General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

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Geoff the Medio
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General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#1 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Ok, it sounds like it's about time to start discussing space combat again. I took a look see through the brainstorming archives and found a whole slew of relevant threads...

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Reading through all that, or attempting to ressurect the old threads would be a pain, so I'm making this new one...

However, if at all possible, I'd like this thread to deal with some of the basic features of space combat, as well as its general "feel". Getting these out of the way before starting to argue about specific details of the combat system is probably a good idea, as we'll avoid parallel arguments that depend on different answers to the general issues.

Specific Issues:

A) Should space combat be abstracted to the point where you merely manourve your fleets on the galaxy map and give them some generalized battle plans, and when you actually engage another fleet, the result is simulated / calculated and displayed, without any player control of the battle?

My thoughts: I assume most people would rather not abstract combat to this degree. That said, it may be beneficial to do so, especially for multiplayer games. A natural conclusion is to have both options, much like Master of Magic. We could then allow players to pick how to resolve each individual battle in single player, resolve all inter-AI battles the quick way, and resolve all multiplayer battles the quick way.

B) Assuming a non-abstracted combat system, should fleet battles be turn based (eg. Advance Wars), real time (starcraft), or some sort of pausible or discrete time-chunk hybrid of turn based and real-time, perhaps like Baldur's Gate battles?

My thoughts: I'm not keen on purely turn based. Running the simulation for 20 seconds, then pausing for 5 to give orders, then 20 seconds more, etc. might be workable...

C) If battles are semi, or fully real time, how much player control of ships / ship groups / task forces should be allowed / required? Should the player be able to give RTS-style orders, or would they be limited to observing the battle and giving general orders like "flank", "retreat", "protect carriers", "search for subs" and such.

My thoughts: not giving significant player control would probably be frustrating... no strong opinion though.

D) What is the general "pace" of ship combat? Is the battle a ranging chaotic melee, or a sporadic game of cat and mouse fleet manourvres where actually firing on enemy vessels is only happening for a small fraction of the time? (This mostly applies to non TBS systems)

My thoughts: I find a battle system focused on manourvers rather than details of chaotic fighting appealing. This might be problematic though, in that it would tend to make battles take quite a bit longer... If there aren't as many "special abilities" on ships as, say, Warcraft III units that need player-clickage to activate, a ranging melee might be a better way to go.

E) Should there be in-battle terrain? Asteroid belts, planets, moons, the star, spatial anomoalies etc. This applies to both RTS and TBS, but is actually more important for a TBS system, imo. This could also include gravity-wells from planets influencing ship movement, and specific locations for starlanes that your ships need to be at to retreat.

Me: I'd like to have terrain... as much of it as possible.

F) How many ships in a battle? Someone had a thread about this a while ago... Basically, are fleets composed of dozens or hundreds of ships?

Me: I'd prefer dozens at most. Makes each ship worth something, and combat more understandable.

G) How "solid" do ships feel? Do ships blow up when hit by a few missiles, or do they take a beating and keep on ticking? After a ship is severely damaged, is it basically "dead in the water" (unable to move, fire, aid in the battle, capturable after the battle), or does it blow up?

Me: I'd like ships to be damaged, not destroyed, in most cases. Damage knocks out weapons, shielding, propulsion, sensors, etc, but unless you've got a really huge weapon and are attacking a really tiny ship, the ship shouldn't actually be completely destroyed in most cases. Based ship survivability on size mighit also be reasonable. Consider a star destroyer and an x-wing. The star destroyer is unlikely to be destroyed by weapons fire alone, as it's really huge. Weapons fire can knock out its shields, bridge control, weapons, propulsion, etc, but the superstructure of the ship is essentially undamaged. Conversely, an x-wing (which is a fighter, not a "ship" in the same sense, I know) blows up when shot a few times. This might also depend on whether a ship has armour or shielding / pd, what class of hull (bio, metal, energy...) and such. As well, "mean" races might blow up ships often, whereas "nice" races / empires would more likely disable ships and take prisoners.

H) How long should combat take? Should combat from one turn roll over into the next turn if not completed on time? Is combat real-time or compressed-time, so that a minute of combat game time is "really" an hour / day of game-time.

I'd like combat to be as quick as possible for multiplayer, but as not-twitch as possible in general. I'm not keen on combat rolling over between turns... it seems a bit silly, though mainly for realism reasons (combat takes an hour, a turn is a month, why do you only fight an hour a month? No reasonable amount of time compression can avoid this issue). Perhaps combat could be resolved RTS / TBS style for up to a time limit, after which the auto-resolve takes over. This would obviously be frustrating / unfair in some cases, however...

I) How much detail should be involved? Should ships have ammo, numbers of crew, damage to specific systems or general damage, fuel, etc.? Should this information be persistant between battles?

Me: Selected detail is probably a good idea. I like between turn retained ammo numbers (meaning supply routes), and sustained damage to ships.

Any other issues?

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#2 Post by Tobi-Bo »

Another point is the question if space combat should be real 3D like shown in Homeworld or faked 3D like MoO3?

My Opinion about this is that especially with lots of moons, planets and asteroidbelts it should be more like the battles in Homeworld, because that would make it quite more strategic and not that much tactical. Ships could hide behind moons or use those for getting nearer to the enemy fleet.

Besides this, I agree with most of your opinions about space combat. Semi-RT seems to me the best option available again for its strategic value and just a few ships are better than too many. But I think it should be possible to assign groups of ships that all fly in formation. So you could have a battleship with some PD-escort or an attack squad of fast ships that use planets and asteroid belts for getting behind the enemy and destroy them from behind.

But one thing is pretty important to me: don't make space combat too crappy!!! Graphics and stuff are not that important in a game like this but it still should be fun to destroy the ships of my personal enemy. And without some eye candy this will not be!

Th- Thank you, thank you for the audience

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#3 Post by Tobi-Bo »

...and to all those cry-babies out there, that keep complaining about system requirements and insufficient graphic cards: I bet all of you will have bought an new and better system when this game comes out :wink:

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#4 Post by noelte »

to a) space combat shouldn't be abstracted. I think we need something simlar like the tactical vs strategic combat which moo2 is using.

to b) i would favor turn based combat. give every ship an order, hit turn and see what happens. I know the complains about moo2 combat where the side which shot first win the fight. That issue should be avoided. Additional you might have a auto button to resolve combat with ai more quickly and only stop, if things turned in a way you don't like.

to c) i'm not eager to see any RTS style orders (i like it turn based)

to d) i would like to avoid any manourvers. Make it quick and dirty ;-)

to e) as fo is not command & conquer i say no.

to f) having moo in mind i have to say i hate when they come for me with 32000 small missle ships ;-) I liked the way moo2 handled it much more. I would rather like to see a smaller number of ships. say max 300-500 at a huge galaxy.

to g) i like the idea of destroying ship components before the entire ship is destroyed. I think ascendancy did it this way. After a battle you can replace damaged components.

to h) everything should be done within a single turn (a combat should be resolve when it occures). But this shouldn't take longer than 5min for huge fleets at max.

to i) ammo, hitpoints, destroyed components, left crew is a must. There are surely much more informations i liked to see (for example how much effective my weapons are)

-- I don't like the idea of 3D space combat. fo is not homeworld or wing commander. I don't like the idea of being forced to fight in 3D the way homeworld is doing it
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#5 Post by Tobi-Bo »

Ya, in some points I agree with you. With semi-RT I meant giving orders and then see your orders fulfilled. Maybe similar to that way botf handeled it where after moving and firing in RT the next orders were given to your fleet. And in this way you could also include real 3D that is not hectical or too fast for my slow mind :wink:

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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#6 Post by utilae »

Geoff the Medio wrote: A) Should space combat be abstracted to the point where you merely manourve your fleets on the galaxy map and give them some generalized battle plans, and when you actually engage another fleet, the result is simulated / calculated and displayed, without any player control of the battle?
I think space combat should be similar to Moo2 (top down/isometric view). Space combat should not be simplified too much. It should be easy to play, but not too simplified that it becomes a battle summary screen. Also I don't think 3d space combat would be very good. Home World was good, but the controls were way too complex. Also I hate the idea of battle plans where you give the ship a battle plan and it does some AI based thing.
Geoff the Medio wrote: B) Assuming a non-abstracted combat system, should fleet battles be turn based (eg. Advance Wars), real time (starcraft), or some sort of pausible or discrete time-chunk hybrid of turn based and real-time, perhaps like Baldur's Gate battles?
My original proposal was for a phased real time system. Phased real time being a hybrid of turn based and real time. Basically everyone gives movement and targeting orders at the same time and click 'done' when they are done. When everyone had clicked 'done' the battle plays out in real time for a while and then back to movement and targeting (note that in this point ships are not doing anything, but are 'paused' and are waiting for the players). Since the real time part where the battle plays it does not need players to give orders, it can be in 3d.

-(1)Give orders in 2d/isometric view (battle paused).
-(2)Real time part, battle plays out in 3D.
-(3)Back to (1)
Geoff the Medio wrote: C) If battles are semi, or fully real time, how much player control of ships / ship groups / task forces should be allowed / required? Should the player be able to give RTS-style orders, or would they be limited to observing the battle and giving general orders like "flank", "retreat", "protect carriers", "search for subs" and such.
I say plenty of orders. Like what Moo2 had, though with more group based actions. Eg. you group select the enemies to attack and ship fire is spread equally between all enemies selected.

See my proposal (in my signature) for some examples of how such orders would be carried out.
Geoff the Medio wrote: D) What is the general "pace" of ship combat? Is the battle a ranging chaotic melee, or a sporadic game of cat and mouse fleet manourvres where actually firing on enemy vessels is only happening for a small fraction of the time? (This mostly applies to non TBS systems)
I'm assuming that it would be a phased real time (half turn based, half turn based), so the pace would be relaxed (you wouldn't do anything but watch during the real time part).
Geoff the Medio wrote: E) Should there be in-battle terrain? Asteroid belts, planets, moons, the star, spatial anomoalies etc. This applies to both RTS and TBS, but is actually more important for a TBS system, imo. This could also include gravity-wells from planets influencing ship movement, and specific locations for starlanes that your ships need to be at to retreat.
Yes, that would be cool. You could have nebulas to slow or speed up movement or damage ships.
Geoff the Medio wrote: F) How many ships in a battle? Someone had a thread about this a while ago... Basically, are fleets composed of dozens or hundreds of ships?
I would say 100 per side at max or more per side, as I believe we can make a good interface and system for controlling that many ships.

Once again look at my ideas in my proposal for handling multiple ships.
Geoff the Medio wrote: G) How "solid" do ships feel? Do ships blow up when hit by a few missiles, or do they take a beating and keep on ticking? After a ship is severely damaged, is it basically "dead in the water" (unable to move, fire, aid in the battle, capturable after the battle), or does it blow up?
Ships blow up. It's all about when they blow up. Big ships should last longer. Small ships blow up in a few shots. Bigger ships are more likely to leave wreck floating in space.
Geoff the Medio wrote: H) How long should combat take? Should combat from one turn roll over into the next turn if not completed on time? Is combat real-time or compressed-time, so that a minute of combat game time is "really" an hour / day of game-time.
Combat should rollover to the next turn if it is not finished. There are some good reasons for this:
-It doesn't rush players in multiplayer, who can take there time in planning strategy.
-It doesn't matter if combat takes a long time, because you can continue next turn.
-It draws out combat, spreading the 'action' of combat throughout the game. Space combat is the fun part, so let it fill the game.
-Combat can be set to last for Xseconds of real life time, so that when that times up it rolls is is saved and continued next turn. You could make it last 30sec a turn, so multiplayer will keep moving (players won't choose how long it takes in each turn though).
Geoff the Medio wrote: I) How much detail should be involved? Should ships have ammo, numbers of crew, damage to specific systems or general damage, fuel, etc.? Should this information be persistant between battles?
Ships should not have ammo, except for missiles (like in Moo2). There should be crew, because I want bording and ship capture in some form. Damage to systems should be simplified, eg. systems half damaged then devices on ships that use medium power stop working. If systems 3/4 damaged then devices that use high power stop working. This way when designing your ship, low power devices might be a thing to consider.

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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#7 Post by Daveybaby »

A) Should space combat be abstracted to the point where you merely manourve your fleets on the galaxy map and give them some generalized battle plans?
EVERYTHING is abstracted to some level, even if we had a highly detailed simulation of 1 vs 1 ship combat, there are always abstractions to be made. Whats drives the level of abstraction is the number of ships we have in combat. If we can potentially have many hundreds of ships then we really should abstract them down into task forces, otherwise things become unmanageable.

A general rule of thumb - the average human brain is capable of keeping track of 7-9 items at once. Any more and the brain tends to just lump similar objects together and call it a group. So if you have hundreds of ships to control separately, youre not going to be gaining ANY freedom by controlling them all, youre just going to give yourself a lot of tedious work to do. Think Moo2 endgame. Sheesh. So save the player work by creating the groups for them.

I would say, in turn based combat, with less than a couple of dozen ships you have probably keep things at a ship control level, above that you need to start thinking about task forces. If youre talking real time combat, then halve that number (a dozen ships max).

Having said all of this, there should definitely be an option of full auto-calc whatever the scale is.

B) Assuming a non-abstracted combat system, should fleet battles be turn based (eg. Advance Wars), real time (starcraft), or some sort of pausible or discrete time-chunk hybrid of turn based and real-time, perhaps like Baldur's Gate battles?
Personally i think that what Moo3 originally promised was the way to go - slow paced real time. Give players time to think and react to situations.

One idea - have player timeouts. Basically allow players to pause combat, but only a few times. So you start combat paused, assign initial orders, start combat. Each player gets (say) 2 timeouts that they can use to pause the game (the length of a timeout could be configurable either on a game by game or a battle by battle basis - from 10 seconds up to a few minutes, or even indefinite (hey we all got to use the toilet sometimes)). Every few minutes of combat maybe let players earn back 1 spent timeout.

The main point of timeouts being - players can still issue orders while combat is running - they just have the option of a timeout for critical moments so that they can fit more stuff in.

Number of timeouts etc should of course be configurable from zero up to unlimited - in an SP game the player should be able to pause all they want (do you hear that Moo3? DO YOU !$&*#% HEAR THAT???????).

:twisted: oh. Sorry. Got a bit carried away there... :wink:
C) If battles are semi, or fully real time, how much player control of ships / ship groups / task forces should be allowed / required?
Again, this depends very much on the scale of battle, but i'd like to see something like the Total War system - ships (or task forces if thats the scale of things) can be put into certain modes/postures which affect their behaviour or provide bonuses/penalties in performance (e.g. at the simplest level assign a ship/task force to defensive or offensive posture).

Combine this with some simple RTS commands (context sensitive mouse clicks) and you potentially have a system which is streamlined yet tactically deep.
D) What is the general "pace" of ship combat? Is the battle a ranging chaotic melee, or a sporadic game of cat and mouse fleet manourvres where actually firing on enemy vessels is only happening for a small fraction of the time?
A very good question. Its very hard to get any meaningful sort of maneouvering into a space combat engine - ships just tend to close to weapon range and slug it out. Terrain (E, below) can help with this a lot though.

If you attempt to make a cat & mouse type game, you have to be VERY VERY VERY careful that combat doesnt just devolve into a game of hide & seek every time, ending in timeout/stalemate.
E) Should there be in-battle terrain?
Yes, lots of it. My preference is to have the combat arena be the entire solar system, with planets, sun, asteroid belts etc etc giving certain terrain bonuses/penalties, as well as providing specific objectives (e.g. you could actually land troops during space combat then retreat in order to completely mess up someone's day without confronting their defensive fleet - this gives you objectives to fight over rather than just 'destroy the enemy fleet')

F) How many ships in a battle? Someone had a thread about this a while ago... Basically, are fleets composed of dozens or hundreds of ships?
This is the big one.

I can see the attraction in having a few dozens of ships maximum - the main problem with this, as i see it, is that no matter how you try and limit the size of people's fleets, they are somehow still going to manage to build hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of ships. And they are inevitably going to try to use them all at once.

So you either:

(i) put a hard limit on the number of ships per combat, which means that its all down to who has the BIGGEST ships, and drags each actual combat out over many game turns (as in Moo3, where you each had a stack of dozens of task forces, and had to whittle each down by a maximum of 10 each turn - BLEH!)

(ii) As above, but allow reinforcements during combat (similar to Total War). This can work, but can mean that a combat can last a LONG time before all of the reinforcements are exhausted.

(iii) Let people use them all at once if they want. In which case you can end up with something like Moo2 in the endgame, where you have combat system designed for handfuls of ships, being played out with hundreds, for hours and hours and hours...

Personally i would go for larger scale combat, at the task force level. I'm thinking of the Total War series of games, or in fact, Moo3 space combat but done right.


The ideal situation in 'programming is easy' world would be to effectively have 2 combat engines - if you have a few ships on each side then you run a detailed ship level combat - but once the numbers on each side exceed a couple of dozen, then you switch to a task force based system. Thats LOTs of extra work though (not least in the balancing department).

G) How "solid" do ships feel? Do ships blow up when hit by a few missiles, or do they take a beating and keep on ticking? After a ship is severely damaged, is it basically "dead in the water" (unable to move, fire, aid in the battle, capturable after the battle), or does it blow up?
This, yet again, depends on the scale of combat. If we are talking individual ship control, then ships can be damaged, suffer reduced functionality, be knocked out but not destroyed, towed home, etc. This would be fun.

But once we get to hundreds of ships and have task force level control this kind of detail is just pointless.
H) How long should combat take? Should combat from one turn roll over into the next turn if not completed on time?
Ideally have a configurable time limit (5 mins to unlimited) so that SP games can take as long as they want, while MP games can have whatever constraints suit them. Game 'tick' speed should also be configurable, so people can have a fast paced game in MP if they want (would work well with my 'timeout' proposal above) or take their time in SP.

w.r.t. rollover, i would say YES, except that you have to be VERY careful of exploits, such as hiding an ultra stealthy ship and keeping a system in an eternal 'in combat' state (with whatever penalties that might imply). This might not be too bad if combat had other objectives than just 'destroy the enemy fleet', e.g. if you could land troops/bombard planets during combat.

Is combat real-time or compressed-time, so that a minute of combat game time is "really" an hour / day of game-time.
Pfff... couldnt care less. The pace should be set to give a playable game, and if you want to map this to some time compression factor later on, then fine.
I) How much detail should be involved? Should ships have ammo, numbers of crew, damage to specific systems or general damage, fuel, etc.? Should this information be persistant between battles?
Again, this is highly dependent on what the scale of combat is going to be. A few ships? Have all the detail you want (star fleet battles) - a few dozen ships? medium level of detail - hundreds of ships? Dont bother with anything except maybe a damage level.



A related thingie - someone on the orion sector forums just pointed me to a very nice old DOS game called begin2 (a web site is here) which is like a 2-d starfleet battles with a command line interface (!). If you want combat with small numbers of ships then something like this (but with a more user friendly UI of course) would be fantastic.

Edit - fixed URL. And profanity.
Last edited by Daveybaby on Thu Aug 12, 2004 1:13 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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#8 Post by Tobi-Bo »

maybe I didn't explain my view of a 3D system not clear enough: I think of a system where you have maybe 3-5 levels where a ship is positioned. That would be like a 2D-system but with more possibilities. You could assign a key like - or + to go one level up or down, but not more. Still you have to circle your ships to the left or right to head for an enemy ship. But you would be able to pass a ship or a moon or whatever, that is the same position as you but on a different level. Of course it should be possible to fire at ships that are at different levels. This I think would be easy enough for everybody.

What do you think about that??

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#9 Post by drek »

2D playing field, simple 3D engine, with the coolest particle effects we can manage.

Gameplay-wise, I'm imaging a simulation that pauses every 20 secs for player input. After 2 or maybe 3 minutes of battle simulation has been carried out, the combat is declared over for the turn--resuming the next turn.

Combats in which one side is vastly superior ought to auto-resolve (er) automatically. For other combats, if all concerned players agree, the combat auto-resolves.

The entire star system ought to be represented on the tactical map (though obviously "squeezed together" compared to real life distances).

Ground combat ought to occur in the same phase, at the same time as space combat. Basically troop pods would just be another kind of weapon: one that destorys military defenses and moral on a planet while minimizing civilian damage. Simple.

Someone posted a neat little visual basic battle simulator a little while ago (don't remember who or what post). Something like that, with more player input, would be cool.

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#10 Post by Daveybaby »

Personally, i think that how space combat is displayed is something that needs to be decided *after* a decision has been made on the level of detail/number of ships issue (which is pretty much what this thread is all about if you ask me).

i.e. its pointless being able to zoom right in on an individual ship if youre controlling hundreds of ships at a task force level, and vice versa.

And certainly people's preference for various levels of graphical flashiness shouldnt drive the gameplay decisions - thats how commercial games are developed nowadays, which is why they are almost always unmitigated crap.
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#11 Post by pd »

Tobi-Bo wrote:Another point is the question if space combat should be real 3D like shown in Homeworld or faked 3D like MoO3?
what is faked 3d? moo3 used a volume pixel(voxel) engine instead of the more common polygons to visualize the 3d combat. a bad idea imho ;)

so the real question is 3d or not. as a 3d artist i wish 3d of course and i'm looking forward to create real time ship models+textures. i also mentioned somewhere that i would like to make space combat as beautifull as in homeworld, which is doable from my point of view.
Tobi-Bo wrote:But one thing is pretty important to me: don't make space combat too crappy!!! Graphics and stuff are not that important in a game like this but it still should be fun to destroy the ships of my personal enemy. And without some eye candy this will not be!
graphics are very important, also in a game like fo. i can understand people saying, that a game doesn't need good(or any) graphics to be a good game and to be fun, but the quality of graphics in games has rised so much in the last years that people are accustomed to this.
and via providing a beautiful game we can attain a bigger audience.
utilae wrote:Also I don't think 3d space combat would be very good. Home World was good, but the controls were way too complex. Also I hate the idea of battle plans where you give the ship a battle plan and it does some AI based thing.
&&
noelte wrote:I don't like the idea of 3D space combat. fo is not homeworld or wing commander.
of course we shouldn't copy the way homeworld handles space combat or plays in general. what i would like to have is only a similar look.

note: the general question whether 3d or not is maybe not part of this discussion and should be discussed in another thread.

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#12 Post by drek »

Personally, i think that how space combat is displayed is something that needs to be decided *after* a decision has been made on the level of detail/number of ships issue (which is pretty much what this thread is all about if you ask me).
I realize there still needs to be a public review, but with the global queue and the defocus on micro I'm already assuming that the total number of units will be quite small. Far less than moo2, on an average sized galaxy.

Two methods of achieving this:

1: smaller ship hulls will be built as cohesive units, like the fighters and corvettes of homeworld2 or the armies of total war. Frigates for example, might come in groups of 3, corvettes groups of 10. The point is to make each build item roughly equivelent to a single captial ship of the same tech level.
2: high maintaince fees, perhaps with a single fully built up planet supporting just two to four units. (and then only if the planet isn't supporting a building or two -or- if the player isn't concerned with accrueing money to use on diplomacy/spy/culture actions.

With the ship population in check gameplay on the galaxy map can be more focused, and the queue less cluttered. On the tactical side, the condition of indivdual units (esp. captial ships) can be examined and considered by the player in detail.

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#13 Post by miu »

pd: yep, details of battle graphics-engine are to be discussed later, but how it seems now is that we aim for 3d presentation regardless how 2/3d the gameplay turns out. And I agree about the graphical feel to be similar to homeworld - beutiful colorful nebulaes and details in background, shipdesigns that feel huge and personal.

About battle, I like having "terrain" and having as some manouvering instead of just hard battle. I like the idea the "ordergiving phase - execution/observation phase" loop :) Gamplay should be 2d or as suggested layered 2d, hmmh. Time: Both ways (one turn/several turns) are ok for me, both have their good and bad sides.

Ships with destroying parts sounds good. That rises a question about when a enemy ship can be thought as disabled/threatless in battle, and what you do after battle with those enemyships which engines and weapons you blew? let them repair their engines and head home, salvage, destroy, let them evac personnel before blowing them (treat fairly as prisoner in war), capture the hulls and refit them yourself? What would be the benefits and cons of each action. Anyway you should be able to set this on default and not to worry about it - you should be able to set different default treatments for each empire you fight with.
This sounds like a interesting tidbit, specially in singleplayer politics, but does this go too much detail/add really good content to gameplay? Just blowing up those who didnt retreat is simple.


edit: ships firing missiles to enemies using the gravitywells around moons and planets would be very cool :)
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#14 Post by emrys »

General summary of my preferences: Total War engine applied to space combat, with tweaks. Ship numbers between 2 and <100 max, broken down into ten varying sized groups (e.g. single units to 10 packs) with the game focus shifting with typical group size.

I'd like : some player control of the tactical level of combat, so more detail than simply autoresolve based on general battle plans (though keep that option in)

Time wise, any of continuous time, turnbased or pausible / burst hybrid are fine by me. (I quite fancy the burst time idea (give orders, little bit of non/semi-interactive 'real' time happens, action pauses & give more orders etc.)

Control: I'd like it to be possible to give direct control (homeworld/c&c style) orders to all individual units/groups, but I'd also like to put more emphasis on the ability to give more useful general orders. The way I see it there is a tradeoff between direct-individual control (which allows you to be very specific about what you want and to best use your forces, but is difficult to do for more than one or two units at once) and the large scale 'go here and do what the AI tells you' style control, which let's you control the whole battle because it's not so time consuming.

I think we should put some effort into creating a system with a middle layer, so you can do more to shape the way your forces fight than simply positioning them, without having to really micro each of them (hopefully that will make the game less of a click fest than e.g. homeworld).

So we should have general orders like "flank", "retreat", "protect carriers" , "hook round this target" etc. but we should put a bit more effort into them than usual (e.g. no defenders assigned to defend a carrier that don't fire on opponents attacking a ship a millimeter to the left because it's not the ship they're defending). I realise this is really an AI issue, but it's only be saying that we expect the combat system to make great use of this level that we'll put the design/programming time into them, rather that saying "well you can always direct the ships individually".

Which brings me to - this is supposed to be a TBS, so I think it's appropriate to aim for a rather more cerebral style of combat than most RTS. A Battle system with a fairly slow pace, focussed on maneuver and strategy rather than the 'chaotic melee' is probably the way to go.

So that suggests : terrain - yes please, though don't go overboard. Definitely like the idea of allowing things like hit and run raids on planets / shipyards /ships underconstruction, so these at least could form part of the terrain, plus a few effects like nebulae, and the location (permanent or otherwise) of starlanes (or the jumpable zone, or however we handle that kind of thing, several ideas in other threads).

Solidity of ships - fairly solid even the smaller ship sizes (e.g. knock out systems, derelict ships are capturable and repairable after battle etc. ) - speed of ships, fairly slow, at least for some, so that there is a reasonable chance of exploiting out maneuvering an opponent, i.e. you can't just quickly compensate for dumn choices by moving ships about.

Number of ships - have to agree with Davey - too many things to keep track off and it's inevitably going to break down, try to keep the number of salient entities down to ten or under (which conveniently works with the 'number buttons selecting groups' convention...) Plus smaller numbers of individual units implies you can use a closer zoom level, which means they look bigger and the effects and graphics look better (i.e. less "3-d rendered,anit-aliased, normal mapped" red dot firing at blue dot...).

To that end, I like Drek's idea of combining smaller ships into groups for building and operating to keep them of similar impact to bigger ships.

But, early game, the number and size of ships is likely to be much smaller. So how about: early game you build small ships individually, and operate them individually on the combat map. Later in the game you develop techs that make it much more cost effective to build and operate a 'group of smaller ships' unit than the equivalent number of individual smaller ships (don't take this too far though, since one of the advantages of smaller ships is their ability to be deployed independantly). Players can (but doesn't have to) group ships together themselves pre-battle (i.e. when setting up fleets) into coherent units (e.g. to link a battleship with it's own p.d. ships or escort frigates), but there is a limit to the total ships size (e.g. 1 or 2 of the largest size) in each group (i.e. 2 size 5's or 5 size 2's). There ought to be some kind of advantage to a player to doing this (e.g. ships fight slightly better as a group).

We might need to rate ships by another number "Command Points" - so we're free to say that a size 5 ship is more than 5/4 times better than a size 4 - the idea is that each group would have a maximum combat effectiveness, and you wouldn't gain by making them out of large rather than small ships.

When combat starts, if there are more than ten groups from one side going in to combat, the game will automagically group up ships (starting with those of identical design, then identical size, then what will fit) into groups of less than the CP/size limit until it either has ten groups, or can't do any better (when it either leaves some out at random or uses them as reinforcements or whatever we choose) - my sympathy to the poor person who has to code this :wink: . The idea being that as fleet sizes scale up, the size of the 'unit of control' scales up too, so the player has about the same amount of things to keep track of. (It might be nice to actually penalise ships that have been 'grouped' by the game engine, since they've not trained to work together so they aren't as co-ordinated as a grouping the player has put together and kept consistent for a few turns.

If we combine this with the other methods of restraining fleet size range by design (e.g. large maintenance fees, smaller numbers of more costly ships being better than large numbers of cheaper ones, anything else we can think off) I think this should allow us to have a reasonably scalable engine that'll cope with all phases of the game. (e.g. early battles, 1-5 ships per side, mid game one or two big ships, ten or so smaller (three specials and (1or2)*5 packs), late-middle three big, six medium (3 pairs), twenty small (3*5packs and 5 attached to lead big ship) or thirty small (4*5packs 1*10pack) and late game (loads of big ship some paired, mediums in 3 packs, smalls attached to larger as screens or in 10 packs)

Degrees of freedom I'd agree with those that think the combat system ought to be based around maneuvering on a single plane (even if the display engine is 3d). 3D maneuvering just doesn't add enough to compensate for the nastyness involved.

I don't like the idea of turn spanning battles. If the time limit for a battle runs out (only relevant in MP, in SP I should fight for as long as I like Darn it!), then one player should be forced to retreat (i.e. the attacker, probably taking some additional lose (e.g. morale/jump damage)). This would also put some impetus into the battle. Main problem with this is what we do about battles where the player who would have to retreat is clearly winning, If it were clear enough, we could make the defender be forced to retreat.

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#15 Post by Geoff the Medio »

utilae wrote:See my proposal (in my signature) for some examples of how such orders would be carried out.
One of the threads linked in my first post was to the thread discussing this. I don't think we should discuss interface until the basics of combat are decided, though.
utilae wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote: D) What is the general "pace" of ship combat?
I'm assuming that it would be a phased real time (half turn based, half turn based), so the pace would be relaxed (you wouldn't do anything but watch during the real time part).
I'm talking more about what's happening during the "Action" phases, rather than the overall combination of orders and action. Are most action phases chock full of shooting, or are they mostly manourving around? As well, when the shooting does start do ships blow up after a few seconds, or do they wear eachother's defences down slowly over several minutes, one system / component failing at a time, giving chances for the player to attempt to retreat or bring in local reinforcements?
utilae wrote:
Geoff the Medio wrote:... is [a severely damaged ship] basically "dead in the water" (unable to move, fire, aid in the battle, capturable after the battle), or does it blow up?
Ships blow up. It's all about when they blow up. Big ships should last longer. Small ships blow up in a few shots. Bigger ships are more likely to leave wreck floating in space.
This is an issue about how powerful weapons are (feel), and how powerful shielding and armour are compoared the the general structure of a hull. In Babylon 5 or Star Wars, capital ships generally didn't blow up after a few hits, unless completely outclassed (eg. shadow beams or death star blast). Real world naval vessels are often repairable after severe damage. Star Trek was rather inconsistent (surprise) about ship's blowing up or just being damaged. What should FO ships do? Tracking structural damage separately from components would mean we could have ships incapacitated due to system / component damage, but salvagable. Fleet crew morale might depend on survival rates in such situations as well.
utilae wrote:Combat should rollover to the next turn if it is not finished. There are some good reasons for this:
[...]
-It doesn't matter if combat takes a long time, because you can continue next turn.
-It draws out combat, spreading the 'action' of combat throughout the game. Space combat is the fun part, so let it fill the game.
I think we'd still need to keep combat relatively quick, even if it rolls over occasionally. Otherwise combat might never end, if each turn more reinforcments arrive. Drawn out campaigns are one thing, but should individual battles last years / decades? As well, designing around fast battle resolution for small battles would probably be most compatible with fast battle resolution for large fleets as well. Hard to say. Any sort of time limit after which battles are resolved by the computer sucks though.
Daveybaby wrote:no matter how you try and limit the size of people's fleets, they are somehow still going to manage to build hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of ships. And they are inevitably going to try to use them all at once.
If ship maintainance is a very significant cost, especially for many small ships, then it would be prohibitively expensive to maintain huge fleets. Note that this doesn't necessarily mean all ships will be big. Some ships could actually work better if they are small, for various reasons we can make up if we want.
drek wrote:Combats in which one side is vastly superior ought to auto-resolve (er) automatically. For other combats, if all concerned players agree, the combat auto-resolves.
If some combats auto resolve, would it be a good option in multiplayer to limit the number of combats a particular player can control in a turn? Might cause a problem if one player wants to autoresolve a combat and another doesn't, so perhaps each player can force X combats to be played out each turn, and the rest are autoresolved. Occasionally one player might fight in a single battle against all other players, taking ages and boring most to death, but usually it'd work out reasonably balanced...
emerys wrote:...Drek's idea of combining smaller ships into groups for building and operating to keep them of similar impact to bigger ships.
We could also balance things so that you don't need or want to make lots of tiny ships. For whatever you'd make a bunch of small ships, you'd be better off making a single large ship. For whatever you only need one ship, any size, you'd make one small ship. A typical late-game fleet might have 5 battleships and 5 carriers, which are huge ships, 5 destroyers, which are medium, and 5 sensor ships, which are small. (and perhaps a C&C ship, and some "special effect" ships like warp interdictors or area-of-effect special ships if included, each of which you'd only have a few, and would be the size most appropriate).

If ships are grouped, I agree that the size of the group and size of what's in the group needs to scale with the available sizes of ships. Early small ships are both battleships and scoutships, and not something you'd build in groups of 10.



It looks like "pulsed" or "phased" or pausible (or forced-interval pausing) real time combat is popular. Perhaps we should focus on other issues with that in mind...?

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