Combat Requirements Doc - Preliminary

Past public reviews and discussions.
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leiavoia
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#16 Post by leiavoia »

Well, theoretically, if you can program *one* AI then you already have what you need. You just throw in a few more. You don't necessarily need them to all coordinate somehow. Either you end up with X number of independant AI's or you have one large AI that simply commandeers all allied ships for that battle. Either way, it boils down to just one AI. You need that eventually anyway.

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Geoff the Medio
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#17 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Aquitaine wrote:...as I really do not imagine that our AI will know how to coordinate three whole fleets versus three whole other fleets.
This reminds me of something... We should have some sort of limit on the size of each player's fleet that doesn't give one team of players a huge advantage simply because it has more players in teh battle and thus is allowed to have more ships total. So if there are two very big empires with many more ships than the limit per player at the location of a battle, and four other player each with just over the limit per player, if we just have a simple rule like "each player has at most 50 ships in the battle at a time" then the two players are at a rather unfair disadvantage since their combined 100 ships is much fewer than the other team's 200. If the two players have another 8000 ships in the system at the time, they'd lose far more ships in 2-to-1 against odds battles than they should have in 40-to-1 favoured battled that would "naturally" have occured.

So I guess my point is that any limits placed on battles for technical reasons need to be implemented in a way that's "fair" to the players.

I'm sure other such example situations could be found as well.

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utilae
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#18 Post by utilae »

Make it so that the limit applies to the alliance and not per player. So if you ally with someone, you share a common limit.

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Geoff the Medio
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#19 Post by Geoff the Medio »

utilae wrote:Make it so that the limit applies to the alliance and not per player. So if you ally with someone, you share a common limit.
I didn't want to get into specifics of how to make things fair, and it should extend to more than just # of ships considerations, but since you started suggesting: Limiting # of ships per alliance still distorts the odds from the real ratio in the system. If each "alliance" gets 100 ships, and both have more than 100, then the ratio is 1:1 in the battle itself, regardless of how many ships each side has above 100. Outside the battle, one side might have 10 times as many ships, which would greatly reduce (or increase?) their losses in a battle compared to what they would be if all ships were fighting in one big battle.

Instead, the max allowed number of ships per player should be somehow based on the ratio of ship power in the system. So if there's a max of 100 ships in a battle, player A has 400, player B has 500 and player C has 100 in system, in the battle A would get 40, B would get 50 and C would get 10, regardless of their officially declared alliances. This way there's no advantage to just having more players controlling ships during a battle... you have to actually build them, at which point transferring them between players wouldn't get you more ships into the actual battle. And there's no advantage to gaming the system, by having two players officially in separate alliances at the start of the battle (which would let them have two alliances worth of ships), but then teaming up against a third player during it who only gets one alliance worth of ships.

Of course, how ship power in system is calculated is nontrivial... it's not just # of ships, but some estimation of the "power" of those ships...

And what ships to include in the battle might be an issue... if you're going to war knowingly, then you could presumably just put in your combat ships first and be happy about it. But if you're sneak attacked then the attacking player might want to get to your troop transports and bypass the battleships... Should they be able to? Or does having 100 + combat ships in a system ensure than any non-combat ships are impervious to damage that turn?

Also, ship power calculations could could be tweaked by having "C&C ships" or somesuch which count as more ship power for the calcuation, so that you end up being allowed to have more ships (at the expense of other players) in the battle than your raw fleet composition in system would normally have allowed. You'd probably have to have the C&C ships in the battle, and thus vulnerable during it, for this to work though...

Too much detail. I'll stop now.

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#20 Post by Magus »

Why does there have to be a ship limit, exactly?
Graphics shouldn't be an issue, as on that scale I think you can get away with using sprites, 6-face models, single objects representing multiple things, like one sprite being a 100 missile volley....
As the numbers get more and more hugelike, the combat equations can be reduced to require less CPU work (for example, instead of rolling 10000 to-hit rolls, roll 100 and assume each roll counts for 100 ships/weapons or even just assume an even distribution and dont bother rolling.)

If anyone here has ever played the old game Lords of the Realm II, it had a similar system. One model would represent X pikemen/archers/knights/whaterever. What X was depended on the size of the armies... they might be individuals or they might be blocks of 64. Individuals could still die, they would just be taken off the hits of the block.

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#21 Post by Aquitaine »

I don't think we need an arbitrary ship limit 'per alliance' - I think there should be a technical limit to the number of ships per player, but if you went to the trouble to assemble 300 ships between yourself and the Darloks, you'll be sorely disappointed if 200 of them bugger off! Reminds me of all the times I wanted to murder MOO3 for putting in 3 TFs of colony ships that happened to be present instead of warships.

I think Rome: TW does this properly. Each player can have one stack in the battle and one stack (I think just one?) of reinforcements; Rome allows you to put the reinforcements under AI control and commit them, which is fine with me if it's technically feasible.
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Geoff the Medio
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#22 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Aquitaine wrote:I don't think we need an arbitrary ship limit 'per alliance' - I think there should be a technical limit to the number of ships per player
The nature of this technical limit is the issue here... specifically how to implement it "fairly".

Presumably the techncial limit would be that a only certain maximum number of ships can be in the battle, and this number won't depend strongly on the number of players in the battle. So setting a limit on ships per player in a battle that is always the same (say 100 ships / player) wouldn't be very good use of the technical limit (say 600 ships), as you'd never get near the limit unless you had the max number of players possible in a battle (say 6 players). If there were fewer players, you'd end up having less than the technical limit on ships, which is a waste.

Also, a single fixed limit doesn't account for the actual proportion of ship strength in the system. If all players get the same limit on ships in a battle regardless of how many ships they have in the system, then it unfarely gives an advantage to the players with fewer ships, by messing up the numerical odds for/against as described in my previous post.

So IMO the solution is to have each player's ship limit be determined as a fraction of the technical limit, where the fraction is determined by the relative ship strengths in the system for all the players. So if there are 800 ships in the system total, and one player has 25% of these, another has 60% and the last has 15%, then those players would get to use 25%, 60% and 15% respectively of the 600 ships limit during the battle.

Players should in general get to pick which ships they want to put in the battle, though surprise attack situations might be an exception to this.
I think Rome: TW does this properly. Each player can have one stack in the battle...
What is a "stack" in Rome: TW ?
Rome allows you to put the reinforcements under AI control and commit them, which is fine with me if it's technically feasible.
What does it mean to "commit them" ?

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#23 Post by yaromir »

So IMO the solution is to have each player's ship limit be determined as a fraction of the technical limit, where the fraction is determined by the relative ship strengths in the system for all the players. So if there are 800 ships in the system total, and one player has 25% of these, another has 60% and the last has 15%, then those players would get to use 25%, 60% and 15% respectively of the 600 ships limit during the battle.
I like it.

You can also break up 800 ship engagement into a 600 ship engagement and 200 ship engagement based on the same percetages. Two battles in the same system on the same turn.

If you think about it, forgive "realism", a large enough concentration of ships simply cannot engage each other all at once. And if the formation of ships is "line" the ships fighting on far left are fighting a different battle than the ships on far right.
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#24 Post by jmercer »

The problem with proportional representation is that you would then have to scale planetary shields and missile bases (fixed emplacements etc). This may be confusing if you built 200 missile bases and then only had access to 3 when a huge (and so scaled back) fleet attacks.

I don't think that there needs to be a cap on fleet sizes. Computers are deterministic so only user commands needs to be shared between users. This means that the heading and velocity of each fighter and torpedo doesn't need to be broadcasted at each frame. Since network traffic wont limit fleet sizes, it will only be addressable space in the computer. Now, a 4 million vs 4 million battle would be a bit extreme but technically it's possible.

Perhaps a limit can be imposed that will never be reached for 99% of games. Say something like "No more than 50 000 ships". In a 50k vs 50k battle, it can be seen as an N-Body interaction, which would grind calculation to a halt but units can be clumped together into 200 unit wings. They're not actually stacked, but act as a single unit for all intents and purposes.

Now that would be Epic!

People have been discussing styles for doing battles, I'd like to throw a suggestion into the mix. Star Wars Rebellion had a 3D fleet battle mode which worked from fighter on fighter engagements to massive fleets with spectacular fighter cover. It had an after thought feel to the overall game, but it was a great idea. Capital ships were broken into task forces and the fighters into squadrons. Each could be given general orders like "go here", "attack this", "attack this class of enemy", "protect this/this class". Orders could also be given to individual capital ships.

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#25 Post by utilae »

jmercer wrote: I don't think that there needs to be a cap on fleet sizes. Computers are deterministic so only user commands needs to be shared between users. This means that the heading and velocity of each fighter and torpedo doesn't need to be broadcasted at each frame. Since network traffic wont limit fleet sizes, it will only be addressable space in the computer. Now, a 4 million vs 4 million battle would be a bit extreme but technically it's possible.
There are other reasons for such limits. Mangagement of so many player controlled objects is one such reason for limits. Plus no of seperate images to render also does affect system requirements.

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#26 Post by Geoff the Medio »

jmercer wrote:The problem with proportional representation is that you would then have to scale planetary shields and missile bases (fixed emplacements etc).
So maybe we don't need fixed planetary emplacements as a factor in ship battles then. What do they really add to combat that can't be replicated with more ships?

We can still have planetary combat stuff, but it'd just not be relevant to ship combat. During the battle itself, the planet would not be attackable, nor would it attack back using traditional means. Further, instead of knocking out a planetary shield or missile bases during a battle, you'd launch ground invasions on the turn after achieving space superiority in the system. The planet might have buildings that have combat-relevant effects (eg. boosting sheild of nearby friendly ships), but to stop this you'd have to actually launch a ground invasion or bombard the surface after the space battle finishes.

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#27 Post by Magus »

The thing is, number of player controlled units scales with the size of the battle, and so can the graphical requisites. For example:

We start with two alien fleets meeting in the void. One has 7 ships, the other 11. Each ship is controlled individually, using goblined models (if we're lucky enough to have them)

Both races soon send a border fleet to a contested world. One fleet is 72 ships, the other is 58, but mostly larger ones. On that, smaller ships (say, Destroyers and Frigates on a MoO2 scale) are put in groups of 2 and 5 respectively, of the same class. These groups are still separate ships, but they work close together and under the same orders. Normal models are probably used.

The world is colonized by the second race, and a fleet is mustered above it. A massive strike force is sent to take it by the first race. The assault fleet contains 382 ships, the defense forces have 187 ships, plus a system defense network that includes 28 missile bases and 72 orbital weapons platforms. Ships up to Battleship class are now in groups, probably something like 2, then 4 for cruisers, 9 for destroyers, and 15 for Frigates. The missile bases can operate as one, as can large sections of the OWP network (probably like 3 groups for the whole web). Low quality models are definately in use now.

The space above the world is captured. First Race sensors detect a massive hyperspatial footprint headed towards the Homeworld. Forces from throughout the Empire rally to its defense. The strike forces have 1474 ships, 4 of them Megastructures. The defense forces have only managed to rally 935 ships, but the Homeworld has 7 Defense Forts, 200 OWPs, and 70 missile bases (most of them on the Moon). Every ship is in a group, and these groups are probably very large. Probably groups of like 5 for Dreadnoughts, 12 for Battleships, 26 for Cruisers, and so on. The models in use are not only hugely low quality, but in many cases one model may be used for multiple ships in a squadron (the model would show each ship, but it would be one graphical entity)

Obviously the actual values would require tweaking, but thats the basic idea. The number of controllable groups should probably never exceed 50, and that number is assuming that many of the groups (say 5 groups of 12 missileboats) can be used together.

So while it certainly would require more work than just setting a limit, I think it could be done.

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#28 Post by utilae »

jmercer wrote: The problem with proportional representation is that you would then have to scale planetary shields and missile bases (fixed emplacements etc).
The proportional method of ship limits is mainly to prevent players from abusing a system of ship reinforcements that is unbalanced when it comes to player aliances and the number of ships a player has.

If a missile base is overwhelmed by 50 enemy ships, then that is ok. The player who owns the missile base could have 50 ships at that system, but they are one turn too late. The consequences are the result.
Geoff the Medio wrote: So maybe we don't need fixed planetary emplacements as a factor in ship battles then. What do they really add to combat that can't be replicated with more ships?

We can still have planetary combat stuff, but it'd just not be relevant to ship combat. During the battle itself, the planet would not be attackable, nor would it attack back using traditional means. Further, instead of knocking out a planetary shield or missile bases during a battle, you'd launch ground invasions on the turn after achieving space superiority in the system. The planet might have buildings that have combat-relevant effects (eg. boosting sheild of nearby friendly ships), but to stop this you'd have to actually launch a ground invasion or bombard the surface after the space battle finishes.
I disagree with the idea of "can't attack missile base during battle". Also ground combat would be more fun if done during battle, and if extremely simplified.

A missile base can grow in power. I think that if some money is dedicated to planetary defenses, then the missile base should upgrade as a result. With extensive spending on planetary defenses, the missile base could get powerful, consisting of 50 missiles. When 50 ships come, a missile for each ship. It will be a nice thing to see. All those explosions will light up the night sky.


I think ground combat could be siplified and become like so:
-send assault shuttle to planet/transport troops to planet, etc
-select mission, eg destroy missile base
-progress bar appears (takes 2 minutes/2 turns, etc)
-of course if your troops die/fail, then you are told

In this way you could have ground missions that affect space combat. Send a team to the planet to destroy the missile bases. Since the enemy has no point defense, assault shuttle has no trouble. Superior plasma rifles allow mission success. Missile base destroyed (if not your ships would have been destroyed for sure). Send ships closer, bomb planet.

Naturally spending enough money on planetary ground defense could have made it impossible for the missile base to be destroyed so easily. And having some point defense satelites would have helped too, as they would have destroyed the assault shuttle. But those weaknesses were there to exploit.

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#29 Post by jmercer »

Some excellent points.

I don't think managing huge groups of ships is a problem if they're combined into a (perhaps inseparable) task forces. This is basically the same idea of having a stack of ships, but they all take damage at the same time and they are all rendered. I believe that rendering them all is required to fulfill the "Epic Feel" requirement.

With proper LoD (Level of detail) models, you can have a model that is breath-takingly detailed up close to the point of seeing weapon ports etc, but little more than a tetrahedron when viewed from afar.

Another problem with proportional representation is what if you have 2 large ships, Magus mentioned Megastructure class ships (which I'd relate to either a super star destroyer or perhaps a death star in SW). And one is damaged while the other is fresh from the drydock. Which ship gets thrown into the ring to represent the Megstructure class ships if the proportional representation rule is invoked?

The above problem assumes that damage is carried over which I don't think is unreasonable. A player should have to devote empire resources to repair and I don't think repair should be instantaneous. Gathering a huge fleet to battle an attacking Megastructure class ship which just barely fails shouldn't be seen as wasting all those ships. The Megastructure should then have to repair, perhaps it will be stranded in that system for X turns and it's owner now has to send a fleet to protect it while it refits.

The idea of simultaneous ground combat missions is a fantastic idea. I'd like to see the planet involved, also I think that fleet starting positions should be relative the planet. If two fleets arrive at a planet at the same time, they should arrive at equal distances from the planet. If a defending fleet has been stationed at a planet for a while, it should be positioned between the attackers and the planet.

A problem with a defending fleet near the planet is the ability to disengage. I never really liked the MoO1 style disengage which is a jump into hyperspace from any point. I'd like to see a zone surrounding the combat area which ships must reach to properly disengage. Arriving fleets would start in or near a disengage zone and could decide to leave or attack. A weak defending fleet would need to travel to a zone to leave.

This could lead to boring encounters where one fleet (some old space tug with a laser) runs away from a swarm of a zillion battleships for the 4 minutes it takes to disengage. A time slider which each player could set and the slowest time is the speed that the battle runs at could fix this problem: all involved players recognize the situation and crank up the runtime and so the "battle" runs at 10x speed.

I'm not sure if the planet should be at the center of the battle area, I'd like to say that it is. Although a planet is a huge entity, just having it peek in from one side of the battle area may be more appropriate. I guess in the end it comes down to weapon ranges, does a heavy laser fire a maximum of 1.5km from the Star Wars universe or the 2 planetary diameters from the MOO universe, or the real range from our universe.

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Epic Feel

#30 Post by guiguibaah »

Aquitaine, what is your definition for "Epic Feel"?

The more I read this thread, the higher and higher the ships in combat seem to get. (Latest count I read was max of 50,000 ships). My concern is that if you want to be able to fully experience the battle from the ship's perspective for that extra feel, you have to zoom in close.

But if you zoom in close to see that 1 destroyer out of 50,000, you can't fully manage your fleet by giving it effective orders.

So in the end, you are left with what happened in Moo3. One of the complaints of MOO3 was that the ship combat graphics were inadequate. I disagree with that argument, and say that the graphics were optimized for what you had to see - you had so many ships, there was no need for a graphic processor to compute 300 ships composed of 2000 polygons each, since all you could make out at that zoom level was 10 polygons at best.


Compare this to something like Freespace 2, when at the time you had (at most) 5 capital ships (total) in the system - the models were richly detailed, and the way the combat was done (charging of beam cannons, firing, flak guns, music, etc...) made everything seem epic.


I just wanted to point out that the scale of something is all relative. The more you zoom out to view a huge battle of scale, the less of it you actually see (and hear, in terms of sound effects). The more we go into larger fleets, the less we are going into ship design and more into taskforce design. (In some ways, a task force of picket ships, escorts and core ships is just like one big multi-purpose ship).


Perhaps the other option is to distinguish between regular ships (fighters, sloops and corvettes) and the big capital ships (Frigates, cruisers and destroyers) like was done in Homeworld.
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