Scout101 and Harvey,
You have some good comments. Here's my experience and thoughts on the DOFF system. I initially embraced it on the Tribble Test Server where I achieved level 2 and 3 commendation on several areas.
First, I love it. It adds a stratiegic element to the game. By careful assignment of DOFFs to Space and Ground positions, my characters abilities are enhanced. I had an Klingon Engineer with two Engr BOs and a DOFF to beam in extra turrets. In the Defari Invasions, they laid down a constant forest of phaser turrets.
Second, I think it's fun. My Engineer characters primarily send DOFFs on engineering assignments. Science characters send DOFFs on science and exploration assignments and Tactical characters send DOFFs on military and espionage assignments. A little bit of role-playing involved plus an effort to achieve a higher commendation in their fields and bonus DOFFs with those associated specializations. The chain assignments also show a continuity which makes for better play that just doing random assignments as they come up.
Third, the DOFF system is the new grind. Previously to advance in rank required grinding away in a couple of sectors, again and again. That got boring extremely fast. Now I can just send the DOFFs off on assigments.
Fourth, I've already taken a character to VA the old way. Took a lot of work. Changed out all personal and ship equipment at every stage. With the DOFF system, I can ramp a character up rapidly and just change out equipment once. Perhaps some players like clawing their way up, but everybody's different. I don't like playing the characters at Lt or LCDR level. To me the sweet spot is CMDR 6 to RALH 4. My characters can show off their skills at those ranks.
Fifth, the DOFF system is a another way to earn Dilithium and equipment. They may get 500 or 1,000 dilithium on a critical success. My characters have also been acquiring several purple items from the DOFF assignments. Some are very high dollar. It it's something the character can use, they do, otherwise it sells on the exchange and fuels other endeavors.
Lastly, the DOFF system is optional. As far as I know, no character is required to compete any DOFF assignments to advance in the game. So people that are intimidated by it or just aren't interested can ignore the DOFF system and go on with normal play.
Despite anything I've stated above, I agree that advancement to the next rank should involve completing the storyline. (I think that I've posted that comment on the STO forum previously.) I also think that there should some type of peer and/or fleet commendations available. Perhaps when a character is eligible for promotion, a query is sent to the fleet leader to see if they recommend the character for promotion to the next rank. If they disagree with the promotion, the character could still be promoted but may have to work harder at it. (Perform some difficult special mission.) Characters not in fleets would have a difficult time being promoted. They would need to perform these special missions to show they have what it takes. Just my thoughts. Thanks for reading.