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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:24 am 
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I'm starting to rework some of the non-interactive combat system, and in doing so I've been reminded that the current way that the results of combats are reported to players is rather poor. Presently, after a combat occurs in which a player's forces are involved, a sitrep message of these sorts is generated:
Quote:
A combat has taken place in %system%. We were victorious!
A combat has taken place in %system%. We were defeated!
A combat has taken place in %system%. The encounter was inconclusive.
where %system% is the name of a system.

This doesn't give a lot of useful information to players about what happened in a combat they didn't observe. And similarly, when there are interactive combats that a particular player did or didn't take part in, but about which the player has some knowledge of the outcome, it would be good to report and record the outcome in the sitrep. The question remains though, about what sorts of information should be reported, and in what format.

Thinking about it briefly, it would be nice to know things like whether a ship was destroyed or damaged, how much damage was done, if a planet was captured, which empires were involved in the battle, and perhaps more details like a particular (type of?) ship doing a lot of damage, or a lot of damage against an enemy's forces (or type of ship in enemy forces).

There could be a variety of such information in a battle report sitrep message. How to arrange that information also isn't clear, however.
* There should (still) be an initial text line about a combat occuring in %system%.
* There should be mention of which empires were involved. Something like "... between the forces of..." and then a list of empires, possibly on separate lines, so that the grammar / formatting is more language independent.
* Details of the outcome.
** At the least, a number of destroyed or damaged ships for each combatant empire should be given, although this could also be an itemized list of ships by name if the number is small enough.
** All changes in ownership of planets should definitely be mentioned, likely as separate bullet points in the message.

Is it adequate to pack this information into a sitrep entry, or should there be a separate interface to display details of battles, with only a very simple sitrep entry shown?

Should there be multiple sitrep entries, for there being a battle, for ship damage or destruction, for planet ownership transfers or similar, as opposed to packing the information into a single sitrep entry?

Are there any suggestions or comments about how this sort of information should be displayed and what should be displayed?


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:47 am 
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In an ideal situation, precise details of every battle would be chronicled, along with a replay of the battle for future reference, which displays only information that was visible to the player. However, I'm not entirely sure that that would be feasible, or that it's entirely relevant to the current discussion. At the very least, precise details of each battle need to be accessible to the player on the turn immediately following the battle.

Two basic types of sitrep messages would be required.

Quote:
A combat has been observed in %system%. Known empires present were

...
and

Quote:
Our forces were involved in a combat in %system%. Other known empires present were

...
A combat involving the player's empire would be considered a more urgent sitrep message, if such distinctions are made. Following the second type, a very brief summary of whether or not the player's stated combat objectives were achieved should be displayed, for example:

Quote:
Our forces were involved in a combat in %system%. Other known empires were

...

2 out of 3 tactical objectives were accomplished.
If we're talking about a system that's as non-interactive as the current one though, just

Quote:
Our forces were involved in a combat in %system%. We were victorious!
should suffice.

The word "combat" should link to a combat report screen displaying all the relevant statistics for the combat. What was destroyed, what ship designs were involved in battle, what actions were attributed to ships of a specific type, any planets that were captured or troops delivered or spies deployed, how much ammo was used and of what type, etc, all displayed in a convenient and intuitive fashion. These stats of course, would be subject to visibility restrictions, and if such combat records are saved, they could potentially be traded or stolen from other empires, in which case the most up-to-date information would always be displayed, in the case where a player who had knowledge of a combat stole information of such a combat from another player. Anyhow, details of that aren't entirely on topic... what is important though, is the separate screen where as much easily accessible information as possible is displayed about the combat. It can't possibly all be stuffed into a sitrep.

Nobody expects the player to pay very close attention to each one of these reports. If he had to, that would be absurd micromanagement. But if the player needs access to subtle information about the combat that he wouldn't necessarily have been able to notice in the heat of battle, but which for all gameplay purposes, should have been visible to him, there simply needs to be a place where he can go to find that detailed information.

Quote:
** All changes in ownership of planets should definitely be mentioned, likely as separate bullet points in the message.
Yep.

Quote:
Should there be multiple sitrep entries, for there being a battle, for ship damage or destruction, for planet ownership transfers or similar, as opposed to packing the information into a single sitrep entry?
One relatively simple entry should be easier to understand for the player. The sitrep shouldn't get bogged down with details about a single event.

Also, is there actually going to be a place in the finished game for an entirely non-interactive combat system, and if not, should/are there being initial steps taken to add player interactivity, and if so, is/should this be the appropriate place to discuss such steps? Is that what you meant by "reworking" the non-interactive combat system?

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:14 am 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
Also, is there actually going to be a place in the finished game for an entirely non-interactive combat system...

Yes; combats between only non-human players, or where no human player wants to control or directly observe the combat will probably always be resolved with an entirely non-interactive system. There may be players who prefer to resolve all combats automatically, without any 3D visualization or interactive control of the situation, and I intend to support that as well.

Quote:
should/are there being initial steps taken to add player interactivity

tzlaine is (slowly) working on the interactive 3D combat system.

Quote:
is/should this be the appropriate place to discuss such steps?

No.

Quote:
Is that what you meant by "reworking" the non-interactive combat system?

No. I'm rewriting the non-interactive version of the combat system, which is more or less independent of the interactive combat system.

Quote:
...precise details of every battle would be chronicled, along with a replay of the battle for future reference...

Notably, non-interactive battles wouldn't be simulating using the same underlying mechanics as an interactive battle, since the point of making them non-interactive is to speed up combat resolution in cases where the details aren't important. As such, these battles wouldn't have any precise details to chronicle or replay... However, depending how the non-interactive battle simulation is run, there could be details such as "ship type X did a lot of damage / received a lot of damage from ship type Y", which could be reported after the battle. This sort of information could also be determined for player-controlled battles, and reported independent of how the battle was resolved.

Quote:
very brief summary of whether or not the player's stated combat objectives were achieved should be displayed

I don't think this is necessary or practical. Whether there should even be a way to "state combat objectives" before a battle is a separate issue that I don't want to get into in this thread. If there are objectives, determining whether a particular objective has been accomplished is probably nontrivial, depending on what sorts of objectives could be declared. As well, whether a particular objective has been accomplished should generally be implicit in details such as ships being damaged or destroyed, ships passing through the system, planets changing ownership, or planets / buildings being damaged.


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:26 am 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Whether there should even be a way to "state combat objectives" before a battle is a separate issue that I don't want to get into in this thread.

Then what are the automated fleets going to do, just blow up as much stuff as possible? Capture random planets? There is a definite need for some level of player interactivity in all battles, regardless of whether or not the player actually observes/controls the battle directly. A discussion of how to implement combat which the player does not control directly would be more useful than discussing a way to display the results of a form of combat which is too simplistic and abstract to be useful.

Quote:
As such, these battles wouldn't have any precise details to chronicle or replay... However, depending how the non-interactive battle simulation is run, there could be details such as "ship type X did a lot of damage / received a lot of damage from ship type Y", which could be reported after the battle.
If such details are actually distinguishable with the auto-resolve feature, then couldn't the precise amount of damage be quantified? In addition, the player may want to know details about ammo consumption or damage to individual ships. Such information will obviously need to exist, and should therefore be made available to the player. Of course, a replay would be out of the question in this case, if auto-resolution mechanics are different than those of an actual battle. However... unobserved battles can still occur much, much faster than observed battles simply due to the lack of a need to interface with the client after initial orders have been input... since that's the case, such battles could still use the same mechanics as a regular, observed battle, and still occur very quickly. This would be ideal, IMO, since there could be weird situations where a particular battle tactic is ineffective in auto-resolved combat, but very effective in observed combat, or even worse, vice-versa. Of course I have no idea how long it would actually take to auto-resolve a battle in that fashion...

Quote:
Quote:
very brief summary of whether or not the player's stated combat objectives were achieved should be displayed
I don't think this is necessary or practical.
It's at least as necessary as saying "We were victorious" or "We were defeated". Often, combat is not simply about wiping out every enemy ship in the area. There can be many possible goals in combat, and victory vs. defeat is not simply a question of who destroyed more ships, or who retreated first, particularly in combat with more than two sides.

Quote:
determining whether a particular objective has been accomplished is probably nontrivial
I don't follow. If the player has set a specific goal for combat, such as capturing an enemy planet, or destroying a particular ship or building, or running a particular ship through a blockade, it's pretty trivial to determine whether or not the objective was accomplished. What kind of goal did you have in mind, the success of which would be non-trivial to determine?

Quote:
As well, whether a particular objective has been accomplished should generally be implicit in details such as ships being damaged or destroyed, ships passing through the system, planets changing ownership, or planets / buildings being damaged.
The player shouldn't have to look at all the details of combat to get a general idea of whether or not the combat was successful.

Quote:
Yes; combats between only non-human players, or where no human player wants to control or directly observe the combat will probably always be resolved with an entirely non-interactive system. There may be players who prefer to resolve all combats automatically, without any 3D visualization or interactive control of the situation, and I intend to support that as well.
To clarify, by "interactivity" I am referring to any player control related to combat, before or during combat. This would include any orders for the AI to carry out during auto-resolution, and the player's orders regarding whether or not to engage in combat at all. You don't intend to leave player control over auto-resolution at the same level of interactivity as it is now, do you? That seems like a bit too much abstraction, IMO, even for the least tactically minded player...

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 6:40 am 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
Quote:
...depending how the non-interactive battle simulation is run, there could be details such as "ship type X did a lot of damage / received a lot of damage from ship type Y", which could be reported after the battle.
If such details are actually distinguishable with the auto-resolve feature, then couldn't the precise amount of damage be quantified?

Probably, but the point is to decide what sorts of results to display in the sitrep, or in a summary of the battle outcome. The player shouldn't need to examine a spreadsheet to get information of this sort, especially from a battle that's not being actively controlled, even if the info is available.

Quote:
Quote:
Quote:
very brief summary of whether or not the player's stated combat objectives were achieved should be displayed
I don't think this is necessary or practical.
It's at least as necessary as saying "We were victorious" or "We were defeated".

We don't really need to say those things either... More useful would be "X ships of empire 1 were destroyed", "Y ships of empire 2 were destroyed", "Z points of damage were done to planet A's shields".

Quote:
What kind of goal did you have in mind, the success of which would be non-trivial to determine?

Goals like transiting a system with a fleet, or damaging planets with an attacking fleet. If 5 of 10 ships survived the transit, or the planet took 20 points of damage out of a posssible 100 and the attacking fleet of 8 ships was lost, were those combats successful? Difficult to say without precise criteria for success or failure. Reporting the results as
* "5 ships were lost"
* "5 ships passed through system"
or
* "fleet of 8 ships was lost"
* "planet was bombarded for 20 points of damage"
lets the player know what happened without needing to have the game judge the results for the player.

Granted, I've suggested above having additional info such as "Ship type X did a lot of damage to enemy ship type Y", which involves some judgement by the game about what info of this sort is important. I suspect making reasonable criteria for that sort of judgement is easier than doing so for player-selected goals would be, and the additional info wouldn't require any player-interaction before or during a battle resolution to calculate, as the same criteria for would always apply, unlike for player-selected goals.

Quote:
Quote:
As well, whether a particular objective has been accomplished should generally be implicit in details such as ships being damaged or destroyed, ships passing through the system, planets changing ownership, or planets / buildings being damaged.
The player shouldn't have to look at all the details of combat to get a general idea of whether or not the combat was successful.

If "all the details of combat" are things like how many ships of each empire were destroyed, the player won't be that inconvenienced to parse the results. If "all" the details include how much ammo each ship expended, that's too much for players to read about for most combats.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 5:04 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
Probably, but the point is to decide what sorts of results to display in the sitrep, or in a summary of the battle outcome. The player shouldn't need to examine a spreadsheet to get information of this sort, especially from a battle that's not being actively controlled, even if the info is available.
Since much of the information about the combat can be made available elsewhere, the info that actually appears on the sitrep can be minimized to include only the most useful information. Information that would only be occasionally useful can go on a separate screen.

Quote:
Goals like transiting a system with a fleet, or damaging planets with an attacking fleet. If 5 of 10 ships survived the transit, or the planet took 20 points of damage out of a posssible 100 and the attacking fleet of 8 ships was lost, were those combats successful? Difficult to say without precise criteria for success or failure. Reporting the results as
* "5 ships were lost"
* "5 ships passed through system"
or
* "fleet of 8 ships was lost"
* "planet was bombarded for 20 points of damage"
lets the player know what happened without needing to have the game judge the results for the player.
I, for one, as a player, wouldn't mind defining a threshold for success vs. failure in such cases, particularly if it meant that I could judge the outcome of the battle from a single sentence in next turn's sitrep. Reporting the specific results afterwards as you describe would probably be useful, but a simple sentence describing haw many goals were accomplished would also be useful.

Quote:
Granted, I've suggested above having additional info such as "Ship type X did a lot of damage to enemy ship type Y", which involves some judgement by the game about what info of this sort is important. I suspect making reasonable criteria for that sort of judgement is easier than doing so for player-selected goals would be, and the additional info wouldn't require any player-interaction before or during a battle resolution to calculate, as the same criteria for would always apply, unlike for player-selected goals.
I'm dubious that displaying the success or failure of player defined goals would be more difficult than determining whether or not "Ship type X did a lot of damage to enemy ship type Y" is important...

Also, minimizing player interaction before the battle isn't nearly as important as making sure the AI will try to do what the player wants it to do during the battle and ensuring that the results of the battle are clearly and concisely expressed to the player. I also don't see how player-defined goals would result in any additional player-interaction during the battle as you seemed to imply...

Quote:
If "all the details of combat" are things like how many ships of each empire were destroyed, the player won't be that inconvenienced to parse the results. If "all" the details include how much ammo each ship expended, that's too much for players to read about for most combats.
Why should the player have to be inconvenienced at all to parse the results, when he could be supplied with a sentence at the very beginning that says "X out of Y goals were accomplished"? If he wants more detail than that, there can certainly be other important details included in the sitrep. Also, there is no debate over whether or not "all the details of combat" includes how much ammo each ship expended. It does. The only question is whether the player will have to check each individual ship to find out, or if he can go to a centralized info screen for combat details to find out (which doesn't in any way preclude the possibility of having more important details - like how many ships were destroyed - in the sitrep message itself). That kind of info needs to be displayed to the player somewhere, but it simply can't be cluttering up the sitrep. Therefore, it needs to go somewhere else, off in its own combat details screen, at which the player won't need to look if he doesn't want to, but can if he needs to.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 22, 2010 7:30 am 
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Bigjoe5 wrote:
I, for one, as a player, wouldn't mind defining a threshold for success vs. failure in such cases, particularly if it meant that I could judge the outcome of the battle from a single sentence in next turn's sitrep.

Having to define a threshold or several thresholds for goals to be automatically graded as successful in order to generate future sitreps about the battle seems like a waste of time... Wouldn't the time it takes to define the threshold be as much or more time than it would take to just look over the battle results?

Quote:
I'm dubious that displaying the success or failure of player defined goals would be more difficult than determining whether or not "Ship type X did a lot of damage to enemy ship type Y" is important...

It wouldn't be, but the point was that the player wouldn't have to define anything or adjust any thresholds to generate those sorts of results; it would be done automatically. (That said, judgements about the relative effectiveness of various ship types is probably not something that needs to be reported in the sitrep...)

Quote:
I also don't see how player-defined goals would result in any additional player-interaction during the battle as you seemed to imply...

I did not intend to imply that, though it was unclearly worded.

Quote:
Why should the player have to be inconvenienced at all to parse the results, when he could be supplied with a sentence at the very beginning that says "X out of Y goals were accomplished"?

Saying "X out of Y goals were accomplished" is useless, as it does't indicate which goals were accomplished, unless X is 0 or Y and the player remembers exactly what the goal-meeting criteria were set to.

Listing how many ships were damaged or destroyed, how many planets were captured, and how many planets were damaged probably sumarizes the results in most scenarios fairly well. These are factoids that we'd probably want to put on the SitRep anyway, regardless of whether other combat details would be shown.

These should also be enough for the player to easily judge whether his or her own criteria for success were met in many cases, without requiring goals and thresholds for success to be pre-defined. Pre-defining the thresholds and goals that were set would probably require as much or more time than reading those four standard battle report metrics (approximately... there might be some metrics worth always showing).

Quote:
Also, there is no debate over whether or not "all the details of combat" includes how much ammo each ship expended. It does. The only question is whether the player will have to check each individual ship to find out, or if he can go to a centralized info screen for combat details to find out

Ammo is shared between ships in a fleet, and as of now, there are only two types of ammo: fighters and missles (with no subtypes). As such, there's no need to check individual ships to see the fleet's available supply of ammo. The only reason to check individual ships would be to see how much ammo that ship used, but I'm reluctant to commit to keep track of that after a battle.

Quote:
[Fleet ammo information] needs to be displayed to the player somewhere, but it simply can't be cluttering up the sitrep. Therefore, it needs to go somewhere else, off in its own combat details screen, at which the player won't need to look if he doesn't want to, but can if he needs to.

No disagreement there...

Given that ammo is pooled, it's probably worth putting each two icons on the FleetWnd to show the available ammo of each type in the system for that empire's fleets.


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