Ship Design --or-- Stock Ships

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.

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Dreamer
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#16 Post by Dreamer » Thu May 05, 2005 5:40 pm

So it seems most of us would like to see a SMAC-MOO2 hibrid. A GUI that allows to select simple choices for ships: a size, shield, 2-3 weapons and 2-3 specials. (every ship uses best armor and thrusters)

What about ship size? A mere figther would have just 1 or 2 weapon types, but a death star can have a lot of things inside. Being a lot more complex.

I think it`s due time to define how combat will be handled. We really need it before implementing any successful ship design.

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Ship Combat

#17 Post by guiguibaah » Thu May 05, 2005 7:39 pm

I know that in preliminary discussions Aquitaine hinted at using a combat model shaped in some way to how Birth of the Federation implemented theirs. It mirrors Utilae's combat proposal somewhat.

All I can say is that until the Dev's start the creative process and discussion, the best we can do in the brainstorming forum is that - brainstorm and think of ideas.

That being said, I would enjoy a system that is simpler than Moo2's ship design. The SMAC chassis idea strikes my favour.

What you put on your chassis determines the orders you can give, and how to program code for those orders.

EXAMPLE: Frigate Chassis

Allows 3 weapon slots
1 Special
1 Armor Slot
Speed=5

Depending on the weapons you put on your cruiser will determine the orders you can give it.

One Spinal Mount Long-Range Laser takes 3 slots. Firing Distance = 10

Ships using a Spinal mount weapon can
A) Assault - (Start from distance and close in on the target)
B) Distance Fire - (Enter at minimum range, and attempt to maintain minimum range by reversing the ship, etc.)
C) Move to - (Moves to location)

An Arc mounted Laser takes 2 slots. Range = 6
Ships using an Arc-mounted laser (like USS Enterprise D) can
A) Assault
B) Distance Fire
C) Encircle - (The ship attempts to stay away from the opposing ship's cannon - it tries to remain on the flank or on the rear, and keeps moving with the opposing ship to stay out of it's firing arc).
D) Move To - (Moves to location)


A turreted mounted laser takes 1 slot. Range = 3
Ships using turreted lasers can
A) Assault
B) Strafe - (The ship(s) move as close to the enemy as possible, then release a barrage of close-ranged fire, quickly removing themselves from the situation)
C) Protect - (The ship(s) act as Point-defence protection for a group of friendly ships)
D) Move To - (Moves to Location)


Right there you have a paper-stone-scissors type of game. Spinal ships would make short work of turreted ships, but would be sitting ducks to Arc ships. Turreted ships, though, would try to close with arc ships as fast as possible, then unleash a lot more firepower.


Slapping on a missile pod would give your ship the additional order option of:

A) Supressive fire - (Fires missiles at enemy at maximum range, attempting to move away from enemy ships)
B) Close and fire - (Ship attempts to get as close as possible to avoid having all it's missiles destroyed by PD weapons, and fires at near point-blank range)


Specials, like a blink device, could give the option of:

A) Blink - (Teleports to a location on the map)

Or a repulsor device, could give the option of:

A) Repel - (Pushes enemy ships away during combat. Like in Moo1. Great to prevent fast-moving ships from encircling your spinal ships).


Of course, you could have an arc-mounted Frigate ship with 1 missile pod, or 2 missile pods, 1 turret. Cruisers could have 6 mounts, etc...

This could lead to some intersting tactics. If you have 5 spinal - mounted ships, you could arrange them in a star formation, so at least one ship would be able to fire at encircling enemies at all times. Of course, the enemies would probably get wind of that tactic and concentrate fire on one ship, breaking the star formation and leaving gaps.


Anyhow - just my 2 cents.
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Dreamer
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#18 Post by Dreamer » Fri May 06, 2005 2:14 am

Like the idea. Anyway, no ship should have more than 4 or 5 mounts. Bigger ships can have more of each type, but not more types. This simplifies strategy planning for those ships.

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#19 Post by Rapunzel » Fri May 06, 2005 1:23 pm

@guiguibaah: this implyes, that tactics in combat are reduced to some basic strategic orders, which have some sort of a sicor-stone-paper feeling for me. I shulrely hope, that there will be a 2D compleplayer controlled combat engine with "phase time".
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#20 Post by Carbon Copy Man » Mon Aug 29, 2005 10:44 am

Did anyone have a problem with the amount MoO2 ship design complexity?

It's possible that it might have been the one part of the game that made the game so addictive for me... Especially when, with my advanced technology, I could build a single doomstar that could rival fleets of enemy ships.

(I remember the games early into my MoO2 gaming, where I'd go off and have lunch while my tiny fleet slowly hacked its way through the enemy's swarm of ships. lol )


Never underestimate the cosmetics. Being able to say, "That's mine, I made it and look how cool it is!" has a very positive effect on gameplay.

I think that the ability to make stuff is about as important as having strong strategic elements. Being able to identify with your empire gives you a lot more motivation to build on that empire, and just play for those extra few turns so you can get that new laser that'll bring your fleet that little bit closer to your vision of perfection.

The Sims is an entire game of cosmetics. Not to compare the two very different games, but it's just an example of an extreme example managing to be extremely popular. Also, I played World of Warcraft until I got dual-wielding. The gameplay didn't appeal to me, and I didn't really feel I had any reason to get to level 60 (I only got to level 20) -- but I wanted dual-wielding because it made my character look cool.

It's a similar desire that drives my experience in MoO2. I'm a fan of technology, because I want to be able to exploit its effects. MoO2's ship design could do with some improvements, but I don't think it should be all just "simplification".

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#21 Post by MareviQ » Mon Aug 29, 2005 1:50 pm

Um.. the SMAC design system would work for designing fighters (which obviously we wouldn't want to produce like normal ships - couse those tend to get effective when sent in large numbers, and noone wants to micro-manage that in the fleets) but not quite well with the larger ships.

In my opinion, ship design (and to some extent, fleet design) was one of the best aspects of Moo3, carrynig on the glorious traditions of Moo2. It was FUN to design a ship. And the ultimate-ship design can be hindered by adding simple rules, like long-range weapons being totally uneffective at shooting quickly-moving targets (making them usless against fighters and missles), etc. This way an "ultimate" ship carrying all the possible weapons in all the configurations wouldn't be able to defend itself against a equal-sized ship which was bulit with lets say, long-range missle attacks in mind (as the "ultimate" one would have difficulties shooting down all the missles from the other one)

Then add the fleet design, with ships having different default 'jobs' (like the long range ones would concentrate on attacking the enemy fleet, the short-distance ones would defend the rest from missle and fighter attacks, etc.)

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#22 Post by noelte » Mon Aug 29, 2005 2:01 pm

MareviQ wrote:In my opinion, ship design (and to some extent, fleet design) was one of the best aspects of Moo3, carrynig on the glorious traditions of Moo2. It was FUN to design a ship
You must have played a different moo3. Yes they had a ship design, but it was boring. There weren't real decisions to make. Maybe it was amplified by the rapid research output.
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#23 Post by Dreamer » Mon Aug 29, 2005 3:21 pm

IMO single ships don't have to be too complicated. Fleet design can be more interesting. In moo2 there was no system of counters, as bigger ships where almost always more useful that small ships, and too large a quantity of small ships made combat too long (as each ships moved independently). So basically, the bigger, the better.

I think we can have a very simplistic ship design, were you only adjudicate the KIND of weaponry the ships has and a default behaviour. Then you design what fleet you need to mix figther squadrons for rapid responce, capital ships as carriers and long-range batteries, flak ships for missile and figther defense, troop transports and assault shuttles, bombers for planet subjugation. And then came up with tactics to manouver all your ships where they are needed the most. It's not about having an invncible ship, is how you mix each ships advantages and disadvantages to get results.

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#24 Post by moxy » Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:11 pm

one thing i disliked about moo2 was that you always had an edge against a computer controlled fleet because you know little tricks the AI didnt, like twisting the ship left and right to even out the shield damage without needing large arc-mounted weapons. once you introduce too much complexity in ship design, you put more strain on AI to be able to figure how best to fight in every conceivable fleet configuration of both sides. of course, if the combat itself is greatly simplifed from moo2, as i think it should be, then you alleviate a lot of this, but you also make it a little less interesting to have complex ship design since you may not really see what each ship is doing. moo3 is the extreme case of this (*shudder*).

so yes, the complexity of the ship combat and that of the ship design are co-dependant. and yes, ship design is an absolutely necessary component. this 'toy building' aspect of the game is one of the biggest pay-offs of a space 4x game, provided you can also easily see how well your 'toy' performs.

one area that i thought could greatly help ship design complexity is to make weapon power scale a little faster than size. let me explain. suppose you research phasers. you can know build a MK1 phaser, but at several sizes. the smallest size would be about right to fit 2 on your smallest hull. your next largest hull then could fit say 8 of these little phasers. but could trade up to 2 of the next largest phaser. and it would always be better to trade up, since the power rating of the 2 large guns is better than the 8 little ones. now ship design isnt as complex as moo2 with 40 gun spaces to fill up at the larger hulls. you are pretty much expected to just put 2 of your best guns on, and its a simply a decision of what type of gun you use, with much less finaggling over slots. you could even have a bit of a SMAC hybrid with ship templates. i.e.:

1. large hull / PD / 2 weapon slots
2. large hull / 3 weapon slots
etc.

so you still have slots to fill up at your discretion--what kind of weapon, and what kind of PD. (just a lot fewer than moo2) and you also have a clear and meaningful choice to make when you pick the template.

now add some RPS style countering. the spinal/arc/turret idea earlier didnt really make sense to me (whats the difference between arc and turret anyways?) in fact, in this type of game, i dont really think you can have a simple RPS aspect between the ships as a whole, but only between the offensive and defensive capabilites of the ships. that's because ship combat is resolved in steps. in one step i fire at you, and my offensive strength is rolled against your defensive strength. then you fire at me, and its the other way around, and there's no real connection between the two steps. so the RPS comes into play with certain weapons and certain defensive measures. a simple example:

shields beat beam weapons
armor beats missiles
PD beats fighters

now you have some meaningful choices to make. if you know your neighbouring empire has researched adamantium armor, but lags behind in shield research, you will favor beam weapons. and because bigger weapons are always better than smaller weapons, you will usually build single ships to specialize in one type of weapon. it should be costly to try and balance a ship with many types. it will be flexible, but at the cost of doing a below average job overall. similarly in research, i would like it if it was somewhat costly to have both state-of-the-art shields and armor, since these 2 items are not really choices at the ship design level. you always take the best you have available, so the choice should be made at the research stage. higher up the tech tree would live exotic weapons that do not fit neatly in the counter chart, or that produce very specific effects, like moo2's death ray. incidently, this also slightly reduces the snowball effect, discussed at much length. if the #1 empire is known for having good shields, then everyone around them should favor missile ships, helping to balance relative strengths.
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#25 Post by Argus » Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:12 pm

Right off the bat I'd like to say (sorry for the length of this post) I detest the idea of being forced to make only the ships someone else has made - No Stock Ships! The game would then definitely turn into Rock Paper Scissors! Either that or Rock Rock Rock or Paper Paper Paper.

I personally like the idea of 1 Shield, 1 Armor/Hull, 2 Engine (1 Galactic, 1 System), and any amount of Weapons or Specials you can fit into it. Everything will have it's own size.

All ship parts will become smaller the more tech levels (or refinements) you are above them but only to a certain point. That way no matter how advanced you are you won't be able to fit a deathstar arsenal onto an x-wing!

There should always be a point to making a big ship or for making a small ship otherwise what's the point to having ship sizes anyway! I personally think the bigger the ship is the slower it should be in combat and smaller ships shouldn't be able to move as fast between stars as larger ships.

Big vs Small balancing can be done by making big ship more/less expensive and take more/less time to build depending on whether they are over-powered or under-powered. If large ships are 15 times "better" than small ships then they could take 15 times longer to build or cost 15 times more to build (or some combination of the 2). If it turns out it's because a large ship can fit a particular item on it then that item could become costlier to make until it's more balanced.

I do see the point that eventually it might boil down to that 1 ship design will turn out to be the best overall. What I mean is that at any given tech level there might turn out to be 1 ship design which turns out to be better relatively to all others. But I think that finding that ship design should prove entertaining and if it's found that's just 1 more reason to come out with an official mod. This is also a good reason to make tactics more important than having the best ship. You could have the best ships ever and still lose cuz you didn't use them right.

IMO a ship design should be able to be saved and reused. I particularly like the idea of making a great ship design and posting it on the web for others to try out. But mainly it would save on time if I didn't have to go through the design process each game for ships I use often. When deciding on what ship to build you'd get a tree of all the ships designs you can build. So say you upgraded a ship design then that upgrade would become a child of the old design.

Also for how the ships look I think we could just use pre-made icons and just change the colors of them if they are used more than once. I like the idea of if you put a certain engine on the ship the picture changes but then you might get some very odd looking ships (especially if upgraded a captured ship).

I don't think that it would be too hard to make fleets of ships that all move at the same speed. Heck I'd even be willing to see the same thing in combat where you put together squadrons how ever you want so instead of seeing Cruiser x20 you'd see Squadron1 and when clicked to inspect you'd see Cruiser x5 Frigate x3 Fighter x20. You could split and merge squadrons during combat etc.

I think I'll stop now before this post gets any bigger!!! ARG!

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#26 Post by utilae » Mon Aug 29, 2005 11:17 pm

I think to address the issue of large ships always being better than small ships we can do the following:

-have a system where weapons are effective against certain size ships. For example, a laser might be 100% effective against small ships, 80% against big ships and 50% against medium ships. A fusion cannon might be 50% effective against small ships and 100% effective against medium and large ships.

-armor costs per area around the ships hull and does not take up any space because it is on the outside. Larger ships covered in armor will cost more while smaller ships covered in armor will cost less.

-shields would require alot of power to cover a larger area around the ships hull. Since shields need powerplants to power them, a larger ship will need more powerplants, which takes up more space.

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#27 Post by Carbon Copy Man » Mon Aug 29, 2005 11:36 pm

Actually, this brought up an idea I would like to see implemented in the game -- specialisation.

I think it would be a lot more interesting if ship technology research often resulted with specialised fleets -- eg. I've put a lot of research into stealth technology, so my fleet (as a whole) is great in that aspect but weaker in others. This gives my fleet more of a "team" atmosphere, because it focusses my strategy to work with my fleet's common underlying traits.

While my enemy has advanced laser technology, and that gives their fleet the same atmosphere.


Of course, I think it should be quite possible to "switch speciality" or have more than one specialty -- but you'd need to balance the research. If you're severely behind in one area of technology, you'll need to do a lot of catch-up.


It could also be tied into an alternating unbalance system, so that it's possible to expose weaknesses in enemies' fleets, forcing players to use more dynamic strategies.


Also, if this is tied into the idea of making technology easier to research if it's already been discovered -- we could even end up with specialised games.

I really like that idea.

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#28 Post by Argus » Tue Aug 30, 2005 3:37 am

I like that idea. The only way to get really really good lasers would be to specialize in them. Kind of reminds me of Star Trek actually. Romulans with their cloaking, Klingons disruptors, etc.

The tech tree would of course have to be designed to allow this of course.

Also this way computer opponents would specialize and then use tactics suitable to those specialties. They wouldn't have to be great at all strategies to be effective just the ones they specialize in. Of course knowing which strategy the AI is using might also make it easier to defeat. Just an idea.

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#29 Post by Carbon Copy Man » Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:21 am

Well, I think that the game should be built so you might have a "cloaking" bias, but then you'd still have to have strategies within that.

For example, are you going to use the cloaking so that you can get your powerful ships into the enemy's weakspot? Will you use a decoy? How can you get them to fall for it?

It will also mean putting a bit of work into the AI, but I'm sure that there's plenty of us who'd be happy to help teach the AI how to fight.

This would also definitely require putting difficulty levels on the AI. Newbie's are going to get discouraged if they're getting pulverised by the AI. ^_^

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#30 Post by Kharagh » Tue Aug 30, 2005 10:52 am

I don't like a hardcoded specialisation very much. I want to be able to build all kinds of ships which are equally as good as my neighbors, provided I have the necessary tech.

If I was specialized in lasers until now but want to add some cloaked ships and some missile ships to my fleet, these would be worse than the ships of a person who is specialized in those fields. Why?

IMO it would be better to trust on the natural specialisation that will orrur during the game. People will not be able to stay up to date in the reseach race with all techs. They will either have to decide for a few, or they will build ships which are a little bit behind tech-wise, but much more versatile.

a hardcoded specialisation like you suggest would only limit the choices a player can make, and that is always bad.


As to the issue of larger ships versus smaller ships, I think the most obvious disctinction would be that smaller ships are harder to hit than bigger ships.
Bigger ships will have the advantage of being able to mount heavier weapons, thicker armour, etc.
I can imagine a batteship with a twenty foot thick titanium hull, but you can't fit a ten foot armour on a fighter.

In addition to this, small ships could be faster in normal space, while bigger ships being faster in Hyperspace. This isn't a must however.

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