Ask Cryptic: Skills

The latest instalment of ‘Ask Cryptic’ was posted to the official STO website last night. Following the announcement of the skill point cap and the Al Rivera Talks Skills article three weeks ago, Ask Cryptic: Skills answers a few of the many player questions that had been posted to the sticky thread on the official boards.

As much as it was nice to see that one of my questions had been picked, I have to say that I’m not entirely convinced by the answer, and have some concerns over the changes mentioned in response to another of the questions.

In all, five questions were covered. Here are the things that struck me as significant in the answers provided:

  • The current skill point cap allows future high level content to be appropriately challenging for all players of the appropriate rank and grade

Unlike some, I’ve never had an issue with this. From a game design point of view it makes perfect sense, and it was one of my major concerns with the previous ‘unlimited skill points’ approach.

  • The rank cap will be increased to Rear Admiral-10 in a large update later this year, which will see an associated increase in the skill point cap

No surprises here – it’s essentially what Cryptic have done with all three of their previous MMOs (although I understand that Champions Online is still awaiting its level cap increase) – but still good to have it confirmed in black and white for the first time.

The way this response was phrased, however, strongly implies that skill respecs will be part of the same update, which means they may take longer to arrive than many have been hoping.

  • The ‘<ship> Captain’ skills in the Starfleet Training group are due to be changed so that the Tier 3 and 4 versions will affect the ships in the Tiers above them, rather than only the specific ship type in the name of the skill

Hmm. I suspect that many will like this proposed change, as there’s been a fair amount of unhappiness with the current set-up, where the Tier 3 and 4 Captain skills become ‘obsolete’ once you progress to a higher Tier of ship. However, I’m concerned that it’s just going to serve as a skill point sink.

Right now, if you want to get the biggest possible bonus to the speed, turn rate and hull points of a given Tier 5 ship you need to buy level 9 in three skills (the Assault Cruiser, for example, requires Starship Command, Cruiser Captain and Assault Cruiser Captain) for a total cost of 7,200 skill points.

Under this new system, though, you’d need to max five skills (Starship Command, Cruiser Captain, Heavy Cruiser Captain, Exploration Cruiser Captain and Assault Cruiser Captain for the Assault Cruiser) for a total cost of 13,500 skill points. That’s nearly double, and an awfully large chunk of the current 60,700 skill point cap.

Of course, without knowing the details of how the new system will work, it’s hard to say how much of an impact this is going to have on skill point builds. If maxing the appropriate Tier 1, 2 and 5 skills still gives you the same total stat bonus that you get now and the Tier 3 and 4 skills increase that bonus, that’s fair enough. If you want the extra bonus, you buy the extra skills. However, if the new system requires you to max all five skills to get the same bonus you currently get from three, it’s going to cost an extra 6,300 skill points (more than 10% of the current cap) to get the same performance.

We’ll have to wait and see what the details are, but like I said, hmm.

  • A bridge officer trading system is coming soon

Again, not a huge surprise – the option for players to trade bridge officers among themselves had been mentioned several times during STO‘s development – but good to have confirmation that it’s still the plan. Assuming the system allows players with the appropriate captain skills and class to train bridge officers in level III abilities and then trade them with other players, this is great news – especially for the higher ranked players with lots of bridge officer skill points to spend.

  • The higher costs of the higher tier weapon skills are justified by the special effects of the weapons and their more ‘exotic’ nature

Really not convinced by this, I’m afraid, at least when it comes to energy weapons. While there are fairly significant differences between the various projectile types that go some way to justify the higher costs of the higher tier versions, the special effects of the energy types just don’t seem to occur often enough to justify paying significantly more skill points for them, even when used in combination as the article suggests.

The ‘proc rate’ of energy weapons is something I plan to look at more closely at some point, but my impression so far has been that they’re too low to make a reliable impact on the course of a battle. They’re nice when they happen, but worth paying  the extra 1,800 skill points to buy Starship Polaron Weapons-9 over Starship Phaser Weapons-9, for example?

Which leaves us with the second part of the reasoning – that these weapon types are exotic and rare, and thus more expensive. While making certain weapon skills more expensive without providing any (seemingly) significant benefit certainly works as a method of ensuring that the associated weapon types will be less commonly used, it doesn’t seem to serve any actual design purpose outside of being a skill point sink for high level characters in an unlimited skill point system, which STO no longer has.

I’m not sure if I’m missing something, if the devs have just become attached to an idea that no longer serves its original purpose, or if Cryptic plans to eventually remove the skill point cap. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens, and in the meantime I’ll try to do some proper testing on proc rates.

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7 Responses to Ask Cryptic: Skills

  1. Kaigen42 says:

    Interestingly enough, if they make the T3 and T4 ship skills affect the T5 ships, it will only increase the efficiency of Tactical/Escort builds, which I consider to already be the most efficient around. Those builds already improve the majority of their BO space abilities (along with all of their player space abilities) by simply improving their ship weapons skills (which everyone does anyway), Tactical Team Leader, Escort Captain, and Heavy Escort. All this change would do would be to make that build consider putting points in one additional T4 skill, whereas, as you note, other builds kind of enjoy the breathing room that not having to invest in the T3 and T4 ship skills gives them.

    I’m not arguing for a capless system or anything; I’m simply pointing out how the way the current skill system is structured, a Tac/Esc has a lot more free skill points to spend on ground skills than the Sci/Sci I played in open beta, which barely managed to put anything in ground (and that’s why I’m playing the Tac/Esc now, it’s more fun to level up when you can work through the ground missions faster).

  2. JayKroc says:

    High-end weapon with their procs having an insignificant impact on battle and the same dps at a much higher skill point cost would indeed result in them beaing an exotic sight on the PvP battlefields, just like you decribed.

    But, with the diminishing returns of stacking restistances there will also be a decresed of amount people having resistances againt those uncommon damage typ.

    On the other hand I don’t know if this whole ressistance mecahnic is worth using resistance consoles, since I don’t know whether you can have negative resistances and there seem to be some player skills out there, that already negate a huge amount of resistances.

    Might wanna check that..?

    • BigBadB says:

      Resistances don’t have diminishing returns. 😉

      On the other hand, it’s true that people are more likely to stack resistance to phaser and disruptor, as they are likely to be the most commonly encountered energy type in PvP, at least right now.

      As far as negative resistance goes, I haven’t taken a close look at it, but my impression from messing around with Attack Pattern Beta was that you can reduce resistance below zero, increasing the damage a ship’s hull takes from your attacks..

  3. TaranTatsuuchi says:

    “The current skill point cap allows future high level content to be appropriately challenging for all players of the appropriate rank and grade”

    Technically someone who has just maxed the skill levels for the ship, weapons, and bo abilities they use is equally as powerful as someone who’s maxed all the skills with how the system was designed.

    So there’s no reason for there to be any ‘power discrepancy’ between new and old players for the content apart from inefficient skill choice.

    • BigBadB says:

      As pointed out in the Ask Cryptic article, with 60700 points to spend, you can’t generally maximise every skill that will affect your character at Tier 5. Some very specialised builds comes close when it comes to space combat, but they tend to completely ignore ground combat.

      This is most obvious when it comes to Tier 5 skills – 8000 points is not generally enough to max every Tier 5 skill that has an impact on your character’s performance.

      As such, characters with 60700 points are still at the stage where more skill points translates directly into more ‘power’ in both space and ground combat.

      Depending on how many more points you get to spend between Admiral-5 and Admiral-10 when the rank cap is extended, it may be possible to completely ‘max’ a specialised build. At that stage, the ‘difficulty of future content’ reasoning for a skill cap may start to break down, but we’re not there yet. 😉

  4. verix78 says:

    What they could do instead with weapon skills is move all energy types (Phaser, Disruptor, etc) to the third tier and add improved effects to fourth and fifth tier, such as increased proc rates, added proc effects, or resistance piercing.

  5. Jkol says:

    Another thing to weigh is the availabilty of equipment / loot on the margins. The value of weapon skills will live and die on the drops available if they are neccessary to progress through the raidisodes.

    That said from a world background perspective, lower training costs make sense due to exposure. Starfleet has somewhere around 2 centuries of day to day experience with phased energy , Klingons have even longer with disruptors. Imagine the academic liturature both in tactics and R&D that breeds — and it’s almost all at the fingertips of anyone with access to their factions data network.

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