I took a hiatus from STO just before Season 2. I just returned a few weeks ago. Back then, Abandon Ship could be used at any time (even in orbit of Earth and would even damage other players). Now, I agree it shouldn't have been allowed to be used in social, non-combat, zones. I do not agree however, that it should have been changed to only being use-able when you're hull is pretty low.
Since returning, the few times I have actually taken enough hull damage to initiate Abandon Ship, I have been destroyed each time prior to it taking effect. Once your hull is that low, it's really a matter of luck and cooldowns whether you survive the next two seconds. Making Abandon Ship only work in this limited and severely weakened state does not make sense to me. As a Captain, we have the right to set the self-destruct sequence when we feel there is no other choice.
In STO, Abandon Ship seems to be meant only for "a suicide ram*" to try and take out or severly damage a ship for your comrades to take out in your wake. (*Initiate Abandon Ship then use Ramming Speed and fly on a collision course with an enemy ship. Note: Doing this on top of the afore-mentioned opinion on limitations makes the chance of this working even less).
"RP" use that follows TV/Movies would be to set the self destruct sequence in order to prevent the ship and on-board technology from falling into enemy hands. Also used as a scare tactic in some diplomatic situations.
Abandon Ship should take 15 seconds to pop (tactical planning), use-able (initiated) at any time. Allow to be cancelled during that 15 seconds, causing a 30 second cool-down. If used in conjunction with Ramming Speed, a damage bonus should be applied upon impact. Place a 5 minute cool-down on it once respawned to keep people from respawning/exploding in some situations that would make this an exploitable way to destroy enemies. Cannot be used in non-combat/social zones, such as Earth and DS9 Orbit, for two examples.
It might be fairly safe to say that the JJ Abrams Trek has an influence on how this power is depicted since George Kirk does pretty much what we've been talking about.
The Kelvin is badly damaged and is set to self-destruct and placed on a collision course with the Narada, in order to buy time for the crew to escape in lifepods.
Unfortunately, dramatic license means that this supposedly badly damaged ship is somehow able to survive the Narada's onslaught (even though it couldn't do it before) so that Kirk has a chance to find out he's the poppa of Jimmy T before he goes boom.
We, the captains of STO, do not benefit from this dramatic license. The enemy does not give us ample time to turn our starships into flying bombs and wait for them to arrive.
Thus reinforcing my point that the Abandon Ship power is
A) Not all that useful,
B) Not very heroic,
C) Taking the place of some better ability we ought to have instead.
Abandon Hope - Sure, this doesn't do anything to the bad guys shooting up your ship, but it makes you realize it was inevitable in the first place. Just let it happen and welcome the darkness. Game Effect: Brings ship to a complete stop and lowers shields.
Abandon Crew - Screw them! What did they ever do for you anyway except state the glaringly obvious and throw plasma grenades at you in ground combat? Might as well bolt while you can. Game Effect: Transports you to your shuttle / yacht / fighter, where the Engine power is set to 100 and the Evasive Maneuvers ability is flashing a tempting green.
Surrender - Holy crap!! Those ships are seriously trying to kill you!! That's bad!! Replace the cold certainty of death with the warm painful ignominy of capture and torture. But you're still alive, and that's really what matters. Don't worry, your pitiful whining and "do what you want with my crew but please don't hurt me" begging will grate on even the most hardened captors (even the Borg) and they'll trade you back to your faction - minus your ship and crew, of course. Game Effect: Immediately ends combat with your defeat and the capture of you, your ship and crew. After a 1 hour lockout during which your character cannot be played, you are returned to your primary home base. All of your equipped gear and anything in your Inventory, along with your current ship and commissioned BOffs, are gone.
Launch Crew - Desperate times call for desperate measures. Firing airlocks full of crew at the enemy ships is just the surprise tactic they'll never see coming. Your crew will float through enemy shields and grab onto the hull, where they'll make their way to external hatches, gain entry and destroy the ships from the inside. It worked for Commander Data; it can work for you. Well, it kind of worked that way for Data. I mean, yeah, the Scimitar was badly damaged, not moving and didn't have it's shields up, but basically it worked that way. Game Effect: Depletes crew at an alarming rate before you're destroyed by enemy fire. That's it. No, it's not kind of like Boarding Party. Yes, this sucks.
Pakled Gambit - Pakleds are adorable!! Yeah, they're about as sharp as a clay nail and they kinda smell like a day old Spam can, but even Nausicaans usually won't kill them. You need to convince the bad guys that you're just a bunch of Pakleds and this whole shooting thing is just a big misunderstanding. You know how Pakleds talk from watching that holo-novel 'My Eyebrow, I'm Smart' so this should be a piece of cake!! Game Effect: Interrupts combat and opens a dialog box ("audio-only hailing frequencies") giving you several options to impersonate a Pakled. Most options will result in failure and a resumption of combat, but one will work - sometimes. Hey, what do you want - it's a gambit. During the dialog your hull will not repair and your shields will not regen.