The 1.2 patch resulted in a fairly significant change to the the power drain mechanics of weapons. As a result, I have been running combat tests to determine how weapon damage scales in the new system, as more weapons are equipped. I've now performed a fairly extensive number of tests so that I am confident in the results, and will be posting them below. But before I do, I'll include a quick guide to how weapon power and weapon power drain works in the game. If you don't have a good grasp of how these mechanics work, then the guide may be of use to you. On the other hand, if you already are aware of how weapon power works, then you should probably just skip to the test results, which you should find of more interest.
With energy weapons (beams, cannons, turrets), your weapon power setting affects how much damage the weapons will inflict. This only applies to energy weapons: weapon energy has no effect on mines or torpedoes, which do full damage regardless of your weapon power setting.
Technically, energy weapons inflict their rated damage (the one that shows on the inventory screen) at 50 weapon energy, and damage scales from there. For example, at 100 energy your weapons will do twice as much damage as at 50 energy (twice their rated damage). At 25 energy they'll do half as much as at 50 (half their rated damage), or one quarter as much as they would do at 100.
Even though the inventory damage rating is technically set at 50 energy, from this point forward, I'm going to refer to 100 weapon energy as delivering full damage. It's easy to envision 100 as being "100% damage", and if you really want to deliver the most weapon damage that is what your power level should be set to (actually it should be higher than 100, if possible).
Weapon Energy Drain From Firing Multiple Weapons
In addition to the initial power setting of your weapons, there is another mechanic you need to be aware of: weapon energy drain. Firing a single weapon doesn't result in any energy drain, but when you fire more than one weapon at the same time, your weapon power level is temporarily reduced while they are both firing. For each weapon that is firing after the first, your weapon energy is reduced by a set amount. Most weapons drain 10 energy, with only two exceptions: Dual Heavy Cannons drain 12 energy, and Turrets drain 8 energy. (Once again, this applies only to energy weapons-- torpedoes and mines don't drain energy when they are fired.)
For example, if you fire a single beam weapon, your weapon energy will not be reduced at all. If you fire two beams, your power level will be reduced by 10 (10 for the second weapon). If you fire three beams, your weapon power level will be reduced by 20 (10 for each weapon after the first), and so on.
This energy drain affects your damage output, just as if you had your weapon power set to a lower level. For example, if your energy is set to 100 and you fire two beam weapons, your power will be temporarily reduced to 90. Instead of each beam doing 100% damage, each would do only 90% damage (actually there's a little more to it than that, but let's keep it simple for now).
For this reason, firing two beams doesn't double your damage output compared to a single beam. While, you'd still inflict more damage than you would with a single beam, the total damage output would only be 180%, rather than 200%.
Now, the more weapons you fire, the more this affects you. If you fire 5 beams, instead of your power being reduced by 10, it would instead be reduced by 40, and each beam would do only 60% of its potential damage. The more weapons you add, the less all of them do, resulting in serious diminishing returns. At some point these diminishing returns mean that adding an additional weapon results in very little additional damage, or even reduces your damage output (if your weapon power is set too low)!
Higher Weapon Power Is Needed To Support More Weapons
The higher your weapon power setting, the more weapons you can fire effectively, without experiencing excessive diminishing returns. By the same token, if your weapon energy is set too low, firing too many weapons can be dangerous because it can end up reducing your damage to almost nothing.
To understand this, let's go back to the 5 beams example above. When firing 5 beams your weapon energy is reduced by 40. If you're firing at 100 power setting, your energy will be reduced to 60 and each weapon will do 60% of its full damage. However, let's say your power energy is set to 50. That means your power level when firing 5 beams will drop to 10! Each beam will only do 10% damage, and all 5 combined will only do as much as a single beam fired at 50 power. To make matters worse, if you were to fire 6 (or more) beams at 50 power, your energy level would actually be reduced to zero, and some shots would do no damage!
The bottom line is that if you want to run with a lot of weapons, your weapon energy needs to be at a high setting. If you usually have your weapon energy at 50, because you require a higher shield, auxiliary or engine power setting, then it may be better to equip fewer concurrently firing energy weapons. You can still fill all of your weapon slots, but either add mines or torpedoes, which don't drain energy, or equip frontal arc weapons like dual beams, which don't share a firing arc with rear mounted beam arrays (and thus won't fire at the same time as them).
Raising Your Weapon Power Above 100
It is possible to have more than 100 weapon power by combining inherent ship bonuses, console bonuses, and skill bonuses. The higher your weapon power the more weapons you can fire without each weapon losing too much damage, and the more overall damage your weapons will do.
Obviously this helps no matter how many weapons you are firing, but it is especially helpful if you have 6-8 energy weapons equipped. The reason I mention this is that there is no point in running with 7 beams at 100 weapon power, and even 6 beams is somewhat questionable. The diminishing returns at that power level are simply too high (as you'll see in the tests below). However, if you can boost your power to 125 it makes a big difference out at the far end of the curve. This can now be seen by comparing the 100 and 125 weapon power charts posted below.
What You Can Do To Increase Your Weapon Power
A question some may have is what you can do to increase your weapon power level settings. There are several different skills that affect weapon power. These are described briefly below.
Warp Core Training- This improves your power levels for all systems when power is set below 75. It has the most effect when your power is at 25 and slowly scales down as your power level setting increases. At a minimum every character should have 7 points in Warp Core Training (the last 2 points are very expensive compared the benefit conveyed). This alone will ensure your weapon power will never be below 29. An important thing to note is that efficiency bonuses are determined based on your power setting, not actual power level. In other words, before any bonuses from ships, consoles or other skills are taken into account.
Energy Weapon Efficiency- Like Warp Core Training, this improves power levels when power is set below 75, but it only affects Weapon Power. Because this is an efficiency power it is worth putting points in it if you sometimes run at 50 weapon power. If you never have your weapon power set at 50, then don't bother with it, as the bonus is very small beyond that point. But for a science ship which runs high auxiliary power at least part of the time, or a cruiser who sometimes switches to shield power, this skill is essential. For an escort, I personally would not recommend it as you should always have weapon power set to full unless you are running away. With 9 points in this, plus 7 in Warp Core Training, your power level should be a minimum of 37 before ship bonuses.
Weapon Systems Performance- This admiral level skill increases your weapon power regardless of power level. Putting 9 points into this skill will increase your weapon power level by slightly less than 10 points (9.76). This is a skill that should be useful for most ships, regardless of what power level you have weapons set to. Unfortunately because it's an admiral skill points here take away from what you can put into other important skills, such as your ship command skill, or your Auxiliar Systems Performance skill (same thing but for Aux).
Plasma Distribution Manifolds- These engineering consoles can be used to increase your weapon power, once again regardless of setting. The magnitude of the bonus varies with the mark of the equipment.
For a much more detailed overview of ship power systems, please see PatricianVetinari's Ship Power Level Calculator post. Included there is a calculator spreadsheet that can be used to figure out the exact power levels you will achieve with a mixture of various skills and consoles.
II: Caveats-- How Weapon Power Actually Works In The Game
In terms of the actual game mechanics, things are not quite as simple and straightforward as the explanation I provided above. There are a quirks which reduce the energy drain from firing multiple weapons, and which make firing more weapons slightly more efficient than it otherwise would be.
First of all, not all of your weapons fire at the same time. Instead they start firing in a staggered fashion. When you start firing your weapons, your energy also doesn't drain out immediately on the first shot, but instead slowly drains out. The combination of these two factors means that your first few weapon shots actually do close to full damage. From that point, damage per shot declines in a stairstep pattern until your power bottoms out. You can actually see this pattern if you look at a graph of a combat damage log. Click here to see an example of this stairstep pattern.
With weapons that have a short firing time and high base damage, like Dual Heavy Cannons, more of their shots end up being made at close to full power, and their energy efficiency is a lot higher because of this.
The other thing is that weapons aren't firing constantly. When a weapon goes into cool down it no longer drains power, so other weapons that are firing do so at a higher power level. Using the in-game auto-fire or "fire all" function, usually weapons start firing at close to the same time and then end up in cool down at nearly the same time, so this isn't as helpful as you'd expect. Theoretically you will see increased damage if you get your weapons to fire in a more optimal pattern, but this requires using an outside macro program rather than the in-game auto-fire.
Weapons that are in cool down a greater percent of the time are more energy efficient. Once again, Dual Heavy Cannons benefit the most from this mechanic as they are in cool-down roughly half the time. If you haven't guessed it already, the combination of these two factors makes DHC the most energy efficient weapons in the game, even though their energy drain of 12 is higher than all other weapons.
In any case, these factors mean that all weapons are more efficient than in the simple example above. Some are more efficient than others, but two weapons firing at the same time do closer to 95% of their full damage, rather than 90%. Three concurrently firing weapons do closer to 87.5% damage each, and this continues out along the entire curve.
You can see the actual impact of these factors in the damage scaling graphs linked below.
I'll briefly describe my testing methodology here for those who are interested in it. Those not interested can feel free to skip it.
I performed my weapon tests by firing on a friend in a private PvP instance with each weapon combination for approximately 10 minutes (sometimes slightly longer because I didn't stop the tests at exactly the same time). I later went back and performed an additional test run on some weapon combinations.
For weaponry I used all MK I phaser equipment. This was due both to the cheap cost and ease of availability, and also because the lower base damage meant there was less chance of accidentally blowing up my friend, which would have just wasted time.
Tests were performed at the listed weapon power, and with the following relevant skills: 9 Starship Attack Vectors, 9 Energy Weapons, 9 Beams, 9 Cannons, 1 Phasers. No tactical consoles of any kind were equipped, and no EPS relays were equipped.
Once I had completed a test, I trimmed the combat logs so they began with the first shot I fired and ended with the last shot. I then totalled the base magnitude from all shots and divided it by the time in combat to get the DPS figures. Unfortunately, the standard STO log parser doesn't have an easy option to average base magnitude, so I had to write a quick tool to extract that info from the log.
After I had collected the data, I adjusted it slightly to account for some noise, such as slightly different critical hit percentages. Specifically I set it so that the critical hit percentage for all tests was 4.5% and the critical damage was 150% of normal (160% for DHC). These adjustments resulted in only a very small change in the overall results, but it should make them slightly more accurate overall.
Unfortunately, due to the sheer size of all of the combined log files, I cannot upload them to my personal webspace. If you're really interested in seeing them, send me a PM and we can arrange something.
Now you're finally to the interesting part: the results of the tests. Rather than listing a bunch of raw numbers here, which are hard to digest, I'm simply going to provide links to graphs which clearly display the information. If you want more detailed data, you can see my log and summary links above.
If you'd like to see how this weapon scaling affects your own starship weapons loadout, there is now an easy way to do so! Just download my Starship DPS Calculator, which is based on the above testing!
The weapon scaling graphs show the combined damage output of each weapon type with various numbers of weapons equipped. Damage has been normalized so that 100 equals the damage output of a single beam array at 100 power. Each graph reflects results at a given power level.
The graphs scale from a single weapon up to 4 weapons for frontal arc weapons, and up to 8 weapons for beams and turrets. With the forward arc weapons, I also tested the damage scaling for adding up to 4 rear turrets (unfortunately I could not test 4 DHC/DC and 4 turrets due to not having a high enough Klingon character).
By studying the different graphs you will see that a higher weapon power setting allows you to fire more weapons without experiencing a serious drop off in damage.
For unknown reasons, all Cannon-based weapons slightly underperform their listed DPS when only a single weapon is equipped. I'm not sure if this is due to the listed DPS being incorrect, as a result of the reduction in damage to small arc weapons that happened slightly after the game was released, or if it has something to do with their mechanics, such as lag between firing cycles.
Because cannons tend to be more efficient than beams, however, this deficit is quickly made up as additional weapons are equipped.
Dual Heavy Cannons
Dual Heavy Cannons are by far the most energy efficient weapons. Although they don't do that much more damage than Dual Cannons when only one or two weapons are equipped, by the time you get to 3 or 4, the difference is quite large. I am not sure whether DHC were intended to be quite this energy efficient or whether it was an oversight on the part of Cryptic. In any case, if you are running with 3 or 4 weapons, Dual Heavies deliver noticeably more damage than Dual Cannons (about 11% at 100 energy, and 9% at 125 energy). This advantage continues when equipping turrets, so that the absolute highest damage in the game can be achieved by mixing DHC in the forward weapon mounts, with turrets in the rear weapon mounts.
Dual Cannons & Cannons
Dual Cannons and Cannons have the same weapon mechanics. They have essentially the same efficiency as one another. Both are slightly more efficient than beam weapons, and slightly less efficient than turrets and dual heavy cannons.
Single Cannons seem to be pretty well balanced, with damage output approximately 15% higher than beam arrays, but having a slightly smaller firing arc. While they do share the front part of the side firing arc with rear equipped Beam Arrays, this "front pocket" is pretty narrow (only 35 degrees), so it can be difficult, though not impossible, to keep enemies within it. For pure damage output a broadside from cannons and beams in that pocket will out-do a pure beam broadside, but it requires a much higher degree of positioning in order to exploit. Especially on sluggish ships like cruisers, attempting to utilize the cannon/beam pocket may prove counterproductive.
Dual Cannons, on the other hand, strike me as somewhat underpowered. Although they are the second-most damaging weapons in the game, their energy efficiency falls well short of Dual Heavy Cannons. While their listed DPS is identical, dual cannons in fact inflict up to 10% less damage. Dual Cannons do have some advantages, including a more consistent rate of fire, and a greater proc rate, so you must choose for yourself which weapon to use, but I personally favor the greater energy efficiency of Dual Heavy Cannons.
Dual Beams & Single Beams
Both of these weapons use the same mechanics, with Dual Beams simply having a higher base damage and a smaller firing arc. Their efficiency is once again nearly identical. One difference between them is how Beam Fire At Will works with both weapons. Dual Beams receive a much larger damage bonus from FAW 2 and FAW 3 than do Beam Arrays.
Those running with a broadside weapon setup should take note of the weapon scaling between 5 and 8 beams. Especially if you are running at lower weapon power settings, you need to be careful of overloading yourself with Beam Arrays. Even at 100 weapon power there is only a small increase in damage by going from 5 beams to 6, and almost no increase going from 6 beams to 7. Equipping 8 beams actually results in a slight decrease in damage output, although it is so minor as to be nearly inconsequential! Increasing weapon power to 125 allows you to use up to 8 beams effectively, but there are still serious diminishing returns toward the far end of the DPS curve.
Turrets are among the most energy efficient weapons in the game. They benefit from both the shorter firing time of cannons, which results in a greater percentage of the time spent in cool down, when no power is drained, and the fact they only drain 8 energy for every additional weapon fired.
This efficiency means that there is very little in the way of diminishing returns when equipping multiple weapons. The end result being that at 100 weapon power, turrets begin to approach the damage of beams with 7 weapons equipped, and deliver nearly identical damage to 8 beams. At lower power settings, turrets tend to be a lot more forgiving than beams and regularly exceed their damage output toward the far end of the DPS curve. At 125 weapon power, beams get a larger boost than turrets, so they never quite manage to catch up.
Turrets do have the advantage of having a 360 degree firing arc, which means there is never a danger of not being able to keep the enemy in your high damage frontal, or broadside, weapons arc. Turrets also benefit from cannon skills, such as Cannon Rapid Fire, and Cannon Scatter Volley. As a result an all-turret build can deliver quite reliable 360 degree damage when used with the proper skills.
Another advantage of turrets is that they can add damage to any other weapons you have equipped. Rear equipped turrets will add damage to your frontal firing arc. Provided your power level is set to at least 100, there is never a drawback to adding a rear turret to your build. At power levels of 75 and below, you have to be a bit more careful as the energy drain from adding a turret has a more substantial effect.
I hope this information is of help to some people. If you have any questions or suggestions, please feel free to post them below and I will try to respond when I have a chance. Thanks for taking the time to read my guide.