Greetings from the Intelligence Office! You’ve already heard from the BFCO with the latest annual report and roadmap, but I’m lending some detail from the perspective of this department.
2022 was a big year for us, so I want to talk about what we’ve achieved, what the office has learned, and what we’re keeping an eye on in the future. I must stress that nothing in any ‘Looking Forward’ section is carved in stone – we always need to see what’s possible from a system/staff perspective, and some of these ideas may simply not work! But I hope it highlights that things are always moving and we’re always fine-tuning what we have.
That’s was the real story of last year: fine-tuning. 2021 was more ground-shattering with the introduction of campaigns, but 2022 has been a great chance to refine our processes. We’ll continue to do that in the time – the years? – to come.
Starting with the most obvious success! Campaigns are weeks-long fleet-wide storylines, with an arc plot any member can use their command to take part in. Members write their adventures all within this narrative framework, developing the details in the over-arching idea, and contributing to a wider, richer story that affects the whole fleet. This year saw the second Intel Office-run stand-alone campaign with Stormbreaker, the second Intel Office-run Fleet Action campaign with Sundered Wings, and the first Task Force-run stand-alone campaign with Blood Dilithium. I think we’ve nailed the campaign format, and members seem to love them.
2021’s Archanis and Echoes of the Tkon were both successful, but we concluded both ran on for too long (10 and 8 weeks respectively) and members showed burnout towards the end. This year, our campaigns were cut down to 6 weeks, and participation was still outstanding – even in comparison to Echoes’ approximate 270 Stories.
- Stormbreaker: 199 Stories.
- Sundered Wings: 365 Stories.
- Blood Dilithium: 323 Stories.
I don’t want to go over this too much – campaigns are great, players love them. But they are also, as you can see, a lot of work. There are a few thoughts about their future:
- Making sure we have the right premise. Stormbreaker was easily our weakest campaign so far, perhaps hampered by being designed to help launch Starbase Bravo. Overall, I’m not convinced by linking SBB to campaigns (but more on that later). It is possible that the humanitarian primary hook for Stormbreaker was simply not compelling enough; the vast majority of stories instead focused on the scientific intrigue and threat of the subspace rifts. Food for thought!
- How to implement mid-campaign twists will be given heavy consideration in the future – from Sundered Wings adding optional new dimensions to Blood Dilithium outright uncovering secrets. BD’s success means we may be bolder from here, without the same complete gear shifts of Echoes of the Tkon’s phases.
- The Intel Office is exploring options to better reward and raise the profile of quality in campaign (and overall) writing, rather than just quantity.
- To achieve this, and perhaps other new writing goals (more joint missions between members, anyone?) we may see stand-alone campaigns introducing different formats, rather than just being like Fleet Actions without the competitive edge. We want Fleet Actions to still feel special, we don’t want people to burn out, and we want members to have the space to develop their own stories and plots in between.
- The number of campaigns in a year will be examined – three ‘traditional’ ones like 2022’s are just too much. There will certainly be one classic campaign for the Fleet Action, and some other comparable writing event. In short: do not expect our campaign layout in 2023 to look like 2022’s.
Launched in January 2022, Starbase Bravo is a ‘sandbox’ RPG set on the Fourth Fleet’s headquarters. SBB exists so any member can bring a character aboard and write in a continuous scenario, without worrying about activity requirements, commitments to an active storyline, or the risk their GM will vanish.
Some of Starbase Bravo’s successes this year:
- About 200 posts since launching in January. That’s huge for an RPG, and I feel we’ve barely gotten started inspiring and supporting further activity.
- Plotlines successfully weaved alongside the Stormbreaker and Sundered Wings campaigns.
- Multiple members reached Tier III in character rank, broadly in line with activity expectations when we designed the system.
- Many reports from members say how nice it is to get to RP without the restrictions of tight missions and expectations of activity requirements. People like that SBB can be picked up and put down without sanction.
I plan on significant tweaks and improvements of Starbase Bravo in the new year. None of these are carved in stone, but a little peek at what I’ve got in mind:
- Adjustments to Tiers I and II – possibly increase the rank cap and expand departmental choices for new characters, and make rising through early tiers about characters taking on specialised or leadership roles. After all, at present, you can play a high-ranking generalist in any department anyway.
- This could make SBB an easier option for people to house old or beloved or orphaned characters without needing to already invest in SBB.
- Reform of mission design. Currently, there is limited engagement with the missions, largely due to their intentionally gentle nature – but they are at risk of becoming pointless.
- One option is to take design cues from campaigns. A (non-intense) overarching story, with specific prompts for engagement, and sub-plots players can jump on alone or together to pursue in their own time.
- It would be essential that these stories do not constantly pitch Starbase Bravo into peril – everyone should be able to write a slice of life without keeping track of every single post, or this runs counter to the purpose of SBB.
- In view of this, the lore of the regions surrounding the Mellstoxx system will be expanded. The Paulson Nebula is rife with opportunity (check out its new wiki page!), fresh off the Century Storm, to become a hotbed of scientific exploration and minor threat without being a huge new frontier.
Often there’s only so much to report about fleet canon – we write things, we expand the wiki, and gentle developments occur. This year saw the complete reform of the Romulan factions after Picard S2 inferred it was time to put the Romulan Star Empire to bed, but that’s not all the Intel Office put forward:
- Our new map (for which credit really goes to Emily and the Engineering Office, and MJ for graphics, and everyone who helped populate it) which will allow huge flexibility going forward;
- Ravens! Offering junior officers their own Commands has been huge, and far better suits our new BFMS writing than the TFHQs. Credit again to Vince for pushing this idea.
- Our Tech Team continues to deliver, producing all-new Starfleet ship articles with the new canon designs from Picard S2, as well as reforms to various of our alien specs.
- Priority Missions launched for Task Forces, giving their writers some guidance and a sense of collective writing in between campaigns.
- And, of course, our Christmas gift to you all: the implementation of the Squadrons system, where Captains (and higher) can pick up multiple commands to tell different kinds of stories if they so choose.
In the year to come, the Intel Office has its eyes on:
- Continuing the eternal work of the Tech Team. Soon, as we hit 2401, the Sagan-class – not to mention anything else PIC S3 throws Starfleet’s way!
- The Map, and its Endless Work.
- Improving Commands, such as by expanding the Starbase Command opportunities and wiki records of registry commanding officers so members’ contributions and history don’t become lost.
- Keeping a weather eye on Picard season 3, and whether it’s going to smoke all our asses canon-wise!
- Opportunities and motivations to develop different regions of the quadrants on our wiki. This might link in with the IO’s plans for fleet-wide stories outside of the intensity of traditional campaigns or the FA…
As you can see, it’ll be a busy year! But I’m ably assisted by the Intel Office staff. Vince and Dave’s work in the Tech Team, for instance, is invaluable and keeps a coherent style and approach across all of our starship articles. I am truly grateful to Wooz for his assistance while he served as Deputy Intelligence Officer over this year, and he proved his mettle with the Blood Dilithium campaign. He will be missed.
Last but not least, however, is McGig, who has worked enthusiastically behind the scenes to keep the wiki running and well-ordered. In light of this, it’s about time I recognised him for the work he does anyway – and formally raise him from Staff Assistant to Staff Officer, the leader of the Wiki Team! Congratulations and thanks.
2022’s been a great year for Bravo Fleet. I look forward to 2023 being even better.