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Foxostro

Space Combat

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I have been juggling an idea for a space combat game for some time and I thought I'd share it. Please comment on it, I'd appreciate any feedback you might have! 4X -- Forget 4X, your the captain of a Space Cruiser! You follow your orders and your at war for God's Sake! Can the captain of a war ship take time to explore the planets surface while he's supposed to be taking control of the orbital defenses? This game is exclusively combat. FTL --- There is no FTL travel. Travel between the stars is generally a one way trip. For you, time passes quickly and the voyage isn't all that bad; Sleeper ships make it even more tolerable (as in "Earth 2"). But the civilization you would leave behind will experience much, much more time during the trip than you: Thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of years will pass. As such, the game is centered around a single solar system with several habitable moons of gas giants (as in "Firefly"). Time Dilation ------------- Ignored in game play. However, your ship will begin to take damage from "stellar particles" as you increase past, say, 0.2c. It seems unlikely that a ship could survive long at high velocities. Maneuvers --------- Your ship can maneuver with accelerations anywhere from 0 to 5g. Of course, if you keep 3 or more g's up for more than a few minutes, your crew will suffer. 2 g's is generally the most that a healthy crew will be able to handle without difficulty. 1.5g would be a fairly standard operating acceleration. Space Fighters -------------- To get anywhere in space with any kind of speed and comfort, you'll have to be traveling with at least some constant acceleration. This consumes an enormous amount of fuel! Space fighters are just out of the question. Time ---- The game will try to keep travel times realistic. However, you will have full control over the speed of the game clock. Space battles might take a long time and cover vast distances. Weapons ------- Ballistic weapons - Easy to avoid but hard to spot on sensors. Laser weaponry - Heats up and melts the hull Nukes - ballistics that cause kiloton level explosions. You won't have very many and neither will your opponents. DEADLY Shielding -------- Albative - Eventually needs replaced (between missions), protects against ballistics Ice Tank - the hull is plated with very efficient heat conductor alloy and the heat is pumped into a large tank of ice. The heats from a laser will need to vaporize the ice before the ship's hull can be damaged. (like in "The Gripping Hand") Sensors ------- your sensors are an array of telescopes and cameras that can see in any spectrum. Ships under thrust can easily be detected because of the brightness of their drives. Ships not under thrust can only be seen by tracing movement across a photographic plate. Your computers and officers will take care of this for you but the effect is that its difficult to see ships that are drifting at high velocity. It takes a few minutes (game time) to track their motion and then confirm that it is indeed a ship and not some lifeless rock. Sensors are effected by the lightspeed gap so that you only see what was happening a few seconds or minutes ago when you are viewing distant ships. Radiological sensors would be able to detect any bomb with nuclear capabilities at any time, however, the lightspeed gap still applies. Objects in space will occlude your sensors from detecting anything behind it. (Except nukes. You can always see nukes) Space Obstacles --------------- * Asteroids * Planets * The sun * Kuiper belt objects All of these are easy to avoid, but Asteroids and Kuiper belt objects would be pretty nice hiding spots or places for a base. It would be difficult to spot a ship in a mass of floating rocks. C&C --- Sensor data is shown on a 3D plot of the solar system. You can zoom in on any point on the map and view the latest sensor sweep of that area. This screen is where you can assign a flight path for your ship and designate some attack plan. You'll probably do this by assigning waypoints: Move through this point at 1g, attack target A, move here at 3g but stop right on that point, fling bombs at target B. This should be like the TACOPS screen in BattleCruiser3000ad or maybe a bit more like the interfce in Homeworld. I'm not sure. Damage Control -------------- Your officers can handle this on their own, but you might be able to view the progress of fire control teams and redirect them when necessary. Ships are broken up into subsystems that can be individually damaged and operate at various levels of energy efficiency. Some systems like sensors or weapons have different levels of functionality at different damage levels. This is like Independence War with a slpash of less-frustrating BattleCruiser3000ad mixed in for good measure. Fuel ---- Always a concern. You do have a limited amount before you need to request a refueling ship to rendevouz or return to base. Part of your strategy in battle might be to conserve fuel or force the computer opponent to waste it and be forced to choose between running on dry tanks or retreating. Aliens ------ It's highly unlikely that more than one intelligent civilization will arise in a galaxy close enough to influence eachother. There will be no aliens, just human s.

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Most of the game play will happen on the C&C screen, so I should describe it better: You would be shown a 3D view of the solar system that you are in, with your ship at the center. Planets and other large, well known objects will be shown all the time and their orbits will be displayed as red ellipses reaching through the planets and around the sun. Other objects in the solar system will be displayed on this screen as well, and at a great enough distance, they will appear as simple coloured dots. If an object is a ship under thrust, then that object will be labeled as a ship on the 3D solar system view. You can click on a region or a specific object to zoom-in to allow you to take a closer look.

For every object, two blips are shown: One will be a bright color and represents the last confirmed location of that object. Usually, this is the location where the object appears to be when you look at it in a telescope. The second blip is a dull blip that represents where the object is projected to actually be *right now*, the two blips are joined by a medium shade of the same color. From far enough away, ships appear as labeled lines on the 3D solar system view.

On the C&C screen, you can select 3D point in the map as you can in Homeworld. That's a part of its interface that I really like. This point will be the next waypoint for your ship. From a drop down menu at the bottom of the screen you can choose the behaviour of the ship at the waypoint from a list of options. You can also choose the behaviour of the ship as it follows the waypoint from another list of options. There will be an option to shoot at a target while following a path, and to stop at a point and attack. Each waypoint will be represented by a numbered square on the 3D solar system view and all waypoints will be joined by a colored spline that shows the exact flight path the AI will have to take to fly through all points for you.

Space battles will have you choosing a flight path that flies around and near the enemy and giving orders to attack. You can leave these alone after that or change the orders at any time.

There will be other screen that needs your attention from time to time such as the Weapons Loadout screen and a Fire Control screen. The AI acting as your crew will be able to handle these functions on its own with some degree of competency, but you'll probably want to check in on it and direct it during a battle.

Space battles are pitched battles where you are thrust into a region with orders to destroy a specific ship, prevent a specific ship from being destroyed, etc. Once these objectives are completed, you are shown a screen for mission debriefing and are assigned a new mission. When the new mission starts, the solar system is reset to the way the new mission needs it to be, with a completely new arrangement of ships, and with you being dropped onto a player start point chosen by the mission designer. For the player's convenience, all damage is repaired between missions and the ship is refueled.

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I might as well ask questions.

Are these going to be large gunships? Or small cruisers. I mean a large ship would have tons of people running around inside. You could in fact turn the genre up a little and allow ships to board other ships and be able to view inside of your ship. This would allow for battles inside the ship and effectively you could take over a ship or damage things from the inside.

If you using large gunships you might as well put fighters on board and turn it into a battleship.

Also if your using space weaponry. You can always use a railgun they are often used in sci-fi battle. They take a lot of energy to fire, so if you had shields you could pull off some cool gameplay. Aka redirect power from the shields to the railguns and charge them to full power.

The smartest way to accomplish this is to use slider bars, however you probably already thought of that.

just my 2 cents. Just make sure that the gameplay requires skill through micromanagement or some other form or it'll just be boring.

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Are these going to be large gunships? Or small cruisers. I mean a large ship would have tons of people running around inside. You could in fact turn the genre up a little and allow ships to board other ships and be able to view inside of your ship. This would allow for battles inside the ship and effectively you could take over a ship or damage things from the inside.

Its a good idea! Boarding the enemy ship would be pretty sweet, whether the player does it in a 1sdt person perspective and commands a squad of marines Rainbow6 style, or if the player simply views a schematic of the ship displaying the locations of his boarding party and the enemy crew. Maybe I could keep it simple enough and just tell the player "You successfully took the ship!" when the boarding crew enters? It really would be cool to place a prize crew on a ship and use it in battle, but I think it would complicate the game; I really don't want the player to have to bother with the crew at all.

Remember Battle Cruiser 3000AD? I don't want to have to make sure I take fatigued crew members off duty or order injured marines to the infirmiry before they die from food poisoning :P That game had some tedious bits in it.

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If you using large gunships you might as well put fighters on board and turn it into a battleship.

I considered this, but I want to keep the game grounded in real mathematics and I just can't see how small fighters could carry enough hydrogen to get the thrust needed to dog-fight in space. I also considered giving the main battle ship a Long Boat or a small Cruiser or two that can participate in the fight. I still might allow this, but then it complicates the user interface. Any ideas on how to deal with that?

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Also if your using space weaponry. You can always use a railgun they are often used in sci-fi battle.

I like rail guns :) I can see a rail gun being used as the device to drop a bomb on an enemy ship. The payload would look like a rock on sensors so you might not even see it coming. However, a slow moving bomb might be avoidable if you did notice it.

Would they really take more energy to fire than a laser? To melt a metal hull, you'd have to bathe it with a lot of heat. I'm thinking lasers might not be a good weapon because of their energy requirements and that they will generate a lot of heat in the laser cannon as well as on the target. Maybe I'll skip lasers all together and just use ballistic weapons like rail guns, missiles, and cannons. This would also mean that using ice to shield from energy weapons would be removed from the design too.

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Just adding this:
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Just make sure that the gameplay requires skill through micromanagement or some other form or it'll just be boring.

I like games based on micromanaging. I keep thinking how fun it would be to go and edit the Weapons Loadout just right and then give orders to fire tubes two and three on my mark. At your command, those babies fly off from the ship. They sail through space and collide right with the bridge of the enemy ship, destroying it! I think moments like that will be what makes the game.

I'm reminded of a quote from "The Mote in God's Eye" that space battles "would be boring if they weren't terrifying." This is why I'm allowing the player to speed up or slow down the game clock as they wish. Any ideas on what else might help?

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Why would nukes be limited? I don't see any more cost-effective weapon for space combat. Compared to the cost of interplanetary or interstellar drives, I can't see a few warheads on semi-intelligent (2000's era technology) guided missles. Just unleash a few dozen around the target spread over a few hundred KMs and your target will be destroyed or seriously disabled by heat and/or radiation. Also, depending on sensor technology, I'd imagine you would acquire your target at a range of several thousand Kms, and spend the bulk of the time accelerating to an intercept course. Actual combat would be over in a matter of seconds. Not very fun gameplay, but if you are shooting for realism, I'd imagine it would look something like that. Of course everone imagines it playing out differently, but that's my take on realistic space combat.

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Not very fun gameplay

This game is beginning to look like it would be mostly just a game of cat and mouse on the sensors. You would scan the skies for your opponent and then thrust to intercept. The catch would be that as soon as you thrust, they will see you too. This could be interesting if there were interesting maneuvers to avoid detection or cause the enemy to lose sight of you even after they started on their intercept course.

Maybe this game is a lost cause.

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I can asure you the gameplay is very fun.

For large ships to battle though you have to break away from realism a lot. This requires you to makes bullets move slow and make the ships move relatively slow for their large mass. So even if bullets are fired you can reset the angle of attack to manuever around the enemy.

Another things is your worrying about fuel a tad too much. In my design docs I've taken into account for fuel. Basically don't use gas. Make up some odd fuel resource. Then for the ships in your game give them a storage bay. It works like the inventory for the ship because in essence this game is an RPG (or so it seems, might fit into tactical simulation). You fill the inventory with fuel and other supplies. These supplies could be used for repair and such.

If in fact you took over a ship you could scrap it for parts and fuel. Fuel shouldn't be a problem though in gameplay. It should just be used for micromanagement.

Also something to note that's in my design docs. Ships in space have life support systems, generators, engines. One of the best ways to add strategy, as you touched on before, is to have it so there's multiple ways to win a battle. For instance if bullets arn't penetrating a shield, try EMP bombs to drop it quick or do make the enemy turn it off. Because EMP bombs are gonna chew through energy much faster than say bullets or bombs.

That's all I'm gonna say. This is simple design stuff. Make a game simulation to test out ideas and discover new things. It's what I usually do.

just a few extra things. Cloaking, Shields, having weapons always charge drains energy. So encourage the player to pull down the slider bars for main systems to conserve energy while flying around or to a target. This will make for some very fun ambush missions where cloaked ships come out of no where and attack.

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Original post by Foxostro
I like games based on micromanaging. I keep thinking how fun it would be to go and edit the Weapons Loadout just right and then give orders to fire tubes two and three on my mark. At your command, those babies fly off from the ship. They sail through space and collide right with the bridge of the enemy ship, destroying it! I think moments like that will be what makes the game.



I like that approach - much of the gameplay would be in setting up plans for your craft, then watching them execute. This gives the player the ability to play around with time (either pausing or accelerating time) to get to the 'fun' parts. For example, let's say you get a radar contact. You pause the game, figure out an intercept course at minimum thrust (for stealth reasons), then accelerate the game to 100x speed. At some point (say entering weapons range) you pause the game again and issue orders to all your weapon stations. Then you accelerate time again and let another few game-hours play out. Then you drop to real time to watch your weapons fire & plan out the next move...


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Make a game simulation to test out ideas and discover new things.

I have gotten to that point. Time to just take the plunge already :) Thank you!

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