Captain's Log: The lower decks

Captain's Log, Stardate 64977.3...

Spock, Riker, Kira, Worf, Chakotay, and T'Pol. What do they all have in common? They are the notable men and women who served under their Captains as First Officer. Joret, Sito, Alyssa, Taurik, Sam and Geniveve. What do they all have in common? No one knows who the heck they are. In the world of Star Trek, these "unknowns" are the members of the lower decks, people whose work goes unnoticed, whose accomplishments are unacknowledged, and who are often killed off at the end of the episode when you finally do get to know them.

While the ships in Star Trek Online currently seem to be manned only by the Captain, his or her Bridge Officers (BOff), and some random crewmen walking around the ship, this is about to change. In the next couple months, get ready to welcome new members to your ship's lower decks. The Duty Officer (DOff) system will be adding a new form of gameplay to STO and give players even more ways to level characters and become immersed in the universe surrounding them. While there are a ton of random pieces of information about it floating out there, I think that Captain's Log is the perfect place to put it all together and give you a more concise picture of how it will work.

Ensign, warp 10! It's time to attend your new favorite class, DOffs 101...

As discussed in my entry two weeks ago, Cryptic Developer Geoff, better known as Heretic, is designing the DOff system. While he posts several updates every day about the development, they are often in different forum threads and can be hard to find and follow. To help those of us who are closely watching this project, he authored a new post this past weekend that will be updated constantly with new information. The first glimpse of this post can cause eyes to dilate as the walls of text are epic and there is a lot of information dropped on the readers. As always, have no fear, for Brandon is here! Let me break it down for you.

Overview

The DOff system is a trading-card-type game designed to be a supplemental form of gameplay within STO -- it is optional and will reward players with unique bonuses, including those that are passive and tangible. While there will no doubt be a learning curve when you first get your hands on it, it is being created to satisfy those wanting it to be more of a casual experience as well as those looking for something that provides a more logistical and strategic interface. At the initial rollout, the system will be available for both the Federation and Klingon factions and will include personnel and civilians "cards."

Currently, there will be three different branches for the system: Tactical, Engineering and Science. While this follows the current trinity of the game, each branch is slated to have two departments. DOffs in the Tactical branch will work in the Tactical or Security departments, while Engineers will work in the Engineering and Operations departments. Science DOffs will work in the Science and Medical departments. Each department will be made up of multiple DOffs, while only one will be the Department Head -- more information on that in a moment.

When it comes to information about different species and the rarity of each DOff, Heretic himself sums it up best:
Duty Officers are also distinguished by species (which sometimes have associated traits), quality (usually expressed as rank), rarity (loosely tied to quality) and gender. In the Federation, Humans are Common while Andorians, Tellarites and Vulcans are Uncommon. All other Federation species are Rare or Very Rare. In the Klingon Empire, Klingons are Common while Orions, Nausicaans and Gorn are Uncommon. Letheans are Rare.

Rarity affects the likelihood of that particular duty officer becoming available through one of the various random mechanics for gaining duty officers. Quality affects the chance of success and critical success when that duty officer is put on an assignment, and also the duty officer's passive ability effects when put on your active roster.
Assignments

When the system goes live, all players will get an initial set of DOffs, randomly selected from the over 6000 that have been created. Heretic tells us that we will want to look at each of them before we slot them in our active rosters, for some have passive skills that can greatly enhance abilities during space combat.

Every time you warp to a different part of the universe (or every several hours), you will be able to give your DOffs a different assignment. Patrolling in Eta Eridani? You may be able to send some DOffs on a covert mission to steal some classified information from the Klingons. Confronting the Breen in Orellius? You might need to send some DOffs to help find a diplomatic solution on the Defari homeworld. There are over 1000 assignments created so far.

At the end of each assignment, a few different outcomes can occur: critical success, success, failure, or disaster. While you might be rewarded with tangible goods, experience points, or currency, failures and disasters could result in injuries or even the death of your DOffs. Rewards are going to be better or worse based on the time required to complete the assignment, the rarity of it, and the outcome.

Commendations

Just when you thought there was a lot to the system already, there will also be 12 new XP types that you can rank up in: Diplomacy (Federation), Marauding (Klingon), Science, Engineering, Medical, Military, Espionage, Colonial, Trade, Exploration, Development and Recruiting. Each of these categories has four levels to advance to and grants rewards in the form of titles, accolades, unique DOffs, unique BOffs, and access to special assignments.

Department heads and first officers

Last but not least (and possibly the most exciting part of the DOff system), the Department Head and First Officer positions are scheduled to be rolled out shortly after the release of the rest of the system. Your BOffs will be able to be assigned to one of the six departments listed above -- as they head their respective department, the DOffs' passive abilities under them become active and affect their skills. Heretic explains that "a tractor beam engineer specialist might provide a chance to proc an additional effect" to the BOff that is his department head and carries the tractor beam ability. Once promoted to Department Head, a BOff can then be promoted to your First Officer -- this allows you to gain an additional, clickable space-skill that will vary based on what BOff is promoted. At a cost, your first officer can be demoted so you can choose a new one.

As you can see, there is a lot of information surfacing about the system, and I hope we get to try it out very soon. I believe this minigame is going to add some great options for alternate gameplay and give us max-level players even more to do. If you would like to learn more about the system, make sure to watch out for Priority One Podcast's interview with Heretic during the next few weeks as well as to revisit his thread often. I've also received exclusive word from him that he will be attending Comic-Con San Diego this July and is hoping to meet players in person.

Well, Captains, we have come to the end of this week's log entry. Before you set a new course to boldly go, I recommended you take a look at the second part of the Design the Next Enterprise dev diary that was released just a few days ago -- the Enterprise-F is looking to be an amazing ship and truly an advance in the evolution of the Federation's flagship. Also, I hope you join me on Tuesday, June 28th at 7:00 p.m. EDT for the next STO livestream -- we will be spending time back on Holodeck. Until next time, start replicating champagne so you can get ready to celebrate with the new arrivals.

Computer, terminate recording.

Boldly going where no one has gone before, Brandon Felczer transmits Captain's Log through Subspace right to your PADD every Thursday. Join him as he discusses the latest news, gossip, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Hailing frequencies are always open to his bridge through brandon@massively.com.
This article was originally published on Massively.