Fighters & Carriers

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MatGB
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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#31 Post by MatGB »

Question as I haven't tested and have compiled a different branch. Does launching fighters break stealth? You haven't fired at anyone.

Regardless of whether it currently does, should it? I want to say no but I can see it being problematic.
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Isengrim
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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#32 Post by Isengrim »

MatGB wrote:Question as I haven't tested and have compiled a different branch. Does launching fighters break stealth? You haven't fired at anyone.

Regardless of whether it currently does, should it? I want to say no but I can see it being problematic.
I don't think it should break stealth until the fighters attack, though it would be nice if it was based on the type of fighter or tech researched.
edit* what i mean to say is that detection strength/tech at first (i at least how i look at it) would be geared to ship to ship detection,and fighters would be no more then a bird sized object in comparison,and as the game goes on the player/AI can research tech to make it harder/easier to detect fighters being launched.

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#33 Post by Geoff the Medio »

MatGB wrote:Question as I haven't tested and have compiled a different branch. Does launching fighters break stealth? You haven't fired at anyone.
Currently no; only actual attack events are checked for stealth breaking, and even then only to mark the attacker as visible to the empire that was attacked. Launching a fighter is not targeted against any particular opposing object, so there's no other empire to mark the carrier as visible to.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#34 Post by Vezzra »

Geoff the Medio wrote:Number of fighters launched in a combat is (at least now) limited more so by launch bays than hangar capacity. You'd need a lot of bays to run out of fighters before combat rounds to launch them in, at least with current numbers.
If I read the numbers correctly, you currently need two fighter bays per hangar to be able to launch all fighters in one combat. Even with only one bay per hangar you still can launch 75% of your fighters. At that ratio hangar capacity seems quite important even considering only one battle to me.

Anyway, that's a question of how hangar capacity and fighter bay launch rate are balanced against each other. Even if you balance the numbers in a way that figther bay launch rate is the primary factor that determines how much fighters you can field in one battle, the effect is the same in the end. Fighter bay launch rate can be improved by techs, so you can field more fighters for the same costs.
Various people in this thread keep declaring / assuming that there needs to be or will be an interceptors vs. bombers distinction
I didn't perceive the discussion quite that way. We're just considering the interceptor/bomber concept as one possible alternative to address the issue how fighters can be balanced against shields effectively. Some (including me) find that approach appealing and interesting, but I think the general consensus so far is that it's certainly not the only way of doing that.
and that fighters are a suitable / good / potentially the only counter to other fighters. What is this based on, other than repeating the initial suggestion?
Mel made some good points about that. Basically, it comes down to the fighters being a cheap, low damage/high numbers combat unit. In conjunction with how combat is currently resolved, their numbers makes them effective at soaking up enemy fire (thus providing cover for your capships), and we also want them to be an effective offensive weapon against enemy capships (be it by making them bypass shields, or by means of the interceptor/bomber mechanic, or whatever we might come up with). All defence against them revolve around the same thing: bringing down their numbers as effectively and quickly as possible. For that, you need a high number of cheap guns. Fighters are exactly that. Cheap, low damage direct fire weapons are another option. If both of these options should be a viable choice, they need to be balanced against each other accordingly.
There are a couple meanings of "better weapons"; In particular, any higher-damage ship-based weapons are no more effective than damage=1 weapons against fighters, so the lower-damage option(s) are likely to be used by players that have no invested in alternatives if a specifically anti-fighter ship is needed.
True, which makes cheap, low damage direct-fire weapons clearly superior against fighters compared against the more powerful, but also more expensive ones. And a player who hasn't invested in fighter tech will certainly use them. However, faced with the fact that his fighter-using opponent can increase the effectiveness of his carriers by continued investment into fighter techs, while he is stuck with a direct-fire anti-fighter weapon he can't improve in effectiveness against fighters, what will that player most likely do? Choose a path that will provide him with an anti-fighter weapon that he actually can improve, won't he?
A cheap hull with very cheap weapons would be relatively cheap to produce. Depending how expensive mass drivers are (and how much less so they can be made with refinements) and the availability of cheap hulls with lots of external slots to mount them in, a mass-driver based anti-fighter ship could be possible and efficient. The tradeoff would also depend on the cost of fighter-capable hulls, the fighter parts themselves, and whether the battles are taking place somewhere that the carriers can be resupplied with fresh fighters to compensate for losses, which does not affect mass driver-equipped ships.
All true, I don't question that. Of course fighters and cheap direct-fire weapons (be it the MD or the flak you added in the meantime) can be balanced in a way that those cheap direct-fire weapons provide a good and interesting alternative to just countering fighters with fighters. However, whatever numbers we come up in the end, they must be choosen so that the direct-fire anti-fighter weapons aren't to ineffective (otherwise no one will use them), but also not too overpowered against fighters (otherwise no one will bother using fighters). Now, the fighters can be improved (by researching techs that allow you to field more fighters in a combat for the same costs). If the direct-fire anti-fighter weapons can't be improved, that will slowly but surely change the balance in favor of the fighters, the more fighter techs are researched.

What I want to get at: look at it as two sides of an equation here, that need to be kept in balance. Now, if one side of the equation can be changed, the other side must be changed to keep the balance. I can't imagine a way to keep such a balance throughout the game if only one side can be improved while the other is static.

Adding refinements that reduce the costs of direct-fire anti-fighter weapons, like you suggested above, would be an attempt to provide such improvements. But I'm not quite sure if it will be enough. With cheap ship parts the total cost depends more on the hull, and fighter bays make more efficient use of the slots they use up. One fighter bay launches several fighters, a number that can be improved by refinements. But one anti-fighter direct-fire weapon can still only fire one shot, even if it gets cheaper with refinements. Meaning, on the carrier/fighter side I can improve the number of fighters per hull, and I don't have to increase the number of hulls. On the anti-fighter direct-fire weapon side I do have to increase the number of hulls if I want to increase the number of guns. Making balancing the entire thing harder.

Adding a ROF stat will make things more simple in that regard, because it can be more directly related. Fighter bay improvement -> more fighters can be fielded. Anti-fighter direct-fire weapon ROF improvement -> more fighters can be shot down.

Just saying. But we can certainly try to see if providing cost-reducing refinements for MD/flak (and probably introduce more hull types that fit the PD ship role) turns out to be sufficient. If it is, then I'm with you, no need to complicate things with reintroducing the ROF stat (or something like that).

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#35 Post by Vezzra »

mel_o wrote:For what it's worth, I think that making fighters bypass ship shields will be a nightmare if not impossible to balance because they increase in effectiveness as your opponent's shields get more advanced, to the point where they're the only option vs. shielded ships. At the start of a game vs. a foe with no shields, eight 2-damage fighters would be about as powerful as a couple of Mass Drivers. At the end of the game, those same fighters (with the same cost) would do more damage to a blackshielded ship than a fully refined death ray, which is clearly messed up IMO even considering that fighters don't attack in the first round and that fielding eight fighters takes more slots per ship.
That's generally an issue with shield piercing weapons, yet they are a quite common concept in 4X space games (what aggravates this issue in our case here is that fighters aren't a high-tier, but low-tier, maybe even preunlocked starting tech, available before you even get shields, while shield piercing tech in other games usually is a high-tier tech further down the tech tree than shields).

Now, how do other games deal with that? Basically by allowing the shield piercing weapons extremely effective against shields, but clearly inferior against unshielded opponents. Easily achieved by making them high cost/low damage weapons. That way they are far more effective against shielded ships (an effectiveness that, like you described, actually increases the stronger the shields get), but against unshielded ships non-shield-piercing but high damage weapons are clearly superior. So, if you face an opponent with shield piercing weapons, you'll want to field cheaper unshielded (but maybe more heavily armored) ships, faced with an opponent that has no shield piercing weapons more expensive, but shielded ships might prove more effective.

In our case, if we make fighters shield piercing, we'll have to apply the same principles to them. They are effective against shields, to make them the clearly inferior choice against unshielded ships, their total damage output in one combat must be considerably lower than that of direct-fire weapons of comparable costs. Numbers need to be balanced accordingly. Considering the current numbers for weapon/armor/shields I wonder if that will leave us with much room for improvement of fighter weapon strength. Maybe we just let each fighter deal one point of damage (that is, the number of fighters equals the firepower), refinement of fighters happens only by upgrading hangar capacity and fighter bay launch rate. With that approach, the extra fighter weapon strength stat wouldn't be necessary, there wouldn't be different "fighter types", making the entire discussion about the fighter weapon ship part vs. two stats attached to one ship part and only one fighter type vs. multiple fighter types per carrier obsolete.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#36 Post by Vezzra »

Morlic wrote:
Vezzra wrote:Personally I'm wary to add additional meters for that purpose...
Any particular reason for that?
More meters mean more numbers to squeeze into the UI, more numbers for the player to handle/keep track of. So if there is an equally good solution that doesn't need an extra meter, that is preferable.
Seems to me your alternative would require to add additional meters as well... Where's the difference?
My additional meter would be an empire meter, which is one number per empire, instead of an additional planetary meter, which translates into one extra number per planet.

And would improve the entire mechanic how planetary defences work (IMO).
I do not see how this jeopardizes my approach at all. Your statement seems rather incorrect. The bay capacity only then limits the fighter output in combat if and only if it is smaller than the hangar capacity. If bay capacity is 3 and hangar capacity is 1. Then of course the hangar capacity is the limiting factor unless you stack more than 3 of them (but in that case you could add another bay, too).
I'm a bit confused by the example numbers you give here, to be not a limiting factor hangar capacity needs to be high enough so that your bays can't launch all fighters in one combat?

That aside, of course you're right. For your approach to work you just need to balance hangar capacity, fighter by launch rate and the costs for these parts accordingly. That's why my statement was more of a side remark, and only referring to "how the numbers are set now".
Additionally, just take a look at the current slot-type ratio. For most hulls, it would be not much of a problem to use more bays than hangars (though that ultimately will depend on cost of course).
I did now, and you're right. 2 bays per hangar are sufficient, so I don't know why Geoff said that you need a lot of bays to launch all your fighters.
Could we base it on the order of parts in the design? That way, player has some control over it while the mechanic remains well defined.
Mel already pointed out the problem with having to make a tactical decision at design time that actually depends on combat situation, which is different every time. Besides, there is currently no "order" of slots, and even if we had that, using that for tying parts together or determine some order of execution doesn't strike me as very intuitive.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#37 Post by Morlic »

Vezzra wrote:]That's generally an issue with shield piercing weapons, yet they are a quite common concept in 4X space games (what aggravates this issue in our case here is that fighters aren't a high-tier, but low-tier, maybe even preunlocked starting tech, available before you even get shields, while shield piercing tech in other games usually is a high-tier tech further down the tech tree than shields).
If we go with shield-piercing weapons, I guess that is a concept which might be worth pursuing. We could introduce some empire meter determining which shields can be pierced and have techs dedicated for that purpose.

While we probably should avoid all-or-nothing mechanics, an idea would be to reduce the damage by some percentage.
For example

Code: Select all

 Damage = floor(FighterDamage * min(1, ShieldPiercing/ShieldStrength))
I'm a bit confused by the example numbers you give here, to be not a limiting factor hangar capacity needs to be high enough so that your bays can't launch all fighters in one combat?
There obviously is a soft and a hard cap for the effectiveness of bay capacity. The soft cap would be to launch all your fighters in a single combat. The hard cap being to launch them all in the first round (as assumed for my example numbers).
Which of these is the relevant one will depend on how the exact mechanics turn out.
Last edited by Morlic on Sun Jan 10, 2016 4:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#38 Post by Vezzra »

Geoff the Medio wrote:
Vezzra wrote:We could introduce some specialized bombardment weapons that are only effective against planets.
There already is a Bombard ship part class...
I know, and the specialized bombard weapons I meant would of course fit in here. Instead of reducing pop they would reduce planetary shields and defences.
Regarding fighter launches, it still seems like having one type of fighter per ship is a lot simpler than the alternatives. It might turn out not to be very interesting, but I quite like the bays vs. hangars distinction, and would like to keep it if possible.
As the latter apparently meets general approvement, and there also seems to be general agreement that, at least as long as we don't go for the interceptor/bomber approach (or any approach that actually would require having mixed fighter forces), the single fighter type per carrier restriction can work well enough, it's certainly worth a try.

Regrading the decision about which approach to take to make the fighter mechanic work with shields, apparently you prefer the shield piercing idea. That has specific challenges (see Mels and my discussion above), and will at least require some careful balancing. But if that's what, after all the discussion so far, you prefer, by all means, lets go ahead and try it.

The one remaining point is the fighter weapon ship part. Do you still want to keep that, or can you live with having both hangar capacity and fighter weapon strength be tied to the hangar?
Do planets really need to be able to take on an opposing fleet on their own, without substantial allied fleets supporting them?
At least to a certain degree IMO. It's certainly not necessary nor desirable if even small, not very well developed planets can withstand massive fleets, but at least the larger, better developed colonies should require some considerable effort to take down. Currently it's too easy IMO. If planets are more difficult to conquer, that would help against steamroller invasions.
That asked, making fighters and planets unable to target eachother seems like a good idea, to preserve the actual benefit of a planetary high-damage single-shot weapon at taking out ships in one shot, without risking it being wasted on a fighter.
Agreed.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#39 Post by Vezzra »

mel_o wrote:I did come up with another idea for prioritisation but I also see issues with it: launch fighters based on the ratio of fighters stored in the hangars. That approach would run into issues with rounding (how to launch an even mix of 8 interceptors + 2 bombers when launching 6 fighters at a time?) and it doesn't really offer any advantages over just having separate ships to control the fighter composition.
I had exactly the same idea and dismissed it for exactly the same reason... :lol:
If there is ever a framework to allow players to make these choices at the beginning of a combat then I don't think there would be any major problems with having multiple fighter types on a carrier. Until then, having only one type per carrier seems to be the best option...
Yep, that's pretty much the conclusion I reached too.
Apologies, I should have made this statement more general: to return fighters to their correct hangars when there is more than one type of hangar on a carrier, the backend code would only need to know what hangar part the fighter came from (e.g. "FT_HANGAR_2_8" or whatever the part was called in FOCS, no need for any hardcoded distinctions) in addition to which ship it came from (which is already done). So, determining launch priorities would be the only reason that hardcoding the distinction would be necessary.
Ah yes, that will work of course. Thanks for clearing that up.
I actually had a recent counter-example for that: I was contesting a system with an Ancient Ruins special with an AI. The AI had managed to keep a fleet in the system and was the first to get an outpost ship to it so I sent some of my ships on what was essentially a suicide mission, relying on the randomness to get one of my ships to destroy the outpost ship and buy me more time (it worked!). I definitely wouldn't have wanted the game to decide that those ships should attack the huge war fleet, which would have barely made a dent.
Right, that's an excellent example which illustrates perfectly the pitfalls of making automated tactical decisions for the player. :)

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#40 Post by AndrewW »

Vezzra wrote:Just saying. But we can certainly try to see if providing cost-reducing refinements for MD/flak (and probably introduce more hull types that fit the PD ship role) turns out to be sufficient. If it is, then I'm with you, no need to complicate things with reintroducing the ROF stat (or something like that).
Another thing to consider is that point defense is mostly just useful for defense where fighters can be used both defensively and offensively.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#41 Post by Vezzra »

AndrewW wrote:Another thing to consider is that point defense is mostly just useful for defense where fighters can be used both defensively and offensively.
Which is why PD or PD-yish weapons need to be clearly more cost effective than fighters (regarding defence against fighters). Otherwise, why investing in a weapon I can use only defensively when I can get a similarily capable/cost-effective weapon that I can also use offensively?

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#42 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Vezzra wrote:...in our case here is that fighters aren't a high-tier, but low-tier, maybe even preunlocked starting tech, available before you even get shields, while shield piercing tech in other games usually is a high-tier tech further down the tech tree than shields).
That the test parts are preunlocked does not mean that fighters need to be preunlocked. At the least, I'd expect a player to have to research as much as for Laser weapons to get fighter parts...
Maybe we just let each fighter deal one point of damage...
I hoped to have a way to have zero-damage fighters be available and useful as decoys.

But for the first armed fighters, giving them shield-piercing damage = 1 seems fine. Later in the content progress / tech tree, a new part could become available to give fighters increased damage, perhaps, akin to getting the next tier of ship weapon, whereas refinements to increase hangar capacity and launch rate would be more like ship weapon refinements.

That's perhaps another reason to tie fighter damage to the hangar, as things could be set up so the increase in fighter damage requires a whole new part, while capacity could be increased with refinements (but those refinements wouldn't transfer to the next tier of hangar / fighter).

Implementing the one-type-of-hangar-per-design restriction will require some working out how to do it nicely in the UI, though...
Vezzra wrote:...I don't know why Geoff said that you need a lot of bays to launch all your fighters.
Did I? Regardless, the ratio of bays to hangars depends on the (not yet fixed) numbers for hangar capacity and bay launch rate, and whether the ship is likely to be in multiple battles without being resupplied after losing some fighters. I'd assume relatively high capacities for the hangars compared with the launch rates. Also, there have been numerous comments about how there's not enough other stuff to do with internal slots, so presumably it's easier to add another hangar than more launch bays if the latter need to compete with armour for slots.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#43 Post by Atarlost »

I've skimmed a bit past the first page, but I have a question I don't think anyone has asked:

Why do fighters need variable weapon strength if they bypass shields? Upgrading fighter launch rate inherently increases damage for the carrier as a whole. Fighters can be completely homogenous and provide as much strategic depth as if they're heterogenous.

That does away with a divisive part and a UI issue both.

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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#44 Post by em3 »

Atarlost wrote:I've skimmed a bit past the first page, but I have a question I don't think anyone has asked:

Why do fighters need variable weapon strength if they bypass shields? Upgrading fighter launch rate inherently increases damage for the carrier as a whole. Fighters can be completely homogenous and provide as much strategic depth as if they're heterogenous.

That does away with a divisive part and a UI issue both.
That would make fighters kind of like troops - only the number is variable, never the strength.
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Re: Fighters & Carriers

#45 Post by Geoff the Medio »

There could (would) still be unarmed fighters, as I proposed above, to act as decoys, even if all "armed" fighters always did 1 damage.

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