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Messages - harrumph

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Jump in at the fringe, look around the system, jump right back out, cruise over to the appropriate jump point or gas giant/star in hyperspace, jump back in. Costs a little extra fuel, but accomplishes the same thing without saving/reloading. In fact, it's often much faster, especially in systems with lots of jump points and/or planets/stations that are very far apart (e.g. Valhalla/Ragnar), to make inter-system trips via hyperspace.

The first time you manage to deliver a procurement contract in under 10 days using such advanced navigation techniques, you'll feel very clever.

Suggestions / Re: reworking the crew system (very, very long)
« on: February 28, 2015, 02:31:36 AM »
I think the OP proposal would be far too complicated, but a bit more variation could spice things up. Alex actually showed interest in that:

There's nothing complicated about it from the player's perspective. It's actually simpler than the current system. There's only one type of crew; you hire enough to man all your ships and the game does everything else automatically. Sometimes you're prompted to give bonuses to one ship or another. That's it.

I know the OP is really long and probably boring, but if you're not going to read it carefully, please just don't comment on it. Megas, personnel are still "abstract crew tokens" in this concept. nomadic_leader, it is not "like an HR simulator." Yes, in my ideal version, you'd have some fleet-wide personnel options like prize money and the like, but you could simply ignore that entire part of the interface. In any event, as I wrote, morale and the like is a non-essential expansion on the core concept. I like that stuff because I feel it adds character and opportunities for emergent stories. If you don't like it, please say so specifically, rather than dismissing the entire crew concept out of hand.

Annoyance: Having a ship lose all its XP just because it had to be mothballed for half a week is a pretty blatant Violation of Common Sense. Not sure how to fix this one.

Ha, I knew somebody would hate that one. I don't think it's a violation of common sense, personally. Mothballling a ship is serious business; it's not something you do for half a week. In real life, it can take weeks or months to prepare a ship from the reserve fleet for action, and a mothballed ship doesn't have a full crew complement. New guys have to be trained on and acclimated to the ship when it's activated. In game terms, it puts a slight limit on the player's ability to sail around with a gigantic fleet and just switch ships in and out of active use willy-nilly. And it encourages you to stick with something old that's already working well; it creates some attachment between the player and the game world.

Suggestion: Allow crew/specialists to be transferred to another ship of the same basic hull but a different skin (e.g. from an Eagle (D) to an Eagle). You could even hypothetically transfer crew between different base hulls with a variable penalty depending on the ships in question (e.g. transferring from a Hound to a Cerberus requires much less relearning than transferring to an Aurora).

Sure! As I imagined it, you'd already get a bonus for going from a Hound to a Cerberus (both frigates).

The fundamental nature of reality also excessively favors smaller and higher-tech ships, particularly fighters. This is why no fleet on earth uses battleships anymore, and why in real space combat it'd be a bunch of tiny ships with powerful warheads.

As I tried to explain, the game is excessively weighted towards smaller ships because the reward for using them with elite crews is very high and there are no possible negative consequences. In real life, if a fighter pilot is shot down and killed, it takes years to train a replacement up to his level of expertise. In Starsector, if a fighter pilot is shot down, he usually isn't killed at all (due to a long-standing bug); if he is killed, he is instantly replaced by some guy who was part of a destroyer crew yesterday. It is immersion-breaking and causes a serious gameplay imbalance. Sending elite wings and frigates into action should carry substantial risks.

Suggestions / reworking the crew system (very, very long)
« on: February 27, 2015, 11:50:12 AM »
I don’t like the way crew works in Starsector. Mechanically, I think it still excessively favors smaller and higher-tech ships, particularly fighters, and it doesn’t make sense that, no matter how many elite-crewed fighters and frigates die, there are always enough elite crewmen from other ships to replace them, as if a highly skilled battleship gunner would have any idea how to fly a Broadsword.

Affectively/immersion-wise, I think the current crew system is gamey and kind of creepy (you buy and sell crewmen and marines like slaves). It makes not just people but ships totally interchangeable and saps personality and character out of a game that really needs them. So I tried to come up with an alternative. I think I’ve whipped up a pretty good system: it maintains many of the features of the current one, keeps things very simple from the player’s standpoint, and at the same time creates new opportunities for the player to get attached to (and to customize) ships and has a bunch of features to hang RPG-style events and narratives on as the game gets deeper and more fleshed out.

First, we remove elite/veteran/regular/green crewmen and marines from the commodities at the trade screen.

Instead, we add a Personnel screen. When you’re in port, there’s a section labeled “Hire/Embark” with four buttons—Crew, Marines, Specialists, and Passengers—and, below that, a section labeled “Manage Personnel” which I’ll get to later (and which is there whether you’re in port or not).

If you click on Crew or Marines, you just get a simple dialog box with a slider and some buttons: Hire, Cancel, Max, and (in the case of crew) Min. Select the number of crew or marines you want to hire (up to the limit available at the station/planet where you’re in port). Max sets the slider to fill your fleet’s maximum crew capacity; Min sets the slider to hire enough crew to meet the minimum crew needs of all your ships.

All crew hired here are identical. Their “price,” instead of depending on their quality, is a hiring bonus and depends on market conditions. If you’re at a populous planet, there are tons of crewmen available, and you’re hiring a small number, they may sign on for no bonus, just for three square meals a day and a chance to see the Sector. If you’re at some tiny outpost at the ass-end of civilization and there are only 20 crewmen available, they might squeeze you a bit. Once they’re hired, though, their contracts are fixed and identical, for the sake of simplicity: like now, crewmen use a tiny amount of supplies each day, and marines use a little more. When hired, they are distributed evenly among all your ships up to the minimum crew limit; the rest form a pool of excess/replacement crew.

If you click on Passengers, you see (at most ports) a few different icons with numbers on them. These are groups of people who want passage somewhere else. Mouse over to see where they’re going and how much they’re willing to pay. Some will pay half up front, half on arrival; some might be desperate enough to pay in full up front, while others are unable or unwilling to pay until they get where they’re going. They may be dignitaries, refugees, replacement crews, mercenaries, settlers—anything, really. Depending on their affiliation, you might get a small faction reputation bonus for conveying them to their destination safely and quickly, or a minor rep hit if you take them into combat or three months’ out of their way (or a gigantic rep hit if you take all their money and then push them out the airlock). While they’re on board, they use up your crew limit but consume their own supplies.

If you click on Specialists, you see (at most ports) a few different icons with small numbers on them. You can mouse over to see what they are. One might say “Gunners (Dominator)” and another “Pilots (Dagger).” These are crew—veterans of other campaigns—who have experience with specific ship types. They come in small numbers (probably just 5-25 per stack) and demand very expensive signing bonuses. When you hire them, you are prompted to assign them to a specific ship/wing in your fleet. If it matches their class specialization (i.e. if you stick those Dominator gunners in an Eagle), that ship/wing gets an experience boost. If it matches their hull specialization exactly (i.e. you assign those Dagger pilots to a Dagger wing), that ship/wing gets the experience boost and a small perk: +50% lateral movement for the Dagger wing,* for example, or 10% recoil reduction for the Dominator. These perks persist as long as the ship is not disabled, destroyed, or mothballed, although each ship/wing has a limited number: wings can have one movement-related and one weapons-related; ships can have one movement-related, one weapons-related, and one shields/armor-related.

*Okay, that’s not a small perk. Fighters are a little different. Read on!

(Note: in under-the-hood mechanical terms, these specialist hires are like weapon enchantments or similar in a fantasy RPG. The experience boost and perk are what you’re really paying for; the tiny stack of actual crewmen are simply distributed among all your ships as basic recruits, just as if you’d hired them with the regular Crew button. You might also encounter specialists through narrative events—maybe you talk some fighter pilots at the bar into joining your crew, or convince the brilliant engineers on board a captured ship to switch to your side.)

So how does experience work now?

Each ship gains experience specific to that ship. A ship’s maximum experience is a function of the number of active crewmen assigned to it (the active crew simply being equal, unless the ship is undermanned, to the minimum crew requirement—i.e. exactly the number of guys it takes to keep the ship in fighting trim). I’m not a designer, nor am I a math whiz, so I won’t attempt to develop the system in detail, but this is a rough idea of how it could work: each individual in a ship’s minimum crew raises that ship’s maximum experience by 10 (so a Wolf’s maximum experience is 150). Each new recruit assigned to a ship raises the ship’s current experience by 2 (or, say, 4, if 2 proves too harsh). A ship crewed entirely by fresh recruits thus has 20% of its maximum experience.

No individual crewman is tracked. Each time a ship/wing participates in combat, the ship/wing—the entire crew as a unit—gains experience. If the unit's experience is already maxed out, and the ship/wing does not have the maximum number of crew perks, participating in combat gives the unit a chance to acquire a new perk.

Each time one of the individual crewmen in the unit dies, the unit loses experience equal to the old experience total divided by the crew size, and the lost crewman is replaced with a basic recruit from the fleet’s pool of excess crew (thus making it a net loss of experience for the unit unless it was a green crew to begin with). If my example Wolf had a fully experienced crew (150 total) but takes a pounding in action, and five crewmen are killed, the ship loses 150/15*5 experience, bringing it down to 100, and then gains 2*5 experience when five new guys join the crew. So it’s now at 73% of max experience.

(A new Leadership skill: Training Drills. Each level increases the experience value of a replacement crewman by, say, 0.3—if you max it out, your replacements each give their new ship +5 experience instead of +2.)

It sounds a little complicated (and probably would be for Alex to implement), but from the player’s perspective, it’s simplicity itself, requiring no fiddling around with crew transfers or assigning personnel to particular ships. The only times a player must make decisions about "where crew should go” (in reality, crew are automatically being distributed evenly across ships and the player is really just deciding where buffs should go) are when hiring specialists and when a ship is destroyed, sold, or mothballed.

In such a case, the (surviving) crew are redistributed among the fleet’s other ships but, if the ship had very high experience, the game will generate one or more specialist groups for the player to assign. This will also allow you to move perks from ship to ship. For example, you lose an Eagle but win the battle, and you recover a large portion of the ship’s crew from their escape pods. The game simply adds them to the excess crew pool and/or distributes them among under-strength ships as replacements, but it also gives the player a prompt: "Where should we assign the veteran engineers of the ISS Tragically Torpedoed? +125 experience to any cruiser; +5% shield strength to any Eagle-class cruiser.” After the player deals with that, he/she gets another: “Where should we assign the veteran navigators of the ISS Tragically Torpedoed? +40 experience to any cruiser; +1 burn speed to any Eagle-class cruiser.” If you only have one other Eagle and it has a speed perk you like better than this one, you can apply the experience but simply choose not to overwrite the old perk.

This has two interesting metagame affects, both of which I think improve the game (although I suspect people will disagree about at least one of them). First, uniformity in fleets (or at least using multiples of each hull type) becomes a strength. A destroyer squadron built around, say, four Medusas is much more resilient, experience-wise, than a fleet with a couple frigates, destroyers of three different types, and a light cruiser. Second, mothballing a ship becomes a much more significant decision than it is right now, potentially representing a harsh experience loss (although it would also allow the player to concentrate specialist perks in a smaller number of ships, if he/she had multiples of one hull).

The one time automatic, even distribution of crew to ships stops is if the fleet is undermanned after combat or an accident. In such a case, the number of active crew on each ship is fixed in place—for experience purposes, an unfilled crew slot just counts as a 0, and the ship won’t get experience while undermanned—and the player is prompted to mothball a ship and distribute its crew among the remaining ships. If you don’t, and keep flying around with undermanned ships, whatever new crew you do hire will be evenly distributed among your understrength ships until they’re all fully manned (and your ships will suffer serious CR penalties in the meantime). If you’re at a port and buy a ship that you don’t have enough spare crew for, you get a prompt that gives you the choices of hiring enough crew to man the ship (if enough crew are available at that port), canceling the purchase, or immediately mothballing the ship.

Fighter wings are handled slightly differently from how they are now. The minimum crew requirement of a wing is larger: instead of requiring enough crew to fill just the ships in the wing, you need enough crew to fill each ship in the wing and every replacement chassis (if your crew is understrength, you can still launch the wing—it’ll just have low CR and fewer replacements). Each time a fighter is destroyed, even if it is then replaced, a crewman risks being killed. Fighter wings thus potentially suffer horrible attrition and can be hard to gain experience with. To compensate, fighter crews are much more likely to be recovered from ejection pods after a battle—if you win—and the benefits of high experience for fighters, including the perks, are very strong. In proper Star Wars/Battlestar Galactica, elite fighter wings should be terrifying little engines of destruction.

Finally, going way back to the beginning: the Manage Personnel options on the Personnel tab. This section is always available, although some of the options in it are only available when you’re in port (and others only when you’re not). If you’re in port, you can choose Terminate Contracts, allowing you to fire excess crew and marines (you don’t get any money back, no matter what kind of hiring bonuses you’ve been paying) or break your passenger contracts (in which case you will take a reputation hit and be prompted to pay back whatever advance you got—you can tell them to shove it, of course, but then you’ll take another, bigger reputation hit). If you’re not in port, you’ll have a Jettison Personnel button. Send them out the airlock!

If prisoners are added to the game (which they totally should be), this is also where you’d have options to drop them off at a neutral planet, ransom them, execute them, press them into your crew, sell them to their enemies, etc.

Finally, this isn’t part of the core idea of the crew overhaul, but I think it would add a lot of flavor and tons of interesting possibilities for events and little  narrative hooks: the Manage Personnel section could also contain information about the status of crew morale (a single fleet-wide figure) and options allowing you to interact with your crews.

If you do things like terminate crew contracts in undesirable sites (marooning 200 guys on Maxios) or, worse, push excess crewmen out the airlock, morale goes down fast. Taking casualties, operating without supplies, and operating near or over the crew limit will also be bad for morale. Winning battles raises morale, as does operating close to the minimum crew limit (we all like our personal space). You would also have options here to institute fleet-wide policies that would impact morale (and have other effects). For instance, you could choose to give your crews prize money: every time you loot destroyed enemy ships after a battle, every single crewman and marine gets a tiny cut of the take. Or you could have a shore-leave policy: the first time each month you make port, the crew goes off drinking and gambling for three days while you just have to sit and watch your supplies tick down. But it makes them happy!

Various random events and player decisions could also affect morale (maybe you bought everybody a round of fancy drinks at the bar), as would certain officers, when officers are implemented. Maybe you put one of your ships under the command of a brilliant tactician who’s a vicious, hard-assed commander: negative morale. Or maybe you hire a guy as a destroyer captain who’s nothing special in combat but has a real way with the troops: bonus morale. High morale might serve as a multiplier or additive bonus to veterancy effects, or it could just play into an event system—unhappy crewmen will terminate their own contracts and leave you shorthanded when you get to port; there might be mutinies, etc.

Another related but non-essential idea: Treat the fleet’s marine company as a unit in its own right, like a ship or a fighter wing. In the Manage Personnel screen, you can designate an active company size: these are the guys who are ready to launch after each battle and who gain experience in boarding actions. They have a very high supply cost per day, so the player will have to be sparing about how many marines to assign to the active company. The rest of the marines you’ve hired are your reserves, like the excess crew pool for ships/wings. Each boarding action gives big experience gains to the active company, and each active marine who dies is replaced by a raw recruit from the reserves, resulting (probably) in a net loss of experience for the company. Once the company’s at max experience, it can pick up a couple perks just like ships/wings can.

Let me know what you guys think (sorry it’s so long), and tell me if there’s anything I overlooked, any holes in my idea, etc.

I endorse the OP 100%. Two thumbs up, xeno.

Oh man, when I was defending the AI I forgot to complain about other things.

I still hate the crew system! Buying and selling crew members like they're lobsters is weird and sort of creepy, and it doesn't make any sense that you can take an elite crewman from a battleship, stick him in a fighter he's never seen before, and expect him to operate at peak performance. Also, you can still have like 900 fighters shot down over the course of a battle and not lose any crewmen somehow.

General Discussion / Re: My biggest issue with campaign mode - No point
« on: February 27, 2015, 02:24:52 AM »
Sounds awful.  I do want to win, and I want to win as an unstoppable, all-powerful god of war.

Well, you and I want extremely different things from the game! I want to play a small part in a bigger story—a story much more complex than "I was the best and I beat everybody."

Hopefully the final game will give both of us what we want (although that seems like a tall order right now). I do think it's going to be less combat-oriented in the long run; there's all that economic and industrial stuff in the plans.

I popped back into Starsector after months away, and I've gotta say—the AI is so good compared to other games, we really shouldn't be complaining about it. I've been playing tons of Crusader Kings 2 for the past couple months, and god, it's an amazing game, but the AI is so irredeemably stupid that it ultimately saps all the challenge out of the game. The Starsector slips up sometimes, of course (just like you do), but it also does really surprising, impressive stuff, and it's consistently very strong.

General Discussion / Re: My biggest issue with campaign mode - No point
« on: February 26, 2015, 04:09:20 AM »
Even the most purely sandbox games of all time such as Oblivion and Fallout 3 had win conditions.

Those aren't pure sandbox games at all—those are linear, heavily scripted RPGs with some light sandbox elements. Pure sandboxes are things like the old Maxis games (SimCity, SimLife, the Sims) or Dwarf Fortress. Like Schwartz said, some of the Paradox grand strategy games, particularly Crusader Kings, are very sandboxy. None of these games has a win condition at all. The fun is just in experiencing emergent stories.

The trouble with a pure sandbox is that it's impossible to balance for consistent challenge. You either make it so hard and entropic that no amount of player luck and skill will keep everything from eventually descending into catastrophe and madness (Dwarf Fortress), or you don't, and the player is eventually able to completely master the game and faces no substantial challenges (basically everything other than Dwarf Fortress). If you ever played SimCity 2000, you'll remember that every city ended with you getting bored and just throwing every natural disaster down at the same time to see what would happen. Similarly, every singleplayer game of CK2, no matter how challenging a start you give yourself, ends with you conquering half of Europe and getting bored (unless you deliberately restrain yourself).

I believe the original vision for Starfarer (back when it was Starfarer) was pretty grimdark and Dwarf Fortressy. The Sector was doomed; your actions might accelerate its decline or delay it, but they'd never prevent it entirely. Personally, I prefer that approach to one where you eventually end up all-powerful and just quit out of boredom, but I know some people can't stand playing a game that imposes failure and defeat on them. I'm not sure what Alex's current plans are, or how the living, breathing universe is going to take shape.

Adding characters—faction members, NPC officers, enemy captains—would definitely make a big difference. There are names in the game right now, but no characters. Pirates and deserters just sit around, scaled to be an appropriate challenge for your level, waiting for you to come to them. It'd be very cool, and much more interesting, if they were unscaled and moved around of their own volition—if collecting a bounty meant finding a moving target, and some bounty fleets might be way too powerful for the player to handle early on. If there's a powerful pirate captain wreaking havoc in Askonia, maybe you just don't go to Askonia for a while.

Announcements / Re: Starsector 0.65.2a (In Development) Patch Notes
« on: December 07, 2014, 08:02:34 PM »
  • Flux bonus removed—good change, it was always fiddly and favored (experienced, slightly OCD) players over the AI.
  • Extra damage to compensate—good, probably levels the human-AI playing field a little. Makes AM blasters even scarier though!
  • Longer range and lower OP cost for beams—good, although I do wonder whether tactical lasers (with PDAI and the faster-tracking hullmod) won’t become the energy PD par excellence. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see!
  • Missile changes—cool, again a nice boost for the AI.
  • Peak effectiveness for destroyers/cruisers—like others have said, I don’t expect this will actually have much impact. I do wonder if it isn't sort of missing the mark—the problem with combat right now (as I see it) isn’t that destroyers and cruisers can kite too long, it’s that the optimal approach to combat is always to take a single ship at a time. After the patch, you'll still be able to have three Falcons in your fleet and just switch from one to the next as CR drops. I like xenoargh’s solution to this—take reinforcements out of the equation (unless, perhaps, total fleet size is really, really big). You pick the ships with which you think you can win, and you’re stuck with them.

Which leaves ballistic weapons. I actually agree that this change will barely be noticeable—I ran out of HVD ammo every once in a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever run out of ammo for the heavy mauler, my favorite early-/mid-game iron. However, though I think the change is okay, I do wonder if it’s not a missed opportunity. Ammo for ballistics didn’t just differentiate them from energy weapons, it was also (as I think somebody mentioned) a potential lever for balance. You can have two weapons with similar OP costs—gun A has enough ammo to deal twice as much damage, over the course of a long fight, as gun B, but gun B has three times the single-shot damage as gun A. Adds some interesting nuance to weapon design—I guess modders will still have access to that, of course.

However! As a twist on what Cosmitz suggested early in the thread, what about using freighters(and/or tankers and/or those supply ships we saw art for that got cut in an earlier build) to actually resupply ships in combat? A freighter comes in from the bottom of the map, flies straight to the ship that called for resupply, and both ships have to sit still (maybe with shields down?) for 5/10/20/40 seconds (depending on hull size) as ballistic (and maybe missile) weapons are refilled. AI ships will make a beeline for your resupply operations, so you need to send some escorts to run interference, etc. etc. It’s a dramatic change, maybe beyond the scope of this thread (in which case I’d be happy to drag it over to Suggestions), but it could kill a few birds with one stone—keep ammo in the game, get civilian ships into harm’s way, and encourage players to use more one warship at a time.

Also—Alex, you have the patience of a saint when it comes to all our griping. But hey, even if some reactions have been a little over the top, it’s great to see so many people so obsessed with Starsector that a dozen lines of patch notes can generate a dozen pages of heated debate. And probably a dozen more to come!

Blog Posts / Re: Faction Relationships
« on: August 14, 2014, 04:15:44 AM »
[discussion of black market weapon prices]

I like the idea of common weapons being cheap on the black market and rarer ones very expensive. Could it be linked to scarcity across the system? If legitimate merchants have a total of 50 Harpoons for sale, the black market might offer Harpoons that "fell off the truck" at a big discount—so the player will always be tempted to buy basic weapons illegally. If there isn't a single Tachyon Lance for sale anywhere in the system and a black marketeer gets his hands on one, he'll sell it at a 300% markup or something (and the player will be tempted for different reasons).

Blog Posts / Re: Markets
« on: June 10, 2014, 02:33:02 PM »
Ah, the passive voice. My bête noire! I work as an editor, and most of my clients are academics for whom the passive voice is a beloved tool of obfuscation and misdirection. Don't know who said it? It was said! No peer-reviewed journal has ever asserted it? It has been asserted! Think just saying "I believe X, Y, and Z" would make you sound silly? X, Y, and Z are believed!

Anyway, as Aeson says, if it's consistent, people will understand it (I actually thought that "buy price" and "sell price" were clear enough from the beginning). It's always instructive, though, when faced with something like this, to look at how other people do it—in this case, how a similar concept is presented in the real world. Off the top of my head, I thought of currency exchanges, which usually say "we buy at" and "we sell at" (or maybe "we buy for" etc.). Using the first person probably won't work when the market is presented as a planet-wide exchange, but you could try something like "merchants buy at" or "vendors buy for."

Blog Posts / Re: Markets
« on: June 09, 2014, 01:27:56 AM »
Ooh, a mystery!

Maybe Orbital Burns means using some kind of massive propulsion device to correct the planet's orbit, improving agricultural conditions or something?

General Discussion / Re: Never noticed this in the ship designs
« on: January 12, 2014, 05:28:54 AM »
I believe that is an early stealth ship design. It turned into the phase ships we have now.
It does look pretty stealthy, but I'm not sure it was a phase ship design. The same post had some phase ships, including early versions of both of the current phase frigates and a sketch of a cruiser-sized ship with a bunch of hardpoints (maybe a really early take on the Doom). They don't look exactly like the current phase ships, but they're recognizably similar, phase coils and everything. The sneaky-looking blue cruiser here doesn't look like a phase ship at all.

Suggestions / Re: Looking Forward (really long)
« on: January 12, 2014, 05:14:34 AM »
Again, you just can't kill information societies without killing their information.  Once people start rebuilding information, the curve is always upwards, in terms of industrial capability (let's leave issues like social justice and economic opportunity to one side; these aren't relevant).

Social justice and economic opportunity are absolutely relevant. You've completely left the human element out of your explanations. How, given your premises, can you explain the recent history of Africa?

The end of the colonial era in Africa makes an imperfect but instructive analogy to the Starsector backstory: the Sector was not populated pre-colonization, as Africa was; the Sector was cut off from colonial rule instantly, whereas the process took decades in Africa; and the Sector was cut off from colonial rule completely, whereas African nations have endured constant political and economic interference from Western and Soviet intelligence agencies and neocolonial entities (corporations, the IMF, the Chinese government, etc.) plus a serious brain drain. Another useful (perhaps closer) analogy would be the end of the Cold War. The fall of the Soviet Union meant the irreversible and almost-instantaneous loss of resources, technology, expertise, funding, etc. not only for Soviet clients (e.g. Afghanistan) but also for American clients (e.g. Somalia) who, once they were no longer bulwarks against Soviet clients, no longer registered as American interests.

Either way, though, there are some crucial similarities; in both post-colonial Africa and in the Sector, you have relatively new, inorganic social structures, unsupported by tradition or popular assent, imposed on diverse groups of people. You have an external authority providing most technological expertise, and you have an economy geared more towards resource extraction and exploitation than towards supporting a stable local economy. One important part of the "State of Affairs" lore to keep in mind is that very few worlds in the Sector were self-sufficient, even in terms of food production. Why should Joe Schmoe on Planet X care that some abstract set of rules imposed on him by a now-absent government say that the people of Planet Y, whom he's never met and shares nothing in common with, are his countrymen and that he shouldn't attack them and steal their food? Even the most high-minded of us would prefer not to starve to death, even it meant contributing to the onset of anarchy. And most of us aren't very high-minded at all.

After independence and the withdrawal of Cold War support, African countries still had the technology—important Cold War clients had a whole lot of extremely sophisticated technology plus well-trained technicians and engineers—but where was the "upward curve"? Information alone isn't enough; you need political will and organization to build an industrial base and then to maintain it. Some people in the "Dark Ages" still understood (some) Roman technology, but how many aqueducts did they build, when just owning a copy of De architectura—written by that infamous pagan Vitruvius!—might get you burned for a witch? Instead, they drank sewage and died of the plague; Europe wasn't able to support a population as big as the Empire's again for a thousand years. Even if some group does get its act together and takes steps forward, what takes decades to develop can be undone in a few months of war (as it has been many times in sub-Saharan Africa) or even just a generation or two of misrule. Ethnic conflicts, social or economic injustice, and religious differences have all been flashpoints for devastating wars in post-colonial Africa, setting countries back decades—why shouldn't they, or resource scarcity, do the same in the Sector?

Suggestions / Re: Offline fighters should only deal damage once
« on: January 11, 2014, 02:28:20 PM »
Come on—don't you guys remember Return of the Jedi?

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