Let's begin at the beginning
According to Cryptic, the new fleet advancement system will make fleets "a more central and fundamental part of the Star Trek Online experience and create a new means of fleet advancement, allowing fleet members to collaborate together to overcome new challenges for new top-tier rewards."
Fleet advancement has been designed for fleets of all sizes, although there will exist "advantages and disadvantages depending on the size of [the] fleet's membership." It will "allow fleets to construct a starbase (and possibly other additional holdings in the future) with different degrees of development and sophistication in Military, Engineering and Science areas depending on the focus of the fleet involved."
There will also be new group space and ground challenges, including the active defense of the starbase. In pursuit of this defense, fleets will find that developing starbases will also provide fleet members with new special consumable devices called Operational Assets, which can be only be used in these special challenges. In addition, a whole array of new top-tier rewards, including new starships, new equipment, new duty officers, and new consumable Operational Assets, will be available.
Fleets will be able to "improve their starbase interior with special contacts and functionality such as bank access, ship dock facilities, social spaces, starbase level sickbays and many other additions."
Cryptic says that every fleet will have an instanced system map with a starbase exterior that will appear to be under construction. Fleet members will be able to contribute a variety of resources, including rewarded tokens, commodities, duty officers, dilithium, data samples, bridge officer skill points, and other resources to complete various fleet projects, which will garner the fleet experience points in one of three categories: Military, Engineering and Science. In addition to gaining fleet experience points, every fleet project will also grant additional rewards that may include:
New functionality to starbases, such as the ability to repair ships or open transwarp gates to distant sectors
The ability to add new contacts to starbase interiors that allow for useful functions such as additional duty officer assignments, mail, banking, skill respecs, bridge officer training, and many other functions;\
The ability to add limited numbers of new ships or other elite equipment to "fleet stores"
Limited time buffs
Aesthetic improvements to starbases
Fleet Officers will have the ability to assign specific fleet projects they want the fleet to focus on. Some of these "will be gated by the starbase's development in each of the three major categories of Military, Engineering and Science, but others will be available only at certain times with unique rewards for those fleets who are able to complete their strenuous requirements."
Contributing to a fleet project will reward a fleet member with a number of Fleet Merits commensurate to her individual contribution. All fleet stores will accept Fleet Merits for unique new ships, weapons, duty officers and other specialized equipment.
How are the starbases built?
As a fleet gains experience points in each of the three categories, the categories will improve in tier from Tier 0 through Tier V. As a starbase's Military, Engineering and Science categories improve in tier, new Fleet Projects will become available to the Fleet. Improving a starbase in each of the three categories will also improve the defensive capabilities of the starbase, a useful function during new starbase defense challenges.
With each improvement in a category's tier, associated starbase facilities in the same system as the starbase will improve. For example, increasing a starbase's Military tier will develop the system's shipyard facility, while increasing a starbase's Engineering tier will develop the system's Industrial Replicator and increasing the Science tier will affect the system's Communications Array. These will represent strategic vulnerabilities during starbase defenses and will also grant the starbase additional functionality and access to new Fleet Projects.
As a starbase's Military, Engineering, and Science categories improve in tier, the overall starbase will improve, unlocking additional functionality and increasing the size and grandeur of the starbase.
More of the nitty gritty
Just as each category (Military, Engineering and Science) has five tiers of development, so too does the overall starbase.
As the starbase's importance increases, it will face continued challenges and be forced to defend itself against attacks from an increasing selection of enemies. Starbases will also feature unique daily missions available to members for rewards that will further contribute to the development of the starbase.
According to Cryptic, starbase development will involve several steps:
Gather the resources necessary for various Fleet Projects.
Individual members contribute resources to a Fleet Project, gaining individual Fleet Merits commensurate to the individual's contribution.
When a Fleet Project meets the resource requirements, it will begin construction, whereupon the next queued Fleet Project will become available for contributions by fleet members.
When a Fleet Project's build-time completes, the effects of the project will appear. In addition, fleet experience points in the related category may include buffs, limited quantities of unique ships and equipment in fleet stores, new contacts and functionality on the Starbase interior, improved starbase defensive capabilities, and other possible effects.
When enough fleet experience points have been accrued in one of the three categories (Military, Engineering, Science) to attain the next development tier for that category, special upgrade Fleet Projects will become available.
Completing one of the special upgrade projects will advance the associated facility (Shipyard, Industrial Fabricator, Communications Array, or the Starbase itself) to the next tier.
To finish it all off, Cryptic stated that "future holdings in distant sectors in addition to starbases are also planned for the future."
That's not all, folks! As you can imagine, the release of information generated a lot of questions!, so stay tuned becuase later today you will see a special Captain's Log supplemental that will feature an exclusive interview with STO's
Executive Producer, Daniel Stahl, to answer some of our questions about what to expect from the new fleet starbases and fleet advancement system.
Until then, live long and prosper!
Incoming communique from Starfleet Headquarters: Captain's Log is now transmitting direct from Terilynn Shull every Monday, providing news, rumors, and dev interviews about Star Trek Online. Beam communications to firstname.lastname@example.org.