Id like to congratulate the game design team for the many elements of this game that make it truly unique and keep the star trek feel:
Bridge officer training
Captain training affecting ship and boff skills
The new duty officer, first officer and dept. Head system.
My feedback to the design team is that while all these elements are great on their own ...they weakly interact with each other so as to work as a whole to improve the game.
For example ship systems and bridge officers rarely interact unless its merely timer related. Brdige officers dont do anything on their own during starship combat... The new duty officer system only interacts with the ship and boff in the form of a weak buff.
Furthermore..and always a big gripe of mine on this game... Starship combat is extremely dumbed down to an arcade shooter despite having so many complex elements and structures to it. Ground combat has all the elements to become an excellent part of the game yet all it delivers is a mind numbing experience of very un-trekie like zerg rushing and firepower display.
Finally, there is little if any interactivity between sector space and the game...its like its just there for people to taxi from one point to another.
...but the game CAN improve/add upon and integrate all the above. All the elememts are in place they are just not linked!
Heres how to do it:
First step: setting the pace of combat
Slow it down. Decrease shield and armor regeneration rates, decrease weapon damage, decrease ship speed and turn rates...and refire rate of weapons.
This needs a significant decrease in the pace of battle. The time that is added to combat is used by the player in the following steps.
Second step: bridge officer integration & the captain holding the reins (not micromanaging the battle)
Bridge officers should play an active role in the combat experience. To do this build up on the existing 'suggestion' system in place that the ships computer uses to tell you 'shields are down, power transfer recomended'.
Bridge officers are given the same ai npc ships are given. A new menu option for boffs will allow the player to set ai parameters / thresholds per every power the boff has trained. This parameter will tell the ai when it is ok to start suggesting a course of action to the capt. For example, a hull heal skill on the engineering boff can be set to kick in when hulk at 25% while a hull regen over time trigger at 75%. A 'critical' parameter setting is also available to tell the boff when to do the action automaticaly should the capt. Not answer or deny a request (yes your boff will disobey you and heal your 5% hull before you get them all killed)
When a bridge officer suggests something an icon comes up on his skill box that the captain can click to approve or dissaprove. If capt. Approves the action is carried out. if not the boff resets that skill's ai timer to suggest it again a minute later.
This system does away with much of the timer micromanagement, does away with the need for players to keep a three row tall power bar and adds a tremendous amount od trekkie feel.
Ship based powers like science ship subsystem targetting and all the captain ability powers are delegated to the appropiate boff to 'suggest'.
Finally, as a final means of linking the captain to the boff and the boff to the ship: add a macro-like feature where players can program a sequence of actions the ship and boff are to perform. This will enable complex maneuvers (think The Picard Maneuver...no, not the shirt tug, the one he pulled on the ferengi on the stargazer) in a way similar to how in all star trek series you see the capt and boffs planning out what to do and then doing it. That macro set would effectively become the captain's powers bar.
The capt then ends up with only five things to do: accept/deny suggestions, use his macro power bar, steer the ship, click on targets and control the weapons.
Note that this macro system works perfectly in other mmos like star wars galaxies (pre-nge), final fantasy xi and others.
Third step: integrate the ship crew (duty officers) into the mix.
The current dept. Head system is great. To integrate it with the starship combat all you need to do is expand the duty officer system into becoming a component of the ship itself...with duty officer abilities actively playing a part in the starship combat experience.
Add new ability stats to each duty officer. Stats like 'damage repair team' and 'battle station: shields'.
Create 'sections' menu in duty officer menu. Sections will show the starship layout similar to the screen where you load gear onto your ship. Except that rather than loading gear you are assigning crew to that particular gear piece you equipped. Duty officers assigned to a section will make use of their stat (if assigned to the right section) to provide a buff and in some cases automate certain functions.
For example the tactical team ability currently autobalances shields. Remove that boff ability. Assigning enough duty officers to the shield station will take over that role. Damage repair team doffs increase hull repair rate (native), security teams decrease chance of boarding party damaging that system,etc.
Assigning doff with appropiate station skills to ship's console devices can improve their performance.
Step four: making this work
Fine tuning is a critical part of the game. Combat cannot be too slow or its boring and boffs behaving like telemarketers is irritating. The key is to make the boff ai parameter settings per power be specific enough that each player can fine tune his crew to match his gameplay... After all its part of holding the reins!
First of all...the avaliability of non canon weapons like minigun, pulsewave and such ruins the game. Itq really turns it into a cheap version of the defunct tabula rasa game.
Change it to the hand phasers, pistols, rifles, grenades, mines and melee weapons seen in the tv series and movies. Replace the non canon weapons with more diverse ground abilities that are canon. Turets and shield generators are a great example..add more things like that and more close combat moves for all characters.
As with space the first step to improve it is to slow it down.reduce the jog and run speeds... Increase the delay between shots, make melee combat consist of a long duration set of animations where 'autoattack damage' is inflicted with a CHANCE of the boff/player/npc pulling off a ground combat melee power attack that does increased damage. Close combat LOCKS characters into melee range and face each other automatically...that way npcs and boffs dont end up running around like chickens lit on fire.
Reduce the autofire damage and increase the damage of the weapon's special attack. Since healing abilities are also reduced this would make ground combat a LOT more tactical, playable and much more like canon trek ground battles.
Oh and if you devs could play some of the 'men of war' series and see how they made the movement/actions interface menu of the individual troops and adapt it into sto it would be grand.
Its vast, its awe inspiring, its my ship going at warp through the star trek universe.... So why doesnt anything happen there and why cant i do anything in it??
Sector space is an untapped source of trekkiness feel to the game. With it the devs could:
Add missions where you chase enemy contacts through it
Add more (and smaller) npc trade ships that fly the space lanes (blue arrows)
Add pirates/raiders/maquis flying around attacking npc starships.
Change the daily borg incursion event to be a number of borg cubes flying in sector space escorting the mothership all the way to SOL (or klingon homeworld) and players have to link up and intercept the escorts and cut a way to the motherrship and destroy it. This works since sector space is not broken into instances!
If the borg are not stopped they circle The homeworld making it inacessible for one hour and then they dissappear.
Wall of text dripping with awesome...thanks for reading!