Space legs for better missions

Whilst I concur that more diverse missions and joined up missions are good - more content is more - it all seems to me to continue the [Fly to location, perform preprogrammed action, get new location] format, relieved only by possible combat. The combat itself is also quite samey; you fight and if you win the reward is to continue with the mission.

The two problems are
1.) No matter how good the flavour text, you are no very invested - especially by the third or fourth time through the similar routine
2.) It is difficult to make any of this a challenge; adding a combat element is a cop-out since a player can go find a satisfying fight without trudging through a mission. Adding a logic puzzle works first time, but creating them takes longer than solving them so you can never get enough variety for replayability.

What is needed is a complex, ideally chaotic (in the mathematical sense) system for the player to interact with. It should have many moving parts - more than the player can easily account for in her head - multiple points where the player can interact, and emergent behaviours. These behaviours are hard to predict, though not implausible after the fact , so they don't run into the problem of the players feeling that their efforts were not effective, even if the effect is not quite what they expected. Meanwhile, they have a selection of other levers to pull - meaningful choices - to try to alter the system to their advantage, or their preference. The ongoing process of tinkering with the system will add investment to the outcome as more effort is applied but, I believe that a more intimate connection with the subject of their attention is also needed.

I believe that the smaller scale political factions dotted around individual systems in Elite are precisely the sort of complex, multifaceted systems which the players can influence in a variety of ways. Players should be encouraged to identify with one side of a political struggle much more deeply than they are.
At present, a player might 'farm' faction in order to get access to a specific port or a resource. Factions can wax and wane as a result, almost incidentally. No doubt some players have 'adopted' a minor faction and tried to push their agenda, just for the lulz. It seems to me that the mission system should be trying much harder to get the players to interact with the factions' core beliefs and policies, to place them in positions of having to choose between ideologies and especially to reward the player in such a way that they rapidly benefit from staying with a faction and allying with them, rather than staying in a system only for long enough to profit from a couple of missions.

The best ways I can think of to get a player to have more than a passing interest in some minor faction on an outlying outpost, or a political resistance are
1.) Have the player meet with a senior member of the faction face to face, not just on a bulletin board - perhaps ship-to-ship after being sent to an out of the way corner of the system, or the factioner being smuggled aboard the players ship. This would require some unique programming for each faction, at least for the speeches they use to persuade the player.
2.) Give the player a home base. There is not too much that can be done to make a particular outpost into a 'home' unless the player can leave the ship and go to their very own assigned quarters. NPC avatars could be welcoming, adulatory, suspicious or comment on past successes or failures.
3.) Create additional NPC characters for each faction (possibly procedurally generated along the same guidelines with stock phrases modified by the size and secrecy of the faction and the standing of the player). Each faction has a demagogue/agitator/conspirator for the player to get to know, and an enforcer to act as nemesis for a player supporting the opposing faction.
4.) As the player becomes important to the faction, faction supporters join the player in -ship - as co-pilot or agent on a dangerous supply run, as the trusted transport for the leaders diplomatic missions (the leader as a passenger would be a start, but vastly more investing if the leader interacts with the player en-route.

Fully opening the world - or even a space station would be hard, but creating individual small areas where avatars could meet and talk (and later, fight?) face-to-face would go a long way to fleshing out the worlds and investing the day-to-day trading, hauling, mining and fighting in a spaceship with personal and social consequences that the player can experience in some small way. Having a player home is always a big deal in MMO games, even if it doesn't do much. Meeting actual members of the faction a player is aiding cements a relationship, and thence a commitment.

A bar/recreation area/social venue would be another advantage in 'humanising' the population of station dwellers. Something like the Star Wars cantina scene, with many programmed set-pieces of stationers interacting as a backdrop for players to meet. Patron characters (mission givers, but without the exclamation mark above their heads, please) could be ready to be chatted up, perhaps after the player gets a tip off about whom to ask. In time the whole black market section of the bulletin board could be moved to furtive interactions in the corners of bars around the station - once the player has become well enough known not to be shunned, kicked out of the bar or even knifed.
Ideally, the whole bulletin board (except the most tedious ship services) could be moved to face-to-face interactions in public areas (where eavesdropping is possible?)

Until the whole spacestation has been rendered enterable and walkable a few notional insta-transportation mechanisms could be set up - just short-range teleports or some more like the Thunderbirds personnel chutes and conveyors - going from ships airlock (or even pilots seat) straight to the bar-room, dock-master office, detention centre, public park etc.

An Addition: In order to fill these spaces with diverse background characters, make a web tool for your users and players to complete with conversations that NPCs can have with each other and with players. If there are a few categories :_

Player listening to NPCs converse
Player hails NPC
Player interrupts NPCs in conversations
NPC interrupts player(s)

and the style for PC-NPC interaction (I recommend keywords, like everquest as the most interesting; could be multiple choice responses for PC) then let the fans generate interactions, you could end up with enough that a player will never hear a repetition.
Generate 20 typical avatars with clear age, gender, social status for the scripters to choose for their interlocutors, and a lsit of character traits that the writer can select from to apply to each (eg happy, angry, greedy) inorder to classify the types. Allow the conversational back and forth to go on for as long as the writer wants, including monologues, stories, arguments, 'stoner'-talk,whatever. The player can listen or move on (or get constantly interrupted if they are trying to do a shady deal in a busy public space.)
Allow the writers to indicate places where there are hooks for insertion of specific information, rumours, treasure maps etc in their conversations and you will have a naturalistic mission giving system. It will be hard to abuse, ignore or click through, too, as the writers of these scripts will be aware of the tricks as well as the hooks for player attention and the game devs will just need to select the best/most suitable for their purpose (vetting, sifting and ranking the thousands of entries will be quite a chore - so crowdsource this too. Have your top fans read and rate the entries,and flag prurience, hate-speech, copyright infringement etc.)

It might even be possible to divide factions up by their ideologies (crimial underworld, rebellion against the oppressors, democratic minority etc) and ask players to write political speeches, chants, persuasive demagoguery or full interactive conversational scripts to argue their philosophy, while responding to player interjections (in the form of keywords or multichoice options.) Get more players to rate the effectiveness of the arguments for or against each of a list of ideologies to build up a database of interactions available to an NPC with a specific ideological combo. There might even be a possibility of having a demagogue lead into expounding arguments from different trees (due to their faction holding some conflicting ideologies.) If the player can manoeuve the conversation in such a way that the NPC chooses talking points that the database indicates as contradictory in a completely different category, an addtional multichoice response option could be added to the script to point this contradiction out. The result of selecting this option would lead elswhere (faction loss, emnity of this NPC, a fight?) or the act of not selecting it could be rewarded with faction gain..?
Either way, this comes close to a verbal 'combat' with clever interaction leading to real gains or losses - so long as the database is big enough that patterns don't repeat too often (and the faction ideologies can be caricatured and categorised appropriately.)
The key is to leverage the willingness, passion and shear number of fans who would work hard for the chance to get something of theirs into this game universe, and to give them the face-to-face interactions that they can script.
Cool stuff and definitely would improve the game even if only some of the stuff would be implemented. But likely we aren't going to see much of this sort of stuff in the near future, I think.
The problem with space legs is that it is an ENTIRE NEW GAME tacked on to the existing game. And I mean that, it's an entirely new game. New items, new mechanics, and it all has to work with all the existing stuff.

Just look at EVEs abortive attempt at captains quarters.

Perhaps... if you land on atmosphere planets, and everything is VERY hard-wired?
I think these are great ideas and was looking for comments on space cantina type ideas as I was thinking that Frontier could really improve the immersiveness of the game and dare i say introduce ‘space legs’ within a limited area of the game by introducing a space bar or cantina button within starport services menu through which your holo-me character is teleported to the starport bar area where you can meet faction/criminal npcs for missions as well as buying/selling/obtaining black market items/missions etc Maybe even meet other cmdrs for a drink - do cmdr to cmdr trades - now that would be awesome (eg miners could sell painte, slaves, drugs, alien items etc or other materials that players want and barter prices!) - could end up just sitting in the bar all day and doing trade deals with other cmdrs - would also be cool to put your own bounties on players/pirates that you want revenge on! Just some ideas i’d like to see in the game too! 🤓
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