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MMORPG Thoughts and Other things that I can't get out of My Head

As a disciple of the MMORPG system, I offer my humble thoughts in this blog.

Author: fansede

SWTOR Longevity: Short Term and Long Term

Posted by fansede Monday January 30 2012 at 9:10AM
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So just over a month of the launch of SWTOR and many veterans and powergamers alike are critizing the lack of end game content. Some of it is legit , but much of it is not due to game design. Why? Because i feel we, as gamers, yearn to progress in some way/ shape or form. So we spend hours and hours levelling. Why? because it unlocks more skills, or improve the ones we have, or gives us access to better gear and/or gaming content. All MMOs have this. 

The problem is that gamers outpace years of development. I thought I read somewhere that it takes weeks to develop 1 hour worth of playable content. Avid gamers know how to streamline this even more (Skip through dialouge/ spacebar/ know what gives the best experience, etc.  Then if they really love the game, they roll alts. If they don't love it, they gripe on forums. 

No game design company wants their investment to burn in the hellflames of the internet, because that will translate into subscription dropping and into failure. So I have some thoughts that could assist this problem.

1) Unlimited levels - What? If there is not enough content for 50? Why assume there would be for level 100? Hear me out. the Unlimited level idea major purpose is to satisfy the insatiable need to progress. The rewards for over 50 (for now) will simply be 4-5 stat points. Perhaps alternate stat distribution between primary and secondary stats. So level 51 - you get 5 points for your primary and level 52 you get to boost your secondaries and so on.  Make the exp gap higher to slow the pace down.  the stats should have little bearing on charcter performance until the character gets to level 75 or so versus a 50, but by then the design should figure a level 75 should be attained after 1 year of gaming or so (because of exponential exp curve). 

How do you gain exp after 50 without adding more content? Daily Missions, Flashpoints, Space Combat and PvP Warzones. Note: Bioware has already added a Flashpoint in one month of launch. 

Adjustment: Daily heroic missions can remove the minimal exp gain if the player decides to play at recommended level (remember how Cryptic used the mentor system?) or the player can run through the mission and farm commendations. 

2) Adjust Commendations after level 50 - Commendations should be a coveted commodity after 50. Any planet commendations are worth something. I propose an option to trade in commendations for experience points and/or cash 1000 commendations of a planet for 1 skill point.  This keeps players doing things on all worlds because any daily mission on any planet can be repeated for commendations. Provide incentive if the mentoring system is used - more commendations for players who scale their level down with others versus blowing through the easy stuff. 

3) Skill points - these are rare to obtain as they should be, but they can become an option for players to strive for. Perhaps after an epic chain of assisting a planet  of daily missions a mystery box is earned. A small chance in that box is a skill point to be redeemed at the skill vendor. Also put that drop on World Bosses


I can't imagine how much work it is necessary to make these adjustments, but this "bandage" should be enough until more content becomes produced. Expansions obviously would have something for level 50 -60 and beyond, but other ideas for content besides the obvious:

Companion missions - you get to play as your companion in the game world. Rewards inlcude exp for your main character (after 50) and chance to obtain rare craftables as well as companion upgrades. As a companion avatar you don't participate in the conversations, but you assist in other player missions as often as you want. What if there was a companion only pvp battleground? Prizes again include experience for main character, credits, rare gear for companions, companion commendations for access to new looks and rare crafting components. This is an opportunity to really make your companion stand point from the other clones.

New neutral battleground - Huttrace 500 - Speeders only please - raceway for credits. Now all your speeders have slots for upgrades like a spaceship. Hull plating, weapons, a Nitro burst of speed, greaser to slow or slick the area, etc. Que up against 10 other players and race through a hostile terrain. Your speeder falls apart and you have to spend time with a mobile droid pit crew before you can get back in. 

Political games - We all expect SWTOR to have PvP objectives in the future, but we hope there will be things a guild can strive for. A guild can align itself with a leader of influence in the political power structure. A Senator, a member of the Dark Council, etc. This figure provides daily missions for the guild members to complete and in return the guild gains influence which can be turned in for rewards like guild wide buffs, access to guild only world boss fights and access to guild vs. guild battlegrounds.

Space PvP 

THIRD FACTION: The Neutral Nar Shadda becomes home for players who have no desire for either side and are geared for self interest and preservation. Smuggler/ Bounty Hunters are an easy transition to be allowed to start here. Melee tank types can wield vibroswords, electostaves and similar for their journeys and/or the versatility of Grey Jedi can be playable here! Throw in a buff breasted beast of a bard type that brings memories of SWG: the Dancer and whatcha get? 

Here is to wishful thinking!

A Troopers Wish

Posted by fansede Wednesday January 25 2012 at 11:27AM
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Well currently im a Commando in Star Wars the Old Republic.  I am a casual gamer with only a few hours a day to spare. I have no alts other than what my kids have rolled. I started with the trooper at head start and hes lvl 47 now with level 30 in valor. I dabble in it all PvE, PvP, Space missions, datacron hunting,  Flashpoints and occasional World Boss ops. 

The utility of a commando is on par with what I am seeing out there. I am assault specced, but I can heal through the flashpoints (im up to Red Reaper) if necessary. only one I fail is Colloid War games - that first part is too much for me and we had to get a Sage. 

I tried all the specs - Gunnery, heal and assault. I like assault because I can move in those warzones. I find myself getting clobbered when i plant myself and try to spam gravity beam. When the imps ignore me, im up there in damage dealt, but usually those imps spot me and interrupt my arse to death. I have seen vids where gunnerys own the match, but i guess I still dont know what im doin.

given Sith sorcerors dominance I think troopers can help the Republic side make things more interesting if:

1) Mortar Shell - make it a stand alone turret.  The Trooper still needs to set up its target, and still needs to channel it, but give it a few seconds delay and let the trooper move. in other words the channel time is the time the trooper uses to set up is mortar and load his bombs. After that - say 3-5 second delay - it automatically fires off. This provides some strategy.  Traps, defensive turrets or even a setting to fire when enemies in range. This also lets the trooper move and not get interrupted unless he is trying to set up his mortar attack.

2) the trooper gets stock strike for a melee swing, then Blitz - sure it does decent damage, but only on incapacitated targets? Please revise this skill. Blitz should be a rush ability - it should be a Vanguard staple initiator - rush in for a short burst of speed to a target and pound hard. Its on the same cooldown as Sotck Strike I believe so why is it so gimped when it can be used?

3) Does the trooper have any interrupts? Vanguards have Riot strike. Concussive bomb has to be channeled and stationary to fire. Cryogrenade is a 6 sec stun.  We Commandos need a real Interrupt skill. I say tweak the skill tree to aid in this. On the healer spec skill called Efficient Conversions, remove the cost reduction and reduce the cooldown times instead. For gunnery reduce the cooldown even more for the knockback. For assault give a skill where there is a 5% chance to knockdown players for explosive round.

MMO Anniversary Celebrations - What promos work?

Posted by fansede Friday September 16 2011 at 1:59PM
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MMO development and launch is always a high stakes business.  Every team and investor prays that their product becomes a successful venture with subscribers and followers galore. However, many of us who explore the genre as much as we do know that MMOs fail. So when an annual anniversary comes around it is an achievement worth touting to the public. The topic of my thoughts today..

What MMO Anniversaries were worth it? In other words, what ones either a) made you want to resubscribe or buy the game or b) what ones made you log back in to check things out 

MMO Pets 

There isn't a MMO out there that  doesn't give a proverbial carrot to players in the form of a pet. A mini thing or persona that follows you around. Maybe gives a bonus. However, I personally don't care if I get a mini puffie to follow me around. It has never been a reason for me to come back to your game.

Explorable Content

My guess is that most of you just rather play a mini expansion for an Anniversary Celebration. The only thing I say to criticize this is that are you (the game designer) recruiting new players or are you getting old dusty accounts to log in for a few weeks? It may be worth it to existing players and may even bring back some lost accounts, but I am not sure if you will get new ones or ones that were frustrated with your original game.

Game fixes/ Upgrades

Would you come back to a game if they announced all major bugs were fixed?  No additional content . What if there was an Anniversary Celebration event called : "It Bugs Me" - if players report a bug or problem and it cannot be fixed in one hour, the player gets a free month of game time or x amount of cash shop coins, etc. If the bug gets fixed, the area drops a small trinket when picked up by anyone immortalizes the player - L3golass was here and smashed a bug. The player may also get a bug pet of his/her choice..

talk about incentive to fix a game! 

Game Enhancements

Everyone can be a Jedi now! No, just kidding. As an Anniversary Celebration, new skill trees, new hobbies, new skill here and there. Again, wonderful for existing players, maybe some old players, but will it make someone who never played your game to give it a go?

Free to Play / Cash Shop discounts

When I see subscription games go free to play, it tells me in some way the game is falling short of expectations. Maybe the value of the gaming experience was not there in the first place, maybe the pricing model was wrong, or maybe the game needs an overhaul or major upgrade. So if a game announces as an Anniversary Celebration they are now going to free to play when they were not before, I am skeptical. Now if the game was always F2P, then obviously this type of promo does not exist. same sort of idea for cash shop discounts. If I am not playing your game now, cash shop discounts in your store aint gonna do it for me, either.

Below I listed a couple popular past Anniversary Promos - Please let me know what ones were memorable to you!


LORTO Anniverssary Promos

World of Tanks - cash shop discounts

EVE - nuthin


EQ - gives away 12 subscriptions

EQ 10th anniversary - lots of stuff - much of it promoting the card game

WOW - a multi billion dollar cash cow -  gives you a feat of strength in achievements - pet

GW2 WvW Capture the Keep - Potential to become even more!

Posted by fansede Thursday September 1 2011 at 1:51PM
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The recent information listed in the blog Talk Tyria has generated a lot a good information for the highly anticipated MMO GW2.  Most discussion posts are addressing the guild membership aspects of things but what set a fire in my brain was one single suggested feature:

+ Specific guilds will be able to capture keeps within WvWvW PvP, and be able to use their Influence to create upgrades to those keeps.

I believe there is a TON of potential to be considered here. The "Capture the Keep" feature in MMOs is not new. Games dating back to Dark Age of Camelot have it. Concept is simple enough- overrun the keeps defenses. Beat the boss and pound your chest for a time.

For the longest time I have wondering if there was a possibility to bridge a RTS game (where you "own" a castle, build it up, then attack others with your troops, etc. with a MMO. I think the key is something like Dynamic Events. 

What if...

You unlock the ability to build and run your own castle that can be set up in this WvWvW zone. You can gather resoruces you need throughout the game on your journey (from sturdy wood, mine stone/iron, etc. you can build structures to attract units or recruit them in your travels (rescue a guard, help out a humanoid creature, sway a centaur to join you, etc.)These units act as your army to defend or assault other keeps. When you get to the point where your keep is "raidable" you can choose to raid other player run or guild run keeps. An attack is executed and when the troops reach their destination an dynamic event unfolds. Much like NPCs raiding that village you started out at. Except you decide which troops will be used at certain points of the DE. 

For example: Player A has a keep and wants to raid Player B village for loot. He has acquired from his travels and dealings about 300 troops. 50 are foot soliders 50 are ranged archers 50 are casters 50 are healers and the remaining troops are humanoid monster variety . The player run DE assault system pops up and gives Player A is choices:

Event 1: Siege 10 minutes - Objective: Set up weapons/ protect from destruction. Player A must bring his weapons up and protect them from the castle defender. Whatever weapons are up when time runs out are usable for the assault. Up to 50 units can be deployed in this stage. Whatever units remain after the event can rollover to Event 2

Event 2: Barrier assault - 20 minutes - Objective: Gain access/entry to the inside of the enemy fort. Up to 100 units can be deployed. Players will use units to smash doors, try to scale walls, assist in breaking weakened walls from siege hits, etc. Defender uses wall defenses (oil, ballista, etc) and/or a counter assault (up to 100 defender npcs) to thwart the effort. Whatever units remain can be utilized for final phase of DE.

Event 3: Raid/Pillage 20-30 minutes - Objective : units must plunder and bring loot to caravan. Up to 150 units plus Boss allowed. units will go to various structures and 'attack them" and loot gathered is dependent on structural damage inflicted. Defender tries to thwart this raiding. A Boss type is introduced and must be defeated as well. 

Now, can other players participate in this event or is it just 1 cast army vs. another? 

WHAT IF YOU COULD? - Like the GW Map - the village raid is a place that is labeled as an event. If players decide to join in they will asked to join the attacker or join the defender. Rewards are standard like any other DE, but you also get influence from the castle owners. The more influence you earn for other players, the better stuff you could get from that castle vendors, maybe rare stuff! 

Just like a DE, the event can scale to the amount of players involved.

If you want to provide this feature for guild run castles instead of player run - no problem. you can still use this RTS style of play. The NPC units can keep smaller guilds more competitive with the larger  guilds.


A-net gets another new feature to their game. Its like 2 games for the price of 1. More PvP content. Expansion Box opportunity - Border Wars. Potential for the holy Grail of MMOs - Player run content!

Cash Shop items - speed ups for structures, troop recruitment, movements, vanity items, fortress skins, specialty units and Bosses.

Players experience an optional RTS system within a MMO - a type of player who enjoys to manage a village, fort, compound, wizard tower, subterranean hovel, mountain hall, treetop base, underwater kingdom, etc. 

Guild Halls can have bases which can be upgraded and protected. Perhaps if guilds reach a level of growth and dominance, then it can become a source for quests and missions in the area.

It is fruit for the taking. An Anet just be the compant to pull it off. 

The Mindset of Resubbing the MMO

Posted by fansede Thursday October 7 2010 at 7:37AM
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We are fans of the Massive multiplayer online genre. We have gone through games like a woman goes through shoes. Yet, unlike the single player experience, we may part company with our online game, but how many of us are teased back into the realm once more?

What triggers this response?  

Could it be the "old flame" scenario? A game we loved and enjoyed, but the time was not right anymore. We got a job, got a real life issue or got kicked out of the house. Now things have settled down again, and the little stray memories become "I wonder whats going on in that game now?"

Could it be the marketing temptations? We get them in our inboxes. "We want you back! 14 day trial! We reactivated your account this month! New updates! Or the ultimate temptation - expansions.

How many of us who haven't played World of Warcraft in years are going to resubscribe because of the hailed Catacylsm Expansion in December? Or is there a cutoff time where it doesn't matter anymore? In other words, how long would you part ways with a game and then be willing to return?

Boredom. MMO development has long cycles now. AAA games on average take 4-5 years to launch. Do we dabble in the F2P or older games just to keep our seats warm or are we ok with creating forum threads or blogs speculating on meta features of that upcoming MMO everyone is waiting for?

Maybe it is financial. These are rough economic times. A monthly subscription adds up. What else can explain the recent resurgence of F2P games like DDO, LORTO, Wizard 101, Free Realms, etc.? A game you liked, but can't budget for anymore now has gone free to play.  How many of us have reenlisted to these games?

I have resubscribed to EQ2, WoW, City of Heroes/ Villians at one point in time in the past decade. EQ2 - was tempting when Ruins of Kunark expansion was launched. I enjoyed about a month of it and then left. WoW - I played Horde when it launched, then I got busy with life. Then when I got caught up I resubbed to play Alliance on a PvP server, but I never got past lvl 40 on my sexy human warlock. I haven't looked back since. I didn't buy another expansion, but Cata is the only thing on the horizon...

The only reason I went on and off with Coh/Cov was without a doubt the customization. I couldn't help myself making various combinations of pixelated humanoids...

What say you? What keeps bringing you back to your former games? Are you thinking of brushing cobwebs off your WoW account to wade back into it? for an expansion?

How will MMORPGs move with Social Networks?

Posted by fansede Friday May 28 2010 at 10:29PM
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Many of us have Facebook, My Space, Twitter and various other programs. Well known games such as Mafia Wars/ Farmville are attracting millions of players.  It is something we all sure todays MMO developers would like to tap into. Whether it be to advertise their product, provide a meta game content and/or another source of revenue in a game application.

What would you social netwrok subscribers be interested to see our upcoming MMOs put out there for us?

Some thoughts in my head:

- play with minions/ companions/ pets. A meta game where you adventure with a NPC your main character unlocked, Gear and upgrades earned are transferred into the MMO game itself

- create your own Boss for players to whack around. The MMO game provides the basic template. The Facebook gamer "levels it up" in the direction they want.  Reach a certain point of advancement and you win the opportunity to submit it to the MMO game. The MMO game then cycles player made bosses (with all the gear it earned) and when it finally falls you know who did it.

- Diplomacy - Vanguard started the Diplomacy idea for its cities. Why not offer a My Space Diplomacy adventure for your toon? Rewards for vanity and faction are the main theme here, but no reason to offer unique missions that are unlocked after an epic advanture is done.

- Housing items, Crafting items, vanity or special effects are all rewards that could be provided for offline adventures or when the server is down. Something to offer players to do non-active / combat missions. Detective like missions, perhaps.


Love to hear your thoughts as Well!

What are you doing?

Posted by fansede Saturday June 13 2009 at 10:12AM
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 The phrase we all to often see now in our facebooks, my space and twitter accounts.

Yet , it should be an essential question in our MMO character profiles. Think about it.  Springboarding from the insightful Dana Massey in his piece Litmus test, it would be worth developing a game that allows players to answer this question.

Like many others have said, in past MMOs we define our avatar by level not so much by achievement. Or to a lesser extent, if someone asks us what we are doing in game the answer is:

grinding levels or crafting

farming gold or faction

camping for a rare spawn

a gear run


are these answers good enough? Should we want more from our games? These gaming companies gives us elaborately designed worlds, strive for unique gaming features, spend thousands in ad campaigns, but in the end are we really just interested in level and loot?

I am watching the Bioware game with interest because they are claiming to have the key to gamers kingdom with the story angle.  As the story of their MMO development production evolves, I hope they stick to their guns and make an engaging game. Not just a level 1 - 50 Tortage (see Age of Conan) and we just race to the end of the story.

How about answering  the above question in regards to our MMO games like:

I am looking for this villian guy who has trashed my house. So far i got a lead from a barmaid in the pub...

I am completing my artifact construction. I understand that I need an extract of a crystal found somewhere in fable land. Now to figure out how to get there..

I am exacting justice on the Noobsquad. Them bitches raided my village and now its payback. Who wants in?

Trying to figure out what this *thing* I just found off this Sith Lord is. Says I have to talk to Jedi Master Dana. ..

What is your thoughts?


The Star Trek Holodeck: An opportunity for Publishers?

Posted by fansede Wednesday February 11 2009 at 7:17AM
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 Many games today offer in game advertising to supplement revenue. While the debate to have in game advertising in a MMO is not the focus of my thoughts. It is more of a springboard of what could be an interesting angle..

Since the Star Trek : The Next Generation series came out holodeck technology was introduced.  Many times it was the sole focus of the entire hour of the show. The Holodeck gave the writers of Star Trek an opportunity to "time travel" and go into novels of contemporary times.  The exploration of the Holodeck was just as interesting as visiting an alien world.

Now imagine you decide to visit the holodeck. And you are presented with several program missions available. What if one of the options was:

Paragon City

For those that are not familiar with City of Heroes/ Villians it is a place of interest.

The Star Trek Online game offers a demo of the game of its own instance for players to experience. How viable is this?

We already know the game engines of STO and COH are the same.  You can put the backround data and such from COH on the DVD that comes with the gamebox.  We already know that there are free trials available. All Cryptic has to do is plug the game at the end and if the player likes the experience they can be sent to the account management screen.

It is perfectly acceptable in Star Trek "lore" . Remember the Holodeck can take you anywhere, allow you to be anyone and do anything. It is all an illusion.

It is easy for the player. No downloads, no account creations, no credit card. Not mandatory.

Another way to introduce players to your other games.

I admit I believe NC Soft bought COH from Cryptic so I am not sure what business hurdles have to be jumped, but what publisher wouldn't want a demo of their game going on the next big MMO for players to try? Cryptic may ask for some ad revenue. That means less subscription fee hikes for us!

The Holodeck may even offer demos like Champions Online, or if there are games with similar engines offer up single player demos. All at the players option. 

What id there was enough revenue for this service to offer a free to play Star Trek Online?

Now that would be boldy going where no one has gone before..


STO: The Ship mechanic ( Part 1)

Posted by fansede Friday August 8 2008 at 7:44AM
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Perpetual received a lot of flack for not investing much time in regards to the starship interiors of the Star Trek ship.  Let's hope Cryptic doesn't make the same mistake.

There are a lot of ways Cryptic can approach the Starship Interiors concept, the question always comes down to, what is FUN?

Will the Starship be merely a transport vehicle for groups to travel? And players use them only to fight starship fights by themselves?

Or will Starships be a moving "base of operations" (like City of Villians Instanced base)? Drawing from previous Star Trek games like Bridge Commander, wouldn't it be fun to get an intergration of both concepts?

Let's say our Captain has been comissioned a ship from a Federation Starbase or Earth. The Ship has the basics - a bridge, engineering, sick bay and mess hall.  The Captain has been given an assignment from an NPC Admiral. The Admiral tells the captain what officers are required for the task. The Captain can assemble his team or use the City of Heroes style LFG system (Lists players lfg , their rank, their specialty). Players requesting a team get a beep on their badge and a message..

Once the team is assembled the Captain assigns them to the ship. Not everyone gets to sit on the bridge. The entire team can explore the ship and interact with it. Sit emotes, eat/ drink, sleep, etc. Bring up a map of the ship schematics, etc..

Going to do away missions are easy, because the ship is merely a transport vessel. It is when ship to ship combat occurs is the real problem.

Perpetual noted that they do not want players staring at consoles during a fight.  Understood. I can see that it lacks action pack activity that other MMOs offer.  BUT this is Star Trek. It is not Anarachy Online or Star Wars Galaxies for that matter.

I do believe Cryptic can make ship vs. ship combat exciting as a group effort.  The roles are already there in the Star Trek Universe.  Captains in this case, not only set the mission and its difficulty, they can set NPC behavior of the crew.  Maybe he could not find an Engineer for his mission. Well he "buys" one from the Starfleet manifest and sets it behavior. The Captain also receives reports from his players and the game translates it into statistics of his ship. For example the Captain wants to know his Shield status. He does not know it always. He must receive a report from his tactical officer.  A good officer updates this regularly and it shows up to the captain as a blue bar surrounding the ship. The status bar remains that way until updated again. So teamwork is essential. An AFK Tactical Officer would mean he is literally asleep at the post and may mean defeat for the team.

Captains have other roles but I will go into that some other time.

Each team member has a role on the ship during space combat. Give the Captain reports and keep the area you are in charge of in peak performance.  I would then propose to throw a wrinkle into the system..

Mini instances. What? We are in the middle of a battle and I am off doing an instance? Hear me out..

These could be mini scenarios that may turn the tide of battle or provide unique "buffs" for the team. An example , Suppose the Ship is in combat with a Romulan. The Lieutennant is stationed at the Conn and is charge of navigation. Normally he has a host of abiltites, combat manuevers to aid the ship in this fight.  The game throws a curveball to the team and it seems the Romulan ship has blasted the Lieutennants station. The team sees the player is down and the bridge is on fire. Instead of the game continuing its space fight, the mini instance has started. Save the player, save the bridge in 10 minutes or the Ship suffers. The lieutennant has to be carried to sick bay through the ship interior map. All the while the ship trembles in the heat of combat. Someone has to stop the fire and repair the console to a workable condition. A Doctor has to heal the fallen member or he is out of the fight.  The captain has the option of skipping the scenario and suffer the ship movement and combat debuff or go through the scenario and keep functioning systems...

Would that be feasible for a game?

STO New ideas (Continued)

Posted by fansede Thursday August 7 2008 at 11:03AM
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I thought I was reading about STO not having any real progression system of sorts. While this is not a "new" idea per se, Here is how I would argue for the idea of a progression system in STO.

Star Trek has a Rank system for chain of command. Here is a site how the chain of command is listed in the Star Trek world. 

Ok these ranks are hallmark points of advancement in a players career.  How do you measure ones progression through these ranks? My suggestion would have a few twists.

First would be a players special interest - these are skills sets which could be used like any other sci fi MMO. It also helps a player customize his/her avatar. Think of the Star Trek shows. Captain Piccard loved archeology, ( Maybe as a game mechanic players who take the skill archeology receive benefits from exploration, more special unlocks from ancient cultures and perhaps able to receive unique missions that challenge an archeologist. What caused this civilization to die? Why is my ship debuffed when I visited here and my engineer has no clue?). Maybe you want to be Captain Waorf type and focus on fighting tactics. You might get bonuses for melee / weapon combat important for away missions and/ or if your ship has been boarded by the enemy... 

So I would set an experience bar for these skills and level them up to unlock new skills for the player. Adding benefits to performace and perhaps unlocking new game experiences such as quests, items, and / or enhancing ship performance.

Set that aside now, lets focus on moving our avatar from a mere Cadet to a Starfleet Captain. What would be a measuring unit of progression. I say give them Achievements and Commendations. When a player performs activities to complete a goal, it is an Achievement. Perform X amount of Achievements and you are up for a Commendation from your Captain.  Earn enough Commendations and you are eligible for a Promotion of Rank. So to lay things out:

Johnny is an Ensign on a Ship.  The game requires Johnny to perform 50 Achievements to qualify for a Commendation.  Five Commandations qualify him for a Promotion. Finish an epic type of Promotion mission and DING!  You have been promoted to Lieutennant.

What could be an interesting twist on the advancement system is that Players reward other Players. That means as a Captain you can award your officers of your group Achievement Experience towards a Commendation. Obviously safegards have to be in place to prevent abuse. Things like AFK timers, Limiting the total amount of experience given, keeping the rewards private for Captain eyes only, etc.

Here is an example:

Suppose a mission for the Captain and his team of officer players are assigned a mission. The Mission Pool has 1,000 experience points assigned to it upon completion. The Captain decides at the end who gets what Up to a maximum of 250 exp per person (say it is a 4 man team). The game also has a minimum of 50 exp as a minimum so the Captain can't deny anyone exp at all.  So, this system promotes roleplaying and gives a sense of respect to the Captain. When the experience numbers are dealt to the players, the system message may read .. You gain 250 experience! or You gain 100 experience! or You gain 50 experience!

This would not affect a players specialized skills.

Captains still get experience as well, to become an Admiral. The Captain cannot assign his own experience, but in case of a raid situation where the Captain is part of an Armada, the Admiral can assign Captains experience. In regular missions, experience goes to the Captain upon completion of the mission. Mission restarts diminish the Captain rewards.