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RolandofGilead

Why fight when I can run(into hyperspace)?

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Assume one cannot be chased except through normal space(no warp drives like in Star Trek), one can make instantaneous jumps into 'hyperspace', and tracking and following such jumps isn't all that useful since you can just keep jumping which can then become a battle of stamina and really isn't all that interesting. I suppose you can fight while in hyperspace maybe. Is there any reason for there to be battles in spacious space(a volume with no interesting objects like planets or space stations). If there are no battles in deep space, that only leaves planetary and installation battles, but then it becomes too simple to simply focus all your strength at stations and the only plausible downsides I've seen to jumping within bombing range of a planet, bombing it, and jumping out again is because it makes people sick and/or the chance of a collision with orbital traffic is too great(Dorsai reference), which are both acceptable risks. I realize that as one makes the game, one can set the rules, but I don't want important aspects of the game to be determined by chance but since I don't know how ftl travel would work, well, I'm stuck. Some possible rules and scenarios to control jumping: Takes time to recharge(Babylon 5). Takes time to calculate(Star Wars), but doesn't really apply since some of the jumps I'm talking about are intrasystem jumps like in Freespace. One ship has to protect the rest until they get away(Battlestar Galactica, new). Limitations on where you come out/go in due to gravity(Andromeda, Foundation, Babylon 5, Ace of Angels), but again I'm assuming intrasystem jumps are possible like Freespace. All those feel like cheap tricks. Well, "cheap tricks" isn't quite the phrase, but it feels like I'm leaving the outcome of the battles to chance. For instance, if I were to make it so jump engines require charging between uses, how long do they have to charge? Whatever I choose, it's just some arbitrary number. Granted, the weapon system is probably like that as well, but this is the only one that actually bugs me.

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When you have a lot of choices, particularly for something that doesn't exist, I recommend focusing very strongly on the effect you want. When I created FTL possibilities I had three aspects in mind: Skill tests (to encourage leveling), expenditure of money, and ship management. So each FTL variants naturally emphasized one of these areas.

I think it doesn't matter how FTL works, physics-wise, as long as you capture what you want to happen gameplay-wise. I'd recommend making up and playtesting an abstraction of each possibility you're curious about, and refine it until you get the kind of gameplay effect you want. Then THAT'S how FTL should work.

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Original post by RolandofGilead
Whatever I choose, it's just some arbitrary number.
Well, if it makes you feel better, you can devise some background to bolster the effect. Calculate the mass of the ship and the volume of the hyperspace "tunnel" you'll have to drill for the FTL jump, and then use those factors along with arbitrarily determined equipment specifications to describe the jump delay, recharge time, etc. It's still a crapshoot, but you can justify it to yourself, and maybe to the audience as well.

At the end of the day, science fiction is going to be fiction, and you'll have to author the world. If you want to get wicked technical about it, battle between spaceships and such would probably be totally alien to most players. Either you'd be warping bombs into enemy installations, or you'd be firing energy beams from a million miles away, or you'd be using EMP pulses because concussion weapons are near useless in space, or battles would be a computer-run ballet of attacks, counter-measures, counter-counter-measures, etc. Whatever.

I'm guessing that you want dogfights, and Death Star runs, and capital ships and fighters and all the stuff that made air and sea battles so thrilling in WWII. You'll want to strafe, and get missile locks, and dive-bomb, and drop flak, and dodge behind asteroids, and scan for weaknesses in enemy shields. Let's face it: Battleships are nearly obsolete even today. Large, cumbersome naval craft are simply not cost-effective, even with tons of defenses and fighter escorts. The communications and sensors and command presence that they provide can be simulated with modern communications and smaller craft for smaller cost and providing a smaller target. I sincerely doubt that anyone will be "crossing the T" in the Battle of Io.

So work out the gameplay, the structure of what fights should look like, feel like, and sound like (sound is another conceit of science fiction). Once you've done that, wizard up some fancy scientific hocus-pocus to justify it. For instance:

You can't jump with shields up, because the energy field they produce interferes with the hyperspace drive. Thus, you can leap-frog all over the place, but if you get hit with even the weakest of weapons, you'll take hull damage.

An easily-acquired piece of hardware serves as a counter-measure against warp fields being created. Thus, your enemy can keep you out of hyperspace until you destroy or disable that system on his ship.

Random jumps create an electromagnetic field that temporarily disables any active systems, so you power down shields, weapons, propulsion and even life support for the few moments you're in limbo. Intra-system lumps leave you vulnerable and harmless.

Long-range jumps must be carefully mapped out, to reduce uncertainty in destination. For fleets, this uncertainty can lead to collisions or scattering.

Blah, blah, blah. Make the game, and justify it with the science. DOn't be afraid to mess around with the system to tweak gameplay. After all, the ability to make hyperspace jumps is fairly arbitrary. You can't afford to get anal about fictional systems. Putting too much time into clearly defining the gravity generators, sleeping arrangements and sewage disposal systems on-ship leaves less time for control, interface and story. Gloss it over.

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Original post by Wavinator
I think it doesn't matter how FTL works, physics-wise, as long as you capture what you want to happen gameplay-wise. I'd recommend making up and playtesting an abstraction of each possibility you're curious about, and refine it until you get the kind of gameplay effect you want. Then THAT'S how FTL should work.


I think this is a great point. What seems like an arbitrary number for calculation or recharging time is really a very specific number (or range of numbers) that you have arrived at through careful consideration and testing of the ever elusive "balance of gameplay."

In addition to recharging/calculation times, the jump to hyperspace could also be a major fuel expense, cause greater wear and shorten the life of the ships engines, or maybe introduce a randomness factor of stopping short of your destination by dropping out of hyperspace due to coming into contact contact (possibly colliding?) with another ship that strolled into your path and may or may not be your enemy.

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Hyperspace is tricky...

Perhaps wormholes would be the answer?

You basically have microblackholes, being used as wormholes (as in you dial a 'gate' and the back holes join up in hyperspace, allowing you do go through).

Then its just a rush for the gate. (of cource, without encryption, others would know where your going).

from,
Nice coder

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I'm not worried about justifying anything. I just want the gameplay goals to be reached. Anyway, I should have thought twice about inclucing those examples. What I really wanted was a discussion on the strategic, tactical, and psychological reasons for engagement. If I can manipulate those properly, no one will run at the first sign of trouble even if they can and griefers can be kept to a minimum.

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All quotes from Original post by Iron Chef Carnage

Quote:
I'm guessing that you want dogfights, and Death Star runs, and capital ships and fighters and all the stuff that made air and sea battles so thrilling in WWII. You'll want to strafe, and get missile locks, and dive-bomb, and drop flak, and dodge behind asteroids, and scan for weaknesses in enemy shields.

You're darn tooting I want that fun stuff, and the weapons are designed to be used that way. Just as the weapons determine combat, the mode of transport determines engagement.

Quote:
Let's face it: Battleships are nearly obsolete even today. Large, cumbersome naval craft are simply not cost-effective, even with tons of defenses and fighter escorts. The communications and sensors and command presence that they provide can be simulated with modern communications and smaller craft for smaller cost and providing a smaller target. I sincerely doubt that anyone will be "crossing the T" in the Battle of Io.

I don't understand the reference to 'crossing the T'. Anyway, that is true today because of the effectiveness of aircraft and missiles. I feel that in space, tonnage matters. Thus only ships of relative equality have a chance, thus no one will ever bother to engage.

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So work out the gameplay, the structure of what fights should look like, feel like, and sound like (sound is another conceit of science fiction). Once you've done that, wizard up some fancy scientific hocus-pocus to justify it.

Herein lies my problem, I don't want to dictate the terms of engagement but I can't let the system be too exploitable. Granted, I prefer large-scale actions, but I definitely don't want to shaft all those potential players.

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Blah, blah, blah. Make the game, and justify it with the science. DOn't be afraid to mess around with the system to tweak gameplay. After all, the ability to make hyperspace jumps is fairly arbitrary. You can't afford to get anal about fictional systems.

Oh, if you only saw my design documents...
Thank you though, I don't even know why I want intra- & inter-system jump engines anyway(probably Freespace influence). Ultimately I could include multiple systems but only allow one to be active at a time, whatever I do I want it to be moddable, but oh the hassle to make sure everyone's got the right game logic in multiplayer.

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Putting too much time into clearly defining the gravity generators, sleeping arrangements and sewage disposal systems on-ship leaves less time for control, interface and story. Gloss it over.

Done and done, looking at ship details there's only one attribute, "Crew X Mass". Hadn't thought of that stuff actually, but it would be fun for an adventure or rpg.

Thanks for all replies.
I fully admit I messed up and only now know exactly what I seek. Should I start a new thread?

[Edited by - RolandofGilead on May 23, 2005 4:01:44 AM]

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"Crossing the T" is a reference to the fact that most ships have nearly all their armament lined up along the long side of the ship, pointing sideways, so the optimum position to be in is playing the part of the crossbar to your opponent's upright in a "T" shape - you have a smaller target to aim for, but that's more than compensated for by being able to fire an entire broadside at them while they're restricted to their light chase armament. Crossing the T at speed also allows you to ripple fire your broadside rather than firing a single broadside, letting each weapon fire as it comes to bear.


An example of someone designing the technology to fit the result is David Weber's Honor Harrington series, where the (initial) technology is quite obviously designed to make space combat as close as possible to the naval combat of Hornblower's era.

Early volumes of the series are freely available from the Baen Free Library (www.baen.com/library) - "On Basilisk Station" and "The Honour of the Queen" which, from memory have a considerable amount of technical information in appendices

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You can always use some sort of disruption field (i.e. gravity well generator, local space distorter, electromagnetic spacial exciter, etc) that can be turned on by a station/large ship which effectively makes it impossible to create a stable hyperspace point within a certain range (i.e. the point could begin to form, but immediately collapse because of local space is being distrupted - I gave several ideas, from gravity to filling space with some kind of static electricity).

These leads to two results. The first is that bases and fleets will almost always be protected from ships just jumping in ontop of them. If an enemy tries to jump in, they'll only give away their presence, so the defenders will be ready for an attack. Proper surprise attacks will require jumping in outside the distruption field.

The second is that ships can't move into hyperspace while in the area of an distruptor. This gives a reason for bomber runs instead of just throwing everything you've got in - if you move in and then realize you're overpowered, you can't quickly escape. It also means either side can actually attempt to block the other side from escaping by moving dispruting ships within range. To escape those ships must be destroyed.

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I think Michalson has it. There must be a way to "force" other ships to stay in real space, so you can fight them. The endless bunny-hopping and leap-frogging of intra-system jumps seems to be a consequence of the technology, but it's not much fun.

Although, to be fair, I like the "time to prepare for jump" idea rather a lot. In Escape Velocity, it takes just a few seconds to line up an inter-system jump, but those seconds can count. More than once, I've run from pirates for a few kilometers and then powered up my warp core, only to be pummelled by missiles while I prep for the jump. Nothing quite like coming out of hyperspace as a cloud of debris.

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I would add a mass modifier to the warp disruptor idea. The bigger the ship, the more it is to affected by the disruptor. This means that small lightly armed craft like scouts and spy ships can still warp and run away while preventing another player from warping his capital ships. Also a lot of small ships warping at the same time might be considered as 1 big ship and also blocked by the disruptor.


It gives a sneaky player the chance to smuggle a few fighters each time to build a large enough attack force and make a quick (probably suicidal) attack. This is balanced by the fact that the attacking player must keep his attack force concealed within the enemy camp until all his attacking force has been assembled. The defending player must always keep his guard and patrol his territory, not just set a disruptor and defend his borders.

Also this makes for more tactics like stealth missions, spying, rescues.

edit: this can also work for ship to ship battles. you never know if the enemy has a buch of torpedo ships that will warp at the back of your fleet inflicting damage to your unguarded capital ships. You can also warp your captain out of a hopeless battle.

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