Star Trek Online Bridge Officer Combat Guide
Star Trek Online Bridge Officer Combat Guide by fuzun
The care and feeding of your crew.
This is a guide on how to get the most out of your Bridge Officers in combat. This guide will not cover Bridge Officer ground skills. I’ll save that for others to do. What this guide will do is to reveal how your Bridge Officers react, and how you can control what your Bridge Officers will do. And I’ll also be revealing a bit of how the game AI work.
Section I – The Basics
“Are your out of your Vulcan Mind?”
OK, your Bridge Officers are NPCs (Non Player Characters). That means there isn’t a human behind their controls. But they are your NPCs. They are loyal to you and each other. The game server is what controls that actions. The thing that does that is called the game’s Artificial Intelligence or AI. (Some would call is Artificial Dumbness. And I would’t call them that ). The AI is a set of algorithms that determine how the NPCs will act given a certain set of circumstances. Your Bridge Officers has a slightly different AI which controls their behaviors that make them uniquely your crew.
You’ll note I called the AI dumb above. The NPCs may certainly do some seemingly dumb things under certain circumstance. But your Bridge Officers are surprisingly capable on their own. The key to this keeping your Bridge Officers fairly close together and within line of sight of each other. Many times I let my away team deal with a Klingon Swordmaster while I deal with the rest of the spawn. I’ll turn around just in time to see the Swordmaster fall to defeat.
The best advice I can give overall is to watch and observe your Bridge Officers. Watch to see how they react in certain situations. You’ll eventually learn how the AI reacts in any given circumstance. When a Bridge Officer is starting to do something dumb, you’ll know when to go in and take control.
“You want me to go there?!?”
This section will cover some basic behavior of your Bridge Officers. First off all bridge officers have a certain location they want to be when out of combat. I call this their leash point. By default a Bridge Officers leash point is a location in the rear facing of your Captain’s avatar. The points are arranged in a semicircle. You’ve all seen this. As you turn or move a bit, your Bridge Officers will jump all over themselves (literally) scrambling to get back to their leash location.
In combat this behavior changes a bit. Bridge Officers will now move away from the leash points in order to close to within weapon/ability range of target. They will also try to get flanking positions for the extra flanking damage modifier. But there is something that isn’t apparent in the AI’s combat movements.. There is a distance from the leash point the Bridge Officer will not go beyond. I call this the leash distance. If a Bridge Office goes beyond the leash distance, it now becomes a high imperative of the AI to return within the leash limit. Actually the imperative is to return to within a certain minimum distance of your character. You can see this behavior if you run off away from your crew while in combat. Your Bridge Officers will race back to your new position. Normally that means that your Bridge Offers won’t go wondering off on their own too far.
I’ll come back to this later, but you can change the leash location for your Bridge Officers. You can set a rally point for an Bridge Officers and that point will become their new leash point. The out of combat and in combat behaviors as described above don’t change except for the new leash point. If you set a rally point for your away team, your captain can wonder away and leave your away team behind. If you get attacked too far away from your crew, you are own your own. They will not come racing to he rescue. You ordered them not to. If you set rally points, don’t forget to remove them.
(Yes, I’ve gone off and left my away team behind. I quickly remember that fact when it’s 8 to 1 in my next fight.)
“Alright, mister. Who threw the first punch?”
In this section, I’ll cover aggro. And I’ll discuss things I’ve learned about Cryptic’s game AI over the years. Take this stuff with a grain of salt. I’m relatively certain about things. But I freely admit I might be way off base about sometings.
Aggro is a pseudo-word that has evolved from the mists of time of MUDs and MUSHs to MMORPGs. The word basically means who does the AI pay attention to or “The target for tonight is…”. This section also applied to the enemy NPCs and ships as well.
Cryptic’s AI uses a computed value called threat level for target determination. The game AI computes a threat level for all near targets of the NPC. That list is sorted by threat level. Threat level is a long complex formula with many different factors in it. But the the way threat works can be disstilled down to two things: distance and damage.
Distance is inverse proportional to threat level. That means the closer the target is to the NPC, the higher the threat level of that target. In City of Heroes (Cryptic first MMORPG) this was a big factor. I don’t think distance is as big a factor in STO, but it still is a contributing factor.
The other big factor is damage done to the NPC. The more damage an target does to the NPC, the larger the amount of threat that is generated by the source of damage. If you get off an exploit attack on an NPC, you are definitely going to be in its sights. A non-obvious factor is non-damage attacks on NPC (holds, roots, stuns, debuffs, etc.) These can be classified as an amount of damage in the threat level determination. For example, if you using an abilities which does nothing but root (immobilize) an NPC, that will be consider an attack. And healing can also be considered as damage as well. If you are getting lots of attention as a team Healer, you now know why.
The lesser factors can be things such as an NPC hatred of the species of the target. For example, (totally made up) Klingons really hate Humans. So a human target gets an extra amount of threat. So all other thing being equal, a human would be targeted above anything else. As I said there a lots of factors that make up the threat equation. I don’t have a clue as to what they (if any) could be. But maybe a dev will give us some insight to it someday. And there is a bit of randomness to threat level as well. This is to ensure that the all of the NPC’s in a group don’t pick the exactly game target with other other thing being the same.
There are some abilities which will reduce reduce threat. In the vernacular of MMORPG game, this is known as a placate ability. Basically what it does is to give the affected target a huge negative amount of threat. The target essential drop off the radar of the NPC for the duration of the placate. In STO there are are few abilities which can placate. On the ground there is Science ability Neural Neutralizer. And in space there is the Jam Sensors Science Bridge Officers ability.
And lastly, threat level doesn’t totally determine the targets of NPC or Bridge Officer actions. NPCs and Bridge Officers have abilities which can affect affect friendly and enemy targets. NPCs and Bridge Officers will use those abilities on targets of opportunity when they pop up. For example, healing isn’t away needed, but when a friendly unit has taken enough damage, an NPC with healing abilities will heal the injured target. Likewise, the ability Stasis Field is a hold. A Bridge Officers will tend to hold a specific target with Status Field even if they are focused on another target. Which leads me to Captain Quirk of the…er…
Another quirk of the game AI is off-target targeting. That is a tendency for the game AI to keep picking on a specific target with an ability. Even if that specific target isn’t the highest threat. The one specific ability type I’ve seen this behavior is the single target holds in the game. For Bridge Officers is the Science ability Stasis Beam. The Science Bridger Officers will pick on the same target is possible to keep it locked down.
And you can override the game AI’s behavior in regards to target selection. You can select a target and force one or more of the your Bridge Officers to say this is your primary target. That target may be an enemy NPC or a friendly. That target can even be yourself. More on this in the “Make it so!” section.
Perception Distance is something I need to touch on as well. Perception for you the player is quite simple. If a target is out of perception range due to range, being obscured or by stealth. You won’t see it on your game screen. Perception range for the game AI is something of a misnomer.
The game AI cheats in that it knows exactly where every target is. The perception range of an NPC is actually maximum range at which they will ‘aggro’ onto a target outside of combat mode. If a target come within that radius, the game AI could go into combat mode and the aggro /perception range shoots sky high. That means you have to get a loooong way away fron the NPC before the game AI will normally give up.
And the game AI doesn’t instantly go into combat more upon “perceiving” a target. It will go into an alert stance for several seconds. You can tell this by the NPC actions. They stop their normal non-combat action and movement. And then they standing upright as though they “heard” something. In space, you’ll see ships come to a complete stop. If the “perceived” target moves out of perception/aggro range before times up, the NPCs will resume there out of combat actions. But if the target is still there at the end of those few seconds, they shift into combat mode.
And the game engine has a great deal of reality built into it in regards to perception. On the ground, the NPCs facing actually does matter and affects their perception range. NPCs have a broad front facing in which they can see out to their normal perception range. And they have a narrower rear facing in which their perception range is greatly reduced. So it’s possible to sneak up on NPCs from behind. And here you through the game spawns running around in different directions didn’t matter. Well now you know they actually do it for a reason. It’s so you sneaky players can’t run up behind and surprise them.
Section II – AAATEN’SHUN!!
In this section I’ll describe how to control your Bridge Officers. And I’ll cover more on the game AI as well. You do have quite a bit of control your Bridge Officers. All of the controls are icons on the team window. There are icons which control your entire team. And there are a set of icons for each Bridge Officer so you can control them individually. I’ll go through each command individual and explain how they work in detail.
The icon bar at top of the holds four icons which gives commands to all of your Bridge Officers. The first icon is a diamond outlined in line segments. This is the Passive control icon. The second icon is a simple ‘X’. The is the Active control icon. The third icon is a circle with four hashes across it (a target reticule). This is the Set Focus control icon. The fourth and last icon is an inverted triangle inside of a ‘V’. This is the Set Rally Point control icon.
To the left of each character’s portrait where are 3 icons stacked vertically. These are the icons to control each Bridge Officers individually. The top icon is the Passive/Aggressive icon. Clicking the icon will toggle back and forth between active and passive stance. The outline lined diamond icons indicates passive mode, and the ‘X’ indicated active stance. The second icon is the hashed circle Set Focus control icon. And the bottom icon is the inverted triangle inside of a ‘V’ Set Rally Point control icon.
And to the right of the Bridge Officers portrait and status display there are one to four power icons. These power icons correspond to your Bridge Officers ground abilities. These power icons are used to control if and when they use their abilities outside of the normal AI control.
This controls the stance of a Bridge Officer. The default stance is aggressive. In aggressive stance, a Bridge Officer will start to attack if any enemy come within their perception range, an enemy attacks a Bridge Officer or yourself, or if you start attacking or use an offensive abilities against an enemy. (By the way, if one Bridge Officers or you are attack, the rest of the the Bridge Officers know it, and they will go into combat mode).
Passive mode is just that. In passive stance, a Bridge Office will not attack under any circumstance. However, Bridge Officers will still use their other abilities when the circumstance warrant it. That is they will recharge personal shield that are damage, heal friendly targets who are down on health, etc.
You may ask “Why use Passive Mode?”. Well it’s useful in a couple of circumstances. First if you are setting up a killing zone with mines, bombs, turrets, mortars, etc. You don’t want a Bridge Officer jumping into combat before you are ready. Putting them in passive mode will prevent that. Another use for passive mode is if you want to fallback for some reason. If you set you away team to passive mode, they will stop attacking and quickly come back to their leash points near you or rally points that you have set for them. Once you are grouped, a quick click puts them all into aggressive mode, and ready to go once more.
This command tells the Bridge Officers to focus efforts on whatever you have targeted at that moment. In simple terms, it’s a command to focus fire on your target. But it’s actually more complex and powerful than that simplification. The thing targeted could be foe, friend or even yourself. And that is what gives it so much power.
The Set Focus command overrides the normal aggro rules I spoke about earlier to a certain extent. On an enemy target, it’s essentially a focus fire command. But as I said in the aggro section, it’s not an exclusive target. A Bridge Officer will heal, recharge shields of friendly targets when needed. If the target if a friendly unit, the Bridge Officer will give priority to the target. For example, the focused target will get heals first.
One aspect of Set Focus comes from the target assist code in the game. It can have some interesting aspect in combat in the game. These apply to players as well. For a very simple example, you have a Klingon Warrior targeted, and the Klingon Warrior has your Science Bridge Officer as his current target. If you active Medical Tricorder, the target affected will be your Science Bridge Officer. This is target assist, and as you can see it will work in reverse with abilities that affect friend is used on an enemy target.
This reverse target assist as well as the usual behavior of target assist applied to your Bridge Officers as well. Its something to keep in mind. I’ll come back to ‘Set Focus’ in the “Make it so!” section below.
One control that I haven’t mention yet is actually a ground key bind. And that key is ‘Y’. This is bound to the Team Set Focus control icon. IF you want of focus fire on a specific NPC. Target that NPC yourself, hit ‘Y’ and then wave “bye, bye” to that target.
One very important interaction that will lead me into the next section on Rally Points. If you give the Set Focus to your Bridge Offices set to an enemy NPC, you officers will chase that focused target all over the map. Your Bridge Officers will even go beyond their leash lengths. In a sense, the target becomes the new leash point. Be aware.
Set Rally Point
As I said in a previous section you can change the leash point for a Bridge Officers. This is done by setting a rally point. Setting a rally point is a two step process. The first step is to click on the rally point command icon. The imagery of you cursor will change to be an image of the control icon: an inverted triangle inside of a ‘V’. This indicates you are in Set Rally Point. (Note: You cannot click and select targets in this mode). To set a rally point select an area with you visual range and click the left mouse button. At that location one to four circles will appear on the ground with the roman numbers 1-4 hovering above them. This are the new leash locations for the corresponding Bridge Officer. Your Bridge Officers will otherwise behave as described in the “The Basics”.
To clear a rally point right click on the Set Rally Point control icon (team or individual). The circle(s) will disappear. And the Bridge Officer will come back and join you at your side. And sometimes your cursor will be left in Set Rally Point mode. To get out of that mode, simply right click with mouse cursor off any of the game UI controls. The “Set Rally Point” image will be replaced with the normal game cursor.
Now normally your Bridge Officers are pretty good about using their offensive and defensive abilities. Meaning they will shoot the bad guys and treat the good guys. But there may be times when you want a Bridge Office to use an ability outside of then they would normally use it. And there may be times when you don’t want a certain ability used in combat. Well you can do both of those with the Power Icons in the team window.
First off let’s take the simple one. Tell a Bridge Officer to not use an ability. That is done by right clicking on the appropriate power icon of that Bridge Officer. That will cross out and put a color border around that power icon. That tells the the game AI to refrain from using that ability. To re-enable that power right click on the power icon and it will return to normal. (Note: Some abilities are bugged in that the Bridge Officers will use the abilities regardless of the power icon setting. And sometimes regardless of whether it’s in or out or combat. Medical Generator was one such bugged ability. I haven’t used it on a Bridge Officer since the beginning of the game so it may be fixed by now.)
To tell a Bridge Officer to use an ability, just left click on the appropriate power icon. If it’s an targeted ability (i.e. a heal or hold), you must have an appropriate target targeted before activating the ability. After clicking the power icon, the Bridge Officer will activate the abilities and you’ll see the power icon go into its cool down timer animation.
Section III – “Make it so!”
OK now let’s put everything together into some actually tactics. I’ve touch upon some in the above sections. But let’s get into some detail tactics. One thing to watch out for using some of these tactics. They use individual Set Focus or Passive commands. Using the team commands will change these set individual commands .
You can designate one or more of you Bridge Officer to dedicated healers. First off you probably only want to give the Bridge Officer defensive ground abilities. But even if not, the Bridge Officer using this tactic won’t use any offensive abilities. For a general dedicated healer, but that Bridge Officer into passive stance. In combat that Bridge Officer will do nothing but use healing abilities on targets that target damage. This behavior goes beyond just the Science Bridge Officers using Medical Tricorder. It can also apply to Engineering Bridge Officers using Recharge Shield or Quick Fix on a damaged Drone or Phaser Turret.
“Turrets and Mortars and Drones, oh my!”
Another tactic is the “Oh yeah! What army?” all Engineering Bridge Officer away team.. Give most of them summoning abilities Phaser Turret, Shield Generator, Quantum Mortar, Assault Drone, etc. Give your Engineer some setup time and *transporter sound effect*…instance army. You can kick some serious tail, but watch out for those AoE attacks. They are rough on the equipment.
“Pay attention to ME!!!”
Another trick is a dedicated healer/buffer for you. This can be done by setting up a Science Bridge Officer with heals and buffing abilities. Put that Bridge Officer on passive. Target yourself by hitting F1 or clicking on your portrait, and issue a Set Focus to that Bridge Officer. You know have your own dedicated healer. You will get priority treatment, but being a dedicated healer also means the rest of your team won’t be neglected.
This isn’t about the controls. It’s a tactic. Sometimes it is absolutely vital you have nearly complete control over what targets your Bridge Officers will attack. One mission that this is vital in the RA5 mission “Assimilation”. You get to go aboard a Borg Cube. And you really don’t want you Bridge Officers shooting everything in sight. Well that is if you don’t want to recreate scenes from “Resident Evil”.
Basically you can tell you Bridge Officers to attack target ‘X’ and no other. You do this by putting all of your Bridge Officers into passive stance. At times, you see you Bridge Officers face NPCs, crouch and stand as though in combat in passive stance. This is them reacting to enemies. But they won’t attack. Now when you want to nuke an enemy, target the enemy NPC and then use the team Set Focus command. Your Bridge Officers will cut loose on that target and only that target. (Mind the AoE’s. You don’t want any unwanted spill over.) Once that enemy is defeated, your Bridge Officers will stop attacking.
You can also limit their movement by using a rally point to prevent them from wondering off too far. Remember as you move around their leash points move around too. With a rally point, you can move around w/o your Bridge Officers aggro’ing another spawn.
“To the rear, CHARGE!!!!”
Sometimes you’ll over aggro two or spawns and you’ll find yourself getting surrounded and overwhelmed. So the prudent thing to do is to call for a retreat and regroup. Most of the time, you running away from everything will cause your Bridge Officers to break off combat and return to their leash points. But sometimes things might be a might complicate with commands that you have given your Bridge Officers.
Remember I said a Set Focus command changes the leash point to the target. Well they will not fall back with one set. And not even a Set Rally will override a [b]Set Focus[b] command. Even if you set them to passive, your Bridge Officer(s) will stick to the target. Well to get around that, issue the team Passive stance command, target yourself (click on your portrait), hit the team Set Focus command (icon or ‘Y’ key bind). That will make your Bridge Officers break off combat and rally to your side. If you want a specific rally point…well you know how to do that already, don’t you? Just be sure to set your Bridge Officer back to aggressive stance afterward to carry on the fight.
“Don’t you dare die on me!!”
It probably need to be saids but your Bridge Officer have the same default skills you do: Spring, Crouch, and Resuscitate. Your Bridge Officers can revitalize fallen comrades. And they can even do the same do you. So don’t be too quick on hitting that “Respawn” button if you are defeated.
You can’t control you Bridge Officers directly. But remember when I said they can do pretty good on their own? Well, let them. You might be surprised. If there are only a few bad guys left, let you Bridge Officers finish them off. After the last bad guys have fallen, they’ll rush to your side to give your first aid.
But if you fall in combat and things are dire, you can summon help. That’s when that “Call for Help” button come into play. When you hit that button, it tells your Bridge Officers to head your way and try to revitalize you. This can be difficult if that Bridge Officer is under fire. The Resuscitate ability is interruptable. But with a bit of luck, you get be get back on your first and back to fighting trim. I’ve done this numerous times, when I’ve bitten off more then I can chew.
“D,D,D,D,D,D, That’s all folks.”
That all the tips I have for now. I’ll be expanding this section as I discover new tactics in the future.