USS Zond – Cardenas Command Dreadnought – Constructing the Priah

The Lore

Several weeks ago, Cryptic announced another release in the series of Star Trek Discovery ships to come into the game. The Cardenas Command Battle Cruiser. As the name would seemingly apply, an image of a heavy armed and gunned starship comes to mind. However, what was in one’s mind, and what was reality were two different things.

With the release of the ship blog detailing the stats and layout of the ship, there was a large outcry from selections of the STO community.

Command-Dreadnought-Cruiser Stats Blog

A portion of the community immediately went into rage mode, decrying the stats. How dare a dreadnought have no tactical seating greater than Lieutenant Tactical. How was this starship suppose to do DPS? Players could get better starships and this ship wouldn’t be able to compete.

Even older starships walked all over this “Dreadnought”. Coupled with a low turn rate and inertia, this ship had already been dismissed. Additionally, while she could mount dual cannons, her low turn rate and tactical seating made it a lot more difficult.

A portion of the community, said to anyone who planned to get the ship “Just use BFAW and beams, that is all this ship is good for”. This is where i come in. Surprising, this rage got my passion going. I was filled with determination. I could never top the DPS charts, however, I wanted to show those members of the community that any ships can true contenders, and are not to be underestimated.

A experienced captain and veteran, someone who knows what they are doing, can turn any starship into one of the most dangerous opponents you could ever face.

Preample

Now, before we proceed, I want to make one thing very clear. From a sheer math and data point, those members of the community are right. In sheer numbers, the Cardenas class is never going to meet or match starships like the Odyssey, Scimitar, Arbiter or other more tactically focused starships.

Her three tactical consoles, along with at best three Lieutenant tactical BOFF stations (if the Universal is used as tac) means she misses out on the higher end tactical BOFF abilities. Like Beam: Fire at Will III, Attack Pattern Omega, Cannon Scatter Volley & Rapid Fire II (As the cannon three versions require a Commander Tactical station, since she is a dreadnought/cruiser that is not going to happen).

However, it is surprising when some members of the community decry Cryptic for constantly selling “Power creep”. However, when a starship is released that does not straight away top or beat all of its competitors, there is more rage. Sometimes from the very same community members who decried the “power creep”.

Simply, I decided to build this ship, as I wanted to prove something. Or, more likely, show some love to one of the most beautiful designed starships I have seen for sometime (I have a weakness for four nacelle starships).

Inkling the Blueprints

My own Cardenas class was named for a Soviet-Era unmanned spacecraft/probe that was testing technologies and systems for manned spaceflight. I was actually inspired by the name when i learnt how the Buran was named. I got curious and googled soviet era spacecraft. Several options appeared but the name USS Zond really stuck with me.

Initially, I was going to do the normal Phaser build I usually do for Federation cruisers. However, after a short period, I thought that would be too easy. I needed a challenge, something a lot of the community would not expect.

So, USS Zond was born as a Polaron armed dual cannon fast paced line breaker. I designed (well, theory crafted) this ship in mind that she already has high baseline HP & shields. What she needed was punch and turn capability. I envisioned this ship having the ability to penetrate  enemy lines like at the Battle to retake DS9, and break them open for the rest of the fleet.

So, lets get down and get into her guts. Or, I should say what she has equipped in terms of weapons, consoles & other items. At this time, Zond is still under construction as I add items to her and grind what i need. But what i will list is the main components or her soul.

The Shipyard

Morphogenic Armaments

This set i theory crafted to use all three pieces. Naturally due to their bonuses for recharge and damage/critical severity. Since I will be using CSV/CRF and torp spread, those abilities combined with the cooldown reduction will give this ship a decent boost in firepower capability. Additionally, if I can combine the rotations of the abilities correctly, the boosts will be pretty significant.

Three polaron critical severity

This is especially true, as due to a smaller tactical console footprint, and that even that small footprint will not be filled with Fleet tactical consoles, i need to gain as much critical severity and weapon damage as possible.

Task Force Ordinances

This set I theory craft to use two pieces. The console and the turret. Originally I use going to use the torpedo as well. However, having used the torpedo on the USS Kershaw, as well as other set pieces which I decided were situational better, meant i decided to drop it.

I am using these pieces due to their boosts to Polaron and drain, as well as the two piece set bonus. Which boosts Polaron damage and most importantly turn rate. Which helps me considering this ships low initial turn rate, and my decision to arm her with cannons. As due to cannons low arc capabilities, even when under Cannon scatter volleys effect, I need to be able to maneuver this starship as quickly as possible.

Chronometric Calculations Set

I theory crafted that I will use all four pieces of this set, like I have with the USS Ryujo (though she is beam armed not cannon). More so I reason I choose this set was it was Polaron, keeping with the theme. The set bonus was not a major consideration though the Chronometric Energy Convertor clickable is definitely desirable.

Chronometric Energy Convertor

Gamma Team Synergies

The main heart & brain of the USS Zond, is the four piece set of the Gamma Team Synergies. Deflector, Engines, Warp Core & Shields. The general boosts to Polaron damage, turn rate, drain and other items keep with my general decision style. Having a ship have a main “build type” with a secondary type that merges with the main.

The set pieces having small but all around boosts to general areas ensures I try to eliminate any weakness in the ship. Or, in an attempt to ensure she doesn’t have a fatal flaw like a lot of high end builds do within the community.

Lukari Restoration Initiative Armaments

I theory crafted that i would use two pieces of this set. The console and the dual cannons. The Polaron set bonus damage boost as well as the drain boost were definitely factors (mainly it was because it was a Polaron weapon good set). However, the main item is the dual cannons. Due to their proc, while small, could be an added benefit to the structural integrity of the starship. I am planning if possible to also nab a Colony Polaron tactical console that also boosts healing when activating certain tactical BOFF firing modes.

However, this may or may not happen depending on how high I can get this ships native critical chance and severity up to.

USS Zond concept

Defensive Drone Guardians

Being a what I call a “pocket carrier” I decided that the Zond’s hanger needed brothers or sisters. I have used this console to great effect on the USS Corona, USS Kershaw, USS Ability and others. This also means I have a broad spectrum of abilities. My main ship has Cannons, my ship pets has Beam Overload, and my console pets have BFAW.

This is again keeping with the ships theme of breaking enemy lines. Imagine this cannon armed ship coming after you, with 10 pets in its wake. Plus, it attempts to eliminate a blindside with this vessel. Considering this ships abilities limit it to a forward 90 degree arc, I wanted something to cover my six, or at least distract it until i could bring this ship around.

Tachyokinetic Converter

Another console I have used to great effect on several starships. This console’s being a main choice is due to its turn rate bonus mainly. The critical bonus boosts definitely help.

Helm, One Quarter Impulse Power.

Mainly, while I am boosting this ships tactical capability as much as possible, I am not comprising her tanking capability or her ability to take fire. This goes into one of my main principals of my build designs for starships. Multi-layered redundancy (MMR).

MMR is my own design type, where i ask myself “What happens WHEN “x ability” or “x happens” or doesn’t happen. i build secondary systems and even tertiary systems into my starships. For example, if my massive DPS spike doesn’t occur, or it gets nuked or badly reduced, the ship has secondary systems to retreat or weather the enemy response.

Naturally, the game doesn’t really penalize you if it doesn’t work. But I like to role play that it does. More over, i actually try to act each time i go into a TFO that i don’t get a respawn, or if i do, it is going to take a real long time. If my ship gets destroyed, it could be really bad for the team. Which is one of my core gaming values, teamwork. I don’t want to do anything that forces my team to work harder if I can help it 🙂

Lets Book it Ensign.

Well, that is the introduction to the USS Zond. Apologises for the wall of text. However, for you lot, this has been a small window into my mind, how i design starships, and how sometimes within 60 minutes (shorter time that it took for me to type this out) I can build a entire starship from scratch.

This is what happens on a Sunday afternoon, when for two days since the ships release, the community has kept bashing a particular starship.

USS Zond - Engage

She is definitely not going to top DPS charts.

However, I decided to design her on a whim as I do get annoyed sometimes with the some members of the community who decries power creep, let expects every ship to get progressively more powerful, or have to have a minimum of “X BOFF Layout” or it is worthless.

One of my friends in the Equator Alliance, and one of the editors on this blog page once called me “Doctor Strangelove”. For my capability to seemingly build up any starship with crazy ideas or patterns, usually very quickly too. I think he is right, and sometimes I question how I can theory craft, build and construct a starship inside of one hour. But, I actually enjoy it. There is something to be said about being a Mad good guy starship designer.

As long as no one lets me near Omega particles or Red Matter, then we might have a problem.

 

 

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 🙂

Flashback: Deep Space Encounters

OldESD
Earth Spacedock, as it appeared from 2010 until April 2014. Image Credit: RachelGarrett | sto.gamepedia

In 2010, Star Trek Online was a far less forgiving game than the one is played today. Today it is possible to travel through each of the galaxy’s four quadrants in single trips as part of a large, open map. But at the time of the game’s launch, it was a very different story.

At the outset of this opinion piece, I will say: I think Star Trek Online has lost a potentially amazing experience that cannot be repeated again in the game as it exists today. And I shall explain why.

This is my story of how an exercise in dipping my toes into the pool became an eight-year journey that continues today.

In 2010, the galaxy was divided into sector blocks – each of which was level-banded and matched to the levels you were expected to hit when you reached those territories in the course of story missions. This was far more in line with the open worlds of other MMOs: journeying through sector space to your next destination was fraught with risk and danger. Sector space was filled with hostile NPCs who would follow your vessel if you flew too close to them, and drew their attention. Of course, these NPCs were the same level band as the sector block they patrolled. Those around Federation space in the Vulcan sector were low level opponents, while those in the end-game regions around Deep Space Nine and Gamma Orionis were much higher; at levels 40 to 50.

Star_Trek_Online_Galaxy_map
The original sector blocks of Star Trek Online, showing the Alpha and Beta Quadrants, and their discreet divisions. Image Credit: Cryptic Studios, 2011.

Needless to say, for tyro captains in their first Miranda-class light cruiser, venturing (or more accurately, straying) into a sector well outside your level bracket was a hazardous and naively foolish thing to do. You could potentially find your Miranda venturing through Borg space at warp five, while a Borg Cube pursued you at speed better than warp nine. If you were not prepared for this, then what happened next was usually regrettable.

If you were intercepted by these hostile NPCs in sector space, you would be automatically dragged kicking and screaming into an open-instance deep space encounter wherein you would need to defend yourself against enemy ships, and then destroy them.

Either that, or they destroyed you.

And so it was in 2010 that the intrepid and daring Lieutenant James Hawkins of the starship USS Hyperion decided, after defeating the Borg at Vega colony, (ah, yes, the foolish delusions of badassey at level 10) and rescuing the badly-damaged USS Khitomer, that the single most important thing he could do in his fledgling Starfleet carrer was to see the universe and visit the most famous space station in the galaxy: Deep Space Nine.

Deep Space Nine, of course, resided right in the middle of a level-40 True-Way-infested rats nest of Cardassian and Terran piracy called the Beta Ursae Sector Block.

With orders from Spacedock to go investigate some silly Vulcan monastery on P’Jem, Hawkins instead ordered the Hyperion to take a right turn after leaving Earth and thus entered Cardassian space. Immediately, he set a course for Deep Space Nine. It didn’t take long for the ridiculously out-of-place Miranda-class starship to be spotted by Terran Empire starships that patrolled sector space, and it was pulled into a Deep Space Encounter at the sort of odds that even the imperious James Kirk might have thought better of.

Alas, there was no way the badly outdated engines of the Miranda class could escape the Terrans, and Hawkins resolved himself to the simple fact that in his brazen impatience to see Deep Space Nine, he was probably going to be atomized and have his debris scattered over the better part of a sector. Not without a fight, of course. (Indeed, this entire excursion probably began with the words ‘never tell me the odds.)

Fate, however, deigned that better things awaited the tyro Lieutenant.

The young and inexperienced captain couldn’t do much as the first wave of Terran ships that awaited him in this encounter opened fire. Level 40 phasers against a Mark-II uncommon standard shield array need to only fire one or two shots before your ship has sufficient air holes in its engine room (we swear it makes it go faster) to personally wave your head out of the hole and wave a white flag from the safety of a space suit.

Actually, that last part isn’t true. This was a dark age of Star Trek Online that predated the Nukara Strike Force, and thus I am entitled to say that back in my day, we didn’t have these fancy space suits (No, really. EV suits didn’t exist at this point). We had a plastic bag (which is now banned) and a fire extinguisher from ‘Researcher Rescue’. And we had to share the extinguisher.

The point is that my ship was unquestionably exploding, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

As shields failed and the hull was breached, a voice could be heard in the back of Hawkins’ mind. “Sir… there’s another ship coming in…”

I will take a moment in the retelling of this story to make something very clear: This actually happened.

Sweeping in front of the mauled USS Hyperion, a huge level-45 Sovereign-class assault cruiser let fly with more firepower than I thought was ever reasonable for a spaceship to have in a Star Trek game. Beams and torpedoes lanced through the attacking Terrans as the Assault Cruiser put itself between them and the appallingly out-matched Miranda. Before long, the Terrans were destroyed, and the Sovereign pulled alongside the ruined Miranda and began sending over as many engineering teams and hazard emitters buffs as it could find. I received a message from the captain of the Sovereign that was rather blunt. “You shouldn’t be here.”

I wasn’t exactly in a position to disagree.  I’d made a terrible mistake and promptly accepted the Sovereign player’s very kind offer to escort me back to a safer region of space. Dutifully, the kind player did indeed invite me to a team, bumped my level up to 45 to avoid the aggro of the other NPC mobs in Beta Ursae, and took me all the way back to the Sirius Sector Block, and the relative safety of Federation space.

Let it also be said that some of my fondest memories come from the occasions where I got to be the hero, and made some anonymous Star Trek fan’s day just a little bit brighter in deep space.

A couple of years later, Cryptic would finally remove these roving deep space encounters and replace them with the queued system for encounters that we have now. Too many players had decided that random pursuits through sector space were ‘ruining their fun’, and more’s the pity. The encounter of a vastly powerful Sovereign class starship swooping into save a hapless low-level Miranda is the kind of thing Star Trek is made of, and I hold that it’s a terrible shame that players will no longer be able to experience that sort of moment.

I took away one enduring determination from the encounter with that Sovereign. Oh yes… I would have that ship, and then it would be me doing the rescuing. Let it be said that some of my fondest memories in this game from the occasions where I got to be the hero, and made some anonymous Star Trek fan’s day just a little bit brighter in deep space.

That Assault Cruiser – whose name has been unfortunately lost to time – left an indelible impression on the kind of ship I’d want to fly.

That was when a brief look at a game that piqued my curiosity garnered my complete and undivided attention.