This section, though, wouldn't be complete without a mention of what is not there: Player Crews. They're not there and won't be for launch, at least not in space. On land, of course, when grouped the two captains show up and fill out the group with Bridge Officers from their respective crews so that the instance has five characters. Should players also be able to group inside a single ship? Some argue vehemently yes, and that's their opinion, but in my personal experience I never missed it. I liked playing with other ships in a small fleet, but I also liked controlling all elements of my own ship.
That said, I do hope that down the line they add some limited support for grouping within a single vessel. For some high end ships, the ability to have one person do navigation, while another handles weapons would be interesting. This kind of micro-group would create specialists ("I'm an awesome pilot!"), without becoming boring. There is enough to do to split a couple of systems up: Weapons, Flight, and Power Management (shields, power distribution and auxiliary abilities). I think after three though, further division of roles would get dreadfully boring. A ship that launches fighters could theoretically also support a fourth person to control them, but that's about it. This is purely speculation, but if they go any kind of multi-player single-ship route, I'd imagine it would be something similar to the above and not down to the minutia of people playing doctors. It likely wouldn't satisfy everyone, but it is more in line with the structure of the game as it exists today.
Another improvement, and again, this is just me making stuff up, but I'd love to see Bridge Officers become sources of content. They're in the game now and it auto selects gender and race, so why not have quests for the combinations out there? A chain of quests, even if shared across all players, that make sense when considering type, race and gender would be a welcome addition. For example, if the game issued say a quest at Lieutenant Mark 7 to anyone who has a Vulcan Tactical officer to go to Vulcan and beam down to his village to kill some guys harassing his family, it would make them feel like real people more readily and not require Cryptic to make new quests for each officer, just ones that make sense to the race, profession and/or gender. It would almost be like an inverse Nemesis system from Champions.
Looking specifically at what is there though, I do like the concept and this is one area I'd like to see more from. I didn't find myself missing more individualization - such as NPC party members in Dragon Age - too much, since that would limit my ability to really make them my own. They don't have their own personalities hardcoded, sure, but they all quickly developed them in my head and given the sheer amount of content that would be required to make thousands of possible bridge officers, I can live with the way it is. The system, as it exists in game today, is a wonderful starting point and could become a rich source of content in the future.
Every character in Star Trek Online starts in a light cruiser, regardless of class. Within that one ship though are three different kinds of look to choose from, along with a myriad of other customization options. At each new rank throughout the game come three more ships (one geared to each class) and each of those three ships has three basic looks.
For light cruisers, the options are: Centaur, Soyuz and Miranda. Obviously, the core idea is basically the same on each, but they can look starkly different and nothing makes you use the same "type" for each part of your ship. The Centaur ships, for example, look a lot like the traditional Enterprise, while Miranda is a bit more armored looking and modern.
The four parts that can be customized are: the saucer, the nacels, the pylons and the struts . Again, you are not limited to one "type" across all four pieces. You can mix and match.
Ships also get paint jobs in Star Trek Online. There is a bank of decals for each section of the ship that can be colorized. The coloring is subtle, but nice. It always looks metallic and understated. So, it's not like the ship becomes bright green, even if you choose green.
Other options include how the ship ID and name are displayed on the hull, the type of windows, the base metallic tint, and what logos are on the hull. In Beta they have Vulcan and Maquis logos, along with Federation. I am not sure how to unlock those though.
Generally, the ships still look somewhat alike at a glance, in about as much as say all SUVs or mini-vans look the same. There's enough there to make yourself unique without losing what kind of ship you're actually flying. In my time, of the hundreds of other ships I ran across, I only saw one guy with my exact combination of saucer, nacels, pylons and struts, and he had a very different paint job.
Of course, as people advance in rank into new ships, that is sure to thin out even more.