Crew help your ship with various functions. Every crew member comes with an associated Agenda. Each crew member has exactly one of the four different professions: Geologist, Astrogator, Mechanic, and Pilot.
Crew members have two shown stats - Education and Experience. They are continuous, but the interface only shows "milestones" of skill - for example, if someone's education is shown as "Self-Taught", that may mean an internal education stat anywhere from 0 to 0.25. Each profession has two skills, each scaling with one of the stats. Crew members also have a mostly-hidden Morale stat, which affects their skills.
Education skill: Price prediction accuracy. Determines accuracy of price prediction by your geologist - both on station in Mineral Market and during ring dive.
Experience skill: Mineral discovery range. Geologist will estimate compositions and prices of minerals within a radius around your ship.
- Without a geologist on board, it's not possible to identify compositions of mineral chunks (except visually - they look differently depending on mineral and purity). This makes them rather essential crew members.
Education skill: Tactical awareness range. Astrogator will highlight ships around you by their transponders.
- Fairly essential to be able to detect threats, derelicts, and other ships outside of visual range.
Experience skill: Coordinate tracking time. The constantly shifting planescape of the rings makes it challenging to trace a specific location. Your astrogator will be able to keep track of them for a limited time.
- Without an astrogator on board, you won't be able to astrogate to waypoints. If at any moment you end up without any astrogators in your employ, you will furthermore lose all saved waypoints. This makes having an astrogator essential.
Education skill: Jury-rig efficiency. Changes how far mechanic can push your ship systems in OMS menu during ringdive.
- Can be very useful, e.g. turning a critical reactor leak that would cause the ship to run out of propellant in seconds into a merely concerning one.
Experience skill: Repair limit. Extends how much your mechanic can repair during maintenance on Enceladus prime station.
- Most equipment is significantly cheaper to repair than to replace (although some isn't), so this allows saving on repairs.
- Note, however, that repairs take more time that replacements, and you'll have to pay for crew wages and hotels in the meantime, which for large and skilled crews may be more expensive than the repair savings.
Education skill: Adrenal slowdown. When in danger, pilot's perception of time will slow down.
- Available even without a pilot, albeit only a small slowdown.
Experience skill: Course anticipation. Pilot will predict the course of your ship and all surrounding objects to determine if ship is in danger of collision.
- This automatically enables adrenal slowdown if a collision is predicted to happen in that time, given the current velocity.
- Often toggles unnecessarily.
With time spent in your crew, crew members gradually improve. Spending time on Enceladus increases Education, whereas doing profession-specific actions during dives increases Experience. The more advanced in a skill a crew member is, the slower they progress further.
The only thing that accelerates learning is having another crewmember of the same profession, who is better in the relevant skill, tutor them. The gain is determined by the difference of their skills, but caps at 2x the normal learning rate - so in total, a crewmember can learn at most at trice the normal learning rate (if they are completely unskilled and tutored by someone perfect).
The formula for education is as follows: if the current Education (which goes from 0 to 1) is y, then the gain per day is
y' * 1day = (1-y)/400 + (A-y)/200
where A is the highest Education level among crewmembers with the same profession (so if there's nobody better, then A=y and that term is zero).
Without tutoring, the solution to this differential equation is
y(t) = 1 - (1-y(0))*exp(-t/(400*day)). So the Education level exponentially decays towards perfection, with a characteristic time of 400 days. For example, it takes 115 days for an initially completely unskilled crewmember to reach the first milestone of 0.25.
The formula for rate of skill gain is the same for Experience as for Education. However, instead of being per day of time, Experience experience is gained by going actions. If there are multiple crewmembers with the same occupation on the ship, all of them gain the full experience amount.
The actions are as follows:
- Geologists: identifying mineral chunks, depending on value (1 day per 60 000 E$ of value)
- Astrogators: detecting ships (seems to be 2 days per ship detected); discovering points of interest
- Mechanics: repairing or replacing parts (1 day's worth per 4 hours spent doing that)
- Pilot: evading collisions (per unit of time flying the ship while it's in danger of collision)
- Entire crew: flying through the rings at more than 50 m/s (0.5 days per minute).
Morale is a hidden stat of each crew member, and goes from -0.5 to 0.5. Morale is shown directly at Enceladus when its absolute value is more than 0.3, by happy/sad icons on the crew members in question.
Usually, morale gradually decays to 0 over time. Good accommodations (good hotels for the time on the station, or particularly comfortable ships like the OCP-209 or the Peacock Prospector for the time spent in dives) or bad ones (like the Vulture Prospector) change this point of stability. Some services, like good hotels or The Twins, also have an instant effect on morale.
Some Agenda events may affect morale. Also, not paying a crew member's wages will cause their morale to rapidly decrease.
Morale modifies the value of skills as
modified = original^(1-morale). This only applies to the effects of skills, and not to training (happier crew members don't learn or teach faster). The effects of morale are more significant for low skill levels. For example, morale of 0.3 increases a base skill of 0.25 to 0.37, but a base skill of 0.75 only to 0.81.