Dev Diary #3 - Of Ships and Agents

Heretic's picture

The central mechanic of ORG is the task.

Most tasks consume certain resources, and virtually all tasks require one or more ships, agents, or facilities to be slotted - and it is the quality and traits of each of those ships, agents, or facilities that will determine the chance of success for a task.

The internal unofficial term for these slottable ships, agents, or facilities is "minions". This obviously isn't really a new concept, having been used in a number of other games, but it is something that for us was key to get right and to build off of the lessons of other games.

So what exactly did we decide we wanted to do differently?

As with treatments of this concept in other games, we wants our minions to have a quality, but we also wanted that quality to be something that the player could improve.

A ship might start at a common white level of quality, but if you use that ship enough times in enough tasks, get enough critical successes and it will eventually promote to become an uncommon green level of quality.

Set Character and Distinctiveness...But With Real Options
Some aspects of an agent or facility we wanted to be fixed; but most minions should have open trait slots that players could use to customize their ships, agents and facilities.

These open trait slots are filled with traits which themselves become not just rewards, but commodities and end results of crafting chains.

In ORG, every ship, agent, and facility has positive traits...but they also all have one (but just one) disadvantage.

These disadvantages can often be compensated for with positive traits, or even simply avoided - a mining facility with a disadvantage in mining silicates can simply be dedicated to mining other raw materials, but that disadvantage helps to define what it is and to present the player with logistical challenges and choices.

Org minions don't start with personality, but you will have the ability to give them personality.

When you spend days, weeks, even months pushing an agent or ship up in quality, finding just the right traits for them, they become something more than an agent or ship - they become your agent or ship. Providing means to name and set their avatar representation (and maybe other aspects) is something that we definitely want to do.

Many games using this kind of mechanic aren't able to do this, usually due to database structure and other technical considerations, so we've been careful to structure our data architecture from the beginning to specifically allow for this kind of customization and personalization.

Even More Personality (For People)
For agents - the actual people of the solar system - we wanted even more personality. In addition to all of the above negative traits, open slots, promotable quality, agents also have a couple of things particular to them.

All agents have a citizenship, representing what state polity they are from (e.g., the Oceanic League, the Free State of Mars, the Europan Consortium) which does feed into Reputation and Influence gains for the tasks they are on. For example, sending a politician from Callisto on a diplomatic mission to Ganymede is probably marginally suicidal (though if you are trying to broker a cease fire, that might actually be required for the task).

(Citizenship also, by the way, includes an "AI" designation, as in Artificial Intelligence - so if you want your entire roster of agents to be machine intelligences, you can actually do that. Your fellow orgs may not appreciate your attempts to implement Skynet, however...)

Agents also have professions. By themselves, professions generally don't modify task inputs or outputs (which is what the various standard traits usually do), but professions form the basis for what agents can be slotted into which tasks. Recruiting tasks might require Activists, diplomatic tasks Politicians or Ambassadors, transport tasks Pilots and Navigators, construction tasks Engineers and Geologists, and so on.

There is, as well, lots more that can be talked about, but we'll get to that in future dev diaries and other discussions.