Game Design: Crew on U-Boats, part 1
———————————————Ever since we started working on SH3, one question was present: how can we make a difference? What is the one thing that other sub sims don’t have and we can try to do? Therefore, while we were still in the concept phase, I asked people around the studio what they would like to see in a sub simulator. Well, among other issues the most often mentioned feature was a crew.
People often mentioned the “ghost ship” sensation associated with naval simulators – you feel like you are alone there. Of course, there are voices of the crew for reports and warnings and whatnot, but you don’t get to see the guys around too often.
I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the idea in the beginning. I thought that when you played a simulator you wanted full control of the machine.. that feeling of discovering what every little dial in a complex interface means. I know that at times, it is slow and tedious to learn it but the feeling of absolute control is very empowering in the end.
But the more I thought about it, the more I saw the good side of it. Having a crew in the U-Boat will create the feeling you are really in there. You will really feel you are the captain of the boat. It would be like a captain simulator.
That conclusion got my mind racing: a crew with a morale sinking and rising as you fail or succeed, suffering from battle fatigue, which will gain experience as you progress through the campaign, the possibility to promote them, to award them medals and citations, to specialize them in various fields…
Next came research – how many crew members did a U-Boat have, what did they do, how many officers were there, how did crews differ from one boat to another, what uniforms did they wear?
That is how I found out that more than half of the crew on a U-Boat was technical personnel. That is how I learnt that First Watch Officers were the executive officeri in charge torpedo attacks when at surface, that Second Watch Officers were the junior officers in charge of the deck gun and the flak guns, that the Chief Engineers actually were the most important persons on the boat after the captain and so on…
In the end, I decided that we’d have a crew with 3 classes – officers, petty officers and sailors. The officers will be the key class in the boat, as they will be able to do more jobs (multiple qualification), the petty officers will be specialists in various field (torpedoes, deck gun, engines, etc.) and the sailors will be the general rank-and-file troopers. Of course any sailor will have the chance to be promoted to petty officer and even become an officer (should he survive that long in the campaign!!).
This should result in enough diversity to simulate the real structure and evolution of the crew.
Now that I have a layout to work with, it is down to formulae and number crunching …