Space Combat (madness)

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

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#181 Post by Mystiqq »

Here goes my first post. :)

utilae wrote:Here is a system layout I'd like better, of course the size of the map may be quite big simply because it is a circle shaped map.
Descriptive Key:
Blue Border - the edge of the system. You can exit here, but must remain in the system until the next turn.
White section of blue border - Starlane entry/exit points. If you exit here, you can use the starlane straightaway to set a path out of the system.
Red Circle - Sun
Brown Circles - Planets
Grey Circles - Moons
Purple/Aqua/Yellow groups of squares - Ships/Ship Taskforces. Each colour is a different player. The Aqua and yellow players have just entered the system and the Purple player has to defend his planets.

Orbits may need to work for the planets to be positioned at the right place for the battle. I don't think we need the planets, etc moving during a battle.
I agree on the "shape" of the combat area, so that the planets are like "they are suppose to be".

Id prefer original MOO2 style combat in system scale, perhaps something like GalCiv is displayed. Dont get me wrong, i dont like the combat nor the space system (stuff) in GalCiv.

GalCiv screenshot:

My wishes for combat:
- System scale combat, in the form of the drawing by utilae.
- More or less the same system that MOO2 used, turn based. Perhaps in isometric POV instead of top-down one. Of course with improved, everything.

Ground battles should be kept as simple like they were in MOO2, but now you could do it in per planet with ships desinged to do it (only big ships?) while doing the other stuff (attacking defending ships etc.). Same goes for planetary bombardment, you could do it if you have ship in orbit on the planet you wish to bombard. Planets could have defences, missiles like MOO2 had etc. perhaps minefields for planetary defence only, against enemy ships going orbit and do bombardment or ground attack...


I cant remember anything wrong with MOO2 combat system. The game had other issues and i cant recall it being the combat... at that time.

My impressions on combat in real-time or phased real-time is somewhat scary, since it does not feel like the simplest of solutions. I might be over sceptic but to me turn based feels the best, at least in this case, but thats just me. :)

Anyways, its been so long since i last played MOO2, perhaps ill revisit it again, just to remember what it was exactly like.

Probably forgot to mention most of the things while reading all those previous posts.


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#182 Post by Ranos »

While the combat in MOO2 was good, many games are turning to Real-Time. It adds a lot more tactics to the game, a good ammount of challenge for people like us and, best of all, much better graphics opportunities. Real-Time can be scary, especially if we tried to do it on the system scale. That's why the Phased-Time has been proposed, it gives the best of turn based, being able to look at whats going on and give orders without (hopefully) feeling rushed and the graphics and tactics of real-time.

For an example of real-time, go out and buy MOO3, but only if you can find it for $5, anything more is a waste of money.
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#183 Post by emrys »

For an example of real-time, please try almost any game except Moo3, because that'll pretty much put you off the whole idea :)

Just a quick note to clarify things for people insane enough to try to pick up the thread from here.

'Phased real-time' explained
(N.b. deliberately overly explanatory, try not to be offended)

From a Moo2-er's perspective:

Rather than one player giving orders to one ship, and those orders being instantly carried out, then the next player giving orders to the next ship (which I seem to remember was how Moo2 worked?), at each move in combat, each player gives orders to all their ships, then those move happen all at once (i.e. it's just simultaneous moves).

Advantage - fewer 'who fires first' issues. We can have loads of eye-candy whilst the move plays out without worrying about UI issues.

(we could even let the game play through moves where player's don't want to give any orders)

From a Homeworld-er's perspective:

Whenever a player wants to give orders to their ships, the game pauses.

Advantage - Less emphasis on fastest-clicker wins, more on better thinker wins. You actually have a fighting chance of controlling a multi-ship, multi-location battle without getting a brain ache.

(we could even have the game pause at regular intervals, and have all players use these pauses to give their orders in.)

The Forum nomenclature

"Phased real-time" = bursts of movie/cutscene style non-interactive action phases interspersed (somehow) with order-giving phases where the action is paused.

Various options:

"fixed-interval pausing" = pauses happens every x seconds.

"fixed length pausing" = pauses are always of y seconds.

"(un)limited length pauses" - duh!

"Variable-pausing" = combination of two fairly independant concepts -
"Timeouts" = on demand pauses. If a player wants to give orders, the game pauses, even if it's only a second after the last pause.
"Chess-clock pauses" = When a player pauses the game their/everyone's sandtimer starts running down. When a player used up all their time, something less than pleasant happens (e.g. they can't give any more orders, they're not allowed to call time-outs, they have to borrow against next turns time limit, or they're penalised in some other way)

"Dynamic" timing (aka "bullet time")- the rate of time flow (and/or the length of action between pauses in a fixed-interval pause scheme) could vary. One suggestion was that the game could speed up the flow in the boring bits, and slow it down in the complex bits, determining this by how much stuff was going on or how much stress the AI routines are under (n.b. this would include the player's side's AI).

I.e. when the two fleets are miles from each other, and still will be after a few moves, time flows quickly, when they close up and start shooting at each other, or even just peppering each other with long-range stuff, time flows at a normal, as the last few ships of a fleet start to take critical damage, time slows even more to give you a last chance to pull something out of the bag, (or to curse the gods of misfortune :wink: ).

"Panic flagging" - Not really anything to do with phased real time, but an idea suggested along with one that was. If the AI for a ship/taskforce can't work out to do, it might be best for it to flag itself as being confused (i.e. show a big flashing '!' over the ship on the screen, or add the ship and a quick description of the problem to a side bar, or other similar idea ...), rather than blunder onwards regardless and irritate the player by being stupid when he didn't know it was confused.

(N.B. as a programmer who has done some work on game-type code, I should point out that it is normally a LOT easier to code & compute when the AI has no-idea (or even just not much idea) what to do than it is to actually work out how to do something sensible in the hard cases).

N.N.B. originally suggested by Haravikk, this idea got caught up in some large confusion where it appeared that it was being suggested that players would ONLY be able to give orders to ships with a 'panic marker', i.e. the game would decide when you COULD give orders. It is now clear THIS IS NOT what is/was suggested. The player would be able to give any orders they normally could, at any time, the game would just help the player out by marking those ships it thinks need some attention (and e.g. giving a quick way to zoom to them). The player would be free to ignore this suggestion.

Edit: corrected the description of Haravikks panic-flagging thingy to the correct version.
Last edited by emrys on Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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#184 Post by Zpock »

I guess the following will be received pretty much the same way as saying some really really filthy words in a church. Forgive me for being a blatant infidel and try to not stop reading after the next line. Some of it would be good considering for phased realtime too.

I'm pro-realtime... (yes, as in starcraft realtime) but I also like phased realtime.

I know that everyone pretty much agrees that realtime means massive clickfest and that how fast you can move and click with your mouse is all that matters if realtime is used. What I think is that you can have realtime without having it turn into "who can click the most".

First off, there's a fundamental difference between the typical clicky RTS and how realtime would work in FO. There would be no building stuff while you do the combat. This is what makes all the RTS games hard for a slow clicker. The base building probably takes at least 80% of the attention and clicking in a typical RTS such as starcraft. Warcraft3 is an exeption, it rewards microing of units in combat much more then starcraft. Sending back damaged units, doing different spells (heroes) and making sure units attack the right target are very important skills to be a good WC3 player. In starcraft units are generally much weaker (die faster) and there are no heroes, only a few rare spellcasting units, so a simple attack move is usually all you need (1 click). Only the very top players (think koreans in their tornaments) get much out of microing their units. In FO you will only have to do one thing, handling units in combat. Multiple battles at the same time is very unlikely. Keeping your units in one group will be the best strategy to avoid getting defeated in detail.

There are a lot of things you could experiment to reduce clickyness. Game speed is an obvious one. Then ways you give the player to help his units by doing clicking. This would be manually targeted "spells" for example. Also retreating units that are about to die and picking targets for your units. Simply removing these things could make it all rather dull. I would try to find some kind of balance that would make over-clicking uneccesary. The 'spells' or special abilities micro load on the player could be eased if there was some good UI to help the player. For example allowing the player to select multiple units with spells and have buttons for all spells of the currently selected units. Then also allowing that one spell from multiple units could be targeted on a group of enemy units. Auto-casting can help to, that means the unit will do its spells whenever it can by itself on enemy units. The retreating damaged units could also be automated. Units could have a toggle to make them retreat at certain damage levels to a place specified by the player, like a regroup area. Another option is just to make it pointless trying to retreat, damaged units could be slowed down by engine damage and such. Picking targets could be eased by a good unit ai. I'm not talking about some ai that plays the game for the player, just that units choose targets based on what their weapons will be the most effective against etc. I would also make fighters dependant on the carrier so that you order your carrier to attack something not the fighters themselves. Otherwise a clicky player could abuse having an easier time controlling these fast units.

The problem with phased real time is that you must still limit how much time the players have to give orders. If they have 15 secounds to give orders for 15 secounds of combat, it's not much different from having 30 secounds to give orders during 30 secounds of combat at half the speed. I do think phased realtime sounds interesting. It shouldn't be so hard switching between realtime and phased realtime programming wise. Only problem I can think of would be lag, that isn't much of a problem in phased, but is indeed in realtime. For experimenting with both or maybe even having it as an option in the end, why not?

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#185 Post by Ranos »

Zpock wrote:I guess the following will be received pretty much the same way as saying some really really filthy words in a church. Forgive me for being a blatant infidel and try to not stop reading after the next line. Some of it would be good considering for phased realtime too.

I'm pro-realtime... (yes, as in starcraft realtime) but I also like phased realtime.
There are others who favor realtime, at least I think there are.

The problem with your model is you attempt to resolve the 'who can click faster' issue by limiting the ammount of clicking. Doing this limits the tactical aspect of the game. I should be able to have two dozen TFs and be able to send each one to a different area with different orders. This allows me to send ships around and attack an enemy from multiple sides. The more types orders I can give, the more tactical combat can get.

I think the normal real-time would work just fine in a planet based caombat system. This is because there will only be the two fleets and the planet with its moons. One fleet will be attempting to get to the planet while the other tries to stop it. You will still be able to use various tactics but the playing field wont be so large and have so many things going on at once to really justify phased-time.

If we go with system combat, phased-time is, IMO, a must. There could potentially be a dozen different battles going on throughout the system. Battles at starlane exits, at planets, in the middle of space, and someone trying to keep up with all of it would get a headache while the AI ran circles around them. Using phased time would allow the players to jump between battles to see what's going on during the combat phase and then give orders without worrying about losing control.

I think it's the simplest way.
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#186 Post by Zpock »

Yes, I'm aware of that. I also thought about how limiting clicking can limit tactics available and just make it into a click then watch kind of battle. The problem is that with 15 TFs you will have problems doing all the orders you want in 15 secounds of phased time too. I can't really say wich one would be better. Maybe phased would be nice since you could make the time you get to give orders depend on how much stuff there is in the battle. But then maybe realtime would be better with really slow action taking up all that time. But the PRT might produce nicer faster action then...

Since the actual coding will be similar for both systems, I think it's a good idea not completly ruling out realtime.

Both systems are so far pretty much unexplored in the space strategy genre. Moo3 did a terrible job at realtime, and I don't know of any games with phased realtime combat. So I'm very interested in seeing how it turns out.

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#187 Post by haravikk »

emrys wrote:"Haravikk-style order phases" - rather than have order phases at fixed intervals
or at player demand, the Game engine determines when the player's are allowed to give orders, based on when the ship/taskforce AI's think they need new orders. (generally not very popular).
This one is a bit wrong, my idea was an addition to real-time to make it easier to manage for slower clicking players. Basically it's real-time, but as the AI Task-forces encounter problems they pop-up a little item (perhaps on a list of pending problems to one side) which allows the player to quickly assign the AI new orders, without actually moving over to that part of the map and moving it themself with the normal real-time controls.
In this way a player could pretty much just sit back and only give orders when a TF perceives itself to be in trouble, or requires new orders.
Think of it like Real-time but with AI that knows it needs a player decision and so asks for one, rather than doing dumb stuff until the player notices. But the player can still give real-time orders as normal, if they change their mind about attempting a flanking manoeuvre for example.

Although the way you've perceived it is quite interesting as well, though it would perhaps require a 'decision' AI working on a larger scale (ie the full battle) to decide when orders can be given, but perhaps still quite doable.

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#188 Post by discord »

haravikk: did not even have to read through all of your post to know the answer, not possible.

why you ask? because it is hard as hell to make a actual inteligent AI that knows what it is doing(as compared to just following some preset methods.), and for your side to know when it encounters a problem, it has to understand what the hell is happening, otherwise it cant know when it encounters a problem....and at that point, the development team has created a true AI....wich scientists have been trying to do for the last....20-30 years or so...still without much success.

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#189 Post by haravikk »

Um...not really. Common tests would be things like:

Mission successful - ask for new orders
Health below 50% - fall back slowly, ask for new orders (ie report failure)
Isolated - superior enemy force is closer than nearest friends, fall back slowly and ask for orders

The most complicated test would be to see if a task-force is being surrounded, but even then it could just check within it's arcs, if enemy forces are moving into these arks then slowly head towards the clear arc(s) and ask for orders.

These would then have severity, so when a report of being surrounded first pops up it might be yellow (two arcs, enemies moving toward 3rd), it may progress to orange (three arcs) and to red (all four arcs have hostile presence with an equal or higher overall combat rating).

I don't think it's all that complicated. Add in a filter so that certain events can be ignored ("Commander! Captain Ultura has mismatched socks!"), or even a whole classification of events such as yellow, if you feel that the AI can cope just fine with the non-critical stuff.
It could also have some cool extra stuff, like some items may have sounds attached to them ("Commander we've lost all shields!") but that's superfluous at this point.

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#190 Post by discord »

haravikk: so basicly a slightly more advanced 'this unit is under fire' thing? well, if that catches your fancy...seems abit pointless though, atleast if i had anything to say in the matter of how battle is implemented...wich i dont, so sure, have your say.

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#191 Post by haravikk »

Not really, it would include many more mission-specific tests, I was just giving a few examples. There are a number of things that an AI Task Force leader may have to look out for, my point is that none of the tests are all that complicated, what is complicated is implimentating an AI that can make decisions when these problems arise, without requiring large amounts of extra information in order to avoid making dumb mistakes.

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#192 Post by Prokonsul Piotrus »

I have written it earlier, but I want to emphasise it again: unless we go with Stars! model (also known as SE4 simultaneous model...and I think it was used in MOO3 as well), the game we create will not be possible to play (with very, very few exceptions) by more then 2 players. If you want a game where many players can play, you usually go with the system '1 turn per day' and 'battle happen between turns and players have no direct control over them'.

Of course, as I also wrote earlier, we can 'have the cake and eat' it - which SE4 did, using both turn based model and simultaneous one, so if players want to play the game and controll their ships in battle, they can (personally I use it against AIs only though, people in RL I know don't have that much time).

Please ask yourself: is FO supposed to be a 2 player space battle simulator like Full Thrust or an 4X space empire multiplayer management game, like Stars!? If the first one, feel free to debate real time vs phased time vs turn. If the second one...we might have a problem, Huston.

Now turning to AIs. It is obvious then in my preffered solution we would rely on them. And is very visible in SE4 that AIs do mistakes like no player would. Still, it is better then the alternative (which to me is close to 'lack of multiplayer). And we can give players a set of orders for AI - sth like haravik describes - and what is found in Stars! (battle plans), SE4 (battle orders and formation) and (again, IIRC) MOO3. Oh yes, SE4 has also AI files editable in txt for those with more aspiration :) Adding some simple programing interface to main battle for battleplans (like if enemy has missiles and our fleet doesn't run like hell or if enemy has no scanners go with battle plan 'cloak') would help a lot here.

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#193 Post by Ranos »

And then with the one turn per day system, it takes two years to play a game. Who is going to want to wait that long? You can do simultanious turn 4x TBS space strategy and have a real-time/phased-time tactically based combat system. How would it not work? Early game, the turns take only a couple of minutes. As the game goes on, the turns take longer and combat becomes a factor. It isn't a problem though becuase combat is also simultanious (apparently you never played MOO3).

I really don't feel like explaining how MOO3 worked, but I can attempt a summary. Combat screen came up with a list of the battles you were going to be part of. You choose in each battle what you want to do, Cede control to computer and get the results, Cede control and watch or Control the battle yourself. When you have chosen, you either go into the battle/the battle gets resolved or you get a message saying you are waiting for other combats to be resolved. Combats have a timer that has a max limit of 10 minutes per battle. The main problem with it ispeople having to wait while battles are resolved. That is something that I beleive was breifly discussed in this thread.

So you do get to choose if you want the battles resolved or if you want to participate in the battles. Each player gets to choose so you may have to wait while other people play out the battles.

A similar system should be used in FO. I like the 4x part of the game, but the battles are a key part of it too. I think many people agree with me on this. If you limit the space combat to the computer autoresolvig it all of the time, many people won't be interested.
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#194 Post by Zpock »

What he says is true (piotrus). Autoresolving battles is the best way for multiplayer 4x. If you havn't played stars! then that may be a bit hard to understand since it is the 4x that handles multiplayer the best and has an excellent implementation of autoresolving battles. Overall Stars is just lightyears ahead of any other TBS games when it comes to multiplayer and it's truly amazing noone has copied it. Namely simultaneus turn generation, not as a half-assed hack like in SE4 but built from the core up as simultaneus, so it actually works, and better then sequential in sequential games. Personally I would like to see autoresolved but recorded (like stars! so you can watch it) battles in full realtime. Then add in a good system for letting the player give his fleets a battle plan before the battle.

This is of course a moot point if singleplayer is the primary focus.

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For Realtime

#195 Post by ildoge25 »

I prefer realtime too. Full 3D immersive. Basically as Homeworld but without production and research.

In a pre-battle screen, you would receive some pre-battle inteligence and then you could form taskforces and give then specific missions or orders. Orders like

-Which planet to attack
-Outflank the adversary
-Do not fire until fired upon (very useful for non-war situations)
-Long-distance fighting
-close fast
-protect transport ships

Then you would enter the combat screen, similar to HW. In HW single player you can pause the game whenever you wish, but you cannot give orders. I think you should be able to give orders while paused. In MP you could have some fixed number of pauses or total time paused per player.

Just my two cents,
Il Doge

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