You’re an insurance adjustor for deep-space claims, examining the wreckage of ships, mining platforms, space stations, and whatnot with an eye for who’s paying out and who’s culpable for damages.  Deep space equipment is expensive, and your bosses would rather fob expenses off onto a guilty party, and guilty party, than take the hit themselves.  If you can find evidence which puts the blame on operator error above and beyond reasonable use expectations, faulty machinery that failed while still covered by warranty, or circumstances not covered by the policy, then you’re that much more likely to come home to a fat Christmas bonus.

The game is a 3rd person investigation simulator, with substantial time spent reviewing black box recordings, camera data, and audio logs.  First off, is the visual inspection, checking the damage and determining the main cause of failure.  Part of this task is figuring out how much can be salvaged or repaired, and so a fair bit of jury-rigging and equipment testing goes on here.  Jump start reactors, connect battery cables, check zones for air-tightness, that sort of stuff.  Every piece of machinery that can be salvaged lessens the sting of a payout.

Eventually, though, you’re going to need to probe deeper into the records to figure out why the operators made bad decisions at the wrong moment, and to pin the blame on their stupidity.  Here is where you’ll review their records – maintenance logs, video data of normal operating procedure, audio recordings, that sort of stuff.

The thing is, you only have so much time for the job, and there’s a TON of material to look through – after all, this is the future, there are cameras everywhere, and they’re always running.  The key is using clues to figure out WHEN you need to examine the records, and WHICH records are likely to say something interesting about the disaster.  What I imagine is a “full” set of records, most of which just show standard operating procedure.  Watching these would be like watching the most boring machinima ever – people doing work, and slacking off periodically.  They could be procedurally generated using a few general guidelines, so that the full spectrum of records really is available for the player’s persual.

However, should the player use clues properly, they will be treated to more properly scripted sequences showing actions of interest.  Let’s say that the primary cause of the problem was that the main drive overloaded.  Oh, what’s this, there was a regular maintenance performed a week before the disaster?  Let’s watch it, and see if there’s anything obvious.  Oh, look at that, the mechanic is just using duct tape to close key seals, because they ran out of the proper sealant.

The more detailed the machinery and equipment design, the better for this game.  You can use highlights and whatnot to draw the player’s attention to things which the character’s expert knowledge will recognize as problematic, but the key is to create large and deep investigative scenarios, where visual clues left from the disaster must be interpreted properly, and used as a guide to further research – all in the interests of finding any reason at all to deny payment.

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