Astrobase Events Suggestions

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Astrobase Events Suggestions

Postby MaxShields » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:15 am

The devs are probably coming up with a ton of devious and interesting ways to keep us entertained and challenged while we are managing operations on our Astrobases. Let's help them out by compiling a list of suggestions for on-station scenarios and events that can inspire them.

Here's one to get us going:

Technical Inspection a technical inspection team from higher command is conducting a routine inspection of a certain slice of the astrobase's capabilities. This could be a check of safety systems, weapons maintenance, an audit of the station's financial or personnel records, etc. This necessary function of checks and balances within the base's support functions is time consuming and resource intensive in terms of needing to assign staff to assist the inspectors to move the inspections along. Inspections usually come at inopportune times (there is no best time from the Commander's point of view), and may lead to the need to carry out a great deal of extra work to get caught up on shortfalls. However, a properly supported inspection can provide a large payoff in terms of maintaining the efficiency, skill, and safety of operations. It can also help develop character's expertise through the mentorship and discussions with the inspecting staff.

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Re: Astrobase Events Suggestions

Postby Dave » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:57 am

MaxShields wrote:The devs are probably coming up with a ton of devious and interesting ways to keep us entertained and challenged while we are managing operations on our Astrobases. Let's help them out by compiling a list of suggestions for on-station scenarios and events that can inspire them.

Here's one to get us going:

Technical Inspection a technical inspection team from higher command is conducting a routine inspection of a certain slice of the astrobase's capabilities. This could be a check of safety systems, weapons maintenance, an audit of the station's financial or personnel records, etc. This necessary function of checks and balances within the base's support functions is time consuming and resource intensive in terms of needing to assign staff to assist the inspectors to move the inspections along. Inspections usually come at inopportune times (there is no best time from the Commander's point of view), and may lead to the need to carry out a great deal of extra work to get caught up on shortfalls. However, a properly supported inspection can provide a large payoff in terms of maintaining the efficiency, skill, and safety of operations. It can also help develop character's expertise through the mentorship and discussions with the inspecting staff.


This is really interesting. I find it interesting because the obvious events to include are all disaster/combat/diplomatic/etc and one-sided*. These are easy to put in the game, but also one-dimensional. I commend this suggestion for outside-the-box thinking We definitely need event ideas that are outside the "obvious" box! But Inspections aren't off the hook yet! :)


While exploring this in my mind a bit, I had some open questions.

So at first consideration, I wondered if an inspection would take power away from the player in the areas where players should have power. Typically, I view events as: things that happen that require a response from the player and/or crew. There is an element of challenge and it's up to player and/or the crew to meet that challenge. But inspections seem like they should be a self-imposed challenge (because who does the inspection?).

So first the first question formed in my brain: Who calls the inspection, and who solves the inspection (what combination of player/characters)?

Let's explore the characters first. So how would this work?

Maybe senior officers with the right traits can "take the initiative" so to speak and call an inspection. And the result would be either pass or failure, which would have game implications. I could see this working. Players who don't want inspections make sure they don't have meticulous officers that like inspecting the troops.

Now let's explore the player as the action agent.

So maybe we say the player can call the inspection, because it's the player's Astrobase. Maybe the player wants some detailed data, and an inspection is merely a check of some systems, and knows that failure has consequences (for example, in terms of morale). In this case, an inspection would be like a battle simulation. And then it's a deliberate event, like a drill. For example: Pretend there is a fire in reactor 4. So maybe the tradeoff is that the player gets good data on the AI behavior, BUT too many simulations impact base efficiency, especially if the fake-event has fake-deaths. I could also see this working.

Okay, so both of these pass.

Now let's look at the action object. What I mean by this is does the player challenge the characters, or do the characters challenge the player (and his base design). Because I think it needs to be one or the other. I think characters challenging characters would make the player feel detached... like "Commander Bob called an inspection and Ensign Joe passed. Yay?" that doesn't feel like an event to me.

To elaborate, lets say hypothetically what's getting inspected is the cargo bay/storage units. And the inspection determines that the player has inefficiently allocated his cargo space. Or the inspection determines the power grid has some critical weakness. This is the player's fault, not the characters' fault. So in these cases, the player would be the one challenged. But if the player challenges himself, there would be no risk as you would never challenge yourself if you were uncertain you would pass.

So, we must do the following: If the player calls the inspection the characters are tested. If the characters call the inspection then the player (and presumably the base design) are tested. Both of these are compelling, because there's interaction between the player and the characters (which leads to emotional attachment).

So then we ask a second question: Assuming we know the action agent (and thereby the action object, which is the opposite) why is an inspection called?

  1. If its player-challenging-characters then it must be a game feature, and by what criteria is this feature accessed? What specifically is the gain, and what is this risk for the player doing this?
  2. If it's characters-challenging-players then it must be part of AI decision making. So what are the triggers that causes the AI to decide whether or not to call an inspection?

And finally, a third question: by what metrics does the game determine whether the inspection has passed or failed?

This is a tricky one. A core principle of Astrobase Command is that there is no inherently right or wrong way to organize your base or crew. There are simply right or wrong ways based on other decisions you happen to make, which are only evident once they happen. So for example: Let's say you make a Death Star and happen to have a hole leading right to your reactors. So, during space combat a stray shot might get in there. This would be a matter of opponent AI and geometry. But how does the game know this is wrong? If the Death Star never gets touched due to its defenses it wouldn't be detrimental to the player. Maybe the hole exists for some tactical, aesthetic, or unrelated reason.

Basically what I'm saying is that only in very limited situations does the code know whether your base is "smart" or not. I'll list these:

  • if the base has rolling brown-outs because there's not enough power
  • Characters die frequently (although, this is tricky because Kirk was a smart tactician but boy did he sacrifice those redshirts).
  • Modules frequently get destroyed or damaged during events
  • Mission objectives are frequently unmet.

And in these cases, the code can only say: "yeah, the player probably didn't do that well." But it can't be completely sure. Because being smart is entirely dependent on the dynamics of play (which the code cannot predict), and players will always be more clever than code's ability to predict cleverness.

So I see the pass/fail metric as the most challenging bit here!

What are your thoughts? :)



* What I mean by "one-sided" is this. Quite simply, the player and the crew are on the same side.

  • An alien race makes first contact and sends an envoy. The crew has to not fail diplomacy checks (or bee culturally insensitive) as the envoy gets the royal tour. Or else, you may have a new enemy! See every other episode of ST:ENT for examples.
  • Sensors detect a subspace wave/crystalline entity/swarm of nanobots is heading straight for you!
  • Some accident/crisis occurs on the Astrobase
  • Etc

Basically, we're talking about the plot of every Star Trek episode as it's revealed in the first act. These are obvious to any sci-fi fan. They're relatively easy to add to the game, in the sense this is a straight-forward function of programming-time and creating programmatic, rogue-like behavior. And this is all inside-the-box thinking. The box is what you expect from a base-building rogue-like sandbox sci-fi game. Which is why Inspections is (potentially -- pending some details :)) an interesting suggestion as it fundamentally adversarial with respect to player-character dynamics.

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Re: Astrobase Events Suggestions

Postby MaxShields » Wed Sep 25, 2013 2:15 am

You raise some excellent points. I've run out of time to go into a detailed response tonight, so I'll keep to this short comment for now and get you something more satisfactory tomorrow.

I agree that inspections can have a variety of triggers, some of which can be within the player's control, some of which may not be. Having the occur simply as the result of a random event would be possible, though could end up frustrating for the player if they happen too frequently. I also think that running station geometry-based checks could prove to be challenging to get right. It could become a nasty rabbit hole to get sucked into, costing vital development resources for other aspects of the game. I think there is a way to get inspections to fit within a greater narrative and ensure that the characters' actions are consequential to the inspection results by using some simple mechanisms that exist in pen and paper RPGs.

More to follow.

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Re: Astrobase Events Suggestions

Postby MaxShields » Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:30 pm

I like that you have mentioned Kirk's propensity to go through large numbers of redshirts. This brings up the question of investigations. For the purposes of this post, I will refer to both inspections and investigations interchangeably. However, there is a key distinction that could add some depth to gameplay: inspections are a proactive action, whereas investigations are reactive, initiated as a result of an incident. I will expand on the concept further below.

There are three general cases in which an inspection could be called:

1. As a result of a failing observed by one of the characters. This could be a visible character on the station or some nebulous superior commander outside of the station;
2. As a result of a willful decision by the player to initiate an inspection to resolve a specific question or issue;
3. As a result of some predetermined schedule or standard procedure as determined by the empire's ginormous book of operating instructions, a fifty-volume tome of bureaucratic red tape and best practices that have kept countless stations from explosively decompressing into the void over the past few centuries.

Inspections could check for the following issues:

A. Proper execution of a task (construction, personnel administration, discipline, appropriateness of character decision making);
B. Condition of specific items/equipment/infrastructure/administration;
C. Audit of quantities of stored supplies, materiel, munitions, and funds;

Given Astrobase Command's character focus, I think it is essential to try to relate the trigger and end result to the behaviour and actions of the characters. This should help you achieve the aim of having players develop strong ties with the their digital teammates. Fortunately, the RPG system you are putting in place can be leveraged to ensure that the initiation and outcome of inspections can be directly tied to the character's performance. This in fact suggests the addition of an extra field in the character's fitness evaluation: Professionalism. This could affect a character's likelihood of conducting tasks appropriately (a skilled technician that is unprofessional could obtain far worse results from time to time than the mediocre technician who is constantly attentive to detail -- it could regulate the consistency of results in technical skills and determine how likely a character is to pay attention to faults and issues in order to correct them, initiate an inspection to find errors that have not yet been created, to call an investigation once a critical incident has taken place, or to choose to conduct an investigation after an issue has been brought up by a subordinate or exterior agency, thus representing the possibility that even if an issue is identified and inspection is called for, the people in charge could say "meh, what's the worse that could happen?" and ignore the issue.)

This leads us to the question of how to establish the conditions where faults would be present that need to be checked? You have previously mentioned that as characters conduct their duties, the game engine carries out skill checks to determine the outcome of their actions. In the case of activities relating to A,B,C above, a failed skill check could result in an immediate failure of sufficient importance that it is plainly visible to the player, who will have to manage the consequences and would have the ability to call an investigation to find out why the incident took place. This could basically be an in-game debugger that takes some time and personnel (or computer?) resources to analyze the issue and spit out a report whose degree of accuracy will depend on the skills of the investigating character(s). This report could explain in textual form the failed skill check or the trait in question that caused the problem. For example, a power converter fails on deck four. After investigation, it is determined that the technician maintaining it was only trained in Centauri zoology and didn't have the required skills and certifications required to perform the duty.

Other issues may not lead to an immediate catastrophic event but could establish the conditions for a subsequent failure. This could simply have the failure loaded and kept in a dormant state until the right conditions are in place to set it off. Inspections increase the chance that such failures are found before they have a chance to cause mayhem. An inspector's knowledge and skill level will determine the size and complexity of failure they can identify. It is important to note that the inspection only locates and defines the problem. A separate effort must be mounted to rectify it. For example, this could involve sending an engineering team to replace valves that are known to have manufacturing flaw, or sending in the Military Police to track down whomever has been stealing cheezypoofs from the galley at night.

There is a Cost/Benefit evaluation to be made in calling these investigations. They take personnel away from essential activities (even if the inspectors come in from outside the station, a number of local representatives for the department in question would need to be present to support the inspectors), but can end up saving a world of grief if they uncover problems that the player was unaware of and give him time to rectify the situation before they erupt.

Can the player decide to terminate ongoing inspections? It depends on whether the Player is seen as some kind of hidden hand keeping everything running, or whether he is supposed to represent the Commander or some form of central authority aboard the station. I think in most cases, it would be wise to allow the player to cancel or postpone certain investigations, particularly those that are initiated by his characters. As Commander, he is assuming the risk that something may go wrong, but that his tactical or operational assessment indicates that there are higher priority tasks to be conducted. If an investigation is ordered by a higher authority, this flexibility declines dramatically, and in certain cases may be a hard deadline that if the issue remains uninspected by a certain time, severe consequences could ensue ("What do you mean you haven't finished the investigation into how the Supreme Commander's daughter was kidnapped off of your station by Tarsan raiders?")

Completed investigations (with attendant disciplinary measures? This could bring in interesting possibilities of swabbing decks and putting the brig to good use) keep personnel on a higher level of alert for some time, the duration is based on their level of professionalism, providing a boost to skill checks that were affected by the investigation.

Investigations and inspections can be called for by someone but need to be approved and carried out by a supervisor. A character could decide to conduct a self-investigation of activities within their own scope (e.g. needs to check his personal kit for wear and tear, or subordinates and equipment within their department.)

Investigator skill sets are important in determining the outcome of an inspection. Assigning an engineer to audit personnel records probably won't do much good and may not notice that promotion paperwork that got forgotten last year. Incidents could take a certain level of person-hours to properly uncover. These could be directly affected by the character's relevant skill levels. For example, a 10 point logistics problem needs an investigator with 2 logistics skill points five times longer to resolve than a team of two investigators with 5 relevant skill points each. When the player calls for the inspection, the player assigns personnel to the event from the personnel management screen as he would any other function within the astrobase. If a character independently decides to launch an inspection, he would have to:

1. Evaluate if any of his subordinates have the required skill;
2. Evaluate how many characters he is willing to assign to the inspection;
3. If his resources are insufficient, he must determine whether he will elevate the issue to obtain personnel from other departments, make due with under trained or unqualified members to conduct the inspection, or chose to make due without it; and
4. Evaluate whether he reports to the player the results of the inspection, or the fact that the inspection was not conducted. This could again be directly affected by professionalism. Perhaps the character does not want the boss to know that things are going poorly in his department?

In terms of metrics, I think skill checks and opposed skill checks as appropriate to the situation would help ensure that the onus is on the characters to perform and therefore the player's ability to manage those players rather than trying to work out some complicated algorithm to consider and evaluate every possible scenario. To return to your Redshirt analogy, a character who deploys on a mission and suffers heavy casualties (possible trigger: determined by the points ratios at the end of the mission) could become the subject of an investigation to determine whether there has been any wrongdoing (you mean you told those redshirts to act as a distraction as you decided to rob the local bank? -- possible trigger: taking an action that was not in direct support of the assigned mission), incompetence (you mean you thought you were navigating South when in fact you were going North, right into that minefield? -- a possible trigger: ignoring a vital element of information that should be gleaned from the local environment), or negligence (you mean you thought that your gas masks would be useless on the surface of that poisonous planet? -- a possible trigger: failing to bring a piece of mission critical equipment along) The investigation is conducted as a check against the required skill, in this case Tactics, to evaluate whether the character took actions that were appropriate to the situation. A character with a high Tactics skill level (say Kirk) is most likely to be found to have taken actions that were appropriate whereas a character with a low Tactics skill would be more likely to be found to have made a poor decision along the way. The larger the margin in the ratio of points at the end of the mission, the greater the difficulty in passing the skill check.

If you look at this in terms of base design, the layout of power conduits may look esthetically wrong when we are looking at it on screen, but if it passes inspection, then it could be chalked up as innovative or unconventional engineering genius. If it fails, the astrobase designer was clearly in above his head, needs to be sacked and a replacement put into place to fix all the wiring, even though the physical layout does not need to be changed.

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Re: Astrobase Events Suggestions

Postby MilitantLobster » Sun Feb 23, 2014 8:52 am

Wow, there is a lot here! First off, I think that inspections/investigations is a great idea. Such things are a necessary part of managing any bureaucracy, from an office to the military. Superiors need to know if things are being done correctly and if something goes wrong they need to know why. Here are my thoughts on a couple things I pulled out of the thread:

Ilaliya wrote:Who calls the inspection, and who solves the inspection (what combination of player/characters)?

Let's explore the characters first. So how would this work?

Maybe senior officers with the right traits can "take the initiative" so to speak and call an inspection. And the result would be either pass or failure, which would have game implications. I could see this working. Players who don't want inspections make sure they don't have meticulous officers that like inspecting the troops.

Now let's explore the player as the action agent.

So maybe we say the player can call the inspection, because it's the player's Astrobase. Maybe the player wants some detailed data, and an inspection is merely a check of some systems, and knows that failure has consequences (for example, in terms of morale). In this case, an inspection would be like a battle simulation. And then it's a deliberate event, like a drill.


I would argue that either option is viable, and I believe MaxShields said something similar. A character should be able to call an inspection on themselves or any subordinates. Their traits determine how often they do this and how successful they are at finding faults (or false flags). They would then report to superior officers and/or the player.

The player should also be able to call an inspection to learn more about the various systems they are overseeing. Maybe a major military strike is about to be mounted and you want to know the state of the troops and equipment. Maybe you have plans for a big addition to the base and you need to figure out if your current infrastructure can handle the increased load. I assume some data will always be at your fingertips (ratio of power use to capacity, etc.) but an inspection would allow you to call up some more in depth analysis and maybe predict future failures.
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The next important point is the introduction of the “Professionalism” trait. I think this is a great idea because it would have so many uses. Not only is it useful for conducting investigations, it’s great for checks on everyday tasks to determine how well things are getting done.

MaxShields wrote:This in fact suggests the addition of an extra field in the character's fitness evaluation: Professionalism. This could affect a character's likelihood of conducting tasks appropriately (a skilled technician that is unprofessional could obtain far worse results from time to time than the mediocre technician who is constantly attentive to detail -- it could regulate the consistency of results in technical skills and determine how likely a character is to pay attention to faults and issues in order to correct them, initiate an inspection to find errors that have not yet been created, to call an investigation once a critical incident has taken place, or to choose to conduct an investigation after an issue has been brought up by a subordinate or exterior agency, thus representing the possibility that even if an issue is identified and inspection is called for, the people in charge could say "meh, what's the worse that could happen?" and ignore the issue.)


MaxShields also touched on the last point I want to make, which is to say that the results of inspections may not always be reported. Depending on the professionalism of the character he may wish to sweep problems under the rug, report them to a superior, or handle them internally without reporting them. Another possibility would be deliberate obfuscation of investigation results. Say Reactor 4 blows up killing three technicians. The head of power production is put in charge of the investigation, but he already knows what happened. He knows. So he covers it up. And his incompetence lives on.

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