Originally sent this in to STOked, posting here to generate discussion as well
Bridge Officer Ideas - Part One
Here's a few thoughts I've had about bridge officers and how they should be changed to make them more than just pets and pieces of gear. These are all designed to work together, but could easily be implemented as stand-alone systems.
1. Lifespan aka. 'Tours of Duty'
A BOFF shouldn't be a disposable item, to toss aside as soon as something better comes along. By the same token, they also shouldn’t be something that you can just keep tucked away for all of time. They should have a lifespan, like real officers on a tour of duty. An officer is sent to a post for a period of time, in this case, your ship. They join your crew, and they stay for a period of time (for example, 12 episodes completed, or 10 levels gained, whatever you like).
Approximately halfway through the tour of duty, there should be a little time-out for a performance review with your BOFF, which would help you get valuble feedback on their progress. Think of it as being like a detailed stats screen, along with a few choices you can make to influence the second half of their tour of duty aboard your ship - this is where you would have some control over their statistic, trait, and talent development, and possibly also influence your chances of getting BOFF-centred missions.
At the end of this period (and maybe you’d get some warning that it was coming up), they would do one of the following:
Quit, having performed badly. They go back into the pool (8), with a small gain to experience (4) but with a bad mark on their record (7).
Move on, having performed well but wanting a change. They go back into the pool (8), with a neutral mark on their record (7), with more experience (4) and maybe a new talent (5).
Talk to the captain, unable to make up their own mind and leaving the choice to you. If you recommended that they move to bigger and better things, they would go back into the pool (8) with a good mark on their record (7), boosted experience (4), and possibly a new talent (5).
Ask to stay, but again the final decision would be yours as the captain, with the same results as above.
Their decision could be tied into loyalty (2), where the more loyalty they feel towards you as a captain, the greater their desire to stay. An officer with no loyalty would perform badly and have no real desire to remain aboard ship, and so on.
If the officer stayed with you, it would reset the cycle, and you would get another performance review.
2. Loyalty / Relationship
The way you interact with your officers would impact on their loyalty towards you, and your working relationship. Taking them with you on an away team would boost it a little. Sending them on a suicide mission would have the opposite effect.
This would obviously need a common sense approach, where certain actions would boost their loyalty and other actions (or in-actions) would drain it. Here’s some examples, just to show the point:
Duty on the bridge
Reviving a fallen BOFF
Completing a BOFF-specific episode
Minigames (eg. 3D Chess vs a BOFF)
Falling in combat
Not using a BOFF on the bridge or on the ground for ϰ amount of time
Not treating injuries
Ignoring BOFF-specific episodes
Personality conflicts with you and with other BOFFs.
Loyalty should have some impact on the game, such as a value that is used to calculate the BOFF’s performance. If loyalty is totally neutral, they should perform at around 90-95% of their capability. Lower loyalty would penalise their performance slightly, to the point where a totally mutinous officer would only be performing at around 50-60% of their capability. Positive loyalty towards the captain would improve performance, raising it to 100% and beyond.
I’m not just talking about their DPS on the ground, or their power recharge rates. Every single one of their stats should be fed through this loyalty modifier.
Eventually, this could even be expanded into relationships and loyalty between BOFFs but that seems very unlikely at this stage.
3. Personality / Archetypes
Bridge officers shouldn’t just be cardboard cutouts with guns, they each need to have their own personality.
Lets say that you really took your time writing up an awesome backstory for your BOFF, and customising their appearance just so, even going so far as to give them a meaningful name. How do you feel when a speech window pops up and this bridge officer delivers a paragraph of text with all the emotion of a robot? Ok, so maybe they are the latest and greatest Soong-type android, but they might just as easily be a klingon tactical officer telling you about how an enemy ship has just entered orbit, but everything is okay and you dont need to fight.
There’s gotta be some way of giving your BOFFs a personality. It could just be as simple as assigning 1-2 personality types at the time of creation, giving the BOFF an archetype that matches (or at least isnt totally at odds with) their race, gender, and class.
For example, it would be cool to have a saurian tactical officer with the ‘cold’ and ‘aggressive’ personality types, and a klingon engineer with ‘arrogant’ and ‘stubborn’.
These personality types should be used to subtly flavour your interactions with your bridge officers. They could influence any of the following:
Ground combat AI behaviour
BOFF-specific episodes tied to personality types
Loyalty gains and penalties
Teamwork (two stubborn BOFFs might struggle to work together, for instance)
Knowing a bridge officer’s personality types would also make it easier to craft their backstories as well.
BOFFs should have progression all of their own. They might not level up at quite the same rate as you, and certainly not use the same tiered system as the player, but certainly they should have some level of experience gain over their career.
This could be used to control whether or not a BOFF is ready to be promoted, as well as being an effective cap on their skills and capabilities, providing experience-based gates to the development of talents, traits, and abilities.
Not all officers are created equal. They each have different capabilities in different areas, and some have natural talents that could potentially make them more suited to a given task.
For instance, you may have a tactical officer with a particular talent for command. They’d make a good squad leader, surely?
Think of them as being traits that are attached to their class rather than their race. These talents should provide small modifiers to certain skills and abilities, and should also be able to be earned and improved over the course of a BOFF’s career. For that matter, traits should work the same way.
Here are some other examples:
Tactical - Leadership
Tactical - Strategic Thinking
Science - Research
Science - Experimentation
Engineering - Efficiency
Engineering - Invention
However, both talents and traits should be hidden away in performance reviews (1) and the BOFF’s permanent record (7) rather than being the sole reason why you’d recruit a given BOFF and toss out another. They shouldn’t make or break the officer the way they do now.
To expand on this, each BOFF should have something of a history as well, showing how they entered starfleet (or whatever). They might have been a bit of a prankster back at the academy, or something of a child prodigy. They might have been an NCO who got a commission in the field. Some of these histories could be visible in the BOFF’s permanent record (7), but some might be hidden until revealed by a special episode. After all, who knew that Dr Bashir was geneticly engineered until his parents showed up one day?
We’ve all thought for ages that BOFFs need to sometimes be the centre of attention, and, like in the TV show, have episodes written just to allow the character to develop.
In STO, these episodes should pop up perhaps once within a single tour of duty (1), or perhaps twice if you picked the right option during that officer’s performance review (1).
There should be a decent pool of episodes, based on genesis engine content but with a veneer of character-based fluff on top.
There’s a few important guidelines that will need to be considered when the episode is chosen / generated that would allow for the episode to be properly tailored to the BOFF. The choice of episode should be tied to the following different elements from the BOFF’s database:
Do i really have to explain?
If the BOFF is getting dragged into an arranged marriage from before they joined Starfleet, ala. Troi in the episode ‘Haven’, gender should matter.
Level of experience (4)
This would be an effective measurement of the character’s age. A BOFF with many years of experience might get a surprise one day when his illegitimate child shows up on his doorstep.
Personality types (3)
This should be a major influence on the type of episode the BOFF gets, as it would be a major influence on the BOFF’s personal history. An adversarial, aggressive sort of character might have some old enemies out there, a stubborn character some old grudge with his dear brother, etc.
Talents & Traits (5)
In Star Trek, how many episodes are started by (or feature in some way) a character’s personal projects or unique characteristics? Maybe your science officer’s experiments into medical nanoprobes lead to a nanoprobe infestation that takes over the ship? Think of the possibilities!
Permanent record (7)
This is probably one of the most interesting stats that could influence the choice of episode, because it’s tied to other players as well as to yourself! A BOFF’s permanent record is a record of all their performances in their career, and unless the BOFF is fresh from the academy and been under your command for its entire career, there’s going to be some element of their record influenced by other players.
A BOFF’s loyalty towards their captain should have some influence over the types of episodes available. Episodes of a more personal nature should only appear if there’s a great deal of loyalty, and on the other hand, BOFF’s with extremely low loyalty could be involved in episodes from the other end of the spectrum - investigating their connections with criminal elements, or preventing them from starting a mutiny against you.
Character history (5) is rich ground for BOFF-centric episodes, especially as some histories could be hidden from view until they’ve come out.
Some examples from the TV shows: Worf being raised by humans, Kira’s history in the bajoran resistance, Dax’s past lives, etc.
Some BOFF episodes should come up immediately and require that you resolve them right away, but the majority should sit in your quest log, to be resolved at your leisure.
Completing BOFF episodes should provide small, tangible bonuses to the player, as motivation for completing them. They should provide a big bonus to loyalty, a boost to the BOFF’s experience, possibly improving talents and traits and even learning new ones, or even giving that BOFF access to a unique piece of equipment that only they can use, or even something of a cosmetic nature.
7. Personal Log & Permanent Record
The log is an underutilised feature as it is now, full of trivial and useless information. Instead, each BOFF (and you too, as the captain) should have a personal log that is updated automatically at the end of each episode or encounter. Think of it as each of your BOFFs having a twitter account, but only the captain (you) can read it. They each post a tweet after every mission, with a one-sentence summary of what the mission was, as well as a little flavour text. Maybe that officer shot someone who was about to exploit you? They could write about how they saved the captain. What if you sent them into battle and they picked up 3-4 injuries? They might not feel too good about that.
The flavour of their log entries could be influenced by their loyalty towards you - BOFFs with low loyalty might blame failures on you, but high loyalty might turn that blame upon themselves.
There could also be periodic, semi-random log entries that could hint at BOFF-episodes coming up in the future, or hinting at the development of a new trait or talent. The personal log should not say anything clearly, more of a guide than a report.
Also, the personal log should be kept permanently, from when the BOFF is initially created, all the way through all their tours of duty and up to the present. So if you wanted to, you could read it all the way back to when they were under the command of other captains (players) as well.
Similarly, a BOFF’s permanent record would have a similar function, but be more about how they have developed over time. It should show the highlights of their past performances, whether they were well-used or mostly forgotten by past captains, etc.
When given the choice of a new BOFF from the starfleet pool (8), the BOFF’s permanent record should be what you use to guide your choice.
8. The Pool
BOFF’s arent items, to be created and destroyed as needed. They should be as persistent as the rest of the world, permanently a part of it. Any BOFF that is not currently serving on a starship should be kept in the a starfleet officer pool, ready to be assigned to duty as needed.
When being given new bridge officers, the player should be presented with several choices, not just the take-it-or-leave-it situation we have now. If you have a vacancy on your ship, starfleet would offer 3-4 different officers of roughly equal experience (the level of experience to be decided randomly) to pick from, with only their race, class, and permanent records to tell them apart.
I don't like how the officers are all exactly the same except for cosmetics myself.
Bridge officers are lacking a lot of immersion, especially considering how important they are in the series.
Even Kirk was unable to hog the entire series to himself.
I'd probably overuse the "stay with me" feature as I grew really attached to them. A lot of my officers are just commons that I've had for a long time and don't want to part with.