Career History

Hey Folks! Working on the next character creation UI today: career history.

The top-down sprite for this was a yellow kiosk/counter, as I was sort of picturing a job board of some kind. However, after a bit more perusing for ideas, I saw an image of a "build-a-resume" kiosk at an employment office, and thought that sounded more appropriate. So I set about creating a kiosk screen for compiling the player's career history, in the most utilitarian, boring government UI way possible :)

The rough workflow will look something like this:

  1. Access kiosk from map.
  2. Kiosk asks for player name. Simple text box and submit button.
  3. Kiosk shows list of careers player can choose from (seen above). Available careers depend on player's stats, starting location, and prior career choices. So not all careers are available at all times. (E.g. can only take Doctor after med school).
  4. Clicking a career shows more detail about it.
  5. If the player can choose this career, they are presented with a list of skills they can choose.
  6. After the player chooses their skills, they "submit" their choice and see if any special events happen. (E.g. family death, accident, windfall, special contacts, friends, or enemies, etc.)
  7. The career choice is added to the "Resume History" sidebar.
  8. If the player can choose another career, return to step 3.
  9. Otherwise, the career path ends, and the player moves on to another kiosk to continue character generation.

Career-ending events mainly include obtaining a starting ship, which basically signifies how the player got started as a captain. The probability of this will depend on the career chosen, but will likely increase each new career, to ensure all players end up with a ship eventually. (Each starting location has a maximum age, given the colony's founding date. So I can probably scale chances of getting a ship to always reach 100% by that maximum age.)

I wouldn't mind experimenting with career-ending death, too, as that was sort of a neat feature of the Traveller RPG. But I'll have to see if that's fun or just annoying, and is secondary to the ship-based end above.

Also, I've setup the "Resume History" sidebar with "Edit" buttons in case the player wants to go back and change their choices. I'm guessing this is going to be necessary, though it might be weird to combine this with the death outcome I mention above. Also, it might be interesting to experiment here with "perma-choice," as it sort of transforms the experience into a choose-your-own-adventure. But again, this all requires testing to see.

Ultimately, the desired outcome here is to spool-up a history for the player. Some idea of who they are, what they've done, who they've pissed-off vs. befriended, and using that info in-game later to create procedural events and goals.

Tags: Ostranauts


ra1's picture

I presume there will be advantages to getting a ship earlier in life (but at the opportunity cost of getting it in a less "respectable" way, which negatively affects in-game relationships). Otherwise, why not always choose the "long" route?

dcfedor's picture

You're right that there should probably be some sort of trade-off, or else a dominant strategy will emerge. Ship legality can certainly be one option.

More careers also exposes the player to more chances of enemies, friends, skills, hardships, and other events. That, and the inevitable toll of time on the human body. Being a 20-year veteran of the shipyards might mean you have a few missing limbs, one eye, one ear, and half of your face's skin melted off :)

Another approach might work if I decide to go the route where players can "fail" character creation. In this case, starting with a ship wouldn't be guaranteed, so if the clock ran out before a ship appeared, you would have to re-roll a new character. In this case, it will be up to players to make the right choices at the right time to end up with a ship, and there would be pressure to choose the first ship one is offered, in case there are no more chances.

Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games

Rovlad's picture

I'm not sure failing character creation would be fun, to be honest. Unless you can reroll straight away without restarting or something. In which case it's not much of an impact to begin with.
I think that your previous idea, having you end up with a ship in any case was better. Otherwise you just end up vulnerable to witty youtubers going "huh, short game" on your expense. :)

dcfedor's picture

I think you're right that failing chargen could be annoying if not handled well. I have a (potentially misguided) suspicion there might be a fun way to do it, too. I think a lot will depend on the details.

So, for example, if each career term has random "loot" (in the form of contacts, accidents, windfalls, death, and a better/worse ship), it becomes sort of a game in itself. Higher risk for higher reward as you plot your history, aiming to end up with a desireable result.

The only risks at this stage of the game are undesirable attributes/events on the character, or losing what you've "won" so far. In the latter case, the game wouldn't necessarily have to boot you back to the title screen if you lost, forcing you to reload, re-choose appearance, homeworld, gender, etc. (Which would be tedious and annoying.) It could just erase the career history, but leave you in the chargen station to try again.

Of course, you're right that even this isn't ideal because you can just reroll without consequence. Like random stats in old crpgs, just mash the "reroll" button until you get enough 18s.

Then again, even if we remove death from career loot options, people will still feel tempted (or worse, obligated) to keep re-rolling careers until the loot is "good." Like, "aw crap, this career is only okay, I should probably redo it exactly the same way and hope for a rare drop."

I guess this sort of comes with the territory of randomness in this context. Players will gravitate towards the "best" outcome, potentially retrying over and over, to their own annoyance. Which maybe implies that we need either less randomness, or else some balancing effects.


Dan Fedor - Founder, Blue Bottle Games