For those of you who don't want to read a four-thousand word essay on tactical intelligence and how it applies to Crowfall, feel free to skip to "My Suggestion".
Before I start, I want to define a few terms so things don't get too confusing:
"Units" will refer to both the units controlled by a player in a strategy game
"Players" refers to an actual individual player sitting in a chair playing the game
"Commanders" will refer to any individual controlling either a group of units, or players
"Guilds" will be used to refer to any organized entity undergoing strategic operations within a campaign. What that entity consists of obviously will differ, and will presumably be anything from a lore-based 'faction' (in the the God's Reach worlds), to a guild, right down to an invididual player going it alone in the Dregs
"Intel" is any ingame information useful to the strategic or tactical operations of a guild. (Unit positions, map layout, ownership of resources, etc. etc. etc.)
Foreward - The Fog of War
Crowfall seems, from what we've heard so far, to be trying to find a happy medium between strategy games, and MMOs. We also know that campaigns will start with "Fog of War" over the map, which will presumably force guilds to obtain geographical information either through direct (exploration) or indirect means (trade, espionage, diplomacy)).
We have no idea how the map is going to work beyond that, however appropriate to the theme of combining Strategy Games and MMOs, I feel there is a happy medium between the two.
Background - Radar, Minimaps, and the Hand of God
The methods in which intel is transferred from units up to a commander in strategy games is usually pretty direct. Give the commander a bird's eye view of the battlefield, and simply show them all the units they control, or are able to see. In cases where individual units are irrelevant, allow a layer of abstraction to show the commander only what's important (See: Civilization, or Supreme Commander). Then, when they have this information, let them issue commands directly to their units (or groups thereof).
MMOs are, however, a little more complicated. Many games give players a minimap, which shows the position of anything nearby relative to your their position. (This is a feature that artists hate (since people stare at the minimap more than the beautiful assets they've created), and many PvPers despise (since it removes the ability to sneak up behind someone). Other games allow players to group together, and each can see the position of the other on a map. This is excellent for allowing any one player to know where they should be moving their own player, however it sucks for commanders trying to organize large groups of players.
Potential Problem(s) - Everyone's (only) Got Two Eyes
While we do not yet know how much intel (beyond geography) will be available to commanders or guilds through ingame means, we can make well-educated guesses on what types of intel will be useful. We can assume that any intel that is feasible to collect (I will come back to this), and useful, will be collected, transmitted, and acted upon.regardless of any ingame mechanics.
This means that the position of a mine, the location of a city, or large-scale unit movements (both friendly and not!), as long as there are players with eyes to see them, will be acted upon. Even if the map is limited to only basic geography, guilds will collect this information out of the game, and will use it.
Why is this a problem? Well, if we're talking intel that isn't minute to minute, it isn't, really. Intel on the ownership of a mine changing, or a city being built, is trivial to collect and act upon. This means that virtually all guilds, regardless of the mechanics that may or may not exist in the game to help this, will gather and use this intel. In other words, it's unlikely that including (or not including) methods to transmit this intel ingame automatically will make any meaningful difference, other than that of convenience.
Problems arise when we talk about intel that is extremely difficult to gather and act upon out of the game in a large-scale combat situation. In other words, tactical information. Enemy & friendly player status, positions, formations, compositions; enemy command & control (c&c), reinforcements, etc. This intel is of critical importance, however it's only important for a very short time, meaning it's often* overlooked when the poorly made socks really hit the fan unless the game automates it.
*I am well aware that there are plenty of guilds that have the discipline and organization to gather and act upon this sort of information during a siege, however this is about one potential way that we could make that process part of the game itself.
My Suggestion - The Doohickey
The core of my suggestion is, ironically enough, fairly simple. I would suggest that an item be implemented that transmits two things from a player back to their Guild (or to another player): The player's current map position & health (and that of their party), and that (as well as guild affiliation) of any entity (player, resource, city, etc) they can currently see, or are currently targeting. (Depending on technical feasibility, and/or balance) This would be the only ingame way for one player to see the live positional data of another player without actually looking at them directly.
This information could be displayed, in real-time, by any player that has the permissions within the guild to do so, and this could be configurable like any other guild permission. Units could be shown on a bird's eye view map, and this map be filtered to only show specific players, or groups of players as desired.
Commanders would be able to give these items out to scouts, in order to gather intel on enemy, or to troops in order to better organize ongoing combat operations. Players could choose to send 'alerts' (Enemies spotted, engaging enemies, resources located, city found, etc) up to their commander along with whatever they have targetted.
Groupmembers could be granted the ability to see their groupleaders on the minimap, or the ability to see whomever their groupleader has targetted in-game as well as any orders they've been given. Players could focus more on fighting, and less on where they are supposed to be, or finding it is who they are supposed to be killing.
Finally, commanders could give orders directly to units directly from the map. To a Commander, it could look very much like a traditional RTS. To a player, it would appear much like a quest objective in a traditional MMO.
Why An Item?
Well, because it's cool as hell, that's why. I mean, think about it.
These items would have to be carried in a player's inventory, and would either be dropped, destroyed, or retained, depending on the campaign's ruleset. They could be traded amongst allies, or planted on suspected spies. They could be stolen, or even replaced by the enemy. Imagine the ability for a thief to swap an enemy's doohickey with one they control, allowing their guild to track their movement, while feeding false intel back to their commander. Sure, they'd notice eventually, but imagine the chaos you could cause before they did.
The range that large numbers of these doohickeys transmit intel at once could also be limited, forcing commanders to be placed in vulnerable positions during a battle, giving additional strategic options to the enemy. Players could also be given access to spells or structures that boost or suppress them, adding even more strategic options.
Finally, the resources to craft said item could also vary depending on campaign, giving the ability for tactical awareness and control to differ from campaign to campaign. Some campaigns could have them be easily available leading to commanders micromanaging individual groups, while others could make them rare enough to only give to groupleaders, leading to a more strategic level of control. Others could forbid them entirely, forcing guilds to fall back on more traditional means of c&c.
I love that we almost have two crystallized groups of people who somehow believe this character was made to appeal to a group they hate seeing stuff appeal to, but at the same time is like. One change away from being a cool character concept.
One group seems to think it's basically 'kill all men' in the purest form, and thus will be a huge hit amongst the "radical feminists taking over gaming". Or, I mean. It would have if they made her less sexy. Or made her like a minority wearing practical armor or something.
The other camp feels it's just yet another another physically strong character designed visually to appeal to the straight white male audience, and would be the absolute darling of pretty much all of the dudes on the forums if they made her personality sexy for more of them.
I hope they don't water down the character or the race and make either of them "safer". It'd be way too easy to turn the character into a strong independent (but practical in her attire!) lady assassin that kills anyone for the right price, or 'just for the fun of it', or whatever. I say: Who cares that it's kinda controversial, and makes some people feel uncomfortable. Maybe this is a character that *should* make some people feel a little uncomfortable. She's fighting for the bad guys after all.
Honestly I think we should explore this baby killing angle more. How could it be implemented into gameplay? Perhaps babies could be used as a resource, and factions could fight over them. Perhaps babies could be used as thralls for crafting? I remember an MMO that was in development that was going to allow babies as siege weapon projectiles. The possibilities are endless!
Someone should start a suggestion box thread so we can discuss this fascinating topic some more.
Compliments are key. While I do prefer an aggressive alpha male to be in charge of us and guide us through the entire experience with vocal rage compared to that of a Viking, I also want him to have the voice of a cherub where you question how much pent up rage can be trapped in such a voice that sounds lacking in world experience. So that way when I do something that pleases him, I can be complimented with that softer side.