Faction Revamp: A Proposal To Cryptic Studios
DISCLAIMER: Yes, I know it's a lot of reading (i.e. Wall of Text). Skip to IT'S ALL BLACK AND WHITE for the beginning of the proposed changes.
FACTION REVAMP: A PROPOSAL TO CRYPTIC STUDIOS
There has been a lot of talk lately in-game and on the forums about the Legacy of Romulus expansion and the addition of the Romulan faction. From the grumblings, it's obvious there are many players that are unhappy with the way that Cryptic has chosen to implement Romulans as a new playable faction. It's also obvious that Cryptic has spent a lot of time and effort to bring Legacy of Romulus to the players while also trying to find a fair and balanced approach in adding a third faction to the game. But I wanted to put forth my own proposal for consideration regarding "factions" and how they might be handled in the future.
Star Trek Online (STO) is a persistent, ever-growing galaxy with a myriad number of players and player types. Some are here to role-play. Some are here to PvP. Some are here to grow their characters and their Fleets. Some are here to play episodic story missions provided by Cryptic Studios or other players via the Foundry. All are here "to boldly go" and experience the wonder that is Star Trek.
FACTION... FROM A CERTAIN POINT OF VIEW
Cryptic says they're giving players the Romulans as a third playable faction in STO, but some players have stated that they feel misled by Cryptic about the Romulans being a true third faction. If I may quote a wise man from another IP:
"Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view."
So what exactly is a "faction"? According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary:
Faction: 1) a party or group (as within a government) that is often contentious or self-seeking; 2) party strife especially when marked by dissension
Additionally one definition that I found that specifically relates to online games, says that a faction "can be defined as any nation that a player can choose to live in and work for inside of video games."
While the STO Wiki simply states "Factions are major powers in Star Trek Online." Specifically, the Federation (FED) and the Klingon Defense Force (KDF) are listed as the playable factions, with a note that the Romulan Republic (ROM) will be become playable with the release of Legacy of Romulus.
Also, several "sub-factions" are listed for each major faction, along with several non-player factions.
So, what is a "faction" to Cryptic and STO players as it relates to STO? I believe this is the question that should be answered first. From the hundreds of posts that I've read on the website, forums, and Facebook, it seems that most, dare I say all, players would agree that Cryptic is adhering to the narrow definition that a faction is simply a "major power" as provided by STO Wiki. But what's really in dispute is what makes a faction, a FACTION.
STO FACTIONS - FULLY FUNCTIONAL, PROGRAMMED IN... MULTIPLE TECHNIQUES
It can be universally agreed upon that the FED is indeed a complete, independent, fully-functional faction within STO. As a playable faction, the FED starts at Level 1, has its own storyline, missions, ships, exclusive social hub, exclusive space sector, unique species, Bridge Officers (BOFFs), Duty Officers (DOFFs), C-Store options, and Starbases. I could go on, but these are the major things of concern, and for the sake of brevity I'll stop there. So when players of STO seek to define FACTION, regardless of gameplay mechanics, this is the standard to which FACTION is held.
Klingon players have contended that the KDF is an incomplete, though independent, half-faction within STO that needs to be fleshed out. As a playable faction, though, the KDF has its own storyline, missions, ships, exclusive social hub, exclusive space sector, unique species, BOFFs, DOFFs, C-Store options and Starbases. So how can a faction that has so much, be considered less than a whole FACTION by the players who play that faction? It's because it doesn't meet the standard of FACTION established by the FED. All that Klingon players lack at present is the ability to start at Level 1, storyline/mission content on-par with the FED, and a comparable amount of C-Store options. Is this lack really enough to consider the KDF less than a FACTION? Apparently, if you're a Klingon, it is. With the upcoming Legacy of Romulus, it's been reported that the KDF will now start at Level 1 and be given expanded storyline/mission content. Will this be enough to appease the most die-hard Klingons? Will the KDF be finally seen as a full FACTION? Only time will tell, but let's assume that it does. If that's the case, then the only thing Klingons should need/want is the comparable C-Store options.
Now enters the Romulan Republic, our new faction of contention. Before the ROM has even gone live, they have already been labeled by dissenters as less than a faction, or "worse", a mere playable species for the FED or KDF. As a playable faction, it's been reported that the ROM will start at Level 1, have its own storyline, missions, ships, exclusive social hub, unique species, BOFFs, and C-Store options. What ROM players will lack is an exclusive space sector, DOFFs, and Starbases. ROM C-Store options most likely will not be comparable to the FED, though this can be forgiven for now, because the faction is just starting. A lack of exclusive space sector is disappointing, but understandable given that the FED and KDF swarm the skies of New Romulus anyway. Perhaps this can be corrected in the future with the addition of a new sector block. A lack of exclusive DOFFs is also disappointing, but ROM DOFFs are being added to existing DOFF packs, and the ROM will be given access to ally DOFFs, with ROM DOFF packs coming in the future. A lack of Starbases has been majorly disappointing to the die-hard Romulan fans that wanted to start up their own Fleets with a unique Starbase. There's an in-game reason for this and a Cryptic game management reason for this, but while the former makes sense within the game's story framework, I'm afraid the latter will fail in practice. If there's one thing that remains constant with every change, it's that STO players find ways to play the game not as intended. The most galling thing, though, for many players is the reported requirement that a ROM player MUST ally with the FED or KDF.
A NOTE ON ROMULANS
Many players have balked at the idea of playing Romulan Republic Romulans instead of Romulan Star Empire Romulans or Tal Shiar Romulans. At this point, it seems Cryptic wants all STO players to be playing the "good guys". And yes, the Klingons are the "good guys" from their perspective in the game. So regardless of your personal feelings, for the sake of in-game story, the Romulan Star Empire and the Tal Shiar are the "bad guys" and we're not going to get to play them. You can either accept this or not, but let's move on.
ALLIANCES - A ROMULAN PLOT... DEVICE OR SHORTCUT TO ADVANCEMENT?
It's been reported that at Level 10, ROM Captains must make a choice to either ally with the FED or KDF. Cryptic promises that there is an in-game story reason for this that makes sense, so we'll just have to wait and see what that reason is before passing judgment on the story. But they also had gameplay mechanics reasons for this decision as well.
One reason had to do with the issue of Starbases. In-game, the ROM are a displaced people without many resources, so from a story perspective it makes sense that they would not be building Starbases while simultaneously trying to rebuild a society on New Romulus. Challenging this premise, some players have advocated that the ROM could have built bases on New Romulus itself for their Fleet/Starbase holding. While this idea has merit, it also binds the ROM to New Romulus without the possibility of establishing a base in another sector in the future, as the FED and KDF have a home planet AND a Starbase system. For gameplay purposes, Cryptic has stated that they desired to respect the hard work that Fleets have and are putting into their Starbases without introducing a "must start over" approach this early, therefore the decision was made to have the ROM ally with either the FED or KDF and join established Fleets to gain access to Fleet perks. There's an inherent flaw to this logic, though, because STO players do not always play as intended and die-hard Romulan players are going to establish their own Romulan-exclusive Fleets and start the whole Starbase building process over again anyway. The only drawback will be that it won't be a true ROM Fleet/Starbase, because everything will be skinned with the ally's visuals. I don't want to speculate too much about what Cryptic considered doing, rejected doing, etc., but Cryptic has stated that they haven't ruled out giving the ROM their own Starbases in the future. This would seem problematic when it comes time to consolidate the ROM and separate them from their chosen allies, but that's a discussion for another time.
Another reason, and what may be the main reason, is what has been stated by some as the two-faction PvP limitations of the gaming engine that STO uses. After the debut of World of War Craft (WoW), a lot of MMOs have modeled themselves after its two-faction system. But I've read that another game, Dark Age of Camelot, which debuted before WoW, had a successful three-faction system, and that currently The Secret World has its own three-faction system. Whether any of their concepts or something similar could be adapted to STO is unknown to me, but at least we know that three factions CAN be done. But can it be done with Cryptic's gaming engine? Regardless, Cryptic has stated that the only real relevance these alliances hold in regards to current endgame play is in Player versus Player (PvP), and that they are "placing a stake in the ground" that STO is a two-faction PvP game, and further they have yet to introduce their goals and plans for PvP. So the cries for true three-faction gameplay may be moot at this point. But all this really means is that we'll not see any three-way PvP matches, and while it would be great to have, it isn't a big detractor from the game as a whole in not having three-way PvP. So I would say, just give us FED vs ROM, KDF vs ROM, and ROM vs ROM PvP options in addition to our current options, and leave it at that then, rather than ally the ROM with FED or KDF in order to get all three of them into the same fight.
NOTE: An unintended consequence of this new alliance mechanic may be that the galaxy becomes populated with nothing but Romulan and Reman players since they'll have access to the exclusive Romulan content plus that of the FED/KDF Ally. Why then choose to ever play as FED or KDF again?
IT'S ALL BLACK AND WHITE
I know we've come a long way just to get to the actual proposal part, but I wanted to make sure that all relevant information regarding player concerns and Cryptic implementation regarding the introduction of Romulans were addressed and in one place before diving right into it. So here we go...
Since Cryptic says being colored Blue (FED) or Red (KDF) is really only relevant to PvP, then the idea here is to give the ROM players their own sense of identity while working within the restrictions of the gaming engine's two-faction (Red vs Blue) PvP model. As previously stated, with the introduction of Legacy of Romulus, the game will be setup to pit the Red and Blue factions against each other with the Green ROM Captains, being recolored Red or Blue for the purposes of PvP, aligned with their personally chosen ally.
Current gameplay mechanics, though, allow for Red vs Red and Blue vs Blue PvP action. Something within the gaming engine allows players of the same faction to be separated into opposing teams in order to battle each other. Additionally, there are Players vs Environment (PvE) missions within STO that allow the FED and KDF to team up against a common enemy. Presumably, all of the players get shuffled into a Blue team, while the NPC enemy is labeled the Red team. So again, something within the gaming engine allows players of different factions to be combined into one team in order to battle side-by-side against a common foe. I'm not sure what the technical-gaming-programming term is for this re-teaming, but for the purposes of this proposal I'll be referring to it as Dynamic Teaming, i.e. teaming that is not static, but changes from one situation to another.
Now, the model requires two opposing forces, and so, as in chess, I'll refer to them as Black vs White. The idea here is, as Cryptic has stated, Black vs White is only relevant in PvP. But further, Black vs White is only defined at the time PvP is initiated. So Black and White are not permanent. The FED is neither Black nor White. The KDF is neither Black nor White. The ROM is neither Black nor White. When players queue for PvP, Dynamic Teaming kicks in, sorting players into Black vs White teams. How players are sorted will depend on what kind of PvP they are queuing for. Is it FED vs FED? KDF vs KDF? ROM vs ROM? FED vs KDF? KDF vs ROM? What about a FED-KDF-ROM team vs another FED-KDF-ROM team? Or any other possible combination. Throw in a random option, so you never know who you'll be teamed with, or pitted against. But also leave the door open for players to form their own Faction or Cross-Faction teams to put to the test in PvP. Something within the gaming code must already exist which allows for this shuffling and re-teaming of players depending on the environment, as it has been observed in various PvP and PvE scenarios. The idea is to find a way to get it to function in a more free-form sort of way, and it should play no role in how Fleets, Starbases, sector space, etc. function within the game.
So Step 1 may be to redefine how labeling and teaming is done for the purposes of PvP without it having an impact on gameplay outside of PvP. I know that in terms of programming, this is probably not as simple as black and white. Is this even possible given the gaming engine's limitations? I don't know, but I believe this is something that the players have been asking for, and this, I think, is one way how it might be done.
A TRICHROMATIC VISION
Now that factions have been dealt with in terms of PvP gameplay; let's look at what's really near-and-dear to the hearts of the player community: FACTION. Earlier we illustrated what FACTION means to the average STO player, and here is where we'll address that. Whereas Black vs White floats above and in the background as Dynamic Teaming, FACTION, to be referenced as Player Faction for the purposes of this proposal, is the tangible, in-your-face, static teaming that defines the player identity within the game. Here is where you are known and defined as FED, KDF, or ROM, that which matters most to the player community.
I believe in balance, and given what's already been established in STO from the outset with three career paths and three ship classes, I believe that having three, and only three, complete and independent factions makes sense. And logically those three factions should be: The Federation (Blue), Klingon Defense Force (Red), and Romulan Republic (Green).
Cryptic has stated in interviews that, "the way the faction is set up, it is technically its own faction, so in the back end system when we do things like logic of who can make what, and who can do what, Romulans exist as a faction", just like the FED and KDF. So the ROM CAN make Fleets and CAN build Starbases, but they are "limited" in that those Fleets and Starbases will be FED or KDF depending on the chosen ally. So I'm sure there must be ways to implement Black vs White, while still maintaining Blue, Red, and Green identity without having to ally and share Fleets and Starbases. Since Cryptic is considering, although not promising, to allow the ROM to have their own Fleets and Starbases at some point in the future, this would seem to suggest that the ability for Player Factions to maintain separate identities is within the parameters of the gaming engine.
So far, to my knowledge, Cryptic has given only three reasons to deny the ROM true independence:
1) Story - The ROM are a displaced people without enough resources to build their own Starbases, and so must rely on their allies.
Easily remedied by continuing their story to the point that they are independent.
2) PvP - Cryptic has stated that they are "placing a stake in the ground" that STO is a two-faction PvP game. Their chosen solution to maintain this is to ally the ROM with either the FED or KDF.
Reference IT'S ALL BLACK AND WHITE for a suggested solution to allow the ROM their PvP independence.
3) Starbases - Cryptic has stated that they desired to respect the hard work that Fleets have and are putting into their Starbases without introducing a "must start over" approach this early, therefore making the decision to have the ROM ally with either the FED or KDF and join established Fleets to gain access to Fleet perks.
Well, there's really no other fix around this, but to give the ROM their own Romulan Fleets/Starbases. As it's inevitable that ROM players will start up ROM themed Fleets within the FED and KDF, the only solution for this down the line would seem to be to have ROM Fleet Admirals "adjust" their rosters to have exclusively ROM players and then re-faction/re-skin those Fleets as true ROM Fleets, otherwise ROM players would have to be denied the ability to start Fleets until such time as true ROM Fleets can be made.
So Step 2 would be to make the ROM an INDEPENDENT faction in their own right. This will mean separating the ROM from their chosen allies and bringing about "reunification" of the "Romulan Player Nation". This will also mean that the ROM will lose access to FED and KDF ships, technology, etc., but in the end this will be a good thing for the game, as it will make choosing to play FED or KDF relevant again.
THE STO-LY TRINITY
Now that the ROM has gained its independence and we have three true and separate factions within STO, we can spice up the three Player Factions to give them an even more distinct flavor from one another. This flavoring will come from advantages/disadvantages gained from choice of Player Faction, Career Path, and Ship Type.
I propose that each Player Faction be given an advantage/disadvantage in regards to the Career Paths to illustrate that each Player Faction has a specialty in a certain area. The KDF would have an advantage (Buff) in Tactical (TAC), but be weakest (Debuff) in Engineering (ENG). The ROM would have an advantage (Buff) in Science (SCI), but be weakest (Debuff) in TAC. The FED would have an advantage (Buff) in ENG, but be weakest (Debuff) in SCI.
Further, I propose that each Career Path be given an advantage/disadvantage in regards to the other Career Paths, much like Rock-Paper-Scissors. TAC-SCI-ENG will be regarded in a similar way: TAC has an advantage (Buff) against SCI, but weakness (Debuff) against ENG; SCI has an advantage (Buff) against ENG, but weakness (Debuff) against TAC; ENG has an advantage (Buff) against TAC, but weakness (Debuff) against SCI.
Ships could also add a slight Buff/Debuff depending on the ship class as well: Escorts (TAC) are more effective against Research (SCI) Vessels, but less effective against Cruisers (ENG), Research (SCI) Vessels are more effective against Cruisers (ENG), but less effective against Escorts (TAC), Cruisers (ENG) are more effective against Escorts (TAC), but less effective against Research (SCI) Vessels.
Additionally, these Buffs and Debuffs are stackable and mutually exclusive of each other. So a KDF Captain would gain a TAC Buff for simply being KDF, would gain an additional TAC Buff for choosing the TAC Career Path, and gain yet another TAC Buff for flying an Escort; but would also gain an ENG Debuff for simply being KDF, gain an additional ENG Debuff for choosing the Tactical Career Path, and gain yet another ENG Debuff for flying an Escort. Similarly, a ROM Captain would gain a SCI Buff and a TAC Debuff for simply being ROM, but could mitigate the TAC Debuff by choosing the ENG Career Path and/or flying a Cruiser.
I suggest that the Faction Buff/Debuff be the greater modifier with Career Path and Ship Type being lesser modifiers, again to emphasis the inherent advantages/disadvantages associated with a chosen Faction. So, just to throw some numbers around for illustration purposes:
KDF: TAC Buff +5%, ENG Debuff -5%, SCI +/-0%
ROM: SCI Buff +5%, TAC Debuff -5%, ENG +/-0%
FED: ENG Buff +5%, SCI Debuff -5%, TAC +/-0%
TAC Career Path: +2.5% vs SCI, -2.5% vs ENG, +/-0% vs TAC
SCI Career Path: +2.5% vs ENG, -2.5% vs TAC, +/-0% vs SCI
ENG Career Path: +2.5% vs TAC, -2.5% vs SCI, +/-0% vs ENG
Escort: +2.5% vs Research Vessels, -2.5% vs Cruisers, +/-0% vs Escorts
Research Vessels: +2.5% vs Cruisers, -2.5% vs Escorts, +/-0% vs Research Vessels
Cruisers: +2.5% vs Escorts, -2.5% vs Research Vessels, +/-0% vs Cruisers
So the strongest possible TAC player would be a KDF TAC Captain flying a TAC Ship, when faced against FED or ROM TAC Captains in TAC Ships; the strongest possible SCI player would be a ROM SCI Captain flying a SCI Ship, when faced against FED or KDF SCI Captains in SCI Ships; and the strongest possible ENG player would a FED ENG Captain flying an ENG Ship, when faced against KDF or ROM ENG Captains in ENG Ships.
That isn't to say that you couldn't have a KDF SCI officer flying a Cruiser, or a ROM ENG officer flying an Escort, or a FED TAC officer flying a Research Vessel. It's just that there would be a synergy between Faction-Career-Ship that would unlock advantages when teamed together, but could also open up disadvantages as well.
Also this isn't to suggest that a KDF TAC Captain in a TAC Ship is going to win every time against the other Factions' TAC Captains, but he will have a distinct advantage; nor is it that he will lose every time to a FED ENG Captain in a Cruiser, but he will have a distinct disadvantage. This is where the ship's build (i.e. weapons, shields, deflectors, engines, consoles, warp cores), BOFF skills, and the player's own skills and innate command abilities come in to play to mitigate the disadvantages associated with the chosen Faction/Career/Ship.
So Step 3 would be to create the Faction-Career-Ship Buff/Debuff system to further distinguish the Player Factions from one another. I believe that creating these distinctions may also draw players, new and old alike, to playing the various factions to accept the challenges associated with playing them.
FUTURE FACTIONS - INFINITE DIVERSITY IN INFINITE COMBINATIONS
Cryptic has stated that any future factions that they might add to the game would most likely be handled the same way that they are currently handling the ROM. While I believe that the ROM should be their own INDEPENDENT faction within STO, I also believe that the alliance game mechanic would work perfectly for future Player Faction additions, which I'll refer to as Player Sub-Factions.
Player Sub-Factions would work just as the current ROM faction works. Some limited, exclusive episode-story content would be developed for the new Player Sub-Faction, which would lead the player to make the choice to ally with the FED, KDF, or ROM Faction, and then pick up that Faction's story arc and the Featured Episodes. After making this choice, the Player Sub-Faction Captain would gain access to the ally's Fleet/Starbase system, ships, technology, etc., as well as the allied faction's advantages/disadvantages.
Of course, these Player Sub-Factions would need to have their own, if limited, exclusive ships, costumes, etc. to entice players to play them, and still give them some distinction from their allied faction.
Example) If a Cardassian Player Sub-Faction were introduced and a player decided to create a Cardassian Captain, then through gameplay decided to ally with the KDF, that Cardassian Captain would gain the KDF TAC Buffs and ENG Debuffs, along with access to other KDF assets, but the KDF would not gain access to Cardassian exclusives.
Some suggested Player Sub-Factions that could work well under this system:
Cardassian Union (Playable Species: Cardassian)
Breen Confederacy (Playable Species: Breen)
Dominion (Playable Species: Jem'Hadar, Vorta, Dosi, Keremma)
Ferengi Alliance (Playable Species: Ferengi)
Deferi (Playable Species: Deferi)
Hirogen (Playable Species: Hirogen)
I would suggest that under no circumstances should the following factions be made Player Sub-Factions, and remain exclusively Enemy Factions within the game:
Also, I would suggest that Player Sub-Factions not be made available from the start, but rather unlocked through Player Faction progression (like previously needing to reach Level 20 as a FED Captain before being able to play as KDF). Further, the needed Level, which I suggest should be about Level 10, would need to be obtained across all Player Factions to unlock the Player Sub-Faction option. So players would need to level a FED, KDF, and ROM Captain to Level 10, before being able to create a Player Sub-Faction character. To this end, players should be given, from the start, three character slots: 1 reserved for FED, 1 reserved for KDF, and 1 reserved for ROM. Then 1 extra character slot, reserved for a Player Sub-Faction character, will be unlocked once those three Faction slots have been leveled to the required level. As usual, additional character slots can be purchased from the C-Store.
So Step 4 would be to adopt the current handling of the ROM Faction and adapt it for future additional Player Sub-Factions.
Anyway, these are some of my suggestions on how Star Trek Online Factions might be revamped. I don't pretend to know how all of the behind-the-scenes business of the game works. I just know what I see in-game, and what I'd like to see in-game. Perhaps all of these suggestions could work. Perhaps none of them could work. What do you think?
Borg Collective - You are borg, you don't have a will on your own and thus can't be a player character. That is why we have liberated borg :)
Undine - This will be way powerful. At least from NPC perspective, they have the ability to clone and adapt. Can you imagine PvP?
edit: none-piped suppose to be "none-BIped" not sure how that got autowreck!
Too much text in too few paragraphs.
Also, why the hell are you debuffing FED science?! :confused:
Romulans will have their own doffs....and later once the faction has been fleshed out more, their own starbases....that is what stahl ha said if you go read the dev blogs...
also...what is your TL;DR? if i wasnt such a great reader i would not have read all that wall of text
This part of your proposal does interest me. Not necessarily the details, but the concept that Factions, Classes, and Ships should all have advantages and disadvantages that can be mixed and matched to some degree to specialize.
However, I forsee huge implications for PvP and I'm not sure this would be acceptable to the PvP community.
Also, Stahl said they were considering giving Romulans their own Starbases, that they had not ruled it out, but stopped short of promising to give Starbases to the Romulans. I've noticed too many players putting this "in stone" as a definite thing.
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