Exploration, not of space, but of the background, personality, and relationships of the Captain and the other bridge officers is something that we often saw in the shows.
Kirk is famous, or perhaps infamous, for the number of "new" characters who were old flames of his and for the number of new flames that he fanned during his missions. Even though she died before the series started, a number of DS9 episodes revolved around Sisko's relationship with his wife. And even stick-in-the-mud Picard had a few relationships during his run.
Other episodes that focused on old friends, or events, coming back to help or haunt the stars were some of the best Trek ever. One of TNG's best episodes, "The Pegasus", focused on Riker's relationship with his first Captain, and what really happened when he was a young Ensign. "The Conscience of the King" and "Amok Time" are two examples from TOS that didn't involve seeking out new life or new civilizations, focusing instead on exploring the background of Kirk and Spock, and how incidents in their pasts affect decisions they have to make in the present.
I've played a number of Foundry missions that touched briefly on some of these themes, with mixed results, but I have yet to see a Foundry mission that has this as its central theme. So the question is: Is this kind of character development or "inner exploration" something that can be made into an entertaining mission in the Foundry?
How can an author address the problems of writing a mission that's meant to explore a character's background and personality, when the author doesn't even know the character that he's writing for?
Given the current limitations of the Foundry, and the lack of knowledge about the character's background, would the author have to just come right out and state the assumptions for the player? Such as: "This mission assumes that your Captain will become involved in a relationship with an Andorian science officer, so you'll have bring that officer with you on each away mission." Or in the case of the character's background: "This mission assumes that your Captain has a friend that's a Vulcan archeologist."
As a Foundry author, how would you go about creating this kind of mission?
As a player, would you like to play these kinds of missions?
As a creator, I would be interested in doing something like this in theory, but I must admit it is very difficult to actually do this.
One thing would like to do first is experimenting more with "subtle "approaches to do this - giving the player different responses to select for his character so he can at least express the personality of his character - without necessarily affecting the plot in a major way. The existing branching is not really strong enough to do more, but it would be interesting to introduce a character as a potential "old flame" or a rival, this way for example. (The player either chooses the "Old Flame/"Rival" response line or he chooses a neutral one).
I am also tempted to make a kind of "Risa" story where the Captain gets his chance for an "affair". It is thinkable to do similar things with the BOs, but it is so easy for this to not make much sense with all the BO options that exist.
As a player, I might like such kind of missions, but there is always the danger that it just doesn't fit what I envision with my player. Or it doesn't fit with my player character and bridge officer choices.
I don't think a true character exploration of the player's captain, or bridge officers, in terms of their history and background can be done without making the statement
"I've written this mission to fill in character background that will more than likely not match up with the backgrounds you've fashioned."
A mission can still be designed to be an exploration of character background, it would have to be something further down the chain of command on the player's ship.TNG's "Lower Decks" would be the sort of level you'd have to put it on and explore who these other crew are on the player's ship and see where they came from, what their life has been like.
We as Foundry authors are functioning more like Dungeon Masters. There are encounters to be had in this thing we've crafted, and it's up to the players to bring their character sheets with their various skills, motivations, and experiences to fill in the other parts of the story.
In order to avoid the problem of interfering with the captain's background, perhaps a storyline that takes place entirely in the present?
An interesting mission, or series of missions, could involve the captain and an NPC. While the situation would play a large part, the primary focus would actually be the friendship that develops between the captain and the NPC.
This almost happens with the captain and Obisek in the Romulan Featured Episodes.
Would it be better if the NPC friend was stationed on the captain's ship? Or if they were an equal? Say another ship captain, a station commander, or the governor of a colony world? Which option do you think would work best for making the player care about the welfare of the NPC friend and the development of the friendship?
Perhaps the goal of the mission(s) should be giving you the option of liking or disliking the NPC instead of forcing the player to be friends with them through the various conversations you'll have with the NPC in question, regardless of who the NPC is. I can't say I've tested the limits of branching dialogue, but it would be quite the flow chart to see in the story window in the editor. The various dialogue options can be labelled similar to what we see in Mass Effect with the Paragon, Neutral, and Renegade options.
I'd want to enable the player to make their own social choices that will dictate if this NPC will be their friend or not by mission's end.
I think maybe you can do the "history" thing, by having multiple dialogue options when you first encounter the character.
For example, you speak to a contact and your first choices are:
1) Nice to meet you, Lieutenant.
2) Have we met before?
3) Carl, is that you? It's so good to see you!
Possibly even: 4) Don't you recognize your own brother/sister? (but this may be pushing it)
Depending on what you choose, a different flavor of dialogue would become available. If you choose option 1, then you're treated as never having met the individual before.
If you choose option 2, you're treated as an acquaintance, perhaps someone who met the individual at a conference or a sporting event. In fact, the next dialogue choices could be to establish where you met them. The dialogue would be a bit more than a complete stranger, but not as familiar as a friend. You could even have a not entirely friendly history with the NPC depending on what choices you make.
Now, with option 3 the person is an old friend. You'll have options to ask about his family, etc, and he will ask the same of you. With option 3, the other character can make statements like "It's been a long time, how's your..." and then in the dialogue choices would be [husband], [wife], [brother], [family], allowing the player to select whatever is appropriate.
All of this requires the player to choose to play along, but the beauty of it is if they don't want to they just choose option 1 and get the default, generic NPC interaction. If they do play along, you give them the ability to help choose how this relationship formed, and on what terms it is, rather than forcing an entire identity on them. Obviously there are practical limits to how far you can go with this, but you can give a few varied choices, and also leave the out of "I can't remember where we met." or "Sorry, I mistook you for someone else."
For someone who wants to play along, I think it could add a cool element to the mission, and if someone doesn't want to, it shouldn't detract since they have the "I've never met you" option. I think I'll try it and see how it turns out.
As a player I really respect with an author takes on a challenge such as this. I have played a few mission and some arcs that touch on this. I even played one where the female science contact at a crippled science station was an old flame of my Ship's highest ranking tactical officer (who happens to be my Number on in my RP mind). It was very sublte, but quite daring, considering if my BO had of been a woman it might have been strange, depending ofc.
I think foundry can have a great role in these types of missions. I believe that there must be a very high level of scrutiny on your storyline to make it work. Like all mission I suppose, but more so in that it deals with a player's officers who may not be compatible with the story you are trying to tell. I often keep an open mind on everything - even though I can be quite strict on MY created rp bubble... but I've developed an on/off switch lately.
I think the best way for these types of missions to succeed is by having pre-set parameters in place. That way it should help budding mission creators keep in line with the personalities of the bridge officers or even captains they are involving in such storylines.
Parameters that the player can set for themselves and their officers and which are used in the mission like branching dialog options. This could lead to a very complex branching mission, but wouldn't it have to be complex in order to really work at the right level?
So, character perameters like a checkbox system or a drop down menu system. Just a few things like:
My captain is: "Male [ ] ...... Jovial [ ] , Depressed [ ] , Over Confident [ ], Allergic to Cats [ ]" etc, and eventually work it down to things like:
My Captain enjoys " Outdoor activities [ ] , social gathering [ ], academic entertainment [ ] "
With such parameters in place it could be helpful for mission creators to set up missions which allow past flames or long lost relatives or accidentally clones of the target player to get some grounding in the player's created background.
Hmm probably not making much sense at 3 am.
I tend to always unlock that 5th star on the rating to mission authors who take that risky step into such things, so yes, with some more official support its something I think could happen big time - and in the meantime, its doable, if at the very least in very sublte ways so as not to be too overbearing on what a playing person might have already created in their mind's eye.
I think the best way for these types of missions to succeed is by having pre-set parameters in place. That way it should help budding mission creators keep in line with the personalities of the bridge officers or even captains they are involving in such storylines..
As it is now, I just plain stay away from writing anything as deep as a love interest for a player. I limit possible friendships to the present storyline, as the past is impossible to define for any player. I tend to give personality to BO's on occasion, and nothing too overboard. I honestly don't worry so much about the reviews with the exception of technical issues like "Markers are too small". That's something that obviously needs fixing. If there is is a major plot hole, that also needs to be addressed. Playing Foundry missions, one must have a little flexibility and suspension of disbelief or the author just can't tell a story. We'd end up with every mission being just a grind mission.