Hondo: A Pirate System in the Making

Taking a completed game and modding into something else entirely is usually referred to as a “total conversion mod”. A mod that turns a Battlefield into a Star Wars game is a total conversion. What I am doing with my Legend of Hondo mods for Star Wars Galaxies isn’t quite on the level of “total conversion”, given that the art and the general theme remain the same, but when it comes to its purpose and function, Legend of Hondo and Star Wars Galaxies are completely different games.

Legend of Hondo is unabashedly, unforgivingly, and truly quite awesomely a single player experience. Yes, it’s based on the SWGEmu server / SWG client technology which is capable of being played by hundreds of people simultaneously, but using LoH in that way is completely outside of the scope of its design. With that in mind, I’ve been furiously scribbling on papers and madly futzing with spreadsheets and bits of toilet paper to formulate how the “Pirate Experience” in Legend of Hondo will play out. I always knew that’s where I wanted the project to go and I had made some design notes over the last couple years, but it wasn’t until late November that I decided before moving forward with building the rest of the game play systems, I needed to hammer out how the player will progress through the game.

Much like any single player RPG, Legend of Hondo has leveling, goals, and an “end game” that can be reached. And in keeping with other open-ended RPGs, the “end game” isn’t the end of the game, rather it’s simply that point when you’ve achieved all the recognition the game offers for how fantastic you have become. You can keep on playing as long as you’d like and you’ll find something to keep yourself occupied for a long time. That said, the Pirate System does have a path to follow and works essentially like this,

– You start the game as a Scout who can learn some useful skills and make some underworld connections.
– You level up your basic skills and work on building your reputation as a criminal/pirate by doing pirate related activities and earning the Underworld skill branch.
– Once you’ve achieved all the basic skills and earned the “Aspiring Pirate” skill box (Master box), you can earn Novice Pirate.
– As a Novice Pirate you can hunt bounties and run smuggling missions for 8 crime families, four of which hate each other. You can also continue to do all the other freelance pirate you’ve always done, as well as some new freelance pirate things, but if you want to progress towards being a Master Pirate or you wish to become a Legendary Pirate or a Dread Pirate, you’ll have to earn the respect of the various criminal families.
– Becoming a Master Pirate requires playing both sides of the game, becoming respected by crime families who hate each other, which is no easy task! In fact, it may prove more difficult than becoming a legendary or dread pirate…
– Once the player has earned the 4th Renown branch skill box, they can move on to the Renown pyramid, which is geared toward operating legitimate businesses. Similarly, when the player has earned the 4th skill box of the Infamy branch, they player gains access to the Infamy pyramid that is all about running nefarious businesses.
– Once you have earned the three titles, “Master Pirate”, “The Legendary Pirate”, and “The Dread Pirate”, you’ve essentially “beat the game”. Pat yourself on the back and go pick on some Nightsisters or something. 🙂

Here’s a look at how I have organized the new skill tree. I’m still working on the roleplay prose for the descriptions, but I have the skills/stat layout in the table mostly finished. It will be a while before I push this out to the repo and when I do, it will be the foundation for the arse load of work/research that will be required to actually make the Pirate systems and the fixes/balance for the combat professions, etc. that will likely take years to complete… But, here’s the design!

And here is some more detail about the system and insight into my design decisions…

– Start as Scout (Novice Box), with the following four trees of advancement:
– Industry: Basic crafting skills that lead to Armorsmith, Bio-Engineer, Chef, Droid Engineer, Tailor, and Weaponsmith.
– Underworld: The path to crime and piracy.
– Survival: Scouting and healing related skills that lead to Ranger, Combat Medic, and Creature Handler.
– Combat: Fundamental combat skills that lead to Carbineer, Commando, Pistoleer, Rifleman, Fencer, Pikeman, Teras Kasi Artist, and Swordsman.
– Any SWG profession not listed here is not part of Legend of Hondo.
– Medical and spice crafting is part of Bio-Engineer.
– Crafting stations are made by Novice Droid Engineers (still using General Crafting Skill/XP).

Architect Removal:
– Buildings in Legend of Hondo can only be owned by using the Hondo Housing System in Mos Espa and harvesters will be replaced by static NPC Merchant locations (to avoid needing to “run a server” 24/7/365 for a single player game), therefore most of Architect was pointless.
– Decorations are one of the most important “credit sinks” in the game and are available for purchase at Merchants throughout the galaxy.

Entertainer / Musician / Dancer / Image Designer Removal:
– It just doesn’t make any sense in a single player game – sure you *could* entertain NPCs, but… no. Just… no.
– Every character can image design themselves (I always though ID was the stupidest profession ever invented in any game anyway…).

Bounty Hunter / Smuggler Removal:
– Let’s face it, Smuggler was a failure for the entire history of SWG, with the pre-cu version be a particularly pathetic “phoned in” design. Bounty Hunter wasn’t much better, as 3/4th of the profession were combat skills.
– With that in mind, I embraced the concept of both Smuggler and Bounty Hunter and made them integral parts of the Pirate skill tree. So you can actually do real smuggling missions! Crazy, I know! And, you can also still do bounty hunting missions.

Shipwright:
– Legend of Hondo will never have “Jump to Lightspeed” or any similar space flight system, so there was no point in keeping Shipwright around.
– All of the nifty art pieces can be purchased from Merchants for use as decorations.

Medic / Doctor Removal:
– I took the important aspects of a “healer” from Medic, Doctor, and Combat Medic and rolled them into a single profession (that I decided to call Combat Medic).
– Most of the functionality is still there, but organized in a way that makes it easier to balance with the combat professions.

Brawler / Marskman Removal:
– The basics of these professions have been moved into the Scout’s Combat branch. Not all of it, just “enough to be useful”.
– The idea here is to give all Pirate characters some basic combat abilities, while also pushing more advanced stuff (like defences) into the weapon-specific professions.

Merchant / Politician / Squad Leader Removal:
– Legend of Hondo simply did’t need these SWG professions.

Jedi Removal:
– The manner in which SWG implemented Jedi was dumb, especially the “force ranking system”… So, I have no use for it.
– That said, Master Fencer/Pikeman/Swordsman can craft and wield a basic lightsaber for shits and giggles (converted to normal weapon that does Energy Damage).
– Looking at the Clone Wars and Rebels cartoon series, which are considered to be official Star Wars canon, a few pirates or other degenerate types being able swing a glowbat here and there around the galaxy is far more in keeping with Star Wars than anything SOE/LA ever did with SWG…
– Also, Jedi poodoo! 🙂

Here are some point form notes about the Pirate Mission Design:

– Pirate missions are divided into 6 levels, with each level opened up by earning a skill box in the skill tree.
– Skills boxes require X amount of Pirate Experience (PE).
– PE is earned by doing pirate/criminal related things.
– Pirate Faction Points (PF) are checked in conversations with Merchants and other people, where it plays into how the people feel about the player.
– Having negative Pirate Faction will cause all of your contacts to shun you.

Levels

1. Scout: “Foot in the Door”
– Only requires Combat Experience.
– Grants access to a quest chain.
– Completing the quest chain awards the player with enough PE for the next level.
– Gains access to Fast Talking: When “Peacing out of combat” against a humanoid, the player has a chance the enemy will talk with him. If successful, the enemy will drop combat and become conversable 5 seconds. If the player doesn’t start a conversation, the enemy becomes aggressive again. In the conversation the player has the chance to bribe or persuade the enemy to let him go or even reward him. Languages, bribe/persuade, and faction standing with the NPC’s faction play into the success.

2. Scout: “Odd Jobs”
– Putting some default SWG content to better use, requiring some dialog/text updates to put things in better context.
– Slicing anything grants 5 PE.
– Random quests from “Criminals” grant 5 PE.
– Terminal Recon Missions grant 5 PE.
– Terminal Deliver Missions grant 5 PE.
– Terminal Crafting Missions grant 5 PE.
– Terminal Destroy Missions grant 25 PE.
– Terminal Missions completed on Tatooine and Lok grant 50 PF and 5 additional PE.
– Another quest chain awards 50% the PE required to reach the next level.

3. Scout: “Shady Contacts”
– Grants access to a freelance criminal organization based in Mos Taike, Tatooine, who you can do jobs for.
– Repeatable quests with 2 different objectives: Debt Collection and Robbery.
– Debt Collection: Go to location, either collect the debt or kill the debtor. Return the credits, get paid. Keep the credits, loose Pirate faction and don’t get paid.
– Robbery: Steal some objects from the location provided. Return the objects, get paid. Keep the objects, loose Pirate faction and don’t get paid.
– Grants 100 PE and 50 PF upon completion.

4. Scout: “Informants”
– Grants access to 2 additional repeatable freelance quests: Beguile and Espionage.
– Beguile: Use your bribery and persuasion skills to convince someone that you’re the person who is supposed to move a shipment of goods for them. Failure makes the target aggressive, but doesn’t’t cause you to lose anything.
– Espionage: Use your bribery and persuasion skills to get someone in an organization to hand over a data disk, without raising suspicion. Will likely require talking to several people. Failure on combat, but doesn’t cause you to lose anything.
– Grants 100 PE and 50 PF upon completion.

5. Scout: “Aspiring Pirate”
– Not quite ready to strike out on your own yet, this level grants access to 1 more freelance quest: Assassination.
– Assassination: Find the target and take them out. Or… talk with the target and double-cross the mission giver!
– Grants 100 PE and 50 PF upon completion (or 125 PE and 75 PF for a successful double-cross). A successful double-cross will actually gain you respect with other pirates!
– Another quest chain awards 25% the PE required to reach the next level.

6. Pirate: “Novice Pirate”
– You’ve built a name for yourself and have reached the final level of Pirate Mission difficulty.
– Grants access to contacts of the eight main underworld factions, 4 who are renown for their actions and 4 who are infamous for theirs.
– Initially, only the Tatooine Swoopers and Desert Demons will offer missions.
– Grants access to freelance Bounty Hunting Missions from the Bounty Hunting terminals.
– Grants access to simple Smuggling Missions for the Renown and Infamous factions.
– Grants access to Bounty Hunting Missions for the Renown and Infamous factions.
– Renown and Infamous factions each have their own XP type.
– Grants Renown XP or Infamy XP depending on success, failure, and difficulty.
– Another quest chain that awards you with one of a few types of ship to call your own, depending on your choices.
– The ship will be parked at the secondary starport in Mos Espa and it allows you to fast travel to remote places on other planets, as well as opens up ship-based smuggling and pirating missions (similar to the Corellian Corvette dungeons).

Pirate: Smuggling
– Each level of the Smuggling skill boxes grants access to more dangerous goods that need to moved.
– The more dangerous the goods, the better the pay will be! Who cares about additional risk, right?
– Success = get paid, gain PF, PE, and Renown/Infamy XP. Failure = lose PF, PE, and Renown/Infamy XP.
– Smuggling missions are essentially dangerous delivery mission where bad stuff and other complications can happen along the way.

Pirate: Bounty Hunting
– It’s the same as it was in normal SWG, only it’s all PvE content.

Pirate: Space Lane Pirating
– Once you have a ship, you can talk to any of your contacts for rumors and tips on shipments passing through various sectors.
– There are two mission options: Delegate and Lead by Example.
– Delegate: UI-only mission where you hire a crew and send them out on the mission. Your ship is unavailable for 5-15 minutes while the mission is in progress.
– Lead By Example: This is a “space dungeon” mission that starts with you boarding a ship. Once on board, you can strike a deal with the captain or fight your way to the loot.

Pirate: “Master Pirate”
– You can become “The Legendary Pirate” or “The Dread Pirate”, but you’re simply not a “Master Pirate” until you’ve successfully played all sides of the game!
– The Renown and Infamous factions hate each other, so gaining the respect of both will take a lot of effort.
– Bounty Hunting isn’t easy and mastering it will make you a force to be reckoned with.
– Becoming a Master Smuggler is more than just being a good delivery boy.
– It’s only after you truly master all aspects pirating that you deserve the title, “Master Pirate”.
– Grants sizable bonus to your mission payouts (10%)
– Grants access to exclusive Merchants throughout the galaxy who sell many items you can’t otherwise obtain.

Renown: “Legendary Pirate”
– The Renown pyramid allows you to open and manage a line of (mostly) legitimate businesses.
– The business system is UI driven, but it does take place at physical locations in the galaxy.
– You can spend your Renown XP on each box, with the final box granting you the title, “The Legendary Pirate”.

Infamy: “Dread Pirate”
– The Infamy pyramid allows you to open and manage a line of shady businesses.
– The business system is UI driven, but it does take place at physical locations in the galaxy.
– You can spend your Infamy XP on each box, with the final box granting you the title, “The Dread Pirate”.

The Ultimate Goal:
– You’ve basically “won the game” when you’ve earned the 3 titles, “Master Pirate”, “The Dread Pirate”, and “The Legendary Pirate”!
– Beyond that, you can simply enjoy the fruits of all your labor, such as your access to every pirate-faction-locked Merchant in the game.
– Really, it’s all about enjoying the journey and relishing the moment you reach the destination, rather than the destination being a “GAME OVER” moment; There are so many “sandboxy” things one can do within the Pirate System and beyond it!

The “Iron Man Challenge”
– None of the skill boxes in the Pirate System require Skill Points, as the Skill Points are reserved for “support skills” that your character will likely need.
– The ultimate challenge would be to earn the 3 top titles without EVER using a single Skill Point (on that character), relying only on the combat, healing, and crafting skills learned in Scout and Pirate!
– Of course, it would be cheating to use exploits, such as running a healer-bot on a secondary character to cheese your way to an Iron Man victory…
– Speak with “Challenger Targâryen” in Mos Espa once you have earned the 3 top titles and he will grant you the title “Iron Man” if you’ve earned it!