I'm thinking about simple implementations for tactical combat that considers range and movement (non-interactive, non-visual, like current engine).
I do miss the range and movement concept on Free Orion: all ships can shoot all ships, ships are sitting ducks, there is no fleeing away, charging, etc. And I think it can be added to increase tactical choices in ship designs requiring very little input from player.
This thread by The Silent One presents a sketch of design for a tactical combat engine which includes aspects like accuracy, action points and initiative, but does not consider movement/position/speed/range.
Also in this older thread Eleazar sketched a simpler combat system that considered tactical choices regarding movement (flee, defend, attack and charge) and ship's velocity, but didn't look at the range aspect (the different choices only affects length of combat and number of shots of the planets).
I'm also inspiring myself on the combat engine of Stars! (thanks Jaumito for the briefings). I highly recommend reading this: http://www.starsfaq.com/battleengine.htm
WEAPONS AND RANGE
I'm discarding accurary of beam (SR) weapons in favor of maximum ranges and damage reduction over distance, and giving them a big revamp to make research choices more interesting and more lasting during late game. I'm considering as long range weapons the class "drones" (anti-ship torpedoes, anti-drone missiles, anti-ship "bombers" and anti-drone interceptors). I see these bombers and interceptors as autonomous drones, no "species" pilots in them. Mr. Fluff says you can't put a living thing in a "fighter" and catapult it towards the enemy at missile speed without squeezing it.
With deterministic targetting there is no cannon-fodder possible against SR weapons. So shields are the counter against SR and "fighters" are not it anymore.
Against LR weapons "interceptors" make sense as a kind of mobile PD platform, targetting incomming torpedoes or bomber from ahead the defending ship.
I revamped bombers as "plasma drones", they travel very fast to the enemy, traverses its shield, attach to its hull and uses plasma torches (that have very small range but very good damage) to tear the hull appart. Ignores shields.
Plasma drones and torpedoes must have different roles within its category. Plasma drones may be less letal and easier to kill as well as cheaper. The same for PD drones (cheaper and weaker), and missiles (more expensive and effective against torpedoes, and maybe a bit overshooting against plasma drones).
Ranges: ("0"/"1"/"2"/"3"/"4+", more on this later)
- MD: 100%/50%/0%
- Laser: 100%/100%/80%/40%/0%
- Plasma: 100%/0%.
- Death Ray: 100%/80%/40%/0%
- Torpedoes/Missiles/Drones: no range penalty.
- MD Flaks: 100%/0%
- Laser PD: 100%/50%
Mr. Fluff says "0" could be about 0.001 light-seconds (or 300 km), "1" around 0.01, "2" at 0.1, "3" at 1 light-second, "4+" in the tens.
- MD: low to high.
- Laser: low to medium.
- Plasma: medium to high.
- Death ray: medium to high.
- Torpedoes: high to very high.
- Plasma drones: medium to high.
- PD drones: mobile flaks.
- Missiles: one-shot-killers of other drones.
Low is probably something like 5, medium 15, high around 50, and very high 150 (so most ships would die from a direct torpedo hit).
This makes laser and mass drivers still useful on late game (MD low range but high damage, Laser medium damage but longest range, DR is still the most powerful weapon. It implies to increase accordingly MD and laser techs costs for levels 2 to 4.
I'm thinking on a one-dimensional board to support different weapon ranges and different ship "speeds" (accelleration is more realistic). The board won't represent a given euclidean space centered in a reference point (like the sun of a solar system). It abstracts the relative positions of each fleet and the huge distances that happen in space combat (probably up to light-seconds).
The board is probably 7 cells long (I'm considering 9, 5...). The center of the board is position "0" (P0). Each faction (A, B...) starts at one end, at 3 cells from the center. So A starts at A3, and can charge through A2 and A1 to get to P0. A3-1 is a lane, B3-1 is another lane. If there are more than two factions, more lanes can be added. Check image.
A fleet in A2 is at range 2 of P0, at range 3 of B1/C1... range 5 of B3/C3.
In this board, fleets can push
to approach enemies or pull
to try to flee or keep distance from enemy fleets, depending on their "tactical settings", which should be (1) the targetting priorities (decided by installed parts or leaders in the fleet, as suggested by Geoff) and (2) the "combat orders" (set by the player via the current passive/aggressive
toggle, probably adding deffensive
Ships going out of the board (e.g. successfully fleeing from A3 to A4) are out of the battle until next turn.
Movement is an opposing action, and the board represents relative positions: if a fleet AX in A3 pulls
with speed 3 and an enemy fleet BX at P0 pushes
at speed 6, AX will move from A3 to A2 while AX will stay at P0 (so it looks like AX is approaching BX).
The whole set of fleets and their movements actions and speeds have to be considered together, which seems easy if fleets of each faction can't pass P0 to get into an enemy faction lane (as seen above, a fleet successfully chasing anothe fleet doesn't need to get into its lane, just to force it come closer to P0).
However, I'd like to make the engine capable of representing the situation in which charging fleets of each faction ignores each other and keep charging towards enemy rear lines. Something like this:
<<AX <<BX AY>> BY>>
AX trying to flee from BX, that is chasing, and the opposite on the other lane. Here or BX or AY or both need to be on the enemy lane, and that complicates a lot the movement rules for this board. I'm working on it.
The targetting priorities of a given ship would decide which kind of enemy aim to maximise some heuristics that could consider different factors. My main inspiration for that is Stars!, but addapted to Free Orion. For this, there should be basic (dumb) forms of targetting, blunt heuristics that can give acceptable results on average situations (target closest/weakest/most expensive ship first), as well as more sophisticated targetting schemes (like the ones presented in the Stars!, like maximise damage inflicted over damage taken).
The combat orders would modify how this targetting priorities are applied.
Both combat orders (the fleet toggle) and the targetting priorities (parts and leader effects) must be designed together and with careful thought to keep to a minimum the number of interactions from the player and the time required to make the relevant decissions. For this, the combat orders and targetting schemes must be relatively simple and intuitive, and affect as directly as possible specific aspects of the game. I'm also working on this.
I'd like to read your ideas and thoughts on this.
And I'm still interested on what think players that are not interested in enriching the combat tactical engine but are concerned about this suggestions bringing in more burden to each turn on a multiplayer game.
Edited to add some missing weapons.