I'm noticing a lot of changes to rank-ups, including the fact that we now get promoted without spending skillpoints.
I think now is the time to go back to what a lot of us said since Beta:
Rename the max rank from Vice Admiral 1 to Captain 21.
I'm NOT suggesting that Admiral be unobtainable but I think it should be a NON-rank based accolade title, maybe for maxing out the duty officer system.
There are 12 DO categories, right? Make it so that completing any 4 unlocks the Rear Admiral title and pips, completing any 8 unlocks the Vice Admiral title and pips, and completing all 12 unlocks the Fleet Admiral title and pips. The DO system tests your ability as a paper pusher and delegator and makes more sense as the means to progress your Captain sideways into the admiralty rather than as a field commission rank up.
Likewise, other advancements could be done through other progression systems.
On DS9, we saw Starfleet Intelligence had Deputy Directors and Directors with unique pips. This could be the post-Captain PvP progression.
In turn, maybe Fleet Actions, STFs, and Fleet Activity take you down a Fleet Captain -> Commodore path.
And then, maybe crafting could lead you through a special Corps of Engineers progression with pips based on the Marquis pips from Voyager and O'Brien's special badge on DS9, as both the Voyager Marquis and O'Brien were exemplary and unorthodox engineers in large part who could have become synonymous with great engineering.
But your rank in game mechanics terms would be Captain. This other stuff would be stacked on top of that based on what you are in addition to being a Captain, as opposed to a linear rank-up. (Which fits with the shows, where Admiral wasn't really treated so much as a progression so much as it was a Captain who was also a skilled bureaucrat, with a chain of command that almost never treated Admirals as being ABOVE Captains.)
I'm suggesting taking a HOTLY requested retooling of the ranks that's been a sore point since beta. People want to play Captains in Star Trek.
With autoranking now a reality (ie. spending skillpoints is not required to level in any sense on Tribble), we finally have a time when it would be doable to scale things around into a galaxy of Captains. Heck, Lt 1-5 could become Lt. JG now.
We're at a point where it wouldn't break anything to re-evaluate the rank names in a more IP-friendly direction.
If somebody wants to be addressed as an Admiral, they can push papers for an optional title... and maybe that would add incentive for Cryptic to add the Eric Pressman/Riker Admiral Uniform as well as Klingon General rank insignia.
I'm not suggesting adding a grind beyond the grind we're being provided with. I am suggesting tossing a reward onto that grind for people who want to roleplay being more than Captain.
People don't watch Star Trek and dream of being an Admiral. Only one character became an Admiral during the time they were starring in a show or film franchise, outside of alternate futures, and that was Kirk. And it was treated as an unwanted headache and a relief when he got demoted, back to where he was "supposed" to be. There's nothing glamorous about being a Star Trek admiral. It's an administrative job that should be represented by people doing administrative work.
I think a lot of fans would have a lot less trouble if the Admirals who cropped up actually did administrative work (which the DO system exists to represent) and if Admiral wasn't presented as a more desirable or superior post or rank than Captain, which almost every instance of an Admiral in Star Trek indicated that it wasn't. (Heck, I can think of at least two occasions outside of Kirk when a member of the Admiralty jumped at the idea of throwing off their duties as an Admiral and resuming the life they had when they were Captain-ranked.)
But if your issue with it is the idea of a grind... Then I'd be fine with it just being unlockable title and pips at the rank people presently get them at but game rank and title of address used by NPCs being Captain.
This would be cool in my book. But the current system doesn't bother me that much. As far as I'm concerned, were all captains. When were a lowly lieutenant, on our ship were considered a captain, and when were a vice admiral, still a captain.
It does raise some questions though. When the level cap is raised, what are we going to have? Thousands of fleet admirals? Thousands of presidents of the ufp? When does it stop?
I too like this idea, you could go one further and also extend the commander rank as well. So instead of Commander (10 ranks) and Captain (21 ranks), it would be commander (15 ranks) and captain (16 ranks), or even commander (20 ranks) and captain (11 ranks) to further highlight the achievement that is associated with being a captain.
A lot of characters in the show spent a long time as commander, just as much as the captains stayed captains. It also "fits" since in the star trek universe, commanders did have command of their own ship (unlike these "lieutenant captains" we have now) In the shows and movies, it seemed like advancement from ensign to commander could happen pretty fast (you saw a fair number of pretty young commanders) but then you spent a long time as commander, and only the best of the best were able to advance to the rank of captain.
It would also be cool to have some "test' missions associated with gaining rank. Kind of like the simulation test that Troi had to do when she ranked from LtC to Cmdr. Something more involved than a visit to Admiral Quinn's office and an optional side trip to the stateroom. But I know asking Cryptic to actually make game content is like asking a pig to fly.