I’ve been playing quite a bit of Star Trek Online of late and one of that game’s systems is the Duty Officer (DOff) system. I’d suggest it is rather similar to the garrison followers system in World of Warcraft’s Draenor expansion.
Both systems offer you the chance to collect a roster of NPC characters – named individuals with certain abilities or characteristics. These characteristics in various combinations make each NPC more or less suited to complete specific tasks or missions. Both games present you with a randomly available set of such missions and you can then send one or more of these NPCs off on the mission. The mission takes a set amount of time and, if successful, will bring back some rewards – usually a low value amount of the game’s main currency or currencies.
Both systems are what I would call ‘busy work’, they’re little tasks you can be queuing as a background activity to playing the actual game with your character. Both systems offer the chance over time to improve the effectiveness of specific individual NPCs.
So there are decisions to be made on which to improve and in what order. There’s also an element of “gotta catch em’ all” (a Pokémon slogan) in that there are a large number of such NPCs to collect as a longer term goal.
In both games this system is not 100% necessary to your progress and enjoyment of the game, but you’ll certainly benefit from at least a casual engagement with the system.
There are some subtle differences between the two systems however. WoW’s garrison mission system is only accessible from a mission table – so you have to be at either your garrison or one of the zone outposts in Draenor to interact with the system. The NPCs are closely tied into the storyline as you play through the zones so in general I at least know who each NPC is roughly and in some cases have built a modicum of affection for them.
In Star Trek Online you rapidly build up a veritable horde of Duty Officers, I have 60+ already and I play very casually and I often forget to do the missions at the Academy to get free recruits for each of the sub-races for the Klingon faction (Klingon, Gorn, Nausicaan). This rapid multiplication of crew, coupled with their randomised names leaves me less inclined to remember specific NPCs or to become particularly attached to them.
One aspect that I prefer from STO though is the placement of missions. In WoW (as mentioned above) you access missions from any console, a purely utilitarian method that has little connection to the world of Draenor.
In STO the selection of DOff missions available is a feature of where you are in the game. Normally I set off missions at the start of a session, invariably that’s parked in orbit of Qo’nos, and I set off another set of missions at the end of the session from the same location. But while warping around the Alpha or Beta quadrants I also get to run a few DOff mission specific to that nebula, planet or other location. There are even special DOff mission location icons on the sector map.
So in STO the theme of DOff missions and their potential rewards are tied at least in part to where you are in the game. That at least encourages you to move around more in the ‘open world’ than does the garrison system in WoW. There’s also some suitably Klingon-themed missions under the ‘personal’ category – things like executing insubordinate DOffs for instance!
All in all both systems add something extra to their respective games. They offer a reason to login to the respective game even if time is limited, but I would say neither is so absorbing that they alone would be a reason to keep playing if my interest in the actual content were to wane.
P.S. I deliberately have limited this post to just two games, both because I’m currently playing those and because I felt the two systems occupied similar places within the wider game. For instance I haven’t included SWTOR’s companion system in this post because companions are active combat pets as well as being the NPCs for the crafting mission system.