Building an Archon-class MSD

Early this year I was reviewing the recent Ships of the Line calendars and stumbled upon an absolutely superb rendering of the fan-made Phalanx-class, which has appeared in the calendar multiple times under a variety of different starship names. I encourage you to look it up if you aren’t familiar with the ship.

Professionally, I have an extensive background in post-production in both TV and film projects. Photoshop, After Effects, 3DS Max and Maya are my daily bread and butter, and in spite of having more model starships than is reasonable, and having a great love of technical drawings, maps, and diagrams, I had never actually tried making one of Star Trek’s famous “Okudagram” Master Systems Displays.

Mostly, I suspect this was just due to a total lack of time and commitment.

I’ve modified existing MSDs in the past – sometimes quite extensively – but there came a point where I simply had enough. If I really wanted to have my own ship rendered in the way that I wanted, I was just going to have to do it myself.

The Archon-class

USS Destiny during a Quantum Slipstream Drive test in 2416. (Source: 26th Fleet, AdmLancel)

The Archon is Star Trek Online’s successor to the Sovereign-class lineage. Designed and built by Ian “JamJamz” Richards of Cryptic Studios, the ship has a bit of a cult following in some of the game’s community circles, but she’s not without controversy owing to those overly ‘ample nacelles’ that adorn her pylons. Simply put: they are absolutely massive, and many Star Trek Online players spend a lot of time finding combinations of parts to give the ship a reduction mammaplasty. Still, she’s unique and – through virtue of her more obscure status in the wider Star Trek fandom – she has never been explored before.

So what makes the ship special?

Traditionally, Star Trek Online releases new ships based on old classics that are designed to explore aspects of canonical abilities seen by ‘hero’ ships in the shows and movies. The examples are easy to find: If you get a retrofit Intrepid-class, you’ll find it has an ability to use the ablative armour systems seen in Voyager’s finale, End Game. Or, if you get the new spin-off of the Defiant-class (the ‘Valiant’, named after the ill-fated cadet-crewed ship of the same name in Deep Space Nine) you’ll get an ability to fire off barrages of quantum torpedoes; those torpedoes being something that the Defiant was known for during its run on TV.

So how do you define a Sovereign? The Archon is not the first refit of the Sovereign design that we’ve seen. The preceding Regent-class gave it a set of metreon gas launchers that can be ignited to produce ‘The Riker Maneuver’ from Insurrection. The WizKids-exclusive Vizier class variant took this a step further and gave the ship a metreon gas torpedo launcher. So what did they give to the Archon?

A phase cloaking device.

…Wait, what?

Putting my shamelessly technobabbling head into gear, I’ve spent a huge amount of time talking to fellow guild mates exactly why the heck you’d put a phase cloaking device on a ship that was most famous for simply beating the ever-loving hell out of Borg, Son’a, and Remans, and looking fabulous while doing so.

The logical if cynical answer of course, is that Cryptic studios likes to make money, and throwing a very popular cloaking device onto what could be* the most popular class of ship in Star Trek is a bit of a no-brainer.

But I think we can do better. I think the Archon has a dark origin. She was released not long after the conclusion of Cryptic’s Iconian War campaign – a devastating war that saw Starfleet gutted and – by word of one of the game’s developers – so badly depleted that every single member of it’s flagship class of starships (the Odyssey) were either crippled or destroyed. Earth itself came to within minutes of being glassed by an Iconian fleet, and was spared at the last possible moment by an improbable (though some may argue inevitable) moment of Starfleet time travel tomfoolery. All this, after an extraordinary number of vessels were wasted in trying to smash through the walls of the Iconian Dyson sphere in an earlier mission led by a hard-headed Klingon.

…Maybe, just maybe, Starfleet needed something a little bit more drastic. To have been launched so soon after the conflict ended, it seems likely that the Archon class was already in development during the course of the Iconian War. My head canon for the Archon class is that it shall forever be the last-resort Starfleet weapon that never got to fire its guns in anger during the war for which it was designed. Can you think of a better way of getting into a heavily-fortified Dyson sphere than a phase-cloaking device that lets you pass through solid matter? I can’t. And so this is where my theory begins. The other big clue is the fact the ship has curiously-chosen Intelligence-specced seating, implying activities that fall outside the usual loud-and-proud pomp and circumstance of Starfleet fanfare.

Oh yes, the Archon is a dark horse of a ship indeed, and I really wanted to reflect all of this in her Master Systems Display. Here she is…

(Click for full-resolution 22000×5000 .PNG)

The MSD’s basic colour profile is broken down into four simple divisions. Crew areas and other operational equipment is rendered in Pantone 7675 C (violet) while engineering systems are rendered in gold Pantone 728 C. Tactical systems (including phaser banks and torpedo launchers) are rendered in red Panton 172 C, while finally, warp plasma related systems are rendered in a light blue Pantone 2975 C. This palette is maintained across the entire systems diagram.

There are some challenging aspects of the Archon in how she is laid out. An examination of the model in detail (which had to be done before this project) revealed a likely warp core ejection point that was a very long way forward of the one found on the Sovereign-class. What’s more, the Archon has a very large deflector dish which is just a short way forward of that position. Main engineering and the deflector space were probably going to be in very close proximity to one another, which left the question of just how much space could be allotted to the main shuttle bay in the spaces above. While the Archon wouldn’t be the first starship to put a warp core so close to the deflector (the Constitution’s core ran vertically through the ship’s neck, directly behind the deflector dish), it could be the first starship in over a hundred years to do so. Design wise, it made more sense to find ways to fit the two around each other rather than completely reinventing the concept of the deflector as we’ve known it since TNG.

Ventral hull of the Archon class. Note the two red lines marking a possible warp core ejection point. The round port forward of that is identical to one under the stern, meaning it is unlikely to be related.

In short: the Archon’s critical systems are all bundled up into a space that’s quite confined. So long as someone is reasonably good at Tetris, then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Traditionally, capital ships could concentrate their key systems in one area, and focus their armour schemes around a single, smaller area of the ship (called a ‘citadel’) for more weight-efficient defence. Notably, this area on the Archon is visibly defined by a grey boundary line that runs up the side of the ship from its ventral hull, to a point as high as the saucer section. It’s plausible (from the perspective of someone trying to make an MSD for this ship) that this area marks the most heavily armoured section of the secondary hull, with thick concentrations of ablative plating and structural reinforcements. This latter point would seemingly be supported by just how wide the secondary hull becomes at those frames.

If that is the case – and I did assume it to be so – then the majority of critical machinery would need to be drawn within that zone.

This quickly brings about a second point of note: the Archon’s bridge is set a very long way aft compared to other classes of vessels. The only other ship that I can think of that has a bridge that far aft on the saucer is the Intrepid class, but she’s a much smaller type. The bottom line is that if I was to be faithful to other ‘large’ ships (particularly the Sovereign) which place a large ODN shaft underneath the bridge to carry the computer network cabling, then some thought would need to be given to the position of other large components including the computer cores themselves. And that’s before I’d even thought about turbolift shafts.

Saucer separation:

Art of the Sovereign class demonstrating saucer separation, by the ship’s designer, John Eaves

A feature of note on the Sovereign-class is the existence of saucer separation. When John Eaves designed the ship back in 1995-1996 ahead of its first appearance in First Contact, he drafted plans that included this capability, and it was never used on screen. This leaves its status in canon as uncertain, but all the same the concept has persisted and numerous drawings of the ship can be found that preserve the saucer separation component, including work by Mr Eaves himself.

As she appears in Star Trek Online, Sovereign doesn’t have saucer separation – but her MSD, made by Cryptic staffer Tim ‘Suricata’ Davies, does. Where does this leave the Archon?

Considering the Archon is the direct successor to the Sovereign-class, I assumed that the mission profiles of the two ships were largely the same. It doesn’t make much sense to produce a follow-on that is somehow less capable than the ship it is replacing, so even if it’s functionally not present within the game for balance or gameplay reasons, I opted to include the suggestion of saucer separation in the Archon’s MSD.

Having said that – a problem that I have almost constantly had with drawings of ships that have saucer separation is just how badly those separation lines cut into its key structures and decks. While an MSD is an abstracted 2D cross section of a ship that has a lot of beam – often combining sections that are far to the port and starboard of the centreline on to a single plate – separation planes are nonetheless difficult to visualise when their slopes visibly cut through areas of decks that are sometimes well over a hundred metres long. In including the separation plane on the Archon, I took care to ‘step it down’ as it moved forward – keeping the interlocks and separation mechanisms contained within their own compartments that, to the very best of my ability, did not needlessly cut into functional spaces around it.

I kept the ship’s battle bridge in the same relative position to that on the Sovereign class, just above and forward of the main navigational deflector, located several decks down below the top of the secondary hull section. An alternate position was considered within the ‘prow’ of the secondary hull, but that was instead – at the suggestion of a friend and collaborator – given over to an intelligence command centre which I will explain a little bit later in this write-up.

The battle bridge, located just above the main deflector, and surrounding areas up to the level of the separation plane.

One fun aspect of the saucer separation capability is the ship’s main shuttlebay. It is horizontally bisected by the separation line. I imagine that during procedures to split the ship in two, the shuttle elevator platforms raise up to the flight deck and effectively seal as air locks with various locking pins clunking into place and buttoning up the section. Secondary doors might then expand either side of the lift shafts to provide the second seal for the engineering section, allowing the hydraulic lifts to pull back and stow themselves. It’s a very clean line which starts at the rear of the shuttlebay flight deck and extending forward, stepping down just before the primary ODN shaft, and again as it approaches the forward transporter rooms.

The very front of the secondary hull section forms a ‘dreadnought-style’ bow which slips away to become the ship’s new prow, and does so at a clean (almost vertical) angle that doesn’t unnecessarily intrude into the operational spaces in that section.

Shuttlebays:

Main flight deck and hangars, located at the back of the saucer section.

The Archon’s got a major point of difference over the Sovereign-class, in that she only has the one large shuttlebay. (The ship’s fantail is a large secondary shuttlebay on the Sovereign, but is a fairly plainly detailed stump on the Archon with no visible doors.) On the face of it, I didn’t realise how much of a logistical challenge this presented in terms of space allocation for shuttles, fighters, and other craft. This meant that in order for the ship to really have enough shuttles (or what I consider to be enough, at least!) it really needed to have a fairly deep hangar hold. That brings the floor of the maintenance hangars down to the top of the ship’s warp core.

Secondary shuttlebay, located at the back of the ventral hull, and backing directly onto Cargo Bay 2.

A through-deck hangar (much like the Galaxy and Akira class) was one possible alternative, but the shallower geometry of the Archon’s saucer section would mean that such an area would very severely reduce the number of useable compartments for things like science labs, transporter rooms, and crew quarters. The hangar and flight deck each occupy a height of two decks, and are – based on the position of the three launch bay doors at the rear of the saucer – wide enough to accomodate multiple small craft side by side. The entire saucer section, from bridge to saucer edge (which is also the lower-most deck with useable space) is only nine decks tall. It would be unusual, in my estimates, to dedicate close to fifty percent of the ship’s primary habitable area over shuttlebays.

The Archon does, however, actually have three other smaller shuttlebays elsewhere on the ship. One of these is rendered on the MSD and is located in the ventral section of the secondary hull, facing aft at the ‘divot’ rise of the keel. Two other, smaller bays are located on the ventral side of the saucer section (port and starboard) facing forward. These latter two shuttlebays are not rendered on the MSD, and would sit in an area close to where I’ve rendered stellar cartography and the primary ODN shaft. The downside of having several small shuttlebays rather than a couple of large ones is that it does limit the ship’s ability to fit larger types of shuttles onboard. Plus side: it meant I could back the secondary shuttlebay directly onto a cargo hold in the ship’s ventral hull, making for an excellent loading bay.

Engineering and Deflector:

As mentioned previously, the warp core of the Archon class seems to be situated well forward of where it was located on the Sovereign, running vertically just behind the main deflector. The three primary considerations on Main Engineering’s position would be the location of the warp core, the line of the main EPS conduit from the warp core intermix chamber to the nacelle pylons, and the physical size of the Main Engineering compartment itself. Having established the position of the warp core along the ship’s length, I cross-referenced it to the level of the nacelle pylons to get the position of the warp core’s reaction chamber.

That marks the centre of main engineering, around which the compartment could be build. This was looking to fall extremely close to the level of the main deflector spaces below, meaning the traditional layout of corridors that run across the ship in front of engineering couldn’t be done. Had the warp core been placed any higher, then the main EPS line would also not properly intersect with the ship’s pylons. The internal layout is likely to have the corridors running down either side of engineering, with turbolift access toward the stern. Of the compromises that could be made, this was probably the best solution I could come up with.

The Engineering compartment is a pretty standard size, being based on the dimensions of the Sovereign class. It sits on deck 17, directly above the deflector control systems. There is an upper Deflector Control room on deck 16 (hello, First Contact reference!) and a second control roo down just above the torpedo magazine, at deck 20.

Less ideal, but still mostly acceptable, the warp core does not have a clear ejection port on the dorsal hull and can only be ejected down through the ventral hull. Directly above the warp core is the lower maintenance deck of the shuttlebay hangars.

The main navigational deflector has a much wider aperture than the one on the Sovereign class, and its structure is closely based on the style of the Phalanx-class master systems display. It’s much less an abstract assembly of geometric shapes, and instead a slightly more detailed rendering of the actual structures, including their mounting spaces, cables, and frames.

I tried to preserve this ‘blocked out’ style across the MSD extensively, with the most obvious second example being the nacelle structure and areas surrounding the plasma injection control centre. I think it’s an effective look that draws the eye – which is helpful because the deflector and the systems around it sit at the very heart of the ship’s operations.

The first of three torpedo launchers sits directly beneath the deflector in an arrangement very similar to the ventral launchers of the Sovereign. Notably, the Archon class has fewer torpedo launchers than the Sovereign itself, with just six of them present in three mounts located here at the ventral fore, the ventral aft, and stern. By comparison, the Sovereign had either ten or eleven torpedo launchers by the end of Nemesis, depending on which analysis you believe.

Curiously, the two classes have an identical balance of torpedo firepower, biased heavily to the aft quarter. Of the Sovereign’s 10 (maybe 11) launchers, six of them face aft, while four of them face forward. It’s a similar story on the Archon, with four launchers facing aft and just two pointed forward. The Archon has no torpedo launchers under her saucer like Sovereign’s turret, though a smaller version of this turret (without a Captain’s yacht) is present on the ship’s fantail.

Considering the stated torpedo armament of these kinds of ships is usually quoted in the hundreds of rounds, I took care to ensure the magazines (complete with loaders) were reasonably large in size.

Intelligence & Assault

It’s written on the packet. The Archon is an Intelligence Assault Cruiser, and while I’ve never been especially sure of what an Assault Cruiser is (aside from a vessel perhaps designed to break through lines and wreak havoc at the centre of the enemy formation) the addition of Intelligence capabilities to the ship is an eyebrow-raiser. Accordingly, I gave the MSD several facilities that directly relate to that mission role.

The Archon’s ‘turret’ position under the saucer doesn’t have the same torpedo launchers that the Sovereign has, and that space is instead occupied by a large, ominous looking black trapezium of unknown function and design. Traditionally, this space on a starship has also been the location of a large sensor array (such as that on the Galaxy class, Excelsior, and even Constitution).

Instead of a standard planetary sensor dome, I chose to put a very large surveillance sensor that, of a particularly extensive and sophisticated type that might be used by Starfleet Intelligence. It pairs nicely with the fact the ship has a cloaking device, after all.

Directly above that sensor, and attached to it, is an Intelligence Operations Centre.

This room is basically one big command centre for members of Starfleet Intelligence to conduct surveillance, analysis, and covert operations deep within the ship. I even baffled the compartment with some cladding to give the spooks some privacy, and it separates the entire area from surrounding sections. The only areas around this command centre are library and research areas, along with a crew lounge and life support systems.

The second thing I thought to add was an area of the lower decks that was dedicated to an embarked MACO contingent or hazard team. MACO was – according to the conjectural opinion of Cryptic’s Thomas Marrone – reinstated in Star Trek Online and ‘wholly subsumed’ by the organisation as ‘marines’.

The MACO section of the Archon, showing shooting range, billets, gymnasium, briefing room, armoury, and CO’s office.

The MACO decks, spanning two levels just above the secondary shuttlebay and Cargo Bay 2, include all manner of facilities that the MACO might need. There is a shooting range, an armoury, quarters, a commander’s office (right next to his quarters), a briefing room, gymnasium, and basic lounge area. This all sits with the conjectural ‘armoured’ section of the ship, and yes – for the keen eyed out there – that is a bathroom with toilets in it. If there is one thing I am most pleased about in completing a Master Systems Display, it’s the fact this ship actually has a loo!

Finally on the intelligence front, there is a mission operations centre directly above the shuttle bay:

I laboured over this area for some time. It’s actually too short within the deck spacing to be a lounge, but it’s also very, very close to the flight deck’s traffic control centre which sits in the ‘bird nest’ that hangs from the flight deck roof. The idea of putting a crew lounge right near air traffic control didn’t seem like an overly smart idea, so the area was instead given over to an orbital mission operations centre, from which I imagine the ship’s security and tactical officers can work with MACO, Hazard Team, and other relevant parties to coordinate the landing of security forces on planetary surfaces. The big windows visible to the aft of the observation platform give excellent visibility toward space over the approaches of the shuttlebay, but – notably – they lack any windows or field of view in the direction of the shuttlebay approach, making it unsuitable for traffic control.

The Archon’s flight deck approach, showing the three doors of the shuttlebay and the observation platform that overlooks it.

Warp Drive

Moving along swiftly, the warp nacelles are something I ended up being quite proud of. Nacelles are not typically something that are well detailed on Master Systems Displays, so I referred to a lot of cutaways and old Trek reference manuals to work out how they all go together. In the end, I fashioned something of a useable machinery space between the bussard collectors and the warp field coils where systems like plasma injectors, control rooms, and power lines could be placed. Of particular note was the Quantum Slipstream Drive envelopes which line each side of the Archon class’s nacelles.

There is very little in the way of canon about the QSD and how it works. Voyager never went into it in any detail, and that particular series often played fast and loose with its engineering treknobabble. It’s an open book, with only a few sets to refer to for inspiration. In Star Trek Online, Starfleet has been playing with QSD technology for over thirty years since the end of Voyager, so I asked the question: How much has it advanced? And what the heck does a Quantum Slipstream Drive coil look like in 2410?

The interior of the Archon class nacelle, showing control rooms, plasma injectors, and the Quantum Slipstream Drive spinnaker.

Thankfully, we do have some idea. The USS Dauntless’s quantum slipstream drive in Voyager was a roughly circular node of devices that surrounded a central core fashioned out of what looked to be a plasma globe. If this was Starfleet’s starting point for inspiration, then that was something I could work with

The orientation of the QSD sleeves on either side of the nacelle makes for interesting internal arrangements. I tried a variety of designs including several ‘molecule model’ spheres chained together in a zig-zag patten. I tried more traditional Trek geometric constructions made out of multiple sized, clean-looking boxes, but none of this really fit within the loosely triangular shape of the sleeve.

In moments of silly frustration, I did look to less serious references. Enter Battlestar Galactica’s invocations of ‘spin up the FTL drive’, or the puppet General Hammond in Episode 200 of Stargate SG1 proclaiming, “I’m the General, and I want it to spin!”.

My mental acrobatics went from what train of thought to another, and before long I was indeed asking myself: “…does a QSD even spin?”

The answer was probably ‘no’, but nonetheless I found myself thinking more about rounded shapes – and that original circular pattern seen in Voyager aboard the Dauntless. I didn’t imagine the device would physically rotate, but it almost certainly had an electrical component that worked within the ‘spindles’ that we saw. Hmm… Spindles… spinning… electrical…

I don’t quite know when the word ‘spinnaker’ entered my mind, but a spinnaker on a sailing vessel is a large sail that is deployed for short periods to to drive the vessel down-wind. They aren’t always appropriate and are stowed when not necessary – which pretty much meets the description of a Quantum Slipstream Drive. It’s a name that stuck as I built it up. I am really, really happy with how it turned out. As an added bonus, it makes for some good bridge banter when the Captain wants the QSD deployed or retracted. I can quite easily imagine “Douse the Socks” being an order issued to bring a ship to impulse.

Get it?

The nacelles themselves have fewer field coils than the Sovereign class (22 pairs vs the Sovereign’s 24) but they are much larger, being at times four or five times heavier towards the front of the engines. Considering just how well-endowed the ship’s nacelles are, I expected that making them balanced would be a reasonable challenge. In the end, they actually came out alright. One consideration is that the nacelles are cambered at an angle of about 30 degrees outboard, which makes them even longer than they appear in a side-orthographic. This is reflected more in the inset graphic I produced to show off the ship’s quantum slipstream envelope, with each blue line intersecting each point of the ship’s main QSD sleeves.

Inset shows EPS power grid, key ODN systems, and the ship’s slipstream envelope.

There are tonne of details buried all over the MSD. From the static ship model displays in the bridge conference room, to observation corridors at the forward lounge that overlook the ship’s inboard areas, to easter eggs and traceable wiring that leads from weapons arrays to small generators and fusion reactors, I tried to step up the level of detail that people generally see in an MSD. As this is my first attempt, I’m proud of the result, and hope you enjoy pouring over it to explore it in depth. Have any suggestions or feedback? Drop me a comment or an email. I’ve love to hear your thoughts.

Some final acknowledgements – I’d simply thank fleet mate @AdmLancel for his constant counsel and being a sounding board for what you see in the MSD, Cryptic’s Tim Davies for the inspiration provided by his own MSDs, Cryptic’s Thomas Marrone for his wonderful Jayces’ Interstellar series (and all its technical details that I relied on to make decisions for this project) and D.M. Phoenix who produced the Phalanx-class and its MSD which probably led me to do this project to begin with.

Cheers.

*Yes yes, I can see you back there, Constitution fans.

Dil Farming – sure, why not?

Fleet mine holding

Let’s face it – every MMO is a grindfest, and STO is definitely not an exception.  Amongst all the in-game currencies, dilithium (aka “dil”) is the most coveted and most difficult to obtain.  Or is it?  If there is one event that dil farmers were born for it is the Dilithium Bonus weekend.  During this event, all dil rewards are increased by 50%, with some increased by 100%.

Setting up mining and contraband dil farm

Resources needed:

  1. as many level-9 toons as you can get (both Fed and KDF).
  2. minimum of 25 contraband per toon. To obtain contraband, you can:
  3. purchase in bulk off the exchange by searching for “contraband” and selecting “sort by ascending price per unit (expensive but can be done immediately).
  4. do select doff missions or marauding missions on KDF toons (time-consuming but inexpensive).
  5. if available, a minimum of 5 VIP mining vouchers per toon for the Vlugta asteroid mine field located in the Alpha quadrant. Unfortunately, these vouchers can only be obtained by opening lock boxes.
  6. an environmental suit.

So how does this work? First, you’ll need to move all your farming toons (which shall now be referred to as “farmers”) to Deep Space 9 located next to Bajor in the Alpha quadrant.

Place all your farmers in the vicinity of the Security Officer on Deep Space 9.  On the evening before the dil bonus weekend event begins, accept the “turn over confiscated contraband” doff mission.  Collect the results the next day once the event starts and accept the same doff mission again.

Reward before event: 2000 dil.  Reward during event: 3000 dil.

If you have VIP mining claims, fly your farmers to the dilithium mine on the Vlugta asteroid located in the Bajor sector.

Vlugta-on-map-1

The night before the event begins, talk to Isihl and accept the “rich dilithium claim” mission.  However, do not run the mission.  Instead, wait until the event begins.

Isihl-1

Once the event begins, you can go to the rich dilithium vein by activating your environmental suit.  Go talk to the FDMAA agent and accept the mining mission.  You will need to score at least 700 points in order to maximize your reward.  Once done, leave your farmers there until the next day in order to repeat this process.

Vlugta-ground

Reward before event: 5000 dil. Reward during event: 10000 dil.

[EDIT]: I forgot that you can mine on the Vlugta asteroid as well. I just ran this mission during the dil bonus weekend event, so I’ve got accurate numbers for the result of completing it.  Basically, talk to Isihl and take the “asteroid mining” mission.  You can use the same trick of picking up the mission the night before the event, just like the VIP mining mission.  You’ll have to mine at five locations as indicated on your mini-map.  Each mining mini-game will also reward you with a small amount of common and uncommon crafting materials.  Once done, go back to the airlock and talk ti Isihl in order to complete the mission.

Reward before event: 1350 dil.  Reward duing event: 2025 dil max.

If you do not have VIP mining claims, then you can fly over to the “Dilithium Fleet Mine Holdings” located in the Bajor sector as well.

Fleet-mine-map

Once you’ve beamed to the surface of your fleet’s mine holding, talk to the Miner Shift Manager who will offer you three missions: mine impure, rich, and pure dilithium crystals.

Fleet-mine-holding-map

Once accepted and you’ve activated your environmental suit, you’ll see their locations on the map.  Go to them and perform the mini-game.  Again, a minimum score of 700 will maximize your results.

Fleet-mine-holding-dude-dialogue

pure-dil-fail

There are four colors of mineable dil crystals: pink, gold, blue, and green.  The Miner Shift Manager can provide you with information about the different colored crystals.  However, it is irrelevant since they all provide the same reward of 200 dil before the event.  You will find a total of ten such mining locations.  There is also one bonus dil mining mission located to the northeast of the mining station, which rewards (prior to the event) 480 dil. Be careful with this one because you may fall into an abyss and get stuck.

Make sure to use the navigation points to fly to each.

pur-dil-fly-out

I can’t give you an exact number for these rewards during the bonus dil weekend since I typically don’t do this mission.  Why?  It’s time-consuming (about 15 – 20 minutes per toon).  So the following bonus reward numbers may be off.

[EDIT]: I just ran these mining missions during the dil bonus weekend event. I’ve updated the rewards numbers below.

Reward before event: 2480 dil.  Reward during event: 5010 Wow!!!

Now for the next day, you’ll do the “rich dilithium claim” or the “dilithium fleet mine holding” missions and then fly to Deep Space 9 and accept the “turn over confiscated contraband” doff project with the Security Officer.  For each day of the event, you’ll repeat this process in the opposite order.  If you move any toons from their end locations, remember to put them back before you log out.

Setting up a doff mission dil farm (courtesy of @Foxman86)    

There are many options for setting up a doff dil farm since every doff mission provides a small dil reward.  However, some may provide more than others.  Undoubtedly, the “turn over confiscated contraband” doff mission provides the largest reward.  However the leader of the 101st Fleet, Aaron Lawford@Foxman86, recently informed me of some he does on a regular basis: Daily Research and Development doff missions from the Assignment Officer.  The Assignment Officer is located in the development lab on your fleet’s R&D holding.

RD-map-for-doff-dil-mission

RD-Doff-dude

You’ll have several to select, but you’ll only be able to do one at a time.  However, there’s a twenty-hour cooldown, so this would make a good daily mission.  Personally, I haven’t done these doff missions during the dil bonus weekend event, so the following numbers are an estimate.

RD-doff-menu-selection

Reward before event: 1200 dil.  Reward during event: 1800 dil (est.)

Another good dil doff mission can be found on your very own ship if you go talk to the Science Officer on your engineering deck.  You can get there by visiting your bridge and then take the turbolift to the engineering deck.

ship-interior-map

You will see three doff missions on the menu. On the first window, you’ll see a menu, so select the mission titled “special projects.  A second menu will appear. The one you want to do is the first one – “data sample analysis.” You’ll be presented with four doff missions that require data samples – something that you likely have lots of taking up inventory/bank-slot space.

third-menu

The good thing about these projects is the cooldown: three have a six-hour cooldown and one an eight-hour cooldown. Each project rewards 250 dil.

Reward before event: 1000 dil.  Rward during eveng: 1500 dil (est.)

Task Force Operations farm

STO recently re-did the old STF’s into the new Task Force Operations (TFO’s).   Granted, we all know the risks of running these with random players, so do so at your own risk.  As always, it is best to do these missions with friends, as well as fleet- and armada-mates.  Make sure to put a call out for others to join you either in your fleet’s chat channel or the Equator Alliance (EA) chat channel.  You could also use the Armada chat channel, but we prefer to use the EA chat channel since it is a cross-faction channel. If you need an invite to this channel, send me an email (@CaptainPetey) and I’ll add you to the channel.

When it comes to rewards, these vary depending on how successful is your team.  Hence, I won’t post dil results for TFO’s.  However, it is worthy to note that some are much easier and faster to complete. These include Crystalline Catastrophe Advanced (CCA), Infected: the conduit (otherwise known as Infected Space Advanced – ISA), and Federation Fleet Alert (FFA).  Each has a 30-minute cooldown, so you can keep running these on your toons as often as you’d like.  Your rewards can also vary depending on if you’ve received your daily bonus for CCA or ISA (or any other Borg-related TFO).

Setting up an Admiralty farm (courtesy of @ISS Voyager)

Imagine-

-an ocean of stars, shimmering crystal and violet.  With a tall prow and a handsome stride, a starship wakes the sky in dilithium supernovae.  Imagine forging dilithium with a keystroke.  Imagine no cooldown timers, no trading, no mining, no contraband, no zen, nor lockboxes.  Imagine infinite dilithium from no input, without cooldown, from anywhere, by any ship, for as many times as you press a button, right now.  Imagine accomplishing this using assets once thought defunct.  This is the potential of the Admiralty System.

What’s the Catch?

There is always a catch.  In this case, there are three.  Reaching the full potential of the admiralty system requires: (X) An armada of account-reclaimable starships; (Y) a vast army of captains, and (Z) patient setup.  Maximizing the Admiralty System is not for the casual: it is for those of us who remember Marks of Honor, Pursuing DSE’s, Memory Alpha, Tribble Breeding, and a choice of 6 endgame Starships.  (Enter Excelsior-class, August 26, 2010.)

Theory

The theory is simple: (1) Maximize the Admiralty System, (2) across numerous avatars, by (3) effectively deploying your armada.  We discuss these three dimensions below.  Done correctly, the cooldown timers will be vastly eclipsed by the available missions, and will effectively allow you to earn dilithium continuously.  Further, effectively deploying your armada means all your idle ships become infinite sources of dilithium.  That is, what was an infinite well of buyer’s remorse is now an infinite source of energy.

Maximize the Admiralty System

(For a beginner’s guide to the Admiralty system, look to the STO Wiki.)

Maximizing the Admiralty System means: (A) completing missions which reward dilithium, while (B) skipping non-dilithium missions without wasting pass-tokens.

Missions that Reward Dilithium

  • Klingon & Ferengi Tours of Duty [10 of 10] [30,000 Dilithium Ore]
  • Missions marked with Dilithium Emblems [50-500 Dilithium Ore]
  • Missions with “Dilithium Events”
    • Lucrative Mining Contract [2,000 Dilithium Ore]
    • Lucky Vein [1,000 Dilithium Ore]
    • Refinement Surplus [500 Dilithium Ore]
    • Rogue Dilithium Asteroid [500 Dilithium Ore]
    • Dilithium Dust Synthesis [500 Dilithium Ore]
    • Intermix Chamber Salvage [500 Dilithium Ore]

Skipping Missions without Wasting Pass Tokens

The strategy is to repeat the long-term Klingon and Ferengi Tours of Duty while also repeating the short-term Dilithium missions.  A pass token is (usually) rewarded on a critical mission successes, and a captain may only have a maximum of 50.  Thus, they must be neither horded nor wasted.  A simple algorithm for this strategy is:

  1. Do all Tour of Duty and Dilithium missions accessible without using a pass token. Check all campaigns.
  2. Klingon Campaign; skip non-dilithium missions and run all dilithium missions until the next Tour of Duty mission is run.
  3. Repeat for Ferengi Campaign.
  4. Return to Klingon Campaign, skip non-dilithium missions and run all dilithium missions until all slots are filled.

Numerous Avatars

The second dimension is to multiply the above method across many avatars.  Notice that all of your c-store and special event ships are account reclaimable.  Notice also that Dominion captains start with access to the Admiralty System, and can access all starships after selecting an allegiance.  Admiralty Starships are created when you first claim a starship on an avatar.  Decommissioning a starship does not remove its parallel admiralty card.  Thus, you can copy your entire armada onto every avatar, simply by taking care to commission and decommission each ship one by one.

  1. Create a new Dominion captain. Play through the Tutorial.  Select the allegiance of your Armada.
  2. Stand by a “Ship Selector” NPC/Console
  3. Reclaim an account-reclaimable starship. Verify its corresponding Admiralty Card has been created.  (Sometimes it doesn’t create due to a glitch)
  4. Decommission the starship.
  5. Repeat for every starship, one by one. Take care to verify each admiralty card is properly created.
  6. You have now copied your Starship Armada, and all its dilithium-earning glory!

Effectively Deploy your Armada

Armada Strategies and Tactics are outlined below.

Armada Strategy

  • The “Star Empire”

Imagine a Star Empire comprised of Armadas of Starships.  An Armada of Admiralty Starships is mapped to each of your avatars.  Note, your Star Empire is made of Admiralty Starships, and not of Avatar Starships.  Consider your Avatar Starships as “communication ships” and your Avatars as “communications officers”: their role is only to relay information to their corresponding Armadas of your vast Star Empire.  Accordingly, simplify and streamline your activity to deploy your Armadas wisely.  Admiralty Starships require zero attention and earn all of the dilithium, while Avatars and their Avatar Starships require a colossus of attention, and earn no dilithium.

  • Avoid Black Holes

Are you OCD like me?  Remember the “Star Empire” design.  Do not get bogged-down in the tedium of micro-managing many tertiary avatars!  Beware the following:

    • Do not attempt to actually level an army of avatars to Vice Admiral 52 for this purpose
    • Do not attempt to keep track of tertiary avatars’ levels or equipment
    • Do not attempt to make all tertiary avatars identical
    • Do not attempt to reclaim all other account-reclaimable items
    • Save and Load their UI, or simply keep the default settings
    • Save and Load a common uniform, or simply use the default costume
    • Setup tertiary avatars one at a time, do not “assembly line” them
    • Name your avatars simply! (X-1, Y-13, Z-17, etc.)
    • Remember they have exactly one function: Admiralty System

Mothballs to Star Empire

Do you have starships idling in mothballs?  The beauty of the Admiralty System is that it turns your idle starships into the greatest source of dilithium in-game, accomplishing two endeavors in one excellent design.  That is, what was an infinite well of buyer’s remorse is now an infinite source of energy.

Moving Resources

Dilithium and other resources will collect evenly across the inventory-assets of your numerous avatars.  Periodically transfer these resources to your main avatar(s).

  • Dilithium via Dilithium Exchange
  • Energy Credits via Account Bank (Bridge)
  • R&D Materials via Account Bank (Bridge)
  • Liquidate all other assets to Energy Credits
  • Overkill Formation

If your Armadas are large enough, lead with your Tier-6 starships in an “overkill formation.”  Do so even for common assignments with small requisites.  The critical success will supply you with necessary pass tokens and increased dilithium.  If your Armadas are smaller, maintain a “cohort” formation, where powerful ships are partnered with weaker vessels.

Music

Armada Tactics

Tactical activity will consist of:

  • Log onto a Tertiary Avatar
  • Collet rewards from completed Admiralty Assignments
  • Engage new Admiralty Assignments (as outlined in Section 1, Supra)
  • Log out. This cycle takes a minute or less.
  • Repeat Indefinitely.

Final Results

When the system is setup, each avatar will normally collect 1,000 – 3,000 Dilithium Ore per login cycle. (Described in Section 3B, Supra)  Further, Klingon & Ferengi Tours of Duty [10 of 10] reward 30,000 Dilithium.  (See Section 1A, Supra)  It will typically take 20 days to complete a Tour, though they can complete in as little as 10 days.  Regular dilithium missions complete in several hours, or in as little as 15 minutes.

Now, imagine 40 avatars.  If it takes only one minute to perform a cycle, and if most missions complete in an hour or less….  Then, by the time you cycle Avatar-40, Avatar-1 will be ready to collect dilithium again.

That’s: 40 x 1,000 = 40,000 Dilithium per hour, minimum, indefinitely.

Plus: 40 x 2 x 30,000 = 2,400,000 Dilithium every 10-20 Days.

Long Live the Terran Empire!

Antonio@ISS Voyager

Terran Empire 1st Fleet

=/\=

Back from the Yards: Gameprints Repair of the 12″ USS Zuikaku

Back in March 2018, when Gameprint & Cryptic started to offer personalize printed Star Trek Online ships, looking exactly how your ship looks in-game. I, like many other Star Trek Nerds, most likely giggled like little school children (come on admit it, you did 🙂 ). So,with the new service being offered. I ordered my flagship, the Tier 6 Fleet Intel Assault Cruiser USS Zuikaku, flagship of the 101st fleet.

Several weeks went by, and in early May 2018, one day the package arrived. I was so excited, as I had been dealing with a lot of things in my personal & work life. Having the model arrive, was a bright spot on an otherwise bad period.

Little did i realize, that i would be most likely one of the first orders, who would experience a major break of their model.

Zuikaku

Needless to say, I was crushed. Barely able to take one photograph before I reboxed everything, and contacted Gameprint to let them know what had occurred, and to also request a repair.

I also informed Reddit/STO, one of the main community locations for discussing Star Trek Online. Thread in hand, I let them know what had occurred

The support I received from them was great. I also got support from the main Cryptic Community Manager Ambassador Kael who contacted Gameprint. In an effort to ensure that this would never happen again to anyone else.

Several days went by, and I organized with Gameprint to have my ship sent back to be repaired. After I turned down their initial offer of them telling me how to conduct the repair myself. It took several weeks to get the package sent off. However, that was no fault of Gameprint or their delivery company. But more the fault of my local delivery company who delayed the send back by 2 weeks.

And so, ship sent back. I waited….

Repairs Underway

June became July, and I communicate back and forth with Gameprint with periodic e-mails requesting updates as to the repair. Then, on July 25th, a new e-mail came in. This e-mail, made me both excited, and worried at the same time.

We are working on your ship at this moment and we managed to cut your ship in half (sound scary but don’t worry she will be fine simple_smile)
We have reprinted the bottom half in tough resin. The modelling team just finished gluing and cleaning the ship. Now it’s in painting.
The phase “cut in half” doesn’t make any ship captain feel good at all. But I trusted the Gameprint team to get the job done.
Then two weeks later, I was informed the ship had been repackaged, and was on her way back to me.
Ship return & Review
A week later, the USS Zuikaku returned home. As one could expect. I was worried. Scared that unboxing her again would show another massive failure or break. Like the USS Reprisal mentioned in another blog, she was extensively protected. One could say over protected. But considering the cost, and the model and customer target base. I was glad.
It also seemed, that the USS Zuikaku incident may have been the trigger for a completely new way of packaging and sending ships to clients. If that hypothesis is true, then I am OK with what happened.
DSCN1706
Ship unpacked, and she looked beautiful. The one slight issue was a slightly bent nacelle. But considering the width of the nacelle struts even in resin (1mm thick, if that) I am not surprised the weight of the nacelles might have caused a slight “bend”.
A better angle, shows the slight “bend” of the nacelle.
DSCN1711
DSCN1721
As you can see, the bend is pretty slight. The nacelle in question that is bent is on the port side of the second picture. The nacelle pylons still feel like they are flexible and can bend and twist. This does not surprise me, even considering that they cut my ship in half, some sections would still need to be flexible in order to have some give.
This is especially true, that while the model is light, the nacelles themselves considering their location and supporting pylons are still a heavy load.
Now, Gameprint mentioned that they cut my ship in half. However, I seriously cannot tell where that occurred. The repair (at least because of my paint job selection) is so well hidden, there are no clues to its probable location.
DSCN1727
Considering how she was returned, a slightly bent nacelle is something I am more than willing to live with.  The timeframe from when Gameprint received my ship, to when the repair was completed seems to be 1 month. But considering how busy Gameprint have been with all their orders, as well as the seriousness of the damage, that timeframe is more than understandable.
Conclusion
I have to say, Gameprint really did their best to ensure my issue was resolved. Additionally, they were pretty responsive when i requested updates about the repair status, as well as requesting updates about what they could do for me regarding options to fix or replace the USS Zuikaku. Or, alternatively the return of the money i paid.
I also didn’t go into detail regarding how this ship looks compared to my in-game USS Zuikaku. This was because this blog was more about the repair & support, than the ship herself.
Thanks to all the Reddit/STO community & especially Ambassador Kael of the Cryptic team for their support and assistance with getting this resolved.
Now the USS Zuikaku is back home, I am going to ensure I have a quiet period. However, knowing this ship, I basically know I am going to be back in trouble again within a week. This ship just seems to attract trouble.
I wouldn’t have it any other way 🙂

USS Vizier – Building the Next Generation – Week Three – BOFF Stations & Specialization

Introduction

In the previous week’s episode (USS Vizier – Building the Next Generation – Week Two – Consoles) I explained the consoles that were fitted onto the Vizier.

This week, we investigate another key area of Vizier’s build – Her BOFF Station layout and Specialization choice. A lot of the choices I have made her, are similar to Zuikaku.

But as usual, Vizier has her quirks 🙂

BOFF Stations

BOFF Stations, short for Bridge Officer Stations, are key parts of star trek online. They give additional commands and abilities to your ship in and out of combat. These stations are usually the primary driving force of any ships performance.

Sure, you can have picked out the perfect gear, with beautiful consoles. But if you don’t merge that with good BOFF station choices, you won’t get very far.

To that end, I took particular attention to Vizier’s BOFF Layout, ensuring the choices I made, had synergy with my gear and console choices. A lot of times, my BOFF station choices, influenced my gear choices. So, let’s begin say we.

COMMANDER ENGINEER

Commander-Engineer-Station

With the Vizier being a cruiser, naturally her biggest station reflects that ship type – pone being of the engineer career variety. Vizier’s layout is slightly different from Zuikaku’s. With a slightly more focus to offensive than defense.

The first ability, is Emergency Power to Shields 1. This ability regens shields, repairs disabled shields, gives the ships shields extra resistance as well. It also adds shield power to the ship. Basically, this ability is a shield heal ability. I choose this ability as I knew with Vizier’s design, she would not have as much shield redundancy as Zuikaku. Furthermore, Vizier has a lower shield BOFF station than Zuikaku, as Zuikaku uses Emergency Power to Shields 3.

The next ability is one I have used on Zuikaku before but is not part of her standard boff layout – Overload Integrity Field II. This ability adds a +26.6 to Starship hull restoration. Basically, improving hull healing for a 12 second period.

Overload-Integrity-Field

For example, if my Hazard emitters 1 power heals my ship for 14,000 hull hit points. If I use Overload integrity field, it bumps this healing up to 15,200. Basically, this boff station is like a boost to your slotted healing abilities. I choice this ability, as I knew with Vizier being more focused on offense, I need an extra ability to keep her at maximum hull points. As well as give me the ability to rapidly repair my hull hit points as quickly as possible.

The next ability is Emergency Power to Weapons III. This ability increases Vizier’s weapon power, as well as increases the damage of her weapons for a 30 second period. With Vizier being tactically focused, I ensured the highest emergency power ability was resolved for the weapons version.

The final ability, is Auxiliary to Structural Field III. This ability is a rapid-fire healing and damage resistance boost. It utilizes Auxiliary power, so the higher aux power, the more hull heals, and damage resistance boost I receive. This ability is standard on all cruisers with a commander engineering station. As the community considers it a “must have” considering what you gain, for the abilities cooldown (15 seconds) as the boost you receive.

Lieutenant Commander Universal/Command

Lt-Commander-Universal-Command

The next on the BOFF station tour of Vizier, is her Universal station – the Lieutenant Commander Universal/Command hybrid. With the station being universal, and no other science stations on an Assault Cruiser class ship, basically everyone choices science as their career to fill out the station. With Vizier being no exception.

The first station contains Hazard Emitters 1. This ability heals a number of hit points over a 15 second period. It also removes any hazard debuff that are on your ship at the time over activation or try to get applied during the 15 second period the ability is activated. Hazard emitters 1 also applies a damage resistance buff for that 15 second period. I choose this ability, as it is my standard ensign science ability choice across all my ships in Task Force Eleven, with Vizier being no exception.

The next ability is Science Team 2. This ability regenerates shields, as well as removes any science debuff for a period of 5 seconds. Science team has a cooldown period of 30 seconds. This ability was chosen over its shield boost capabilities, as well as its ability to remove science debuffs. Considering the NPC’s, I verse, it was a logical choice.

The next ability utilizes The Fleet Command Assault cruisers command hybrid boff station. In this station, I have slotted Concentrate firepower 3.

Concentrate-Firepower

This ability has a 180-degree targeting arc, and its primary focus is boosting kinetic damage capabilities. As you can see in the above screenshot, its marks a foe for extra kinetic damage, that has a 100& shield penetration. Also, while active, once per 2 seconds, it grants a Torpedo High Yield 1 to one damager (could be Vizier, or a teammate I am with) and resets torpedo cooldowns.

I choose this ability for several weapons. One, with Vizier having a more focus towards torpedoes and kinetic damage than Zuikaku, it made a logical choice to enhance this ability. Also, with my specialization choices of Command (discussed later in this piece) it further added to Vizier’s kinetic capabilities. Second, Vizier was envisioned as a ship capability was placing down-road a large amount of high powered torpedoes to a target very quickly.

During tests and STF missions, several times I have been able to launch between 6 – 12 torpedoes at a single target, with help from this ability. It also tries to ensure that Vizier can keep firing torpedoes as quickly as possible, to keep a targets shields and hull under constant threat. Considering the torpedo loadout of Vizier, I have chosen.

Lieutenant Engineering

Lt-Engineering.png

The next stop on our tour, is Vizier’s engineering BOFF station. The first station contains Engineering Team 1. This ability has two effects. First, it is an instant hull heal that is applied to the ship. Second, it repairs disabled systems (power systems) over a 5 second period. This ability is pretty much a standard choice for me in any ship that has an Engineering BOFF station.

This abilities hull heal, is affected by the hull restoration skill points you have in your skill tree. With the choices I have made for Vizier, this ability heals 9,100 hull hit points – or roughly 10% of Vizier hull total.

The second ability, is reverse shield polarity. Called the “Green/Brown Nappy” back in the day, this ability is more known for being a “oh shit” button. This ability, when activated, converts 50% of incoming energy damage into the ships shields for a 12 second period. It also makes the target immune to teleport for that twelve second period as well.

This ability has a 2-minute cooldown but is very powerful when a ship is under constant energy damage attack and can very quickly regenerate a ships shields back to maximum. Due to its long cooldown, it is considered an ability to be used when your ship is at medium to low hull hit points, with shields on the verge of collapse. I choose this ability considering Vizier’s weakness in her shields, as well as lower hull hit points and resistance compared to Zuikaku. As a result, keeping Vizier’s shields up is much more critical than Zuikaku.

Ensign Tactical

Ensign-Tactical

Next, is the ensign tactical station. Being an ensign level station only, there is only one choice I made – Tactical team. Tactical team is considered a “must have” on every single ship, and every single build without exception.

Tactical team removes hostile boarding parties, and tactical debuffs over a 10 second period. The ability also adds an additional +18 skill points to Energy weapon and Projectile weapon over a 10 second period. However, one of the greatest additions, is that it redistributes shield strength to shields receiving damage over a 10 second period. Basically, if a ship has 15k shields for each facing, this ability turns a single shield facing into potentially 60k shields.

The cooldown on Tactical team is usually 30 seconds. However, I have been able to get the cooldown to the global of 15 seconds by using the following DOFF officer on my active space doff officer list – Conn Officer.

DOFF-Conn-Officer

I have two of these officers on my active DOFF space list. As a result, my cooldown for tactical team goes from 30 seconds to 15 seconds. Essentially meaning I can keep using this ability almost back to back without any breaks in between.

Lieutenant Commander Tactical

Next, is Vizier’s second biggest station, and basically one of her most important. Vizier’s Lt Commander Tactical Station is quite a break from Zuikaku’s,

Lt-Command-Tactical

Originally, for the last 2 1.2 months, Vizier has been using Beam: Fire at Will 1 in her ensign slot of this station. This was on par with Zuikaku as well. However, 2 days ago, I had a brain wave, and decided to go in a new direction. This new direction would be quite a change for myself, and how I have operated beam cruiser builds in the past. I was going to utilize Beam Overload outside of PvP.

Beam Overload 1 had quite a change in Season 13, changing from barely used, to potentially being of close to the same benefit of Beam Fire at will. Beam overload now increases you next beam attack to 470% of its normal damage. Potentially turning a normal 1600 damage beam attack into a 9000 attack even before critical chance and severity would come into play.

However, the second side effect of this ability, is a unique one. It upgrades all of your normal beam weapons to do 30% extra damage and critical severity for the next 10 seconds. This further enhances this abilities against a single target, especially if it is a harder target or boss level.

I made this change, just recently, because I decided to go in a new direction. I decided to attempt a more rapid turnaround of Vizier’s beam attack capabilities, in an attempt to get more damage more constantly. The aim being that in a 60 second period, to get more beam special attacks in compared to normal.

This has its risks, as I am most likely losing out on AOE damage capability with my beams, to get more damage overall on either a single target, or more damage overall. Time will tell how effective this change will be, as well as how much this will affect Vizier’s “DPS” rating.

The next ability is torpedo spread. This is another change compared to Zuikaku who uses Torpedo High Yield in this station. Torpedo Spread upgrades you next torpedo attack. Depending on the ability level, it launches multiple torpedoes at multiple targets. This ability is great when your torpedo has special abilities that are more effective when targets are bunched up.

Considering Vizier’s torpedo choices, this choice was a no brainer, as it enhances the unique torpedoes I use on Vizier. However, this ability does not affect “clicky” consoles. No Vizier torpedo console does not get an upgraded attack.

The final station is similar to Zuikaku. Beam: Fire at Will 3. This ability when activated upgrades your beam attacks for the next 10 seconds. Your beam weapons fire two random pulses per pulse, and pulses five times instead of the regular four. These strikes are random, and will strike any target within your weapons range regardless of if you have them selected as a target.

However, there are downsides to this ability. One, weapons deal 90% of their normal damage per shot. Additionally, the beam attacks suffer a degrade in their accuracy rating. Meaning they have an additional chance of missing their targets.

This ability was again a no-brainer, as while the ability has downsides, I had used Beam Fire at Will 3 to great effect for years on Zuikaku.

SPECIALIZATIONS

Specializations are an additional benefit you can unlock for your character. These abilities and additions add extra capability to ships and captains within the game. You can have one primary, and one secondly specialization.

This is one area that didn’t change from Zuikaku to Vizier. Both ships use the same specialization, with no differences. With my primary specialization being “Command” and my secondary being “Strategist”

Primary Specialization – Command

Specialization-Command-Officer

Command, or Command Officer, is my primary specialization. This specialization is really built towards a multi-role sort of captain. Providing boosts to the team, as well as the player themselves. These boosts include both defensive and offensive. Effectively being a Command officer.

The base specialization itself, provides additional maximum hull capacity based on the amount of points you have spent within the specialization. Since I have spent all 30 points in this spec, it grants me an extra 15% in maximum hull hit points on any ship I select. This was one of the primary reasons I choose this specialization several years ago, for its defensive capabilities.

However, there are other reasons I choose this specialization, of which, several I will go through with you now.

Achilles Heel 3

Achilles-Hill-III-Damage-Resistance-debuff

Achilles Heel 3, provides an extra debuff against an enemy target when I land a critical hit on them for a 10 second period. This ability grants a -25 damage resistance against a target I hit. The effect can only trigger one every 30 seconds maximum. Granting a potential rough 33% debuff time against a target per minute.

This provides my ships, which were mostly built with defensive capabilities in mind, a chance to land debuffs against targets I am attacking. Debuffs, which normally, my ships do not carry in the terms of captain or BOFF abilities. Additionally, this effect helps my teammates. Adding a damage resistance debuff, means the more damage orientated members of my team can used their ships strengths even more, without necessary having to rely on their own debuff abilities.

Additionally, with Vizier built with firepower in mind, this part of the Command specialization, helps a lot.

Debilitating weakness II

Debilitating-Weakness-II

A part of the Achilles Heel debuff, debilitating weakness applies when Achilles applies. However, this part of the command specialization has a different effect. For a 10 second period, it reduces outgoing damage by foes by 40%. Meaning foes hit by this ability, their weapons become less potent. This is a great addition, and while hamstrung by the fact it needs Achilles to function, it is still a welcome addition.

Mainly, because in my mind, the most effective time with this debuff, is against harder or boss level targets. Who, usually, have several nasty damaging abilities and firepower at their disposal. Additionally, with Vizier’s weaker defenses compared to Zuikaku, less outgoing enemy damage, means she has to weather less incoming, which is always good.

Boost Morale

Boost-Morale-II

Boost Morale, is a clickable ability that is part of the Command Specialization. It effects yourself and all teammates with an ongoing removal of all forms of defuffs and control effects for a short 4 second duration. This allows for great team capability, and can assist in situations with your normal BOFF abilities, that might be able to remove duffs might not be available.

This clickable ability, with a 2-minute cooldown, has been a great addition to Zuikaku’s build, as well as Vizier’s. Having an additional backup debuff removal capability, and one that removes all debuffs, is a great emergency reserve. Again, considering Vizier’s build type being more offensively minded, ensuring I can get Vizier out of trouble was a major consideration.

Especially considering Vizier’s defensive capabilities compared to Zuikaku, being debuff, for any substantial length of time, would be potentially fatal.

With Command specialization out of the way, we know move to my secondary specialization – Strategist.

Strategist

Specialization-Strategist

Strategist, is my secondary specialization. This specialization is more built towards a single player’s build, and really does not have any effects or abilities that can be added to the team. However, Strategist does have several abilities and boosts that are quite beneficial to the Vizier.

Every point slotted in Strategist, provides extra maximum shield capacity. With all 15 points slotted in strategist, it provides an additional 10% maximum shield strength to any ship I fly.

Again, I will show you several of these boosts and abilities.

Logistical Support III

Logistical-Support-III

When using or not the ability Threatening stance, logistical support III comes into play. This part of specialization provides a boost to temporary hull for a 10 second period when threatening, or a boost to critical chance for a 10 second period after an incoming bridge officer or captain ability heal.

Since a lot of times, I am in a threatening stance, this means I gain temporal hull for a 10 second period, which can stack up to 10 times. This boost is 30% of the incoming bridge officer or captain hull healing amount. This provides an extra hull hit point buffer for Vizier, meaning that if I am hit, the points are deducted from the temporary hull first, before being applied to my ship.

This defensive boost also gives me a bit of emergency redundancy when I am at low health. I can have this effect apply, utilize Vizier’s speed capability and extend the range out of danger. All the while having the temporary hull hit points take the damage first.

Attrition Warfare

Attrition-Warefare-II

Attrition Warfare, is one of the key reasons I choose this specialization. Attrition warfare, while threatening, provides a reduction to bridge officer recharge times by 20%, once every 30 seconds. This has the effect, of when I heal myself, the boff abilities that are on cooldown get a reduction on their cooldown timer, if it isn’t already at the abilities global.

This was an excellent choice for Zuikaku back in the day, as it allowed my BOFF abilities to be cycled quicker, as I was the constant source of attention. The same is said for the Vizier. With her bridge officer abilities even more crucial, having the capability twice a minute to reduce their cooldown by healing myself is very beneficial.

I haven’t had much experience with using the part of strategist when not threatening, so it will be interesting to see what effect the bonus to shield regeneration and hull regeneration effect would have.

Counter-Offensive III

Counter-Offensive-III

Counter-offensive III is a part of the strategist specialization. Once every 20 seconds, when struck by directed energy damage, Counter-Offensive III deals 10,000 electrical damage to the target with 50% shield penetration. This only happens once every 20 seconds, and only applies to one target, regardless of how many are targeting you.

This is another reason I choose this specialization. This is a minor additional boost to damage that flies under the radar. Due to its low damage capability, it would not be noticed very often. However, in Vizier’s case, any additional damage is well welcome. It also assists with higher level targets or bosses, where any damage is needed to target them down in time.

Conclusion

This concludes the third week of the USS Vizier – Building the Next Generation Blog, as well as the general build blogs for the Vizier. I hope you enjoy the blogs. I do have plans for further blogs, which will include some areas such as

Advanced Tactical Theory – Four into Three

USS Vulcon – Experimental Laser Pointer

USS Zuikaku – Phase Two

I hope you look forward to them. As always, I am always open to any questions you may have.

 

USS Vizier – Building the Next Generation – Week Two – Console Stations.

Welcome to Week Two of the build blog for the USS Vizier, my newest flagship in Star Trek Online. Funny enough, today is the one year anniversary, or birthday of the USS Vizier. One year ago today, I started a process, that would take me in a new direction.

Additionally, you start to see, how this starship that has only has 8 weapon slots, is actually armed with twelve weapons 🙂

Introduction

In the previous week’s episode (USS Vizier – Building the Next Genertation – Week One – Weapons and Gear) I explained the base weapons and primary systems of the USS Vizier, the ship that replaced USS Zuikaku as my flagship come Season 14.

This week, we explore the USS Vizier’s console stations. Being a Fleet Command Assault cruiser, able to be purchased from a Tier 5 shipyard, makes her one of the last fleet ships a fleet can unlock. The fleet ship variant has a 5 engineering, 2 science, and 4 tactical consoles.

Of course, with the Vizier, she is unique with how I use those console slots.

Engineering Console Stations

Being a cruiser, the Vizier has the largest number of engineering consoles compared to the other 2 career types on the ship. With 5 stations, it gave me incredible flexibility with how I approached the Vizier. For the first time, I would be using the engineering console stations, with consoles that weren’t even dedicated engineering consoles.

Or, as the larger community would put it, Universal console dumping land.

Incremental-Phase-cloaking-device

The Incremental Phase cloaking device, is the console that comes with the C-Store T6 Intel Assault cruiser, or the Archon class for short. This console is part of a three-piece console set called – Starfleet Assault Cruiser Technology, of which the USS Vizier has two of the three pieces within the set. This console has several unique features, but by large, the community ignores the console due to what they believe is “incompatible” with the current in-game meta. This is for a combination of factors, of which some I will go into detail during this blog post.

The console itself, grants a +1% critical chance boost to your ship. This is roughly 60% of the critical chance boost a MK XIV (Fourteen) Spire Tactical console would give you (1.8%). This boost, is relatively small compared to other critical chance boosting consoles, abilities and traits within the game.

The consoles second boost, is a +50 boost to Starship tactical readiness skill. This skill, improves Tactical Bridge officer ability cooldowns. A +50-skill boost, by itself, usually equates to roughly 10% of a tactical BOFF ability cooldown in my experience using this console. So, if you have Torpedo High Yield, its 30 second cooldown becomes 27 seconds. Now, 10% might not sound like much, but it can be very beneficial to get your tactical abilities operating quicker. Though, as with the critical chance, there are several consoles and starship traits that can offer something similar.

The console’s main purpose is its “click” ability, which has a base 2-minute cooldown. When activated, the console has several abilities and occurrences that take place within a 15 second period. One of these abilities, is for 15 seconds, the console “taunts” up to 5 foes, within 5 km of your ship for 15 seconds.

The first set of abilities, occurs within the first 10 seconds. The first ability, is that your ship becomes immune to all energy damage fired at your ship. The second, is a debuff that occurs against your own ship. Your outgoing energy damage is reduced by 50% for 10 seconds as well. For any major ship captain, this is severe, especially for captains chasing DPS (Damage Per Second) records.

After 10 seconds, another series of BUFFs and Debuff occurs, of which all of these occur against your own ship. Your ship gains a stealth boost for a 5 second period, making you harder to detect and attack (For Vizier, the boost is +4,805 to Stealth). Also, your ship cannot be targeted for 5 seconds, and console damage is removed for 5 seconds. Another BUFF that occurs is your ship becomes immune to all damage sources for a 5 second period.

Two debuffs occur however. One, your ship cannot launch any hanger ships for a 5 second period. However, since Vizier doesn’t have hanger pets, this doesn’t affect her in any way. The second debuff that occurs, is that your ship weapons go offline for a 5 second period.

However, this console is a unique for what it offers, and what effects it has. I choose this console has it was a decent console, that also unlocked the two-piece set of Starfleet assault cruiser technologies, of which will be described in a later blog. But as related above, this console is pretty well completely ignored by the larger community, for several reasons.

One, it drastically reduces your damage output for a decent period. For most of the community, which chases DPS over everything else, this console is ignored completely. Plus, a lot of the consoles boosts can be obtained with other BOFF abilities, consoles, and starship traits without the downsides this console has.

Now, after all of that, why did I still use this console? Firstly, it unlocked a set piece which is useful. Also, for all its flaws, the console can still be used and worked into Advanced and Elite content, provided, you build your ship to make up for the consoles shortcomings. Properly utilized, this console can drag argo away from more fragile members of the team. For Vizier’s build, this console has its place. Also considering Vizier’s speed capabilities, and turn rate, this console can bring her out of danger, but at the same time, still drastic the enemy with a hard to kill target.

Metreon-Gas-Warhead-launcher

The Metreon Gas warhead launcher, is a console that is available from the T6 Command Assault cruiser. At the moment, this ship can only be obtained through the Whizkids promotion and is currently not available in any other format. It was this console and ship variant that started me on Vizier’s journey, and it is a decent console. This console like the Phase clocking device, forms part of the three-piece set called Starfleet Assault cruiser technology.

The console itself, provides a 15% flight turn rate boost, this is base turn rate on a ship, but is still a nice boost to make a ship more maneuverable. Second, the console also provides a +50 Starship engineering readiness skill. This skill, improves engineering bridge officer cooldowns. Like her sister console, this boost is roughly a 10% reduction on the cooldown. For example, Engineering team, with a 30 second cooldown, is reduced to 27 seconds.

However, the consoles biggest draw card, is its Metreon Gas warhead torpedo launcher. This console has a 180-degree targeting arc and launches a slightly slower moving torpedo. The torpedo does its initial kinetic damage upon striking its target (in this case, that damage is 6,698 for Vizier). However, once it strikes its target, it creates an unstable metreon gas cloud at the target, which expands over a 3km radius. For 6 seconds, all targets within the cloud, receive plasma damage that ignores shields. Also, the target/s receive a turn rate (-75%) and impulse speed (-66%) debuff, as well as disabling any cloaks for those ships.

The torpedoes second ability, occurs after those 6 seconds. The unstable metreon cloud detonates, dealing massive damage to all targets within the 4km detonation range. Targets within this detonation, receive a large plasma damage (16,761 for Vizier), as well as an additional smaller plasma damage that occurs every 0.5 seconds for a 3 second period, which also ignores shields. The console itself, has a 2-minute cooldown.

This console was chosen for several weapons. First, it formed part of a 3-piece set, that with two pieces gave a nice bonus to USS Vizier’s stats and capabilities. Second, this is an additional weapon at Vizier’s disposal, which can be used in a nice arc (180 degrees). Coupled with its AOE damage capability, that can be massively enhanced when Vizier is teamed up with a science starship, the console was a definite choice for inclusion.

Quantum-Phaser-converter

The Quantum Phase Converter, is obtained from the Featured Episode “Sunrise”. The console provides several useful boosts, as well as being part of a three-piece gear set called Quantum Phase Catalyst, of which Vizier has all three pieces.

The console’s first bonus, is to Phaser damage. The console provides a +22.5% phaser damage boost, of which Vizier uses due to her Phaser weapon compliment. The console also provides a small +3.4 auxiliary power setting boost, which helps increase Vizier’s healing abilities. Third, the console provides a +33.8 starship drain expertise skill boost. Drain expertise skill improves energy and shield draining attacks, as well as resistance against said attacks. Considering Vizier’s weapon load-out, as well as the NPC’ she faces, this boost helps her build out in several crucial areas.

Another passive ability the console grants, is an Auxiliary power hot restart function. This function, automatically removes all auxiliary power disable conditions on the ship. However, it can only be used once every 60 seconds.

As related above, this console was chosen for several reasons. The phaser damage boost, drain skill expertise increase, as well as the three-piece set bonus. This console is incredibly valuable with what it provides to the Vizier.

Mining-Drill-Laser-Emitter

The Mining drill laser, is available to Romulan players by obtaining the Kelvin Timeline T’Laru intel carrier warbird. For Federation players, and myself, the console was obtained from the console pack – Proton charge launcher/Mining drill laser. This pack is available from lockboxes, as well as the exchange. This console forms part of a four-piece equipment set called “Alternative timeline”, of which, USS Vizier has two pieces.

The console boosts current and maximum shield subsystem power by +3, as well as increases a ships shield hit points, of which USS Vizier receives a +14.2% increase. However, the console’s primary boost or ability, comes from its “click” ability.

The “clicky” is a drill laser that does kinetic damage over a long period of time, and can last upwards of a full minute before it will deactivate (you can deactivate it manually). Over time, the target suffers increasing kinetic damage, that has a 50% shield penetration. The target also suffers an all damage resistance debuff that increases overtime as well. For Vizier, this debuff increases from 0 to 60 over the full minute.

The console also has a unique recharge timer, which is 2 seconds for every second spent damaging a foe. For example, if you only use this console against a target for 15 seconds, the cooldown will only be 30 seconds. This is a unique characteristic, as most consoles, will have full 2-minute cooldowns regardless of how long they are used. This increases the consoles usefulness for short sharp kinetic attacks, without suffering a long cooldown penalty.

I choose this console for several reasons. First, the default bonuses for nice additions to Vizier’s build. Second, the kinetic capability of this mining console is very useful. While not high in damage capability, the ability increases overtime, and can start to become very dangerous the longer it is applied to the target. Also, the damage resistance debuff is incredibly useful in team situations, to assist the rest of the fleet with taking down the target.

Third, the console forms part of a 4-piece set, of which the Vizier has two pieces. Even at two pieces, the two-piece set bonus is very useful for Vizier. Coupled with the consoles unique console cooldown after use, makes this console incredible valuable. However, it does have a drawback that it needs to be maintained against a target for long periods of time to become useful. This means, most times, the best use of this console is against dreadnought or boss level NPC’s.

Broadside-Emitter-Arrays

Broadside emitter arrays, can be obtained by purchasing the Kelvin Timeline Intel dreadnought from the Lobi store for 900 Lobi, or by purchasing the ship from the exchange. This console forms part of the four-piece starship set called “Alternative Technologies” of which Vizier has two pieces.

The console provides a +3 current and maximum weapon subsystem power boost. The console also provides a 17.8% power recharge speed for Captain abilities. Effectively meaning, it reduces the cooldown of my captain abilities such as EPS power transfer. However, the consoles main ability comes from its “clicky”, which has a 2-minute cooldown once used.

The ability, is called “Broadside cannon barrage”. This ability fires at a random foe left or right 90-degree arcs of your ship (or your broadside). This ability fires 10 times per second for a grand total of 60, utilizing phaser damage against a target. This provides a decent small boost to damage against a target you are broadsiding against. Coupled with Beam Fire at will, this can create a big display of firepower in a relatively short period of time.

This console was chosen, for its DPS capabilities, as well as being part of a two-piece set piece that would be beneficial to the Vizier. Another reason for this console being chosen, was its ability to put down massive firepower within a short period of time, with the intent to overwhelm the target’s capability to resist or react. Coupled with the Captain ability cooldown, this console was a useful, if expensive choice for Vizier.

Science Consoles

Next in this build blog, is the Science consoles for the Vizier. With only two consoles, this section of Vizier’s build was the most difficult to choose from. As I had to ensure that what I choose complimented the ship, without exposing too many fatal weaknesses. With only two consoles, massive amount of choices, and a lot of areas to cover for Vizier’s build, it was difficult.

Science-Console-Temporal-Disentanglement-suite

The Temporal Disentanglement Suite, is a console that is available from playing the Featured Episode “Butterfly”. This console also forms part of the three-piece set called “Krenim Temporal Manipulation”, of which Vizier only has a single piece.

This console, provides several boosts. First, the console provides a +4.5 auxiliary power setting boost, which increases healing abilities on the Vizier. The console also provides a +22.5% maximum shield capacity boost, which increases the Vizier’s shield hit points number. The console also provides a 3% shield resistance increase, which helps Vizier’s shields resistance incoming damage directed against the shields.

The consoles second boosts, are tied to the ships auxiliary power levels themselves. First, the console provides a +0 – 2.5% critical chance severity boost based on the Vizier’s auxiliary power levels. At maximum auxiliary power, this boost is 30% more than you would receive from a MK XIV (14) Spire fleet tactical console. Second, the console also provides a +0 – 10% critical severity boost, again based off Vizier’s current auxiliary power levels. At maximum auxiliary power, this boost is 25% more than you would receive from a MK XIV (14) Spire Fleet tactical console.

However, one downside is that to get maximum boost from this console, you need to have your auxiliary power at maximum. While this can be obtained and maintained, it does take a bit of effort to do so.

I choose this console for the Vizier, due to the boosts you receive from the console. The USS Zuikaku uses the same console as well, and I have found it to be an extremely useful console, that provides a lot of benefits for the use of a single console slot. Basically, providing both a defensive and offensive boost at the same time. These type of consoles, are some of my favorites.

Sustained-Radiant-Field

The Sustained Radiant Field console is obtained from the Iconian Resistance reputation store, once you complete tier 1 of the reputation. This console also forms a three-piece gear set called “Radiant Armaments” of which the Vizier has only a single piece.

The console has several boosts, and is widely considered a “must slot” type of console considering what it offers to any ship it is slotted on. First, the console offers at Mk XIV a +23.8% bonus to hull heals, providing a nice bonus to abilities like Hazard Emitters and Engineering Team. Second, the console offers a +11.8% all weapon damage boost, which includes both energy and kinetic types. Third, the console offers a +23.8% bonus to shield heals, increasing the shield heals of BOFF abilities like Science Team and Emergency Power to Shields.

This console, with its several boosts to defensive and offensive abilities and weapons, was a must slot for the Vizier. As this console complimented her weapon capabilities and load out, while at the same time, helping increase the Vizier’s defensive capabilities. Considering the changes to Vizier’s build compared to Zuikaku, additional defensive boosts were considered a high priority.

The USS Zuikaku also has this console, and this console has proven its worth several times over the years since it was first introduced. Coupled with its relative easy to be obtained, this console is considered a mainstay in the majority of builds.

Tactical Consoles

Next came the easiest part of Vizier’s build, the tactical console slots. Unless a player is trying an extreme radical build, once you have chosen your weapon type, these consoles are the easiest to fill in. For Vizier, that was no exception.

Except for one small console 🙂

Tactical-Console-Vulnerability-Locator

First, was the standard tactical console. Able to be obtained from a Tier 3 Fleet spire store. The Vulnerability locator (phaser) increases a ships phaser damage capability, as well as increasing a ships critical chance percentage. Considering the multiple phaser weapons installed on the Vizier, these consoles, as in their nature, increase the Vizier’s damage to high levels.

The USS Vizier has three of these consoles in her tactical console slots, which leaves one slot open.

Tactical-Console-Counter-Command-Multi-Conduit-Energy-Relay

The Counter Command Multi-Conduit Energy Relay, is obtained by completing the featured Episode “Surface Tension”. This console also forms part of a four-piece set called “Counter Command Ordnance” of which the USS Vizier has two pieces.

The console boosts both phaser and disruptor damage, by +14.7% at Mk XIV (14) level. The console is also one of the few to boost radiation damage, with an increase of +29.5%. The console also improves photon projectile weapon damage by +29.5%. With the phaser and photon damage boosts, this console was a definite good choice for Vizier considering the combination of the ships phaser and photon torpedo weaponry.

Second, the console allows me to obtain the two-piece set bonus of Counter Command Ordnance. As not only did this two-piece set include a phaser damage boost, it also included a boost to the enhanced Bio-molecular torpedo that is slotted in one of Vizier’s aft weapon bays. While I could also slotted a fourth spire tactical console, the multiple boosts of slotting this console, in my opinion, more than made up for the reduced critical chance, and straight phaser damage loss.

Conclusion

This concludes the second week of the USS Vizier – The Next Generation build blog. Next week’s build blog will include the USS Vizier’s BOFF station layout, as well as the specialization’s I use for the ship. Compared to the Zuikaku, Vizier’s BOFF Stations are extremely similar.

However, it is still a good idea to show you how I have built the Vizier, and the interconnecting bonuses and synergies that occur with her BOFF stations and specialization.

One unique BOFF layout of the USS Vizier however, is her tactical BOFF stations. The USS Vizier, is the trial case for the “Advanced Tactical Theory – Four Into Three” Project. While this project wont be described in Week Three’s blog. I soon hope to have a entirely new blog dedicated to my tactical theory discussion, and why i decided to attempt something unique, and outside the community “meta”.

I hope you all look forward to it

Clear All Moorings: Gameprint’s 12″ Artisan Starship Unboxing

Reprisal-Crest

Mrs Koppenflak came home from work today with a surprise for me. A big fat brown box with lots of Polish post office markings on it. After a long trip half-way around the world, and months after the order was placed, my shiny new model of the USS Reprisal had finally arrived.

Was it worth the wait?

Among the first to pick up a ship from Gameprint was Foxman86, who is an associate editor on this blog. Unfortunately, his ship – the Zuikaku – did not survive the trip from Poland to Australia unscathed.

Zuikaku

Oh dear. This made me extremely nervous, as I’d already placed my order and was faced with very similar geographical challenges. It’s entirely possible that Gameprint has altered their packing since the very unfortunate incident above, and thank Spock for that, because these models are not cheap.

Let’s get the obvious benchmark out of the way. This is how Reprisal appears in Star Trek Online:

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One very traditional Yorktown class cruiser. And I’d have her no other way – the original Odyssey model by Adam Ilhe and Cryptic’s Adam Logan (now a developer at Bungie) was a wonderful evolution of the Enterprise lineage, and the Yorktown – a further development of the design by Thomas Marrone – in my opinion took the few niggling bugbears of the design and turned it into something really special. As far as my ship is concerned – let’s face it, if you’re going to get a model of the Enterprise-F, you don’t want to stray too far from tradition.

Let’s get started…

Packaging…

Ho Mama. Is this thing secure or what? The ship arrived in a big brown shrink-wrapped box, which contained about a kilogram of packing beads, which were protecting a big black, fancy Gameprint case, (which itself was nicely bound in bubble wrapping) which in turn contained high density foam, cotton wool, and a very securely padded starship that was bound by satin ribbon and foam paper to the bottom of the cut-out foam. Some peace of mind, then! I was already feeling good about this.

Ship arrived in one piece, safe and sound. I don’t think I had a lot to worry about on this. I showed Foxman the packaging before writing this, and he seemed quite convinced that Gameprint had dramatically improved just how they were shipping these out. Significant care was taken in getting this ship out to me.

The Ship…

Typical of 3D prints and other made-to-order casts, Reprisal is printed in resin, which is notorious for deformations that are caused as the material sets following printing. This was my second concern. There have been numerous reports in the community of models arriving with splayed or drooping nacelles and pylons. I’ve built model ships and have been in tabletop wargaming for over 20 years, so I’m more than accustomed to this phenomenon. That said, the print is remarkably clean. There is absolutely no trace of ‘scan lines’ that are so typical of many 3D printers, and while there was some minor bowing in the port nacelle (slightly visible in the last photo above) this was very easily corrected after getting out a hair dryer for two minutes and gently warming the pylon.

It’s a common problem with many Star Trek models that getting nacelles that are parallel and in alignment is difficult. So I’m pleased to say Reprisal is very tidy indeed:

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Second thing I checked was the surface detail. Based on the photos I’ve seen from others so far, it’s been difficult to determine just how good the bas relief and surface detail is on these models. It’s impressive just how much relief Gameprint has managed to get into this model, and says a lot about how good the translation process between Star Trek Online and Gameprint’s production line really is. Check this out.

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Every hull plate, every window, every lifepod and phaser array has been rendered crisply without a trace of flashing or visible stepping from the printing process.

This is one very clean model. I’ve uploaded most of these photos at 4k resolution so you can get a feel for the surface finish.

The underside, too – an area of 3D printed models that is sometimes lackluster – is very cleanly resolved and detailed.

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So what about size?

As advertised, the ship is exactly 30cm (12″) long from the end of the nacelles to the very tip of the prow. Here she is between a 1:1700 Bandai USS Enterprise-E and the Eaglemoss USS Enterprise-D.

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The Details…

There is a lot to love. I admit when I hit ‘submit’ on the ship order that I was curious to see whether Gameprint’s artists would actually attempt to replicate Cryptic’s lovely Type 7 ‘Aztec’ pattern when they painted the ship, but realistically, that was always a long-shot.

The paint work on the model is great. Individual hull plates are distinguished in a tasteful two-tone grey, while a dark charcoal picks out her secondary trim. The artists have clearly used a combination of primers and airbrushes to apply most of the base colours as the paint coatings across most of the hull are nice and thin, and under a microscope (or zoom lens) you can just make out the ‘orange peel’ pattern that you typically get from a spray gun.

Pennant lines, trim and other details are picked out nicely by hand-painted brush strokes and they even resolved my simplified fleet logo on the bow astonishingly well for this scale – freehand, no less! Yes, really. Here’s the stylised version:

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And here’s the bow:

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For an insignia that’s barely 4mm wide across the hull, that’s incredibly good!

That photo brings me nicely to the next point: hull markings.

The artists have used printed decals to pick out the ship’s registry in all the appropriate places. There is a little bit of bleeding on the name ‘REPRISAL’ above the registry number, but this is relatively minor complaint that I can live with. You can very faintly make out the edge of the decal markings in many places, but it’s been very well finished using microsol solution to reduce the tell-tale outline of the decal paper and secure it well to the surface of the model. For those non-modellers out there: that means they are not moving any time soon, and won’t slide free from surface contact with the hands.

The blending job on the simulated lighting around areas of detail such as the ship’s flood lights, impulse engines and bussard collectors is similarly very smooth. While I suspect the flood light was achieved through masking and airbrushing, I cannot tell whether hand brushes were used in other areas.

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Engine ports and other ‘glowing’ effects are topped in a high-gloss varnish to pick them out and give them a glass-like finish that works well, though that does mean that the sins of the surface smoothness are laid bare. The contours between impulse engines and their housings, or warp grilles and the nacelles, are not perfectly smooth – likely from where the enamel’s inherent viscosity has dried unevenly between the seams. Again, though, the glassy look is great and suits the style of the model.

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The free-hand line work around some of the Starfleet pennants is very fine, and clearly not achieved with decals. As far as I can tell, the only places where decals have been used are in places where numbers or names are printed onto the hull. While we’re are it – the bridge itself is a lot of fun, and is packed with little attentions to detail. The entire dorsal hull looks wonderful.

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The Verdict…

The big question is: Is it worth the price? I was fortunate enough to order the ship during the introductory price period in April, but factoring in the shipping and the exchange rate (about 75 cents to the US Dollar) this was not a cheap buy, and it’s only gotten more expensive since then.

As models go, this one is definitely on the high-end of cost. The Bandai Enterprise-E shown earlier in this article was a fraction of the cost of this ship, and as a Star Trek model it is hard to say with a straight face that the better part of what is now $500 US is a sum of money that I would part with again.

How much you’re willing to pay to have a permanent keepsake of your favourite Star Trek Online ship is going to be a very personal decision. I have played STO almost continuously since late 2010, and the vast majority of that time has been with the USS Reprisal.

Depending on what you want, the offerings from Eaglemoss for an Odyssey or Vesta may suit you just fine. Or alternatively, Gameprint now offers much more affordable full-colour 3D prints which aren’t going to be quite as detailed or as nicely finished as their artisan pieces.

The bottom line is: I am glad I bought this model, and I think I would have regretted it had I missed the introductory price point.

I will, in all probability, be ordering the less-expensive 3D models from Gameprint in the future. I will provide an update when that happens.

Until then, clear skies, Captains!

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Delta-v: Engine Efficiency

RamilliesSpeed

Soon I’m going to be posting my build for the USS Ramillies, but before that, I want to talk about an aspect of power management that some may not realise.

Efficiency, and how it’s applied.

‘Efficiency’, as a term of game mechanics, refers to a starship’s effective overall subsystem power levels against the amount of base investment that is needed to produce that number.

Subsystem power is one of the least-taught and most important parts of a ship’s performance, as it affects absolutely every last facet of its key characteristics, abilities, and skills that you use. A starship has four major subsystems – weapons, shields, engines, and auxilliary – and the amount of power that is available to each of these subsystems directly determines how effective each area of your ship is.

In general terms:

The weapons subsystem affects the damage output of all directed energy weapons (cannons, beams).

The shields subsystem affects both your shields’ innate ‘hardness’ (how much damage they can reduce through resistance) and regeneration rates.

The engines subsystem affects your speed and maneuverability (and consequently, your ability to evade certain AOE debuffs such as gravity well.)

The auxilliary subsystem affects the performance of your scientific abilities (such as the aforementioned gravity well, or perhaps sensor sweep) in addition to the effectiveness of many resistance heals and immunities – including Aux to Structural, Hazard Emitters, and Polarize Hull.

Each subsystem has a minimum power setting of 15 and a maximum power setting of 100.

Overall, a starship has – base – 200 units of power to distribute across its subsystems in whatever configuration its captain wants. By default, each subsystem will have 50 units of power in each of its four subsystems. Furthermore, the base stats of a piece of equipment will always display its expect performance against that 100 mark. If you have less than 100 power in a subsystem, then your equipment will not perform as well as its tooltip and stats suggests it can, but if you have more than that, then it can and will exceed its listed statistics.

Without using certain bonus modifiers (such as warp cores that may increase a subsystem’s power cap, or bridge officer abilities such as Overload Subsystem Safeties), a subsystem’s power can go no higher than a setting 125. With a maximum power investment of 100 – this is where the importance of efficiency becomes apparent, as it is the only way you will be able to maximise the performance of your systems and equipment.

If you invest in efficiency at all, you will see your starship’s subsystems can read well above the levels at which you’ve set them to. As a rule, all efficiency is subject to diminishing returns: the less energy you put into a subsystem, the greater the bonus power you will receive in that section. This bonus number decreases as you approach a power level of 75, and after that point – you receive no further bonus at all.

In a perfect world, your starship could have 125 power in each of its four subsystems and would perform exceedingly well in every aspect of its operations. Given finite power supply however, you will always be forced to weigh up your mission priorities, and compromises must be made.

It would be almost pointless to put efficiency skills into weapons, if that is a subsystem that is constantly run at over 75 power. Naturally, you’re better off spending that skill point on another system you intend to sacrifice – such as engines. (Sacrificing engine power to squeeze more out of weapons or auxilliary is a very common choice, and more often than not leads to engines running with a minimum of power.)

Power management is a discussion unto itself, and efficiency is a huge part of it, but the mechanics of efficiency have a tendency to guid other build decisions when the same word is used. In particular; with engines.

I have often heard it said that there is no point in running a hyper impulse engine that is ‘efficient at high power levels’ when there is no bonus to efficiency above 75 power. This is simply false.

There are – with a couple of unusual exceptions – three basic engine types in Star Trek Online.

Standard impulse engines are advertised as having no efficiency modifiers whatsoever and perform at a flat rate commensurate to the amount of power they are provided.

Combat impulse engines, the game tells us, are ‘efficient at low power levels’, suggesting that they provide better performance at low power levels than other engines.

Hyper impulse engines are similarly ‘efficient at high power levels’.

Given what we know about efficiency and power management in STO, with diminishing returns and disappearing bonuses at high power levels, how does that affect your choice of engines? The fact that there is no efficiency bonus above 75 power would suggest that there is very limited benefit to running hyper-impulse engines which benefit from ‘high power levels’, right?

If you assume ‘efficiency’ is governed by the same rules across the board, you would be wrong.

The same diminishing returns that affect your subsystem efficiencies have absolutely nothing to do with the performance of your engines, no matter what type you have chosen. And this can be demonstrated through testing.

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The above is a graph charted using my build for the USS Ramillies, using standard Mk XIV (common!) impulse engines of each of the three types.

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I used common (white), non-reputation engines for this test because – free of modifiers – they are a control that won’t be affected by more esoteric statistics, including [spd] modifiers or other rarity bonuses. This is as close to raw engine data as I can get without datamining, with stepped increases in power to assess performance figures. (Displayed across the bottom, with the ‘real’ power figure against the base power figure)

The vertical axis displays the ship’s registered impulse speed at the indicated power level.

I tried this test with Mk X, Mk XI, XII, Mk XIII and Mk XIV engines, expecting that perhaps higher marks could have different efficiency ratings. Surprisingly, the graph ended up identical in profile, and the pattern was repeated in each series.
The blue series is the standard impulse engine. The red series is the combat impulse engine, and the green series is the hyper impulse engine.

The combat impulse engines reach their ‘best’ power-thrust ratio at about 56 power, while hyper combat impulse engines begin accelerating more sharply past about 90.

In every single case: the point of equilibrium in efficiency for impulse engines is a flat number of 60. At this mark, all three engines perform identically in every respect.

Above 60 power, then the clear winner in all conditions is the hyper-impulse engine.

What can be concluded from this?

How much importance you put in your raw power levels is going to dramatically influence what engine you should be favouring. I’m going to go into power a lot more with the Ramillies and Reprisal builds, but the short answer is this:

If your engine power – through efficiency or choice – runs higher than 60 during combat (the time that matters most) then you you will get more benefit from a hyper or standard impulse engine mthan you will from a combat impulse engine, in all conceivable circumstances.

At endgame, it is unlikely that you will have less than 60 subsystem power as a Federation captain, and even less likely if you are an escort pilot running Emergency Power to Engines as a speed tanking skill. It is very difficult to recommend combat impulse engines when pursuing a Starfleet build.

During levelling, it becomes very easy indeed to recommend combat impulse engines. With limited power to invest, and very few efficiency skills, every point matters and combat impulse engines are an excellent choice between about levels one and 40.

Romulan captains (faced with Warbirds that have less power potential than equivalent Federation and Klingon ships due to the reduced power output of singularity cores) will likely find more utility from combat impulse engines.

As a final thought – just how dramatic is the difference between a Mk XIV common engine and a Mk XIV reputation engine, such as the Iconian resistance hyper-impulse engine?

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It’s significant, and at a glance,  the purple line (Iconian Engine) shows just how much better reputation gear can be over its basic equivalents.

Next time, I’ll talk about power and how it factors into the Ramillies and Reprisal as a basic requirement of design.