Tactical Combat

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

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Tactical Combat

#1 Post by Oberlus »

I recently saw a mention to tactical combat in the forum.

I got curious and found the 0.4 Design Pad.

How much of that old design for combat system is still in place?
It depicts a 2D board-like game in which the fleets/ships can move. Allowing interactive battles of 5 to 10 minutes length (as sketched in that document) could be an interesting option, at least for single-player games as an option. I realise that is either discarded or planned only for long term (the child of someone over here could be the lead developer by then).
However, the automatic (non-visual, just the report of the result) version of that tactical combat system (or a similar one) would be really interesting and not so hard to get (maybe something near 0.5.* or 0.6.*).

Replacing my previous question with more specific ones:

1. Is it planned to add the Long Range (LR) class of weapons (e.g. missiles that target fighters/missiles, torpedoes that target capital ships, and bombs that target planet defenses)?

2. Is is planned to consider tactical movement? In the sense that different fleets in a battle can have different movements, e.g. to stay at a given range of a given group of enemy ships (to better exploit your weapon/defense choices against your enemy's) or to flee of combat if some condition is met.

3. Is it planned to allow the player to set more or less complex rules of behaviour to each of the fleets? For this we could have a lot of inspiration from Stars! (I found a link to an overview/FAQ of the combat system that I can't seem to find now). Or is it intended to let the fleets be mostly autonomous and allow only for some simple toggle options?

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Re: Tactical Combat

#2 Post by Ophiuchus »

Please read up the discussions on tactical combat.

Ill try to remember and sum it up: The current combat system is a placeholder for whatever will be the combat system in the future. Combat will be asynchronous (i.e. so you can send your orders and dont have to wait for the other clients); so turn based or real-time combat is off the table.
Any code or patches in anything posted here is released under the CC and GPL licences in use for the FO project.

Look, ma... four combat bouts!

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Re: Tactical Combat

#3 Post by Oberlus »

Thank you, Ophiuchus. I did a better research now and found much more interesting discussion.

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Re: Tactical Combat

#4 Post by o01eg »

I have a most cons against tactical combat: it will increase number of interactions per turn for player. Currently the player could make all his orders and only wait for turn change (the game's mechanics allows even to disconnect the player, I'm going to work on the implementation).
Any tactical combat implementation requires more micromanagement and requires more interactions per turn.
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Re: Tactical Combat

#5 Post by Oberlus »

o01eg wrote:Any tactical combat implementation requires more micromanagement and requires more interactions per turn.
But would you like an implementation that only requires the player to set one or two toggles (like offensive/defensive) with it carrying over to following turns?
It if brings interesting design choices (what weapon, defense, engines, etc. to equip) and only require a toggle setting once in a while (maybe never if default value fits fine with your designs), I see great value and very little micromanagement involved. I mean, what I am imaging should require less effort than colonisation.

Just in case it wasn't clear in my initial post: tactical combat non-interactive (no graphics, no orders issued during combat, and only requiring to consider changing one or two toggles of your fleets during turn management, the same you consider switching the focus of a planet).

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Re: Tactical Combat

#6 Post by Oberlus »

I'm thinking about simple implementations for tactical combat that considers range and movement (non-interactive, non-visual, like current engine).

I do miss the range and movement concept on Free Orion: all ships can shoot all ships, ships are sitting ducks, there is no fleeing away, charging, etc. And I think it can be added to increase tactical choices in ship designs requiring very little input from player.

This thread by The Silent One presents a sketch of design for a tactical combat engine which includes aspects like accuracy, action points and initiative, but does not consider movement/position/speed/range.

Also in this older thread Eleazar sketched a simpler combat system that considered tactical choices regarding movement (flee, defend, attack and charge) and ship's velocity, but didn't look at the range aspect (the different choices only affects length of combat and number of shots of the planets).

I'm also inspiring myself on the combat engine of Stars! (thanks Jaumito for the briefings). I highly recommend reading this: http://www.starsfaq.com/battleengine.htm


I'm discarding accurary of beam (SR) weapons in favor of maximum ranges and damage reduction over distance, and giving them a big revamp to make research choices more interesting and more lasting during late game. I'm considering as long range weapons the class "drones" (anti-ship torpedoes, anti-drone missiles, anti-ship "bombers" and anti-drone interceptors). I see these bombers and interceptors as autonomous drones, no "species" pilots in them. Mr. Fluff says you can't put a living thing in a "fighter" and catapult it towards the enemy at missile speed without squeezing it.

With deterministic targetting there is no cannon-fodder possible against SR weapons. So shields are the counter against SR and "fighters" are not it anymore.
Against LR weapons "interceptors" make sense as a kind of mobile PD platform, targetting incomming torpedoes or bomber from ahead the defending ship.
I revamped bombers as "plasma drones", they travel very fast to the enemy, traverses its shield, attach to its hull and uses plasma torches (that have very small range but very good damage) to tear the hull appart. Ignores shields.
Plasma drones and torpedoes must have different roles within its category. Plasma drones may be less letal and easier to kill as well as cheaper. The same for PD drones (cheaper and weaker), and missiles (more expensive and effective against torpedoes, and maybe a bit overshooting against plasma drones).

Ranges: ("0"/"1"/"2"/"3"/"4+", more on this later)
- MD: 100%/50%/0%
- Laser: 100%/100%/80%/40%/0%
- Plasma: 100%/0%.
- Death Ray: 100%/80%/40%/0%
- Torpedoes/Missiles/Drones: no range penalty.
- MD Flaks: 100%/0%
- Laser PD: 100%/50%

Mr. Fluff says "0" could be about 0.001 light-seconds (or 300 km), "1" around 0.01, "2" at 0.1, "3" at 1 light-second, "4+" in the tens.

- MD: low to high.
- Laser: low to medium.
- Plasma: medium to high.
- Death ray: medium to high.
- Torpedoes: high to very high.
- Plasma drones: medium to high.
- PD drones: mobile flaks.
- Missiles: one-shot-killers of other drones.

Low is probably something like 5, medium 15, high around 50, and very high 150 (so most ships would die from a direct torpedo hit).

This makes laser and mass drivers still useful on late game (MD low range but high damage, Laser medium damage but longest range, DR is still the most powerful weapon. It implies to increase accordingly MD and laser techs costs for levels 2 to 4.


I'm thinking on a one-dimensional board to support different weapon ranges and different ship "speeds" (accelleration is more realistic). The board won't represent a given euclidean space centered in a reference point (like the sun of a solar system). It abstracts the relative positions of each fleet and the huge distances that happen in space combat (probably up to light-seconds).

The board is probably 7 cells long (I'm considering 9, 5...). The center of the board is position "0" (P0). Each faction (A, B...) starts at one end, at 3 cells from the center. So A starts at A3, and can charge through A2 and A1 to get to P0. A3-1 is a lane, B3-1 is another lane. If there are more than two factions, more lanes can be added. Check image.
one-dim-board.png (2.37 KiB) Viewed 6933 times
A fleet in A2 is at range 2 of P0, at range 3 of B1/C1... range 5 of B3/C3.

In this board, fleets can push to approach enemies or pull to try to flee or keep distance from enemy fleets, depending on their "tactical settings", which should be (1) the targetting priorities (decided by installed parts or leaders in the fleet, as suggested by Geoff) and (2) the "combat orders" (set by the player via the current passive/aggressive toggle, probably adding deffensive).

Ships going out of the board (e.g. successfully fleeing from A3 to A4) are out of the battle until next turn.

Movement is an opposing action, and the board represents relative positions: if a fleet AX in A3 pulls with speed 3 and an enemy fleet BX at P0 pushes at speed 6, AX will move from A3 to A2 while AX will stay at P0 (so it looks like AX is approaching BX).

The whole set of fleets and their movements actions and speeds have to be considered together, which seems easy if fleets of each faction can't pass P0 to get into an enemy faction lane (as seen above, a fleet successfully chasing anothe fleet doesn't need to get into its lane, just to force it come closer to P0).
However, I'd like to make the engine capable of representing the situation in which charging fleets of each faction ignores each other and keep charging towards enemy rear lines. Something like this:
<<AX <<BX AY>> BY>>
AX trying to flee from BX, that is chasing, and the opposite on the other lane. Here or BX or AY or both need to be on the enemy lane, and that complicates a lot the movement rules for this board. I'm working on it.

The targetting priorities of a given ship would decide which kind of enemy aim to maximise some heuristics that could consider different factors. My main inspiration for that is Stars!, but addapted to Free Orion. For this, there should be basic (dumb) forms of targetting, blunt heuristics that can give acceptable results on average situations (target closest/weakest/most expensive ship first), as well as more sophisticated targetting schemes (like the ones presented in the Stars!, like maximise damage inflicted over damage taken).

The combat orders would modify how this targetting priorities are applied.

Both combat orders (the fleet toggle) and the targetting priorities (parts and leader effects) must be designed together and with careful thought to keep to a minimum the number of interactions from the player and the time required to make the relevant decissions. For this, the combat orders and targetting schemes must be relatively simple and intuitive, and affect as directly as possible specific aspects of the game. I'm also working on this.

I'd like to read your ideas and thoughts on this.

And I'm still interested on what think players that are not interested in enriching the combat tactical engine but are concerned about this suggestions bringing in more burden to each turn on a multiplayer game.

Edited to add some missing weapons.

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Re: Tactical Combat

#7 Post by LienRag »

I guess that I shouldn't derail this thread anymore so I'll continue here...

After reading all I could find about older Combat Mechanisms discussions, apparently most of what I've proposed there isn't very original (actually it didn't pretend to be, I just tried a synthesis of good ideas found here and there in gamerlore, and to refine Eleazar's proposal - little did I know that Eleazar's was a simplification of other discussions, and of course refining a simplification is not necessarily the way to go).
Only one point hasn't been discussed earlier (before my first mention of it), it's the part about a specific formation tab. And I actually think that it's still a valid idea, even though right now I don't have a clue about how to make it work with Oberlus' concept of making the combat board about relative positions of fleet rather than absolute, nor with TheSilentOne's very interesting proposal about different categories of space in a system.

Oberlus' also very interesting weapon design in this very thread would be entirely compatible though, and also compatible with BraveSirKevin's ideas which I too find very promising.

I know that Vezzra stated that he took similar things down,
Vezzra wrote: Actually a linear progression of power was something purposefully aimed for. We used to have different kinds of weapons/shields and armor that were supposed to have a rock/paper/scissors type of relationship (I'm not sure if it was ever functional).
I took them out because of the limitations of non-tactical combat UI. When you have ships A > B > C >A, and no way to try to deploy ship C against ship A, while deploying other ships against something else-- that's just complications that make for a worse, more frustration experience. There's the secondary issue of how to figure out that C >A, when you don't have the tangible experience of seeing graphics of C ships destroying A. Gleaning that info from a highly detailed sitrep is not my idea of a good or enjoyable interface. (having the data there for those who want to really go in depth is fine, but you shouldn't have to pour over such lists to have a clue about whats going on.)

Its no good designing cool features that don't work in the actual game context, or that make the game less fun for years until something else is implemented.

but though I do understand his reasoning I'm not convinced that it is entirely valid. Note by the way that's what the current system is doing with fighters/ships and flak/weapons - and it's indeed frustrating in the current system to have your precious Spinal Antimatter Canon shoot down a meager figter, especially when by doing so it reveals your stealth ship without destroying the 15-shield 80-structure enemy ship... but it happens and the probability of it is predictable and adjustable (just add more Flak and maybe a second stealth ship with a Spinal Antimatter Canon).
And a formation combat mechanism is actually one way to have a way (not a foolproof one, sure, but I don't think its unfoolproofness matters that much) to try to "deploy ship C against A".

If you fear that my formation mechanism will incite players to micromanagement of battles by designing an ad-hoc formation before each battle and assigning the soon-to-fight fleet to it, I guess it's easy to prevent.
IF we want to prevent it (which doesn't strike me as a necessity: avoiding micromanagement where it's tedious allows to choose which important parts of the game will take more of players' time, and combat strikes me as one of those parts) then just consider that new formations cannot be immediately assigned to fleets since officers have to be taught the new tactics that are associated with it, so one has to wait 7 turns after designing a new formation before being able to assign it to a fleet (and if someone is able to predict exactly 7 turns ahead what formation he'll need for a precise battle, that's not micromanagement, that's advanced strategic planning, and it definitely should be allowed). More, if this delay can be shortened by paying influence (at a squared or exponential rate the more it is shortened, representing the cost of retiring the older officers and replacing them with younger ones who master the new formation) then players will be able to precisely manage very important battles only, which doesn't seem such a bane to me.

NotaBene: quite different proposal ahead, not to be confused with my formation mechanism, it would be an alternative way of doing automated tactical combat (though it could use formations too, just less generic ones and more specific to each battle).

I know that there seems to be a consensus about rejecting shawndream's proposal of yore https://freeorion.org/forum/viewtopic.p ... =15#p65632 but he may be on to something with his "card-like system", especially if we consider that "cards" could be not only standard military actions but also "surprise cards" bought via technology and/or influence/sabotage projects: as I wrote elsewhere I consider that having to constantly avoid enemy covert actions on my planets when I cannot see them would not make for a fun game, but discovering at the peak of an important battle that because of the low happiness of my Empire the enemy's Tae Ghirus pilots were able to convince telepathically MY Tae Ghirus pilots to stay out the fight (and consequently created big holes in the overall tactical formation of my fleet) could be a very interesting strategic surprise... ditto if one of my strongest ship suddenly explodes at the start of the battle because I repaired it at a disgruntled shipyard too close to enemy influence.

Shawndream presented it as requiring one round of card-choosing per round of combat, so either one big round of combat per game turn, four successive player inputs by turn, or one big choice that will be the same for 4 rounds of combat (I think the last one is what he had in mind though he didn't detail it to that extent). But nothing prevents making the player choose four cards for the four rounds of combat before the battle begins and then play them automatically (hilarity may ensue)...

It is indeed not the way you want to go right now, I understand that, but from what I understand too it doesn't violate any of the design principles of the game, and it seems to me that it would both be of great fun and make for a lot of tactical and strategical thinking - and I think FreeOrion design principles DO want that.

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