Guest Blogger [CX]: Delta Rising: A New Perspective

Lootcritter – CX responded recently to the CaptainGecko Reddit letter thread with an interesting take on the whole XP progression discussion.  It’s a long read, but it really hits on a number of points that shed some light on what’s actually happening.  After listening to Borticus’s comments this evening, I think CX hits the nail on the head.

I invited him to share his thoughts here.  It’s worth a read:

Delta Rising: A New Perspective

It is over 3 month now, since Star Trek Online’s most recent expansion, “Delta Rising” has launched, but animosity expressed by what appears to be a rather substantial part of STO official forum goers, both against the expansion and Cryptic, refuses to die.

Over these 3 months many complaints were raised against what the player-base is seeing a bad change in direction for STO, but the one consistent complaint was that of the XP rewards levels compared to the large amounts needed to achieve the new specialization points.

The “XP nerf”, “Argala grind”, and “The best expansion ever” have become regular phrases, representing the general consensus in the forums:

Delta Rising introduce a new, and bad, direction to STO – grinding.

As everyone else, I have been following the forums, podcasts and blogs, trying to understand what is really happening behind the scenes, but when Cryptic announced the new command specialization, and especially the raising of the specialization points cap from 60 to 90, something “clicked” in my mind…

Yes, something is wrong with Delta Rising – but in contrast to the popular belief in the forums, I would argue that it is not the XP/grind issue, and to understand what I’m talking about, we’ll have to take a new perspective at Delta Rising launch:

From all the dev-blogs and publications Cryptic posted up to the Delta Rising launch, they presented the captain specialization system as a continuation of the leveling system:

 Based on these, as well as other publications, what the player base understood was “Ahha! So you reach level 60, and then you move to a new level system, and keep leveling in the specialization system

But the amount of need XP for each Spec point is so large (160,000 XP – higher then you need to move from lvl 59 to 60), and with the player-base so used to leveling so easily, it became frustrated – “why do we need to grind to max-out the specialization point?!” “re-evaluate XP rewards!”

Delta Rising has a problem, but it is not the grind, and it is not the XP

It is FAULTY ADVERTISING by cryptic, which led the player-base MISUNDERSTANDING what the Captain Specialization system is:

  •  – The Captain Specialization IS NOT a new leveling system, design to “kick-in” once your reach level 60.
  • – The Captain Specialization is an “ENDGAME, LONG-TERM REWARD SYSTEM“, designed to give players a long-term target to work for, as an incentive to keep playing the game.

 “What are you talking about?!”

Let review several points:

  1. Until DR, when you reach level 50, that was it, there was no where to go from here – you could run the STFs, play the exchange for the better gear, do the Dil=>Zen=>Zen ships circle, but eventually it was all the same.

    And the player-base complained about this, and asked for more endgame content.

  1. After every new season of event, there was a peak in activity for about 2 month, and then the game would drop back to activity level which were before the new content – because once every one “zipped throw” the new contented, we were back to point 1 – all the new stuff “ended”.
  1. When cryptic introduced the new Captain Specialization system – they could have let you pick only one specialization of the 3, and then say “Oh! you want to respec? Sure! We have a token for that – 500 Zen!” – They didn’t.

    They let the player the freedom to Max-out everything.

  1. When Cryptic setup the Captain Specialization system they announced the system would cap at 60 points.

Why 60? – 1 primary specialization with 30 points + 2 Secondary ones with 15 = 60 points total.

They announced they intend to present new specs over time, and they wanted to prevent players from hoarding points for future specializations BEFORE these new ones are introduced.

BUT, they also said that when you reached the maximum of 60 specialization points, you’ll INSTEAD get dilithium reward, until the new specializations are introduced (at which time the Cap would be raised, as done in the upcoming command specialization…)

  1. Cryptic has really invested in the new specializations – and I mean REALLY invested – the new powers are good-fun, everyone wants to use them. It gives diversity of play. Assuming that you and your friends didn’t maxed-out the system, then every one of you allocated the point differently, getting different results.

And cryptic is INVESTED in the new system – They are PROUD of it.

All these points, joint together, brings me to the follow conclusion:

The system is intentionally XP demanding – cryptic is trying to increase the amount of average amount of players playing the game in-between updates. They want veteran players who left, and only visit once in a while (“just to play the story”) to come back – and stay.

The high XP demand is designed to prevent players from “zipping throw” the content, “Max-out” the Specializations, and leave again – the concept was that people play their favorite content, and suddenly get a new Spec-point –

“Ha! I got a new point! Where do I put it? I need 2 more for the new ship trait! I HAVE to log in again tomorrow”

And when you finally max out the system, until a new specialization is introduced, you still have incentive to play in the form of dilithium rewards (this was removed after the Tau-Dewa meltdown – but we’ll get there…)

This is what they want – to keep you playing the game.

If you assume that for each hour a player is in game, there is a 1% probability that he’ll spend 1$, then if you get 100 players in-game for a full hour, statistically, you MADE 1$. This is what they want – to have as many players playing the game at any given time, and to keep this level as high and as stable as possible, for longer times.

The Tau-Dewa Melt-down:

Yes, there was a bug, and yes, tribble-testers reported it – so why wasn’t it fixed for launch? – Deadline.

Cryptic was on a deadline – Oct. 14th – and whoever was in charge (D’angelo, Rivera and others) were convinced that they communicated the idea of a “Long-Term reward system” clearly – Everyone would understand the system is for “long-term use”, come for the DR content, and increase their playtime over the long run because of the new “Cap-Spec” system.

But when the player-base, who as I claim, misunderstood the system as a new leveling system on which you need to get to the final level (the 60th point), tried to do so, players discovered getting the 11th point (the one after level 60) is VERY hard.

Wanting to get it all NOW, they search for an “efficient” source of XP – and they found the Tau-Dewa bug…

And max-out all 60 points in 2 days… and began farming the Dilithium reward…The mere fact, that EP Steven D’Angelo, a man who AFAIK made a point out not posting in the STO forums (unlike his predecessor), posted a lengthy explanation in said forums, which by now were already getting toxic, should point you at the level of seriousness the Tau-Dewa problem was for the company.

And the systematic removal of points from players further solidifies my idea of the “Long-Term Endgame Reward” idea:

The system, designed as a device to increase in-game activity, keeping players engaged for several MONTHS, was being beaten in TWO (2) DAYS!

Something had to be done – and it was.

“Come see the great Argala Starship Parking lot, open 9-to-5… to-9… to-5, Pacific Standard Time”

The Argala System – this is where the player base is right now – at least this is the impression you get from reading the STO forums.

And if you’ll fly to Argala, it does look like a starship parking lot in sector space –

Because everyone is grinding for Specialization points.

And all I can say is – “Have you all gone mad?!”

Is THIS is why you’re here? Don’t you have a better game to play?

Let me ask you the unspeakable question: “were does it say you HAVE to max-out the specs”

If all I wrote up to here did not made you budge from you position even slightly, then let me give you another perspective:

We currently have 2 primary specializations – Intel (combat) and the upcoming Command (team-buffer), And 2 secondary ones – Pilot (space – maneuvering) and Commando (ground – combat).

These are 90 specialization points.

Cryptic have promised additional specializations, so let for a moment do some “wishful thinking”:

Imagine that by the end of 2015, they’ll add another primary Specialization – lets a “debuffer”, and that they’ll expand the secondary options by 4 more Specsializations – Space “Gunner”, Space “Engineer”, Ground “Healer” and Ground “infiltrator”.

These are additional 90 points (30+15+15+15+15)

That will bring us to a total of 180(!) Specialization points – or in other words, you can either grind Argala for eternity, or go and play the game.

And let me just remind you – you can only have 1 primary and 1 secondary Specs active at any given time.

“The Metrics”

Recently Captain Geko interviewed at one of the podcasts and said that “the metrics are excellent” – and got the player-base pissed.

“we are grinding, and he thinks everything is great”,”all he cares about is the metrics”

The problem is that by grinding, the player base is feeding the metrics.

What are the metrics – the metrics measures: of average player in-game time, of content usage, of currency usage etc. – and of the number of specialization points generate for players.

All these measures have targets – and if all measures achieve their designated targets, everything is fine.

As the player-base is grinding, activity is up, and specialization points are generated at the desired target figures – so yes, everything is fine.

Now, If the player-base will leave Argala, and start playing the game, then he will get much let specialization points – “it will take us AGES!” – and this is the whole point.

Suddenly the metrics will show the activity is still “on target”, but players are generating significantly less spec points.

“This is a system we invested in! but the players are not using it – actually they play the game, but the content they like to play doesn’t get the XP fast enough – May be we need to increase XP rewards…

This is what you want – isn’t it?

“You are full of #$%^”

Well, I don’t work for Cryptic, and I don’t I have the actual figures behind the metrics, but, I do have the R&D system.

From the moment it was introduced, people were complaining that the material requirements of the R&D system were too high, and that the R and VR materials were very hard to get – I was very rudely surprised to discover that that advanced ques R&D reward boxes were not guaranteeing VR materials.

And suddenly, Cryptic patched the game, and VR material requirements dropped from 3 to 1 (66%), R material requirements dropped from 8 to 5 (37%), UC and C material req. were also reduced, and now Advanced ques GUARANTEED 1 VR material.
Why was it suddenly fixed?

Not because of the constant complaints on the forums, but because after seeing all the community complaining about the R&D system, the figures from the “metrics” showed that the usage of the R&D system was considerably lower the Cryptic intended it to be.
They have invested far too much in the system, and in other systems which depended on it (i.e. Mk XIII/XIV gear items), to just let it die – so they fixed it.

And, in the upcoming anniversary patch, they are going to fix it still – from now on, you’ll be able to slot the 20 Research project (the one designed to increase R&D XP) 3 times, instead of just once.

When they see complaints on the forums, but the metrics show all measures “on target” they conclude that it’s just “a few whiners in the forums”.

But when complaints on the forums are concurrent to metrics showing something is not working – they know it for real…

This is why if the player-base wants any chance of change – they must stop grinding, and start playing the game.


2 thoughts on “Guest Blogger [CX]: Delta Rising: A New Perspective

  1. UPDATE: I haven’t listened to the “Tribbles in Ecstasy” live broadcast last night (as in my part of the globe it was literally the middle of the night), and would have to wait for the recording to post, but I understood that while being interviewed on the show, Jeremy “Borticus” Randall, among other things discussed, reffered to the captain specialization saying that “The system is supposed to be “endless” in terms of options, not that it’s a major grind” – essentialy confirming the idea I present in my post above.
    This further solidify my opion that we as players need to stop chasing the specialization points, and just play the game.
    Again, just like the R&D system – if the points “will not get to us” fast enuogh, we will not be ustilizing the new specializations, which will force Cryptic to evaluate the XP gaining rate.

    – “I am not going to play the game until the fix this!”
    Actually, this is the WORST thing the player base can do.
    Keeping you regular level of activity, while replacing the grinding with the more enjoyable but lower XP rewarding content, would preset the facts as they are – we play the game, but the content we prefer does not reward sufficiant XP for us to take the specialization system seriously – I mean, who cares about the new system if at the current rate we progressing in it, we will only see it’s more major effects (Kit modules, Boff traning, starship traits) only two month down the road.

    Rage quiting the game would have a negative effect on ALL metrics, obscuring the real problem behind a mountin of irrelevant date…


    1. If long term regular play is the intended method of spec point accrual (I agree, it was the plan), then the devs need to stop contradicting themselves by making Delta content (ie. Argala) grinders’ paradise. The nature of multiplayer games is they attract a good deal of people who crave bragging rights over others. “Yeah, I’ve unlocked x, y, z. You haven’t yet? You’ll get there… *cough* loser.” So of course those players are off chasing the most economical xp yield. Trouble with this is it siphons masses of players away from the queues which are supposed to be a smorgasbord of endgame entertainment but are currently 90% dead because of the Argala carrot on a stick (+ Crystal catastrophe is out of sync with other STFs for time investment/dilithium rewarded making it another carrot on a stick for people feeding multiple alts) These imbalances are the sole reason my playtime is down to ~4hrs a week and dwindling instead of the previous 30+. Because there’s precious few options in the queues anymore. All they have to do is bring Delta xp rewards back in line with what can be made from a typical STF, accounting for time investment required. My guess is this will not happen until Perfect World* is satisfied the metrics show people overwhelmingly using the new content, justifying the investment cost of the expansion.

      *the people at whom “Delta Rising is the best expansion ever and the players love it” was aimed.


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