General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

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drek
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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#16 Post by drek » Thu Aug 12, 2004 11:12 pm

Early small ships are both battleships and scoutships, and not something you'd build in groups of 10.
That's true in moo2 and 3. Doesn't have to be true in FO. Why wouldn't you build scoutships in groups of 10 or 20 early game? Happens that way in Hw2, and it works out great--a huge improvement over hw1's handling of small ships.

btw, hw does have a 4x-ish tech tree. You start off building only small ships, then either work your way up to frigates then capital ships or concentrate on refining smaller ships.

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#17 Post by Sandlapper » Fri Aug 13, 2004 3:31 am

A)
I would like one sided fights to auto-resolve. Would like to control task force sorta like HW, but still be able to control a single unit. I may want to ram another ship or spacestation if my weapons fail and I need a victory.

B)
I like the pausible real time in bursts. Auto pause in segments for limited time, give orders; and allow very limited extended pause for multiplayer(infinite sp).


C)
HW controls were fine with me. Would like a pre fight target selection (including geographic) along the lines of attack/defend/ignore for all ships.

D)
Would prefer a little slow down AT combat but normal speed up to combat. No wasted time crossing a solar system.


E)
Full terrain, yes!

F)
Dozens at least, but not hundreds.

G)
Proportionally solid, make huge ships worth having; will deter huge numbers of ships. Can disable and repair components.

H)
Carry over to next turn. However we could have a limiting factor such as shield generators needing to recharge/refit/repair after two or three turns, forcing a retreat.

I)
I prefer lotsa detail. In any regard to info.

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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#18 Post by Daveybaby » Fri Aug 13, 2004 9:06 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:
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.
The point is, IF you are going to design a combat engine which is geared towards a certain scale of combat (i.e. above a certain number of ships it becomes unwieldy), then you can guarantee that someone will want to exceed that number (probably by an order of magnitude in some cases). Players are going to have FAR more ships around in their empire than you want want to limit them to for the scale of combat which is being discussed.

... unless you are going to try to restrict an empires total fleets to the maximum allowed per combat (which would be ridiculous)

So you HAVE to plan for that eventuality, and pick a way of dealing with it when it happens.
drek wrote:That's true in moo2 and 3. Doesn't have to be true in FO. Why wouldn't you build scoutships in groups of 10 or 20 early game? Happens that way in Hw2, and it works out great--a huge improvement over hw1's handling of small ships.
I dont think that grouping by ship type in combat necessarily restricts you to building ships in groups and then moving them around the galaxy map in groups. Why cant the game just have a look at what you have available before combat starts, and assign ships to groups then?

So if you have 1 carrier, 12 frigates, 6 destroyers and 4 battleships, the game has a think and decides something like:
1 group of 1 carrier
4 groups of 3 frigates
3 groups of 2 destroyers
2 groups of 2 battleships
= 10 groups

Possibly display this to the player prior to battle and let them adjust things if they desire, e.g. they may wish their frigates to be arranged as 1 group of 6 and 3 groups of 2 or something.

This gets rid of all of the potential issues w.r.t. what happens if your unit of 5 destroyers loses 2 or 3 ships... otherwise you have to have some potentially very messy way of restocking that unit, e.g. return the unit to a starbase to be rebuilt, or merging 2 depleted units.
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#19 Post by drek » Fri Aug 13, 2004 10:12 am

This gets rid of all of the potential issues w.r.t. what happens if your unit of 5 destroyers loses 2 or 3 ships... otherwise you have to have some potentially very messy way of restocking that unit, e.g. return the unit to a starbase to be rebuilt.
That's how it works in hw2; it works out fine. By now, it should be possible to find hw2 in the bargin bin. It's well worth checking out, esp. for the multiplayer.

The tactical side of things is the least of my worries. The grouping of small ships is to reduce the number of items on the global queue and the number of total units to worry about manipulating on the galaxy map.

If a unit of small ships costs the same to produce as a single capital ship, then we can balance things so that a fully built up industial planet is only able to produce a single unit (or two) at a time of the present tech level.
The point is, IF you are going to design a combat engine which is geared towards a certain scale of combat (i.e. above a certain number of ships it becomes unwieldy), then you can guarantee that someone will want to exceed that number (probably by an order of magnitude in some cases). Players are going to have FAR more ships around in their empire than you want want to limit them to for the scale of combat which is being discussed.
Above limit X, units are sent to the reserves and do not pop out until some of your other unit have died.

Since small ships are grouped into units, it's still a viable strategy to use small ships. Otherwise, (as with most games with ships caps) big ships rule the roost.

Note, there *must be* an limit X, even if it's quite large. The engine obviously can't account for infinite ships.

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#20 Post by Daveybaby » Fri Aug 13, 2004 10:33 am

drek wrote:That's how it works in hw2; it works out fine. By now, it should be possible to find hw2 in the bargin bin. It's well worth checking out, esp. for the multiplayer.
I played HW1 to death, never did get HW2 as it just looked like more of the same to me. IIRC HW2 doesnt have a strategic map. It may have the look and feel that you want for space combat, but its building model isnt necessarily one to follow.

Like i say, i think the idea of grouping ships in combat is great - but youve already got a mechanism for moving ships around on the galaxy map - fleets. Why place artificial constraints on what can be moved between fleets? I dont see a problem that needs fixing, tbh.

Similarly w.r.t. build queues - i dont see a problem with being able to order 1x, 2x 5x or 10x of something. Why limit it to a fixed number?
Above limit X, units are sent to the reserves and do not pop out until some of your other unit have died.

Since small ships are grouped into units, it's still a viable strategy to use small ships. Otherwise, (as with most games with ships caps) big ships rule the roost.

Note, there *must be* an limit X, even if it's quite large. The engine obviously can't account for infinite ships.
Exactly, the grouping thing will work very well up to a point, but there will still be a limit to what you want in battle at one time.

Sounds like youre in favour of a reinforcements approach - which sounds good to me. The key issue though, is to design it in *properly* from the start. i.e. give the player a way to manage their reinforcements. In the total war games, reinforcements were obviously tacked on as an afterthought, because the there was no way to for the player to manage them until the latest version, and even that could do with some improvements (i.e. you still have to determine the order in which they arrive before battle even starts, because there is no mechanism for picking which unit to use in the combat engine, so if you really really needed some archers, but a unit of spears turns up instead, its VERY annoying).

This happens with almost every 4x game i have ever played. The designers always seem to assume "oh, players will hardly *ever* use reinforcements, so we wont worry about it too much". In practice, in almost every game i have ever played, players regularly exceed the designers upper limits by a very large factor. Even in Moo1, where you could have 32000 ships in a stack, its not uncommon to see players (or even the AI) put too many ships in and have the numbers wrap around to -1 ships.

So have goals w.r.t scale of combat, but *expect* players to ignore them. Defensive design.
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#21 Post by drek » Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:26 pm

Hw2's single player game is lackluster compared to the original, but the mutliplayer is vastly superior to hw1.
Similarly w.r.t. build queues - i dont see a problem with being able to order 1x, 2x 5x or 10x of something. Why limit it to a fixed number?
Forget numbers for a second. The actual number of ships is fluff as far as the strategic side of the game is concerned.

I'm saying one Unit of corvettes ought to be about as useful as one Unit of frigates, which ought to be as useful as one Unit of Capital ships. (assuming equivalent tech levels. A high level unit of corvettes ought to 0wn a low level unit of cap ships.) At very least, a unit of ‘vettes ought to be in the same ballpark as a unit consisting of a capital ship.

If one Unit of corvettes is 1/20th as useful as one capital ship, then the cost and time to build one unit of 'vettes ought to be about 1/20th that of a capital ship.

But with x resources spent over Y turns, you can (for about the same cost) build 20 corvettes faster than one capital ship, for a must improved ROI. It would be stupid to build capital ships.

If 20 corvettes cost more to build than one capital ship, then it would be stupid to build corvettes, except in times of pressing emergency (when you need ships asap—though in such cases you’ve probably already lost the game.)

But, if one unit of corvettes is roughly equivalent to one unit of capital ships, then you build based on strategic need. Do I need fast ships to quickly maneuver around the map or do I need tough ships? A player can choose to concentrate on refining 'vettes or capital ships: either way is a viable strategy.

The number of ships per unit would be largely irrelevant. As in Total War, you wouldn't be able split units off into smaller units. (or for that matter combine them into larger units, except perhaps to replace loses.)

Another way of thinking about it: the emperor of the galaxy doesn’t give a fig about one dinky little corvette, any more than the emperor of Rome cares about a single centurion. A entire squadron of ‘vettes on the other hand might warrant attention.

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#22 Post by Tobi-Bo » Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:55 pm

"But, if one unit of corvettes is roughly equivalent to one unit of capital ships, then you build based on strategic need. Do I need fast ships to quickly maneuver around the map or do I need tough ships? A player can choose to concentrate on refining 'vettes or capital ships: either way is a viable strategy. "
not if you include maintenance costs, morale and other stuff, i guess. If we think about Total War, there are lots and lots of values that make a unit unique and give it a special strength and also some weaknesses. F.e. if you have a battleship, that has relatively low maintenance costs but very high building costs, that is slow but can carry the big guns, gives benefits to the morale of the other units of your fleet and so on. then you have a unit that is worth having.
On the other side you could have small ships, that are faster and better to maneuver but more easily to be destroyed, that are better with PD than the battleship (like the Death Star in Star Wars), that are cheaper to build but more expensive to maintain, then there is always a reason to build such ships.
And still everybody could follow their preferences of ship building.

But I really don't see the need for building corvettes in packs of 10 (or 5 or whatever).
:?:
As long as you will be able to group your ships in a Pre-battle screen, I think this is pretty worthless...

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#23 Post by SapphireWyvern » Fri Aug 13, 2004 1:43 pm

Well, I think that unless you incorporate the issues of inertia and acceleration, you're not going to approaching the feel of hard SF space combat - but that's okay! I don't think it would be easy to implement an inertia-tracking turn based space combat game that would be playable.

I would very much like to encourage a system that resolves space combat in real time, even if the game pauses every 10-20 seconds for order input, rather than an abstract system where my ships move and shoot while yours hold still - and then it's your turn! The better system would be like the system used in Laser Squad Nemesis, where the game runs in 10-second real time turns and there is a complex and effective set of Rules of Engagement & waypoints that can be used to exercise good control of the units during the 10-second real time turns.

You should definitely include fog-of-war (specifically sensor ranges) because without the issues of limited sensing capability, a lot of units won't be useful. In the Real World® the purpose of many light naval units is to act as screening units, to locate enemy force concentrations and then outrun them so that the screening units can rejoin the main fleet without getting destroyed. So, these units would need good speed and sensors. Ships of the line (or wall, for 3-d combat rules) need tougher shields, armour, and heaps more firepower. Scout units, which can't stand up in the line of battle, might as well be left out of the game if you don't give them anything useful to do.

Reading the Honor Harrington novels (by David Weber) gives a lot of information about one cool set of space combat "rules" - I highly recommend them.

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#24 Post by Daveybaby » Fri Aug 13, 2004 2:06 pm

drek wrote:If one Unit of corvettes is 1/20th as useful as one capital ship, then the cost and time to build one unit of 'vettes ought to be about 1/20th that of a capital ship.

But with x resources spent over Y turns, you can (for about the same cost) build 20 corvettes faster than one capital ship, for a must improved ROI. It would be stupid to build capital ships.

If 20 corvettes cost more to build than one capital ship, then it would be stupid to build corvettes, except in times of pressing emergency (when you need ships asap—though in such cases you’ve probably already lost the game.)
So why does this require building corvettes in lumps of 20? Why not just say 1 corvette costs 1/20th of a capital ship, and takes 1/20th of the time to build?
The number of ships per unit would be largely irrelevant. As in Total War, you wouldn't be able split units off into smaller units. (or for that matter combine them into larger units, except perhaps to replace loses.)
And as i'm sure youre aware, the way unit replenishment works in Total War is messy and vague, and involves lots of stupid microing of stacks in order to get full ones when you need them (there is an auto-merge function, but frankly its not very 'optimal').

You invariably end up with lots of piddly depleted units sitting around waiting to be merged with other stacks the next time you have a battle - usually these depleted units are useless because you will never use them in battle if there is a full unit you can use instead.

It causes lots of faffing and micro. Its a pain even in MTW, with only 50-odd provinces on the map, and fixed unit designs.
Another way of thinking about it: the emperor of the galaxy doesn’t give a fig about one dinky little corvette, any more than the emperor of Rome cares about a single centurion. A entire squadron of ‘vettes on the other hand might warrant attention.
This is mainly a UI/micro problem for me. Its much easier to pick a number of corvettes and assign them to a fleet, then reinforce with more corvettes later if required, than to have 1 'stack' of corvettes and have to send another stack over later on in order to replenish losses by merging (jn which case you still have a partial stacks sitting around somewhere, being useless), or even worse, have to send a depleted stack back to a shipyard to be 'refilled'.

And i hope youre not suggesting that the stack of corvettes gets magically refilled as it 'heals' (e.g. MoM units) :shock: .

SapphireWyvern wrote:Reading the Honor Harrington novels (by David Weber) gives a lot of information about one cool set of space combat "rules" - I highly recommend them.
If its "missile porn" that youre after i can also recommend "The Praxis" / "The Sundering" by Walter John Williams (hardwired, aristoi - one of my favourite authors). Quite weber-esque.
Last edited by Daveybaby on Fri Aug 13, 2004 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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#25 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 13, 2004 2:07 pm

I can see a reason to have small ships built in groups, it helps us to keep the range of costs and build times down to a manageable level and makes balancing the game much easier.

I.e. It's a lot easier to keep a game balanced that has a small ship built in fives costing 5 and taking 5 turns and a large ship costing 6 and taking 6 turns, but having about 6/5th the firepower etc. The balance of the game is unlikely to be utterly critical on exactly how the various aspects of large vs small ships (e.g. survivability, maneuverability, ability to be in multiple places, player's willingness to wait longer for better value) work out.

Compare this to the case where small ships are built singly, costing 1 and taking 1 turn. You now have to make sure the balancing works with this much greater range of values and issues, and it makes it much more tricky to get right, as there is more opportunity for small imbalances to have a big effect. (e.g. if a capital ship is ~ 5 times stronger rather than 6, now you might never build a large ship beacuse the wait is no longer worth while, whereas before if it were as strong as the pack rather than 6/5th you might just cut back a bit because it's still got survivability going for it, and the wait is similar length.

I think the solution to this is to intelligently 'compress the dynamic range' of ship sizes. As we open up larger ship sizes, and hence increase the range of the balancing act, we should introduce techs that give the player fairly no-brain* options to build smaller ships in squadrons that act and are built as a single unit, thus narrowing the range a bit (and also allowing us to concentrate more on ensuring similar era otions are balanced, rather than trying to balance across the whole span of the game).

*No-brain in the sense that e.g. a squadron of five has the same combat ability as five singles, but costs only 4 times as much and takes 4 times as long, so essentially nobody will build singles anymore.

The only really viable alternative is to drastically limit the range of ships sizes (e.g. have three or less.)

In other words the idea would be to have Drek's "one 'unit' is about as useful as another" principle (with 'about' meaning 'within a factor of 3 or so' on most comparisons) and have it apply throughout the game timespan, by gradually changing the typical unit size at roughly the same time as new ship sizes are unlocked.

This is all about "keeping them all in the same ball park" without requiring the 'ball park' to always be that of the biggest, badest ship in the game.

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Re: General Issues / "Feel" of Space Battles

#26 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 13, 2004 2:20 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote: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).
That fleet would have 20 separate ships in it, not counting the specials (say 3).

I'd personally say 20+ ships is more than the player is going to be reasonably able to cope with, no matter how well designed the game interface, since twenty separate objects is just too many to mentally track. The vast majority of players would just lump those together in some way (e.g. battle line=4Battleships, screen = 3 destroyers + 2 sensors, rear= 5 carriers+ C&C, flank attack = 1battleship+2 destroyers, pickets = 3 sensors,others= 2 special ships, ie. 6 groups. I think it's not a bad idea to design the combat system such that it supports and encourages this kind of thing.

That way we'd be able to say instead that a typical fleet would include one or two main battle groups, one or two indirect-fire groups, some pickets, a mobile group or two and a few support groups, and this would be pretty consistent throughout the game, even if near the start each of these groups contained one corvette sized ship, and towards the end they contain five battleships or several squadrons of frigates.

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#27 Post by drek » Fri Aug 13, 2004 3:43 pm

And i hope youre not suggesting that the stack of corvettes gets magically refilled as it 'heals' (e.g. MoM units)
Er, why not? Again, that's how it works in hw2.

If the unit's still "alive" then so are the pilots, the repair crews, etc. Ships that are "destoryed" in tactical combat probably aren't utterly incinerated.
*No-brain in the sense that e.g. a squadron of five has the same combat ability as five singles, but costs only 4 times as much and takes 4 times as long, so essentially nobody will build singles anymore.
Why not just build the small ships as squadron type units to begin with? )

If y'all think about it, ships in moo1-3 are just abstractions anyway. All I'm saying here is that a unit of tech level X is roughy equivelent in usefulness to any other unit of tech level X.

The squadron idea is just fluff to explain why a corvette is as useful (and expensive) as a captial ship. (and remember, there are tech level 1 captial sized ships, assuming we use the asteriod hulls.)

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#28 Post by emrys » Fri Aug 13, 2004 6:01 pm

drek wrote:Why not just build the small ships as squadron type units to begin with? )
The idea I was going for was that at the start of the game the player CAN build single corvette units (because that's all they can afford).

Mid game we as designers want to shove them towards building the corvettes in groups (i.e. building a squadron unit which IS a group of corvettes), perhaps progressing to larger groups as the game goes up in scale (i.e. late game).

The no-brainer balancing thing is to ensure that players don't continue building 3*single corvettes when they have the "3 corvette squadron unit" available. I think we probably need this because I can see that simply saying they suddenly can't seems likely to seem like too arbitrary a restriction, after all there are occasions when you might want to (e.g. if a player has got such good technology that a single corvette is still viable and expensive, or simply to conduct small scale operations.)

p.s. I don't think we should have tech 1 asteroids being capital ship(i.e, 'cruiser' in fluff speak) sized (I'd go for them being just under that size if possible (i.e. 'destroyer'), but still much bigger than entry level ships for the other types).

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#29 Post by drek » Fri Aug 13, 2004 6:12 pm

The idea I was going for was that at the start of the game the player CAN build single corvette units (because that's all they can afford).
In FO, the homeworld is dramtically better than other colonies, at least at the start of the game. This is intentional, so that the player can afford our big buildings at the start of the game. Incidently, it also means that empires will be able to afford to build a big ship at the start of the game.

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#30 Post by Tobi-Bo » Fri Aug 13, 2004 6:21 pm

Mid game we as designers want to shove them towards building the corvettes in groups (i.e. building a squadron unit which IS a group of corvettes), perhaps progressing to larger groups as the game goes up in scale (i.e. late game).
Hmmm, I think I can live with that version as long as it's only an option that you can use or not. And as long as it still will be possible to group battleships and single or squadrons of corvettes, frigates, destroyers like in Total War.
What are your plans about maintenance costs actually? Will there be a difference between different ship types. Are the maintenance costs rising with weapon strength, engines or sth like that?

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