Thanks for the replies! I'd already come to the same conclusion as all of you, but I hate reading it stated so matter of fact-like.
The only REAL problem is that abilities have absolutely no directional option other than forward, which is what brings the ship to a screaming halt when set to true. I simply don't understand why the developer's didn't have the foresight or the presence of mind to add a simple line of code at some point that allows ability hardpoints to play upon their orientation just like the weapon hardpoints.
I do have another weapon that would actually work better as an activated ability. It's a micro torpedo barrage fired from the ship's flanks. Ideally, I'd like for the torpedoes to find only targets to the left and right, but so far it selects targets from the entire 360 degree radius. I tried this as an ability before I posted last night, but it seemed like a much less successful test than the forward-firing beam. Also, the torpedoes fly in a fairly straight-line path (unlike the ridiculous flight path of the phase missile swarm that I based the ability on), which is what really limits me in this option. I don't hold much hope for this as an ability either, so I'll probably end up altering my specs a bit so the torpedo barrage fits into the current torpedo weapon entry. Any thoughts?
To be honest, most of my experience is in the modeling and texturing realm for this game. I do have quite a bit in the coding department, too, but it's not nearly as consistent as my modeling work, and I thought perhaps I'd missed an additional line that was added in a patch or someone who works at it more often might have come across a possible solution.
One final note to BloodDragoon: when you create a weapon-like ability you first have the option of adding a weapon effect (visual) to the ability coding. This is where you can set effect stagger delays, burst count, and burst delays for the weapon's visual effect. Further into the entity file you have the option of setting an antimatter requirement and/or recharge time. Both of these can be completely dismissed if the designer so chooses. So, ultimately, it's very simple to create an ability that acts as a constant weapon. The only issues are those outlined in this thread.