Nuclear Families

In cultures that recognize them, the nuclear family is a supremely important unit in the social structure of an expedition. It shapes the overall structure of an expedition’s overarching social network and confers a multitude of benefits. These benefits come at a cost, though, as nuclear families impose certain demands on an expedition that aren’t present in cultures that live communally.


Complete social network data for a husband, wife, and daughter of a small family.


  • The core of a nuclear family forms when romantic partners get married. These married partners and their offspring are members of the family unit, until their children reach adulthood.
  • Some cultures lack marriage and nuclear families, so not all expeditions will contain these social units. For example, Kelgonians live communally and have no real notion of family.
  • The nuclear family structure confers many benefits to its members.
    • Married partners living together usually receive significant socialization benefits. As long as they like each other, which is almost always a prerequisite to forming the relationship, they’ll benefit from more positive socialization by socializing more frequently with each other.
    • Parents in nuclear families often assume at least some childcare responsibilities for their children. When children receive instruction from parents, significant bonuses are imparted that aren’t conferred by unrelated teachers.
  • The nuclear family structure does incur costs that aren’t present in cultures that live communally.
    • Nuclear families will demand separate living spaces set aside exclusively for them. This drastically increases an expedition’s construction and housing requirements.
    • Adequately furnishing all of these separate places imposes further manufacturing requirements. These are particularly pronounced in materialistic cultures that highly value consumer goods.

Nuclear Family Mechanics

In Outer Colony, nuclear families are expressed as special links in an NPC’s social network. If we look at the screenshot at the top of this article, we can see the social network data for all three members of a small nuclear family: a husband, a wife, and a daughter. The husband, wife, and child links carry a tremendous closeness, causing the family unit to communicate and socialize strongly.

Beyond the special social links, additional mechanics govern how nuclear family members go about tasks in their daily lives. Nuclear families will want to live together in rooms or structures put aside for their exclusive use. This is where individual room assignment becomes extremely important. Assigning a room to an individual in a nuclear family opens up that room to use by all of its members. When nuclear families first form via marriage, you’ll want to make sure that you provide the new family with at least a single specific room. As the family grows, you’ll need to ensure that it has enough beds and adequate furnishing to accommodate all its members.

The specialized living arrangements and powerful bonds in the NPCs’ social networks are the core elements of the nuclear family. These elements provide a variety of additional benefits to family member NPCs, but also incur significant costs to an expedition.

Nuclear Family Benefits

One of the prime benefits of nuclear families comes from the increased frequency of positive socialization among its members. This starts with the family’s original constituents, the romantic pair that gets married. Under nearly all circumstances, there’s some degree of fondness between these two, and their socialization is usually positive. By living in close proximity to one another, they socialize more with each other, which is yields positive experiences. This also tends to decrease socialization outside the family unit, which limits changes for negative socialization and development of enmity.

The positive socialization benefits continue as the family expands with children. In general, children derive many of their traits from their parents. This makes children somewhat like their parents, with some degree of unpredictable variation. The end result is that, under most circumstances, parent and child socialization will be positive. While there are exceptions to this rule, the overall result is usually even more positive socialization.

Finally, children derive tremendous benefits from parents when they’re raised in a nuclear family. When a child is born to a family, its parents will automatically assume some child care responsibilities. Parents attach high values to goals that improve the likelihood of their children being successful, so when a parent provides education or training to a child, the effects of these lessons are drastically enhanced. While unrelated educators almost always play some role in the education of a child, the skill increases, intellect increases, and physical increases from parental training are often significantly greater.

Expedition Demands & Nuclear Family Costs


An expedition request dialog, showing new housing demands for several nuclear families.

The downside of nuclear families comes from their drastically increased material requirements. When a family forms, it submits a request to its expedition for its own, separate housing. Each family needs at least one room, with adequate bedding for all its members, in order to be satisfied. For a family to be fully satisfied, its rooms need to be stocked with all sorts of items to satisfy the preferences of its individual members.


Frustration experience from inadequate housing. This will damage mood more and more as time goes by, if the problem is allowed to fester.

Failure to satisfy these housing requirements will result in frustrating experiences to family members. These experiences will drastically decrease the family’s mood, and the longer that the problem goes on, the more bad experiences the NPCs will have. Bad moods degrade performance in almost all endeavors, and housing inadequacies need to be addressed quickly, or the entire expedition can suffer.

Obviously, these requirements far exceed what’s needed in cultures that live communally. In Kelgonian culture, a single, giant hall, filled with cots, furniture, and desirable items is all the expeditions’ members need to be happy.

In addition to the additional construction requirements needed to satisfy the housing requests, item demands are also much higher. When an item is placed in a communal, Kelgonian room, all the expedition’s members will share it and derive benefits from it. When a desirable item is placed in the room of a single family, only that family’s members can derive benefits from the item. Additional copies of that item must be manufactured and distributed to all of the families that want it.


So, is a culture better with or without nuclear families? Like almost all cultural features, it’s up to the player to decide. There’s certainly a high degree of utilitarian efficiency derived from communal living, but a multitude of potent benefits are ceded without family dynamics, In some ways, the question comes down to the value of an individual: the benefits conferred to the individual children and the individual family members – are they worth all of the associated costs? It’s a decision at the societal level that ultimately has to be made by players.

Posted in NPCs