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Operative Getting Streamlined!

Near Future Corporate Espionage!

Post Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:36 pm
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Posts: 60
Location: Chicago

Net Gain arose from Pen and Paper, and in an odd "Getting away from"/"Returning to" design process, I'm redesigning operative skills to be more intuitive. It's difficult because I want to keep the variety that we all love, but as a broker you should be able to evaluate an operative fairly well at a glance.
Also as it is there are certain "Special" skills that are used in the mechanics while others arent, and the player never knows what. this was by design (just like in P+P, you have your dodge skill and your plane repair skill), but I'm not liking it in practice.

So I'm both leaving behind the old P+P skill list while embracing some of my more eccentric ideas for the original P+P at the same time, streamlining the skills, changing the details over into an old concept of "specialities", etc. It's important not to let details cause too much complexity on the broker's end, and given the other things I want operatives to have the old skill list just wasn't cutting it.

Given there's no saving and any operatives you do get tend to die in bloody messes, I think now might be a good time to test such a drastic change to the fellas.

As a vague summary: Currently there's no real difference between most of the schools/skills, except a few unmarked "special" skills that are used in things like combat, for soaking or for attacks, or for avoiding detection, etc. This works for a P+P but not so much for a video game, especially one where you are managing multiple people, not just one.
Schools will be more condensed (down to 11, 3 of which are schools most operatives wont have: Corporate, Security, Operations). Each school has a distinct purpose and mechanical implementation. the skills within are more condensed, combining some skills. There are 3 skills per school, each serving a different mechanical function. Most of the old skills come back as "Perks": either Training Perks that enable you to do new things with that skill, or Specialty Perks offering small bonuses in specific circumstances.

Here's a list of the Schools/Skills for the first test of this change. Obviously these are all prone to change but this should give you an idea:

Combat
-Assault
-Defense
-Ambush

Net
-Dataflow
-Node
-Program

Social
-Charm
-Authority
-Etiquette

Covert
-Stalk
-Stealth
-Technique

Drive
-Pursuit
-Escape
-Mechanic

Medical
-Treat
-Recover
-Surgery

Artisan
-Craft
-Design
-Modify

Academic
-Science
-Humanities
-Culture

Corporate
-Acquisitions
-Management
-Relations

Security
-Tactics
-Enforcement
-Logistics

Operations
-Planning
-Adapting
-Handling
President - Developer
Level Zero Games

Post Fri Oct 25, 2013 6:54 pm

Posts: 12
Location: 19th Floor - Logistics
I'd be lying if I said this doesn't leave me at least somewhat unhappy.

I mean, I totally get what you're saying. I've kind of glazed over the finer points of Operative skills because of the early nature of the game, and the disposable nature of playthroughs. It's a list I've expected to see trimmed down. The granular nature of the skills you were creating, "Drive: Auto, Drive: Water, Drive: VTOL" was pretty unwieldy, and was setting players up for having dozens and dozens of specialist Operatives to throw at problems. I wasn't exactly relishing the prospect of hiring specialist operatives perhaps every other missions. Missions were hard to plan for and you ended up recycling your options until you got one that worked for your team. It contributed to missions feeling like a random set of parameter instead of some tangible objective to be beaten. So yeah, I'm totally on board with a refactor.

But the list leaves me feeling a little cold. I see a lot of Professions pretty much rendered null by this. I'd miss my nimble athlete. My guy who specializes in latex faces. Or "The Knife Guy." Some I wouldn't miss, like....the Commander. Or the Language Expert. (Which, while kind of cool on it's own, is a prime example of a skill system that doesn't scale in a wrist-friendly way.)

Most of all though, I guess I'd be missing the opportunity to cross-train Operatives to fill multiple, interesting roles. Like the Athlete/Spy. Or the Face/Interrogator.

I absolutely see the practical need for these changes, but I kind of mourn the loss of the cool factor, the uber personalization and identity some of those roles lend Operatives. Traits will still do a good job of that once they're in.....but the reduction of schools into these broader, more abstract category does leave things seeming a bit more "gamey."

As you said, that list isn't final. If things are going to be abstracted in this way, I hope we see more additions, so perhaps Operatives can have a broader range of access to different schools. (For example, shouldn't everyone has some basic knowledge of physicality?)

I have faith you'll get it sorted. This is just one of those realities of development, where good ideas get iterated on to become better ideas.

Post Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:33 pm
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Posts: 60
Location: Chicago

There's a bigger explanation over on Bay12, but to summarize:

The old skills you know and love are for the most part making the transition, but in the form of perks. So they're playing this different part of the games mechanisms... I'm basically taking from the attention budget for "detail planning" and "conflict action" stuff, in exchange for shaving down the learning curve and drudgework in setting up missions, making operatives easier to comprehend at a glance - which means we can afford to have MORE operatives involved... etc. I've been considering all the options :)

I *would* have rather kept this and shaved it down after the conflict systems were in, but I have to change this to build those conflict systems, otherwise it wastes a ton of time and resources.

Actually I think the "resetting" thing you're doing isn't too common a technique, or so I hope... from what I can tell the more common solution, as intended, is to hire the people you need until your team is averagely good enough to pass most missions, or at the least, pass the "escape" and "conflict" plots. after all, you can keep wailing on something if you can keep escaping when you fail... but yerah none of that is ideal, but I'm hoping a lot of that will get better when operatives are recommending the plots directly. then it's the mission following your choice of people. You still might need to fill a few roles, but they will strive for plots that utilise their skills.

And that highlights another problem, having that level of granularity on that level of planning put undue importance on those skills. That plus the wonky placeholder conflict system means you had to have that specific skill instead of trusting your operative who just knows something in the school. by moving skill consideration off that mechanic, people will trust more in the (old) school level... equivalent to the skills in this new streamlined layout.

And the Bay 12 Repost:
For example: You can have the explosives perk on Combat/Assault, or even Combat/Tactics, and that makes your guy use explosives in conflicts, recommend explosive-themed plots,bonus on explosive tests, etc.
Currently, I'm considering either a fixed 1-perk per, or "slotting" Perks in skill ranks, so for example you'd need at least 3 Assault to use explosives (required 3 slots). if you had 4 Assault, you might have Explosives(3) and shortarms(1). so those are costs to slot, not ranks for tests as we currently have.

So, that means when you're looking at who can do what, you have this streamlined list of ops to pick from: "I need someone for protection... ok these guy have good combat skills, these two are good at defense." And then if you are so inclined to work with such details: "Well this guy has explosives and I'm trying not to cause too much attention, so I'll go with this guy who has some Covert schools, and thus covert skills and tags, as well. He'll be more likely to recommend stealthy takedowns instead of loud ambushes, and he'll try to keep it quiet if it gets rough."
President - Developer
Level Zero Games

Post Sat Oct 26, 2013 3:08 pm

Posts: 12
Location: 19th Floor - Logistics
Actually I think the "resetting" thing you're doing isn't too common a technique, or so I hope... from what I can tell the more common solution, as intended, is to hire the people you need until your team is averagely good enough to pass most missions, or at the least, pass the "escape" and "conflict" plots. after all, you can keep wailing on something if you can keep escaping when you fail...


Challenges that have a red component in them regardless of what my team is are a no-go. Challenges where gear is the only thing that makes them a guaranteed success are evaluated (i.e. challenge level 6, Skill roll 0 to 11 is not a winnable challenge in my book....because if they fail, gear can't make up the difference.)

So if gear CAN make up the difference (challenge level 6, skill roll 2 to 8), I count up how many challenges fall on an Op. If the total is greater than the gear they have, the mission isn't viable. If it's not, the mission is viable.

Basically I assume every Op I have is going to roll the worst they possibly can. Gear is the leverage that that lets me push it a little farther. If the gear can't meet a specific challenge, or if the Op will have too many challenges that mission which will require gear as a fail safe, I back out and shop for new plots against the same target. Failing to do that means inevitably your ops will blow their roles. And that means they will inevitably blow their recovery rolls too. And that means they're dead, as the conflict system stands right now.

That's the math I use to evaluate things right now. And it results in me re-rolling about 50% of offered missions because the margin for error is too high. With the economy being in constant flux, hiring specialists quickly stops being an option. I've gone weeks after a massive, instant downswing in funding, in the red. To the point where I'm spending the slush fund just to pay up keep on 6 Operatives.

Post Sat Oct 26, 2013 9:11 pm

Posts: 29
Hey, The way i look at it as it stands and how it might handle could very.

The way i have played the game to date is to work out what a company has in my intel gather what i can, put stocks into that company and then send a squad in and see what can happen. Now saying that.

I have played around and i guess i agree with the lowest possible roll when doing missions but it can still make a pass sometimes :P. Trying to find the right people for a mission isnt too bad as its like a driver / hacker / secretary and biker as per say, this is roughly how i think about missions at this time. not exact but an example :).

Changing people in school's can be sweet as it could open up the possibility to get that mission out of the way so im all for the school thing, But maybe have it open just in case there might be a school that we all think about and maybe want to implement in the long run ?.

As for My people doing the missions and learning more like a runner / spy < person i dont see happening at this stage unless you put some type of rpg element into the game where if they came out of a mission they could gain said skill and slowly get better over time ?.

As it was or is at this time is that i think the operative is just one thing and the game trys to do its very best to use that operative in the best way it can. But i can see the side that this is very narrow in terms of how the operatives go about there jobs.

Knowing what the out come of a game could be and how it goes about it, i think once we all know how that is ment to go then we could start to assume this or that.

Im willing to go with however it is but waiting for a great game to come out of this regardless of what happens.


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