Star Trek Online: Reinforcements Duty Officer Pack

Since the Duty Officer system was unveiled, we have experimented with a couple of different ways of expanding the system. Some of these ideas included new species, new active roster abilities, Ultra-Rare Duty Officers, new traits, mixtures of random and set Duty Officers, and Duty Officers bundled with bonus items. From that time, we have learned a lot, both about what works and what does not. The Reinforcements Duty Officer Pack is an effort to bring together some of these lessons and evolve them even further.

In particular, one idea we wanted to revive was the idea of including things other than Duty Officers in a pack. The Duty Officer system itself deals with a large number of items that act both as inputs and outputs, and we wanted to reflect that in this design. More info on that in a bit.

The Reinforcements Pack includes the same breakdown as previous packs: one Blue quality or better, two Green quality or better and four White quality or better. These new Duty Officers come from existing species. For Federation players, this means Human, Andorian, Vulcan, Tellarite, Caitian and Betazoid (the last was in order to put more Telepathic Duty Officers into the hands of Federation players to balance out the KDF Ferasan advantage). For Klingon players, this means Klingon, Orion, Gorn, Nausicaan, Lethean and Ferasan.

All of these Duty Officers are of existing specializations, but they all have alternate active roster abilities. In all, thirteen new active roster powers for eleven specializations have been created. In particular, we expect the new Energy Weapons Officer and new Flight Deck Officer active roster abilities to draw a lot of attention, as well as a non-career specific Security Officer variant active roster power and the return of the now-defunct EMH power, this time on Nurses and Medics.

Beyond these, we will also be introducing – separate from the Reinforcements Pack – standard active roster abilities for many non-Civilian duty officer specializations that never had active roster abilities. Existing Botanists, Biologists, Geologists and Research Lab Scientists will be gaining active roster abilities of their own. The new Duty Officers are only the beginning of the new Reinforcements Pack, however.

The alternate active roster abilities include:

  • Deflector Officer Chance to reflect damage while using Polarize Hull
  • Flight Deck Officer (Variant 1) Increase Carrier Defense while in Recall Mode
  • Flight Deck Officer (Variant 2) Increase Fighter Accuracy while in Intercept Mode
  • Flight Deck Officer (Variant 3) Increase Fighter Damage while in Escort Mode
  • Tractor Beam Officer Drains -10 Engine Subsystem Energy with Tractor Beam Repulsors
  • Doctor Triage and Medical Tricorder can trigger a second heal
  • Geologist Create a Gravity Well effect on ground when using Gravimetric Shift
  • Gravimetric Scientist Create an aftershock Tyken’s Rift (same functionality as existing Gravity Well aftershock)
  • Nurse/Medic Increased Crew Recovery when crew is <75%
  • Assault Squad Officer Extra Team Heal and AOE Rez on Rally Cry
  • Energy Weapons Officer (Variant 1) Reduce recharge time on Cannon Rapid Fire and Cannon Volley
  • Energy Weapons Officer (Variant 2) Reduce recharge time on Beam Overload and Fire at Will
  • Security Officer Increase melee Crit Chance and Crit Severity (ground)

In addition to any Duty Officers you receive, you also will get one (1) of the following special bonus prizes:

  • A stack of Gamma Quadrant commodities (which will be in high demand with the new Fleet Advancement and Starbase system)
  • A stack of Gamma Quadrant consumable devices (new devices based on the Gamma Quadrant commodities)
  • An Alien Artifact (available in both “Powered” and “Unpowered” versions)
  • A random Mk XII Very Rare Console
  • or the jackpot prize… a Tuffli Class Freighter Ship Pack

The new Freighter is not intended for combat, though it actually is functional at that for the earliest part of your captain’s career. It can be switched to from your regular ship like a shuttle and is crammed with every Duty Officer system special we could think of. You can buy commodities at merchant ship rates from the interior, it has a Bank, access to the Exchange, a Mail console, Crafting, a Trader with additional Trade Duty Officer assignments, and can even periodically call a Security Ship for Contraband, Tribble Bounty and Prisoner Exchange turn-ins. Here is some more detailed information about this freighter:

Tuffli Class Freighter

Freighters and Transports are large vessels designed for trade and long range cargo hauling. Almost all space-faring races utilize Freighters, and designs created by Ferengi and Cardassian corporations have become standard throughout the quadrant. The Tuffli Class Freighter is arguably the best vessel for managing Duty Officer Assignments, trade, cargo acquisition and transport, and other related commendation tasks.

The Tuffli Class Freighter interior has a number of amenities including a Trade Duty Officer Assignment contact, which is not standard on most starships. Both you and your allies can access the Trader.

Also assigned to the Freighter interior is a Quartermaster. The Quartermaster can sell you and your allies commodities at a discounted rate. A similar discount applies when you make any Energy Credit Purchase while onboard your ship (for instance, from Sector Space Freighter Stores). The interior also include access to the Bank, Exchange, Mail, and Crafting, all of which are accessible to you and your allies.

The Tuffli Class Freighter has access to a secure subspace channel to call in a Security Transport ship. The Security Transport will allow you to access Prisoner Transfer and Contraband Assignments. The Security Transport is not a combat support vessel, and can only be called when in Sector Space. It is accessible to you and your allies.

Finally, the Tuffli Class Freighter comes with a Transwarp Drive that will allow you to access the furthest corners of the quadrant. The Transwarp Drive will allow you to instantly access most Exploration Clusters. Note, like many older Transwarp drives, the Freighter’s Transwarp has a small chance to fail.

Tuffli Class Freighters are not designed as combat vessels. They come with minimal armaments designed only to ward off pirates and other would-be threats.

Note: You can switch to your Freighter from any ship interior. Once you’re done using it, switch back to any ship from the Freighter interior.

  • Hull Strength: 17,500
  • Shield Modifier: 0.7
  • Crew: 100
  • Weapons: 2 Fore, 1 Aft
  • Device Slots: 5
  • Bridge Officer Stations: 1 Ensign Universal, 1 Lieutenant Universal
  • Console Modifications: 3 Engineering
  • Base Turn Rate: 6 degrees per second
  • Impulse Modifier: 0.12
  • +5 Power to Engines
  • Onboard access to the Bank, Exchange, Mail and Crafting.
  • Trade Duty Officer Assignment contact
  • Quartermaster Commodity Broker
  • Energy Credit Discount
  • Can call Security Transport
  • Transwarp Drive

Geoff “Heretic” Tuffli
Senior Systems Designer
Star Trek Online

PvP Considerations in MMORPG Game Design

Note: This is a reposting of an article I wrote on PvP design from a theoretical point of view some years ago.

While it is demonstrably impossible to make everyone happy with any
design, my hope is that I can give you guys more of an insight into the thinking and reasoning behind MMO game design, as well as shedding light onto some of the choices and challenges we in the industry have to try to solve every day.

Few areas of MMORPG design can match the contentiousness that is bred by even the most innocent discussion of PvP (Player versus Player) gameplay.

From a purely practical point of view, this shouldn’t come as any particular surprise. Modern MMORPGs grew out of a PvE (Player versus Environment), Diku-style environment. From this kind of gameplay some very fundamental conventions of MMORPG gameplay evolved.

Convention 1: The player (almost) always wins.

Unless a player makes a blatant misjudgment and barring raid-style end boss content, the player will emerge victorious from any particular engagement. PvE fights are virtually never fair, and are heavily biased in favor of the player.

Convention 2: The player’s character gets better based on the time played.

Regardless of player skill and barring non-formative gameplay, the more time a player’s character is played, the better in absolute mathematical terms that player’s character will get. Computer-controlled opponents that were fearsome yesterday are a pushover today.

In the modern MMORPG environment, there are exceptions to these conventions, but it should be noted that making an exception to one of the rules above carries with it consequences. Some of those consequences will be easier to deal with than others. More importantly, if one wishes to break (or even bend) one of these conventions, it is critical to understand why these rules have evolved and to make sure that whatever solution the developers devise does not create unexpected problems.

Both of the above conventions are commercially successful because they are very effective at securing the long-term commitment of players. Players like to win, and once the basic mechanic for success is figured out, players in games utilizing the above conventions can ensure themselves a steady stream of victories. Players like to feel that their characters are growing stronger, and the convention of largely equating time spent in game with mathematical improvement is similarly effective at giving players a reason to continue playing.

Where these conventions begin to break down is when developing PvP content. And the expectations resulting from these conventions can cause headaches for developers attempting to introduce fair and satisfying PvP gameplay.

In PvP, the expectation is that if all other things are equal, a particular player will emerge victorious about 50 percent of the time. In reality, things are never equal, and a player engaging in PvP for the first time will have a chance of victory substantially lower than 50 percent. Therefore, many players engaging in PvP for the first time will face a rude awakening, as they enter a world where achieving “only” a 50 percent win ratio is a substantial accomplishment.

It is worth examining two notable divergences from the accepted conventions for PvE gameplay.

Guild Wars, for example, has a level progression, but the top level is achieved relatively quickly. Even early on in the level progression the emphasis is weighted very heavily in favor of a player’s strategic choices for slotting their action bar. Gaining an additional skill – even one that is generally not achievable until deeper in the content – expands the breadth of one’s strategic options, but does not directly mathematically improve a character’s performance.

World of Warcraft follows the above conventions until a player begins raiding in earnest. At that point, a twist is introduced – the end boss of a raid generally involves some type of puzzle. Until you figure out a tactic to beat the puzzle, victory is extremely difficult, if not outright impossible. Once an effective tactic has been devised, the challenge becomes more one of organization, logistics and communication than it is of gameplay.

The vast majority of MMORPGs orbit around PvE content, but even those that do not – such as EVE or Guild Wars – contain a huge core of PvE gameplay, and this foundation cannot be ignored or disregarded in any discussion of PvP implementation. Those games that have attempted to introduce PvP late in the design process without real exception have had to wrestle with balance issues and inconsistencies between PvE and PvP gameplay.

How, then, can one approach the problem of introducing fair and enjoyable PvP content that can peacefully co-exist with PvE content?

There is a path, but it is a path that will have to be the subject of another entry.