I've already tackled the free-to-play conversion, lockboxes, a few featured episodes, and the new shooter mode. This week I'll be focusing the entire column on just one subject: Star Trek Online's popular duty officer system.
The duty officer system, or DOff system as it's also known, made its first appearance in STO in the middle of 2011 and has only expanded since. It functions somewhat as a trading card game and can grant a player rewards that are usable in the general play of STO, including dilithium, commodities, anomalies, temporary buffs, and skill points (or expertise, depending on the character's level.)
The DOff system allows a player to assign duty officers to missions that are available in the system's interface, which is accessed by clicking on the small icon with the profiles of people set just under the game's minimap. A player can have up to 20 regular missions active at one time; a few more are allowed if DOffs end up in sick-bay as a result of a previous mission. The quality of each mission's rewards is dependent on the length and difficulty undertaken.
Every Federation captain is able to partake in the DOff system beginning at level 7. This is important because the DOff system supplies skill points, and if you use the system to its fullest potential, leveling occurs at an even brisker pace. Personally, I like this idea as it leaves the player with a lot of story-based play to tackle once he reaches level 50. Players in the Klingon defense force will have the DOff system available to them beginning at level 22, currently the level at which the KDF is made available.
When a player qualifies to use the system, he is granted a beginning cadre of officers and 100 officer slots. Additional officers can be obtained in one of several ways: purchasing duty officer packs from the ZEN Store, chatting up the personnel officer at the faction's Academy, trading for them on the exchange, buying them from certain starbase merchants, or nabbing them as rewards from another duty officer mission.
Successful missions also award the player experience points in the individual mission categories. As a player increases in tier with each category (such as diplomacy, espionage and exploration), he unlocks achievements as well as rewards and the ability to obtain additional officers.
Duty officers currently come in five distinct rarity (rank) levels, the colors for which are the same as they are for item rarity. Rank names are dependent on the faction, and within the Federation, on the career path as well (that's Science, Engineering, and Tactical.) They also come with a variety of personal traits.
The officers can be traded, sold on the exchange, or donated to a fleet starbase project. Common duty officers can even die (and will disappear from the roster) during a risky mission. Less-common officers risk being injured, and if they take injuries, they will temporarily be moved to sick-bay and be unavailable for new missions until their treatment has been completed.
There are also civilians as part of the mix; traders, diplomats, colonists, prisoners, and refugees can become a member of the overall roster.
Individual DOffs have anywhere between one and five traits, indicated by a symbol. These traits, combined with the officer's rarity, consequently increase or decrease the odds of success of any given mission. These traits include but are by no means limited to: aggressive, emotional, honorable, resolve, seductive, teamwork, Founder of the Federation, and unscrupulous.
Available DOff missions can be located simply by reviewing the DOff UI and clicking on either the "current map" or the "personal" tabs on the left. The missions available under the "current map" tab will differ, sometimes greatly, depending on which sector of space the player is currently occupying. For example, missions in the Beta Ursae sector will be different from those offered in Sirius, which in turn will be different from those offered in Regulus, etc.
There are also several mission chains (missions that offer a rare reward after completion of several related missions) that can be picked up in clusters, such as Delta Volanis, Arucanis Arm and B'tran.
The log of available missions will reflect the nature of the assignment, the base rewards, and a graph of the base chances of success. It will also outline the requirements of any DOffs that should be assigned as well as provide a breakdown of the most desired traits each officer should have. It's very rare that a player will have an officer who not only meets the job description but also has every single trait the mission requests.
However, it is fairly simple to play around with the roster and use the DOff(s) that will increase the odds of success. As shown above, the mission log will have a small graph that identifies the chances of disaster, failure, success, and critical success. Once a DOff is assigned to the mission, those numbers will change based upon the introduction of the DOff's traits and rarity. If an officer doesn't look as if he'll pass muster, it's just as easy to un-assign and swap him out for another. I highly recommend playing with this function to get more comfortable with how rarity and traits can affect the potential chances for a successful outcome.
The DOff system has been integrated throughout STO's universe in other ways too. Most recently the system had been used in the New Romulan reputation areas, where special DOff assignments can be obtained from an Epohh scientist. Additional DOff missions can be obtained from NPCs and/or consoles located in the player's ship interiors. Engineering and tactical tasks are available, as are cooking and bartending jobs. Each of these unique chores for the DOffs offer unusual rewards, and in some cases (like the Epohh fields), they help the player obtain in-game currency.
Most NPCs who have DOff assignments available will have the same three-profile icon floating over their heads. So just talk with them if you would like to see what tasks they have available!
The DOff system continues to be a very popular addition to STO. There are still many calls for the system to be integrated into a format that will allow a player to access the system without having to fully log in to the game. There are plans for the system to ultimately be made a part of the currently-in-beta Gateway system, but that may still be some time off in the future.
For anyone who may have more questions about the DOff system and its capability, I recommend reading the wiki page for a good general outline and then diving into the STO forums under the duty officer header. There are lots of friendly people there willing to lend a helping hand. Until next week, 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.