Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Interstellar Cow Clicking

Tipa has always excelled at naming things, such as her post likening the new Duty Officer system in Star Trek Online to "cow clicking" in Farmville.  My experience with the game is reasonably similar with a caveat - as a newbie, I've never known the game  as it was before the advent of cow clicking. 

Some of the many assignments the crew of the USS PVD-2 are working.  The quality and traits of the officers you assign to the task affect the percentages. 
In some ways, the critique is apt.  Like a Facebook game, the optimal strategy involves showing up to click on a painfully frequent basis - the best return of duty exp per time is always found from missions that take shorter real world timeframes (30 minutes through 4 hours) versus longer missions (up to 2 days).  This makes it irritatingly easy to end up with half your crew idle.  Players can purchase an increased duty officer cap, or even random booster packs of duty officers.  You can also earn currency, which can eventually be converted into cash store Cryptic points, albeit at rates so slow that many players will be tempted to open their wallets to cut to the chase. 

Prices.  For reference, 500 CP costs $6.25.  That said, I'm not convinced that any of these are necessary.  You can only have 20 assignments (not counting crew stuck in sick bay recovering from their latest failure), so you only need so many officers.
However, the analogy does not hold up so well when you consider that there is an actual MMO attached to this minigame.  Due to cooldowns, you're not going to find the best assignments by parking your ship outside Earth Spacedock.  The system is mostly level-independent; some of the prices in energy credits are a bit steep for a lowbie like myself, but there's no combat or other restrictions.  Interestingly, it's also almost entirely solo-based.  You can, in principle, buy and sell officers and materials on the in-game auction house, but so far my crew seems to be able to find missions they can do without external support.  It's a far cry from either traditional raiding or spamming your friend feed in search of people who are too tactful to tell you to your face how little they care about your Facebook livestock. 

One thing that does worry me is the rate at which I'm gaining regular experience (skill points) through the system.  I get crafting materials but extremely limited gear for either my officers or the ship proper, and I could see getting in over my head if PVE content scales assuming that I have been earning gear through the traditional leveling path.  I'm currently at level 17, and the mission I'm currently working on the Klingon War episode arc has a minimum level of 9 (though all the mobs scale up to my current level).

Overall, though, I'm reasonably fond of the system.  I find STO's ground combat game pretty underwhelming.  The ship combat game is different, but I don't think I'd play this on its own merits either.  The story content is more interesting, but unlikely to last all that long, maybe a month or two of primary MMO playtime.  But the game where my ship and crew exist to travel the galaxy searching for things to do is both fun and original.  It also feels appropriate to the lore - hijinks like we saw on the shows can't possibly happen every single day in the 24th/25th century, or the universe would have ended by now.  Whatever its other quirks, this system feels like what you'd expect from the life of a Star Fleet Captain. 
Smed is a Congenial but Unscrupulous Ferengi.  No word on whether Cryptic has included similar shout-outs to famous competitors elsewhere amongst the thousands of duty officers.


  1. The problem with the Duty officer thing is that it's just so irrelevant.

    I mean: I tried to actually look and think about optimizing, but there are one million traits and one bazillion combinations. And optimization what brings me? +10 skill points. Frankly, I just click mindlessly until all my 20 assignment slots are full :)

  2. The DOFF system feels appropriate and thematic to a Captain's job. That's enough for me.

    Incidentally, you can usually do PvE content on Normal well enough undergeared. That's one of the nice things about STO; the gear isn't all that important. As in, top end solo PvE weapons are only about twice as good as newbie gear, and "raid" weapons aren't much beyond that. Shields and armor at the endgame are maybe 4 times as powerful, but even there, it's not huge compared to most MMOs.

    I've used gear from two tiers back without much fuss. Sure, it's nice to stay on the cutting edge, but for the most part, it's not a necessity in STO, at least, not playing normally.


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