In Lord of Rigel we’ve taken a different approach to heroes from many current strategy games. Leveling heroes like roleplaying game characters has become common place, with skill trees and specific builds of traits. We we wanted to do was include bonuses, but to tie them directly to the actions that players are taking. For instance, a character in a fleet that constantly retreats has an increasing chance of acquiring a coward trait. A character who is part of a force using bioweapons will have a high chance of acquiring traits marking them as someone who uses those types of weapons. Successfully putting down a rebellion will also help reduce the risk of future ones. Events from stopping a blockade to destroying a starsystem can all result in unique skills that will then continue to level up with the character as they gain experience. Some are rare and provide massive bonuses. A hero present for instance when taking out a rival faction such as a rebellion or another species can gain the “the Conquerer” title. Even negative traits we try to offset. Leaving a leader in a system with planets producing absolutely nothing can result in a trait “unproductive” that reduces industry but increases morale. Overall though we’ve tried to work out traits in a way to avoid players “gaming” the system (ex. Starving planets to gain a trait) since that defeats the purpose of doing acquired traits instead of skill trees.
So heroes in Lord of Rigel have two types of skills, those they have when you first acquire them which gain in strength as the hero raises in rank, and the acquired skills through your gameplay actions. You can think of acquired hero skills much like achievements in a game, but for a specific character that gives benefits. Overall, we took this approach as it encourages players to actively use their characters as opposed to power-leveling characters for certain builds. It also removes micromanagement from the game in that you focus on the large issues of where you assign these powerful leaders, as opposed to managing their every trait. We felt that this approach is unique and encourages actual gameplay over fiddling with builds and spreadsheets.