There is an imbalance in terms of engagement and impact on gameplay nested deep inside the Pilot Officer role - one that can be summarized in a single sentence: “Transport is the worst role to play, a horribly boring experience often reserved to newer players who didn’t know what they were signing up for”.
I am very certain to not be the first to bring this problem up. Searching for “Tranport PO” in discord gives over 1.734 results, of which I am certain that at least half are complaints, be it in #last-round because the pilot was watching videos on another tab and not paying attention to cycling or evacuations, or in #discussions about how it has been in an abysmal state for much of the history of CM.
But it could be different. I wish it were different.
 Expanded Responsibilities for Transport Pilot:
[1.1] Increase the involvement of the Transport Pilot role by introducing additional tasks and objectives.
For example, Instead of simply pressing a button, the Transport Pilot could have more control over the logistics of transporting personnel, supplies, and resources.
An entirely new way of transporting marines already exists through (fly-by) rappel, a system that should in my eyes be introduced to transport as well. Whilst it requires little involvement from the Pilot Officer as it is now, it would at the very least remain an option to impact a round for someone in some positive way - the core essence of what makes playing any role in CM any fun.
Far more exciting is the idea of introducing a new mode of supply, bringing Requisitions and Transport Pilot Officers closer than ever before. A new landing zone in the lower levels of ASRS for manual pick-up of larger quantities of FOB crates. Dedicated storage compartments and shutes in the dropships for ease of stowing and access. Transport of requisitions personnel to FOBs for management and logistical purposes.
In the same thread above, @LambdaSucks has the incredibly original idea of adding construction to the role of transport, having the transport pilot participate in FOB construction through means of deploying specially fabricated defensive installations. A very futuristic idea that sounds, whilst possibly hard to implement, quite fun.
 Enhanced Interactions for Transport Pilot:
[2.1] Provide more opportunities for the Transport Pilot to interact with the crew or implement in-game events that require coordination between the Transport Pilot and other players.
A dedicated microphone in the dropship cockpit that, once used like a telephone, displays megaphone text in the middle of the dropship - visible by all those seated for important messages about the pilot accidentally setting a course for the sun.
Events or challenges during transport missions that require the Transport Pilot’s active participation, such as unexpected encounters, emergencies, or environmental hazards. LV-624 rain storms causing outages in the ship’s electrical system, creating dangerous sparks that are capable of electrocution until repaired around where the marines would normally be seated. Solaris Ridge desert storms clogging the ship’s engine filters, causing dangerous overheating that, eventually, may lead to small-scale fires and explosions in the dropship. Shiva’s Snowball snowstorms freezing the engine coolant, causing it to break into the ship itself, creating breakable blocks of ice that have to be cleared to gain entrance to the doors and seats. Even the queen recalling the dropship from the metal hive, except shortly after it lifted off (worst-case scenario), way before it ever reached the metal hive, resulting in a battle for the system in which the PO has to repair numerous random errors occuring around the ship, his failure resulting in the ship turning back to the LZ.
 Balanced Rewards and Recognition:
[3.1] Ensure that both roles offer meaningful rewards and recognition to incentivize players to choose either role based on their preferred playstyle.
Introducing unique achievements, badges, or rewards specific to each role to acknowledge their contributions to the gameplay experience. Different ranks based on playtime. Additional customization options unlocked through play. Paintjobs, clothing, decoration.
Printable maintenance reports in both the cockpit and dropship consoles to boast about in front of command. How many runs the ship made. How many emergencies the ship thwarted. How many marines the ship squished by accident during landing.
These are just some key aspects I felt Transport PO could benefit from through that I was able to gather in the five years of playing CM-SS13. Many of these are going to be painful to implement. Some will, perhaps, cause bugs and outrage from the community. But I have a dream. A dream that every chad Transport Pilot main on the planet will finally be reimbursed for their dedication to a dead role.
Additional ideas are much appreciated in the comments.
Just let a ship in Transport perform full CAS missions. This would give the Transport PO something to actually do in-between ferrying people, and it’d give the transporting Marines a cool scene of hearing the guns go off.
I feel this would be balanced by the fact both ships would be sharing the same ammo pool.
All of it sounds great! More love is definitely needed for transport PO. However, I do have one issue with section two, second bullet. No one likes busy work, especially when it could be so detrimental. The Alamo is quite often set on autopilot due to pilot absence, death, or arrested for killing MP and claiming, “It’s my drop ship!” I also do not like the idea of a timed puzzle, I feel it is another chore. If there is no one to man the ship, then it can just fall into a state of disrepair and would result in Private Stanley dying to an unforeseeable explosion or electrocution. All in all though, it’s a great idea.
I don’t think either, private baldie mccrewcut suddenly exploding because the pilot ended in brig for something or went frontlining would be very good, but maybe things like the dropship being much slower when not repaired, maybe longer refuel time or things like that, not ruining the rounds of the deltard ungas just wanting to murderball metarush the hive and not just explode, but are a general nuisance which will make transport more inefficient until fixed.
I am going to strongly advocate for the “more chores” part. As of right now, more (preferably fun/exciting/dangerous) tasks is precisely what transport needs. Transport pilot is the only role in the game that can literally be replaced by a computer. Autopilot makes the presence of a pilot obsolete. The only time where your presence matters if when the dropship has to evacuate, and even then, it is just the press of a button that any other person in CIC and SL barging into the cockpit can do.
Hopefully with the changes, there won’t be the worry that a pilot won’t exist. Surely, there will be the off chance that the pilot is arrested for the remainder of the round, but that also applies to another round-important role, Requisitions. And whilst Pilots don’t have 5 slots in the form of Requisitions Officers, they do have someone to replace them if they do royally fuck it up: Dropship Crew Chiefs.
I do not believe that a marine getting hit by an explosion due to a mini-event in the dropship is ever going to be a negative experience, and here is my reason for it. People already have little to look out for when they sit in a dropship, waiting for it to finish cycling. Marines sitting in a suddenly shaking dropship on the verge of collapse, trying to evade fires and frost with the occasional other marine tussling for space, the DCCs healing marines in the thick of it, or trying to fix the systems… all of that just sounds, well, incredibly exciting. From a gameplay perspective, I could imagine it to work similarly to how the pipes explode after the Queen crashes a dropship during round-end. Except that weather events are mid-game occurances, not something to watch out for at the very start where “ruining a game” is an actual issue. And when the ship is packed full, when there is no room to escape the failure of the systems; then the Queen chose an excellent time to force the marines to evacuate. The underdog situation shot up a notch. Giving severity to the situation at hand.
The idea of tuning it down to a general nuisance which changes some arbitrary number about how long it takes for the dropship to fly is… well, it just isn’t the type of impact I would like to see. Good impact is something that I have mentioned a few times in the post. I believe it to be the most important thing for any role - the only thing a player can find an enjoyment in. Something visible. Something that makes you go: “man, without that guy, this whole thing would be a lot worse”. Requisitions has impact in the form of keeping the front supplied. Medics have impact in the form of quickly patching marines up. Ordnance Technicians have impact in the form of making bombastic grenades for marines to use. But the transport pilot has nothing. Nothing at all. And that makes me sad.
I like the idea of there being some sort of ‘hot landing’ mechanic, where the dropship can take fire from automated defences left active in the various combat zones. The pilot may need to either do evasive, shoot down the incoming, or simply avoid the fire zones, with each option coming with risk/reward
So if the PO avoids the fire zone, they take a while to actually hit planetside, meaning without a good or present PO, landings may take a bit longer. With a good one they could shoot down incoming missiles/shots which the marines can then retrieve and send back up for unique ammunition/weapons, or just as extra supplies. Evasion shakes the shuttle around, and tosses marines on their ass if they aren’t strapped in. Marines could disable ground side weapons batteries and manually destroy them, or the PO could go all wild weasel and go high risk/reward and CAS them himself. Not sure how you’d go about coding that part though.
Transport PO needs some love for sure, but the problem with minigames part is that minigames aren’t good on their own. To have fun with a minigame… you need the minigame to be fun. Bad or tedious or annoying minigame just makes experience worse, not better.
CM and Aliens as a movie is fundamentally rooted in things like the Vietnam war. A war where Helicopters such as the Huey became legend. As such, I support strongly the idea that Transporting Dropships should be WAY more maneuverable and flexible in where they drop troops and where to pick them up - and how to do so. Reverse-rappel is good, but also sounds slow, and single-file. Not bad, mind you, but it’s not what you’d be able to pull a whole squad out with quickly.
Ideally the Dropships could just try and land anywhere, but that’s 100% impossible due to mapping and resulting collision. The LZs are LZs not just because they’re mechanically designated as such, but because our maps have no damn space to fit the giant dropships anywhere else.
Perhaps one could revamp the rappel system instead. It could be used both for going up and down the Dropship, but would also replace the seperate medevac module, as the rappel lines could be tied to the stretcher to pull it up.
One final thing: Paradropping. Yes, this has been suggested many times now I think (though sort of died down when they came up with the rappel system), but I still think it would be such an awesome tool for Marines if the Transport PO could select a location to hover over (without the need of a flare), could open the rear door, and 20 marines could just paradrop down from there. The descent would be telegraphed, naturally, as 20 sprites slowly descend to the ground below - but ideal for flanks if unnoticed.
Nuff said. PO is in a rough spot. Give them some love, please.
I think transport PO should also have some marine law powers on their ship. According to role description you’re the boss on your ship, but in reality you’re have less authority than an actual bus driver. I think it would be cool if PO could issue NJP for misbehavior on the ship.
IRL Bus Driver here, and yes. I have less power in the dropship than in my actual bus.
What could also be fun would be a sort of mini-game that would make the transport trip VERY MUCH FASTER.
Perhaps some tools only available to the DP themselves? Like an emergency landing that basicly have the DP do the trip in half the time the regular one? But then has a cool down to be used?
Like if the dropship recently left the FoB but a sudden massive attack created a breach? Forcing a recall?
My 2 cents as a fairly new player is that point 1.4 sounds really cool. Maybe the Alamo could have installable weapons designed for ground side use like machine guns and mortars, making the PO transport role more about providing ground to ground than just a battlebus.
It could also be cool for the Alamo to become a core part of the FOB by being bigger, and having empty spaces to be designed as mobile surgery bays or mini req locations or whatever.
Overall, I feel like more inbuilt specialization for the DPs would be a better change, since 99% of rounds the Normandy will cas, and the Alamo will transport, so I doubt very much creativity would be lost compared to the gain.
Well, the Dropships can already have sentry guns installed at the doors and the front of the ship at the weapon placement. Some would say they are shit. But I say they are a good distraction while in the middle of an evac. Every tiny bit of damage can help, and the xenos LOVE to focus theses instead of trying to rush in to grab a marine inside.
Technically, the pilot can already order the marines around as officer and if they don’t comply, they sit in brig for ten minutes for major insubordination. The only problem is enforcing this on first drop, as usually every MP aboard gets spam-shoved, stripped and gunned down.