Make blockade work for one turn only

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Oberlus
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Make blockade work for one turn only

#1 Post by Oberlus » Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:02 am

From this thread:
Telos wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 2:49 am
So... yet another way in which stealth-carriers are over-powered is that you can park one at a choke-point in deep space and this counts as a "blockade" preventing visible enemy ships from coming through. It's not just that the enemies have to stop and fight off an ambush once as they're passing, which would be understandable. Then they get the little blockaded ring around them with the info that the only way they can leave is to go back the way they came. So my little 150PP carrier, now empty of its 4 bombers, is single-handedly stopping a fleet of 25 much more expensive ships from advancing into my territory, with absolutely no risk to itself!
That made me think: if (part of) a fleet arriving to a blockaded system survives the initial battle (during which it has been moving around the system), why can't it jump towards a system different from the one it came from? It's been under enemy fire, right, but how could that prevent from jumping north and allow jumping south? If I can jump south, I should be able to jump any other direction.
Telos wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:35 am
So probably the game needs some other mechanism for deciding whether a blockade continues, e.g., one that breaks a blockade if the other side brings an overwhelming advantage of numbers, or perhaps of estimated ship power.
With the above suggestion, blockade will last as long as the blockading fleet is strong enough to kill the whole invading fleet in one single turn.

Maybe this could be too restrictive for interesting gameplay, and then I'd suggest making the blockade last for two turns like this: the first turn the invading fleets arrives in, it must stop by and combat ensues; in the second turn, if both parts have active armed ships, if invading fleet tries to go its way back it can do it, but if it tries to exit through a blockaded starlane another (last) turn of combat will ensue before the invading fleet can actually scape. It would be like requiring one extra turn to cross the system under enemy fire before jumping to the new destination.

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Dilvish
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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#2 Post by Dilvish » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:43 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 9:02 am
That made me think: if (part of) a fleet arriving to a blockaded system survives the initial battle (during which it has been moving around the system), why can't it jump towards a system different from the one it came from? It's been under enemy fire, right, but how could that prevent from jumping north and allow jumping south? If I can jump south, I should be able to jump any other direction.
Um, is that a realism argument or an enjoyable gameplay dynamics argument? The latter is entirely the reason for the current system.

My recollection is that originally blockades only blocked movement for one turn, but that was considered undesirably weak, so we made the blockade dynamic stronger, but allowed for retreat along the starlane of entry. I would expect you could find some forum discussions of those considerations if you search for them.
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Oberlus
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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#3 Post by Oberlus » Thu Jan 03, 2019 10:45 am

Dilvish wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:43 pm
Um, is that a realism argument or an enjoyable gameplay dynamics argument? The latter is entirely the reason for the current system.
Hmm, yeah, I guess it comes from realism (intuitive expectations I'd say). But I'm unsure about it not being also enjoyable.
Dilvish wrote:
Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:43 pm
My recollection is that originally blockades only blocked movement for one turn, but that was considered undesirably weak, so we made the blockade dynamic stronger, but allowed for retreat along the starlane of entry. I would expect you could find some forum discussions of those considerations if you search for them.
Now I've done the digging. You implemented it in may 2013, stemming from a more general combat reworking thread. After reading those, I see the new blockade system was motivated to solve a problem with a new mechanic: the combats were made less deathly and from then on there could be survivors in both sides, and that would make defending choke points harder. So can I understand that enemy fleets passing through blockaded systems after surviving a turn of combat was never playtested?

I think I lack the gameplay experience to imagine all the implications that such change (OP's suggestion, including the two-turn combat rule if invaders want to cross the system) would have. Let me do some divagation here, corrections and real experience are very welcome.

Depending on the number/strength of survivors after first combat turn in a choke point:

* Invaders > Defenders
- As current mechanics: After second turn, If defenders do not retreat, invaders will have killed all or most of the remaining non-hidden defenders. If defending survivors remain, the invaders won't be able to pass through the choke point. This is only "bad" when the defender keeps a single hidden carrier, as pointed out by Telos. But I guess that will be fixed by noisy launch bays.
- With OP's suggestion: After second turn of combat, if defenders do not retreat, invaders will have killed all or most of the remaining non-hidden defenders and be able to continue travelling behind the choke point. Not very different to current mechanics (so pointless to change it).

* Invaders < Defenders
- As current mechanics: If invaders do not retreat, they will be eventually finished off.
- With OP's suggestion: If invaders do not retreat and try to cross system, the second combat round will finish them off or leave few of them to pass through the choke point. That is quite different to current mechanics, but a small fleet of defenders can pursue them, or blockade them at destination. So I'd say it shouldn't make defending really harder than with current mechanics, but would allow for some enjoyable gameplay dynamics (suicide fleets to try and sneak a few fast ships to wander around enemy territory scouting, cutting supply lines, bombarding undefended colonies :D), but again, that should be easy to cut short by the defender.

* Invaders = Defenders
- As current mechanics: If no one retreats and no reinforcements came to break the balance, one side will eventually prevail with heavy losses.
- With OP's suggestion: After second turn of combat, if no one retreats, heavy losses are expected for both sides, but the invading survivors will be able to pass through the choke point. Here we have a very different behaviour compared to current mechanics. Defending could be harder. The previously mentioned enjoyable dynamics might be too harsh for the defender. But I really don't know; in my game, very often, some AIs manage to move invading fleets into my territory, and I just hunt them down; sometimes they enjoy some back and forth to make me lose time on the chase, but the planetary defenses and mines eventually wear them off enough to divide my chasing party into two and end the cat&mouse game.


In the end and without further input, I'm inclined to think that the OP's suggestion would be more enjoyable than current mechanics.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#4 Post by em3 » Thu Jan 03, 2019 11:10 am

I guess, in the end, it's just a matter of personal preference and expectations.

Some people expect to be able to hold a choke point, so that the rest of their empire can be defended by a single fleet. This is simplifies strategy and feels more "board gamey" and orderly. Warfare becomes a game of positioning large stacks.

Other people wish to be able to sneak or brute force through enemy blockade, with virtually no amount of protection being the ultimate defence. This is more chaotic, encourages riskier play and managing small attack and response fleets all over the place.

I don't think any of these is objectively better. It's a matter of preference.

It might also boil down to: which system would be easier for AI to grok? If I recall correctly, this is the reason that starlanes are used instead of free travel, like in MoO2.
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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#5 Post by Vezzra » Sat Jan 05, 2019 5:40 pm

Basically, providing ways to break through blockades other than having to completely destroy all defending forces is an idea worth considering. The details of such a mechanic are subject to a proper design discussion of course.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#6 Post by Ophiuchus » Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:45 am

One way to formulate "a small fleet cant blockade a big fleet" in freeorion terms could be: "a ship which gets shot at is blockaded".

This would have following benefits
  • stealthy ships can pass blockades
  • a small combat fleet can only blockade a part of a bigger fleet
  • a fleet can blockade a fleet of its size (maybe some enemies could pass)
  • you could build special blockade fleets (probably fighter carriers carrying weapons) maximizing not the damage but the number of targets to shoot at
And bad consequences
  • micromanagement of blockaded/unblockaded ships - "Split unblockaded ships from fleet". Maybe reasonable with a better fleet management UI.
  • AI probably has a harder time
Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

Furthermore, I propse... we should default to four combat rounds instead of three ...for the good of playerkind.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#7 Post by Vezzra » Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:00 pm

Ophiuchus wrote:
Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:45 am
One way to formulate "a small fleet cant blockade a big fleet" in freeorion terms could be: "a ship which gets shot at is blockaded".
An interesting approach. Pro: It's actually a very simple, straightforward and intuitive condition (from a design/player POV, not considering implementation of course). Con: the consequences and implications will be substantially more complex.

What needs to be addressed are cases where ships don't get shot at because they are supposed to keep in the background (like support ships, troop transports etc.), once we have more sophisticated combat mechanics in place. Ships that don't get shot at because they can hide behind the primary combat ships shoud not be able to break through a blockade, that doesn't make sense.
stealthy ships can pass blockades
That's already possible now, or did I miss something?
micromanagement of blockaded/unblockaded ships - "Split unblockaded ships from fleet".
Could be automated. Ships that break through the blockade get automatically assigned to a new fleet.
AI probably has a harder time
That's going to happen regardless of which new approach we come up with. Once we have a mechanic in place that allows ships to break through a blockade before all enemy armed forces are eliminated, the AI will have to deal with that, making things harder for it.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#8 Post by Oberlus » Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:19 pm

Vezzra wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:00 pm
Ships that don't get shot at because they can hide behind the primary combat ships shoud not be able to break through a blockade, that doesn't make sense.
Why? Space is huge, really huge. While "primary" combat ships are doing their thing, the others can try to circumnavigate the system (or the part of it where combat is going on) keeping away from combat.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#9 Post by Ophiuchus » Sun Jan 13, 2019 4:01 pm

Vezzra wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 8:00 pm
Ships that don't get shot at because they can hide behind the primary combat ships shoud not be able to break through a blockade, that doesn't make sense.
And again... realism...
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Furthermore, I propse... we should default to four combat rounds instead of three ...for the good of playerkind.

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Re: Make blockade work for one turn only

#10 Post by Vezzra » Sun Jan 20, 2019 2:19 pm

Oberlus wrote:
Sun Jan 13, 2019 2:19 pm
Why? Space is huge, really huge. While "primary" combat ships are doing their thing, the others can try to circumnavigate the system (or the part of it where combat is going on) keeping away from combat.
If we operate on that assumption and design our combat mechanics accordingly, combat ships should not be able to protect "civilian" or "support" ships during battle. That's kind of a "you can't eat the cake and keep it" thing. Protecting certain ships from getting attacked by enemy forces only work if we work on the assumption that the armed escort can keep enemy forces away from them (disregarding any "realism" of such an assumption).

That doesn't really fit the idea of those protected ships maneuvering so freely that they can push through an enemy blockade. To get past a blockade, you either need to destroy it or break through it. In the latter case the blackading forces get to shoot at you, anything else would be totally counter-intuitive and against natural expectation.

If space is so huge that you can split off some of your ships which then try to "go around" the blockade, the blockading forces can do the same - split off some ships which then go after those "blockade runners". If you want to protect the "blockade runners" from such a hunting party, you'd need to send an escort with them, and unless we implement an very sophisticated and detailed tactical combat which allows for such tactical finesse, we're back to square one.

Of course, we can provide players with different "combat tactic" options they can choose from: an option where safety of important/support ships has priority, which reduces the risk of enemy forces getting to shoot at them, and another option, where breaking through the blockade has priority, which dramatically raises the risk of important/support ships to get attacked. The benefit would be that you could get more ships past the blockade faster, at the cost of heavier losses, particularly to e.g. your troop transports.

Being able to just fly past a blockade without having to pay for that accordingly doesn't sound like an interesting and fun game mechanic, and doesn't present the player with interesting and tough choices.

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