I guess throwing around these ideas are kinda fun sometimes.
The name should be the last thing you decide on.
Visual Novel, SRPG, Space Combat
Visual Novels in general, Starship Operators, Final Fantasy Tactics
*Principles: *No Story-Gameplay Seperation at all
All SRPG sections of the game would be integrated with the visual novel aspects of the game. For instance, your instruments officer would alert you to the presence of another ship in the region. You would interact with your nagivations officer just like at any other point in the VN to give them movement commands during battle. You could ask your communications officer to hail the enemy captain. You could ask advise or innovative solutions from your Strategians/Tacticians/Scientists. You could abandon the bridge to help stop soldiers that have boarded, or help engineering fix a problem you know your character, the captain, could fix. All of this would happen through character-interaction visual novel interface. At no point does the screen shatter into pieces, battle music start, and an 'Objectives' screen pop up, you're just always in the visual novel. If you want to look at a reprisentation of your position vs the enemy's position, you'll have to ask your nagivation's officer to send the data to your console, which you can look at through the visual novel interface.*Relationship Management as a Major Gameplay Element
Since almost everything requires interfacing with the various characters, relationship management becomes very important. The crew performs better when morale is high, and characters that like you tend to perform better under your command. Turns out that character was a spy, or did they become a double agent because you treated them badly and the offer to spy from your enemy became appealing to them? Maybe that character who was a spy decided to betray their employers because they came to like you enough? A crew member might join or quit on the basis of your interactions with them.
Of course you'll also have the ability to assign crew members in certain jobs and manage their duties. Do you put the brilliant engineer in engineering even though they'd personally rather work in the research division? How far will you go to help a character become qualified for their dream position in the crew? Do you run them ragged to maximise preformance or be lax in hopes that they'll like you better? What about the serious get-work-done characters who hate it when things are lax? You can't please everyone.
All these factors should affect how the character reacts to the actions you take as the Captain and how they like you personally. These personal interactions may not have a massive effect on the plot itself, but I think it is the little moments that count. Massively different plotlines aren't as important as the little effects you see your actions having all the time. Maybe a character you like or hates dies, but anyone qualified could do their job so that wouldn't necessarily completely change the plot. I feel it would be feasible to have quite a large and living/breathing character base without the game being bogged down with too many plot possibilities to code.*Consequentialist space warfare
By this I mean that the SciFi tech introduced to the world should have an effect on the world. You don't expect FTL to exist without society being significantly restructured due to the particulars of the FTL tech. Similarly you shouldn't expect there these sci fi weapons and defenses to exist within a vacuum. Weapons will have particularly effect counters and key identifiers and so on. When a ship first appears you won't necessarily know what it is other than that it is a ship. Once you have a good visual on it, you might be able to match it against a database of standard ship types. When a ship fires it's weapon, your instrumentation/optics crew might be able analyse the light spectrum from the flash made by the attack to determine what kind of weapon the enemy is using. As you get more details you have a better idea about your enemy and their capabilities. The more you know about their capabilities, the better you can put strong countermeasures into effect.
The game should mostly play like a visual novel which has extra mechanics built into it. Every moment should seem like a natural part of the novel rather than something which feels like 'VN stops now, Minigame starts now'. So, mostly it should feel like playing a visual novel, even during the SRPG bits.
Ultimately the game should progress and feel a lot like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBnm37UUSE8#t=843
Battle shouldn't feel like a mechanical aside to the rest of the game. It should play like you're actually the space captain telling people what to do and receiving information from them.
I've described a lot of this in the principles sections. You would need to develop a good way of describing characters relationships (which is something I've previously worked on and don't see as too much of an issue).
You would only be controlling one ship which has a variety of hard and soft points that allow for customisation with various modules. The weapons and defenses will be very paper-scissors-rock. Point defense is extremely effective against missiles, sandcasters are extremely effective against lasers. This game would be focusing on big battleships skirmishing with eachother rather than the unreasonable space dogfighting that a lot of scifi games feature.
All crew members will have stats in various abilities/skills/jobs that suggest where they might be best utilised in the crew (which contributes to your overall stats for the ship, and their performance and personalities will directly affect how you interface with the ship, enemies, etc as much like any Sci-Fi show you interact with everything else through the crew), but they should all also have somewhere they prefer to work in, which might not always be the same spot they're skilled in. They'll have their own personal sidequests that the captain can choose to indulge in which might change their prefered work or benefit them with more stats, or qualify them for a type of work they previously couldn't do. Of course completing sidequests would also typically make them like you more.
Ultimately the combat should play like an SRPG, but through character interaction rather than through a menu.
*Points of flexibility:
There is not much I've not decided on. The basics of the plot/setting I've already worked out but there is a lot to flesh out, and of course, I'm certain many new ideas and various aspects of what I've relayed here would change during a hypothetical development process (of course it'll never happen
). Most of the flexibilities is in the particulars.