I'm going to open by saying I was a CB tester from mid-November to end, was part of OB but not as much as I did CB--mostly because I didn't want to wear myself out on the lowbie quests. There have been a lot of threads about the game, many were either overly-excited or outrageously negative.
My overall opinion of STO is B-. There are a lot of reasons I give this kind-of rating/grade.
1. Space combat is challenging and robust. More than I had anticipated from the early tests in CB. With the balancing that has been done and having earned a Heavy Cruiser again I can appreciate the number of abilities you have and I retract the need for more clickies.
2. Ground combat was the thing I was not anticipating liking and just griping every time I had to go on an Away Mission. Well (from my first test on) I was shocked that often I enjoyed it as a diversion from the space combat. It is completely different in gameplay style. It is interesting and there is strategy to it. The only downside is that combat tends to drag out at certain levels while at other times it goes by in the blink of an eye. With some balancing, that will definitely come I'll bet, it will be a great highlight of STO.
3. Customization and "powers" are diverse and interesting. While they suit the large demands of a wide audience... it may have gone a bit far for Star Trek. Unlike many other games, Starfleet is a naval tradition organization and there is a "standard" uniform and some of the combination's out there are very distracting for me... but not enough for me to be taken negatively for the game as a whole. More of a nuisance.
4. Weapons are diverse and play greatly into tactics. But I've noticed that Acc, Crt, etc are open to all types and I don't know if that is necessarily a great thing. Whenever I see a Plasma Torp I know it has a likely chance of putting a DoT on me. But with Quantum and Photon Torps I can't be sure of anything but that one has a longer cooldown and does a bit more damage per hit. Why not put that Crt into Quantum Torps and Acc into Photon Torps? I already think that Quantum Torps play better for Crt because of the slight damage bonus and longer cooldown. As I use a Heavy Cruiser it makes sense to just try Crt as my bow isn't pointed at the enemy very often.
5. Graphics are flat astounding. Since day one I was impressed. Puts SWG to shame as far as backdrops and planets, I can't say for Eve as I haven't played it. But also the detail work in sheen and self-emanating lights (and how they interact with the ship model) is great.
6. Bridges... This should have been a no brainer since the beginning. But that it is the only interior you have is kind of disappointing. Sure from a RP stance, but in reality it hurts mission diversity. If you were to flesh out at least 4 different decks for each type, D-1 Living Quarters and 10-Forward style lounge, D-2 Transporter Room, Astrometrics and other Labs, and Sickbay, D-3 Holodecks and more different labs, and D-4 Engineering and Shuttlebay. Now with these you could have a very simple layout. Noting extravagant. But with this you can start to do missions that revolve around intruders, strange happenings and working them out by going to a lab or engineering, Holodeck malfunctions (I know it's been run into the ground) and so much more. It would take away from the monotony of some Patrols if ever so often you had an internal dilemma. There is more potential here than seems to have been realized.
7. Sector Space. Tied into ship interiors, it could be improved by moving Sector Space into an Astrometrics lab or Stellar-Cartography. Still accessible, but to the side, giving you time to interact in your ship if you so choose. So those that like to RP can plot courses and wander about their ship while waiting to arrive at their destination while those who could care less (and I lean to this) could keep the status quo for us.
8. Red Shirts. Not enough of them LOL. After 5hrs of play I only had Red Shirts on two Away Missions. It'd be great (especially with ship interiors) to find ways to make their lives more interesting--and possibly short. That being said, we need to be able to set a standard preset for all uniforms of our red-shirts. A security, a engineering, a science, and command colorization/stylization of uniform so that at least our ship has one feel. Having crewman on my bridge with the default uniform is distracting.
9. Missing in Action: Excelsior-Class, Constellation-Class, Ambassador-Class, New Orleans-Class, Starfleet Arrowhead logos on Starfleet ships, Vixens and Seductresses, Gorn and Orion Ships, and certain Bridge Layouts.
..A: Ships that are missing, while in spirit are represented by the Vesper, Stargazer, and Envoy I truly hope they are intended for release in an update, expansion, or from the C-Store. It can only be described as a confusing choice to leave them out.
..B: Starfleet has a standard logo that is all over and though small is present on every single Starfleet vessel and is missing from every single Starfleet vessel in STO. I would love to see it customizable from the different eras and make it's appearance because it is the defining designation that we Fed-Types are part of Starfleet.
..C. There have been damsels in distress and fem-fatales in Star Trek since the beginning and curious that they are missing here... Now you don't have to do anything grotesque that could up the ERSB rating, but Marta is the closest thing currently in. It might go a long way for mission diversity if meeting a suspicious woman on a Starbase led to some plot twisting events.
..D. Since the Gorn and Orion are part of the KDF it just seems odd that players can't use those ships instead of the Klingon ships. Since they operate much like each other it is confounding that an Orion PC can't use an Orion ship... Just mind boggling.
..E. Ok this is nitpicking at it's worst but I'm going to. Where is the Constitution-Refit style bridge? It's not there LOL. I did miss it. It was one of my favorite bridge layouts from Star Trek and a Constitution-Class ship can have either a default or outrageously oversized Galaxy style bridge...another mind boggling thing.
10. Missions. Currently what is in is good. I like the story specific missions the most. City on the Edge of Never, and the Doomsday Device are my favorites so far. But it'd be nice to have repeatable anomalies happen to your ship like in the show that break up the... wait I mentioned this before LOL.
Overall the game is good, almost great. I'll keep playing as it is, but I just know that STO could be greater still. Cryptic, you've done a good job considering circumstances. But like a lot of people, I just wish there was a little more out of this product, there's just so much that could be mined.
Wholeheartedly agree with every single thing you have mentioned here and have a few to add myself.
1.) Ship Debris - It has been said before and shot down by every forum troll known to mankind, however, this game needs an increase in ship debris and the addition of derelict ships after battles. Every ship just going "pop" after a battle is uninteresting and rather lazy from a design standpoint. Destroying a borg cube and seeing it blast apart into pieces never stops being epic and is hands-down my favorite experience in the game so far. I know debris can be added, it already exists with the Borg Cubes and during the borg fleet invasion those debris fields get massive with no impact on lag. On top of that, every person has a max-physics objects slider in their options if they take a graphics hit from adding debris. I don't want every single ship I take down to go critical and have its warp core explode - as the game is, hundreds of my crew are injured and killed because a squadron of fighters were taken down too close to my ship, it's aggravating when you're stuck in an explosion field and anti-climactic when there is nothing left of your massive battle but a bunch of loot buoys.
2.) End The Button Mash Orgy! - At Captain and Admiral this game becomes literally painful to play even for an hour. Let us hold in keys to keep achieving the desired result. It keeps us having to provide input, it doesn't defeat the purpose of the two auto-fire weapons (which act essentially like an automated defense system, which is pretty awesome) and it saves our thumbs, wrists, keyboards and mouses. My mouse buttons are already starting to get messed up from playing this game because of the button mash orgy that it becomes down the leveling road. So please, we all love this game but I'm not going to be shelling out several hundred dollars every week because the button mashing keeps killing my mouses. Just allow us to hold the buttons in - problem solved.
3.) Space Doesn't Feel Like Space... - While I understand the use of instancing, this isn't a vanila cut-and-paste MMO (or at least it shouldn't be. Have some of the people at Cryptic play the game Freelancer for a while in their spare time and try out the thousands upon thousands of mods that have come out (and continue to come out) for that game. Freelancer is 10+ years old and it's still being played today by countless people, I even helped design two mods for the game: FL:CE & Discovery. Space needs to feel like space and this means increasing the scope of it. We need to feel like we're exploring the galaxy not re-entering Randomized Sector XYZ for the hundredth time. Keep the instancing, just make the instanced areas larger, have them contain multiple planets and allow us to go to warp within a system to travel between the large distances - take a page out of Freelancer, they handled it extremely well.
4.) What's With The Asteroids? - Okay, so I know Atari (thank you to anyone who gets this) is backing you guys up but honestly, why all the space-rocks? They're problematic, everything and their mother gets stuck in them, they don't move, can't destroy them, and they aren't even all that pretty to begin with. On top of that, why does every single planet have an asteroid belt? It was pretty amazing the first few systems I entered but after seeing the same generic layout for the hundredth time it's honestly rather ridiculous. Better design needs to be put into these areas and hopefully into the game as a whole to make it feel more like space.
5.) Star TrekOnline Remember from your game's title this is Star Trek first, Online second. This game has immense amounts of potential under its wings, if you guys go the vanilla-MMO route this game will end bitterly. This needs to soar and to do that it needs to be a space game first and an MMO second - if someone wants to play the generic MMO of the month, they'll go play WoW, GW, Lineage II, Champions, Rappelz, MU, etc. No one wants this to be That-Generic-MMO-of-the-Month - In Space. And I'll cite Freelancer again because this is important! Freelancer is a cult classic because it was fantastically fun, easy to get used to, a massive sandbox, and could easily cater to pretty much anyone who found flying around in space even moderately entertaining.
All-in-all I love this game and I know I'll be playing for quite a long time but when it comes to a grade, I give this game a C+.
You have so much potential in store, stop listening to the forum trolls who want you to nerf XYZ, change XYZ, blah blah blah. Instead, bring this game to its full potential.
No amount of catering to those who want you to change your game will make this game any better, adding to it - expanding and broadening will.
So far this is the most fun I have had playing an MMO at launch and I have played many, so many that I've forgotten the names of a few but there is so much that needs to be done if this game is to become truly iconic. Don't settle for a vanilla cut-and paste MMO Cryptic, you can take this game to the edge and be revolutionary or at the very least become a cult classic.
Fail, and a huge title like this will cost you everything.