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I am a Federation player, and I know how steep the learning curve in PVP can be. Having overcome that curve, I would like to offer some basic help to my fellow Starfleet officers.
This is a basic guide for Federation players who are having trouble in space PVP. If you would like to offer your own strategies and tactics, please post them and I will include them.
If you are completely new to space PVP, the first thing to remember is that human opponents are FAR more intelligent than the computer AI in PVE. The sheer ease of space PVE in T1 and T2 is the primary contributing factor for the steep learning curve that new PVPers face. Furthermore, all PVE content can be completed while playing solo, and this lack of teamwork-oriented play contributes to failure in PVP. So remember that PVP will be unlike anything you have ever faced in PVE.
The second thing to remember is that Klingon players not only have twice (exaggeration) the playing experience as Federation players, but they also have twice (not an exaggeration) the PVP experience as Federation players. This is by game design -- all players must start as Federation before being allowed to play as Klingon.
Furthermore, the Klingon faction at the time of this post only has PVP content (for the most part). They are therefore forced to PVP almost 100% of the time they play, which means they almost never solo anything. Premade teams are far more common for Klingons, and their advantage is in knowing how to work with each other. It is always easier to play on the strengths of people you know than to coordinate on-the-fly with complete strangers.
A note about game balance. We all must accept that STO is an evolving game, and there will likely be balance issues once min/max teams have started pushing the limits of what they are given in-game. My advice to newcomers is to ignore these for now, until you have experienced PVP in all Tiers. The only way to know if there is a balance issue is if both opposing teams are of relatively equal prowess yet the win:loss ratio invariably favours one side over the other. Until you can reasonably say that your team and the opposing team are of the same skill yet one side -always- wins, there is no balance issue.
If, after all this consideration, you do feel there might be a balance issue, then please by all means post your experience. When posting about a balance issue, it is much more likely to be taken seriously (objectively) if -both- sides can post the same results about the same issue, along with the win:loss ratio that resulted from that issue.
Lastly, always remember that the point of playing a game is to have fun. Victory in PVP is decided primarily on teamwork and support: the side that has the better teamwork and support will win. And that is where the fun is -- working together with friends (or strangers) under challenging conditions to achieve a goal. It is always more fun with friends, so get a bunch of friends together and join the queues as a team.
N.B. To queue for PvP, click the down-arrow next to your minimap and select PvP Queues. To queue as a team, first form your team (invite other players into your team), then open the PvP Queues window and select 'Queue as Team'. You can queue from anywhere.
These are some general guidelines only. For detailed analyses of ship-specific or career-specific loadouts, be sure to check out the relevant forums (including Combat forum).
Game Settings Keybinds. Make sure you group and keybind all your abilities in easy-to-reach and easy-to-remember places. Also keybind your power level presets. Most importantly, get to know your self-target and team-target keybinds (F1 through F5), which can be re-mapped in the Key Binds game options menu.
Target-announce keybind, to announce focus fire targets to your team:
/bind <key> <chat channel> <msg> $target
/bind t team TARGET: $target
Assist keybind, to target your target's current target:
/bind <key> assist
/bind g assist
Target-by-name keybind, to target a specific player by name:
/bind <key> target <player full 'short name', including spaces>
/bind F1 target Matt Dravis
Disable Auto-Fire. Auto-fire is a certain way to kill your allies if the enemy uses Scramble Sensors. It will also lower overall DPS if you load many beams. Rely on manual fire in PVP.
Disable Auto-Assist. Auto-assist is a certain way to buff your enemies if the enemy uses Scramble Sensors. It can also result in accidental waste of buffs, since auto-assist automatically targets the target of your current target. Rely on explicit targeting, using keybinds or mouse-clicks, before applying a buff.
Disable Object Auto-Target. If you use auto-target, turn off object auto-targeting so that it will safely ignore non-player objects. You need to be able to target enemy players quickly; if you want to target an object for whatever reason, use your mouse. Note that this currently does not prevent TAB targeting from cycling through non-player objects, so mouse-click targeting (or name-explicit keybinding) is still preferred.
CombatLog. Enable your CombatLog before going into battle. This creates an open file in \Star Trek Online\Live\logs\GameClient\ named combat.log, which you can review later. A text parser is recommended, such as the open-source CombatLogParser created by another player.
To enable CombatLog, enter the following console command into the Chat window:
The disable logging, enter the following console command into the Chat window:
Bridge Officer Loadout Survival Loadout. Every single member of your team must have at least one self-survival ability. Most important is a shield regeneration ability, such as Emergency Power to Shields, Transfer Shield Strength, or Reverse Shield Polarity. Be sure to load a hull regeneration ability as well, such as Hazard Emitters or AUX to SIF (Structural Integrity Field). Other useful survival abilities include: Engineering Team, Science Team, Attack Pattern Omega.
Support Loadout. Every single member of your team must have at least one heal-ally or buff ability. These include: Extend Shields, Transfer Shields, Engineering Team, Science Team, Hazard Emitters, Attack Pattern Delta. Learn what systems they use, their cooldown timers, and what to use/rotate when. Remember that some abilities have shorter ranges than others.
DPS/CC Loadout. Torpedo High Yield is a must. If you can support AOE, go for energy draining or movement impairing abilities, such as Tyken's Rift and Gravity Well. If you find enemies on low hull escaping regularly, pick up Tractor Beam. For cloak detection/counter, pick up Sensor Scan (Science captain ability), Charged Particle Burst, Eject Warp Plasma.
It is useful to have several bridge officers in reserve with different abilities, to adapt to different enemy teams. For example, keep Charged Particle Burst on a backup Science officer, in case you find the enemy team using primarily carrier deployables.
Lastly, check out faithborn's Comprehensive List of Counters to see what abilities you might want to slot. If you find yourself being hit with Viral Matrix all the time, for example, this list will point you to Science Team and Attack Pattern Omega.
At least 1 EPS Flow Regulator (for weapon recharge and quick power preset switching). RCS for turn rate if you have a problem with maneuverability (cruisers!). Resistance if you do not have as many survival abilities. Tactical consoles that play to your weapon skill strengths. Science consoles -- be sure to boost points in whatever ability you primarily use (e.g., +Emitters/Hazard for Hazard Emitters; +Deflectors/Deflector Field for Feedback Pulse; etc.).
Again, keep some backup consoles in Inventory, in case you want to switch your loadout mid-match.
Initially, go with whatever you are skilled in. In general, plasma (High Yield) and tricobalt torpedoes seem to be the worst choices due to their destructibility, but there are tactics revolving around point-blank bomber strafing runs.
Think carefully about what firing arcs you will be using most of the time, based on your ship type, style of play, group complement, and expected enemy complement. Also give careful consideration to the energy drain of certain weapons. If you find enemies on your tail more often than not, loading heavy weapons (e.g., aforementioned tricobalt) in your aft slots might be a good deterrent and great surprise for your assailants.
Lastly, it is a good idea to keep different weapons in Inventory, in case your enemy is stacking resistance specific to your weapon type.
Power Level Presets
Customise power levels (frequently referred to as 'subsystems') in order to play to your strengths or augment your weaknesses. Weapon power affects energy weapon damage output, and it provides a buffer against power consumption from energy weapons. Shield power affects regeneration rate (one tick per 6 seconds) and, more importantly, shield damage resistance (bonus = current shield power / 5). Engine power affects speed rating (which, in turn, affects Defense rating against enemy Accuracy) and turn rate. AUX power affects stealth and stealth detection ratings, and certain abilities (mostly Science).
Load EPS Flow Regulator consoles so you can switch quickly between power presets mid-combat when needed. For example, enemy subsystem warfare will drain power from subsystems, requiring you to divert power to the affected subsystem in order to keep its power above 0; once power reaches 0, the subsystem is disabled.
Another need to change power levels mid-combat, arises from the effect that certain power levels have on certain abilities. Some abilities' magnitude and/or duration can be dynamically modified by power throughout their duration, while other abilities' magnitude and/or duration are modified by the power level only at initial activation of the ability. Get to know the different bridge officer abilities (as stated above), so that you can plan and modify your power levels accordingly.
Player Career Balance
If you find yourself in very imbalanced random teams (aka 'PUGs' or pick-up groups), then team up with other PVPers before joining a queue. Ensure you have at least 1 of each career. More often than not, this means Science captains and science vessels are in highest demand due to their cloak detection/counters.
Text (Team chat) works fine against most teams, but against well-organised premades who use voice chat, this may not be sufficient, especially at higher tiers when you will encounter heavy crowd-control (e.g., Viral Matrix, Subnucleonic Beam). Consider using voice chat. Mumble is the best quality voice chat currently available, and it is completely free and open-source.
Remember that the more often you play with the same team, the less explicit communication you will need to coordinate and work effectively. So your best bet is to get a group of friends together and play together as much as possible. It's fun.
These are the fundamental tactics that are common to all strategies, whether you are playing offensively or defensively.
While it is unreasonable to expect a single ship to survive sustained focus fire from the entire opposing team, it is very reasonable to expect each ship to be able to help itself enough to survive with the support of only two other allies at a time.
Critical to survival is learning when to use which cooldowns, and not to blow all cooldowns unnecessarily. For example, only use Reverse Shield Polarity when you are being focused by the entire enemy team. Remember that damage resistance is the most effective survival tool in the game, so be sure to time resistance stacking accordingly. Also remember that shield power level grants a bonus to shield damage resistance (bonus = current shield power / 5), so manage your power settings carefully.
Furthermore, keep moving at top speed. Speed directly affects Defense rating, which is the basic 'avoidance' against enemy Accuracy. Use Evasive Maneuvers whenever possible, but remember that it might be best to save its cooldown for emergencies (e.g., when subject to enemy focus fire without sufficient ally support in range).
If your ship has a low Inertia rating (i.e., cruisers and carriers), you will suffer more drastic drift, especially when turning at top speed. Be sure to watch your positioning in relation to the rest of your team, so that you can remain within support range.
This is the most important aspect of space PVP in my opinion, simply because no focused target can survive without the help of its team. When one of your team takes focus fire, throw on -some- of your heals, remembering that these abilities are also providing resistance buffs. Ideally that player will have put up their own defenses (e.g., Reverse Shield Polarity) which will force the enemy to switch targets.
Even more important than healing is pre-emptive damage resistance (or 'mitigation') by stacking damage resistance buffs on allies before they take enemy fire. Some ally-only abilities (like Extend Shields) offer far better protection than self-only abilities (like Reverse Shield Polarity, which shares the same system cooldown). So make sure that all team members load support abilities and use them on each other when possible, while timing cooldowns so that gaps in buff applications can be accounted for.
Watch your cooldowns, have heals/buffs ready for the second or third focus fire target. Learning who and when to heal/buff, and how much healing/resistance to give -- from either some or all of your team -- takes practice and communication, and is very situational.
Especially use Attack Pattern Delta on a heavily focused ally, which will make it far easier to retaliate against the enemy and lessen the fire dealt to your ally.
Also remember to watch your range to your allies. Most support abilities have a short range, so staying close is vital for support.
For the most part, the team whose members support each other the best, wins.
Always focus fire. Your entire team must always fire on the same target at all times. Designate a primary assist: all team members target that ally and then fire on their target (preferably using an assist keybind, in case of Scramble Sensors), or one player calls out targets (using a target-announce text chat keybind, or voice chat).
The first enemy to reveal themselves (in range) is usually either a tank or bait; switch targets immediately to the next target if your primary target does not die from focus fire within 20 seconds or a relatively short time.
Never chase an enemy if a weaker target is closer. Furthermore, never chase an enemy away from your team unless your team is following you -- support abilities have limited range!
If your target has a green pulse (Reverse Shield Polarity) or is reflecting weapons fire in puffy blue pulses (Feedback Pulse), switch targets immediately. Otherwise, cease using energy weapons and switch to projectiles. Or, drain/disable the relevant subsystem (i.e., shields and AUX respectively) and then continue your assault.
If you die and you notice the rest of the group is dying, regroup away from the battle site. Better to regroup at full power levels than to keep spawn-zerging (Full Impulse lowers your power levels) back into near-certain death.
If a map uses random respawn points, it is useful to assign a rendezvous point ahead of time using the minimap and 'compass' directions. Even in the absence of random respawn points, it is still useful to designate a rendezvous point for retreating and regrouping mid-combat.
If Full Impulse is too risky -- if you cannot locate all enemies away from your rendezvous point -- then use an engine power preset, perhaps in conjunction with Evasive Maneuvers.
Use your environment to your advantage. Large objects can be quite useful for breaking line-of-sight, or putting something solid behind you so you only have to worry about what is in front of you. Abilities and certain weapons can also be used to augment your environmental advantage, as either a deterrent (defensive) or a hazard (offensive). Two examples are Eject Warp Plasma and mines.
Learning from your battles, whether you win or lose, is one of the most important elements to growth as a PVPer. Be sure to open your Chat window and switch to the Combat tab, which (by default) logs all combat actions visible to you. This will help you recognise and troubleshoot specific enemy abilities, such as FeedbackPulse damage.
Many players prefer to keep this Combat log open while in battle, as it helps them react more quickly to enemy abilities. Note that this will hinder your text communication with your team mates because, at the time of this post, only one Chat window (and Chat tab) can be open at any given time.
As stated in the Preparation section of this guide, it is most efficient to enable the game CombatLog and review the file created after battle.
This strategy relies on what the Klingons call the 'Fedball'. Maintain a tight formation, all team members within 5km of each other and move relatively slowly (or turn very tightly). This maximises short-range support abilities like Hazard Emitters.
Never ever chase an enemy that escapes past weapons range. Never ever go to Full Impulse anywhere, except to escape or to a designated rendezvous point. Even then, only go to Full Impulse if you can locate all enemies away from your destination.
This strategy voluntarily cedes the combat initiative to the enemy. You are waiting for your opponent to strike first, which means they will most likely focus fire the weakest target they see (most likely an escort), and then switch focus fire almost immediately if their first target survives (usually Reverse Shield Polarity). Support must be ready for the initial enemy focus, yet still have enough cooldowns left to deal with the second or third focus.
Remember that, although this is a defensive strategy, this does NOT mean that all team members should remain at full shield power levels at all times! Only the focused target needs to worry about shield regeneration; everyone else should be throwing everything they have at targets of opportunity. The key is staying within 5km of all allies while doing this.
Mines can be laid in tight patterns surrounding your close formation. The benefit of mines is that they will track any enemy that comes near, providing you an early warning detection against cloaked enemies. But take note that these will serve mostly as a deterrent -- most enemies will wait until the mines have self-detonated before approaching your formation. If you want the enemy to attack you, consider starting with an offensive strategy, and then fall back to this defensive mode.
Beware enemy AOE. AOE is the counter to the defensive strategy. You will need to be dynamic enough to widen your formation and move away from AOE quickly. Keep your speed preset and cooldowns handy for this.
This strategy relies on actively taking the initiative, most often through lures or bait. Start with a loose formation, maintaining 8km+ range from each other. Have agile ships (escorts primarily) occasionally fly out to 13km away from the team.
If an enemy takes the bait, your bait must pop its speed preset and abilities to get back to ally support while the allies intercept the exposed enemy. Be wary of enemy Tractor Beam -- counter with Polarize Hull.
Playing offensively also requires you to actively seek out your enemy. Science captains should rotate their use of Sensor Scan, remembering to keep AUX on max levels possible (and appropriate skills trained) when doing so.
As soon as an enemy is detected, do not open fire! Unleash a Charged Particle Burst, Tractor Beam, or Eject Warp Plasma so the rest of your team can focus fire. If you have no other option, unload a Torpedo High Yield salvo and be ready to take focused fire from the enemy team that will rush to aid your target.
Another cloak detection technique is creative use of Eject Warp Plasma. If you have seen the TNG episode 'The First Duty', you may remember the description of the Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver. This involves an initially spread formation (loose diamond slot can work too), then all collapse, Eject Warp Plasma, and spread back into tighter formation around it. Perform your collapse when you have detected a cloaked enemy with Sensor Scan at close range.
Similar to the Kolvoord Starburst Maneuver, it can be useful to surprise your enemy with mines mid-combat. Upon the attack, if you can draw your enemy into your formation (perhaps if they are already caught in the warp plasma from the Kolvoord Starburst), your team can close the formation around the enemy and then deploy mines in the center or around your trapped foe.
These guidelines might seem like common sense, but it is surprising how many players forget that they are playing with and against fellow players (paying subscribers), who have as much stake in the game as they do.
Wait for Even Population
Until the PVP queues are fixed to populate maps evenly -- or delay the start of match until populations are even -- there will often be mismatched numbers of players on either side. If you want to maximise your fun and the fun of your opponent, wait until both teams have even numbers.
You can check this by clicking the Report button in your PVP UI window (which lists all players ever to have entered your map instance), and then match those names to a local Search in the Social window (O key).
It is a good idea to confirm that this is your plan in Zone chat, so an outnumbered enemy won't leave or solo zerg in frustration (which would prematurely end the match before it even starts).
Do Not Spawn Camp
Spawn camping is when one team sits at the Zone entrance and kills newcomers as soon as they enter the instance. Everyone hates when this is done to them, yet some still inflict it upon others. As above, until the PVP queues are fixed to populate maps evenly, or safety is provided for spawn points, spawn camping can still happen.
So if you encounter this, you can either accept that the enemy team will most likely win due to gaining an early lead in points, or you can leave the map and queue for a different PVP map.
Joining queues as a full team helps minimise the damage. Otherwise, if you want to avoid this happening to you, then show common courtesy: respect your fellow players and do not spawn camp. The cycle must end somewhere, set a higher standard, this is what separates us from them, etc. etc.
Or, petition the DEVs to change the game mechanics so that spawn camping becomes impossible.
Accept Victory with Grace, Defeat with Dignity
Many will claim they earned their bragging rights, and many more will claim they deserve to cry about their loss. Just remember that you are speaking to fellow players who can influence the development of the game. Also remember that antagonised players will leave the game (or simply stop PVPing), depriving you of your precious food supply.
Compliment your enemy, learn from them, do better. Who knows: some of the people you play with/against might prove a potential candidate for your team or Fleet.
I think this is one of the best posts posted in this forum. Thank you for taking the time and compiling all this useful information for new PvPers. It is sage advice with only a few things here and there which are not 100% optimal, but hey, finding what works best is part of the fun, and every PvPer should try to become a better player
Hats off to you sir, truly a fine example of what a Starfleet Officer should be like.
RCS console are worthless on cruisers as they are only a percentage buff to the base turn speed.
Cruisers have a low base turn therefore 20% extra is not a whole lot and generally not worth it.
Playing offensively as federation is impossible.
Baiting the enemy is a terrible idea. One subnucleonic beam and the bait ship is toast. Without evasive or any tanking abilities available 100 engines isn't enough to survive.
That leaves the only 'tactic' being the fed ball. Which is basically sitting around waiting to get humped.
I'm keeping the less popular alternatives there as options for players to try out. If a large enough demographic still finds problems, then it should encourage discussions about solutions (either in-game or development design).
I do appreciate the feedback and hope more comment on what works for them and what doesn't.