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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 11:10 am 
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From the vision statement thread:
MatGB wrote:
Given that no one on the team is currently interested in a tactical combat engine, and some of us distinctly don't want one anyway, [...]
I wanted to bring up tactical combat for some time, but originally had not intended to do so before 0.4.5, but since it has now come up anyway: what opinions are there about tactical space combat?
As far as I am concerned, I would definitely like to see tactical space combat, I always felt it is a reward to see your newly researched weapon technology "at work", and it is fun to have a second game beside the macro map play. However, I believe combat should - at least at this point - be simplified, for example 1vs1, planet-, not system-spanning, 2D, maybe "MoO1-style"; anything else than a simple combat setup I feel is not realisticly doable now.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 2:54 pm 
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From the game design perspective, there are three main problems:

* FOs scale. The game allows for massive maps. I'm just playtesting with a 500 map, and once you've got several conflicts with a couple of battles each turn, playing a turn already becomes quite time consuming with just the "macro map play". Resolving all those battles by tactical combat? Oh boy. I've played other 4X space games, most of them offering tactical combat. It's fun at the early stages of the game, after that I just let the games auto resolve combats, because it becomes too much. And practically all of them weren't even close to FOs map sizes.

* Multiplayer. That drastically compounds the problem of the above point. Imagine a game with 5-10 players, at the mid to late game stage, where there are probably a lot of battles between the different players each turn. I've found threads with long discussions about how to address the problem that if all of those battles were allowed to be resolved in tactical combat, the game would become utterly unplayable. All of the suggested solutions where either ackward, impractical, impossible to implement, unrealistic or a mixture of several of these. Meaning, for multiplayer you'd have to turn off that feature anyway (and auto-resolve everything).

* This would restrict tactical combat to single player, which brings us to the last problem: the AI. All 4X games I've played which had a tactical combat engine worth using had the problem that a human player can take too much advantage of an AI in tactical combat. It's just no fun, if you can beat the crap out of the AI even with inferior ships because the AI can't keep up with a human. We have already the problem on the "macro" level that for a fairly capable human player the AI can't offer a real challenge, this would be made worse. So unless we manage to implement a capable, challenging tactical combat AI which can hold its ground against a human, tactical combat just won't be any fun. Dilvish can probably say something about how likely that is (us implementing a capable, challenging tactical combat AI, that is ;)).

On the implementation side of things there is one big, big problem: Implementing a decent tactical combat engine is a gargantuan task. Especially for a small team like ours. We simply don't have the manpower for that kind of thing.
The Silent One wrote:
However, I believe combat should - at least at this point - be simplified, for example 1vs1, planet-, not system-spanning, 2D, maybe "MoO1-style"; anything else than a simple combat setup I feel is not realisticly doable now.
That would be the alternative, to tone things down to a level we can handle, but I'm not fond of such an idea:

* It would still require considerable effort, and the game design problems still remain

* What you describe might work in a retro game, but FO isn't retro. This feels like bolting a tactical combat engine like games in the nineties had onto a modern 4X game. If we do tactical combat, I think it needs to be comparable to todays standards, at least to some degree. Not state of the art, that's certainly completely unrealistic, but not MOO1.

* We can't do combat other than system spanning, and neither only 1vs1. These simplifications aren't really possible I think.

So, as appealing as the idea might be, IMO that's far too much trouble for a problematic feature which offers an improvement of only debatable value.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 3:21 pm 
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As a new enthusiastic player, and someone who wants to eventually contribute to the project, I am very much in favour of adding tactical combat. I agree that often you'll want to auto-resolve the less important battles if there's a lot going on, but IMO being able to take control for the pivotal clashes would add enough to the game to justify the coding difficulty.


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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:08 pm 
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@ Vezzra: You bring up good and valid points, but I don't think it is impossible to solve them satisfactorily. I feel removing tactical combat would take away a key part of 4X games and with that some of the most memorable moments: conquering Orion or Antares, defending that uber Sakkra / Klakon / Antarans attack on your homeworld, taking down the space crystal ravaging your colonies... also, I think players want to have influence on the outcomes of their battles. To me, the game feels incomplete without tactical combat.

Vezzra wrote:
* FOs scale. [...] Resolving all those battles by tactical combat? Oh boy. [...] It's fun at the early stages of the game, after that I just let the games auto resolve combats, because it becomes too much.
I agree, but in my opinion the option to auto-resolve is a viable solution for this. Pick the fights that are fun, leave the ones that are boring.

Vezzra wrote:
* Multiplayer. [...] Imagine a game with 5-10 players, at the mid to late game stage, where there are probably a lot of battles between the different players each turn. I've found threads with long discussions about how to address the problem that if all of those battles were allowed to be resolved in tactical combat, the game would become utterly unplayable. [...]
On the other hand, there are probably lots of games with 2-4 players where this is not so much of an issue. I would imagine three multiplayer options: "let players control all fights", "players may choose which fights to control", "auto-resolve all fights". In games with lots of players the players could choose option 3, in games with few players option 1.

Vezzra wrote:
* [...] last problem: the AI. All 4X games I've played which had a tactical combat engine worth using had the problem that a human player can take too much advantage of an AI in tactical combat.
So it's a challenge :)

Quote:
On the implementation side of things there is one big, big problem: Implementing a decent tactical combat engine is a gargantuan task. Especially for a small team like ours. We simply don't have the manpower for that kind of thing.
I agree, I believe this is the main problem. My approaches to deal with this would be:
- simplification / KISS
- incremental improvement. start simple, improve over time, just like with the map part of fo, or just like BfW

Vezzra wrote:
If we do tactical combat, I think it needs to be comparable to todays standards, at least to some degree.
What are todays "standards"? I think what's important is that space combat is fun, and I'm sure we would be able to make it into something engrossing and unique like the map play. I agree space combat is, as you put it, a gargantuan task, but so was making the game up to this point. FO also started simple and has since developed into what it is now.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:23 pm 
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The Silent One wrote:
Pick the fights that are fun, leave the ones that are boring.... I would imagine three multiplayer options: "let players control all fights", "players may choose which fights to control", "auto-resolve all fights". In games with lots of players the players could choose option 3, in games with few players option 1.

Here's my problem with this idea in both single player and multiplayer (although your option 3 negates it it's a massive problem for option 2).

I hit end turn, my opponent(s), including AIs, then hit end turn.

We then have to wait for all movement to resolve and let the game decide where the fights are going to be.

Then, all human players have to choose which ones they resolve. Then an order for resolution has to be determined some way, what if one player has 10 fights and another player has none?

It has the potential to cause huge delays in which players aren't really free to wander off and do something else because they might be needed, and one player might feel swamped as all their opponents want to fight every battle.

So a player not involved in any conflict one turn is stuck waiting for a very long time while a huge number of fights are resolved, whereas a player maybe stuck in the middle at war with multiple neighbours has a large number of fights to resolve and taking breaks will cause even more delays. If there's to be a decent tactical combat engine worth using then the fights have to be meaningful, so they can't be over in seconds, but that means everyone waits.

Given the scale and scope of the game as is, I genuinely don't think it would add anything to the engine/game to implement tactical combat, I think it would detract from the game.

However, I think the engine that's being built has the potential for more than one rulesets/playstyles, the current content could fairly easily be rewritten to create a 'sector' based game where each system is bigger, more buildings, etc and it's more about the individual fights and the individual systems.

That would benefit from tactical combat. But in order for it to even happen, you'd need a team of devs both willing and able to code the combat engine, let alone the AI team and the content team.

I would love, once FO 1.0 is in the bag (which, let's face it, isn't going to be within the next year or two), to have a "fork" in which a smaller scale game with more emphasis on tactical aspects and less on empire building is created, the engine could support it. But splitting efforts right now isn't at all viable.

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:39 pm 
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MatGB wrote:
So a player not involved in any conflict one turn is stuck waiting for a very long time while a huge number of fights are resolved, whereas a player maybe stuck in the middle at war with multiple neighbours has a large number of fights to resolve and taking breaks will cause even more delays. If there's to be a decent tactical combat engine worth using then the fights have to be meaningful, so they can't be over in seconds, but that means everyone waits.

If possible, I would allow players that are not involved in or done with their fights to view the main game screen (without being able to change anything in between turns). They could use the time to plan and overthink their strategies, etc., maybe even add new designs. There would be an indicator how many of the fights have been resolved.

MatGB wrote:
It has the potential to cause huge delays in which players aren't really free to wander off and do something else because they might be needed, and one player might feel swamped as all their opponents want to fight every battle.
You can always drop a few friendly words on the chat...

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 5:47 pm 
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It might be worth enabling tactical combat only for single-player games initially. Then players and developers could gain a feel for what games with TC are like, and it might then be clearer what to do to make it work for multiplayer games.


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PostPosted: Fri Aug 28, 2015 9:27 pm 
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I too think that the battles should be made more engaging. But full fledged tactical combat seems ill advised for the reasons brought up by others.

I believe the solution could be something like the battles in Gratuitous Space Battles. It is a delightful game, I highly recommend it. The idea in that game is that you don't give any instructions at real time. All you do is set up your fleets' positions, target priorities and formations and then hit play. Then you watch the engine resolve the battle. You can see how the priorities you set up decide the flow of the battle. The beauty is that if you lose, you to try again. The enemies behave largely the same every time, so you get to iterate, hone your settings and really see how they affect the battle.

Something that detailed is out of the question, but I believe a semi-detailed 2d representation of the battle could be quite engaging. It would allow you to see precisely how your designs interacted with the enemies'. Then we could introduce a bit more varied design parameters — like weapon types and such — and the player could use what they saw in the battle to thwart their enemies' designs.

And the beautiful thing about something like this would be that battles would still always be autoresolved. Watching the precise course of events would be entirely optional, done only when necessary to hone your designs (and perhaps some vague tactical settings (or more detailed: a destruction queue)). Wouldn't really need to be a real spatial simulation if we don't want it to: an advanced form of the sort of resolution we already do would fine if we just represent it with some nifty animations instead of a textual log.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2015 10:05 am 
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I have been putting some more thoughts into space combat and would like to present and discuss some ideas. This is supposed to be an open creative process to explore how space combat can be improved. Sorry, massive post, code boxes can be skipped.

To sum up the key arguments against "RTS-style"-space combat:
1) duration of combat too long, players not involved in fights get impatient/bored, multiplayer games draw out
2) FO's scale leads to large number of battles, deteriorating the situation described in 1)
3) coding a competitive AI is non-trivial
4) combat should be system-spanning, "modern"

Main problems with current combat system (as I see them) are:
1) Very limited strategic combat choices for the player
2) Design choices have little influence on combat

So combat design should provide:
1) fast combat resolution with an option for automatic resolution
2) somewhat limited complexity so an AI can compete with human with a reasonable coding effort
3) but also provide different strategic battle options and more strategic depth to ship design

Please take a look at the design concepts images below. The first one shows a combat resolution screen where players can assign orders to their fleets, like attacking enemy fleets, planets or performing actions like invasions and bombardements. Clicking "Auto-Assign" will let an AI make the decisions, "Process Combat" will save the orders and bring up the next battle. The combat results will then be calculated and can be reviewed at the next turn as shown in the second design image.

You will have noticed several new icons on the fleets the first concept image. These represent ship/fleet attributes like initiative, action point, accuracy, evasion and flak, which are some ideas how to add more strategic depth to combat. The ideas behind the first concept image are explained in more detail in this box:

Code:
Initiative:
"The ability to fire first in combat"

  - ship attribute, determines when a ship/fleet fires in a battle
  - fleet initiative: average of the initiative of all ships in the fleet
  - depends on hull type
  - increases with crew experience
  - reduced by heavy weapon ship parts and some shield types (higher shield value, lower initiative)
  - example strategies: high initiative / high damage fleets, low initiative / high shield fleets, low initiative but stealthed fleets

Combat order:
"Determines which fleet can carry out their orders first"

  - stealthy fleets fire first without a counter attack. they lose stealth until they pause firing for one global turn
  - fleets with high initiative attack first, but can be intercepted by defending fleets with lower initiative
  - ships are destroyed after being fired at and do not shoot back
  - cloaked ships cannot be intercepted?

Action Points (AP):
"The amount of actions that can be performed by a ship in the combat phase"

  Actions can be:
  - fire a weapon (beam weapons, missiles, fighters or torpedos)
  - invade or bombard a planet (also with bio weapons)
  - use a super weapon or
  - retreat.
  Actions can require a different amount of AP, e. g. firing super weapon needs 5 AP.

Accuracy / Evasion:
"Determine if an attack hits"

  - chance to hit = Accuracy * (1-Evasion)
  - applies to beam weapons, fighters (bonus to acc), torpedos (malus to acc)
  - does not apply to missiles

Flak:
"Determines if a missile can be shot down"

  - chance of missile to hit = 100% - Flak
  - fleet shares flak: Flak of a fleet = sum flak ships / number of ships (??); high flak ships will protect other ships in the fleet

Stealth in Combat:
"Determines if the enemy can see the player's ships"

  - cloaked ships fire first in combat without a counter-attack
  - if all ships in a fleet are cloaked, their numbers do not show
  - if an individual ship is cloaked, its stats do not show

Weapon Types:

  - beam weapons: hit depends on accuracy, medium damage, damage reduced by shields
  - missiles/rockets: always hit if not shot down by flak (no accuracy), high damage, damage not reduced by shields, limited supply
  - fighters: use beam weapons, receive bonus to accuracy, damage reduced by shields, can be shot down by flak, limited in supply. high AP cost
  - torpedoes: receive malus to accuracy, not shot down by flak, high damage, damage reduced by shields. high AP cost

Fleet Orders:

  - attack one or multiple fleets/planets. each ship can fire X times ("action points"), after doing so they stop attacking
  - defend one or multiple fleets/plantes, consuming action points as desribed above
  - destroy a planet if a spinal matter cannon is installed. uses up all action points. must survive combat to fire
  - destroy system if a nova bomb is available. uses up all action points. must survive combat to fire
  - invade, bombard or bio-attack a planet

Rank / Experience:
"XP increases several ship stats and is gained by destroying ships and surviving combat"

  - several levels/ranks possible, max rank 5 (?)
  - increased with rank: AP, Initiative, Accuracy and Flak (10, 20, 30% etc.)
  - amount of XP earned depends on species, combat actions

Planet Defense:

  - planet defense / and/or missile base of planets will fire at attackers once (?)

Also, here's an example for how a space combat would play out with these "rules":
Code:
>> Cloaked ships attacking Orion 2 are intercepted by Battle Fleet Epsilon 3

  + Cloaked Ships attack Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 (- 1 AP), hitting at 32%, causing 9 damage, destroying 0 ships.
    No counter attack for Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 because of stealth.

  - Cloaked Ships attack Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 (- 1 AP), hitting at 32%, causing 9 damage, destroying 0 ships.
    Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 attacks Cloaked Ships (- 1 AP), hitting at 36%, causing 9 damage, destroying 1 ships.

        - "Respect" was hit by Unknown Ship for 6 damage, reducing armor to 30/36.
        - "Pride" was hit by Unknown Ship for 3 damage, reducing armor to 33/36.
        - "Respect" (initiative 63) fires laser at Unknown Ship, causing 6 damage, destroying it.
        - "Pride" (initiative 58) fires laser at Unknown ship, causing 3 damage.
        - "Resolution" (initiative 58) fires laser at Unknown ship, missing.

  + Cloaked Ships fire at Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 (- 1 AP), hitting at 20%, causing 6 damage, destroying 0 ships.
    Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 fires at Cloaked Ships (- 1 AP), hitting at 24%, causing 6 damage, destroying 0 ships.

    Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 has 1 AP left.

>> Battle Fleet Gamma 4 (initiative 58) engages Silver Armada

  - Battle Fleet Gamma 4 attacks Silver Armada (- 1MP), hitting at ...
    Silver Armada attacks Battle Fleet Gamma 4 ...

      - "Vigilance" (inititative 58) fires at "Ruby", ....
      - "Diligance" (initiative 56) fires at "Ruby", ....
      - "Ruby" (initiative 54) fires at "Vigilance", ...
      - ....

  + Battle Fleet Gamma 4 attacks Silver Armada (- 1MP), hitting at ...
    Silver Armada attacks Battle Fleet Gamma 4 ...

  + Battle Fleet Gamma 4 attacks Silver Armada (- 1MP), hitting at ...
    Silver Armada attacks Battle Fleet Gamma 4 ...

>> Battle Fleet Epsilon 2 (initiative 58) bombards Orion 3

  + Battle Fleet Epsilon 2 bombards Orion 3, killing 1.2 troop units and 0.4 population.

  + Battle Fleet Epsilon 2 bombards Orion 3, killing 1.2 troop units and 0.3 population.

  + Battle Fleet Epsilon 2 bombards Orion 3, killing 1.1 troop units and 0.3 population.

>> Silver Armada (initiative 54) has no AP left.

>> Steel Armada (initiative 54) engaging Orion 2 is intercepted by Battle Fleet Epsilon 3

  + Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 attacks Steel Armada, ...
    Steel Armada attacks Battle Fleet Epsilon 3, destroying 2 ships.

  + Steel Armada attacks Battle Fleet Epsilon 3, destroying 1 ship.
    Battle Fleet Epsilon 3 has been destroyed.

  + Steel Armada attacks Orion 2, hitting at 90%, causing 20 damage to the planetary shield an 3 damage to the planetary defense.
    Orion 2 planetary defense attacks Steel Armada, hitting at 100%, causing 2 damage, destroying 0 ships.
    Orion 2 launches 1 missile at Steel Armada, flak 40%, 0 intercepted, 1 hit, causing 20 damage, destroying 1 ship.

>> Battle Fleet Tau 1 (initiative 52) retreats from combat (- 3 AP).

>> Space Monsters (initiative 40) use a biological attack on Orion 3, killing 2 population units.

>> Ugh'terr Squadron (Ecclesy Vorn Hegemony) (initiative 30) attack Space Monsters, hitting ...

>> All Fleets have executed their orders. Combat summary at Orion System:
   
   + Human Federation: 3 ships lost, X damaged, X damage dealt, X damage received, 1 enemy planet bombarded, 0 planets captured.
   + Kadesh Empire Forces: ....
   + Ecclesy Vorn Hegemony: ....
   + Space Monsters: .....


Attachments:
1 battle screen.jpg
1 battle screen.jpg [ 246.72 KiB | Viewed 2050 times ]
2 combat report.jpg
2 combat report.jpg [ 187.96 KiB | Viewed 2050 times ]

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2015 11:06 am 
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The Silent One wrote:
...ship/fleet attributes like initiative, action point, accuracy, evasion and flak...
I'm not going to read through all the discussion, but just from that much, it's probably far too complicated for a high-level strategy game like FreeOrion.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 20, 2015 11:55 am 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
The Silent One wrote:
...ship/fleet attributes like initiative, action point, accuracy, evasion and flak...
I'm not going to read through all the discussion, but just from that much, it's probably far too complicated for a high-level strategy game like FreeOrion.
Not necessarily. I agree, there is probably a bit too much detail in this first draft that has to be substantially toned down, but IMO the basic concept presented here definitely points into the right direction. I think we can forgo the action point and accuracy/evasion concepts - the former is a too detailed expansion/add on to the initiative concept, the latter goes against the old fundamental design decision that weapons always hit.

But "flak", which is actually more commonly referred to as point defence ("PD") is something that is planned anyway IIRC, and can't really be left out if we want to have missiles and fighters (which are also planned). Something like the proposed initiative concept is probably unavoidable too if we decide to stick with high level auto resolving of combat. In a very rudimentary way this concept is already implemented, stealthed ships getting the first round of combat as "surprise attack" where enemy ships can't fire back is already a very basic form of "superior initiative". Expanding on that a bit by factoring in things like combat speed/maneuverability, crew experience, stealth of course, etc. sounds reasonable IMO. Maybe factor in the "good/bad pilot" species trait here?

There are other points in that first draft that need discussion of course, but as I said, I wouldn't dismiss it as too complicated. I'll have to read and think that through more thoroughly before I can say more, but I'd really like to take that as a starting point for what FO space combat eventually might be.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:35 pm 
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Are those images just drawn up or from a FO fork? Would love to take that one for a spin


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 6:23 am 
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They're drawn, not screenshots, sorry :)

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 3:19 pm 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
...it's probably far too complicated for a high-level strategy game like FreeOrion.
I guess my main point got lost in the details. What I actually wanted to discuss is if a fleet assignment system like it is presented in my first concept image would work for FreeOrion; and if we feel it does, how the basic logic behind it might work. (Meaning, what determines in which order fleets will carry out their missions? How is decided who fights whom?)
The advantages I see with this system are that the player can set some basic priorities like which planet or fleet to attack (e. g. to focus his fleets on a core planet with a shipyard or a different strategic building), and that the player can make some decisions (like invading or bombarding a planet) at the time of the combat, while not being too time-consuming as the results will be reviewed during the regular turn.
On top of that, I was thinking about how the individual combats would then be resolved (and got a little lost in the details). This deserves its own topic at some point.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 3:43 pm 
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Nexus wrote:
IMO being able to take control for the pivotal clashes would add enough to the game to justify the coding difficulty.
If you can pull it off. A poorly imlpemented tactical combat would actually be detrimental for the game. Don't get me wrong, I definitely prefer a combat engine that would let me do much more than our current one (which is as basic as you can get). It's just that I'm talking from experience. Most tactical combat engines of the 4X space games I played in the last 20 years failed to deliver IMO. We need to do better, and that's quite the challenge... :D


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