Within minutes of starting Star Trek Online, people (bridge officers) will start reporting to you as if you know what you are doing. Luckily the tutorial provides some introductory information so you don’t embarrass yourself too badly during your first day on the job. From there though, the learning curve can seem quite steep with the numerous different skills, merits and skill points available, not to mention the fact that players can buy bridge officers and skills.
Bridge officers arrive standard with two skills, one for ground adventures and one for space encounters. This is helpful at first due the fact that players will fill up the slots for Tactical, Engineering and Science bridge officers and need to use those same officers for ground and space combat. As soon as the bridge officer page starts filling up though the officers can be tailored for one area (space or ground) and captains can start setting up different away teams (ground) from space officers.
Bridge Officer Roster
Right out of the Starfleet academy, Captains have four bridge officer slots. These slots can be filled with any combination of officer careers (science, tactical, or engineering). The away team can be made of any career-options (i.e. the away team can all be tactical). The ships have specific officer stations though. The first ship acquired has three stations (one of each career). Those stations allow for the bridge officers of those careers to occupy the stations. Those first stations are called Ensign stations that means officers in those slots can only use one skill (Torpedo Spread I). Second tier ships have an additional slot depending on the ship type (tactical escort ship has one additional tactical slot, engineering has one more engineer slot and so on).
If the bridge officer roster is full and another bridge officer is awarded/acquired, the new bridge officer will go into the Bridge Officer Candidate area. See below for how to use the officer candidates to train existing officers or hold on until achieving the rank of Lieutenant. Achieving the rank of Lieutenant will provide two more slots for bridge officers on the roster. If there are still officers in the candidate category, they can be added to the roster.
Bridge Officer Basics, Building a Better BO
Bridge officers have specialties that come in the form of skills. When hovering over the rewards of different bridge officers available, the skills will show up as bolded text so that captains can evaluate fairly quickly whether or not that officer will fill a need with the crew. Even if those aren’t exactly the skills desired, take the career needed since skills can be changed out. This means that filling a Science officer spot is more important than taking another Tactical officer if the science slot is open.
Acquiring Bridge Officers is not tough, but sometimes they don’t arrive quickly enough or pre-set with the right skills. Thankfully, everyone is for sale on the internet. Bridge Officers may be purchased for 100 Starfleet Merits from Elsa Mora in the Personnel area of the Earth Spacedock. The list is lengthy of available candidates, but they all cost the same so take your time, or heck, buy as many as you can fit in your assignments. Bridge officers can also be purchased on the player exchange, so watch for those rare officers on the “auction house.”
Through mission rewards, captains earn Officer Skill Points. These are the points used to increase existing skills of bridge officers. Example: a starting Tactical Officer may have Torpedo Spread I as a skill (it will be skill level 1). Spending Officer Skill Points in Torpedo Spread I will make that skill more effective in combat (all skills ramp up to skill level 9). Two hundred Officer Skill Points must be spent on an Ensign level bridge officer in order for that officer to be promoted to Lieutenant (which will also cost 300 Starfleet Merits).
Once the officer is a Lieutenant and is placed in a Lieutenant’s Station, two skills become available as attacks (Torpedo Spread as one, and maybe Rapid Fire as the other). Spending those Officer Skill Points is wise, but make sure to spend them on an officer worth the investment, or make that officer better with the methods described below. Saving up skill points isn’t really viable since bridge officers can’t skip to second tier skills without the first tier purchases.
Changing Skills and Specialties
Luckily Bridge Officers aren’t like real employees, bridge officers can be told what to do and that they have to change (and they won’t file with the HR department). Specializing a bridge officer can be completed in a couple of ways. The first is to use acquired bridge officer candidates as trainers.
When a new bridge officer candidate is provided, he/she/it (aliens) will show up in the Assignments area under Bridge Officer Candidates. As a candidate they can train your existing crew skills for a price. This can be helpful if you have a full complement of officers and can’t take on anymore, but want some of the skills a candidate may have.
The second way to gain new bridge officer skills is through purchase at the Earth Spacedock from Bridge Officer Trainer (he didn’t get a cool name like Elsa Mora I guess). For varying Starfleet Merit costs (Ensign 75, Lieutenant 150, etc.) most of the basic skills can be trained directly to existing bridge officers. This is an easy way to get the exact skills desired quickly. This will be very beneficial for leveling up alts later on.
The third way to gain new bridge officer skills is through player trainers. Every bridge officer can train the bridge officers of other captains (players). The catch is that bridge officers can only train other bridge officers up to the level below their current level – i.e. a Lieutenant ranked bridge officer could only train up through an Ensign-ranked skill. This is seen as both a social tool for the game and a secondary market for a “gathering” type profession. It reminds me of Enchanting in World of Warcraft in that the players have to be in proximity and the transactions are all completed outside of the game’s currency exchanges.
There are a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to managing the bridge officer teams. One school is to load up skills and gear on a select few officers versus the other philosophy of spreading points to all officers so that “all boats rise.” Both strategies can work, it’s more of a personal preference. The reality is that in the early stages of the game it won’t matter all that much. One of my captains didn’t spend an officer skill point until he became a Lieutenant and it didn’t matter too much. There really is no scarcity of bridge officers or points to spend on them for the most part. Take your time and try to make solid decisions, but don’t beat yourself up if you get down the road and see some mistakes in what you did. The game gives you opportunities to rectify most of those mistakes.