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Kill the Grind : adding crew management mechanics to OW sailing


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Outside of combat and trading, there's a core gameplay element that seems to be missing from this game, to make it fully engaging and more sim-like.
 
My main gripe with Naval Action is not its slow pace, nor its detailed trade system. And certainly not its tension-filled sea combat.
 
Rather it is in the feeling of grinding for XP that this game conveys, a game design sin typical of MMORPGs. To be sure, this feeling of grinding for XP is the single biggest reason for my install/play-a-few-sessions/uninstall relationship I've had with this game over the last two years.
 
It's also my belief that no amount of tweaking with ship speed and manoeuvrability - or ship teleportation - will solve the current XP grinding issue tied to the open world portion of the game.
 
No, what Naval Action needs right now is a feature that adds depth to the moment-to-moment gameplay in the open world sailing part of the game.
 
My suggestion is as follows : add an additional layer of simulation to the sea travel gameplay. Specifically, a crew management "layer" should be added on top of the auto-skipper function, so the player can micromanage crew tasks and activities while engaging in sea travel, and be reactive to changes both in weather events and aggregate crew behaviour.
 
How I see this feature in my mind's eye : a replacement/upgrade of the current very basic ship management interface available on the top left of the screen in the open-world sailing portion of the game. Basically : while sailing on the high seas using the WASD controls and mouse for ship and camera control, the player should be able to hit the space bar (or caps lock) at any time to get a full "ship dashboard" translucent overlay superimposed onto the the main screen, for the tasks of both crew and ship management.
 
This "ship dashboard" could be a simplified cutaway of the player's current main ship, side view or overhead view (or both). Using the mouse, the player could then click at sections of the ship cutaway and select specific tasks, from simple pop-up contextual menus appropriate for each ship section. Thus, from the overall pool of sailors, a set number of sailors could be assigned to a specific task located at the selected part of the ship.
 
Banished Labour Pool
Beyond the ship cutaway, the "ship dashboard" overlay could also provide a basic sailor task assignment table - à la Banished - for crew assignment to specific tasks from the overall pool of "free" crew. Or, a visual 24h crew scheduler - à la Prison Architect - to play around with different schedules of crew rotations. Sailing modes could also be implemented into the regular scheduler, such as a "discipline mode" for an unruly crew (a "crew loyalty" metric would have to be added, of course), an "emergency mode" (full crew mobilization) in the event of storms.
 
In terms of visuals, this system would require no animations or complex visuals. No need to do full cutaway visuals à la Silent Hunter (or the upcoming UBoot). Just a good visual implementation of real-time crew management mechanics via a visual dashboard and ship schematic. Simple metrics could do, so long as feedback to player management actions in implemented in a clear fashion.
 
Prison Architect Regime PlannerOf course, I'm also aware that the main challenge of implementing such a system lies at the level of game mechanics. For effective crew management to work at the moment-to-moment gameplay level, the design team will have to tie crew management activities to overall ship and sailing performance. So the crew management model needs to seamlessly blend in with the ship sailing mechanics. At minimum, this would mean that optimal crew management by the player would impact ship speed and manoeuverability. One could also tie a crew "morale" metric to tangible sailing performance benefits : i.e. optimal crew management - the sweet spot between discipline and meeting diverse crew needs - would result in an overall better, and more adaptive sailing experience. More experienced crew would also handle weather situations more responsively, etc.
 
I am mindful that there already exists a simple version of moment-to-moment crew management mechanic in Naval Action's combat mode. My view is that this feature needs to be extended onto the regular sailing gameplay, via a crew management screen overlay that can be toggled on or off at will during the activity of sailing - or even as an optional feature available in the options menu for players who don't want a crew management layer added to the existing sailing experience, but with XP generating activity to incentivize players who do wish to occupy themselves with crew management for the added challenge.
 
Naval Action : it's the name of the game. So let's add a little bit more action, and a little less grind, and this game will truly shine !
 
In my opinion, real-time crew management mechanics would be a definite cure to the bore out and grindyness of the moment-to-moment sailing gameplay. Properly implemented, this feature could make the sailing portion of the game even more immersive, propelling the sim qualities of the game a notch up from its current state.
 
So that's my two cents, for what it's worth. As for the feasibility, the devs and the NA community are in a better position than me to assess whether this is desirable (or realizable) feature for the current game. Many thanks to all of you who've taken the time to read this for hearing me out. And my apologies if I've missed somebody else posting an identical suggestion : my bad! :)
Edited by Tiresias
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  • 4 weeks later...

i like this idea very much. in fact i was looking for an immersive/realistic game like this set in Age of Sail and have a 1:1 scale ship that you can walk on and manage aside from sailing / combat. ships then have crew of over 100 people or more with watches and such. i have played Banished and Rimworld, and sometimes these Work Priorities is a minigame in itself, looks simple but hard to master to achieve 100% effeciency. it's not annoying either because it is integrated well into how the sims and your colony function as a whole.

i know it's not within the current scope of Naval Action, which is more focused on world of warships-like PvP. but i think if added such a crew management function to NA, it would be more unique than openworld trading, and make it more engaging than afk-sailing in openworld. sadly it seems the engine is perhaps itself too fixed at this point to allow modifications like this.

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