To bring up a valid point: ZanMgt have shown us the base player models they plan to be going off of, and have declared that they will have a similar number of polygons to those characters. They're talking about N64-era characters, with poly counts...
This is true, but the problem I'm concerned with is that those crew will be moving around on other, larger, moving objects (the ships); which will be more complicated in some cases than many high-poly character models.
It'd be like trying to render 100 Halo-marines driving a single, enormous Warthog and all being able to move and operate independently, while on a moving independent platform. I'm worried that that can't
work, especially since I can't think of many games that allow independent movement on a moving platform at the scale we're talking about or
that have that many NPCs rendered at any one time.
... Okay, thousands would probably be a bit intensive, maybe, but as has been stated before, many systems will be automated. I can imagine a crew of several hundred operating a 1km+ ship with no problems....
Part of the large reason for having a sizable crew is just so the ships come alive. There is a population a living crew inside that ship and they are all doing their duty to make sure that ship runs smoothly.
You are both missing the point - crew would be fun and make the ship "seem" like a ship. But the fact is that the computer you are typing at has to render the crew and render their actions, so they are (or must be), from an outside perspective, unnecessary
. You must, as the captain/player/whatever, be able to command them to do everything the ship can do from your pilot seat, otherwise you'll be running from place to place just trying to fly and that'll be frustrating. Requiring NPCs to enable things like multiple-target-picking or ship repairs, or as Yolan says below, makes sense, but the computer has to be able to do that; NPC's cannot make important decisions on their own based on anything other than your input or some baseline program that says "Go toward nearest planet" or "Shoot nearest bad guy".
To a large extent I see crew as almost a kind of restriction, if you will, or at least a factor, which is necessary to have in the game to make ship design and use more dynamic and engaging. In this sense it is similar to a ship needing power, fuel or air. The requirement of these things means that thought needs to be put into design as to how to accommodate them, and extra variables as brought into play when/if things go wrong.
As a captain, I assume that on any decent sized ship your commands will be routed though AI. For example, you order for the ship to move to a grid point, or simply ahead at a certain speed, or to attack a certain target, etc. etc.
This is fine; but for this, when you're piloting the ship the crew can be de-rendered and kept as a stat.