Orders & Metaorders: Commanding an Expedition

OC is played by issuing orders to your expedition’s personnel. One important thing to keep in mind is that issuing an order doesn’t force any of your NPCs to do anything. Orders influence the goal selection processes of your people, usually in a very strong way, but it’s ultimately up to them as to whether or not they’ll comply with your directives.

Furthermore, many types of orders are much higher level directives than commands in traditional RTS games. You specify that you want a defensive fire position manned or a field planted with crops, and your expedition’s people figure out how to accomplish this. In general, you specify the things that you want achieved, but you don’t explicitly command Klegnius Gropinar to walk over to the field, plant the crops, and harvest them when ripe. This makes command in OC somewhat more operational and less tactical, as your NPCs handle more details of their jobs without direction.

This requires a bit of a change in mindset, but is ultimately a very fun and interesting aspect of the game.

Order_View

A view of the order management dialog.

Summary

  • When you play OC, everything you do is accomplished by issuing orders.
  • Orders are instructions given to your expedition to do something.
    • Orders are expressed as an end state that is to be achieved. For example, a wall existing at a location is the end state of an order to build a wall.
    • Often, your NPCs will decide on how to go about accomplishing the objectives you’ve specified.
  • Metaorders are directives to accomplish complex tasks that can broken down into a collection of simpler, atomic orders. For example, a metaorder to dig a mining shaft can be decomposed into a collection of digging orders and stairwell construction orders over the mineshaft’s length. They’re convenience mechanisms meant to simplify common tasks.
  • Orders work by influencing the goal selection processes of your NPCs. They don’t force your NPCs to do anything, just like a professor’s directive to write an essay won’t force his students to do so. The students can choose not to write the essay and instead to deal with the consequences. Your NPCs are the same. Under normal circumstances, your NPCs will generally do what you tell them to. When placed in extreme circumstances or when dealing with NPCs that have peculiar personalities, results may vary.

Issuing Orders

Learning how to issue orders is the key mechanical aspect to learning OC. In general, orders are issued by selecting the right order tool and specifying necessary order details. The following is a view at the order toolbar, found on the right side of OC’s main interface.

Order_Toolbar

Note that more order types are being added as OC is developed. This screenshot is from the alpha 0.12 build.

Clicking on these buttons can load advanced order options for certain varieties of orders. The letters above correspond to the following order varieties:

Different kinds of orders have different workflows associated with their creation, and this article won’t cover all of these. Some high level concepts to keep in mind are that most orders require some location information to be specified and that most orders require some kind of detail specification. Location specification is universal, and is accomplished by clicking on the world view. For orders that can be applied to multiple locations, clicking and dragging will show a red grid where the order will be applied.

Location_Designation

Selecting surface tiles to be mined.

Order detail specification, however, varies greatly from order type to order type. This should make sense, when you think about it. Different details are needed when you’re telling someone what kind of house you want built than when telling someone what sort of crops you want planted. Still, I’ve tried to keep order detail specification as starightforward as possible, and other pages should guide users through these mechanics.

Planting_Details

A detail specification interface for issuing orders to plant crops.

 Viewing & Managing an Expedition’s Orders

As you play OC, you’ll find that you issue many orders concurrently to keep your NPCs busily working. Larger expeditions can have scores of concurrent orders that your NPCs are working on, and keeping track of these is very important. Clicking the order management button (its icon is a megaphone) will load your expedition’s order management dialog.

Order_Management_Button

An example of this dialog is shown at the top of this article. Individual orders can be selected on the left side of the interface, and details about those orders will be shown on the right hand side. You can also cancel orders by selecting them and clicking the “Rescind Selected Order” button. You can multi-select from this list to cancel many orders at once.

Ensuring Orders are Obeyed

If we assume that you’re giving the right sort of direction to accomplish your greater goals, then the key to success in OC is making sure that your orders are obeyed. How is this accomplished? For the most part, this is done by making sure that your NPCs’ basic needs are met. If your people have no food and are on the verge of starvation, they’ll probably reach a point at which they ignore your insane orders to build a megalithic monument, and they’ll break off and go in search of food. The most straightforward way to avoid this sort of breakdown is to make sure your NPCs are content and that their needs are met. Make sure they have food and water. Make sure they get enough sleep and that they’re sleeping in comfortable places. Make sure they have opportunities to satisfy their socialization needs. Keeping your NPCs happy will pay dividends.

You can also construct a warped, hellish dystopia where the slightest infractions are met with brutal, draconian punishments. Fear is a very powerful motivator in NPCs’ goal selection process…but you’ll still need enforcers to keep this kind of expedition functioning, and they, at least, need to be happy (or desperately afraid of each other). It takes a certain kind of madman to effectively run things in this way.

Finally, there are some extreme circumstances that lie outside the bounds of normal experiences. Most of these sorts of cases arise when an NPC assesses his current situation as a matter of life and death. Battle is the ultimate example here. Maintaining discipline in these kinds of extreme circumstances isn’t always possible. Human combat can be a chaotic, random, grizzly mess. Training can help here. Subjecting combatants to rigorous training will raise certain internal values in their AI that makes them more like automata that will obey your orders. Personality and culture have huge impacts here, too. Memories and experience of past combat circumstances are some of the largest influencers of all, but, of course, to build actual combat experience, an NPC must experience combat for the first time and survive the engagement.

The key point to keep in mind is that there are a great many factors that influence NPC goal selection, and these factors all combine to determine whether an NPC follows your orders or not. Perhaps the most important part of playing OC well is grooming these factors to make NPCs do what you want them to do: a bit like being a leader in real life!

Posted in NPCs