Fractal Softworks Forum

Starsector => Suggestions => Topic started by: Cosmitz on December 07, 2018, 03:21:30 PM

Title: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: Cosmitz on December 07, 2018, 03:21:30 PM
Let's kick off the subject with what reputation is within the cadre of the game.

Reputation is a system to contextualise the relationships that happen between the player and the various characters/factions. Reputation exists as a measure of the status of favor or hostility that the player balances between. Reputation as-is is a linear, non-logarithmic, scale from -100 to +100. Factions as well as independent NPCs have reputations towards the player which may be different. A player should have fun navigating these systems and find all options engageable.

I think i'm not alone when i say that reputation, as is currently implemented, is at times extremely punitive while most times being relatively meaningless, and all this mixed in with the fact that it can be extremely exploited right now (AI cores), while also having its own very weird quirks as a system (expeditions). Reputation is tied in to a lot of variables in the game, from day to day wonderings and missions, to how successful your colony is. The same reputation system also governs individual NPC's feelings towards you, which right now, is completely useless. I think a few things need to come together and change to make reputation a more cohesive, fair and engaging game system.

I split this up in five sections:

1) The cost of a reputation point. - A more unified and less extreme system to judge faction loss/gain based on effort and damage done

2) Scale of reputation swings. - A more fluid and more reactive reputation system

3) Comissions. - Making comissions a non-binary choice

4) Cut offs aka friendly/hostile breakpoints. - Creating depth within the reputation scales

5) NPC proeminence. - Creating a denser weave of reputation impact by allowing NPCs to react individually not tied to the overall faction reputation


1) The cost of a reputation point.

One of the current most highly punitive points is how little gray area there actually is between 'kill on sight' and 'friendly-comissioned', a single tiny agressive act (in this otherwise extremely agressive universe) is enough to put you as kill-on-sight. A single Drover kill drops me by 69 reputation points, from +14 to -55. This highly minimises gameplay possibilities as the player outright ignores fleets or actions against the faction he wants to not break ties with. There isn't even a scale here, it's 'ignore all' or 'kill all'.

I was doing a trade mission which i had to abandon and noticed that for roughly 55k of goods which i ended up with for abandoning the mission, i lost 4 reputation points, and it got me thinking of what the value of a point is, and why it's important we have one. (In this case, i would lose 4 reputation for 55k worth of goods and 5 for 85 which just doesn't seem like it scales that well, almost making a profit outright selling the items and taking the rep hit instead of delivering them. Either way, this is a localised system anyway for these particular missions.)

A picket can be around 100k credits in ships, maybe a destroyer or two and some frigates (ignoring guns/crew/cargo etc). A random small-mediumish fleet (3 destroyers, 6 frigs, cargoship) say would be around 200k credits in ships, a larger patrol fleet example (3 cruisers, 3 destroyers, 4 frigs, some cargoships) is worth 350k and a capital fleet detachement (same as before but +1cap) would be 600k or so. This is all napkin math, ignoring bombers/etc, but would give an ideea on how it'd work.

What would the penalty to reputation be for destroying each of these fleets? Given we're working linearly, it shouldn't matter if we have +90 or -30 (though it might be slightly more interesting to have a bit of a modifier on both ends), so what's reasonable? Certainly not the 80 or so points we're losing now for killing even a few ships from the picket. Given fleets engage in combat and get lost very frequently in the universe, as well as allowing some gray area to allow the player to take (dynamic) chances you should have quite a bit of leeway. If we take killing a whole detachement to be akin to a major betrayal short of a full on war declaration, say we value the the 600k at 100 reputation points, 6000 credits per point. That means that even if we were at a cozy buddy-buddy 70 points, this will reasonably put us on a 'any second strike and you're KIA'.

This same value-per-point system, from 0 rep, can allow us to knock a trade fleet or two, and reasonably defend ourselves from a picket that's just a bit too agressive about the transponder, without worrying we'll become the archnemesis of that faction. The point system can also be used for dumping contracts more roundly, as 200 units of heavy armaments (~100k) is a bit different from 1200 units of ore (~10k), so running off with some ore will set you back say 2 points, maybe a standard +2 for dropping a contract, as compared to the 16-17 points, plus +2 standard, almost 20 reputation for running with such valuable cargo as heavy armaments. In the end, i guess they would insure their cargo before handing it off anyway, and word of mouth goes far with relays.

The value-per-point is totally open to discussion, but the core tenants is that it should remove the black-and-white of fleet-vs-fleet agression that currently exists, and offer more interesting incentives as you're flying through space, treating reputation as a resource you can spend, and not a 'toggle'.

2) Scale of reputation swings.

Considering all the events are smoothened out according to effort, eg, Cores getting nerfed as well as local pirate bounties, which are out of whack compared to going out to get a survey/bounty or even destroying a harrasing Pirate Base, there has to be a wider swing in how fast reputation can be gained (as well as lost). I'm not saying necessarily to tie this to the, say, 50% of the value-per-point mentioned above, but there has to be a clear and expected roadmap a player can follow to get back into the good graces of a faction.

Considering base-destroyal as a pretty large show of dedication to a faction, i feel two or so of these (value/effort based) should be enough to get anyone out of the 'kill-on-sight' list and back into their good graces. Say even 4-5 send-out bounties should be enough to get you back into non agression or into open trade depending where you start. Point is, right now reputation is considered something relative tedious and very event-based to get back. I know i was chasing every bounty to get a measely +2 rep per pop and i still needed about ten or twelve and it took me a few good hours to claw myself back to not getting shot on sight, let alone another 25 points to be able to free trade.

End goal here is, mixing the value-per-point and better rewards, reputation should be a flexibile system the player can manage, and not something you'd even consider an end-game goal to max out. Under this methodology, given a much more fluid system, there can also be some gradual decay of favor/infamy over time, and can be a resource you could manage more freely.

3) Comissions.

Given what i've mentioned above, how would comissions fit? Well, comissions already fill a niche of giving the player targets to shoot at, but it comes across as a binary choice, and not necessarily a mediated activity. There should still be reputation loss and reputation gain when acting for your faction (no initial sign-up boosts/losses), but on a much lessened scale than if you were to act on your own (say 10-15% of the point-per-value mentioned earlier). But always gaining a smidge more than you lose, making it a reputation-positive activity eventually as long as you switch allegiances around (a well respected mercenary). Comissions would feel better if they were akin to 'mercenary work' and not 'quickplay' options that entirely feel like they lock you into a faction more or less. Market rewards/tiers can still be tied into that, just a matter of maybe not limiting the whole marketplace to comissions as they lose a bit of importance in terms of long-term support. (i think 'definite' support would work better as a colony/faction diplomacy interaction where you can ally/declare war)

4) Cut offs aka friendly/hostile breakpoints.

Factions feel entirely too samey right now, minus some ship use and some illegal goods and can feel like you just cheese some numbers at the end of the day to get a specific effect. It may be a matter of lore/taste, but i think it would help if the flavour would impact the breakpoints. Maybe Tritachyon would only close their trading at -75, even if they start chasing you at -50, since credits are credits, and if the patrols don't catch you, they feel you earned your pay. Maybe the Sindrian Diktat are a lot more quick to put you under the gun and label you an enemy and they start hostilities at -20. Maybe the Perseans need all the firepower they can to keep their place in the sector, and will accept commisions from even 'lowlifes' down to -50. On the positive, maybe Tritachyon will only share their capital ships with commanders that are closely knit to the power structure, so +90, but the Diktat are a lot more lax in up-arming their allies and throw Legions at +60. Maybe when you're at +80 with Pirates they actually consider you a legend and actually stop getting attacked by pirates. Maybe even the Pirates hate you a lot less for killing a dozen fleets (less value-per-point) than TriTach would hate you for nuking a shiny patrol fleet of pristine ships. There is a lot to wiggle here, but it would greatly shape how a player engages with each faction, and allows for a lot more roleplay, as well as random !!FUN!! when you realise you've just hostile'd Diktat over that small trade fleet you took down, even if you precisely calculated to only destroy the cargo ships and let the others go.

5) NPC proeminence.

To be fair, i'm unsure on the longer-term plans of Starbase commanders/Quartermasters/Port masters, but they can be a valueable asset in the gray area which would be nice to have. For one, were we to merge all the actions under a single NPC, maybe the local Lord/Warlord/Duke/CEO/Archbishop, we can then have interactions that benefit the station, or missions issued by the leader, to get a relatively chunky positive reputation boost with the leader(alongside the faction boost). They could act against the wishes of the faction they serve, and may look the other way when a known enemy who has supplied aid on multiple occasions comes to their station and wants to dock. They could suffer a greater decay, and it would be harder to keep multiple lords happy (as they're fickle as we know) as well as given the RNG of events, but it wouldn't take many events to get them happy (maybe even bribes?). Not sure what impact it would have on fleets in orbit but still, it's food for thought about where NPCs can go.

Maybe a picket fleet commander has seen you enough times to have a chance to do surface check since he 'knows' you're on the level. On the negative, maybe aother Picket just thinks you're a really bad guy after a check turns out Narcotics and gets a personal vendetta later on, checking you everytime you get in system or eventually chasing you around the system until you destroy it. (ties again into the ability to engage in combat fleets without extremely punitive charges, and allows more sway in reputation gain/earning). Either way, these only work if the reputation gains/losses are large enough per event to actually tell this story. The ~-2 per character currently per failed check doesn't even scratch the surface, since i'm sure the picket will die to a random pirate raid before i can even get caught that often.

In short, NPCs should be easier to influence than the greater faction, and would allow mini-stories and events to play out within the larger cadre of managing a faction's taste for you.


In the end, even if all the above are scrapped, i just want a more reactive StarSector, since reputation right now serves more as a gatekeeper of the sandbox oppourtunities (penalties outweigh gains by a large margin, gains are a grinding affair) than a cool tool/resource to use to effect player will and even tell a personalised story.

*I haven't touched on where colonies fit in this since that's another can of worms that i don't have much experience yet opening up.
Title: Re: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: Goumindong on December 07, 2018, 04:25:27 PM
If you don't have your transponder on you lose less reputation as they're not entirely sure it was you that did the deed.

Otherwise if you destroy a ship with 80 souls on board then yes, you're going to be shoot on sight
Title: Re: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: XazoTak on December 07, 2018, 07:12:01 PM
I think the issue is that NPCs don't know what's best for them, and don't understand that actions have consequences.
Obviously, if an NPC attacks a well-off player, they're going to lose whatever they attacked the player with. However, despite being the aggressor, they'll still subtract reputation, making it harder for the player to ever stop being attacked.
Once you're at -50 rep with a faction that has lots of fleets everywhere, that's it. They'll attack on sight, and drop to -100 rep very quickly as they lose hundreds of ships to you.
NPCs should be smart enough to buddy up with their enemies.

Also, I'm bothered by how literally everything causes a significant reputation loss.
Expedition fleets and smugglers should be free kills.
Title: Re: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: Goumindong on December 07, 2018, 07:14:10 PM
Expedition fleets and smugglers are basically free kills
Title: Re: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: XazoTak on December 08, 2018, 01:15:17 AM
Expedition fleets and smugglers are basically free kills
You lose like, 3 for expedition fleets and 5 for smugglers IIRC.
You have to travel halfway across the sector to do some random job to get 5 reputation, or feed them lots of AI cores.
Title: Re: Let's talk about Reputation
Post by: Megas on December 08, 2018, 05:16:59 AM
Alex is contemplating rep loss for successfully defending your colony next release, regardless how that happens.

It is already enough taking time off hunting down pirate and pather bases while trying to spend a few in-game months exploring a handful of distant stars, looking for blueprints and maybe a better place to build a colony.  Taking more time off to grind reputation just to fix reputation caused from defending your colony from bullies feels... wrong.  Feels like a compulsion for mandatory fighting.  (We will force some "mandatory fun" on you.)

I am contemplating just letting rep tank and be hostile with factions that refuse to leave me alone.  If accessibility is too low after that, then I will be more annoyed, just like that first 0.7 release when factions got angry the moment you got favorable relations (at +10) with one faction.