Are Ginormous Ships Necessary?

For what's not in 'Top Priority Game Design'. Post your ideas, visions, suggestions for the game, rules, modifications, etc.
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ewh02b
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#16 Post by ewh02b » Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:42 am

okay, fair enough. I was going with a fibonacci sequence for fun, but we certainly could go with lower numbers at the top edge. 1:2:3:5:7 and 1:4:9:25:49 sound better? The way I see it, 2 class 4 ships = 25*2=50, while the class 5 ship is 49, making for a fairly even fight. 3 class 3 ships is 27, beating a class 4 ship at 25.

I've read the Honor Harrington series, it's great. David Weber's (HH author) book Insurrection also has some fun fleet/research/tactic ideas along the lines of what we've been discussing.

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#17 Post by Magus » Thu Feb 23, 2006 12:53 am

Firstoff, see my edit to previous post, I was typing it as you responded. It alters what you're talking about.


And yes, Insurrection (and The Shiva Option, In Death Ground, and whatever-the-first-one-is called) are great books for this. Especially since they were written for a game system :) [Starfire, if you're curious]

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#18 Post by ewh02b » Thu Feb 23, 2006 3:09 am

I've read in posts elsewhere that the ideas of FO should be explainable to a reasonably bright child--that's why I was using a simple squaring method.

I believe I like the results/implications of your system, but could it be simplified in some way, so that when a player enters a system, he or she has some idea of whether his battlegroup stand a chance, without having to do math?

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#19 Post by Magus » Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:31 am

Yes, that is a problem. I'm sure it can be simplified, I'm just not seeing how at the moment. And I suppose you could do a simple squaring system, it would just make differences more pronounced for smaller vessels. However, a simple explanation is "Ships should not try to fight anything more than 1 category (maybe 2, depending on how it works out) above their size, even if you have enough ships to be the same total size. They'll get butchered. And they'll get even more butchered the smaller they are."

As to overviewing a battle and seeing if its even, the math can be done by the computer. Don't ask me how at the moment (I'm tired), but you should be able to get an at least general idea from the computer (assuming it's data is accurate, new weapons/hidden ships could throw its projections off).

Another thing that occured to me is that this could be a "paradigm" of combat, as some people have argued for massive changes in the way wars are fought occasionally.

This paradigm works to reduce ships in by combat by making it foolish to include large numbers of small ships. Another paradigm, which would be good to start with, would be to have very fragile ships, which would keep casualties high and ship sizes generally small. You could move from that, to the one being discussed, to some crazy-ubertech-thingy.

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#20 Post by Sapphire Wyvern » Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:43 am

Well, small ships don't necessarily have to have a significant tactical role.

Consider the nature of space combat in the Star Trek setting - I'm no Trexpert, but it seems to me that with the exception of Borg cubes most combat-worthy Trek ships are in the same order of magnitude, size-wise. There's no real snub-fighter usage that I've ever noticed. Shuttles do get involved in combat (usually in a blockade-running type role) but not really as a notable offensive or defensive asset.

If we want, FO combat could fall into that general style. That's one solution to the small ships vs. big ships "conundrum". The question is, is that the setting/style that we want to promote?

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#21 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Feb 23, 2006 8:57 am

ewh02b wrote:Well, fair in the sense that one player took the time and effort to build a great big ship, while the other player only produced smaller ships. I'd like to see the bigger ship as a very difficult nut to crack, while the smaller ships are given a greater range/speed/agility/miss chance.
Should there be only those two "sides" to ship size: Bigger & Powerful-for-the-cost, or Smaller & (Faster/Longer)-for-the-cost?

Things could be set up with a few more roles... perhaps:
- Small ships are fast but have very short range and are weak in combat and can't fit almost any useful non-combat modules (engines take up most of the space).
- Medium ships are moderate speed, variable range, moderately useful in combat and can fit a few lower-end non-combat modules (engine takes up a smaller fraction of the space, leaving some room for fuel or weapons or modules; weapons or modules add lots of mass and slow things down, but using that space for fuel instead adds range)
- Large ships are slow, variable-but-limited range, optimally effective in combat, and can fit the same lower-end non-combat modules as Medium ships (engines take up an even smaller fraction of the space, leaving lots of room for weapons and fuel, but Large ships have an additional mass penalty due to their size, so are shorter-range than an eqilvalent fuel-loaded Medium ship, and much slower if loaded with weapons or modules instead of fuel)
- Huge ships are very slow, variable-but-very-limited range, as good as Medium ships in combat, and can fit all kinds of useful non-combat modules that no smaller ships can fit (engines are neglidible, and there's lots of space for weapons or various modules, but large size makes them weaker structurally and very non-maneuvrable. Huge ships also have a very large mass penalty due to size, so are even shorter-range than an equivalent fuel-loaded Large ship)
- Bigger ship sizes can also exist, which are better than Huge at loading up modules and such, but correspondingly worse in combat, and even more range-limited.

(The details of how range would be limited is probably something to discuss in another thread... such as the Fuel thread.)

The small ships are much less cost-effective than mediums or larges in battle... so much so that it'd be silly to even try to take on a fleet of large ship with the same cost worth of small ships... you'd be sure to lose. Instead, you'd use small ships for things other than shooting at large ships, and consequently wouldn't need as many small ships to equal the combat-value of a big ship. That doesn't mean you can build just cheap small ships to win, though; you'd still need to shoot the large ones that come at you. Your your mediums or larges would do much at their shooting job with a few cheap small's around to help them do things that the larges aren't so good at doing.

"aren't so good at doing" might mean just in terms of existing cost-effectiveness (ie. you don't need a large ship to scout, so making one is a waste when a small will do just as well for less cost) or there could be some explicitly added size-dependences of the ability of ships to do certain tasks. Perhaps sensor modules just don't work well, or at all, on large ships; you need smaller ships to mount sensor arrays to be the eyes for your big ships.

By blunting the combat-effectiveness of the huge ships, it becomes less necessary to have a "huge" range of numbers of ships appearing in battles together, while still allowing fun really big ships to feature in the game.
skdiw wrote:I hope not everyone forgot about ship size parallelism idea?
[...]
...have small, medium, and large sizes ships researched in parallel, meaning you could have very powerful small size ships if you research into that branch a lot.
This isn't a bad idea, though I think there should be some degree of progression from smaller to bigger ships over time, but not so much of a progression that you couldn't jump ahead a few sizes and research those without doing a lot of research on smaller sizes.

Say there are 5 size classes. The smallest (or perhaps second smallest?) would be available from the start, and you could start researching the next bigger (or smaller) size as well, and get it avaialable in a moderate number of turns. You could then move on to the next bigger size, and the next, so that it takes quite a while to get up to the very biggest size (two-thirds of the way through the game say), but you always have some choice about whether to research more into the size(s) you already have available, or to push ahead to research another size and then focus on that. I see this working quite similar to getting evolutionary advances to weapons tech, compared to skipping the whole branch, and researching the next new type that starts off more powerful and/or can grow much more powerful long-term than the one you start with.
tzlaine wrote:Well, based on your opening post, it seems you need to determine how many ship sizes to support, what your maximum allowable effectiveness ratio is between smallest and largest ships, and then do the math to come up with the scale factor between each size. If S is your number of sizes, M is your desired max effectiveness ratio...
IMO the hard part is actually figuring out the number of sizes S and the max ratio M... Had we those, and were we to use a such a nearly-constant factor of usefulness / power increase between successive sizes, then your algorithm/formula would be applicable.
Magus wrote:...you could have a [combat-effectiveness] ratio like this: 1:2:6:24:120:720 (thats n!), or something slightly easier like 1:2:8:32:128:512 (2^(2n-1) starting at the 2) or some other kind of exponential function.
[...]
However, their cost would closer approximate a direct 1:2:4:8:16:32. This would ensure that in the massive epic battles of uberness, there aren't thousands of ships because any outside the upper size tiers are going to get blasted to glowing debris really fast, so they won't be brought in large numbers.
[...]
Cuts down on number of ships in any battle, as "swarming" is not effective economically or tactically...
That's an interesting way of looking at it... Though it would seem to weight things extremely strongly towards using the largest ships possible in combat. This means that anyone who fell behind the tech curve just couldn't compete at all, and means there's very little use for small ships, meaning very little variety in ship size and fleet composition, and no really viable strategies other than building lots of the biggest ships you can...

So it might accomplish the goal of preventing a huge range of numbers of ships in a fleet, by making it impractical to make lots of ships in any case (too expensive, or useless anyway)... But it would also eliminate a lot of the viable choices that really make a strategy game interesting. So I'd really prefer, if possible, a solution that allows big and small ships to co-exist, and for one or the other to be viably preferred over the other in a particular strategy, yet still doesn't make it necessary to have many more of the small ships to compete with anyone who has big ships.
Magus wrote:...tactical uses of smaller vessels ... aren't enough to make up for the size disadvantage. Its the strategic uses that matter more, with star systems further behind the borders facing raids of 3rd-5th tier vessels with pickets of similar strength, while the 1st tier ships slug it out along the bleeding edge. If 1st tier ships are dispatched to guard the rear, that player probably can't afford to guard every world with them, and those are potent battleships fighting off raids instead of fighting in full scale fleet actions where they belong.
I'm skeptical about the assumptions in this. It seems a bit contrived that all the fleet actions will be nicely contained in the centre and there will be a big mass of less-valuable planets that (only) get attacked by and defended by small ship sizes (giving your small old ships something to do, I suppose)... I suspect more likely you'd just end up throwing all your soon-to-be antiquated ships into battle as soon as possible to get some real use out of them before they're even more antiquated, or scrapping any that are old enough to be not worth their cost to upkeep.

What sounds good in a book doesn't necessarily work in a game... especially for strategic and balancing stuff (as opposed to fluff story / setting, etc).
ewh02b wrote:I've read in posts elsewhere that the ideas of FO should be explainable to a reasonably bright child--that's why I was using a simple squaring method.
I think you could explain it simply without giving a function or relation for where the numbers came from (which would be unnecessarily complicated).
Sapphire Wyvern wrote:There's no real snub-fighter usage that I've ever noticed. Shuttles do get involved in combat (usually in a blockade-running type role) but not really as a notable offensive or defensive asset.
There were actually fighters in big fleet battles, and runabouts in battles with a Galaxy class...

Though Star Trek isn't exactly the shining beacon of self-consistency in the world of science fiction... Generally things work, move and happen at the speed of plot.

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#22 Post by ewh02b » Thu Feb 23, 2006 4:43 pm

Star Trek is about "going where no man has gone before", and is not really suited for designing a tactical space combat system.

Star Wars has a full range of ship sizes, from fighters to corvettes to frigates to light/heavy crusiers to capital ships to moon-sized objects. I believe it presents a more entertaining combat mode. Ships of all sizes are useful--a single TIE Bomber, loaded with heavy rockets or heavy space bombs, can take out anything up to a frigate. Corvettes are fast blockade runners, useful for both hauling cargo and warding off fighters. Frigates can contain a few squadrons of fighters, and are heavily armed and armored for their size.

One of the main problems with using a Star Wars system is that in order to balance the damage of fighter-launched missiles against capital ship laser batteries, you need to create a supply system. Cutting off an enemies' supply lines prevents their fighters from restocking. This requires micromanagement, something we are generally trying to avoid.


Anyway, let's try and find some consensus on general principles.

Are we (everyone in this thread) generally agreed that smaller ships should be faster and more manuverable, but have a smaller range?

Are we agreed that larger ships should be able to go further, take more damage, and not be as agile?

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#23 Post by marhawkman » Thu Feb 23, 2006 6:17 pm

ewh02b wrote:Anyway, let's try and find some consensus on general principles.

Are we (everyone in this thread) generally agreed that smaller ships should be faster and more manuverable, but have a smaller range?

Are we agreed that larger ships should be able to go further, take more damage, and not be as agile?
Enh... Works for me. Although.... I'd make speed a function of a tech research. Remember the inertial compensators in MoO2? They could make even a doom star turn as quickly as a fighter. Of course that's something that results in a ship with less weapons. But for literary references let's go to Battlestar Galactica. How quickly is the Galactica able to turn? From watching the TV show, I'd say it'd take it two combat turns just to rotate 180. Why? it's not designed as a highspeed attack vessel. It's a really slow carrier. Carriers don't do that. But a vessel designed like a scaled up fighter COULD. I really think it should be a matter of ship design. I'm thinking about doing a full tech workup on this but I don't know what detail the combat system will have.... Should I just assume it'll be around the complexity of MoO2?
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#24 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Feb 23, 2006 7:34 pm

ewh02b wrote:Are we ... agreed that smaller ships should be faster and more manuverable, but have a smaller range [and] that larger ships should be able to go further, take more damage, and not be as agile?
I don't see why all of these things have to be always increasing or decreasing in the same direction with ship size. As above, IMO different ship performance and value measures should peak at different ship sizes. Some characteristics would then be optimal for middle-range ship sizes, and worse for both larger and smaller ships. In particular:
- for raw speed, stealth and battle-sensors, small ships should be optimal
- for range and/or cost to move, medium sized ships should be optimal
- for combat cost effetiveness, large ships should be optimal
- for effects-generating special purposes (in battle or on map) or transporting ground toops, huge ships should be optimal

Things should also be balanced so that if you've got a fleet of mixed sizes, you need the same order of magnitude of ships of each size for an optimal fleet. This would be done by adjusting the ranges of sensors so you don't need lots of small ships to act as sensor platforms for the big ones, etc. The upkeep for ships could also depend largely on number of ships, rather than ship size, acting as a disincentive to have lots of small ships, even if you could afford to build them. (That said, IMO upkeep isn't much fun as a game system, and usually isn't easy to do anything about in the actual game without a lots of micromanagement...)

I guess a big goal of this is to encourage there to be a variety of ship sizes in an optimal fleet, and as mentioned, for the numbers of each size to be similar. This is rather different from the suggestions to make larger and larger ships always much more cost-effective, which encourages there to be only one size of ship (the biggest), and thereby eliminates huge ranges in numbers of ships. This could work, but would not be as interesting as having viable roles for many ships sizes.

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#25 Post by skdiw » Thu Feb 23, 2006 10:50 pm

I still say we should explore size parallelism. if you want 5 sizes, we can do 3 different sizes to parallel research from at start, then graduation add on another two parrallel research branches (the three sizes were just an example). the size could have roles built into. so for example, the small size tend to have a characteristic like more speed compare to larger sizes. parllelism won't make ships sizes obsolete, which is a huge improvement over traditional game.

ultimately you want ships to have roles so players see a mixture of different units. if you want a roughly equal mixture of sizes, you have to do parallelism. otherwise, why would anyone spend a million rp into a larger hull if it doesn't give them a significant advantage. parallelism is a geniune way enable that, whereas a traditional size up progression simply forbid a mixture of different sizes because of the fundamental game concept of rps dictates so.
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#26 Post by marhawkman » Thu Feb 23, 2006 11:03 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:The upkeep for ships could also depend largely on number of ships, rather than ship size, acting as a disincentive to have lots of small ships, even if you could afford to build them. (That said, IMO upkeep isn't much fun as a game system, and usually isn't easy to do anything about in the actual game without a lots of micromanagement...)

I guess a big goal of this is to encourage there to be a variety of ship sizes in an optimal fleet, and as mentioned, for the numbers of each size to be similar. This is rather different from the suggestions to make larger and larger ships always much more cost-effective, which encourages there to be only one size of ship (the biggest), and thereby eliminates huge ranges in numbers of ships. This could work, but would not be as interesting as having viable roles for many ships sizes.
I just thought of a neat idea. Make it so refueling/resupplying your ships isn't free. There's no upkeep perse, but it does make it expensive to maintain a huge fleet of Leviathan, SuperDreadnaught, and Doom Star type ships. We could work this into the game rather quickly actually. It doesn't require anything other than adding the supply meter for the ship and a menu function for re-supply.
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#27 Post by utilae » Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:20 am

Geoff the Medio wrote: As above, IMO different ship performance and value measures should peak at different ship sizes. Some characteristics would then be optimal for middle-range ship sizes, and worse for both larger and smaller ships. In particular:
- for raw speed, stealth and battle-sensors, small ships should be optimal
- for range and/or cost to move, medium sized ships should be optimal
- for combat cost effetiveness, large ships should be optimal
- for effects-generating special purposes (in battle or on map) or transporting ground toops, huge ships should be optimal
Seems good. Though I would think that a large/huge ship would be more optimal for range then a medium ship would.
skdiw wrote: I still say we should explore size parallelism. if you want 5 sizes, we can do 3 different sizes to parallel research from at start, then graduation add on another two parrallel research branches (the three sizes were just an example). the size could have roles built into. so for example, the small size tend to have a characteristic like more speed compare to larger sizes. parllelism won't make ships sizes obsolete, which is a huge improvement over traditional game.
Nice idea. Like so:
Small
-Fighter
-Scout/Stealth
Medium
-Missiles
-Lasers
Large
-Carrier
-Planet Killer

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#28 Post by marhawkman » Fri Feb 24, 2006 12:50 am

I really like the idea of having somewhere around 9 ship sizes.
And it might make things complicated but having tech items for ship range and maneuverability really seem almost necessary. But as items that you add to the ship design. Like an extra fuel tank, or additional maneuvering jets.
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#29 Post by Geoff the Medio » Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:33 am

skdiw wrote:if you want a roughly equal mixture of sizes, you have to do parallelism. otherwise, why would anyone spend a million rp into a larger hull if it doesn't give them a significant advantage.
I'm not sure exactly what you mean by parallelism... Is it just balancing things so that it's beneficial to have many different sizes of ships in a fleet, rather than just preferring the biggest? Or is it the point that all (or most) sizes can be built right from the start?

IMO we can have the former without the latter. If sizes have different purposes, then even if the sizes you have to research are of equal value in a fleet as the already-available sizes (so you have about equal numbers of each), then the researched sizes will fill a niche and make the whole fleet more effective... So you'd still want to research the harder-to-get sizes, since you do get a benefit from doing so. That doesn't mean the harder-to-get sizes are better than the easy-to-get ones, though...
marhawkman wrote:Make it so refueling/resupplying your ships isn't free. There's no upkeep perse, but it does make it expensive to maintain a huge fleet of Leviathan, SuperDreadnaught, and Doom Star type ships.
Wouldn't that encourage players to have more smaller ships? The point of the above discussion about big ratios of effectiveness, and increasing effectiveness per unit cost with ship size, was to make it more effective to use big ships, so nobody would be able to make lots of small ships and compete, meaning everyone would make big ships, meaning everyone would have the same number of ships. But if you instead make it expensive to maintain big ships, you actually encourage the use of smaller ships... or the use of fewer big ships.

(Note that I obviously prefer my system for size roles to this...)
utilae wrote:Though I would think that a large/huge ship would be more optimal for range then a medium ship would.
The rationale is somewhat based in ocean navies, where cruisers were easier to send around long distance because they were lighter and more efficient that the big battleships or carriers. Really the point is to have a distinct role or property that medium ships are best at. Huge ships can obviously hold lots of stuff, and it make sense that there'd be types of equipment you could only fit on really huge ships, so it seems reasonable to make the huge good for carrying that stuff, and mediums, like naval cruisers, good for long distance force projection (and large, which are between medium and huge, good for actual combat, but not if you have to move them around a lot to get to the combat).
marhawkman wrote:I really like the idea of having somewhere around 9 ship sizes.
What's special about that particular range? IMO if there are more than 4 or 6 sizes, the distinction between the sizes becomes less important and harder to keep distinct in the player's mind, and harder to have each size have a unique set of properties / purpose / ideal job(s)... So you might as well have 12 or 15 or 20 or no defined sizes as 9...

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#30 Post by ewh02b » Fri Feb 24, 2006 1:54 am

marhawkman wrote:I really like the idea of having somewhere around 9 ship sizes.
And it might make things complicated but having tech items for ship range and maneuverability really seem almost necessary. But as items that you add to the ship design. Like an extra fuel tank, or additional maneuvering jets.
Wow...9 sizes?! What about 9 classes of ship, like the Star Wars system? I'd prefer 9 specialized ships types over 9 generic sizes.

I'm all for using research and design to make changes to the ships. Certain classes of ships should have bonuses to various attributes, however. For example, since a Heavy Crusier has a lot of space inside, it should have a bonus to a carrier role.

I'm also reminded of a battle sim that Honor Harrington participates in. She's in command of a Q-ship, a freighter converted to carry a dozen fighters and SD-class energy weapons. She's fighting against 3 cloaked freighters, which were shooting missiles at her from long range. She possesses deadly weapons, but is unable to use them because she cannot find the enemy.

My point is, some people would want to go with hugely expensive SD's and BB's, while others prefer finesse. Both options should be available and viable. The Rebel fleet, outnumbered and outgunned, still managed to outmaneuver and defeat the Empire and destroy the 2nd Death Star.

ooh, there's another idea--should partially finished ships (those too large to be built in drydock) be targets?

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