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As part of our ongoing process to evaluate rewards throughout Star Trek Online, we have taken a closer look at the systems employed for giving out these desirable items. One action item that has been identified from this investigatory process is that there are several PvE queues in which the Advanced difficulty version has not been tuned adequately to provide an interesting challenge while not being so difficult that it cannot be completed with an appropriate combination of gear and/or skill.
There were several potential fixes discussed to address the issue of Advanced queues being too difficult, including tuning each queue individually. However, tuning is an iterative process, which may not be fully accomplished on the first pass and we want to find a solution that prevents the current situation with players feeling blocked in certain progressions because they cannot earn the elite reputation marks and/or very rare crafting materials that are only found in Advanced and Elite difficulty PvE queues.
To this end we are going to be trying a new system for the progression of PvE queue difficulty. As of this Thursday, March 26, the Azure Nebula Rescue (Advanced) PvE queue will be updated to reflect this new systemic change and if everything about it is well received we will be rolling out similar changes to the rest of our PvE queues.
The first major planned change we want to introduce is that all base rewards earned from a queue are the same across all difficulties. This means that if you earn 5 marks for rescuing 5 friendly NPCs on Normal difficulty then rescuing 5 friendly NPCs on Advanced difficulty will now reward you 5 marks as well (currently you are rewarded more for these actions in Advanced difficulty).
However, we still also want Advanced difficulty PvE queues to reward more than their Normal difficulty counterparts. To accomplish this, the difference in rewards from the above change will be added to the rewards for completing the optional objectives. This means that if you earn 5 marks for defeating an optional boss enemy on Normal difficulty, defeating that same boss enemy on Advanced difficulty will now reward you 10 marks.
This brings us to our final major planned change and perhaps the most important – Advanced difficulty PvE queues will no longer fail for not completing the mission objectives that had previously been optional on Normal difficulty. These mission objectives will remain optional for Advanced difficulty and as mentioned in the paragraph above will become a greater source of rewards (to correspond to their increased difficulty to achieve with the increase in enemy level and difficulty scale). This means that even if the optionals are in need of tuning because they are too hard to achieve (which we still pledge to do) that players are not blocked from advancing in their reputations and crafting schools.
It will still be possible to fail a queue. These failure conditions will be limited to checks that players are actually attempting to complete the queue or that they are not getting stuck in a situation where they cannot win. A the moment, we expect these failure conditions to take the form of timers for completing the entire queue (with this time requirement not meant to be a serious challenge to achieve) or for queues that cannot take longer than a fixed amount of time, a check to make sure a minimal amount of progress has been made (again, this requirement is not meant to be a challenge to achieve). We don’t expect that many players will experience these failure conditions during the normal course of play. In some cases those failure conditions will also be applied to Normal difficulty.
As for Elite difficulty PvE queues, we are considering our options but making these changes to Advanced difficulty queues is our priority at the moment.
There were several changes made to both the Normal and Advanced difficulty versions of this PvE queue, not only to use it as a test bed for our planned changes for all Advanced difficulty queues but also to make the queue as a whole play better and easier to understand.
As mentioned above, Azure Nebula Rescue will serve as a test case for a more systemic change that we will roll out once we are happy with the direction of these changes and the player reaction to them. Because every queue is different we may need to make additional test cases in order to ensure that all aspects of this new difficulty schema are accounted for.
We look forward to hearing your feedback about these changes.
Lead Content Designer
Star Trek Online