Ship layouts, service branches and coat of arms
Time for another update! Today we are following up on a previous update about ship consoles. We will be discussing the various types of rooms aboard a ship, deck plans as well as something called service branches. Why are service branches important? How do they affect crew progression and impact The Mandate from a visual and gameplay perspective? Read on to find out more!
To get a good overview of what we will be discussing today, let's start with this diagram which depicts a basic frigate and its various decks. All capital ships have between one and three full decks (not counting the Bridge, Cargo Deck or the Observation Deck) but our frigate only has one full deck, the 0 deck. You may recall that our ships also consists of three sections: the front, the midship and aft section. Each ship section is also separated by blast doors (marked with red colour above).
As mentioned, our frigate has one full deck and this is where most of the rooms are located. The rooms are connected via corridors and each room houses a number of consoles that can be operated by individual crew members. The consoles affect the behaviour and efficiency of your ship. So what are all the room colours? They represent what we call service branches and we will discuss them a bit later in this update. The colour pink represents unassigned space.
Immediately above this deck we have the bridge deck. This deck holds the bridge as well as the captain’s quarters and on larger ships additional staff rooms and security checkpoints. The bridge itself is well protected inside the ship and a myriad of sensors and scanners ensure that the captain and officers have all the necessary data to coordinate the crew during action.
Above the bridge is the observation deck which has several functions. For example this is the place where you may conduct ceremonies such as promotions, funerals and dignitary visits but we are also discussing a few other interesting options.
Last but not least we have the cargo deck which houses the ship reactor, cargo hold and shuttle bay(s). The latter is important since it allows you to launch assault transports to board enemy vessels or send shuttles on planetary investigation a.k.a. away missions.
Now that we have an idea of the ship layout let us discuss the service branches. There are a total of six of these and they are important for crew progression and specialization. Above you can see a representative from each service branch as well as the name and colour of each service branch. The officer does not represent a service branch but prior to his promotion he may have served with one of the service branches but more on that later. Keep in mind that both the headgear and colours for each service branch are not finalized. None are wearing combat armour as this would be too bulky and restrictive for normal ship operations. Finally we are discussing internally whether the name “service branch” or “department” is the correct term to apply or whether we should use some other term.
So what gameplay impact do the service branches have? Well, fresh recruits start out as "enlisted" and only have a few basic skills. They may be assigned to operate vacant consoles in a room and each room is operated by one service branch (with a few exceptions like the bridge). Consoles grant enlisted experience points over time and eventually they will qualify to become specialists. Upon becoming a specialist the enlisted joins one of the service branches and can learn new skills. Each service branch has unique skill types which corresponds with its focus area. There are skills that affect both space combat, boarding combat, away missions etc.
Initially as captain you will probably be "hands-off" and not concern yourself with individual enlisted or even specialists. However as individual crew members level up, you will get more and more influence over their career and education. You may wish to review individual dossiers and check not only skills but also personality traits that may make somebody especially suited for a particular role. Each character has several personality traits which are revealed over time as they become an integral part of your crew. Certain situations and events may also trigger hidden personality traits (positive or detrimental).
Ultimately it is up to you as captain how you manage your crew and how to get the most out of them. Both senior specialists, senior warrant officers and commissioned officers are valuable. You need to train all types to replace battle losses and also grow your fleet. It is up to you to select who will stay as specialists, who will become warrant officers and who should become junior commissioned officers (and later on full captains). We believe the approach outlined above will feel organic and intuitive. You will make the decisions that really matter but not be bogged down with pointless, repetitive micro-management.
Currently the team is building all the room types for the frigate as well as consoles and corridors. This has already proved useful for scale prototyping and boarding combat tests. Above you can see two example rooms. The blue room is run by engineering and the yellow room is run by the artillery service branch.
We will round off this update with a faction symbol test. Obviously the first image was not made by us but is an interesting historical reference and shows the lesser coat of arms of the Russian Empire anno 1883. In The Mandate each of the major factions will receive its own symbol or coat of arms. We also plan to add a feature which allows players to design a ship’s crest or ship’s badge (basically a coat of arms for your ship). The ship’s crest could be displayed both outside and inside your ship, for example on the bridge. Your crew would wear the ship’s crest as a shoulder badge on their uniform and your light craft would also carry similar markings. Furthermore, if your captain is knighted(*) you may design your own personal coat of arms. Finally, if you rise in the nobility you may earn the right to upgrade and modify your coat of arms to reflect your new rank and position.
* Your captain’s backstory may include a knighthood but you were stripped of all rank and privileges as part of the court martial sentencing
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