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Okay so the NDA has officially been dropped, which means it's open season on giving you all the information you've been waiting for.
Firstly I want to say that I've been playing MMOs since before it was even really a genre, and frankly, STO is about the best we could have hoped for in a Star Trek MMO.
Some people are worried about the time frame that Cryptic is going with, a very ambitious schedule, and I kind of was too. However, I have to say that from week to week, they have been making pretty signifigant improvements each time, with more than I've seen any other MMO in development go through. They also are adding a lot of things based on user feedback, and give us a new survey every week to get feedback on the latest changes.
I'll try to go over some points that I think need mentioning, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask them here. I'll do my best to answer what I can.
Character Class and Role
Of the 3 careers (Eng/Sci/Tac) when you create your character, it will mostly affect what you do on ground missions. In general, all careers are pretty equal in what they can do in space (aside from a few abilities). Basically this means that you can do good as a Tactical on a Science ship, or Engineer on a Tactical, or whatever. It really mostly depends on how you load out your ship and what bridge officers (boffs) you choose to go with. The most effect will be seen on your ground missions. An engineer will get things like teleporting in phaser turrets, causing enemy weapon malfunctions, etc.Science will do things like cause gravimetric shifts or using a medical tricorder to heal, or even putting up stasis fields. Tactical will get abilities that are most directly suited to combat with things like stealth or focus fire or overwatch. So when you make your character and you're picking your career, think mostly about what you want to do on ground missions. Choosing your role in space is mostly done after you start the game based on what abilities and boffs you pick and such.
Combat and Ships
Okay so let's get this out of the way right here. There is no "Holy Trinity" (Tank/DPS/Healer) system, at least as we usually think of it, ingame. Enemy ships have an AI that knows who's causing it the most damage/trouble at the time, and usually they go after that person. This means if you're a high dps escort, you've got to get in and do your damage and then fall back, otherwise you're gonna get rocked. With your cruiser, you can take the punishment so you can just hang around and pile on the damage all day.
The best way I can describe how STO combat feels is like a naval battle game (for example, if you've ever played the Battlestations games) combined with EVE. A large part of combat really is positioning, and which sides you're presenting to the enemy. As a cruiser player, I want to usually present my broadside to the enemy so I can focus all my weapons at the same time, but this means I'm also taking all my damage on (usually) one side. This is both good and bad cause I can focus shifting shield power to that side to strengthen it and not worry about the rest, but it's going to take more damage overall, and at some point I'll likely have to turn about so that I can use the opposite side shield and let that one regenerate. If you're an escort, most of your weapons are going to be forward firing so you're really going to want to come in for strafing (think ground attack planes) runs. Face the enemy, unload your weapons, and then scoot before he gets a chance to pound you. Science ships don't have as much raw firepower as the others, but they do get to innately target subsystems of the enemy. I'm not sure of the exact mechanics, but this means with each shot you're not only chipping away at his shields/hull, you're also reducing the effectiveness of his weapons/engines/maneuvering/resistance/whatever.
There's also a lot of positioning involved because of things like Mines that can be dropped, gas clouds (vented plasma) that will stick to your ship and do damage over time, etc. Not to mention a big facet of the combat system, collision detection. That's right, if you hide behind an asteroid, weapons will hit the asteroid (or not fire) and not hit you. There's also collision detection between ships. At this point I don't think you cause/recieve any damage from bumping into another ship (though there is a "ramming speed" power that I've heard about), but it's possible you could use another ship as a screen to hide behind (though I haven't been able to manage it yet). In addition, while it sounds relatively simple to just have everyone attack the same shield quadrant, the AI isn't stupid and will try to maneuver their weak sides away from you, this means you have to outmaneuver them if you want to keep punishing them.
I should also mention that movement is really important. According to the devs, there's a defensive bonus you get for your movement speed. This means that if you're moving at full speed, you're going to take less damage/hits than if you were simply sitting there. This means it's almost always better to be moving, which also helps with positioning (see above).
Tribbles are in game and they can cause you trouble if you're not careful. I looted one and thought 'Cool!' but little did I realize what I was in for. Essentially what they are is an out of combat heal/regen item. (Think food from WoW) So when you're not in combat, you take out your tribble and pet it, and you'll regenerate your health a little faster. (You actually see yourself pull out the tribble, pet it, and it purrs and makes a little squeaking noise, super cute) Apparently they also get bigger if you pet them alot more. Where they can cause trouble is if you have food items in your inventory. Klingon Gagh and Earl Grey Tea and all that are in game, and are basically kind of like potions to give you a bit of a heal (note I don't find I need them all that much really). The problem is if you have food in your inventory and a tribble in your inventory, at some point the tribble will eat one of the food items and you will have 2 tribbles. Awesome right? Well in the space of a day or so of play that 1 tribble I looted turned into 16 friggan tribbles. They clog up your inventory and sell for 0 credits, so you don't make any money off of them, lol. Essentially you have to give them away or 'discard' them. This is super cool and so very Star Trek, but you have been warned! lol
Patches and Adjustments
Cryptic have really outdone themselves in STO so far. In closed beta we could expect a major patch basically every week. They also listened very closely to player suggestions and there was a great flow of information back and forth. I'd say this definately bodes well for the speed of iteration on the game, and you shouldn't be worried about getting patches and fixes for any problems that might crop up. Also I am sure they'll be putting out additional content very quickly.
In the end I absolutely love the game and I've preorderd both the CE and DDE version. I don't regret it one bit and if they offer me a lifetime sub I'll buy it in a heartbeat. If you have any questions feel free to post em and I'll try to answer as best I can.
"Because it's easier to nitpick something than to be constructive." -roach5000