So, one of the two major storylines I want to create in UGC involves a diplomatic mission to the home planet of my main character's species. They aren't members of the Federation yet, more like allies who are leaning toward membership, and they're also fairly new to the wider galactic community.
Anyway... I'm realizing as I think on this, that in order for an ambassador to interact with them, they'll probably need to know at least a little bit about them (as well as some of the translation quirks I'm going to be using*)... and I find myself at a bit of a crossroads on this issue.
On the one hand: I could give you time either before leaving Earth or on the way to the planet to simply read datafiles about them; maybe even have a simple quiz to ensure you were paying attention. That serves the purpose of getting the information out there, and is fairly 'realistic' to what one would expect an ambassador would be doing before heading off to meet a foreign power.
On the other hand... it's just flat out bad storytelling. It's a blatant violation of "show, don't tell"; even if it is perfectly logical. While I'm certain that anyone taking on a mission of this type is going to be fine doing some reading - I mean it is a diplomatic mission after all - I don't want to bore people.
The hard part being: For some folks (I know myself at the very least) who like reading info about someone's custom creation... the bad storytelling element isn't a problem because it's as much about learning. So in that sense it might still be entertaining and worthwhile... but again it really is just bad storytelling; and I don't really know what level of the population is geeky enough to want to read a fair amount of info ahead of time.
Of course compounding this... I'm having difficulty coming up with a reasonable alternative. I've thought about scattering data-pads throughout, kind of like in "What Lies Beneath' where you can find out why Gein is down there in the first place that way... but that might feel kind of haphazard. Like "err... you're an ambassador, and you waited until now to understand the basics of what's going on here?"
Likewise, good storytelling would just have me give them a vague bit of background, then let them see for themselves what these people are like and come to their own conclusions from that. Which would work if you'd just crash landed on their planet... but seems again like it'd leave a woefully unprepared ambassador.
So, given that I'm running out of ideas and I want to jump right in when Foundry is up... I figure this is a good a time as any to solicit advice.
Anyone have any ideas on precisely how I might get this information to the player while not overloading them with factoids and data so as to keep up a good story pace? (I know on the shows they'd probably just give the captain the information, but not the audience... a little harder when the captain IS the audience though, heh.)
*In short, the species in question does not have the same vocal equipment as most sapient species - they can make complex sounds and do have several spoken languages... but they're not really comprehensible without extensive study and very sensitive ears, or a universal translator. It also means that trying to pronounce things in the local dialect is... pretty well impossible if you aren't a member of said species; so there's some translation convention getting applied.
The common Trek Trope for delivering this information would be a discussion in the observation lounge. Bridge Officers could then add their input based on their specialities. Maybe an interactive in-transit scene where you're talking to your Boffs?
Just don't forget to write in a line where anything complicated gets re-explained with a simple to grasp metaphor. Like subtitles for the hard of thinking.
Personally, I'd like to see information about a species given out in smaller parcels, but in places that make sense; like some background on the species given by the Science Officer via his library computer en route, then maybe a briefing in person by your ship's counselor on the way to a meeting. Then a discrete (or not so discrete, depending on the circumstances) tricorder scan... and last, by actually talking/interacting with them.
This speaking of Boffs gives me an oddball idea...
Depending on what the game lets me do of course... what would you think about having a liaison assigned to your ship for the duration of the trip? They'd meet you at Earth Spacedock (or wherever I decide this is going to launch from); and then on the way in addition to talking to your BOs you could get some more direct details from this individual as well?
That way, in theory at least, you could get information on them both from an outside perspective, a historical perspective, and directly from the source...
@Kinjiru - My writer's instincts definitely like this approach better than an infodump. I guess my concern is leaving the player with too little info - I don't want them feeling like they've walked into something they can't reasonably deal with. Still, I think if I'm going to err, I'd rather err on this side - players may forgive you for something unforeseen coming up; but if you bore them it can be hard to get them to continue.
I may well need to wait on branching mission structure to actually do the whole arc now that I think of it though... I want to really focus on the cultural aspects where possible; and there are some subtle details which could impact things.
Hrmm... and this has just given me an idea for a feature to request as well...
Is it wierd that I thought of something very similar to this for a Foundry mission? (visit the Vilscaran homeworld to negotiate a treaty and learn some more about them)
On topic, I think a good way to do this is to pick up an Ambassador at a space station, then when you beam down to the planet surface, the Ambassador stands next to your beam in point and you can talk to him to learn more about whats happening, kinda like how they did it in the first Breen Episode.
Best way to do it, IMHO, is to show AND tell. Offer an opportunity to interact with the computer and read some files (without making it mandatory), while sprinkling the information you want the player to know through the narrative.
There's also the standard Star Trek infodump: the Captain's Log. Good way to quickly set up the broad strokes of your mission without bogging the player down with unneeded details.