Balance Discussion - Benefits for Max Crew?

That’s a tough sell, imo; Apart from the marked similarities in the name, Sunless Sea’s Dreadnaught and HMS Dreadnought have identical gun placements, i.e., one forward gun, two wing guns, and two aft guns separated by a structure; and they have similar funnel placement, i.e., two funnels, one behind the other, on the center line. HMS Royal Soverign (the 1891 version), by contrast, had only two main gun emplacements, one forward and one aft, and two funnels that were placed side-by-side off the center line. So, graphically speaking, the argument that the Dreadnaught was visually influenced by HMS Dreadnought is more persuasive.

In video games: (1) Realism is nice in small doses; but (2) Story >> Realism.

Alexis - I of course mean no disrespect or anything with these kinds of queries or discussions, and have assumed that you folks have done your research of the period. I only brought up the historical stuff to point out that there was an obvious divergence in the &quotrealistic&quot amount of crew these types of ships would have in their period VS. the minimal numbers in the game, where it seemed like folks thought that having a full complement would somehow mean the space on a multi-thousand ton vessel would be &quotcramped&quot when staffed by 40 people.

I get the decision to have lower crew numbers to make each individual crew member dying or deserting have more of an impact, that makes sense. I suppose I still think that having higher crew numbers would lead to a greater sense of grandeur though (the whole, &quotI am a captain leading 200 men and women whose respect I command&quot thing, but it doesn’t really bother me (or, I presume, most players) much that the numbers are low.

FWIW, I still wish you had incorporated (or will incorporate again) distance into the firing solution mechanics in the real-time system. Primarily because I think that would make the AI perform in more interesting ways, especially if enemy (and player) armament was more orthogonal and less granular in its scope. Primarily for deck guns, as there is more orthogonality in the forward guns (do I specialize in fighting Monsters or Ships?)

I mean, if certain vessels had &quotScattershot&quot deck cannons that had shorter ranges but filled their solutions faster at those ranges, and others had longer range &quotLong-barrel&quot deck cannons with dead-zones the closer you got, you’d have different AI’s trying to swoop in and get close to fire at players while others tried to play keep away to maximize their range advantage. In theory, it would make the combat more interesting and variable. This seems like it would especially be the case if the player had the same types of weapons available - If I have the long range deck cannons with the big short-range dead-zone, then that short range cannon foe sweeping up into that dead-zone to fire on me is going to be bigger threat, and if I have the short range deck cannons, then I have to chase after the long-range foe who’s going to be trying to play keep-away with me to get their firing lock on.

Or at least, that’s the impression I get from playing. Once I got a forward gun, with its increased range and narrower arc of fire, I felt the combat got a LOT more interesting than when it was merely about positioning the ship with the 180 degree arc of the deck gun. Imagining how more variation in range and arc size on different cannon types could add increased variation to the combat gets me all bothered (in a good way).

I also get the sense that I would have liked that RUBY build with the 3/4 penalty at 75% crew.

I suppose my issue here is that, I’m a fan of the Sid Meier school of thought on game design - &quota game is a series of interesting choices&quot. For the most part, SS incorporates this philosophy rather fully. In stories and the like, it’s all about making interesting choices. But with the crew system, because there’s an obviously optimal range of 50-70% crew complement once you tinker with it, it seems like the choice isn’t really as interesting as it could be if there were more going on there. If making that choice led to a sacrifice of some kind - like optimal vessel efficiency in some form, whether it be firing solutions, fuel efficiency, or speed - more than just the supply consumption vs. security before half-speed penalty, it seems like it would be a more interesting choice. Of course, then it might be harder to &quotread&quot for the player (especially the newer player), so I respect that decision too, but I do feel it favors the newer player’s adaptation to the game over the experienced player’s familiarity.

I’m certainly not trying to ask for more Grognard super-sim gameplay. If I wanted that, I’d go play some table-top wargame in the backroom of a hobby shop (something I’ve done before, not knocking it, but it just isn’t to my tastes). I guess I’m just hoping that this choice could have some more depth to it, and be more interesting.

And I’m happy to facilitate any discussion that’s at least entertaining and informative for you and the rest of FBG! Have a good night!

Gregg -

I actually think you and I are pretty much in agreement that there should be some benefit for hitting the optimal &quotsweet spot&quot on crew complement, just disagreeing where that spot is. You’re saying it should be at 75% of maximum crew capacity, I’m saying it should be at 100%, but with the ability to go over maximum capacity.

My logic is mostly that - if there are 40 rooms built into a ship for crew, it sure seems like the game is signalling to me that I should at least probably fill those forty rooms. Until I look at the supply bill and realize it’s too onerous, that’s what the game is signalling to the player. And by that point, I have no way to manually remove the crew that are causing the burden, which again signals to the player (as I percieve it anyway) that the intent is for the player to max out crew. Therefore - if the player is signalled that maxing out crew is a &quotgood thing&quot (in four different subtle ways - guarding against crew loss, having a number of quarters built in to a ship, not being able to manually drop extra crewmen, and not recieving a direct benefit like extra hold space for not filling rooms) then there should be some benefit for reaching that signaled &quotgood thing&quot.
edited by MisterGone on 2/28/2015

If you really want to break your brains, How do you stuff a dozen or so officers on a ship that can only hold 10 crew? ;)

I remember that a planned feature at one point was “Officers integrated as crew” I have a feeling it got dropped because it was unworkable with the current system, but I’d love to know what the plan for it was.

I remember that a planned feature at one point was &quotOfficers integrated as crew&quot I have a feeling it got dropped because it was unworkable with the current system, but I’d love to know what the plan for it was.[/quote]

Alexis just posted that on the previous page…
But I guess it could get really discouraging to bother with officers if they die just as easily as crew.

[quote=Estelle Knoht]
Alexis just posted that on the previous page…
But I guess it could get really discouraging to bother with officers if they die just as easily as crew.[/quote]
I should have been asleep two hours ago >.> but thanks for pointing that out. :)

It’s a bit late now that the writing’s already in place, and it’s already been mentioned that losing crew has more of an impact when you have fewer of them, but a way to make crew a bit more realistic is that 1 crew could represent a Unit of crew, probably 10 zailors. and it would solve the problem of having to call in the Time Lords to design the Officer’s Quarters. ;)

[quote=Alexis Kennedy]

[color=#009900]Honestly, it bothers me still that Officers aren’t modelled as Crew, so although you’re sailing your ship alone (which itself is preposterously unrealistic, but narratively delicious) you still get those five portraits up the top. As late as STEEL, we had a task in the list to fold the Officers into Crew and add a risk of them dying in battle, but in the end we couldn’t make the faff and frustration worth it.[/color]

Hmmm. This is the kind of problem that my meddling mind likes to propose possible solutions to.

Because I agree, officers as crew would be, as you say, quite delicious. Especially since it could slow down the player’s accumulation of officers, if only because they don’t have the space to hold them early on. Because right now the player can get most of the officers within the first 10 port returns to London, especially if they’re an experienced player who knows where they can pick up officers for free/at lesser cost at certain ports where officers &quotreside&quot when not recruitable in London (like the Tireless Mechanic at Frostfound). Slowing down the officer accumulation rate would have quite a bit of benefit for improving the pacing of the overall game (at least in my opinion), because by gaining so many officers super early in a Captain’s life, it opens up a lot of potential new story options yes, but it also doesn’t allow for a &quotdrip feed&quot of new story potential, and kind of front loads the officer stories a lot.

I guess I’m mostly wondering where the &quotfrustration&quot lay. Because while I can’t speak to what could cause such frustration in developing this feature would entail without the specific history of it, if the worry was about player frustration of losing officers considering how important they are narratively then that seems like there are workable solutions to the problem.

So, while I’m guessing you probably thought of these solutions, I’m wondering why either of the following might not work (either in isolation or conjunction):

1) Increase general crew size and requirements, make officers the &quotFirst in, last out&quot, so that on events that kill (or desert) crew they are the last considered for the penalty, and they’re the first to fill up crew capacity.

Raising the general crew capacity and requirements by about . . . 2.5x the current standard (so the base steamer has a crew capacity of 25, the Dreadnaught has it at 100), while cutting the supply use in half to compensate would allow for a much larger buffer on potential officer death.

This would go against the &quotLoss of one is a tragedy, loss of hundreds is a statistic&quot idea a bit and theoretically make most of the crew loss penalties currently in the game too weak, balance wise.

But if many of the events were re-valued so they had double the crew loss potential - so an event that might cause 1-2 crew to die now can cause 2-4 - and with the same applied to crew loss in battle - where it would be a large range but could be something like &quotfor every 10 dmg an enemy hit does at < 50% hull, 1-3 crew can be lost&quot meaning if a Lifeburg hits for 20dmg at less than 50% hull, you lose 2-6 crew in the blow et cetera - then that would mitigate the balance issue to be about the same as it is now.

And by only increasing the crew capacity/need by 2.5 (at the max, x2 might even be better, I just chose that number for the nice even numbers it gives to the base Steamer and the Dreadnaught crew limits) rather than a larger value, you’re still never actually getting so many crew that the impact of one or two of them isn’t essential for most of the game until you get to the Dreadnaught, where potential crew loss really isn’t much of an issue in the game currently either (unless you decide to take on Mt. Nomad).

Besides, considering the player can already potentially lose crew a lot if they get a string of bad rolls (I’ve certainly lost 10+ on certain voyages, solely due to story events) crew are already super expendable and replaceable. I haven’t cared (and it has been no tragedy) if one crewman bails or dies in the later stages of the game for some time (being totally OK with all the crew that have chosen to beach bum it up on Aestival while I grab supplies), simply because after I got to the Caligo Cruiser and up (Frigate, Dread), the large crew complements already negated crew loss to the point of &quotminimal nuisance&quot, with the cost of getting new hires being negligible once you figure out how to make money.

2) On situations where officers can at least die (a fight story roll, battle at less than 50% hull) and they fail so that they would normally perish, give officers a wounded state and turn them into green-bordered cargo cards.

They stop working as crew - i.e. you &quotlose&quot them from manning your ship so that you can totally still be boned when it comes to manning the ship and subsequently get stuck moving at half speed and/or becoming stranded at sea, but there’s always a chance that you can save them with the right items, skills, other officers, or stories.

This would tie into the upcoming (as I still assume this is getting implemented) Doctor Aboard and Solace Fruit use feature. So that when the player &quotuses&quot the Injured Officer in the Cargo hold they get a storylet that offers a few choices:

  1. With Solace Fruit and a Doctor Aboard, they can be healed and turned back into a normal Officer state.
  2. With Solace Fruit and a high Pages challenge, they can be healed and turned back into a normal Officer state as the player’s Captain attempts to patch the officer up themselves (important if all their doctors are injured). However this runs the risk of killing the officer forever on a failure (or maybe turning them into a tomb colonist).
  3. Nothing can be done, put them out of their misery. This kills the officer permanently, with a low chance of not quite killing them and turning them into a Tomb Colonist), but lessens terror amongst remaining crew for showing them a tough form of &quotkindness&quot by a small degree.

There would also be at least a couple places where officers could be patched up in the game - Adam’s Way’s Amnesience Hospital for one, maybe the Sisters of the Abbey for another, with different (fairly high) costs associated with the procedure.

As far as desertion events (like Aestival), officers would be immune (though this may have been the issue you were running into that made this inclusion difficult, now that I think on it) as they have too much to do with the Captain.

(the other issue I envision being a potential problem implementing this would be secluding Mascots as crew, since a lot of them are inanimate creepy objects or animals that couldn’t work a ship)

With such a system of Officers as crew though, you still might have to make crew capacity larger anyway, in order for standard crewmen to act as a better shield for potential officer loss and to prevent the lower crew capacity ships from being run entirely by officers, both assigned and hanging around.

Not by the same rates as I suggested earlier, but probably by at least a factor of 1.5 x the current standards. Or, on 2nd thought, by raising every ship so it has a flat +15 Max crew requirement, since by my calculations there are 11 (Non-Mascot) Officers the player can potentially recruit in London, one they start with based on their past, and I think 3 that can be story unlocked. If they potentially never get rid of an officer, they can have up to 15 Non-Mascot officers aboard, so raising crew requirements by this amount would safeguard against most cases of using officers without needing any normal crew. You’d probably need to lower supply consumption per crew rate though a smidge to account for the higher crew counts though.

So, again, since I assume both of these ideas were already brought up, I guess I’m just curious why they wouldn’t work to solve that particular problem? Or was it another issue entirely that made this feature insurmountable?

(because now that this is mentioned as something you were working on, I kind of really want it to be in the game!)
edited by MisterGone on 3/1/2015

One brief fiction note to MisterGone’s excellent post - I’m pretty sure that if you die at zee, you die for real, so no turning into a tomb-colonist. That’s part of the appeal/threat of going to zee.

I always viewed crew as an arbitrary figure rather than the actual number of people on the ship, it would be possible to up the relative numbers on the crew and increase the crew loss penalties as a result (so a normal ship has crew up to a hundred and crew get lost in increments of ten or thereabouts), but reasonably I don’t know if that’s an easy fix (presume it is), and I don’t know how much most people are bothered for the accuracy. Like all games, it’s a matter of having a reasonable mechanic to track what goes on in the game, rather than making it “Accurate”.

Simply put, if we were looking for accurate numbers with crew and losses, multiply all crew totals by ten, both for the purposes of recruiting crew and all other increments involving crew, the penalties for losing crew can then be scaled appropriately, so an attack from a megalops still costs you one crew at a time and makes them far less of a threat when you’re below 50% hull (This from a man who’s had all his crew eaten on a frigate with 210 hull because we couldn’t outrun a marauding Bat), whereas a good hit from nomad or a torpedo might knock you down 40 crew in a single hit, which would make proportional representation far more accurate, but would it be required?