Thursday, October 25, 2012

[STO] Season 7 thoughts, part 1.

If you're active in Star Trek Online's end-game, you owe it to yourself to read up on their changes to Task Force Omega. In addition, its really a great time to use the official forums and the Dev Tracker or simply dive into the discussion concerning the blog. Go over the Dev Blog on TF Omega first, as that will provide some background for everything else. You might also want to use to reference current values and rewards.

After reading the blog, I'm sure the following stood out to you:
If you’re a max level player in Star Trek Online, then you’ve probably heard of the Special Task Forces as that’s where most of the best gear in the game can be found. As part of Task Force Omega, players have been facing off against the Borg for many months in order to obtain gear such as the Mark XII Very Rare MACO, Omega Force and Honor Guard sets.
We know it is “many months” because when we looked at the data, it showed that players were running Elite STFs hundreds of times and still not receiving the drops necessary for this gear. We didn’t really need to look up the data because a handful of players were telling us how frustrated they were that these drops were so rare. This was all marked as “working as designed” because it was exactly how we set them up. Getting the best gear was meant to be extremely challenging.
The problem, however, is that it’s unfair when someone lucks out and gets the very rare item they need after only playing one elite STF while another person is still running the same STFs over and over hoping to get the drop.
We agree it isn’t fair and are about to change the STF reward structure. We now have a better way to keep the hunt for these items challenging while removing the randomness of drops.
That is why in Season 7 we are nuking the STF reward tables from orbit and replacing them with the much clearer Task Force Omega Reputation system.
There’s a lot involved with this, so this blog post is going to go into all the details.
Why the new system is better:
  • New Captain Abilities can be earned at each rank in the Task Force Omega Reputation
  • The 42 different drop items needed to get the various gear sets is reduced down to 2 items
  • You no longer need to run specific STFs for specific drops – all STFs reward the 2 needed items
  • The number of Elite STF runs needed to get a Mk XII gear set has been reduced by 60 percent
  • No more wondering when you’ll get the drop – you will see your progress via project status
  • Earn progress through non-STF Borg content such as Red Alerts and Defera Invasion
  • Earn gear with the other faction’s stats that use your faction’s visuals
  • BOFFs now show visuals when wearing STF gear sets
  • Dilithium is still earned via STF mission rewards and Task Force Omega reputation projects
By removing the random drop nature of the STFs, players will be able to use the Reputation System to visualize their progress towards obtaining these awesome gear sets. It is clearer, easier to understand, and by reducing the number of STF runs needed, the rewards are flat out more realistic to obtain for the average player.
That said, this does mean that the existing reward structures that use the 42 various items are being replaced with ones that use the 2 new items: Omega Marks and the Elite STF commodity (Borg Neural Processor).
If this seems somewhat more like City of Heroes' Incarnate System, well, that is what I was thinking as well. The old system is more like a typical MMO, and what City players went through with Very Rare IO Enhancements and Hamidon Enhancements. As a former City player who feels quite at home in Star Trek Online, this end-game solution seems to be yet another parallel between the two.

Now, that having been said, it seems a bit more streamlined than City's Incarnate trees, branching off into different either/or paths, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Unlike City's variety of Inacarnate Salvage, there's only two needed items (Omega Marks and Borg Neural Processors), plus a Dilithium cost. There's been some worry that the devs will have Fleet Base-like requirements, but hopefully that won't be the case. According to Dan Stahl:
When we calculated the Reputation system, we very clearly limited the total amount of Dilithium needed to level the system to be equal to the amount of Dilithium a player could earn if they played 1hr, 3x a week. The total amount of Dilithium needed to reach tier 5 in Omega or Romulan reputation is 82k total. When spread out over 60-90 days, this is what gives us the 1 hr, 3xs a week because we know exactly how much the average level 50 player earns in Dilithium per session and this amount is easily obtainable. 

So, if I'm doing the math correctly:

  • 60 days: 82,000 total / 8 weeks = 10,250 Dilithium week / 3 hour sessions = 3,417 Dilithium per session
  • 90 days: 82,000 total / 12 weeks = 6,834 Dilithium week / 3 hour sessions = 2,278 Dilithium per session
  • 82,000 Dilithium/158 Z rate = 519 Zen
To be perfectly honest, this amount of Dilithium is relatively trivial to obtain if you're engaged in the Duty Officer System and making use of your Account Storage with a Klingon character. Additionally, you're only looking at $5 and change if you simply want to buy the Dilithium at current-ish rates. On top of that, the Omega Marks can be converted into Dilithium after you max out in Omega.

As someone who was utterly turned off by relying on the fickle Random Number Generator to get drops, the prospect of being able to work towards a specific goal is highly appealing. Looking at what is proposed, it seems pretty fair overall. Those of you with current Omega and MACO gear will still keep it, and your existing currencies will be converted to the new system when Season 7 hits. One point of controversy is that you'll have to work to unlock the new assets, but if you're not fond of that idea, you're more than free to spend them now. I wouldn't dismiss it right off the bat, though; while I haven't researched much yet, it looks like the Reputation system will be an alternative leveling system for players to grow their characters. Captain's abilities could be really interesting!

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