Of course, it’s important to be a bit more curious than “yes, that looks all right,” so I had a few questions about the overhaul that’s currently on the PTS. Staff systems designer Jeremy Randall was kind enough to answer those questions for us.
Massively Overpowered: The skill overhaul looks similar in places to the specialization trees introduced in Delta Rising; was the possibility of the overhaul discussed at the time?
Jeremy Randall: We’ve known for a long while – since before the development of Delta Rising – that our skill system needed some updating and improving. The success we saw with the roll-out of the specialization system that launched with Delta Rising gave us a lot of inspiration for our newest update, which will be announced soon.
Their similarities are not by accident, as we want players to think of them as two distinct parts of the same act character progression. You deal with skills until level 50, at which point specializations take over. While they behave a bit differently, they are definitely intended to feel like a single cohesive experience.
Star Trek Online already overhauled its skill system once before; what do you feel didn’t quite work with that initial overhaul?
The previous skill overhaul did a lot to address many shortcomings that were present in the skill system that the game launched with, and was generally seen as a success in terms of making the game more accessible and understandable. But ultimately, it only got us about halfway (maybe less) to making the system something that players could easily dive into and enjoy interacting with. It relied heavily on translating the skill system we had at launch into something better, but really didn’t go quite far enough away from its roots. This resulted in a system that was better, but still not best.
Are there any plans to make respeccing easier to alleviate some of the pressure of picking skills correctly? Currently respecs are very limited, even for subscribers.
The process for respeccing will be much simpler now that there are far fewer points to actually apply in order to be completely skilled up. We are currently looking into possibilities to make respecs more readily available. At the very least, everyone will get respecced for free when the new system goes live.
With the addition of some skills as passive progression, is there any concern that players might be forced to place unwanted points in a progression path to re-acquire skills that currently are available to them?
This is certainly a risk, though I think the more appropriate term would be “encouraged” rather than “forced.” This type of scenario is something we’re going to be listening for when the system arrives on our Tribble test server and players get a chance to try out their builds under the new architecture. The position of certain unlocks, or even entire skills, could potentially be re-arranged if necessary, in order to get closer to our goal of having players get everything in the new system that they could achieve in the old one. We’re willing to be a bit flexible in that regard.
I’ll be honest, though. As much as we’ve striven to adhere to the “players lose nothing” design goal, there will be scenarios that simply can’t be replicated exactly. We’ll minimize them as best we can, but I think it’s unreasonable to believe we can make the new system perfect for 100% of our players in that regard.
Will any changes be made to the level 3 skills that are currently only teachable by captains at the apex of certain progression points? (In other words, Attack Pattern Omega III can only be taught to crew members by a Tactical captain with 6 ranks in Attack Patterns?)
Under the new system, training manuals will be included as things you earn in the unlock paths. Nearly all of the ones you can currently earn via the skill system will be accounted for, as well as a few others that were previously unavailable at all.
If a bridge officer ability was previously accessible via the skill system, and no longer is, our plan is to move it to the bridge officer training store available at major social hubs.
Will the new skill system have expanded tutorials for new players explaining how each skill affects long-term gameplay?
There will be a new in-game tutorial, but it really only serves to introduce players on how to interact with the system rather than being a more in-depth training program.
Under the new skill system, most of the in-depth information on how an individual skill works will be included in its description that appears when you select the skill. We’re expending a great deal of effort to ensure that these new descriptions not only describe what the skills do, but how they interact with other core game mechanics. And, as much as possible, we’ve attempted to break down that functionality to a point where we can tell every player exactly what effect they can expect to achieve – mathematically and mechanically – from each point of they get of that skill, whether that’s from purchasing it directly in the skill system or having it granted to them from a piece of equipment, trait, ability or whatever else.
Thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions!