There was recently a request for an updated description of how the duty officer and assignment systems will work, and as this dovetails in with some documentation I have been putting together for exactly that reason, this may suffice as a preview while I procrastinate figuring out some new Science assignment templates I would like to get to later today.
As always, all of the below may (and probably will) change over the course of internal development, observation on Tribble, and live. Much of this is reformatted and gleaned from previous responses in an attempt to put everything back in one place.
It should be emphasized that Department Heads and First Officers are still planned for deployment after the main part of the duty officer and assignment systems go live. There is a vast amount of technical user interface and design work that will have to be undergone to integrate the bridge officer and duty officer systems.
I will try to keep up with modifying these posts as more information becomes available to keep this as "real" as possible.
The Duty Officer and Assignment system is an optional mini-game themed around the logistics of managing the full crew complement of your ship.
We have several goals for the system:
Provide significant non-combat gameplay that fills the desire for less overtly aggressive styles of gameplay.
Create an engaging logistical mini-game.
Provide a supplementary or even alternative character advancement mechanic - this will be useful for both factions, but in particular should somewhat ease advancement issues in the KDF.
Establish a new set of parallel achievement goals and rewards in the form of the Commendation part of the system to give more goals for players who have hit cap.
Provide alternative and supplementary mechanics and support to an array of frustrations apparent in existing systems such as the process for gathering anomalies, gaining high quality bridge officers, the Diplomacy grind, the lack of a parallel Diplomacy system on the KDF side, lack of usage for commodities, need for more Energy Credit sinks, and so on.
When you finally get your hands on your first set of duty officers, don't sweat all the layers of complexity and options.
First, scan through your duty officers, in particular paying attention to which ones are Green or Blue quality in their crew portraits. Some of those will have "passive skills" - these are the ones that you can drop in your active roster. You probably won't actually have enough duty officers at the beginning to fill your active roster, so flip over to the active roster screen and just load in whomever you can, assuming you use the skills they modify. When the time comes that you do have to choose which ones to put in and which ones to leave out, just consider their passive skills and figure if any of them are skills you either use a lot or don't use at all. It's as simple as that. Remember, too, that you can frequently stack more than one duty officer of the same type in your active roster.
Second, every time you move to a new sector (note, sector, not just sector block) or every four hours, you will get an updated list of assignments. If you return to a sector - don't worry - as long as it hasn't been a few hours since your last visit, the assignments that were there before should still be there. Different assignments will be available depending on the sector, but you will learn that in time - no need to worry about it now. See an assignment that looks interesting and you have all the required commodities and duty officers for? Open it up, slot in who you can, and start it up. For common assignments, your chances of success are pretty good even if you don't min-max it, so at this point, there's no need to worry too much about it.
Some assignments with some special behaviors:
Military - Many of these can put your officers in Sick Bay or kill off some of your White quality duty officers even if successful. War is rough. They do, however, reward handsomely, so if you have duty officers to spare, this can be a good choice. Oh, and you can get prisoners-of-war of the opposite faction as duty officers too, which can then be interrogated or used in prisoner exchanges.
Espionage - These are rare, and almost all of them are very risky. Meaning, if you try them, you will want to put in high quality officers, and even then your chances won't be as good as you may be used to. They're worth it if you can pull it off, though.
Colonial - Most of these only appear in star clusters, and as you complete different assignments in a particular star cluster, more assignments will open up - but only in that star cluster.
Engineering - Some of these have "Experimental" in the title - these can give items, sometimes VERY good items. Put high quality officers on these if you can afford to.
Recruitment - Want more duty officers, or even bridge officers? Keep an eye on these. They're set up fairly logically too, meaning if you want more Andorian duty officers, expect to have to go to the sector of space the Andorian homeworld is in.
STATUS UPDATE Updated October 17, 2011 at 3:07pm PST
Removed release dates since they were either past or not officially announced.
Added clarification to release dates that Holodeck date is earliest possible date.
Updated Duty Officer section with newly posted information deeper in the thread.
Added more screenshots.
Added assignment outcome difficulty versus reward from deeper in thread into "Assignments" section at head of thread.
Added estimated dates.
Updated Duty Officer section to take into account revised KDF ranking scheme.
Added note in Duty Officer section about tradeability of duty officers (answer, vast majority will be tradeable.)
Added example ranking, species rarities and specializations.
Added "Quickstart" guide to first post.
Moved some info deeper in the thread into the Assignments section about how to tackle the depth of the choices offered for assignments.
I totaled up the number of duty officers built so far (over 6000) as well as the number of assignments currently built (a bit shy of 1000), and for both we are on target for the numbers of each we needed. For assignments, the final number will be substantially more than the minimum originally estimated.
The bulk of the technical work is done, however there remains a few minor and one critical piece that we are still working on that needs to be done before the system is sufficiently functional that we can push this to Tribble.
The expectation is that this will need to be on Tribble for about a month, possibly longer depending on the types of issues we run into.