’m a fan of the Priority One Podcast, and I am a fan of Lootcritter. I’m also a member of the Priority One Fleet and I write on the Priority One website. I have nothing to do with the Priority One Podcast. I kind of know Elijah, Cookie, and Kam (SarcasimDetector). I don’t know Jayce or other Priority One Podcast hosts. MidnightShadow and I go way back, but haven’t talked much since we both left Jupiter Force.
In my opinion Lootcritter operates one of the best STO related individual commentary websites in the broader STO community, and for me his commentary adds value to my gaming experience. His strength is in his understanding regarding the history of the game, hands on experience across a very broad spectrum of game play, keeping tabs on events that impact our community as they happen, and he has a deep technical understanding of the games systems and mechanics that he disseminates well to others on his site. When discussing the complicated issues within the game, he presents problems extremely well and disseminates in detail why decisions are rarely zero sum, covering both the good and the bad of decisions, and takes the time to explain why something might be good and bad for STO players. This is important because things players need to know are often good and bad, not good or bad.
Lootcritter’s weakness is how he evaluates the human elements of the game, whether it is Cryptic politics or player politics. Unlike his analysis of systems and mechanics, he frequently discusses human activities as zero sum. In the case of his recent Priority One Podcast discussion, he notes Kam is a great guy (which he is), and Lootcritter takes his analysis of the complicated human interaction between Elijah and Kam specific to hosting Priority One Podcast to a place where he can only conclude that Elijah must be a bad guy for replacing him as a host on the P1 Podcast. Let’s just say, as someone frequently on the bridge of the Priority One Teamspeak who has frequently been hanging out with Elijah and Kam over the last few months, I have a very different take.
Priority One is a big fleet with great leadership. The Fleet is not integrated at all into the Podcast, at least nothing like how Jupiter Force was integrated with STOKed. Within all large fleets in STO, there are subgroups of players within fleets, and these subgroups exist because people tend to group with folks that they have something in common with. The reasons for similarities may be age, interests, geography, etc. and not always even be factors related to the game itself.
My little subgroup in Priority One is mostly older adults like myself, because it turns out as I get older, I can get annoyed sometimes when hanging out with millennials who are the same age group as my children. In STO terms, my subgroup of friends are eccentric – meaning we have habits in game that are well outside the normal behavior of most STO players, and for the most part those eccentric habits manifest in our game play style. As a Ferengi who counts my Energy Credits by the billions, counts my Dilithium by the millions, and counts my ZEN in the tens of thousands – I have my own eccentric issues as a STO player.
I find adult players with eccentric tendencies as part of their game style fascinating. Kam SarcasimDetector is an eccentric player, and a fascinating dude. His thing is DPS, and I think he is one of the top players in the game on the topic. In my opinion Kam is the best player in the game today at teaching the topic of DPS to other players. I see Kam as the modern era Jeremy in the community, because he can take data researched by others and disseminate it effectively across a broad audience – that’s not easy; it’s also a skill. The first time I really met Kam was following a Friday night P1 video livestream he did with CookieCupcakes where he basically fixed her ship live on video for everyone to see while he explained every change he recommended in detail. After that session he started hanging out in P1 Teamspeak a lot, and I always felt that when he was in our Teamspeak, he fit right in when hanging out with myself and my subgroup of friends – because he is one of us – an eccentric player.
I completely understand why Elijah wanted Kam to be one of the new hosts on Priority One. Kam is a great guy; he’s a smart player; and he has a proven record of being able to disseminate complicated information well through various social media productions to a broad audience.
But I think it was plainly obvious why Elijah removed Kam as one of the new hosts on Priority One. Kam sounded uncomfortable and scripted as a P1 host, and the chemistry of the hosts was simply not there. While it is true Kam has appeal to certain communities of STO players who thrive on technical data of game systems, he also generally lacks appeal to the more casual player that represents Priority One’s target audience. In the short time Kam was a host on Priority One, what became apparent to me is that Kam had a great chemistry with CookieCupcakes when he made his guest appearances on that Podcast before he became a host, but the chemistry he had as a guest didn’t transition to the Podcast when CookieCupcakes wasn’t there and Kam was being a host.
Whether you believe Elijah did some things he shouldn’t have or Kam said some things he shouldn’t have, the bottom line is Star Trek Online needs professional Podcasts of high quality, and any podcast without chemistry among the hosts can be plenty professional, but lack quality. Kam’s chemistry on Priority One without Cookie was awful, and he and Jayce simply didn’t click well. A lack of chemistry with what amounts to a random collection of people unfamiliar with each other does not automatically reflect poorly on Kam, Elijah, Jayce, or anyone else – sometimes things simply don’t work out. Chemistry matters for a quality Podcast, and when it is being forced, it’s obvious to the consumer.
I listened to The Show for the first time this week, and my impression is Kam and Odenknight have a really awesome chemistry on that show that makes it a high quality podcast that I intend to follow. I don’t understand how anyone can observe Kam hosting Priority One and somehow not see that it wasn’t working, particularly when you can observe the exact same Kam as a host on The Show and observe what it looks like when the chemistry of the hosts does work.
Priority One has been a great STO Podcast for a long time, but like all Podcasts it has a unique style intended to appeal to its target audience. In my opinion, STOKed was a weekly nightly news type of Podcast, The Show is a data and research driven information dissemination type of round table discussion Podcast, and Priority One is more like the Today Show or Fox and Friends – the couch and coffee club Podcast with high profile interviews mixed with casual style and fun. These style distinctions matter, and it is asking too much of Kam to be good at every style with every person, hell it is asking too much of anyone.
And as players who are dependent upon the small online player driven community associated with STO, we are setting our expectations low when we don’t expect high profile Podcast leaders like Elijah to address obvious problems quickly rather than allow a train wreck in slow motion occur like what happened to STOKed. I thought it was fairly obvious Kam didn’t fit well on the Priority One Podcast, and I give Elijah a ton of credit for dealing with that.
So unlike Lootcritter, I don’t see events as they unfolded as a zero sum good vs evil conflict between two people the way he did. Elijah did a hard thing, but the right thing, and in my opinion it was best for the Priority One brand by letting Kam go. To be honest, I also think it was better for Kam too, because he has a legitimate talent that didn’t fit as a host on the Priority One Podcast. That doesn’t make Kam less capable or talented, nor does it mean Elijah is some ego driven asshat who couldn’t wait to play the role of the two Bob’s with Kam after hiring him; it simply means the way things came together lacked compatibility.
STO Players benefit from strong player driven communities outside the game. There really isn’t a downside for us when the products that make up our community are professional. If we want high quality player driven products like Lootcritter, The Show, Priority One, and especially the fantastic stuff posted regularly on individual YouTube channels (Looking at you DPS league!), we should demand professionalism and quality while encouraging professional collaboration among the brands rather than competition between them, because quality Star Trek Online information useful to the player isn’t a zero sum industry.
It is my sincere desire that as Lootcritter, Priority One, The Show, and other productions that desire to be professional platforms providing useful information for STO players move forward; they do so by dismissing any competitive tendencies that deliver zero sum outcomes to the STO player community who ultimately prefer a variety of good information sources. I believe that if the producers of the STO player community online content products choose to collaborate by giving each other credit rather than trying to compete with one another, and do so respecting each other professionally; it is more likely all of the STO player community content brands will find more success than if they try to individually build themselves up alone.
That last is social media science 101, if you doubt, ask a Trendy. Another truth that doesn’t fit the memes; Cryptic will respond positively to professional player communities and will respond negatively to unprofessional player driven communities, because for the 10.5 seasons I’ve been playing STO that is exactly what they have always done.
I had initially planned to follow this up with a ‘I’m not that zero sum’ comment, but thought better of it. Criticism is a good thing, even when it’s directed at me 😉
It’s time to get back to Star Trek Online – which BTW I am struggling to get it to work well on a 4K monitor. Great visuals, but the mouse disappears, and the icons are too small. Yeah, yeah I know it wasn’t designed for it, but others have gotten it to work. Any ideas? .
If you’d like to share your ideas or opinions, and you’d like a forum to do so, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.