Left, Left, Left, Right, Left
The previous update outlined a schedule for the next few updates and today would have been about space combat (update #43). However, we decided to wait a bit with that update and instead dig a bit deeper into the boarding operations. Update #44 which will talk about progress/schedule is on track for the second half of November and the space combat update may arrive either before or after that one.
For this update we will start by talking about character progression, skills and traits. Next we will cover veterancy and how this is important and affects the performance of your marines and pilots in particular. As part of this we will also revisit the battle drills and formations.
But first things first, let’s start with character progression, skills and traits. Since The Mandate will let you acquire quite a few characters we think it is critical to keep the number of stats at a manageable level. Our approach uses the following elements:
- Character traits instead of character attributes
- Skill reuse
- Minor and major characters
- Clear and simple rules for progression
First off, we are skipping traditional character attributes like Strength, Dexterity, Charisma etc. Instead we have character traits which can be one of several types. Character traits may be inherent to a character and gradually revealed as part of character progression or the result of an experience the character has undergone during play. An example of the latter would be a marine who is the sole survivor in his eight man squad after a particularly bloody boarding operation. He could gain beneficial traits like “Lone Wolf” or “To the End” or alternatively a detrimental condition like “PTSD”. Skill-related traits can be beneficial or detrimental. For example a particular character may have the trait “Stargazer” from spending his or her childhood looking at stars. That character may be a good candidate to transfer into the astrogation service branch due to a skill bonus to the astrogation skills.
Finally, we have traits and anti-traits that model interpersonal relationships. If you put a character with the trait “Brave” in the same marine squad as a character with the trait “Cowardly”, there will be an effect (and you hopefully know the cause). Ultimately, as captain you decide the progression for each character and their individual traits may or may not fit with your overall plan or needs. In the case of “PTSD” and similar we aim to provide you with a set of tools to allow you to respond and treat or cure such conditions.
It's worth noting that traits that have an effect on character progression are revealed before any important character progression decisions are made. We do not want scenarios where negative traits show up only after you have chosen the characters progression path.
Also, we are trying to reuse skills as much as possible where this makes sense and can be justified from a gameplay point of view. New characters start out as enlisted which provides them with two skills: Basic weapons and Console Operations. As long as a character levels up as an enlisted, he or she will become more proficient in those two skills.
If you decide to switch a character from the enlisted path to a specialist path, new skills will be acquired. Each of the six service branches have one basic skill and two advanced skills. A specialist must get to a certain proficiency in the basic skill before he or she can start to learn the advanced skill. The exception here is the Security branch (pilots and marines) which reuse basic skills from other service branches for its marine and pilot specialists. For example a marine who later specializes as a combat engineer would learn the engineering basic skill. A marine who specializes as a combat medic would learn the medical basic skill.
That being said you would not want to put a specialist engineer to perform breaching operations (which is what the combat engineer is good at) and you would not want to use a combat engineer to run the powerplant (which is what the specialist engineer is good at).
In The Mandate we want you to have a core team of trusted individuals as well as ancillary characters. This is similar to the TV shows that we are inspired by. So when we talk about your crew we are really talking about minor and major characters. Your minor characters make up roughly 80% of your crew, your enlisted, specialists and warrant officers. Your major characters make up the remaining 20% and include all your commissioned officers. These are your future captains, starbase commanders and bridge officers. As you level up your crew you may turn minor characters into major characters. There are a few key differences between minor and major characters worth noting:
- For minor characters you set their focus and decide on career choices every six levels
- For major characters you get skill points to assign each level
- Major characters unlock additional skills that you can invest points into like diplomacy, logistics, command etc
- Major characters can gain additional traits
Lastly, we have some ground rules for how a character can progress and get promoted:
- A character can stay as enlisted to eventually become a senior enlisted or non-commissioned officer. Alternatively the enlisted may join a service branch as a career choice rather than staying as an enlisted
- Once a character joins a service branch (s)he cannot switch to another service branch or go back to being an enlisted
- A specialist may focus on specializing in advanced skills or become a warrant officer (from level 12)
- A warrant officer may focus on advanced skills inside his/her service branch or become a better warrant officer
- At level 30 a warrant officer can attend the war academy and attempt to become a commissioned officer. Not all warrant officers are suited to become commissioned officers, however
- Sub-alterns [ensign, cornet etc] cannot be trained but must be recruited from factions. This is also where we add in backer-designed officers
Armed with this understanding of how skills, traits and character progression work, we can now explain roles like Fire team leader, Squad leader and Platoon leader (and their pilot equivalents). All three roles require the Leadership skill and their requirements are 3, 6 and 9 (out of 10), respectively. Leadership is a skill that warrant officer and senior enlisted can learn.
Skills not only enable new roles for your character but also affect the efficiency of your crew and marines in particular. We use the term “Veterancy” to describe the efficiency and skill of your marines. Broadly speaking Veterancy has four distinct tiers: Rookie, Trained, Veteran and Elite. During boarding operations Veterancy affects weapon posture, individual morale, reaction time and accuracy.
By weapon posture we mean how a character will hold his or her weapon. For example, Rookies will take longer to aim and fire their weapons than Trained, Veteran or Elite marines. You will be able to see the weapon posture of both your own and that of the enemy during boarding operations, giving you visual clues as to the threat level posed by enemy marines.
Battle Drills have also been regrouped so instead of having over twenty Battle Drills, we now only have seven. How did we achieve this without dumbing things down? Well, we have tied Battle Drills to veterancy & formations. So for example when you issue a “Search & Destroy” Battle Drill, the fire team or squad will pick the formation that matches with its veterancy level.
To make sure each Battle Drill will be useful, we planned out the choreography for each one and made tweaks. We also looked at how the specialist marines, fire team and squad leader roles would fit with the Battle Drills. Beyond the basic “Move” Battle Drill, you have access to the following Battle Drills:
- Search & Destroy
- Support (requires fire team leader)
- Assault (requires fire team leader)
- Breach & Clear (requires squad leader and marine specialists)
- Ambush (requires squad leader and marine specialists)
As your marines level up you will be able to specialize them to become combat engineers, combat medics and so forth. By assigning your marines intelligently between your fire teams and squads, you can create units that are optimized for carrying out one or more of the Battle Drills. For example a fire team with one marksman, two combat support and one fire team leader could work well with the Support Battle Drill.
There are two more things we need to point out. First, the Battle Drills are semi-accurate with respect to real-life close quarter combat. Our latest design changes have improved the military realism without complicating gameplay. One backer (with a military background) has been particularly helpful to us developers, so: Tally-ho, sir! Secondly, the recent changes also map surprisingly well to how we will handle air/space drills for fighters and bombers in space combat but more on that in a future update.
We will round off with a short video that shows a four-man fire team executing the “Search & Destroy” Battle drill aboard a spaceship. As the fire team maneuvers we are switching between four levels of veterancy (rookie, trained, veteran, elite). Since Battle Drills are tied to veterancy and execute a specific formation, you will notice a formation change. For example the veteran and elite formations makes your marines less susceptible to surprise or flanking and also allows more marines to engage an enemy from the front or when turning around a corner. If you look closely you will also see that individual marines switch their weapon posture as their veterancy changes. This will allow them to be more effective and open fire quicker.
Keep in mind that the animations in the video above are by no means final. Our focus is to first produce a basic version of all animations and then later polish to increase quality. Beyond that if you have any comments or suggestions feel free to give us a shout via the forums , here on Kickstarter or otherwise as it ultimately helps us make a better, more entertaining game.
We would like to give a shout out to a couple of Kickstarter games which have similar gameplay modes or have inspired certain mechanics in The Mandate.
First up is Wasteland 2 which is a post-apocalyptic party-based RPG with turn-based combat. We did a quick tally and so far our devs have accumulated over 150 hours in the game. If your game tastes are similar to ours, then you may want to check it out. Just keep in mind that the game is hard so consider which difficulty option to pick for your first playthrough.
Next is Jagged Alliance: Flashback where you must lead a band of mercenaries to help rid an island of its corrupt leader. JAF mixes turn based tactics, squad management and crazy mercenary personalities (not unlike our traits system)
Finally, we have “More of M.O.R.E.”, which aims to upgrade the visuals for the previously funded M.O.R.E., a turn-based 4X game in the tradition of Master of Orion. If you like 4x games and missed out on the first campaign then this a chance to check them out!
Your friends at Perihelion Interactive