Combat Requirements Doc - Preliminary

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: Epic Feel

#46 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Aquitaine wrote: Hull Max # Per Unit
---- -----------------
Lancer 200
Frigate 120
Corvette 90
Cruiser 60
Battleship 30
Titan 15
Doom Star 4
I keep seeing this sort of grouping suggested, but it really doesn't make sense to me to do it this way... It seems rather unlikely that the player would want a uniform group of 200 lancers and another group of 4 doom stars as two seaprate independent units. More likely, they'd want 4 groups of 1 doomstar and 50 lancers each, with each such group operating as an independent battle unit in which the doomstars do scary stuff, and the lancers protect the doomstars and don't stray far from it.

Presumably we want the different sizes of ship have different strengths and weaknesses such that their in-battle purpose is actually different. If groups are all homogenous and treated the same way as roughly-equivalent self-contained combat units like total units, then really there is no strategic difference between the 4 doomstars and the 200 lancers... in which case I have to wonder what the point of making the distinction between ship sizes is to begin with.

(The 200 lancers and 4 doomstars grouping could make sense if we wanted to have a rock-paper-scissors balancing system based on ship size like homeworld... but I think we can have a much more interseting such system based on weapon and defence types.)

That all said, I'm a bit unsure as to the intended nature and purpose of these groups. In total war it sounds like these units of X troops are preconfigured at the start of the battle, and that the groups are pretty difficult to split up and reconfigure during the battle. I don't see why we should think in this way.

Why not instead have the in-battle grouping be completely dynamic... like standard real-time strategy game control groups? If the player wanted to have a group of 4 doomstars and another group of 200 lancers (presumably because their weapons were strategically different, not just their size) then they could make up such groups. Or they could make a group of 50 lancers, and give it orders to provide close-protection for these two doomstars, after which the doomstars could be ordered around and the 50 lancers protecting them would automatically follow in formation. At some point later, (some of) the lancers could be disengaged from the doomstars and make into a smaller task force and sent off to do intercept some fleeing damaged enemy ships or somesuch.

Conversely, if the player had 2 missile doomstars and 100 missile lancers, as well as 2 laser doomstars and 100 laser lancers, s/he might make two groups each consisting of 2 doomstars and 100 lancers, with the groups separated by weapon type. The groups would then be used as though they were a homogenous group / single unit, like units in total war. (There would then be no separate orders for subsets of the ships in the groups as in the above lancer-protect-the-doomstars-while-doomstars-attack example... though there would be no reason the player couldn't pick off any homogenous or heterogenous subset of the ships in a group and make a new group, or give them special orders w.r.t. the group as a whole if s/he was so inclined.)

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Re: Epic Feel

#47 Post by Aquitaine »

Presumably we want the different sizes of ship have different strengths and weaknesses such that their in-battle purpose is actually different. If groups are all homogenous and treated the same way as roughly-equivalent self-contained combat units like total units, then really there is no strategic difference between the 4 doomstars and the 200 lancers... in which case I have to wonder what the point of making the distinction between ship sizes is to begin with.
That's like saying 'there's no distinction between an aircraft carrier and air group and a half-dozen submarines.' Or in TW, there's no distinction between archers and infantry because they are both 80-man units full of guys.

Of course there's a distinction. The distinction is in the unit type. MOO3 tried to glom everything into task forces and create heterogenuous units. While this is a nice idea, it ends up removing any unit-specific controls (e.g. what if I have one unit with a black hole generator and no other unit has one? What if it's a really special ship that doesn't belong in a TF?).

It's not even so much that I'm against supporting task forces as it is that I'm against basing our whole design around them. As a task force commander, you're one level higher than I think we want to be for the tactical engine; all you do with a task force is give it an objective ('go fight them') and it doesn't really relate to any other task forces, since by definition, the task it has it can be relied upon to accomplish. You have marginal control over the defense of the task force (since you can't, for example, tell the picket or escort ships in a MOO3 Carrier TF to attack a different target than the carrier is attacking, meaning they may very well ignore a threat you perceive that the AI does not) and the only benefit this gives you is that you control a greater overall number of vessels.
That all said, I'm a bit unsure as to the intended nature and purpose of these groups. In total war it sounds like these units of X troops are preconfigured at the start of the battle, and that the groups are pretty difficult to split up and reconfigure during the battle. I don't see why we should think in this way.
They are indeed preconfigured. Why would you split up and reconfigure a unit mid-battle?

Why we should think in this way is because TW has done it, it works, and we steal what works.
Why not instead have the in-battle grouping be completely dynamic... like standard real-time strategy game control groups? If the player wanted to have a group of 4 doomstars and another group of 200 lancers (presumably because their weapons were strategically different, not just their size) then they could make up such groups. Or they could make a group of 50 lancers, and give it orders to provide close-protection for these two doomstars, after which the doomstars could be ordered around and the 50 lancers protecting them would automatically follow in formation. At some point later, (some of) the lancers could be disengaged from the doomstars and make into a smaller task force and sent off to do intercept some fleeing damaged enemy ships or somesuch.
You can already do exactly this, but only if you have homogenuous grouping. In order to select your 4 doomstars and 200 lancers and put them in a single group, you have to have them both as distinct units. In TW, you can still 'group' units -- so you can have your four units of spearmen line up as a wall of spears, or you can split them off to escort heavy infantry and protect them from cavalry. You still have dynamic grouping control on the battlefield and you can select a group via hotkey, but a group in this sense is very different from the unit composition we're talking about.

I'm not sure you're really looking for something I'm not already aiming to provide. I'm just talking about it in terms of the gold standard of tactical combat engines, which, to my mind, is TW.
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Re: Epic Feel

#48 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Regarding "unit type":
Aquitaine wrote:
If groups are all homogenous and treated the same way as roughly-equivalent self-contained combat units like total [war] units, then really there is no strategic difference between the 4 doomstars and the 200 lancers...
That's like saying 'there's no distinction between an aircraft carrier and air group and a half-dozen submarines.' Or in TW, there's no distinction between archers and infantry because they are both 80-man units full of guys.

Of course there's a distinction. The distinction is in the unit type.
Yes, but "unit type" in this case is a function of weapons, defenses, and other equipment, not the size or number of the men or ships. In Total War the difference between Archers and Infantry is the weapon they're using, not how tall the individual soliders are. Similarly, in FO, presumably both tiny and ginormous ships could both use the same weapons. So what would the strategic difference be between a unit of 200 tiny ships and a unit of 4 ginormous ships be if they both had the same weapons?
MOO3 tried to glom everything into task forces and create heterogenuous units. While this is a nice idea, it ends up removing any unit-specific controls (e.g. what if I have one unit with a black hole generator and no other unit has one?
Again, you're talking about weapons here, not size. Your example is a great reason why we'd want to group ships not by size, but by what weapon they have (black hole or otherwise).

Regarding "units" and "groups":

(again in reference to preceeding quote)

The issue of heterogeneous vs. homogenous units is a good point, though somewhat clouded by ill-defined terms... So to clarify, the distinction between a "unit" and a "group" of units is:

A unit is a set of ships that are functionally the same. Players can select individual units and give them orders, and they will act on those orders independently. Ships in a unit stay physically close to eachother.

A group is several units that are working together. The different units in a group can be functionally different, and will act according to their specific function / design / role while executing orders, within the larger context of the group. Players can select several units simultaneously and give them an order, and the units will work together, as a group, in a coordinated fashion to enact that order. Units in a group may be (significantly) physically separated from eachother while executing their orders, if the specific order requries this. Grouped units may also stay together and move as though they were a single larger unit, if appropriate for the order.

What is mean by "functionally the same" as a criteria for ships being in the same unit is as-yet undetermined. It might mean that all the ships have (almost) the exact same design (weapons, defenses, equipment, size), or that they have the same UI options (the same on-screen widgets to control behaviour when selected) or just that their ship designs have been given the same "strategic flags" by the player or somesuch. Details of this will depend on further design decisions.

Regarding unit reconfiguration:
Why would you split up and reconfigure a unit mid-battle?
Because the situation has changed...

Example 1: There is a unit of laser ships ordered to protect a unit of missile ships. Later there is a stray enemy ship trying to escape from the battle. It's not worth sending the whole unit of laser ships after the escaping ship, but sending just a few of them would be good. So the player grabs a few of the laser ships and tells them to go get the escapee, while the others stay behind to continue protecting the missile ships. The few split off laser ships are now a separate unit from those remaining to proect the missile ships.

Example 2: There are three units of 6 ships each. During the battle, the units lose some ships, so now all three units have just 4 ships. So the player breaks up and reconfigures these ships into 2 units of 6 ships.

Basically, Total War-like units are fine, and we can design the interface around them, but I don't see why we can't make the composition of the units easy to change on the fly. We don't really lose anything doing this, but we gain lots of funky buzzword-type things like flexibility. Total War lets you split off units from a group, but that still fixes the size of the units in a way that I don't like.

Just cause I'm confused and want to know, but probably irrelivant now:
At some point later, (some of) the lancers could be disengaged from the doomstars and make into a smaller task force and sent off to do intercept some fleeing damaged enemy ships or somesuch.
You can already do exactly this, but only if you have homogenuous grouping. In order to select your 4 doomstars and 200 lancers and put them in a single group, you have to have them both as distinct units.
Why is homogenous grouping necessary to put all ships into a single group? If I have 2 groups ("units" now) of 2 doomstars and 100 lancers each, couldn't I put them into a single group just the same as if I had 1 group ("unit") of 4 doomstars and 1 group of 100 lancers?

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#49 Post by Magus »

Well, I believe Aquitane is saying that those groups, in addition to being the same size, would be the same class. So if I have 50 Fast Attack Lancers and 50 Escort Lancers, even if the group size is 100, they would be two groups.

And what is the strategic difference between a Doomstar and a Lancer with the same weapons? Acceleration/Speed/Manuverability would be a big one. Auxilliary systems likewise, as a Lancer is likely to have none and a Doomstar many.

So lets say I have a fleet as shown below:
120 Close-Combat Lancers
100 Escort Frigates
80 Torpedo Frigates
55 Battlecruisers
36 Close-Combat Lineships
24 Torpedo Lineships
2 Special Weapon Lineships
6 Carrier-Dreadnoughts
2 Battledreadnoughts

How would these be grouped?
You're saying that the two Close-Combat classes, the two torpedo classes, and the two Battle classes should be put together. But they may fight extremely differently. For example, the Close-Combat Lineships job are to fly straight at the teeth of the biggest enemy formation, taking the punishment on their heavily shielded hulls, and then proceed to wreak havoc. The Lancers are there so that once the Lineships have tied up most fire and dealt with Escorts with fast tracking weapons, they can dive in and butcher the biggest ships on the scope. The torpedo frigates are supposed to hang back and pepper close combat ships and ships chasing them, while the Lineships are used in pure offense. The Battlecruisers create the main "line" while the Battledreadnoughts hang back, use their long range guns, and prepare to counter strikes on the line.

Likewise, an arbitrary size grouping would be foolish as well. The Close-Combat Lineships coupled with the Torpedo Lineships wastes one of those two, and the Special Weapons are wasted regardless.

So how would I group that?
3x40 CC Lancers
4x25 Es. Frigs
3x25 (one with 30) Torp Frigs
3x18 (one with 19) BCs
3x12 CC Lineships
2x12 Torp Lineships
2x1 Special Weapons*
2x3 Carrier Dreadnoughts
2x1 Battledreadnoughts*
24 Groups. Better to have some groups be slightly oversized than have extra groups of like 5 that dont really mean anything. Now, you could order ships to act in concert (in fact, it would probably be best), but if you have different roles for different ships, more power to you.

*These would be ordered to be independant. That can be done with any ship, its just obviously not wise with 300 small ships...

Edit: Just noticed your "functionality the same" comment. I am an idiot. Read posts beforehand...

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#50 Post by utilae »

I would like to see ships grouped more like in Moo2, where ships were only in the same group if they were at the same system.

Set formations at space combat start
========================
At that point my grouping idea would be applied:
viewtopic.php?t=1169
Basically it involves choosing the formations you want in your battle and choosing the formations before a battle. If you choose no formations, then you have individual ships. You would design formations during your turn, where you do empire management. Also formations would not be strict like in Moo3. They would basically be positions for ships, with some in built specfications (if you wanted pd ships at the front, etc). No specifications means ships are place randomly in any location, but still the overall formation is created (eg the group of ships will look like a V if it is a V formation). A formation could also be applied to any size, eg use the same V formation for 5 ships or 50 (like in homeworld actually).


Group Control/Individual Control toggle
=========================
Another idea is to have a button/hot key that toggles between group control and individual control. If all ships are in TFs, and you are in group control mode, then you can control groups of ships, but not individual ones. Hit individual mode and you can tell 3 ships in your task force to chase the retreating scout. Hit group mode to tell all ships in the group to move to location X (this includes your 3 ships currently chasing the scout).

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Just my two cents

#51 Post by guiguibaah »

I don't want to post too much in this thread, to allow other views to emerge...

However I did want to say that (as mentioned above) if there is phased time or turn based combat, it would be a real nice touch if, during the pause, time actually happenened in real-slow-motion bullet time... To give the feel that you haven't just "Stopped" the battle - it is still going on, but things are moving so slow that you mine as well consider it a pause. Perhaps even during this pause you get a mini "rundown" of fleet status?

... if it can be programmed, of course. That's a big factor :)

okay, I'm done.
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#52 Post by Dreamer »

(Finally readed 4 pages of post on the subject in one swing, fast tracking the latter ones)
I had a good idea for grouping ships but I don't want to mess even more with this topic. So it's here:

viewtopic.php?p=20687#20687

About the real topic: I think the requirements, as explained by Aquitaine, are OK.

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#53 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

I'd like to put in a vote for "phased time".

It works really well in Laser Squad Nemesis, a squad-based phased time tactical game.

To a lesser extent you can see how it would work in Scorched3d.

Now a little bit of commentary on what phased time implies. It's necessary to be able to give orders that fully specify each unit's behaviour for the full time slot. In Scorched3d, that's trivial: you only control one unit, and it is capable of firing exactly one weapon OR moving in the period of the real-time turn.

However, LSN uses a fairly sophisticated system of queuing orders and specifying a set of "rules of combat" that dictate (deterministically) how your units will respond to new information that they learn during the combat turn. This isn't as complicated as it sounds, by the way... it's a classy example of game design. Try the free demo (only a few meg!) FreeOrion would need, at minimum, a system somewhat similar to that. I think since FreeOrion has a stated objective of meaningful ship design, it will be necessary to increase the variety and specificity of orders. After all, LSN units only have one weapon each of fixed characteristics!

Personally I'm in favour of giving players as much control as they want over their units' behaviour, as long as this control is specified during "order time" while the game is paused - there should be no reward for fast player reactions at all. The order-scripting language I propose in the linked thread would allow finer control of unit behaviour than LSN offers, but isn't dependant on twitch or micro.

I guess that this is an extension of requirement 10. My version is that there shall be pauses in the combat flow to give orders, and that orders shall only be given during said pauses in the combat flow.

Still, I think that the space combat should *definitely* be based on a real-time event resolution engine. Whether this is then paused or accelerated/decelerated at the will of the players (which I, personally, would find extremely aggravating in multiplayer) or broken up into pre-determined turn lengths in the style of LSN doesn't matter that much, compared to eliminating all the systemic artifacts that arise from a traditional, board-game style turn-based implementation.

One major advantage of the real-time engine approach is that at the end of the battle, it can be replayed entirely in realtime (without pauses for order-giving) as a spectacular movie!

I don't quite understand what you mean by "gaming" the system in Requirement 7. Obviously we don't want to see people exploiting bugs in space combat; but what else would you consider "gaming" the system?
Last edited by Sapphire Wyvern on Wed Nov 09, 2005 4:25 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#54 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Oh. I'd like to add one additional requirement:

The degrees of freedom of the camera shall not exceed the following:
Translation in the x, y, and z axes;
Rotation around the z axis of the space combat;
Rotation of angle of elevation of the camera with respect to the xy plane of the space combat. Preferably restricted to the range 0º to 90º. If the art department want their ships to be viewable from beneath, we could accept -90º to +90º elevation.

If the combat has a natural centerpoint, it would probably be best to have the origin of the coordinate system for the purposes of rotating the view pass through that point. If there is no such natural centerpoint, I would suggest the centroid of the combat or the centroid of the currently selected units as the best coordinate origin for camera view manipulation.

What we absolutely don't want is rotation of the camera around the optical axis (ie spinning the camera) as that removes all reference points.

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#55 Post by skdiw »

I say we just let the player chose how he wants to group his ships. If he wants to put 4 doomstars together then that's his choice. 4 doomstars is different from 200 lancers in that if the enemy kills 10% of the fleet, thats 180 lancers for you next battle, but you can 4 doomstars healed up in case if you group your ships that way. If you want 1 ship TF, that's fine; maybe we have a small bonus for large group TF for coordination because the squadran leader (may gain experience) of the TF can organize a concentrated fire onto a target easier. Alternatively, the player might have a specific job for a group in mind. Or if the player discover the enemy is planning to make a carrier fleet, he may decide to defend his TF by supplementing each of his TF with some escort PD ships.

I am a little worried about 3D. I'm not sure if we have the technical comp specs to support it. Navigating through a 3D minefield seems really complicated to me, not to mention comp processing intensive. I also don't think we necessary need the 3rd dimension. The battle can take place in 3D, but the 3 dimension is just for animations so two fleets can fly by without colliding together.

How big is the battle field? is it decided that it's going to be system or planetary?

There should definitely be a fast forward (remember the first few battles in moo3 when the engine tech are snail's pace) and some sort of pause button. Phased time might work, although I haven't thought about it in detail. I think order can be allowed to be issued in real time. Why bother with a pause when all you want is to move one TF from here to there.

I think what Aq meant by epic is that the battle is important with a lot of stakes involved. It could be 1v1 showdown between Achilles and Hector. Or in FO terms, your fleet versus a huge space monster. The monster is so big that you want to zap his armored skull with ion cannon, and blow up its tentacles with missiles, and use your fighters to zap his death spores coming out of his ass. We can model the monster with linked TF, as in the TF is restricted to move as a whole, but each TF can have it's own AI script or the script assigned. We can do similar scripting the roles within the TF, so your PD escort won't use their lasers on ships when missiles are eniment. The combat system should support a grand finale and your field marshal AIs shouldn't be retarded.
:mrgreen:

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#56 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

skdiw wrote:
I am a little worried about 3D. I'm not sure if we have the technical comp specs to support it. Navigating through a 3D minefield seems really complicated to me, not to mention comp processing intensive. I also don't think we necessary need the 3rd dimension. The battle can take place in 3D, but the 3 dimension is just for animations so two fleets can fly by without colliding together.
That's right: 3D graphics, 2D gameplay. However, I'm in favour of a (relatively) freely orientable camera, so that the player can choose what angle to view the action from. With some sensible limits on how the camera can move, this isn't a problem from the UI angle - Google Earth gives an excellent example of a very usable 3d camera for viewing a near-2d surface, which is what we need for FO.

I'm not advocating true 3d space combat; in any case, I believe there is a firm design decision already made for 2d or near-2d game mechanics as far as combat goes. I don't think anyone is arguing for "true" 2d graphics though.

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#57 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Sapphire Wyvern wrote:I believe there is a firm design decision already made for 2d or near-2d game mechanics as far as combat goes.
Not yet there isn't. Aquitaine said (via email a few days ago) that he's working on the combat design document. There might be something in that regarding 2D vs. 3D, but regardless, it isn't written yet, so isn't decided yet (at least offically...)

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#58 Post by Sapphire Wyvern »

Ah, that's interesting Geoff. Well, let's say that there are pretty strong vibes against a true 3D space combat system, then. (Personally, I would like to see it, but I recognise the difficulties involved.)

Cross-posted from "Brainstorming" forum due to extreme relevance here

Personally I would prefer much "smaller" battles than proposed by many in this thread, with individual ships taking on importance and personality. For instance, a dozen major vessels with maybe 20-30 support vessels plus parasite fighters should be a *huge* battle. This is more than enough to be epic - just look at Star Wars for proof. If large vessels look great, fill significant amounts of screen space, and put out a lot of firepower and spectacular SFX, there is no need for sheer quantity of units for an epic feel. If there are regularly hundreds to thousands of vessels in a fight, individual ships become meaningless; metaphorically, they're just nameless, faceless troopers in your infantry battalions, as important and significant as Clone Trooper #4.

Plus, fewer units gives an excuse for a cool, detailed ship design system, which would be wasted for a game with thousands of ships in each battle.

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#59 Post by Magus »

Speaking as a Homeworld 2 player, I somewhat agree. The best battles I've had in that game, at the most, had ~20 capital ships involved (with a few extreme exceptions...). Those 20 capital ships would be supported by usually 80+ Frigates (hard to get a number as they died and were rebuilt en masse), and of course a massive swarm of Strike Craft.

The scale I'd be looking for for this game would be on that level in the largest battles. However, that does still imply a larger scale than Sapphires proposal. Mainly because in HW2, ships were either Strike Craft, Frigates, or Capital Ships. Here, we have Strike Craft, Frigates, [Midlevel Capital ships, DDs, CAs, and BBs], Dreadnoughts. So if we use the HW2 equivalency, we'd have 20 Dreadnoughts, 80-odd midlevel capital ships, many frigates, and then the swarm.

Again, this is assuming a massive battle between two galaxy spanning Empires. Most battles should be significantly smaller. And if we're using Star Wars as a reference, Imperial Star Destroyers + the Rebel Mon Cals at Endor would be drifting by the 20 mark. It's just that in Star Wars, they only had a few supporting capital ships, just a couple Neb-Bs and Corellian Corvettes

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#60 Post by skdiw »

I thought up a problem, especially in more than 2 player battles, is stalemate or players who will wait for the other two to fight first, then beatup on the weak when they are done. How will 3 or 4 player battle work if all the player try to dodge each other?
:mrgreen:

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