When I first started playing Artemis I played by myself and focused on Helm, Weapons and Comms.
This was a great deal of fun and I ran around blowing up enemies and collecting side mission power ups.
Eventually I had several plays that ended with my starship dead in space, and I'd glance at the Engineering board with no understanding.
After hosting a 2 day Artemis weekend at MARCon I was pleased to find players that not only /wanted/ to play Engineering, but RELISHED and demanded to play that station again.
On several sessions I found myself filling in for Engineering and found a profound respect for how much my forethought benefitted the other stations.
Sure, Helm and Weapons have the more frantic experience during confrontations, but the Engineering station has a deep and long term impact on how well those stations can react in calm and confusion! Engineering is a thinking players station, (Don't hate on Comms! We found several games lost when a small change in Comms would have meant a win!)
I suggest you play with a full contingent of stations on the higher difficulty levels and get back to us about how Engineering, or any station seems.
Consider the following: with a proper configuration, an Engineering officer can double shield strength and make the ship effectively invincible, or double the firing and reload speed for beams/projectiles respectively. With power adjustments, Science can scan twice as fast, and the ship can move twice as fast or turn faster. If the ship has been critically damaged and is limping away from a firefight, the Engineer can remove power from critical systems to save energy or even recharge some energy lost.
Since the Engineer can control where the DamCon teams are located, by paying attention to the current situation you can save lives (or at least time) by moving the DamCon teams to another part of the ship, one that isn't being attacked. All of this comes at a price: vigilance! In order to effectively play engineering, you have to pay attention to what's going on to properly adjust power use, coolant, and DamCon teams. Engineering is probably the most critical station in the game. Anyone can fly the ship or shoot things, but a skilled engineer can make or break a battle.
Engineering is far from passive! I find it to be one of the most complex and engaging roles for anyone to play. It takes incredible skill to do it well, and the effect is noticeable. The best engineers know what is needed, when it is needed and can manage energy usage carefully and effectively. They adapt to the situation that the ship is currently in and they adapt to you as a Captain. On higher difficulties, the console is essential because of the increased power consumption of all ship systems. Without a good Engineer you find yourself having to continually dock to refuel or you end up dead in the water!
I have flown with many different "expert" engineers, however I would only regard one or two as true experts in the field. The best seem to plug away in the background with little input needed. When I ask for something, they usually have already done it. Most often, I don't need to ask because the effects are already evident e.g. faster turning speeds, less damage taken on shields etc, and I am confident that they are doing what is needed. As CaptainZach said, an Engineer can make or break the battle. Also when I am a Captain and we are in a battle situation, I want to spend time concentrating on the manoeuvring/ firing rather than giving orders to an Engineer. They need to be doing things without asking.
I spent much time learning and playing as an Engineer (and if you want to be a good Captain I highly recommend doing so!) and wrote a handbook with guidance on how to fulfil the role of Engineer (the handbook is available on the Artemis wiki). By playing as an Engineer, you learn first hand what an Engineer is capable of and how an Engineer impacts the ship, and when you come to be Captain or play in other roles you can see the effects much more clearly.
As a last remark; never underestimate the value of any console. Put a good player on any console and they can have a marked impact in game. On high level invasion games, every console needs to be used to its full potential, and a good player will do that.
I agree that Engineering is very important, probably the most powerful station in the game. Take a crew that struggles to win on Difficulty 5, give them a well-seasoned Engineer, and they can easily beat Difficulty 10. Through creative energy allocation your ship will hit harder, hold up better, and go farther, faster, and with less energy.
At the same time the game is pretty forgiving for a poor Engineer.
"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton!"
(Likely actual words of Admiral David Farragut, USN, at the battle of Mobile Bay. Four bells was the signal for the engine room to make full steam ahead).
Engineering if played to its potential is one of the hardest and most engaging stations. When you first start it seems simple but as you go up the levels you will find it requires far more attention and capability for the person in charge. So along with everyone else I think engineering is far from passive.
And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all
Jim Johnson said Apr 12, 2013 03:04:15
If I find myself in a game with only two other players, I invariably spin up the engineering station as the third station. I've seen it happen too many times when a crew with a good engineer will ace a level; then an inexperienced engineer takes over and the crew gets blown into space debris playing the exact same level again. A ship will either prosper or die, based on the performance of it's engineering section.
Captain used to be my favorite position to play; however,the more I play engineering, the more I tend to choose it over captain. I will say, though, that engineering doesn't mix well with other stations. It's very difficult to play engineering with any other station, as it requires you to constantly pay attention to the console in order to anticipate the ship's needs. You kind of play your own separate game on your own, while still receiving input from the other players.
Denis Bloodnok said Apr 13, 2013 00:49:20
No-one notices bad engineering until they see good engineering, which tends to make you oblivious at first. The ship always is that power-hungry, the beams always are that feeble, getting behind an enemy always is a struggle.
My advice; do everything you can with presets, defined before the game. The engineering interface is hopelessly fiddly; the only way you will react efficiently to the situation is if the vast majority of your work is done by pressing a single key that does something approximately right, and maybe then tweaking it. I make my presets coolant-neutral (ie, systems that are overpowered all have enough coolant); that means I only have to pay close attention to heat levels on systems I adjust manually after that.
Jim Johnson said Apr 16, 2013 03:43:36
I can't seem to set any presets on my laptop (not quite sure why); so, I've gotten used to adjusting on the fly. It's more fiddly, but it does a great job of recreating all those intense moments where Scotty or Trip are running back and forth between consoles in engineering, making all those fiddly adjustments to save the crew's bacon in the nick of time. I absolutely wear out the space bar and enter key, though - those were hands down the best additions to the station that I've seen in awhile!
Have you looked at the key shortcuts. Maybe you Re setting them up wrong. If I remember correctly it is the control key and the number. Or you could get the preset manager. That is very useful.
And the hope that the war against folly may someday be won, after all
Denis Bloodnok said Apr 16, 2013 14:02:26
However you do it, you've got to have presets ready to go. Trying to set them up in-mission is pure doom.
Jim Johnson said Apr 17, 2013 03:28:03
Acoording to the wiki it is Shift plus number key. I'm pretty sure I was doing it that way; however, i was doing it during the mission, and it's possible that the shift key didn't get pressed in the heat of battle. We are flying this Thursday night - I will try it again.
I might check out the preset manager, but I have to admit that I do love the challenge of making adjustments on the fly (coolant and system reset keys notwithstanding). It definitely immerses one into the position more fully.