Campaign missions are pretty much quests. (Why not call them quests, then? Because spaaaaaaaace. There are no quests in space. Please do not point me towards Space Quest.)
What I’d like to do first is talk about the first mission that I implemented to figure out how all the different pieces needed to come together.
Mission: Procurement Contract
It made sense to start with something simple, so simple it is. The mission goal can be summed up easily: “acquire a quantity of commodity X and deliver it to market Y for a reward”. Of course, once you dive into the details, it gets a bit more involved. How do you take on a mission? How do you keep track of it? How do you complete it?
None of these are difficult questions, and lots of games have quests, so they’ve all been answered more times than one could count. Mostly, it “just” boils down to UI work. “Just” in quotes because, oh boy, there’s a lot of it, and there’s lots of new underlying data to make it all work, too.
So, then – taking on missions. A mission board will do nicely:
One thing to note here is that the board shows missions from nearby star systems as well. It’s also not the only way to get missions – well, it is *right now*, but there’s nothing preventing missions from being taken on in conversation with an NPC, for example.
The Intel tab is a good fit for keeping track of missions – we’re taking advantage of having an existing interface to keep track of incoming reports, and it’s only a matter of adding a “Missions” filter category to make it nice.
Once we’ve acquired the commodity in question, it’s time to complete the mission by talking to the designated contact. Which means we need people and ways to talk to people, and this is where it gets interesting. If we’re going to go through all this trouble, it makes sense to have people be persistent, and for the player to have a reputation with them.
It wouldn’t do any good to have persistent people if they’re only ever used in a single mission. We want to reuse people for many missions, and perhaps for other purposes, but that requires more context so we can pick the right types of people to involve. Even for the “procurement contract” mission, simple as it is, it might not make sense for the same contact to be accepting a shipment of food one time and illegal drugs the next.
Thus, the concept of “posts” – what a person’s current role or job is. They might be a quartermaster, a base commander, a merchant, or a shady underworld contact. When generating a mission, the game will look for people with specific posts that are currently available. For example, if the mission is to deliver supplies, it’ll look for a base commander, a station commander, or a quartermaster. If it doesn’t find any of those, it’ll create a new person – in this case, a quartermaster – and post them on that market. They’ll then be reused next time this, or any other kind of mission, requires a quartermaster.
The neat thing here is that the game doesn’t have to pre-generate all sorts of people (though it does to some extent – base commanders and the like). Rather, missions generate the people they need, and as more missions are added, the world naturally gets populated by more kinds of people.
But what does having a high reputation with a person do, you ask? For now, all it does is make it so they’ll offer you missions regardless of your reputation with their faction. It’ll be good to expand that later, but that’s for another pass.
Role of Missions
Why have missions? The standard answers for “why have quests” still apply here. They give the player a sense of purpose, reasons to explore the game world, clear ways to acquire things, and so on.
Beyond that, what I’d like to do is tie missions in with events. (Note: this part is speculative because, well, it’s not done, and things don’t always turn out as expected.) That said, the idea is that events will unlock missions, and completing these missions can steer the event towards different outcomes.
For example, if you get news of civil unrest on Sindria, you might accept a mission to deliver weapons to the underground, or to intercept smugglers trying to do the same. Depending on which you do, Sindria might plunge into more severe unrest edging towards civil war (and opening up more lucrative opportunities), or the Diktat might recover control and maintain Sindria as a stable power base. For the latter to have meaning, though, requires more campaign-level mechanics than currently exist, so that’s something to work on.
This does mirror closely what events can already do, and missions aren’t strictly necessary – if weapon smuggler fleets span during an unrest event, do you really need to take on a mission to take them out? On the other hand, something like smuggling the weapons yourself gets a lot clearer if it’s framed as a mission. Plus, missions allow for people to get involved, which is nice for establishing a bit more of a human connection with what’s going on.
In other news, I’m in a bit of a rare situation where there’s actually a backlog of things to talk about. I’m rather excited about the next blog post (well, rather, the features it’ll talk about). I’ll give you two hints – it’s related the the infrastructure laid down during the mission work, and it’s not something I was planning to add in this release. Past that, my lips are sealed, so don’t even ask!
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