[copied from the GeneralForum]
Having Leaders to provide further immersion of Distant Worlds living, breathing environment would be terrific. After thinking about it for a while I’ve found that it’s surprisingly difficult to rough out a working implementation.
Leaders could be done in all sorts of ways but once you start looking at the implication of doing this or that you can easily find that you’ve opened a can of worms.
Making it fun is even trickier. Probably why smarter brains than I design and develop games.
Fumbling around with the concept on my own I’ve figured out that you probably have to choose a couple of aspects and maintain a tight focus on these to prevent the whole project spinning out of control and being unworkable.
So for the benefit of general discourse on the possible implementation of Leaders here are my thoughts.
Illustrated and in colour! I couldn’t resist.
Restricted to the Player only. Makes the task ten times easier. The AI empires can be assumed to have numerous nameless leaders. They don't need to be fleshed out.
Restricted to leaders who will be in control of a fleet.
Keep the focus tight. Widen it to include colonies, research and armies and the job grows like a noxious weed or, alternatively, has to be dumbed down so much, in order to be manageable, that it ends up bland and boring, a-la-MOO3.
Leaders are exceptional individuals whom, because of their status, command very high levels of popularity on their home planets. Leaders are derived from a specific colony within your empire. They come from somewhere.
The Broad Brush
Admiral Rickunder from Planet BeetleJuice is constantly in the news back home. While he might be Mr. Nobody to the rest of your Empire he is regarded as a shining example of the Beetlejuician way of life and a fine upstanding example of Beetlejuician manhood and military genius.
The career trajectory of the Admiral is off great interest to all those who call Beetlejuice home. They are intensely proud of their Admiral and will react badly if he isn’t treated fairly.
Likewise Admiral Rickunder will have a difficult decision in the event of planet BeetleJuice choosing to separate from the Empire. Which, in the right circumstances could come about directly from the urgings of the Admiral.
Will he look to his own or stay loyal to the Empire? The fleet under his command awaits his decision.
Which leads directly to the two areas where I have chosen as a focus for leaders – Politics and Loyalty.
In a Nutshell - Politics
Leaders could have a number of qualities but the two key ones – apart from their skill in leadership – are Political Cost and their Loyalty.
Political cost is a randomly determined number between, say, 1 and 10 for each leader. It reflects the political sway a leader has back home. Think Douglas McArthur.
Now if you want to fire your leader or, heaven forbid, he resigns in a huff at your bad treatment, then there is a direct hit to the Colony Approval rate of his home planet equal (or worse, depending on the situation) to his Political cost.
How often have you read military histories where the wrong General was in charge but the political cost of removing him was considered too high?
So right up front your choice of leader now encompasses not only his level of skill but the political ramifications that may arise from your treatment of him. This feeds directly into the approval rating of his home colony.
You want to dismiss Admiral Butterfingers? You’d love nothing better to do so right now but his home planet of Arial-7 is currently ‘unhappy’ and he has a political cost of 7. Slicing a big chunk of approval from Arial-7 might just be enough to tip it into revolt. Looks like Admiral Butterfingers will have to stay for the time being.
In a Nutshell – Loyalty
Each leader has a loyalty rating. Loyalty to their empire.
In the event of their home planet revolting then the leader must make a choice – Empire or Rebels? The game makes a die roll against his loyalty rating and a failure results in a leader joining the revolt – along with the ships in his fleet.
So now there is a third dimension to your choice of leader. Do I go for Admiral Sensational who is a strategic and tactical genius but a disloyal son-of-a-b*tch or do I play safe and opt for Admiral Plod who is hopeless in a battle but loyal as a brainless puppy.
Fine Tuning Loyalty
Political cost is a straightforward in operation. Visible and easily comprehensible.
Loyalty, however, is a different beast. One that is wide open to abuse. It needs some finessing.
A player could easily choose only loyal leaders for instance. Wayward leader problem solved. Or he could use disloyal leaders and, whenever it looks like their home planet is on the verge of revolt, transfer all the ships out of the fleets they lead as a precaution. Or he could do the same thing just before firing them to mitigate any ‘blow-back’.
To get around players ‘gaming’ loyalty I’d make it a hidden statistic. Over time it is gradually revealed. Eg. When a leader first arrives his loyalty is ‘unknown’. After a year it is known enough to be classified as either ‘good’ or ‘doubtful’. Another year and you’d get a finer grained picture, say ‘rock solid, high, above average, normal, poor’ etc.
The idea being that you don’t know at the start, but over time the picture becomes clearer. Which, if you’re the Emperor, is probably a reasonably accurate picture of how your leaders would evolve in a large, sprawling empire.
One other finesse would be required. Whenever you added an extra ship to the fleet commanded by the leader then you’d get a small lift in their loyalty rating. Egos, after all, are there to be stroked.
Conversely whenever you remove a ship from his command then there is a larger, significant, hit to his loyalty. Furthermore if this drops his loyalty rating below a threshold (and remember you probably don’t have a clear idea of his exact rating) then he must make a ‘loyalty test’ – a simple die roll against his loyalty.
Fail this and he resigns his commission in disgust. Good riddance you might think? Not really. There is an immediate hit to his home planet approval rating of two times his Political cost due to the absolute outrage back home of their favourite Admiral being shafted.
Far fetched? Maybe. What would Montgomery or George S. Patton have done if they were told that – as of tomorrow – half their command is now going to the other general? No hard feelings, fella.
Overview of Politics and Loyalty
With these two simple stats you have a pros and cons process regarding which leaders to use, where to use them and how to treat them. Eg. As a player you get to make interesting and meaningful decisions without being snowed under with ‘too much information’. Paradox, I’m looking at you.
By tying both aspects into their home planet colony approval rating you also get a political sub-game with a reasonable amount of depth but with minimal additional development overhead.
Where do Leaders come from?
You could dabble with additional planetary structures here such as Naval Academies. Or other, similar systems.
All of which probably are a lot of work for little return. I’d keep this part really simple.
Provide a pool. Say six leaders. These are generated randomly and the player can pick from the pool whenever he needs a leader to command a fleet. There would be no limit to the number of leaders you could have in active service.
One for every fleet. Every time you pick a leader out of the pool it generates another random leader and refills. After a certain time interval perhaps, say, two months.
Pretty simple but you could easily make it interesting by having a couple of leader orientated policy settings in your Empire Policy Screen.
‘Allow Ethnic Diversity’ generates leaders from anyone within your empire. All those independent races you absorbed. All those funny looking insects.
Welcome to the Officer Corps! At ease, Son, we’ll find you a uniform that fits. Not sure about the shoe size, though. How many did you say you needed?
Ticking this doubles you pool size. Now you have a wider choice of up to twelve leaders. Much better. The downside is that you now have to keep an eye on your racial situation. Anytime a leader’s home colony gets a negative impact to their approval rating ‘cause you have gone to war with a similar race as they, then your leader suffers a similarly scaled drop to his loyalty.
You may find yourself with an ex-independent colony about to revolt ‘cause of your ill-considered warmongering ways along with their leader who happens to be in charge of a sizeable chunk of your fleet.
With the newly improved migration abilities your ethnically diverse empire could throw up all manner of these situations. So your vastly increased chances of generating better leaders in a larger pool is offset by a potentially more difficult political juggling act.
A second option ‘Highly trained Officer Corps’ provides randomly generated leaders that have a positive modifier to their leadership skill. As this is time intensive you end up with a pool size that is halved.
Now with a racially pure, highly trained Officer Corps your pool size is reduced to only three. They would likely all be better quality leaders than normal, but not always.
With such a small pool your expansion plans would need careful thought because of the time delay between refilling the pool once you’ve assigned a leader. You may well find – in a period of rapid expansion – that you temporarily run out of leaders. Your pool runs empty.
On the other hand if you allowed ‘Ethnic diversity’ then you are back to a well trained pool of six.
You’d probably also need the player to hit a few population size benchmarks before they were able to open up all the available pool slots. That’s assuming a typical 1 planet 4x game start.
Can I fire Leaders?
Sure you can. Don’t like ‘em, get rid of ‘em.
If you fire a leader that is residing in the pool then their political cost acts as a malus to their home colony approval rating. What an insult declare all the local newspapers!
Firing a leader from the pool simply causes him to leave and a new one, randomly generated, takes his place. Bye bye Captain Dead D*ck and hello Captain Wonderful.
Firing a leader on active service is a bit trickier. The slur you are laying down upon the fair citizens of, for example, Beetlejuice and their chosen leaders military prowess is terrible indeed.
Political cost x 2.
What effect do Leaders have?
I’m thinking a kind of fleet-wide effect such as with the ‘Fleet bonus’ techs.
Could be something else. Doesn’t matter as long as there is a range of skill levels amongst leaders. From very good to very bad.
Randomly generated, of course with a positive kick-along to the generation routine if you have a policy of ‘Highly trained Officer Corps’.
As an interesting twist you could make leaders from each unique race have a specific skill focus. Eg. Humans are good at Beam weapons, Rats at Repairs etc.
Now you aren’t obliged to provide every fleet with a leader. However if a fleet didn’t have an assigned leader then it would suffer a penalty of some kind such that the benefits of having a leader, even a bad one, outweigh the disadvantages of a leaderless fleet.
Do Leaders Gain Experience?
Yep. This is another low-overhead, high return feature residing within my thought bubble.
Leaders all enter the pool at the initial rank of ‘Captain’. They then gain experience over time.
Every battle that their fleet is involved in provides a bonus experience boost regardless of the result. You learn by doing, even from your mistakes.
To keep it simple the bonus would be randomly determined within a range. Learning isn’t a linear process. No need to figure more points for bigger battles, etc. Just assume that some leaders are going to learn faster than others.
Gain enough experience, go up a rank. Each rank provides a small boost to the leader’s skill level making them more valuable. Importantly it also increases their ability to command.
So a Captain, for instance, at the bottom of the scale, could exercise his command ability over a maximum of four ships. Any more ships than this in his fleet and his skill bonus is negated (but still better than the fleet not having a leader).
As a leader goes up in rank his ability to command increases commensurately. Say Captain 4 ships, Commodore 8, Rear Admiral 16, Admiral Unlimited.
Your leaders, in charge of specific fleets, become more and more useful over time. With a bit of luck they may even prove to be loyal.
Importantly the experience is with your Leader, not your fleet. No need to track individual ship experience levels and tie that into the battle system.
Now leaders within your talent pool gain experience at the same rate as in the field. The exception is that they aren’t getting a battle bonus.
All leaders start in the pool as Captains. Overtime they increase in rank and usefulness so you have another reason to have a larger pool and to manage it so you have a decent replacement admiral or two on hand to plug the gap in case of an unexpected ‘fatality’ or sudden ‘resignation’.
An additional advantage of ‘grooming’ your pool of potential leaders is that, as they gain experience and go up in rank, their loyalty becomes less and less opaque. You have a better idea of what you are getting, loyalty wise.
So proper management of your pool of leaders becomes important. Weeding out the duds while they are only Captains could be advantageous provided you can ride out any potential political storm.
One other tweak would be to increment a leader’s Political Cost by one every time he rose in rank. Higher the rank, the harder they are to get rid off. If you are going give Captain Dead d*ck the flick then don’t wait till he is tying up a slot in your pool as a full Admiral.
If you wanted to get more into the political side – and I’m off on a tangent here – you could have leaders, residing in the pool, start demanding a fleet command. Their home colony would suffer a permanent approval malus of, say, one point. But this would gradually increase over time – up to a capped value equivalent to their political cost – as their demands for a command become more and more insistent.
The people of Beetlejuice DEMAND that Admiral Rickunder be put at the head of a mighty fleet!
The fact that Admiral Rickunder is a rolled gold dud and you couldn’t find an opportune time to fire him from the pool when he was a lowly captain is now your problem. Have fun.
The obvious. Leaders in command of a fleet reside in a flagship. Damage to the flagship command module could be the end of your leader.
Leaders could – and should – also be female. Higher loyalty and lower Political cost?
Would leaders die from old age? No, pump them full of life enhancing drugs and be done with it.
Leaders, K.I.S.S with a tight focus on Politics and Loyalty.
A few thoughts and ideas – O.K, I got carried away – to throw into the mix.