I personally think there's a market for these kinds of games, but to be fair, there aren't a lot of them out there (Or not a lot that necessarily suit my needs or wants) and I'm not sure why! The biggest issue I think is that there's a lot of room for making a bad game in this department. Too much micro and it becomes tedious and deal with every little decision. Too little and you have a game that doesn't appeal to those who want to dive in to the specific aspects of running / managing whatever you're dealing with.
Regardless, back to the topic!
Also sorry, I couldn't figure out how to quote properly. This will have to do.
- you build ships/form fleets FOR THE AI
- the AI use the fleets to conquer/defend the sector (which also include deciding which planet to attack next - within the sector)
So perhaps then the player has a few options that they can select for any given fleet. They have two or three immediate, and important options that I can tell.
- What is the fleet made up of?
- What is the fleet's current task?
- Who is leading the fleet? (Optional)
This is just the military side of thing, and I think depending on the other points of the game really determines how much detail the developer might want to go into assuming these are all the things they can do in this regard.
Personally unless the game were meant to be ultra simple, I think simply allocating percents to each of your fleets is not particularly exciting game play. Having some level of granularity of the fleet compositions I think is almost required. Although this ties in with resources, which is something I'll also mention later. Perhaps in the most simple model let's say we have three types of ships. Scouts, Combat Vessels, and Supplies?
Scouts can supply increased vision to the fleet, don't die easily to combat ships (but aren't killing stuff either really), and are really fast. They'll fight other scouts in combat if left to their own devices.
Combat Ships are slow and destructive, designed to kill other combat ships and bombard planets. They will kill a scout one on one, but can easily be swarmed by the smaller ships and killed.
Supply Ships are...well, I'm not perhaps entirely sure what their purpose is. If there's no energy weapons, perhaps ammunition. They can also carry materials / boarding parties / weaponry / upgrades / repairs for the other ships in the fleet. They can defend themselves against a single scout or two (Maybe) but if for some reason they're alone, they're hosed against a combat ship.
More complicated fleet models could perhaps use the classifications I made in my previous post, but I think assigning 'units' of these ships to fleets would be better than a simple % composition. (20% supply and 20% scout is not appropriate for a home fleet so to speak if they're banging on your doors. Your combat ships are close enough to home where they can just pull back / resupply at a friendly planet, and presumably you'd have vision from planets or something of that nature.)
It would be easy to keep it simple though. Say you have 5 scout units, 5 combat units, and 3 supply.
Fleet one with a tough aggressive AI gets 3/3/2 and the dumb passive AI gets 2/2/1 to deal with it. Each of those units though could represent X number of ships depending on the unit type. (20 scouts per scout unit per say)
This brings us to resources!
In the game there are at least two types of resources, if not a third.
- Raw Materials - Build ships, trade, buy stuff. There can be multiple types of raw materials, but it's basically the equivilant of gold/metal/whatevers in other games. For the military side of thing, it's probably gained from conquering worlds, capturing supply ships, and simply over time from peaceful planets.
- Ships - Use raw materials and other things to acquire these, either by building them with a time penalty, or purchasing more directly for a high cost from whoever.. Ships should be a limited resource, as there has to be some penalty for throwing a weak fleet at an obviously superior force.
- Admirals - Optional - Not everyone can lead a fleet of ships. This is an optional component, but is important in terms of splitting your fleets if this is a resource that you have to manage. You shouldn't be gaining or losing them all that often, and it ties in with my people comment from earlier. Perhaps events can get you a new admiral, and losing them is pretty much if you suicide an entire fleet in to the enemy.
It depends on the game being developed, but one of my favorite aspects of any game is having characters I can get attached to. In this case, it's the admiral. In a lot of 4X games (Not saying this is one) you can do things like name your ship, and that ship keeps track of its kills and things of that nature. Ships are...well, fragile in a huge military, and I don't think that makes a ton of sense to have a ship level up / get stronger / have those things tabulated. Maybe it's important, but in a game like this, you won't have that level of attachment. Instead, why not those leading your fleets?
To have your armies do different things at once, you require admirals. One admiral per fleet, each with their own stats (If applicable). Even if it's just a name, it's something the player can get behind. Personally I think it helps build a story, even more so if it's kind of a procedural game that can be played many times. Who remembers when they sent fleet A against B and won a big battle, as compared to when Admiral Slackoff led a force half the size against a superior and won because he's the best admiral in your empire? Chances are more people would remember the latter event. Any sort of level up system is just a 'bonus', and certainly not required by any means, but forcing the player to make a set of decisions based on this could be an interesting choice. Only have three admirals but have four enemies that need to be dead? Oh well. Perhaps dealing with ships in your home world is always free and requires no one (but perhaps if the admirals supply bonuses, obviously your home system ships wouldn't get any, but it's not to say they'd be less organized or anything like that, just no extras. Or maybe you get penalties! Who knows?)
Back to fleet composition real quick though before I'm done posting. Depending on the style of game, and just based on what I and you have posted, I can see two solutions to 'upgrading' a fleet to tackle a specific problem. I'm sure there are infinitely many more though!
I wonder if this is fun... Or if shouldn't there be some "special forces" that could be allocated to fleets somehow (like one alien uses distortion waves so we send ships with special resistant hulls; another alien uses some electronic warfare equipment so we send additional ships with scramblers to protect the fleet).
In the totally percentage based model, one might be able to acquire tokens of sorts that represent a fleet wide upgrade, and each fleet can only have one token at a time. Perhaps you buy improved shields from a merchant and apply them to a fleet, using your token slot. These shield prove extra effective against an alien race who uses ballistic weapons, but otherwise does nothing against the laser using schmucks on the other side of the galaxy. Other 'tokens' could include things like Planetary Death Ray (Improves capture rates of planets or something), Improved Tracer Modules (More damage to tiny ships), Sensor Module Booster (Higher and more accurate vision/reports if that's a mechanic you use), etc etc.
If you aren't using that model, there's simply acquiring new ships that can accomplish these tasks. In the unit per ship compositions, you could buy a 'Sensor Boosted Scout' ship that you can apply to your fleet. The AI would take care to give survival priority to these ships, and use them intelligently and such. This also ties in to the players caring about specific ships and the admirals leading them. Perhaps an admiral has a bonus to ship firing range, so you throw the fancy Long Range Bombardment Battleship Unit in to his fleet and watch him melt his adversaries from afar. (Assuming the AI isn't dumb!)
I don't think that there should be modules targeting a specific alien race, but rather a specific ship 'style'. In my previous instance, if there's a alien species where all of their fleets have -30% range but +40% damage, then equipping upgrades / modules / special ships that give +20% range is useful everywhere, but crippling to that army because your AI in theory would kite them and kill them unless they got the jump on you! (Shame on the player for not having scouts!)
Edited by Archbishop, 04 July 2013 - 03:01 PM.