Captain Personalities, Fleet Control Update

Ship captains (and wing leaders) can now have their own personalities. What exactly is a personality, in game terms? I’m so glad you asked!

For now, we’re concerned with combat-related aspects, so a captain being greedy or corrupt isn’t important – although it will be once you assign him (or her) to run an outpost for you. A personality consists of two parts – an overall bravery rating, and a desire to perform certain types of assignments (if you haven’t yet, check out this post to see what those are).

The following baseline personalities are in the game now:

  • cowardly
  • cautious
  • steady
  • aggressive
  • suicidal
  • fearless

It’s better to think of these as character traits that will later be combined with non-combat traits to make up a complete personality.

So, what do these *really* do?

Bravery
A captain’s bravery affects the immediate combat performance of their ship. A cowardly captain will hang back unless his side greatly outnumbers the enemy – and will be extremely careful to avoid enemy fire. A fearless captain doesn’t care much about being outnumbered (never tell him the odds), and is willing to face down the guns of the biggest battleship in the Sector if that means performing his duty.

In gameplay testing, a brave captain does much better against tough odds than a cowardly one – they’re able to commit to a a particular maneuver and not interrupt it out of fear, which, ironically, often keeps them safer. However, if the odds are too stacked against them, a brave captain’s ship is almost certainly doomed.

A cautious captain is much more likely to keep their ship safe when the odds are bad, but isn’t as useful in an even fight – unless their ship is armed with long-range support weapons, which they can use effectively while feeling safe. A cautious captain is also quite good at harassment, as he won’t force the issue and can keep an enemy tied down in a game of cat and mouse for a long time.

Assignment Affinity
As the fleet commander, you give general assignments to your fleet. For example, you can order your fleet to assault a particular objective, form a carrier group behind your lines, and patrol an area for enemy presence. The ship captains themselves organize to carry these tasks out, and their personality plays an important role in who does what.

An aggressive captain scoffs at the idea of staying out of direct contact with the enemy. They’re likely to join assaults, capture objectives, perform strikes on enemy battleships – but not hang back wih fire support ships, escort a carrier deep in friendly territory, or (gasp) lead a civilian craft to safety. Suicidal ones will outright refuse to perform some of these duties, finding any excuse to attack the enemy.

Cautious and cowardly captains are naturally the opposite. They’ll look for any excuse to avoid joining a direct assault, and will prefer sitting back in support roles whenever possible – and even retreat against your orders, when it’s not.

Thus, knowing their personalities and managing the assignments you create is important to your fleet’s performance. For example, you might want to keep an overly aggressive captain from going off on their own and getting killed – but telling them to defend a location won’t do. Instead, you might assign them to more dangerous-sounding patrol duty… in a safe location.

Fleet Control Changes
Since this post, we’ve already changed a few things. If you recall, there were separate pools for “assignments” and “direct orders”. These are now gone, and instead both creating an assignment and giving a direct order costs a “command point”, of which there’s a limited pool. The “assignment transmission” mechanic (where it took some time for an assignment to become active, after it’s was created) is also gone – it was meant as a limiting factor for giving assignments. Since command points accomlish that, it’s no longer necessary.

You can regain command points by capturing objectives (two for a Comm Relay, one for any other kind) – so in back-and-forth battle, there will be more command points to spend. If you do happen to run out, you can still order your entire fleet to engage the enemy at will or perform a full retreat, and tweak standing orders.

Characters with a higher skill in command will start battles with more command points. Different missions will start you off with different amounts of points, to reflect the intended command skill of the protagonist whose role you play in the mission.

It’s cleaner and simpler – one pool instead of two with different rules, and one now-superfluous mechanic gone.

Modding
Now, let’s look at the nitty-gritty details of how it all works under the hood, and how you can get at it.

Mods can add new personalities – there’s a personalities.csv spreadsheet, which is rather self-explanatory. Bravery is on a scale from 0 to 10, while assignment affinity is a multiplier, with 1 representing standard behavior.

You can also specify which combat personality a ship’s captain has in the mission definition. Code sample:

FleetMemberAPI fleetMember;
fleetMember = api.addToFleet(FleetSide.PLAYER, "venture_Balanced", FleetMemberType.SHIP,
			     "ISS Hamatsu", false);
fleetMember.getCaptain().setPersonality("cautious");

If a personality isn’t specified, it defaults to “steady”.

And you can adjust the command rating of each fleet commander, like so:

// the last argument is the number of additional command points
// that the side starts battle with
api.initFleet(FleetSide.PLAYER, "ISS", FleetGoal.ATTACK, false, 5);

And there you have it. What’s next, you say? After the crazyness from the upcoming QubeTubers IndieWeekend dies down (which we’re leading off as the first interview – this Friday, at 8pm EST), there will be some much-needed prettifying of the map interface, and, if there’s a bit of extra time, some work on a new top-secret feature. Feel free to guess at what it might be.

Then, there’s the Codex interface, and the ability to refit your ships. I think it’s safe to say that there’s no shortage of exciting features to add! We’ll try to work an in-between release somewhere in there, too.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 at 9:31 pm and is filed under Development, Modding. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

21 Comments:

  1. I hope the new top-secret feature is that you can instruct your suicidal captains to bring the ship to ramming speed, down a shot of whiskey and stare at their respective viewscreens with ironic glee.

    by Trylobot
  2. I agree with Trylobot.
    If there’s anthing you should add (or bring over from Battlefleet Gothic) it’s the possibility to ram your foe.

    Armoured prows and torpedoes the size of apartment buildings are never bad.

    by Sludgecrawler
  3. Ramming is in, isn’t it? It’s just downplayed significantly/not entirely implemented (Ramming components? : D!)

    It’d be interesting to see an emotionless personality for AI foes, or insane(though perhaps that’s suicidal?) for more berserk foes, a schizophrenic captain who flips between personalities! Not all personalities need to be optimal right? But I guess it would depend entirely how you manage the AI/Opponent command structure

    Sorry to spout random ideas so much, side effect of being crazy eager for this game, keep up the posting!

    by Adam Ca
  4. Lovely integration of the ‘two’ command currencies, seems very elegant. I am confused about the difference between bravery and assignment affinity. I assume they’re supposed to be reasonably orthogonal axes but as described they seem to be essentially identical; brave captains like these assignments, scaredycaps like those.

    by Hypocee
  5. Oh, you guys with the ramming! I can see it now: Seafarer: Trireme Commander, with you playing as the large gentleman commonly seen banging the drum to pace the rowers. Ahem. That would actually be all kinds of awesome.

    @Adam: Yeah, I just don’t see pronounced ramming mechanics working too well here. Ramming generally involves getting stuck in the other ship, consequent boarding actions, etc – all stuff rather opposite to the combat feel we’ve got now.

    As far as personalities, interesting idea about one that flips – actually, there’s something similar in the game now (they all flip a bit, between slightly braver/more cautious). Hmm – perhaps the magnitude of flipping could become a personality component. Most personalities are absolutely not optimal, though they do have roles they tend to perform best.

    @Hypocee: Thanks, happy you like that! It’s one of those that seems like an obvious way to go in retrospect :)

    About bravery – one contrasting example is fearless vs suicidal – a fearless captain is also dutiful and will do whatever he’s told, while a suicidal captain, though equally brave, will seek out direct engagements.

    Still, as you noticed, in a lot of cases they do parallel each other – but not enough that they could be conflated into a single value – and keeping them separate allows for cases where they don’t, such as fearless vs suicidal.

    by Alex
  6. Do these traits change at all over time. IE. Cowardly becoming brave, or a suicidal captain becoming a coward.

    by Horrigan
  7. This reminds me very much of Medieval. Which is excellent. Echoing Horrigan, Captains gaining and losing traits based upon the outcome of scenarios would be a very nice touch. After all, a brave captain could have a very close call that turns him into a coward, or vice versa.

    Maybe some sort of percentage chance that certain events (killing 3 ships in one sortie for example) would increase\decrease points in certain stats to the point that they create new personality traits.

    by Shane H.
  8. Maybe for a Cthullu es

    by Horrigan
  9. I can see this working well with a Cthullu esque mod, where a battle between your fleet with offspring of Cthullu drives some of your captains mad and the rest of them turn to cowards.

    by Horrigan
  10. The cynic in me says “so one interesting axis plus a toggle for uselessness”, but as ever it’s early days, fragmentary information and thanks for the clarification.

    by Hypocee
  11. Hmm, have to be careful about losing/gaining traits. Having a captain you’ve carefully built up end up losing his nerve might be maddening – or interesting and challenging. As usual, details will determine which it is :)

    @Hypocee: Bravery definitely isn’t a “uselessness” toggle – depending on what the job is, a cautious captain can be more effective than an aggressive/fearless one.

    I mean, you don’t want the commander of a light carrier or missile frigate happily engaging an enemy destroyer that advances on its position.

    It’s a safe bet things will get tweaked to make sure the actual game conforms to these ideas :)

    To the degree that I’ve had time to playtest this, though, it already well on its way.

    by Alex
  12. I’ve found in my experience that when you limit a player’s ability to make an order by a certain amount, the player ofter will save most of those choices for an opportunity that doesn’t happen.

    figured i’d share an article i’ve read recenly that pertains the idea of having a certain amount of tactical choices, and how it could be cause a problem.

    http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/35371/Analysis_Option_Availability_And_Loss_Aversion_in_Game_Design.php

    by Patrick
  13. Thanks for the link, very interesting read!

    I think it’s actually a point in favor of the new mechanic – limiting the points serves as an attention-getter and adds a bit of tension to each battle, but since you get a fresh pool of points for every battle, you don’t have negative long-term consequences.

    If it was a fixed pool over longer periods of time, though, then it could get rather problematic.

    by Alex
  14. ya, the replenishing points i believe solves that issue.

    by Patrick
  15. I’m working off the connotations of the words, of course. Contrary to the impression I gave, among the personality types you’ve described I see “bravery” as the reasonably continuous, interesting axis. The orthogonal axis currently looks binodal, describable as “sanity” or as you did, “duty”. Are you saying that there are ever situations where a suicidal AI is preferable to a fearless, or a cowardly to a cautious? What I imagine is that by budget or outright limitation of manpower you’re going to force the player to render some of their ships useless by assigning worthless idiots that they hate.

    by Hypocee
  16. Ahh, I see. Cowardly might be preferable to cautious for the captain of a very fragile, fast ship that has non-direct combat uses (either fire support, or some TBD ship system such as a long-range sensor). As to suicidal vs fearless, fearless is indeed preferable – it combines the best qualities of “steady” and “suicidal”. But aggressive vs suicidal is another matter – the question is whether the tradeoff of not obeying some orders is worth the added bravery. If you’re going to send a bomber wing on an attack run you don’t expect it to come back from, well, you know which one is better for the job :)

    The other aspect of named captains is they will bring specific skills to their ship – improved piloting, gunnery, etc – some combinations of skills being more useful than others. Ships without a named captain are assumed to have someone in command, still – they’re just not noteworthy enough. A generic, unnamed officer has a “steady” personality and no skill bonuses. You’d never have to assign a ship’s command to someone that makes it useless, since you have the generic officers to fall back on. Of course, you could still make the mistake of hiring (or promoting from the ranks) a captain whose personality and skills don’t suit your ships and tactics.

    by Alex
  17. Ah. Eeeeexcellent.

    by Hypocee
  18. Are there going to be varying degrees to these captains and how their traits escalate with each succeeding experience?

    Also, nice to hear about there being normal, run-of-the-mill captains as well. I was left a little uneasy about the prospect of being stuck with a bunch of cowardly captains with no alternatives.

    by Horrigan
  19. Probably not – the experience-based part would be their skills.

    by Alex
  20. This personality feature sounds very interesting, but i’m worried that it might get on your nerves when you’re in an intense battle and suddenly your captains start making choices for themselves.maybe you have thought about that already, maybe not. i just hope it doesnt make the game annoying or something like that…on another note, i absolutely love what i am seeing so far about starfarer ^-^

    by Bahamut-X
  21. err, i would to say that my last comment was a bit stupid, since i misread some of the other posts, so nevermind my last comment =3

    by Bahamut-X