Dev Diary #14 - Crafting of the Mind

People are very familiar with crafting as it exists in literally hundreds of games out there. You take certain quantities of certain materials and through the mechanics of whatever game you're in, you combine them to make a finished product. Perhaps that product has an immediate use; perhaps it is simply a stepping stone to still another product.

ORG, as we've talked about in previous dev diary blogs, definitely utilizes this kind of crafting, complete with the mining of raw materials, refining, building components, and assembling components to create finished products in the forms of ships, facilities, equipment, and components in the form of ship and facility traits.

All that's well and good, and represents a critical role in the player economy, but that really just touches on the Commercial (and, to a lesser extent, the Military and Research categories). How does the concept of crafting apply to categories like Cultural or Political?

Let's first do a quick review of what categories are and how they work in ORG:

Each layers administers an organization that controls sets of ships, agents, and facilities with which they influence the solar system in one or more (and you choose which ones you want to pursue) categories:

  • Commercial - The economy of mining, refining, and utilization of resources and raw materials to the end of producing valuable goods, ships and facilities either for your own use or for sale to other states or orgs.
  • Cultural - The economy of ideas, influence, and society. Especially strong in recruiting and improving agents, but also in the creation of memeplexes that can modify and improve the performance of an org in many ways.
  • Military - The construction of naval and military resources and the exercise of said resources. This spans everything from military contracting of services and ships to acting as a privateer for various state polities.
  • Political - The leveraging of political power, playing state polities off of each other, gathering influence and reputation - and thus special access.
  • Research - The development of the new, involved in the production of advanced prototypes, archaeological expeditions, and research paths of dubious ethical standing.

It's not hard to imagine how this works in, say, the Commercial category - you round up some raw carbonates, metals, and silicates, refine them, manufacture them into components, then assemble those components into a finished product.

For the Cultural category, this all works rather differently. In the Cultural category, the raw materials aren't rocks and metal and stray hydrocarbons that can be wedded into fuel or ships. Rather, the Cultural raw materials are ideas, or to be more technical, memes.

In ORG, a player who has chosen to aggressively pursue the Cultural category as a path to dominance has four primary resources:

  • Social Incitement - The basic social fuel, social incitement represents popular and cultural movements, trends, hashtag campaigns and similar measures of social energy and motivation. Social incitement can be gained in a lot of different ways, but most notably by running certain classes of cultural tasks such as protests, defamation campaigns against governments, martyring your own agents, and manipulating journalistic stories.
  • Cultural Influence - Running tasks in a particular category usually generates varying amounts of influence in that category. High rates of increase in influence in each category in each region translate into bonus abilities granted to the player's org. In general, influence is a running total, but in the Cultural category Cultural influence is also itself a resource that can be voluntarily depleted for certain high-value tasks.
  • Theories - Different areas of academic focus have different types of Theories, which are low volume, high quality resources necessary for the creation of agent and some facility traits.
  • Supporting Research - Like theories, Supporting Research is necessary primarily to create agent and some facility traits. Unlike theories, supporting research is high volume - meaning it's fairly reliable how and how much you can get more of it, but you also need more supporting research than theories for each created trait.

In addition to resources, an org focusing on a Cultural path to dominance has a number of specialized agents and facilities, of which the following are a sample:

  • Economist - Actually a Commercial agent, economists are nonetheless necessary reusable elements to make certain types of traits affecting generation of Solars (the common currency of the solar system).
  • Philosopher - A Cultural agent profession necessary for the creation of many theories.
  • Instructor - A Cultural agent useful in the recruitment and sometimes development of additional agents, as well as paramilitaries and some other types of troops.
  • Activist - A critically useful Cultural agent for running tasks to generate the Cultural influence and social incitement that must be expended in the creation of traits.
  • College - A Cultural facility useful for fulfilling the facility requirements of a large number of basic Cultural tasks..
  • University - A Research facility that, despite being in the Research category, is also useful for advanced social theory generation.
  • Social Movement - An ephemeral Cultural facility that has no physical form, but instead represents social networks that together have the ability to influence policy, generate social incitement, and accomplish some types of basic Cultural Influence-generating tasks.

How does this all go together?

Let's say you want to recruit some more Cultural agents so you can carry out more Cultural tasks.

The most common task you'd go to for this is Indoctrinate Cultural Agent, which requires a Cultural Task Point (these represent the maximum number of tasks of a particular category you can use at any particular point in time), and uses up Cultural Influence. Moreover, it requires a Cultural or Political facility to run the task (note facilities, like agents and ships, are all types of minion - you'll get these back after they've done their work for you on a task).

The Cultural Influence can be gained from running virtually any Cultural task - let's say you have access to a task on Mars that is Disease Eradication Programs in the Borealis Basin - requires some Medical Supplies, but you can make those or buy them yourself. You run that task, and wind up with (hopefully) a success and a nice batch of Cultural influence.

With that Cultural Influence in hand you take, say, a Cultural facility like a college or a social movement, some of that hard-earned Cultural Influence run that Indoctrinate Cultural Agent task you were looking at originally, and when the task is complete, with luck you'll have a new Cultural agent.

Now, let's say you want to add an acquired trait to one of your Cultural facilities. Acquired traits that go on agents and facilities are also called enhancements, one example of which is Fortune Favors the Bold, which when applied to a facility generates bonus Military Influence every time that facility runs a task - even if that task isn't even a Military category task.

The Fortune Favors the Bold enhancement trait requires a more complicated list of inputs:

    10 x Social Incitement
  • 100 x Supporting Psychological Research
  • 10 x Memetics Theory
  • 10 x Economics Theory

The Social Incitement part can be gained in several ways as described above - which you use depends on whether you have spare agents you are willing to martyr to your cause, the available option to buy-off journalists, or the inputs necessary to try to incite protests which, on a critical success, will actually grant you more social incitement than you put into the task in the first place.

The Supporting Psychological Research can be gained by certain uncommon Cultural task like Develop Ideological Doctrine, but the more usual way to get them is to trade them or engage yourself in Research category tasks, specifically the various Primary Research and Basic Research tasks (how these work is the domain of the Research category, and the subject of a different dev diary).

With the social incitement, supporting psychological research, memetics theory, and economics theory obtained, you can use either a Cultural facility or, in this case, a Military facility - such as a Military Base, or even a Naval Shipyard - to combine the pieces into the Fortune Favors the Bold enhancement trait.

In summary, the basic principles for how any of the various categories work are pretty simple.

Categories should be able to generate internally most of what they need - but for some things, it will be cheaper to do such in other categories, such as the above example where Research tasks are actually the most efficient way to generate the theories and supporting research that certain Cultural tasks need.

Individual player orgs can focus in multiple categories - and most will focus on at least two or three, but even so, it's inevitable that there will be some things you can't get enough of or cheaply enough by your own devices. This design principle thus introduces certain dependencies to the player economy, giving players the opportunity to specialize in the production of things that other players want or need.