Greetings and salutations. I’ve created this guide in response to an increasing fallacy in the playerbase that attempting to 9 any and all skills that pertain to used bridge officer abilities is the “true” way to play their character.
I’m here, to say for the record, this is a lie. A farce. Total hogwash.
For me to explain why this is so, an introduction into Cryptic’s rather… cryptic… math and how it applies to actual ingame effects must be done.
II. Basis of Abilities and Skills
In STO, any and all abilities available to a player, whether this be a captain ability, bridge officer ability, or the weapons, shields, and power allocation effects on the ship, are nearly almost always decided by the actual character’s skillpoints (SP) and how they are spent across the entire spectrum. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll refer to bridge officers as Boff’s, and the player character as the Captain.
Currently ingame, a BOff’s ability can be looked up by checking up on it via the Power Window (p) and seeing what Captain skills affect it. For example, Science Team is a well-known BO ability that provides a science buff along with giving your shields a burst-heal. This specific ability is affected by 3 Captain skills: Science Team Leader, Starship Deflectors, and Starship Deflector Field.
This is the basis of nearly all player-accessible abilities. 3 skills affect an ability. You would think all you have to do is max all three skills to net the most out of the ability, right?
This is because there’s only so many skillpoints (72700 SP total) the Captain can spend that if he or she does follow this line of thinking, there’s not enough for skills that help in general ship performance, or other abilities that could be far more useful than just Science Team.
This is how Cryptic balances their game for the concept of “min-maxing”. Instead of maxing out certain skills to maximize the effect, wisely spending just enough nets far more in the overall scheme of things.
III. The Logic
So, now you’ve got to figure out how much is just enough.
The trick is in knowing which skills provide how much of a bonus to the ability you want. Lets take another look at Science Team. We know the 3 skills that affect it, now lets see what kind of bonus it garners if you max all three relevant skills.
|Science Team Leader is a tier 1 skill, costing 100SP per level, 900SP to max.
Starship Deflectors is a tier 2 skill, costing 200SP per level, 1800SP to max.
Starship Deflector Field is a tier 3 skill, costing 300SP per level, 2700SP to max.
So thats 900+1800+2700 = 5400SP spent.
Now, their skill bonus:
|Science Team Leader, when maxed to 9, gives a skill bonus of 18.
Starship Deflectors, maxed 9, gives 30bonus.
Starship Deflector Field, maxed 9, gives 52bonus.
So that’s 18+30+52 = 100.
(I’m not too sure if this is a percentage or not, and have no way to test this at the moment.)
So you’ve spent 5400SP, for 100 bonus, for a ratio of 54SP/bonus.
Lets take a closer look at the tier 1 skill, Science Team Leader.
For every 100SP you spend here, you initially gain a lot at lv1, then steadily gain 2 bonus till you hit lv5, at 15. At this point it tapers off and you only gain 1 bonus per 100SP, until 17, then only gain 0.5 bonus per 100SP.
This obviously means that the more you spend on a tier skill, the less you gain the higher its level. Quite inefficient in spending SP’s. Now if you spent to get the most out of the tiered skill instead of maxing it, like, say, stopping before it hits 0.5bonus/100SP, you could spend that 200SP on something else, like say, on getting 2 levels of another skill.
Returning to the Science Team example, lets bump down the skill levels a touch to something more manageable, like say, 7 across the board.
|Science Team Leader 7, 700SP spent gaining 17bonus.
Starship Deflectors 7, 1400SP spent gaining 28 bonus.
Starship Deflector Field 7, 2100SP spent gaining 44bonus.
Thats 700+1400+2100 = 4200SP spent for 17+28+44 = 89bonus.
You’re saving 1200SP for only -11 to your bonus. Tweaking this, lets try a 7-7-9 approach.
|Science Team Leader 7, 700SP at 17bonus.
Starship Deflectors 7, 1400SP at 28bonus.
Starship Deflector Field 9, 2700SP at 52bonus.
Thats 700+1400+2700 = 4800SP for 17+28+52 = 97bonus.
You’re saving 600SP, 6 levels of tier 1, or 3 levels of tier 2, or two levels of tier 3, for a direct malus of only -3 to a complete maxing out!
This is better shown in a skillpoint-to-bonus ratio. For the old all-9 approach, as I’ve shown before, you’re spending 54SP/bonus. The new 7-7-9 approach, you’re spending less for each at 49.48SP/bonus!
UPDATE 1: Traits affecting skill allocation
After some more digging, I’ve noticed that taking certain captain traits can actually save you more net skillpoints down the line.
These 3 traits are:
Astrophysicist with +10 to Starship Operations, the science-oriented trait.
Techie with +10 to Starship Engineering Training, engineering-oriented trait.
Warp Theorist, with +10 to Starship Warp Core Training, a ship power-based trait.
Ship power mechanics are a different beast alltogether, so I’ll just link PatricianVetinari’s excellent Ship Power Calculator thread, which contains all the info and a nifty excel-based calculator. You will also see why some people prefer to max even tier 1 if it means that extra edge in power, like me.
Back to traits affecting skill bonus totals, as an example, the “Astrophysicist” trait adds +10 to Ship Operations stat, which is of course, a ship science tier1 skill. So, by doing so, you could have an easy 27 bonus out of tier1 with 700sp!
Doing the math, to obtain a similar skill bonus total towards the 7-7-9 approach, 97bonus, you would need to spend, for a skill like Transfer Shield Strength:
|Astrophysicist trait at 10 bonus to Starship Operations.
Starship Operations 7, 700SP at 17bonus +10 from trait, total 27bonus.
Starship Deflectors 6, 1200SP at 26bonus.
Starship Deflector Field 7, 2100SP at 44bonus.
Total bonus = 27 + 26 + 44 = 97, 7-6-7 approach.
Total SP spent = 700 + 1200 + 2100 = 4000sp spent, with a ratio of 41.237sp/bonus!
I’ll let the numbers tell you the epic truth
UPDATE 2: Aegis set +Skill effects
Recently, a new set of ship equipment was released to STO, namely, the Aegis set. The Aegis set is unique that 2 peices of this set, the Aegis Hyper-Impulse Engine and Aegis Covariant Shield, add skillpoints to certain skills.
The engine adds a whopping +10 to Ship Combat Maneuvers, and the shield adds +5 to Shield Maintenance and Shield Performance skills.
This means that you dont have to spend as much to get the same effect out of these skills in general. For example, to get a 7-7-9 effect (of 97) out of the trio of Ship Attack Vectors, Ship Combat Maneuvers, and Ship Battle Strategy:
|Ship Attack Vectors 7 = 700SP at 17
Aegis Hyper-Impulse Engine bonus, +10 to Ship Combat Maneuvers
Ship Combat Maneuvers 3 = 600SP at 18 + 10 = 28
Ship Battle Strategy 9 = 2700SP at 52
Total bonus = 17+28+52 = 97
Total SP spent = 700 + 600 + 2700 = 4000 SP spent, ratio of 41.237sp/bonus!
This bodes well for the Shield Performance-minded captains as well, as a +5 means you dont have to spend an extra 400SP of a level to maintain your performance, 400SP that can go to another skill. Same goes for Shield Maintenance.
An example for Shield Maintenance would be Emergency Power to Shields, a well-known-and-used shield heal:
|Ship Warp Core Training 7 = 700SP at 17
Aegis Covariant Shield bonus, +5 to Shield Maintenance
Ship Shield Maintenance 5 = 1000SP at 24 + 5 = 29
Ship Shield Efficiency 9 = 2700sp at 52
Total bonus = 17 + 29 + 52 = 98
Total SP spent = 700 + 1000 + 2700 = 4400SP spent, ratio of 44.898sp/bonus
Consider this when you’re deciding what pieces of Aegis/Borg set you plan to use.
By keeping in mind the amount of skill bonus you receive vs the point cost, you can pick and choose what to leave at “acceptable” levels and what to max out. A great way to see this live is to use a skillpoint planner. The one I currently use is on STOAcademy here, which also highlights what captain skills affect what chosen BOff abilities you have. You may also decide to look into what your ship consoles add to your bonus totals, and can plan accordingly.
If 9’ing a skill is part of your overall strategy (or for the ability to train a BOff in a certain skill, which is useful), that is your choice. I myself 9 certain skills to unlock access to train powerful rank-3 BOff abilities like Astrometrics 9 for Charged Particle Burst 3.
V. Final Thoughts
Skillpoint allocation still falls within the purview of the player. The choice is to whether or not to spend that much SP into this skill is still very much a valid question as before reading this guide. The main question that could guide you in your character build, or respec, is “How much do I value this skill in relation to my bridge officer abilities?”. This does not only cover the captain and his/her BOffs, but the overall setup of your character in question, from equipment onwards.
STO rewards focused versatility over direct maxed specialization. Being able to do many things to fit what happens on the battlefield is a mark of a winning captain, and I hope this guide allows you to step up to the challenge when it comes.