Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
This is an examination of the reasons why escorts are so desireable in STFs compared to the other ship classes, and what could be done to fix it. I do hope to provoke discussion on the issue in detail and with any luck illuminate some of the various details of it. I also hope to learn from the community on if what I say is true or if there are key details I am overlooking. Welcome to the wall 'o text.

General STF Philoshopy
The basic goal of a ship in an STF is to deal as much damage as possible over time so that you can complete the optional objectives and gain the rewards in a timely fashion. This is not to say that only raw damage is important, damage comes from many sources and dropping a cube's shields with a power drain, or immobilizing an enemy reducing thier defense score with cc abilities, all contribute to overall dps. Likewise, dealing damage to a target that will instantly heal itself because the nanites are still alive does not. Finally, staying alive and/or keeping others alive contributes as well, healing and tanking, as its hard to deal damage while respawing. This applies to pretty much all PvE content.

Raw Damage Output
I don't think anyone is going to argue that escorts put ot the most raw DPS of the three, as they should. Cruisers properly built can come pretty close as well thanks to Direct Energy Modulation, the extra weapon slot, and the ability to rotate two Emergency Power abilities. And while Sensor Analisis does help to boost a Science Vessel's damage they suffer a lack of weapon's power, missing weapon slot, and a lack of abilities that deal or buff their damage. There are also two details about tactical boff abilities that I would like to highlight that push their damage output to very high levels:
- Tactile Team does provide a small damage boost for 10 seconds in addition to its shield distrubuting.
- Attack Pattern Beta will knock the station targets to a negative resistances in STFs (generators, etc). This grants a HUGE boost in damage for the team against these, Beta 3 increases the damage that they take by nearly 40%. This applies for the entire team and increases your final damage meaning it stacks multiplactively with all other damage boosts. This makes it the single most powerful BOFF ability in STFs in my opinion considering how important burning down those high health targets is. I have a feeling that this is not intended behavior.

Tanking
Firstly there is very little need for tanking in STFs. The only targets that I have ever had problems tanking in a dps escort are Tac Cubes, Donatra, and swarms of enemies (like 4-5 spheres all focusing me). Of those only the Tac Cube in Infected is related to the optional objective. There is simply very little need for a dedicated tank in STFs due to how tanky everyone is. In most games the tank has a significantly higher ability to absorb damage than anyone else and that is just not the case in STO. Instead it plays more like a sustain style where everyone packs enough defense and healing to stay alive until the enemy is dead or you are forced to disengage. This is a small chart of my three ship stats with buffs. I hope the formatting isn't terrible. All 3 ships are using maco Mk 11, 2 neutronium alloy armors, and 2 field generators.

Type - Fleet Escort....Sovereign...Recon Science Vessel
Shields--10,104............11,227........14,595
Resist----44%/47%.......52%/55%.....44%/51%.......(first number is /w Epower, second is with TSS)
Heal------3,731.............4,808...........6369....(one application of each buff, 45 sec)
Hull-------41,217.............53,583........37,095
Resist--- 25%/40%.......25%/44%......25%/42%........(first number is no buff, second is with both)
Heal------17,673.............25,810........20,813........... .(one hazard emitter, 3 aux to structure, 45 sec)
Defense---62%.................48%............60%
Order (E power to shields, transfer shield strength, hazard emitters, aux to structure)
Buff Ranks- 1/1/2/1.......3/1/2/3........1/3/2/2

As you can see side by side the escort is not significatly lower in any of the catigories and has the higher defense score to help mitigate enemy crits. In addition, the buffed numbers for the resists are a bit higher for the other craft but not by a significant amount and they are using higher ranks of the powers. While you could add more consoles and/or boff abilities to increase tankyness of the cruiser/sci you start suffering from diminishing returns a bit more harshly (as I learned thanks to Husanak thanks again!) and a lack of other more useful ones. For example, if you add 2 Monatonium Alloy consoles to the cruiser with full buffs you go from 44% kinetic resist to 57% roughly, or a 27% increase in effective HP against kinetic. And finally, if one finds they are the focus of all the damage they can switch over to high shield/aux power levels to significatly increase their resists/heals. And sadly Tac Team is the single most powerful/needed tank ability in the game as against borg torpedoes no one can hull tank for an extended period of time. Either you shields hold or your dead in 30 seconds.

Healing
While healing is always appreciated there is little need or reason to have someone focus upon it. Only when the enemy can deal more damage than you can sustain would a heal be handy. In those moments you can either disengage temporarily or simply stay alive long enough to kill the target. While a cube deals more damage than I can sustain I can kill it before it kills me and that is all that matters. Against the bosses they typically put out damage in bursts and either your abilities are active and you live (brace for impact) or they are not and you die. There is no doubt that a well timed Transfer Shield Strength or a Hazard Emitters is very handy when facing down Donotra's torpedo spread when your shields fail, but it is not nessassary you already got the optional and can simply respawn.

Cleansing (removing debuffs)
The borg have a limited number of annoying abilities at their disposal, none of which require abilities beyond the standard ones that every ship is typically packing. This is typically a healer's forte.
-Assimilate Ship: Tac Team, an escort without this is just, wrong.
-Shield Neutralizer: Hazard Emitters, rank 1 works and having 2 copies is not needed or effiecient. Also, this ability drains by a % making a 'tank' concept more difficult.
-Tractor Beam: Attack Pattern Omega or Polarize Hull that every escort should have 1 of.

Crowd Control
There is not a single part of an STF where it is nessessary to have this in any form. Most of the ships that spawn can simple be burned down quickly by Scatter Volley, Torp Spread, or Fre at Will. Having CC will help to save you if the team screws up but is never needed.

Debuff
This is the single place that makes a science vessel an asset to the team, although carriers are better at it, and they do more damage. Being able to take the teeth out of a strong enemy with abilities like Tyken's Rift turn a tac cube from a nightmare to a push over. Here is the thing though, one of the most powerful debuff abilities are on tac boffs, Subsystem Targeting. In addition Tyken's Rift I or II can be used on an escort and is effected much more so by aux power than consoles and thats what batteries are for. While a Science Vessel is great in this role it is only useful in one or two fights per STF.

Synergy & Focus
This is one of the HUGE issues that doesn't get as much attention as it deserves. Remember in the begining I said the goal is to do as much damage as possible, to stay alive doing it, and to make the damage as effective as you can. An escort does not have to make any sacrificies when meeting those goals. Every skill point spent is used nearly all the time to achieve those goals. Every boff ability that can be used effectively for damage is. Each console slot that boosts damage is used. The leftovers, the science/engineering console slots and boff abilities can be filled up with survival/utility without sacrificing anything significant. Meanwhile the Science Vessel likely has skill points that may or may not be useful during the entire STF. The Science Vessel has to choose between suvivability with his consoles, or boosting his debuff/healing. He is faced with the choice of boosting the energy drain of his ability, or increasing his weapon damage. The cruiser packing extend shields has to stare at it while damaging a nanaite transformer as it has no use at that time.

Conclusion
While there is nothing wrong with the other ship types the simple fact is that there abilities to heal, tank, cc, and debuff are not needed. In addition you can never have too much damage, but you can have too much tank, especially when your fighting a time limit. This is not to say that cruisers and science vessels are worthless, far from it! Nor that an all cruiser or all science vessel couldn't do the STFs, they could! Escorts are just faster at it and that is the goal.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
04-08-2012, 12:56 PM
SOLUTIONS!!!
There are many ways of approaching this, from the tweaking of the ships/boff abilities, reworking the STFs, and redoing some of the systems that need to be tweaked. These are just a few sugguestions that I think would work wonders.

Boff Nerf/Buff Bat
- The Team abilities really need to be re-examined. Tac Team is just too universally good/powerful compared to the other two especially in STFs. At the very least add a bonus (not the doff one) to something for Science Team and Engineering Team.
- Attack Pattern Beta and negative resists needs to be looked at. In addition, tac boff abilities are the only case where none of them rely on auxiliery power. I Suggest that Attack Pattern's should scale with engine power as a slight nerf.
- Emergency power to Shields completely outsines the others. Perhaps it should be moved up to Lieutent for rank 1. In addition would it be terrible to extend the duration of the +damage boost from Emergency power to Weapons? Or to grant a particle generator skill bonus for the use of Emergency power to Auxillery?
- Exotic damage from Engineer/Science powers need to be re-evaluated.
- Some abilities need more incentive to take higher ranks of, like Reverse Shield Polarity.
- The universal cooldown of some Science abilities should be reduced. If someone wants to drop a Gravity Well every 30 seconds I fail to see how that will break the game.

Shield System Redesign
Ok it might just be me but I think it is pretty silly just how quickly shield facings are destroyed in elites. During the early levels in challanging content it was a bit of fun trying to keep fresh shield facings against the enemy. As the gear becomes better and the damage gets higher shields just can't keep up and the current/old consoles are not the solution. This is my proposal:
- Drastically increase shield amounts, I'm talking like x3.
- Remove shield power from effecting shield resists, this should keep the EHP from getting too crazy.
- Have shields auto redistribute at a base rate determined by your EPS level. Manually picking a side would double the rate.
- Tac Team would do what it does now, but instead of an instant trasfer it would simply double the rate.
- Reduce the base shield regeneration amounts to be very very low.

Effects- Would promote having a healer to restore your shields.
- Would reduce the current powerful effects of high shield power and tac team
- Would make the game more fun (opinion).

Power System Redesign
- Reduce the effect of Weapon Power to damage slighly increasing current damage at 75 power and reducing it at 125 power.
- Allow Auxillery power to increase both hull resistance, and the damage bonus of sensor anaysis.
- Allow Engine power to directly effect defense stat, and have speed modify it after.

STF Khitomer Accord Redesign
*Redsigned NPCs at end
-Same layout as now, starts with Tac Cube just like now.
-Remove current gate spawns. Replace with spawns of 5 probes and 2 spheres once every 90 seconds alternating sides, IE only one side spawns at a time.
-Keep cube spawn on 2 generators going down.
-Add one Tac Sphere to spawn from gates every 2 minutes(?) per generator destroyed on that side
-Upon gate death add 1 probe, 1 sphere to other sides spawn and reduce time to 60 seconds for that side.
-Donotra just like now.

-Probes: Give them high shield amount and resistance, lower current hull and armor
*This will make them good targets for Directed Energy Modulation, Eject Warp Plasma, Transphasices, Gravity Well, etc.
-Spheres: Remove shield neutralizer. Add Photonic Shockwave effect.
*This will make them better guards for the probes, and a confuse effect would be ....
-Cubes: Remove High Yield. Add Directed Energy Modulation ability. Remodel Assimilate Ship to function like Subneucleonic Beam. Slightly increase shield strength.
*This will make them difficult to shield tank and give them a more even damage output level.
-Tac Sphere: Similar to sphere stats but slightly more resistances. Will have very high defense stat making imobilizing them desireable. Grant them tractor beam, attack protocal delta, and Assimilation Virus. Assimilation Virus will act like Viral Matrix with a 20 second duration that can drop shields.
- Transformers: Grant them resist of 50 but cut there current HP by 1/3rd.

This would alteast make it a bit more varied I would think and allow the various ships to have more places to shine.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
04-08-2012, 01:44 PM
While I like others appreciate good writeups on STFs, strategy, and the like.. I'm going to open up the proverbial can of worms here, and state rather emphatically that properly equipped and flown cruisers will easily match most escorts in STFs.

Having said that, I should qualify it - I'm not talking burst damage, I'm talking total damage output from the start of the STF through to the end. Using a DPS meter that someone recently made available, I did a test against roughly 15 Normal and Elite STFs over the course of two days. I have a nicely equipped cruiser that I used as my baseline for comparison against all other ships (of any type). There was only one time in all those damage logs where a ship of any type (an escort in this case) came close to matching my cruiser's sustained total damage output over the course of the STF. Still, there wasn't even one time where anyone outdamaged my ship - it placed first in the DPS logs over all tests.

What can we infer from this? I'm going to make a supposition that most escort players, due to the nature of their ships, believe that burst damage is how cruisers also operate, and thus form an incorrect vision of their ship's capability, and believe that escorts will always outdamage cruisers and science ships. This is as we can see, not a valid or correct line of thinking. Burst damage is completely different from sustained damage.

Additionally (throwing more fuel into the fire here), most people don't understand the relationship between distance, and damage dropoff on weapons. Escorts that aren't nose-to-nose with their targets, are losing out bigtime on their damage capabilities - their DPS drops off far more sharply than cruisers/sci ships that use beams, as beam damage drops off more slowly the further a ship is from target. So in my cruiser, I am perfectly happy to sit at 5k or 6k range if I desire, and actually have weapons do the same damage as an escort at 7k or 8k.

Furthermore, there is the problem of having to adjust position constantly in an escort. When your weapons are off-target, you do zero DPS. That isn't as much of a problem for beam ships, who's arcs are frequently enough to keep on target as long as you are in range. My cruiser has large arcs for broadsiding, and only rarely isn't firing when in range.

And lastly, there is the issue of tanking. In STFs, tanking helps to keep sustained DPS going. If in an escort and repeatedly blown up, that ability declines for each time you have to sit and wait to respawn. If we are strictly talking ship capability, there is a much better chance for a cruiser/sci ship to survive longer and be destroyed less, increasing it's sustained DPS.

My conclusion: you should probably run a DPS meter in an extended set of tests. You can do math based on weapon and ship stats all you want, but until you get the real data you can't form correct conclusions. My real-world numbers from tests performed show unequivocally that my ship should be valued equal to (or higher than) most any other ship for STF runs, and it is a cruiser. It puts out more damage than virtually all others I was flying with. It even has the ability to heal/protect others, which can (in a pinch), keep someone else's DPS sustained longer.

To address your "solutions" section, I'll first state that I believe cruisers/sci ships to be harder to fly correctly than escorts are. That is probably what adds to the general misconception that escorts are the "best ship to use". Many people simply don't know how to fly their cruisers/sci ships properly, or setup boffs and skills, etc. Given that, the average escort vs the average cruiser (for example), isn't an even contest.

How to balance out that inequality, and make non-escorts more valuable in STFs is a hard thing. I would simply make death's sting a lot more harsh - perhaps take out the ship who died for 30 seconds or more, promoting less kamikaze runs by escort captains, and more healing/tanking from the rest of the team. Additionally, I would alter ship power levels to be closer to reality; no small escort could ever hope to have the power plant that a federation flagship would, and that should be reflected in their power output levels.

Balance in STO is going to be incredibly hard to pull off, now that the misperception about escorts is largely accepted urban legend. If the developers change them too much, the community will react badly. It would be a better choice to help non-escort ship builds, so that "average" players feel more effective across the board, and add in what the devs feel are helpful changes to STFs, so groups acting as a team are rewarded more than individuals pumping out damage.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
04-08-2012, 02:09 PM
I have ran parsers, and they never tell the full story. Even with them though my escorts always out DPS my other ships. For a different test of DPS take a stopwatch and go into KA. Take on one of the transformers solo and time it to see how long it takes you and figure your DPS that way, then compare it. Also, escorts can run beams too mate .

If I put AP:Beta on a target and you shoot it that counts as your DPS, when in reality you would be dealing 40% less hull damage to that target without my ability. If someone pops tac team, if someone places an AP:O on you, someone sensor scans, etc etc.

If cruisers put out more sustained DPS than escorts, then that in and of itself would be a huge balance issue. Now cruiser do without a doubt put out some good DPS don't get me wrong, and I'm sure your pretty good, but they do not out damage a comperable escort. Equal gear, equal skill, equal build, escort does top DPS. Put a crappy player in an escort with crappy gear, and well yeah.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
04-08-2012, 02:29 PM
I believe the apparent issue is two-fold. The the Optional timers and the drop rates.

Having the time constraint only fuels the incentive to players to pressure others into using Escort ships for STF's so they can "face-roll" everything as fast as possible to achieve them with minimal effort involved. Anything that tends to oppose this "nose-into-target-and-mash-space" philosophy is usually met with contempt and bullying of other players that don't conform.

This need to push others into this behavior is ultimately driven by the drop system.
While they may have been playing STF's from the start for the drops, they likely enjoyed playing them in the beginning, and generally had fun. But as time passes, disappointment and frustration accumulate, they stop enjoying it.
They want it over with. As fast as possible. Get in. Get out. Anything that slows the process down is making them have to be somewhere they don't want to be, longer.
I've quite WoW twice because of this behavior from the end-game community. People that don't want to be playing in the first place, are making themselves play because they want a drop. And inevitably, they take their anger and frustration out on other players.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
04-08-2012, 03:14 PM
One last thing I do want to say real quick. The point of this was not just to say that the other ships should do more damage, maybe that is the solution maybe it isn't. Honestly I hope it isn't.

The main point was that there is no true need or desire in the STFs for any role other than that of 'tanky DPS', aka escorts that don't espode when sneezed upon or cruisers and science vessels that manage to fit their squares into round holes.

This, to me, is a major flaw. I do not nessassary want to see the 'holy trinity' but I would like to see some varity in the roles and approaches to the STFs. If someone wants to build a science vessel that can do heavy CC and debuffs as its focus instead of damage, I want that to be desireable and viable. If you want to make a cruiser that can keep an escort alive even with a tac cube warp core detonation next to it every ten seconds, then by god I should want you next to me! But as it stands none of that is the case, people want loot and to get loot they want DPS! My escort shouldn't be able to shrug off everything a cube throws at him, fly point blank on top of him, and blast him into oblivion with its only worry being did I remember to hit brace for impact so the warp core explosion doesn't kill me. But at the same time I shouldn't go from full shields and hull to eating a torp salvo from Donotra and be nearly dead because brace for impact was on cooldown.

My other main game is League of Legends. The number one thing I love about that game is the crazy number of truely viable options with the champion I select. Even when I take a role, say that of support, I still have the choice of a sustain support, a poke support, a CC/aura support, and so on. STO has so many great options in its ships and their customization via consoles, boff abilities, captians, doffs, etc, yet manages to be so constrictive with what works. Tanky DPS is hands down the best choice. Emergency power to Shields, Tac Team, and Hazard Emitters are nearly manditory in an STF. Antiproton, disruptors, or go home when their are 4 other energy types is just sad. Some of this is perception (I personally love polaron on my sci escort) but some of it is true (tetryons are mathmatically bad, so very bad).

So in the end I do think it really comes down to the silly faster=more loot desgin philosophy and its effect on the mentality of the community. How does one fix that?
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
04-08-2012, 03:46 PM
Escorts should be more desirable in STFs, but lately all I ever seein PUGS are way more Odyssey and Bortasqu ships than anything else

And rightly so, cuz there has been a huge push for em

But yeah, leave those for other missions, STFs require stuff to be done in fast manner focusing on DPS than flying around fancy and slow in Cruisers
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
04-08-2012, 03:50 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chiberry
I believe the apparent issue is two-fold. The the Optional timers and the drop rates.

Having the time constraint only fuels the incentive to players to pressure others into using Escort ships for STF's so they can "face-roll" everything as fast as possible to achieve them with minimal effort involved. Anything that tends to oppose this "nose-into-target-and-mash-space" philosophy is usually met with contempt and bullying of other players that don't conform.

This need to push others into this behavior is ultimately driven by the drop system.
While they may have been playing STF's from the start for the drops, they likely enjoyed playing them in the beginning, and generally had fun. But as time passes, disappointment and frustration accumulate, they stop enjoying it.
They want it over with. As fast as possible. Get in. Get out. Anything that slows the process down is making them have to be somewhere they don't want to be, longer.
I've quite WoW twice because of this behavior from the end-game community. People that don't want to be playing in the first place, are making themselves play because they want a drop. And inevitably, they take their anger and frustration out on other players.


Yeah, I got a laugh out of a player in ISE who was crying that there "wasn't enough DPS", but we still managed to finish to whole thing, optional included, with 4 minutes to spare. We might have had 5 minutes left if he hadn't spent so much time typing about how we werent going to finish it and had just manned up a got the job done.


The whole item drop deal is pathetic. My whole group has finished the optional on elite and only gotten blue MK XI engines and such as best out of optional AND regular rewards. Ive complete these missions to te point where the purple "borg salvage" is only usefull as dilithium boxes and only recieved one Purple Borg Deflector Salvage out of four characters. Something is wrong with that. I am not asking for a Galor or another stupendous item, just want to get the MK XII sets. This rat is getting tired of pulling on the food lever to get unpallatable food.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 9
04-08-2012, 03:54 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Medalion
Escorts should be more desirable in STFs, but lately all I ever seein PUGS are way more Odyssey and Bortasqu ships than anything else

And rightly so, cuz there has been a huge push for em

But yeah, leave those for other missions, STFs require stuff to be done in fast manner focusing on DPS than flying around fancy and slow in Cruisers
Thats funny, on multiple occasions Ive had all cruisers (Excel's, Sovie's and Star Cruisers) and science ships groups finish KASE and ISE (havent had such a group in CSE yet) frequently with 4-5 minutes to spare. I finish up alll three just fine for the optional in my Engie' Excel'. Are we violating some unwritten rule then?
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 10
04-08-2012, 04:11 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by whamhammer View Post
Thats funny, on multiple occasions Ive had all cruisers (Excel's, Sovie's and Star Cruisers) and science ships groups finish KASE and ISE (havent had such a group in CSE yet) frequently with 4-5 minutes to spare. I finish up alll three just fine for the optional in my Engie' Excel'. Are we violating some unwritten rule then?
And my Negh'var can put out some respectable DPS while keeping the suicidal escorts alive so they can fire their cannons. So somebody that can heal is a good thing to have as long as they can deal the damage as well.
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