So, you start off as a bloke in a ship. Then you buy another ship. My question: who is piloting this other ship?
In the dev videos you see a "pilot name" listed, which implies there is an NPC piloting the ship. So, where do they go when you jump into it to ride it around? Into the ship you just vacated? And what are they doing while you're not using them? Sitting around in the hangar playing cribbage? Why don't you need to pay any more than the initial cost to get a crewed-up ship running?
At present it looks as if a ship comes with a generic stripped down NPC without any goals or motivations. It follows orders and just does what you say. That's *fine* if that's the way it is. Games are like that.
There are two ways I see that this could be theoretically "better" both in terms of plausibility and gameplay mechanics, however both of them also have potential downsides.
- You have to hire a pilot if you want to get the ship to work for you. I know we don't have "crew management" but if a ship needs an NPC operator they must have to come from somewhere.
- It would also impose a slowdown on expansion so that the cap of ~100 ships in a fleet becomes much more plausible from within the game world.
- I haven't seen any indication that NPCs exist separately from their ships within the game engine, so a free-floating pool of unemployed shipless NPCs would be, if nothing else, a market problem. Does the game want to simulate a labour market as well as a commodities market?
- You have to manage disparate personalities along the way. What's in it for an NPC to come fly for you for some amount of wages when they could, in fact, save up those wages, buy their own ship, and leave you looking for a new pilot for *your* ship? Fascinating from a realism point of view, but could become game-breakingly frustrating.
- Or, the pilots of your ships are basically an AI (as in, I know everything is AI, but an AI within the game world).
- This makes a great deal of plausible sense while missing out the "manage a staff" problem.
- It would introduce a real conceptual and gameplay difference between flying with a fleet of ships you own and a fleet of NPCs who happen to be temporarily aligned with you for the purposes of a mission.
- It also means that there could (perhaps) be a mid/late-game need to hire actual "full" NPCs to run various bits of your empire/corporation/naval fleet that the basic AIs can't do, although this might just shift the "managing personalities" aspect down a kilohour of play or so. (Still, it seems more plausible that an NPC would see the advantage in managing a whole mining network or carrier fleet for some money than they would see an advantage in becoming generic cannon fodder for some noob.)
- The way I see Josh's design, I think he's envisaging NPCs as being basically "human equivalent" players - i.e. they can do everything I can do. So, can NPCs also purchase ships and run fleets operating with "Ship AI"? And at what stage does that become a computational bottleneck? It seems like that's an invitation to slam into the 100 ship limit like a brick wall across a highway.
- You could just say NPCs can't run AI-based fleets, but then, why not? That's just an invitation for the player to run away into God Mode after a while.
Also pls to deliver the moon on a stick kthx.