Mmmh. Interesting point. Time for some instrospection in what my favorite approach would be...
With such graphics, ship driving experience and so on: LT is foremost a first-person driving game. Mining, small pirating, transport for others. The upgrade ship, get a bigger one, and so on. No Factional Management at all. This could we LT 1.0.
Getting richer, we can start defining our own missions to have NPCs ponctually protecting us /mining for us/ transporting for us.
- define missions for NPC, objectives and rewards.
- interface which shows on a "galactic" view what missions are active/pending.
At some point, we may be able to hire other pilots/ships to constantly work for us ("minions"). This can be partly (mining/transport) done with a list of "missions" (level 1) in loops with a flat rate. For fightings, it needs a RTS-style ship tactical control like LT has shown previously, where you can order your ships around and set them targets / formations.
- interface for managing a list of mission for each minion (with sequences or priorities and loops) and flat rate payment. As well as a notification system when something goes wrong (e.g. the npc got killed).
- RTS-style tactical battle management.
- improve "galactic" view to show permanent employees in another color
At the next level we may want to build infrastructure to serve local operations. So we have minions with the "looping" permanent missions (e.g. mine A, bring to port X, mine B, bring to port X, repeat; another is: defend port X) that actually uses your own port. This port would be placed/moved by the player, and would automatically take his assigned minions with him.
- interface for buying/building larger structures.
- interface to bind minions to a structure
- interface to move structure (using its own engine if available, or dedicated towing ships).
Further down the road, we may want to have minions actually independantly reacting with higher level objectives. This would require hiring "bosses" AI and defining high level budget and objectives. The boss would be allowed to hire/fire "minions" on his own, to build structures and move them around.
- interface to set higher-level objectives and conditions (e.g. monthly cost, start-up capital)
- interface to set level of independance (e.g. can the boss use x% of the revenue he generates for growth toward the objective? Or can he take debt from the player's fortune? and so on)
- high level reporting .
I would not go further... this is already going quite far, mostly based on infrastructure, mission system and RTS fleet management, so 3 main interfaces... Further development lies on defining more and more complex "objectives" for the bosses with more and more options and precision.