Dev Diary #9 - Another Look at Agents

We've talked a bit in the past about agents, one of the three types of slottable minions an org has at its disposal to accomplish tasks, but only really in generalities.

Both as a window into the development process (since this is actually what I have been working on this last week) as well as in service to a better understanding of how this critical element of gameplay works, let's take this opportunity to look at the kinds of traits and pieces that work together to make up the agents of ORG.

As with the other two types of minions - ships and facilities - an agent is comprised of a set of static information combined with a number of traits, some of which are fixed at the moment of the agent's creation, others that may be substituted out for other traits at the whim (or ability) of the player.

The static information consists of:

  • Name - By default this is the agent's profession, but a player has the option of re-naming the agent to something of their own choosing.
  • Description - Customizable by the player. This could be used purely for logistical purposes, to provide character background, or anything else.
  • Quality - Like all minions, agents have a quality corresponding to an ascending set of colors (white, green, blue, purple, orange, red). Utilization of minions can eventually - though rarely - result in that minion's promotion to a higher quality.
  • Movable - Agents may always be moved - this is also true of ships, but noticeably not true of facilities which are fixed to the region they are first used in.
  • Tradable - Most agents can be traded or auctioned. Special agents that are the result of special tasks will probably be bound, though we are still hammering out the specifics on this.

(Note that upon receiving an agent by auction, some aspects will be reset to its base values. Which aspects of the agent this applies to is something that is still being considered internally).

Every agent also has a citizenship and profession, both of which are fixed at the moment of the agent's creation.

Citizenship is the national polity the agent in question is originally from. Most of these are things like Union or Free State of Mars or Eastern Federation, but there are a couple of unusual ones thrown into the mix as well in the form of AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Clone.

An agent's citizenship is important in a number of different ways:

First, agents with citizenship of polities that have associated reputations associated with them will gain a bonus to any rewarded reputation of that polity. Note, the task still has to reward reputation of that type in the first place, and a few polities don't have reputation associated with them. For example, you slot an agent with Europan citizenship on a diplomatic task that rewards Europan reputation on success; if you succeed on the task, you will gain more Europan reputation for having slotted the Europan agent.

Second, some agents and tasks will have mandatory inclusions (or exclusions) of other citizenships. For example, a peace negotiation task from the Free State of Mars to the Mars Republic might require at least one agent on the negotiation team who is a citizen of the Free State of Mars. Alternatively, an agent with Triton citizenship and the Nationalist trait might refuse to be on the same task as another agent with Protean League citizenship.

Profession is similarly fixed at the moment of the agent's inception, and ranges from the scientific - Biologist, Geologist, Sociologist, to the military - Commander, Pilot, Quartermaster, to the political - Bureaucrat, Politician, Ambassador.

An agent's profession is a frequent requirement for the accomplishment of most tasks. As a general rule, a task that requires at least one agent - and most do - will require at least one of the task's slots to be filled by a particular profession, or at least a particular category (Research, Commercial, Cultural, Political, Military).

All minions, whether ship, facility, or agent, have one fixed negative trait.

Negative traits are sometimes inescapable, such as Complaisant, which slightly increases the time any task that agent is assigned to takes to complete.

More often, though, a clever player can either compensate or cannily work around negative traits. For example, an agent with the Infamous trait results in a penalty to any earned reputation from a task with an agent with that trait. The obvious solution when dealing with an infamous agent, thus, is simply to only assign the agent to tasks that do not reward reputation at all, making the negative irrelevant. Similarly, a Corrupt agent which penalizes Solar (the common currency of the solar system) earnings can be deliberately not assigned to tasks which reward Solars.

Other negative traits have other kinds of effects:

For example, Fugitive is a trait that comes in many flavors, specifically one for each national polity. An agent with the Fugitive: Eastern Federation trait cannot be slotted on tasks in any Eastern Federation territories (so not just the Eastern Federation region on Earth, but also Mercury and parts of the Asteroid Belt).

The negative trait of Addict actually adds a cost of one unit of Narcotics whenever that agent is slotted on any task at all, meaning the player must make sure to have a supply of such in the region the addicted agent will be operating in.

Finally, some negative traits are actually mixed curses and can have positive effects. Methodical adds to any rewarded Influence for Commercial, Military, or Research tasks, but said tasks will also take a lot longer to complete as well. In many cases, this may be a perfectly acceptable tradeoff.

Agents also have positive traits that fall into two categories - Fixed and Acquirable.

Fixed positive traits cannot be changed and are set for the agent in question. Examples of fixed positive traits are things like Philanthropost, which adds additional Solars to any successfully completed task, or Creative, which improves any Research or Cultural Influence rewards, or Military Genius, which reduces the cost to train Troops of all types and also increases any Military Influence earned from tasks the agent is slotted on.

Acquirable traits can be overridden at the cost of the destruction of the previously-slotted trait. Examples of acquirable traits are things like Commercial Analyst, which substantively adds to any Commercial Data rewards, or Renowned, which reduces any Cultural Influence input costs for a task that agent is slotted on.

Positive traits are usually applicable fairly freely, but there are some exceptions, mostly for the protection of players. For example, the Hydrocarbon Specialist acquirable trait multiplies any unprocessed or refined hydrocarbons, but since generally only Geologists or Engineers are involved in tasks that can produce these things, agents with one of these professions are the only ones that can have this trait applied to them.

Positive traits of both kinds can also be situational, though such situationality will never be specifically harmful. For example, Radical is an acquirable trait that a player can choose to apply to an agent that grants a substantive bonus to any category of Influence the agent is slotted on - but can only be slotted on a task that is in a region that is currently under the effect of Social Unrest.

(Social Unrest is an effect that is applied by what is called an orbital mandate - orbital mandates are the result of player votes across each orbit that persist until the next vote which is currently set to reoccur on a weekly basis).

Acquirable traits are special for another reason, in that they are usually tradable. In the same way that players can trade or auction most agents, they can also trade or auction acquirable traits. Acquirable traits can be the result of succeeding at particular tasks, essentially meaning some are effectively craftable by a player, especially a player who is devoting dedicated resources to create a steady supply of such traits.

Agents, along with ships and facilities, are the key resource and asset of your org, and which ones are useful and valuable to you will depend a lot on what your aims are as an org.

As well, don't forget that agents can not only be customized (name and description), but improved in quality (through repeated use on critically successful tasks), and specialized (by swapping out their acquirable traits for different - or simply better - traits).