Today we’re going to dig into progression. We have a pretty deep progression system in Astrobase Command which you might expect from a sandbox game, so there’s a lot to cover. Hold on to your space-hats and here we go!
First thing we need to talk about is points. The concept of points should be familiar to players of tabletop games such as Warhammer.
In Astrobase Command, the points of a unit is a reflection of its attributes, skills and rank. Equipment also has points, and this gets added to the unit. A 100 point marine with a 10 point blaster is worth 110 points.
More points does not necessarily mean more powerful — for example, a unit with extremely high medical skills but also high weapons skills will rarely get to use both at the same time. But he still pays the points cost.
Modules, missions and other game systems are essentially containers for points. For example, a 500 point medical bay means you can fill the module with 500 points worth of crew. This could either be a single 500 point doctor, or two 250 point doctors, five 100 point medics and so forth. You cannot stick a 1000 point doctor in a 500 point medical bay — in essence he is “too good” to work in your shabby module! He demands a proper hospital!
Points are a crucial element of balance, both in single player and multiplayer. For example, it doesn’t matter if you can field a 100,000 point army. If there’s a 500 point mission you can only send 500 points worth of stuff (people, gear, etc). This prevents players with a well-established base from simply grinding/steam-rolling small points missions.
Cooperatively, players can team up to take on missions that have more points than they can individually field. If you can bring 1,000 points and your friend can bring 5,000 points then together you can do a 6,000 point mission.
Since opt-in PvP also sets a point limit on attacking players based on their target’s Astrobase size, newer players will have a fair chance against established opponents.
So points are the balance currency by which all things are equated.
It also means you pay a penalty for crew that can do everything. You want to keep them points-efficient so they can “fit” optimally where you want them.
In Astrobase Command, we wanted ranks to be deliberately assigned by the player where he needs certain characters in positions of authority.
We had a couple of goals in mind, based on our experiences in other games as well as what we thought was right for this one:
- Astrobases should naturally gravitate towards a sensible rank structure — in most cases, an Astrobase full of Admirals and nothing else won’t be the optimal thing.
- As a player “gets to know” the characters on his station, and plays with them and begins to develop trust and attachment, promoting them into positions of authority should feel like the natural thing.
- Whether or not to promote a character should be a meaningful decision, and the right answer depends on what the player is trying to accomplish in the game.
Since we wanted the power to be in the hands of the player, there are only two restrictions to promoting a unit (in order to fulfill the above goals):
- Quarters — you must have enough room in your station! Each tier of rank (enlisted, NCO, Junior Officer, etc) requires more living space and therefore more resources to support him. More on this in the next section!
- Traits — each tier of rank requires an additional personality trait. So to promote a character to an NCO rank he needs one trait. To promote a character to a Junior Officer rank he needs a total of two traits. And so forth. This gives even “bad” traits value. Also, in the real world you promote people you know and trust… people whose personality is known to you.
So why promote someone at all?
While a promotion does not improve skills, it does improve a character’s attributes (Physical, Mental, Social). These attributes are checked for AI decision making, and also trickle down to basic properties of the character. For example, a character’s Physical attribute determines the number of wounds he can take before death. So you’ll want to promote your really good people because you want them to have high attributes.
Duty Roster Jobs
In the duty roster, certain jobs have a minimum rank. Note the Duty Roster doesn’t display all jobs. The guy monitoring the auxiliary power flow on sub-section 3 won’t be listed in the Duty Roster, you just drop him at the terminal. But for example, consider that Department Heads have to be Lieutenant or higher. So if you want a Chief Medical Officer, he needs to be at least a Lieutenant. You can have medical personnel without a Chief Medical Officer, but he improves the overall quality of medical care at your station. I’ll get into the details of Duty Roster jobs in another post. 🙂
In addition, a crew member can never have a subordinate of equal or lesser rank. So as your station grows, you will naturally need to expand your rank structure.
However, higher ranked characters will require more resources and only “fit” in larger missions/modules. So your promotions need to keep pace with the rest of your station — if you promote people too quickly, there will be nothing for them to do but you’ll still have to pay for them!
Most modules are filled with crew based on the interplay of points — the points of the people working the module must be less than the total points of the module itself. Crew Quarters are a special case, because generally nobody works there (unless you post a guard).
In terms of living space, each rank tier requires double the space of the previous. So for example, a single Crew Quarter Module can house 16 enlisted, or 8 NCOs, or 4 Junior Officers, or two Senior Officers, or a single Flag Officer (he requires a stateroom — his own module!).
Crew Quarters (and most modules) are built in quadrants so you can mix and match them where they fit. You could even have a module that’s 3/4 Crew Quarters and a quadrant that’s something else, such as a security checkpoint or an armory or a recreation room or an aid station (basically anything that fits).
The starting Crew Quarters Module will house 8 enlisted (two quadrants, or half the module), two NCOs (one quadrant) and one Junior Officer (one quadrant). Your starting Base Commander will be an Ensign (who will have two traits). You also get two petty officers (one trait each), and a small number of enlisted who will have none.
Note this means you could immediately promote that Ensign to Lieutenant if you wanted to because the requirements have been met. But he might not fit in the missions that your Mission Control Officer will have for you, and if you ever want a different Base Commander you’ll have to promote someone else to Lieutenant Commander (he’ll need traits, and quarters) or you’ll have to get rid that guy.
Characters gain a given skill by working at terminal that is associated with that skill, using equipment that is associated with that skill, or otherwise performing a relevant duty. So the guy working at the Recruitment Terminal will be gaining the Personnel Skill up to 5, and then the Recruitment Skill up to 10.
Skills are broken into 9 Basic Skills, and then each Basic Skill has 5 Advanced Skills. Enlisted personnel cannot gain Advanced Skills — they cap out at 5. A character needs to be at least a Petty Officer (first rank in the NCO tier) to gain Advanced Skills. In the real world, Petty Officers are your specialists.
Skill-wise, there is no benefit to promoting a character past Petty Officer. As any specialist in the real world will tell you, a fancy title does not necessarily make a person more skilled… in fact, the opposite is often true. It’s intended that your most points-efficient and highly skilled characters will end up being NCOs. These will be the guys that keep your station running!
Officers and especially Senior Officers on the other hand, may have a wide variety of cross-Department skills. They are not there to be points-efficient. They are there to fulfill the specific needs of an Astrobase, and especially complex situations that requires a person with a broad competency. In short, an effective manager.
Traits are the last major piece of the puzzle. Personality Traits are picked up when a character is actively participating in a mission, or an event on the station (reactor fire!), and so forth. These are situations where the character’s AI has to make a decision.
On critical successes (or failures) the character may gain a trait related to the situation. So this will be the guy that either saves the station from an outbreak of an alien parasite, or the guy that sleeps with an alien on a Diplomatic mission and contracts space-herpes.
I think that’s it for now! We are very interested in hearing YOUR thought process for planning out the organization and management of your Astrobase crew. As always, if you have any feedback, suggestions, or questions I’ll see you on the forums 🙂
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