Command HierarchyEach ship can be assigned to a Squadron which can have a maximum of 9 ships in them. They will follow the same orders, work as a group and keep in formation (if you want them to).
Wings are the next level up and can command a maximum of 4 Squadrons (possibly more when researched).
All of the Squadrons assigned to the Wing will follow the same orders, so you can assign orders to a large number of ships all at once.
Fleet is the highest level. It can hold any number of Wings or Squadrons. You probably wont be able to give specific orders at the Fleet level and I haven't decided yet if more than one Fleet will be allowed.
LeadersEach Squadron, Wing and Fleet can be assigned a leader character. This leader will earn experience from battles they are involved in. If any of the ships the leader commands was involved in destroying an enemy ship then they will gain experience towards their skill level.
The leaders skill level will give specific bonuses depending on where they are placed in the Command Hierarchy:
Squadron Commander: 5% bonus to damage per skill level
Wing Commander: 5% bonus to maximum speed per skill level
Fleet Commander: -5% ship upkeep cost per skill level
The only way for leaders to gain experience will be in command of a Squadron. To do this they will need to be in the lead ship. If the ship gets destroyed the leader dies.
You will be free to reassign leaders whenever you like, but only if there are no enemies nearby.
TraitsTraits provide bonuses to all ships the leader is in command of. When a new leader is recruited they may have a number of traits, but they cannot be gained in other ways. A few examples:
Mining Specialist - Gives a 20% bonus to mining yield
Shield Specialist - Gives a 10% bonus to shield hit points and recharge
Energy Weapon Specialist - Gives a 10% bonus to energy weapon damage
Engine Specialist - Gives a 10% bonus to ship maximum speed
Transport Specialist - Gives a 10% bonus to cargo capacity
Trait effects will cascade down the command hierarchy and are halved at each level. If you have leaders each with the Mining Specialist trait at the Fleet, Wing and Squadron levels then it will give the bonus of 35% (5 + 10 + 20) to the ships below.
ProficienciesAs leaders gain experience they also get better at commanding certain types of ship. For example if the leader only has Cruisers in their Squadron, experience will also be added to their Cruiser Leader skill which provides bonuses only for Cruisers.
If there are more than one class of ship in the Squadron, experience will be distributed evenly to the relevant proficiencies.
MedalsLeaders will also be able to earn medals when they achieve certain goals (total ships destroyed, ore mined, cargo transported etc..) Some medal examples:
Long Service Medal (Awarded for time spent as an active leader) - Gives a 10% reduction to ship upkeep costs
Bronze War Medal (Awarded for total ships destroyed) - Gives a 5% bonus to shield and armor hit points
Potential ProblemsThe whole leader system is designed to be completely passive. You wont need to manually spend skill points. They can just be left alone and they will automatically gain new skills, proficiencies and medals as they do stuff. So it shouldn't require much micro-management at all. Of course you still might want to check on them occasionally to ensure you are making the best of their abilities in their current position.
As the player can take manual control of any of their own ships in the game, there is the problem of what happens when taking control of a Squadron leaders ship. Should that leader continue to get experience for ships you destroy?
I don't really want to add a special type of leader character that represents the player as I would like the player to be able to take control of another ship once it gets destroyed.
Much of this is not fully implemented yet, so would very much like to hear your feedback and suggestions!