Maybe it's due to lag, maybe it's due to the reduced PVP population, but there's a real issue with PVP arena's particularly during the starting minutes.
I've noticed that the PVP round begins right away but players trickle in over time for whatever reason. This becomes severaly imbalanced depending upon what faction you are. If you're Klingon and you're the only one who has arrived in your faction but the Fed team already has 3 or more members in the arena, Klingons at least have the advantage of remaining cloaked until more teammates arrive. If you're Federation and the role is reversed, then it's "Shoot the monkey in the barrel" time for the Klingons who can rack up a good number of kills before the Fed team begins to fill. What happens more time than not is that the Fed players will simply leave/quit the arena rather than be hammered by the Klingons.
I've also entered an arena area after "quickly" accepting the notice only to arrive seconds before the encounter ends. I can only assume I was filling a slot vacated by someone leaving the battle early. Not a lot of fun to be in a 15 minute queue only to watch for 10 seconds.
I think arena's should start with a holding pen and a start-up timer, the timer to begin once all players have arrived within the arena. It was also be just GRAND if a special arena team could be automatically generated putting all the players on the same team and chat channel for their faction so this doesn't have to be done by the players every encounter. Once the timer has expired and the bout begins, any players who leave are not replaced and the battle ensues with the current team of players till it's final outcome.
I'd also like to see a limit on how long a ship can cloak if not already in the works, say 30 or 60 seconds or so with a 30 or 60 second cool down. I would say put a timer on the overall event and the one with the highest score wins but that could be easily exploited by the Klingons if they were to uncloak, kill, and cloak the remainder of the match waiting on the clock for the victory. I only suggest this to keep the battle going instead of having to wait and wait and wait for an engagement.
Say 5 people queue for cracked planetoid
4 queue for Solar Wind
Cracked planetoid pops
1 more person joins the Solar Wind queue
Solar Wind now pops, but 4 of those people are playing Cracked Planetoid, the game doesn't remove you from queues when you join a battle, nor does it even pop up the join dialog. It will now be 60sec AT LEAST until the people in Cracked Planetoid are booted from the queue for not responding, if nobody else has joined the Solar Wind battle will STAY 5v1 as the game only needs 5 in the QUEUE to start, not 5 actually in the arena.
The problems with the actual PvP system come down to:
No penalties for repeated suicide
No penalties for afking
No penalties for leaving before the end of the battle
Same awards for winning or losing (so why bother winning apart from bragging rights?)
Ground PvP often comes down to who gets the random expose first. Seriously, I've had fights where I've been battering people with exposes repeatedly for a good minute, then they finally get a palm strike on me and get one, there needs to be some kind of streak breaker code in there.
I totally agree with the holding pen idea. Just have two "transporter room" areas (or hangar bays for the space maps) that players start out in, and have a count-down of 60 seconds after both sides have players available. This would solve the problem of having a few people on one side and NONE on the other, as well as allow the trickle-in effect to happen before the match actually starts.
Personally, I'd like to see some greater variance in PvP maps as well. It'd be great to see PvE effects in the PvP maps (ie. asteroid fields, nebulae with the various effects, NPCs from both sides actively engaging each other, ground maps with areas that have entrances at multiple z-levels [firing from high ground FTW], exploitable ground hazards, etc.). Also, PvP should have a greater overall effect. Although I hate to say it, you should take a page from the WoW handbook here -- certain battles should provide players of the winning faction with a buff or opportunity to do something that is otherwise closed -- this could fit in well with raidisodes.
(INCREDIBLY generic) Example:
An dig site on a planet has unearthed what appears to be a highly advanced culture that lived deep beneath the surface of the planet. News spreads quickly, and the race to claim the technology leads to a grand clash between Federation and Klingon forces. The battle could occur every 6 hours or so, and the winning faction would have access to explore a raid-style ground map of the alien city that is not as dead as previously believed.
The culprit may very well be the convenience factor of being able to continue to play while you wait in the queue. I love the idea of this, but unfortunately it seems to be a determent to the encounter. To take a page out of Guild Wars and how they handle PVP areas, perhaps setup a sector in the galaxy where you wait to join a PVP group, that would be your holding pen. Players could transwarp back/forth to these arena's as they desire to participate in them, some sectors would be open PVP while others may be select your own group PVP. Fleet's should have an option to Fleet vs Fleet or Fleet vs House or House vs House somehow. Sadly this idea would take away from your gametime but should ensure a quick and full team with only 1 queue to enter and wait on. And this would be a great place for spammers to congregate and flood the airwaves with their products and services.