Since my introduction to UFOP: StarBase 118 community, I’ve been impressed with the set-up of the government at this PBEM. Recently, one position in particular has been filled by someone I’m very familiar with – the player behind Captain Cassandra Egan Manno.
DeVeau: Captain, my Captain! I have the pleasure of writing with you as you play Egan Manno, my captain, but out of character, you have recently been appointed as the Captain At Large for the Executive Council. Would you mind telling us about this position and what it entails?
EM: Sure! The Captain-At-Large, or CAL, is a member of the Captains Council (the CC) who has been elected by the Executive Council (the EC) to observe and participate in discussions on the EC. This means that I’m in the very privileged position of seeing the highest discussions of the group. The CAL also votes in EC votes, though that vote is really only needed in the event of a tie (which is possible with the current EC configuration of four members). I also keep track of the fleetwide simming numbers and publish a monthly article regarding trends in simming numbers. And, of course, I keep up all of my other duties and activities!
DeVeau: Phew, you certainly have your hands full. Now, you mentioned the Captain’s Council and the Executive Councils, both a part of the UFOP: StarBase 118 government – would you please tell us a little bit about both of them and their specific functions?
EM: Of course! The CC is made up of all current commanding officers (commander and above), as well as inactive COs who have achieved the rank of captain. First officers and anyone who holds the rank of commander may observe and participate in discussions, but they don’t have an active vote. Many writers, especially those on the command track, know the CC as the body that oversees and votes on promotions to commander, and while it does do that, there are several other things it can do! The CC is responsible for signing-off on a lot of the new content the group generates – noting the official recognition of new races so they can be playable, approving changes like the quantum slipstream drive, and things of that nature. The CC also creates new awards and service ribbons – and with the yearly awards just over the horizon, that’s on many minds right now!
EM: The EC is made up of between three and five (or up to six, with the CAL) senior members, and its abilities are a bit more far-ranging than the CC’s. Again, many folks on the command track know the EC as the body that oversees promotions to captain (and all promotions beyond captain!), though, like the CC, it does much more than that. Commissioning and decommissioning starships and bases is up to the EC, as is the creation of new constitutional bylaws, staff member awards, and new committees. There are plenty of reserved jobs for both councils that I haven’t listed here, but I encourage anyone who’s interested to look them both up on the wiki – their pages are detailed and useful without being overwhelming.
DeVeau: Wow, that’s a lot of responsibility! What is the process one goes through to get some new content approved through the CC?
EM: Good question! In the majority of cases, new content – whether you’re talking new species, new technologies, or what-have-you – has been encountered both IC (by one or more ships in sim – almost all new races begin in-sim!) and OOC (via discussion, sometimes generally on the forums, in a specialized group like the Species Development Committee, and/or by one or both of the councils). Sometimes the process is very protracted, and it can be months or even upwards of a year from the time a new species appears in a mission and the time it’s reviewed by the CC for addition to the Intelligent Lifeform Index. Sometimes, though, it’s a lot quicker: The general forums topic that brought up a one-year member award won’t even be two weeks old before the CC’s vote on it is up and – assuming it’s successful – the award is made official.
DeVeau: What about with voting on new promotions – what does the EC look for when looking to promote someone to the rank of Captain or above?
EM: While I’m certain that any of the full EC members would have a more complete take on this, the first and most vital thing that must exist is need. All of the ships in the fleet should be operating at or above capacity (the number we try to hit is 12-13 writers per ship), and our Academy classes should be routinely adding in enthusiastic new simmers. Assuming that there is need, then the EC will look for individuals who are at the rank of commander and who are actively interested in command. That active interest is another crucial component, and self-assessment is a big part of it: Do you have the time and energy to invest in the IC and OOC commitments of ship’s CO? Once all that’s satisfied, however, there will be much more thought put into the potential CO’s approach to IC and OOC: Can the potential CO create and actively facilitate the plot while creating plenty of simming opportunities for members of the crew? Can the potential CO run a mentoring group, tutor new writers, and deal with conflicts in a timely manner? The processes of promotion to both commander and captain are quite rigorous – but needfully so! The sorts of challenges a potential CO faces in the command tests are very indicative of what she or he can expect to encounter as a CO.
DeVeau: Several ships have been decommissioned and new ones commissioned over the course of the year I’ve been here – how does the EC decide when to decommission a ship and to commission a new one?
EM: Self-assessment is a big component here, too: In the great majority of cases, COs will recognize that they no longer have the time they’d like to devote to running a ship and will work with the EC to evolve a plan to launch a new CO (sometimes the retiring CO’s XO, sometimes another writer). Generally, though, a good indicator of troubles for both a ship and a CO are simming rates that fall below normal (sometimes far below) and don’t recover – and, generally, any monthly simming total below 100 is cause for concern. Don’t think that this means that the EC is a shadowy organization peering over every CO’s shoulder, though! If simming rates fall, someone on the EC will reach out directly to the ship’s CO and attempt to help.
EM: I should mention, too, that while this year has seen several decommissionings and commissionings, that’s not wholly unusual. It’s common for the group to go through bursts of new ships and captains and long periods where there are no changes whatsoever. For example, in the year I was made captain, there were no changes at all. This year, we’ve had half a dozen changeovers! There are a couple of really interesting tools on the wiki you can use to look through the group’s history, including the UFOP Fleet Timeline – and there you’ll see that such periods of calm interspersed with rapid change are fairly common.
DeVeau: What do you think is the most important role a Captain at Large plays in these two committees?
EM: I mentioned simming numbers being a primary indicator of potential difficulties for ships and COs, and so I think that keeping track of simming numbers across the fleet is an important, if not the most important, part of the CAL’s job.
DeVeau: What do you hope to achieve as the Captain at Large?
EM: Haha, ask me again after all is said and done and I’ll tell you what I think I’ve successfully achieved! Honestly, though, there are a few long term projects I’d like to complete, including seeing the Memory 118 Challenge get started, providing additions to the tutorial bank for new members, and doing some quantitative analyses of service ribbons (which are awarded most often? least often? can we conclude anything useful from knowing those frequencies?). You’d be right in saying that those projects aren’t necessarily based in me being the CAL, so I’ll say only that I tend to think of all of my service to the councils as being part of the same box, so I hope I’m able to do some good and wrap it up with the CAL’s bow!
DeVeau: Thank you Captain Egan Manno, for your explanations as well as your service to the fleet!