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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 8:20 pm 
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Hi folks,

Been away for a while but working a bunch on FO in the last week. Right now, we're in the process of writing a separate design document for the tactical engine (which I have been calling the FreeOrion Tactical Combat Engine, or FTCE, since it makes me feel important). This document is going to be looked at and tweaked by the design team before it hits these boards (so it may be a little while yet) but I thought I'd get some of you talking about a few of the goals that may or may not end up in there. The format of the document is that I'm coming up with what we want to achieve and reducing these achievements to short sentences, and then working on implementations of those objectives -- sort of a series of things we can use to measure both our progress and our success at making what we've decided is a 'fun game.'

Here's a short list of some of the requirements that are under consideration. What would you add to this list? What would you remove? Keeping with our first rule of design (keep it simple!), if what you're talking about can't be expressed in a sentence or less, you're dealing with too much specificity and that's probably an implementation rather than a requirement.

Note that this is not a public review and the only reason this thread isn't in brainstorming is because it should be kept fairly neat and ordered. I came up with these in an afternoon and nobody else has seen them, so before you flip out and go 'OMG aquitaine is going to ruin freeorion combat' then realize that the 'official' document has a long way to go before it hits these forums. But instead of putting out a document and immediately revising it with something stupid I missed and should have thought of, I thought I'd get you all talking about it now so I can consider what questions we should be answering from some other angles. I'm also going back and playing MOO3 with some community patches and mods, since it's been a couple years since I touched it.

Some sample requirements:

Requirement 1: Combat must be epic in scale.
FreeOrion is a Space Opera. Combat must ‘feel’ epic.

Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.

If each ‘side’ is considered ‘one fleet,’ combat must support four fleets simultaneously

Requirement 3: Combat must support any combination of human and AI empires.

The engine must allow human versus human, human versus AI, and AI versus AI.


Requirement 4: Rules must be effectively understood by the AI.
Any rules or business logic that affect the combat engine must be reducible or comprehensible by the AI engine.

Requirement 5: Combat action must be easily understood by the player.

A clear understanding of what is going on in any part of the combat engine should require only a couple seconds’ attention to the units involved.

Requirement 6: The player must be able to design the ships in the fleet.

Control over the appearance and function of the players’ ships is an integral component of FreeOrion.

Requirement 7: The player’s control must not circumvent the rules.

The player must not have so much control over ship design or fleet composition that it becomes possible to ‘game’ the system.

Requirement 8: The field of combat must be apparent to the player.

Any strategic elements to the battlefield must be obvious.

Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.

Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.

Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Whether through the use of timed turns (in multiplayer) or a pause feature (in single player) or both, some mechanism must be provided to pause the flow of combat and give orders.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 8:39 pm 
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My 2 cents:

Requirement 2: 4 seem a too arbitrary number, what happenes if there are more?

Requirement 9 is interesting, but not really a must.

Requirement 10: a slow-down instead of pause option can also work.

Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time.

For example, with a minimap. But maybe with other method.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 10:06 pm 
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Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 1: Combat must be epic in scale.
FreeOrion is a Space Opera. Combat must ‘feel’ epic.

Not all combats will be epic... In some cases a few ships could have a minor skermish from which one retreates... that's not going to be epic no matter how the engine works. Unless you want to just skip any non-epic combats (autoresolve), some rewording is order.

Quote:
Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.

If each ‘side’ is considered ‘one fleet,’ combat must support four fleets simultaneously

What is a "fleet" for combat purposes? Is it the same as a fleet on the map, which can contain as little as a single scout ship from a single player? Better to say that the engine should be able to have X number of different players, human or AI, controlling ships simultaneously. These players' ships might be grouped as allies, or it might be a free-for-all.

Quote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.

Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.


This is unnecessary and surprising, or possibly just oddly worded. We'll be fine with a 2D map, and any attempt to replicate Homeworld's 3D combat isn't worth the effort. If by "terrain" on a 2D space map, you mean things like asteroid fields or nebulas, doesn't really involve a third dimension. It may be tactically similar to hills that go up or forests or swamps that go down in a medieval Earth combat engine like Total War, but it shouldn't be called "3D" unless you actually mean 3D like Homeworld.

Quote:
Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Whether through the use of timed turns (in multiplayer) or a pause feature (in single player) or both, some mechanism must be provided to pause the flow of combat and give orders.

I'm not sure this is the best way to express the goal here. Really we want to avoid any sort of "twitch" aspect, or situation where the speed of a player's mouse movement determines the winner of the combat. If this means pausing the game to give orders, that's fine, but it could perhaps be achieved other ways, and we should keep those options open until considering them carefully... (unless you feel this has already been done, but even then the solution and the goal are separate ideas and should be expressed as such).

Dreamer wrote:
Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time.

I disagree. There could be plenty of hidden information that players shouldn't know at all times. Limited range of sensors or cloaked ships or ships hidden in nebulas or asteroid fields come to mind...

There should perhaps also be some requirements about the maximum duration of combats, for each combat itself, total for each turn, and how long a player can spend not in combat while other players are, and/or that this should be configurable.

As well, should it be possible to disable combat and replace it with some sort of autoresolve? This can be a setting for the whole game, ie. there are no combats and everything is autoresolved, or on an individual basis combats may be played or not played as chosen by the players (including AIs, if the rules are completely transparent to whether a player is human or AI).

And what about grouping? There's been a lot of talk about the need to be able to put ships into control groups of some kind. Perhaps this is more implementation than requirement... and we should just say the UI needs to be good, but that's not very useful really... So to be more specific, IMO groups should be dynamic and configurable and only applicable to the battle, not the galaxy map movement of fleets. drek was keen on forcing ships to be built in groups and treating the group as an atomic "unit" (as in RTS or TBS games usage), but I don't see this as necessary. Groups could contain several different kinds of ships, and individual ships in such a group should behave in a manner consistent with both their design / assigned "role" / strengths and the overall order(s) given to the group by the player. For this to work, it suggests the need for some degree of coordination (ie. AI) for ships that you control, to allow them to function as a group, rather than just a bunch of ships each given an order. ie. if you order a group of picket ships and long-range missle ships to attack a target, the group should stay together, far from the target, allowing the missiles to attack, and the picket ships should act as pickets, proteting the missiles and not flying over to use their short range point defence against the group's target. You give the order "attack these ships" to the group, but the different types of ships in the group act differently as a result.

Also, in order to have fun things like cloaking and spying actually work, it should be possible to have a player observing a combat without the other players knowing. So if a player has a spy on another player's ship, the player might be able to watch the combat (or influence it through the spy even?) but the other players who are both "officially" involved in the battle wouldn't know that the spying player is watching. Similarly, there could be a combat between two players in a system where a third player has a cloaked ship. If the cloaked ship doesn't reveal itself, the first two players should be able to have their combat and never know that the third player had a ship in the system. Essentially this means that when the battle starts up, the "splash screen" can't list all players in the battle... it can only list ones that the player seeing the screen is currently aware of being involved in the combat. Similarly, during the combat, the only combatants listed should be ones the player currently knows is involved in the combat, due to having seeing a ship of that player in the system before, or on the battlefield during the combat.

The battle view should be dynamically zoomable, ideally from the scale of individual ships to the whole battle on one screen, and all the various scales of view should be practically useful for giving orders or viewing the big picture tactically.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 2005 11:34 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Not all combats will be epic... In some cases a few ships could have a minor skermish from which one retreates... that's not going to be epic no matter how the engine works. Unless you want to just skip any non-epic combats (autoresolve), some rewording is order.


Yes, of course. This goes without saying. (as opposed to, say, a system message: WARNING -- your fleet is pathetic and un-epic. try again later.)

Quote:
Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.

If each ‘side’ is considered ‘one fleet,’ combat must support four fleets simultaneously
What is a "fleet" for combat purposes? Is it the same as a fleet on the map, which can contain as little as a single scout ship from a single player? Better to say that the engine should be able to have X number of different players, human or AI, controlling ships simultaneously. These players' ships might be grouped as allies, or it might be a free-for-all.


4 Sides but one fleet per side. Think of Total War where you can have multiple armies belonging to the same side. You can only field one 'army' at a time (although others could be reserves/reinforcements).

Quote:
Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.

This is unnecessary and surprising, or possibly just oddly worded. We'll be fine with a 2D map, and any attempt to replicate Homeworld's 3D combat isn't worth the effort. If by "terrain" on a 2D space map, you mean things like asteroid fields or nebulas, doesn't really involve a third dimension. It may be tactically similar to hills that go up or forests or swamps that go down in a medieval Earth combat engine like Total War, but it shouldn't be called "3D" unless you actually mean 3D like Homeworld.


This is perhaps the single most difficult requirement and I struggled (and am struggling) over the wording. You've hit on it exactly in identifying the need for 'terrain that goes up and down' - it seems to me that we either commit to a fully 3D engine (maybe not quite as RTS-ish as Homeworld, but along those lines) or else settle for a 2D plane similar to the Starfleet Command series where 3D movement only occurs when you try to enter the same area as another ship. This is actually fine and fulfills the requirement, which is vague about how the 3D holy grail should be achieved. Personally, I think a Homeworld-style route is the wrong way to go since it adds so much complexity for a questionable return.

Quote:
Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Whether through the use of timed turns (in multiplayer) or a pause feature (in single player) or both, some mechanism must be provided to pause the flow of combat and give orders.
I'm not sure this is the best way to express the goal here. Really we want to avoid any sort of "twitch" aspect, or situation where the speed of a player's mouse movement determines the winner of the combat. If this means pausing the game to give orders, that's fine, but it could perhaps be achieved other ways, and we should keep those options open until considering them carefully... (unless you feel this has already been done, but even then the solution and the goal are separate ideas and should be expressed as such).


You've again hit directly on what I am going after here -- it should not be a twitch fest of any kind (even Total War is a little twitchy for my taste). We've talked about 'phased turns' ala Birth of the Federation in the past. Don't read too much into these requirements - they really are 'here's sort of what we're for.'

Dreamer wrote:
Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time.
I disagree. There could be plenty of hidden information that players shouldn't know at all times. Limited range of sensors or cloaked ships or ships hidden in nebulas or asteroid fields come to mind...


I may be picking nits such that this should be re-worded, but 'the state of combat' does not equal 'every ship in combat.' The point of this requirement is more that there should be no ambiguous events - if your ships are getting damaged/destroyed and you're losing, there should be multiple visual cues to this effect. Similar to the Total War 'Winning decisively' mouseover you get on your troops.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 12:51 am 
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Aquitaine wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote:
Not all combats will be epic...

Yes, of course. This goes without saying.

At least in the design, it shouldn't be left unsaid. The capacity for an "epic" feel of battles isn't the same as all battles being epic. The distinction is practically important, as UI designed for only one might not be appropriate for the other, and other such issues. I'd also like to keep the design as clear and unambiguous as possible, which means saying "capcity to be epic" rather than "always epic" in this case.

Quote:
4 Sides but one fleet per side. Think of Total War where you can have multiple armies belonging to the same side. You can only field one 'army' at a time (although others could be reserves/reinforcements).

We need to define what a "fleet" is if we're going to keep using the term. Refering to what they do in Total War won't work, even for this preliminary discussion. Are there limits on how many ships can be in a fleet? Is a fleet in battle the same thing as a fleet on the galaxy map? If you really just meant that the combat engine should allow four players simultaneously, then just say that... confusing the issue with extra terminology isn't necessary.

Quote:
This is perhaps the single most difficult requirement and I struggled (and am struggling) over the wording. You've hit on it exactly in identifying the need for 'terrain that goes up and down'

"terrain that goes up and down" is probably not a good way to put this. If we end up having combat in a 2D plane, then there is no up or down in the terrain; an asteroid belt is not "up". The fact that hills are actually "up" in Total War shouldn't influence the terminology we use for FO. Talk about "terrain in space" as in asteriod fields and such, not up/down. We can make the comparison to terrain elevation in total war, but don't actually call it elevation / up / down for the FO design and discussion.

Quote:
it seems to me that we either commit to a fully 3D engine (maybe not quite as RTS-ish as Homeworld, but along those lines) or else settle for a 2D plane similar to the Starfleet Command series where 3D movement only occurs when you try to enter the same area as another ship.

A fully 3D engine like homeworld not a good idea. UI issues and general complexity far outweigh an bonus due to realism from being in a full 3D environment. (It sounds like we agree on this.)

As for what to do when two ships attempt to occupy the same position on the 2D plane, I don't even think we need to have pseudo-3D stuff then. Just have the ships bump into eachother, or don't let them occupy the same space, or have them co-exist in the same space without worrying about how it's possible (like air units in StarCraft tended to do). There's no need for any more spatial complexity than would make sense for tanks rolling around on a flat grassy field. This would mean that there's no "3D" in the engine at all, other than having 3D ship models and explosion effects, and maybe the ability to tilt the view to get a better perspective on the battle (but the ships themselves would still move about in the plane).

Quote:
The point of this requirement is more that there should be no ambiguous events - if your ships are getting damaged/destroyed and you're losing, there should be multiple visual cues to this effect.

Does this mean there can be no cloaked ships, nor cloaked minefields you can't see even when you're inside, nor damaging energy fields that you can't see because you don't have the necessary technology / equipment? What about enemy spies on your ships... if you always know about them, what's the point? What about ships that are just far enough away that you can't see them, but they have better sensors so can see you, so are able to shoot missiles at you from far away? What if enemy ships are hiding in a nebula or asteroid field and shooting out at you? Any of these events would be "ambiguous" to the player on the receiving end... but that ambiguity is essential to their existance or purpose.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 7:23 am 
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Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 1: Combat must be epic in scale.
FreeOrion is a Space Opera. Combat must ‘feel’ epic.

This is quite a broad requirement, though I guess this can be achieved by saying things like "battle at Antares star date 9.5.4.8.2, etc" at the start of combats.

Also make combat system wide, thats epic.

Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.

If each ‘side’ is considered ‘one fleet,’ combat must support four fleets simultaneously

Just make it support at least two players and as many players as are aloud in the game. The phased time combat system can achieve this.

Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.

Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.

Let's change this to "Combat must be two dimensional from a top down or top down isometric view". Let's not aim for 3D, I think it ruins any hope of being strategy then. 2D seems more strategic to me and less intimidating then 3D.

Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Whether through the use of timed turns (in multiplayer) or a pause feature (in single player) or both, some mechanism must be provided to pause the flow of combat and give orders.

This requirement is only necesary of combat is real time. If combat is turn based or phased time, then combat has phases where combat is paused and orders can be given. See my own requirement 12 that may replace this one.

Dreamer wrote:
Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time.

Make this into "players must be able to see the state of combat if the player is allowed".


Requirement 12
===========
Each side must have an equal opportunity to give their orders and make their moves.


This is to avoid the Moo2 situation where the player who goes first has too big an advantage because the first player has killed the second players army before the second player could even make a move.

The combat systems that fit this requirement are real time and phased time.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 9:19 am 
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Quote:
Requirement 1: Combat must be epic in scale.
FreeOrion is a Space Opera. Combat must ‘feel’ epic.


Its very hard to make a battle of two scout ships on the fringe of known space epic in scale.
I like the idea of systemwide combat which will definately make the fight feel more "epic". Some announcements before the battle like "The Fifth Darlok Warfleet prepares to smash all Bultathi resistance in the Hermes System..." would also make it feel more epic, along with some statistics and reports after the battle.

Quote:
Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.


We should defiantely include support for a minimum of 4 sides, although I would like support for even more. Best of course would be to implement support for all factions in the game but depending on the builtup of the combat system, this might be unrealistic


I aggree with the wording of requirements 3 to 7

Quote:
Requirement 8: The field of combat must be apparent to the player.

Any strategic elements to the battlefield must be obvious.


IMO the player should not know the whole battlefield. Cloaked mines, dustclouds, asteroid fields, etc can all remain hidden from a player until he scans for them with sufficient scanning strength. This adds a lot of depth to the strategic part of the game.

Quote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.

Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.


I'm in favour of a 2d isomeric view of the battlefield. A homeworldlike 3d battlefield is far too much work to be worth it.
According to KISS we should just disallow ships to occupy the same space and be done with it.
The furthest I would go is to add an extra plane for fighters and missiles as will be done in the new Star Wars Game "Empires at War". These would be displayed above the ship occupying the space.


Quote:
Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Whether through the use of timed turns (in multiplayer) or a pause feature (in single player) or both, some mechanism must be provided to pause the flow of combat and give orders


This will be hard to do without making it exploitable. Turn based or phased time combat seem to be best IMO.

Quote:
Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time.


I would change it into:

"Players must only be able to see what they discover by means of scanners, spys, special technologies or shard vision."


Requirement 12

I wholeheartedly aggree with utilae's Requirement 12


Requirement 13
-------------------

"Players in multiplayer games must not have to wait too long for other players having space combats"

Hard to achieve but neccessary IMO. A limited number of combat turns in every game turn would be a start for this (e.g. 10 combat turns = 1 gameturn)


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:51 am 
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Aquitaine wrote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.

Whether it’s through a fully 3D movement, the use of terrain, or some other solution, combat must take advantage of all three planes.

I seem to be the only one who favours this. Actually i would like to see something similar as in Homeworld.

utilae wrote:
Let's change this to "Combat must be two dimensional from a top down or top down isometric view". Let's not aim for 3D, I think it ruins any hope of being strategy then. 2D seems more strategic to me and less intimidating then 3D.

No way! Why is 2D more strategic than 3D? Just think of the strategic possibilies you can gain with a 3rd dimension.

I could live with a combat system which works on a 2d plane but features a free 3D camera, but i would like to encourage you(especially the design team) to work on a way to make a full 3D system user friendly, strategic rich and fun. I'm convinced it is possible. Give it a try at least and don't discard it right from the beginning, just because other games work in another way.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 1:06 pm 
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Quote:
Requirement 1: Combat must be epic in scale.
Fine by me. More important though, IMO, is "combat should scale well, from small battles involving 1 or 2 scout ships, to massive fleets".

Quote:
Requirement 2: Combat must support at least 4 sides.
4 is a sensible initial value. Not sure that its absolutely vital to support any more than 2 though.

Quote:
Requirement 3: Combat must support any combination of human and AI empires.
Agreed.

Quote:
Requirement 4: Rules must be effectively understood by the AI.
Yep.

Quote:
Requirement 5: Combat action must be easily understood by the player.
Definitely.

Quote:
Requirement 6: The player must be able to design the ships in the fleet.
Agreed, but i dont think that this is really a requirement for the tactical combat engine - its more of an issue for the main game. Maybe this should be: "the combat engine (and AI) must be able to handle player designed ships adequately".

Quote:
Requirement 7: The player’s control must not circumvent the rules.
Agreed. However, good luck trying to achieve that with anything even remotely complex.

Quote:
Requirement 8: The field of combat must be apparent to the player.
Of course.

Quote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.
Disagree. This shouldnt be set in stone without significant discussion.

Quote:
Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.
Agree, but there should be another requirement to the effect of: "Control over combat should aim to be effective/streamlined enough to minimise the use of pauses by players except in extreme circumstances"

I would like to add an extra requirement:

"Combat should reward tactical play - it should not be enough to just bring more/bigger/better designed ships than your enemy".

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 3:39 pm 
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There is a lot of assumption going on that the requirements are requiring a specific implementation. I appreciate that you want them less ambiguous, Geoff, and while I the final product will definitely take into account this thread and a lot of conversation about just these issues, they are sometimes ambiguous because I think the purpose of this document is to tell the programmers and artists 'here is what we want' and not 'here is how to do your job.'

For example, 'epic' does not necessarily mean 'there must be a whole lot of ships, always.'

Total War makes several attempts to satisfy this requirement. They have the pre-battle speeches, and they have the #1 thing that I think MOO3 screwed up -- they have proper scale. If you have only three units, you can zoom and rotate and watch the battle from their perspective such that it looks epic to you. In MOO3, if you have only 3 units, and especially if they're Destroyers or smaller, they look like dots making squeak sounds. I anticipate this 'scale' issue being one of the biggest obstacles we have to overcome, but all of this can be reduced to 'must be epic.' So yeah, if you've got three ships and the other guy has two, I'm not saying we don't let you fight -- I'm saying that, in every decision we make, the #1 requirement is that it should, if possible, contribute to the epic feeling of combat, or at least not detract from it.

Quote:
Requirement 6: The player must be able to design the ships in the fleet. Agreed, but i dont think that this is really a requirement for the tactical combat engine - its more of an issue for the main game. Maybe this should be: "the combat engine (and AI) must be able to handle player designed ships adequately"


You're right, but it does tie into the combat engine inasmuch as we have to be able to anticipate lots of different ship designs. For example, let's say we settle on a slightly complicated edition of Rock-Paper-Scissors (ala Total War) as this is, in my mind, the most 'proven' solution that doesn't just get reduced to a slug fest (you could call this the '3 factorial' approach to an RTS minigame in terms of permutations of unit matchups). If you designed units in Total War, you would forever be trying to lump a rock and a pair of scissors onto the same unit, and you'd get frustrated if the game didn't let you. We'll need a whole new thread for ship design, but I think this requirement should stay as a reminder that we are going to have to find a solution that both gives the player freedom to feel as though he has control over his fleet composition but does not throw the game rules out the window.

Quote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support three-dimensional movement.
Disagree. This shouldnt be set in stone without significant discussion.


It isn't set in stone one way or the other. While I am leaning towards a '3d-ish' solution like BOTF, I have a niggling feeling that we are shooting strategy in the foot by doing so. This is something we are going to have to talk over with every designer and programmer we have and it will end up being a question of what we have the resources to do. Should we do a Homeworld-style setup? While I'm thinking 'probably not' right now, the whole discussion is moot if the devs say 'ha ha yeah and I want a pony.' But if they said 'well maybe' then I know our UI people and design team could make a strategic UI such that managing three dimensions would be easier.

And in answer to another question, I think an auto-resolve is a given. Not everyone wants to deal with this kind of thing (we'd like to appeal to the GalCiv folks, after all).

Quote:
Requirement 8: The field of combat must be apparent to the player.

Any strategic elements to the battlefield must be obvious.

IMO the player should not know the whole battlefield. Cloaked mines, dustclouds, asteroid fields, etc can all remain hidden from a player until he scans for them with sufficient scanning strength. This adds a lot of depth to the strategic part of the game.


Knowing the whole battlefield and having the field of combat be apparent are not the same thing. I'm sorry if I'm sounding like a lawyer here. :) Both this requirement and 'Requirement 11: The player must be able to see the whole state of the combat at every time' are two sides of the same coin. This does not mean 'ye shall be omniscient' -- it means that if something is on the battlefield and having an effect, the player should be able to understand what it is and what that effect is. This does not mean that the player must be able to see cloaked ships; it means that, if a cloaked ship is decloaking, the player should be alerted to it somehow. It means that every element on the battlefield that does not have a real good reason to be invisible should be self-explanatory. These are really more basic requirements than they might seem; 'well of course, Aq, why wouldn't they be obvious?' Because in a some RTSes, space ones especially where you don't have soldiers shouting, you've got the kitchen sink of FX but no idea what's really going on. Let me give you some sample implementations for these requirements along the lines I was thinking about:

- While there may be any number of offensive weapons, the type of weapon being used should be evident from any of the following: the animation, the sound effect, or a mouse-over/selection of the ship firing the weapon. Example: If a weapon is 'enveloping' and attacks all shield quadrants, it must be accompanied by an animation that clearly depicts shield damage on all quadrants.

- A ship exploding because it has been destroyed should have a different animation and sound from a ship activating an auto-destruct module that causes damage to all surrounding ships.

Another implementation would be 'how do we display damage to ships?' IN MOO3 you had -21 and -47 appearing above the ships. This give you the information (sort of) although you don't necessarily know how much -21 or -47 is. Is this the best way to make the player aware of the 'state of battle'?

Hopefully that's a little more clear. Now onto Geoff's comments:

Quote:
At least in the design, it shouldn't be left unsaid. The capacity for an "epic" feel of battles isn't the same as all battles being epic. The distinction is practically important, as UI designed for only one might not be appropriate for the other, and other such issues. I'd also like to keep the design as clear and unambiguous as possible, which means saying "capcity to be epic" rather than "always epic" in this case.


I think you are picking nits here. You may assume that I am not enough of an idiot to design a game that only supports huge battles. This level of idiocy is something I only aspire to.

I could just as easily say 'designing a UI that only supports the capacity for epic battles places epic-osity as a secondary priority and is therefore bad.' Where, really, the 'epic-ness' of the battles is found all over the engine. Let's take for granted that the engine has to support battles big and small and the UI should be flexible enough such that you can control your one ship when that's all you've got and you can also control your 200 ships.

The place where this would be 'clear and unambiguous' would be in the implementation section of the document, which I'm writing with consideration of this thread.

Quote:
We need to define what a "fleet" is if we're going to keep using the term. Refering to what they do in Total War won't work, even for this preliminary discussion. Are there limits on how many ships can be in a fleet? Is a fleet in battle the same thing as a fleet on the galaxy map? If you really just meant that the combat engine should allow four players simultaneously, then just say that... confusing the issue with extra terminology isn't necessary.


Referring to what they do in Total War works perfectly for the point I am making. You are talking about implementations. How many ships there are in a fleet, whether or not you can mix-and-match strategic map fleets into different battle map fleets -- those are all implementation questions. They're very important ones, sure, but for the purpose of this document 'one fleet' is 'the units under the control of one empire that may be fielded simultaneously in battle.' This would be 'one stack' in Total War.

I don't only mean that it should allow four players simultaneously. I mean it should allow four players, but (perhaps) four players with two fleets apiece, in which case each player has got a stack of reinforcements. So the combat engine has to worry about not only what's on the grid at the start, but what's coming in from someplace else.

Quote:
"terrain that goes up and down" is probably not a good way to put this. If we end up having combat in a 2D plane, then there is no up or down in the terrain; an asteroid belt is not "up". The fact that hills are actually "up" in Total War shouldn't influence the terminology we use for FO. Talk about "terrain in space" as in asteriod fields and such, not up/down. We can make the comparison to terrain elevation in total war, but don't actually call it elevation / up / down for the FO design and discussion.


The point of this requirement is that we need to try and achieve the strategic value of having an 'up and down,' just like Total War does, whether we are 2D or 3D. If we are 2D, we are faking it, and I am not sure we can convincingly fake it. I am not really talking about 'terrain in space' like asteroid fields, which are great and have additional strategic value, but they're not the same as elevation, which is perhaps a better word for it than terrain that goes up and down :). This ties in with another comment in this thread that we have to reward tactical decisions. Part of Homeworld's problem is that, while you had all of this control to go wherever the hell you wanted, it was difficult to understand the value of having your formation be an X versus a line versus something else. Homeworld was too complex but BOTF too simple. Where is the middle ground?

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 2005 10:24 pm 
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Space Squid

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Requirement 1: All battles should be epic.
All battles can seem epic without many ships. If you have it, go watch two destroyers in Homeworld 2 blast at eachother for a while. Of course, a couple thousand ships blasting at eachother

Requirement 2: 4 Sides/Fleets/Races/whatever.
4 is a nice, if arbitary, number. What I would say is more important is the ability to have multiple allied fleets engaging under one banner (not one commander, and treachery is certainly an option), so you may have two conglomerations of fleets. Also, I would say that reserves should not exist as a requirement. If you want to bring your entire insystem forces into the battle, fine. But you should be able to hold forces in reserve if you want to, perhaps for a surprise attack. Of course, thats up to the devs capabilities.

Requirements 3 through 7 are fairly indisputable, except as mentioned the design one is slightly seperate.

Requirement 8: The entire field of combat must be easily understandable and observable.
That rewording avoids the implications of stealth. Also deals with Requirement 11.

Requirement 9: Combat must support 3-D movement.
Certainly doable, even to a Homeworld or beyond extent. And it can still be strategic. The thing is, it is a different kind of strategy than has been done before, so do you still want it at that cost. Otherwise it can be abstracted in the ability to fly over things.*

Requirement 10: Cannot be fully real time
couples with
Requirement 12: Cannot be fully turn based
to force simultaneous turns or phased real-time. I'd personally prefer the latter

Requirement 13: Cannot take away from the fun of other players.
One comment on this I would make is that while irrelevant combat is occuring, the waiting players should be able to be doing some form of empire management. In addition, if the uninvolved player has intelligence services working on the involved parties, perhaps they can get glimpses of the battle (perhaps a camera attached to one ship). Basically, while battles shouldn't eat up too much of other players time, the other players should be able to do something, hence the rewording.

My proposed additions:
Requirement 14: There is no one true way to win
Any particular design/fleet type/strategy should not dominate the game. Example: I build nothing but missile ships equipped with heavy anti-missile gear. Ships without missiles can't reach me before dying, ships with them still have to pierce heavy antimissile. Now, if I start building those when everyone is using beam ships with no antimissile, they should dominate, but not forever or unfairly.

Requirement 15: Curses. I had one before I started writing my diatribe on 14... Hopefully I'll come back and edit this soon...



* You ask for the middle ground. I would say that you really need to decide if you want a 2-d-with-3-d-elements, or a full 3-d game (which homeworld actually isn't quite). I think a full 3-d game would be doable, I think the problem is keeping it from being confusing. Not confusing as in "I can't tell if my new Battleaxes are any better than my old Scythes", but as in "Which way is up? There is no up? What the hell? Where'd the planet go?"


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2005 1:06 am 
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Magus wrote:
Requirement 9: Combat must support 3-D movement.
Certainly doable, even to a Homeworld or beyond extent. And it can still be strategic. The thing is, it is a different kind of strategy than has been done before, so do you still want it at that cost. Otherwise it can be abstracted in the ability to fly over things.*

I think requirement 9 is yet to be decided, so we cannot say that 3D is a requirement yet. That way it is open as to whether it is 2d or 3d. When we decided we can set this requirement. For now we need something that does not need deciding.

Magus wrote:
Requirement 10: Cannot be fully real time
couples with
Requirement 12: Cannot be fully turn based
to force simultaneous turns or phased real-time. I'd personally prefer the latter

Why have you changed those requirements to ones that don't make sense? This is how they are mean't to be, although requirement 10 could be changed. I think requirement 12 is good the way it is:

Requirement 10: Combat interruption is permitted to control fleets.

Requirement 12: Each side must have an equal opportunity to give their orders and make their moves.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2005 9:16 pm 
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Requirement 13 - Orders given to ship / ships are undertaken in the way the player expects them to behave. In other words, if I tell a ship to move forward, it moves forward, with an indication that it IS moving forward (either by animating the thruster jets behind the ship, etc...) Also, if I tell the ship to go forwards and it can't for some reason, I am given an indication as to why it can't. EG: Engines disabled, caught in tractor beam, etc... The same goes for shooting stuff. IF a ship can't shoot stuff, the player should be given a cue as to why it can't.


This way we don't get the "WTF why aren't my ships moving move move move MOVE MOVE MOOOOOOOOOOOVE!!! AW F&^%& they just died to those F^%^ Missiles!!! I HATE THIS GAME!!!!!"



(As to the 3D, 2D debate... Well, we could go with a purely flat 2D plane, however that would limit combat to the same plane as the solar system finds itself on. You wouldn't be able to attack a system from "The Top" or "45 degrees from the top" if it were purely 2D. Of course, it may be easier with a purely 2D to use planets / asteroids / Planetary rings / etc as cover.)

Perhaps the option is an "Earth and Beyond" concept of quasi 3D, where you could have 3 fixed layers - simply

1. Above the Solar system plane
2. At the solar system plane
3. Below the solar system plane

Options that can quickly be toggled.

As for Nebula and deep-space combat, well everything is 2D depending on your reference point and if you only have 2 objects.


Requirement 14 - Combat should happen fairly often / or the opportunity for combat should be available for it to happen fairly often for the player to chose. In MP MOO2, I found there wasn't enough combat, and when there was, it was often 2 big fleets squaring off each other. Perhaps adding pirates / monsters / specials / etc?

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2005 4:42 am 
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Why limit the number of sides to four? Why not allow as many as is required by the situation? If The Alliance shows up with 3 participating races, and they want to tango with a planet that already has 3 other races parked on it, you just throw everyone into the ring: 6 races. Now That's epic. And i don't believe it would be the least bit hard to do either. It would probably require a circular map to free yourself from the limiting thought of "squares have 4 sides, so there must be 4 players max."


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2005 4:06 pm 
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Re: leiavoia's post, that's mostly a technical consideration. I fully appreciate that tzlaine is going to look at what I send him and have me killed already, so I thought by limiting it to 4 sides, we'd at least have some semblence of knowing how and when to apply the brakes.

What could be possible is to allow that only if they are all human players. Because if you allow, say, six sides in an AI fight, you run afoul of 'the AI must be able to follow all the rules' as I really do not imagine that our AI will know how to coordinate three whole fleets versus three whole other fleets. But hey, if we make headlines and get some AI folks out of MIT or someplace and the devs say 'yeah let's do it,' I certainly won't say no!

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