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Is this feasable - advanced space combat game (sorry if it's long)

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Hey all!! Hope I'm not commiting an almighty sin by jumping straight in with an ideas post - I have read the do's and don't's so hopefully this will be okay :) - Basic Premise - Space based; small fleets of small to medium sized ships. The 'core' of the idea is this: each ship has physical space inside it, and teams of players comprise the crew of each ship. Example: corvette would be crewed by 3+ players. The pilot would need to be at the flight console, the gunner(s) would need to be at gun-mounts, etc. etc. Larger ships would of course have larger crews, more systems/stations/consoles. - Key game mechanics - * Damage and the Engineering Core: Every ship would have crew sectors, and an engineering core. Fighters and corvettes would obviously only have one sector; one area of physical space inside them. Frigates and upwards would have numerous sectors for flight/navigations, weapons, shuttle bays, etc. Damage to each ship would be inflicted first on these sectors (players in damaged areas would steadily lose health to simulate depressurisation or whatever), and then finally on the engineering core. The core would need to be the last part to go so repair can always be carried out. Once the core starts taking damage and is destroyed, everyone dies and the ship is lost. * Player Classes: Pilots, gunners, engineers, boarding troops, etc. Their chosen specialist area could perhaps be reflected in the information displayed in their HUD. All players could operate all systems at a basic level (meaning it's not nessecarily game over if your pilot gets killed in an unfortunate atmosphere venting related incident!). Specific player classes would operate more advanced functions. - Expanded Ideas - * Boarding: because of the idea of physical space within the ships, you could have a transport/shuttle with a pilot and several boarding troops inside. Once attached, or inside the enemy ship they would have to walk to the exit hatch, and into the target vessel. Could create cool scenarios where there are gunfights going on at the boarding points, all while the larger ships duke it out * Items, armouries and health: Medium to large ships could be equipped with armouries (to allow players to equip themselves with guns for defence against boarding), item stores for short-term breathing apparatus in case of atmosphere loss, and medical bays where players could go to regain health lost either due to ship damage or injury sustained in a boarding. - Problems and possible solutions - * Dead players: If an area is damaged and the crew inside fight to the death, or cannot get out before repair is carried out, this would mean the ship being under-crewed, and players sitting watching their corpse while the fight carries on. Respawning from a larger (non enterable) ship outside the area of conflict might be one idea. Personal short range teleporters that evacuate a crewmember to the well protected sickbay and engineering core would be another. Or, the ability to drag dead crew members from previous damaged sectors and back to sickbay would be another * Complexity and system requirements: Obviously the poly count for a ship with an interior would be through the roof. So, perhaps, graphical assets for any player in any given location could be dynamically loaded. So the game is only drawing the interior of their ship - not everyone elses. * Bored players: Everyone can't be busy all the time - an engineer would have nothing to do until damage is inflicted or they are onboard another ship to sabotage systems. A boarding troop would have nothing to do until a boarding party is assembled and they are close enough to launch an attack. And even then...their transport could get blasted to bits. Frustrating. Not too sure about this. Short range teleporting would be another way to board, meaning ships would need to move into close proximity. But could still be a problem... - Impossible but cool ideas - * MMORPG: in the context of the online rpg, and given the dynamic loading system, there would be the possibility of trade stations, skill building, crew for hire, trading ship parts...all sorts * Physics: Given that every ship would need to have self contained 'gravity' properties, this could allow for low/zero gravity scenarios on heavily damaged ships...floaty fun! * Huge ships: well...just that. Huge ships. With vast crews. Again, within an MMORPG environment, trading, mini-games and quests/story threads could exist within larger ship environments. Okay...rambling a bit now. This is far too long already! Anyway...is this even a feasable idea? Does anything like it exist, or has it been announced or considered? Obviously some elements could be simplified or even removed, otherwise the game could end up trying to be everything at once, and being decidedly average at them all!

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it could be, depends on how you want to implement it
having destructible ships with player accessible inerts would be difficult with typical game 3d graphics but much easier if your willing to have a tile/iso based system

the main problem i see is that it would only really be playable and practical as a lan game because of the massive amount of data that would need to be synchronized

i had a similar idea for a game except your ship is crewed by AI controlled sprites that will repair and operate your ship according to your will.

the entire ship would be designed by the user as a 3d array of tiles making up the hull and critical systems

this was slightly inspired by a freeware game called dwarf fort
(fun game but pretty complex to figure out)

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It sounds feasible... if you have a large skilled team working full time for about 2 years.

This, as I think you already know, is an insanely massive project. It all depends on who you're planning on working with. I think a commercial game development company could pull this off, but I'm not too convinced an independent team could.

I mean good luck to you, but this on a single-player level would be tough to implement; scaling it to the Internet will require a LOT more work.

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Considering all of the lofty and over zealous MMORPG ideas that permeate the forums, this actually seems fairly practical. I'm not saying it'd be easy, but certainly more realistic than many other projects an indy team could consider working on.

I don't think having ship interiors is going to kill your performance too much, especially if you occlude interior environments from exteriors. Additionally, if the only objects populating your level environment are ships and their interiors you should be able to push a lot of polygons without too much difficulty. However, if these ships are fighting over a planet surface with trees, detailed terrain, and other static meshes than you'll encounter some performance issues. A vacuum environment will allow you a lot of flexibility with your ships though.

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First off, what level of realism are we talking about here? In reality, space combat isn't going to happen at close quarters. Ships will be hundreds of kilometres apart, at least, when engaging each other. They'll mostly use missiles to attack and, generally, ships will be disabled, if not destroyed, with one hit. The chances of a manned boarding vehicle actually getting to the enemy before it goes blown out of space are very slim.

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Original post by chimp_spanner
Fighters and corvettes would obviously only have one sector; one area of physical space inside them.

Obviously? [grin]

For a number of reasons, the manned "fighters" typically depicted in pulp science-fiction are terribly unrealistic. It's far more efficient to use remote-controlled robotic fighter drones. That still gives your "fighter pilots" something to do, but would mean that drones wouldn't be boardable, because the pilots would actually be on a nearby "drone frigate".

Having the inside of any reasonably large military vehicle be one uninterrupted area is pretty silly, especially when it's in space. Compartmentalization is important in preventing the spread of fires, which is especially important in space as heat is difficult to get rid of, and fires eat precious oxygen. Compartmentalization also helps deal with depressurisation.
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Frigates and upwards would have numerous sectors for flight/navigations, weapons, shuttle bays, etc.

You need to define your terms: it's not clear what's "above" a frigate, and what order they'll be in.
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Players in damaged areas would steadily lose health to simulate depressurisation or whatever.

Unlikely.

In a combat situation your crew would already be wearing space suits: not the bulky kind NASA currently use, but a skin-tight space activity suit, with an unobtrusive rebreather.

For technical reasons, upon depressurisation, no matter how the suit is designed (sufficiently advanced technology notwithstanding), a crew member would suffer a significant loss of manual dexterity. That would usually translate to a reduction in skill in whatever they're doing. Not to slow death from anoxia, though.
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* Player Classes: Pilots, gunners, engineers, boarding troops, etc. Their chosen specialist area could perhaps be reflected in the information displayed in their HUD. All players could operate all systems at a basic level (meaning it's not nessecarily game over if your pilot gets killed in an unfortunate atmosphere venting related incident!). Specific player classes would operate more advanced functions.

I can see that the game would be interesting for pilots and marines. Gunners slightly less so, especially if there's nothing to shoot at.

How will the game be exciting for an engineer? More precisely, how do you make the engineer gameplay enough that there wouldn't be a shortage of people willing to be engineers?
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Item stores for short-term breathing apparatus in case of atmosphere loss.

I cannot emphasize enough that everybody would already have long-term vacuum survival equipment on them. One can realistically fit enough liquid oxygen for 24 hours breathing in a 1 litre (2 pint) container: clearly small enough to be part of any crew member's standard kit.
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Respawning from a larger (non enterable) ship outside the area of conflict might be one idea.

Does it need to be non-enterable? It seems like capturing that ship would an ideal way to win the battle; perhaps even the only way.
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Personal short range teleporters that evacuate a crewmember to the well protected sickbay and engineering core would be another.

Is this something you have to activate, or does it happen automatically upon 'death'? Can the sickbay cure a bullet to the head? If not, what happens then? If the ship is blown up, thus destroying the sickbay, where do you get teleported to?

One way to explain respawning, which might be too high-tech for your setting, is to say that your mind is transfered into a newly fabricated body upon your death. To explain why there'd only ever be one of you at a time, you can say that the mind is a quantum phenomenon and can only be copied by destroying the original.

Of course if you can build this kind of technology, that could raise questions about why you're fighting with ships rather than, say, just throwing stars at each other. You could say it was arcane technology left behind by an ancient race. (You could do the same with teleporters to explain why you can't teleport a nuke into the enemy flagship.)
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Or, the ability to drag dead crew members from previous damaged sectors and back to sickbay would be another

What's the point? They're dead, Jim! [grin]
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* Complexity and system requirements: Obviously the poly count for a ship with an interior would be through the roof. So, perhaps, graphical assets for any player in any given location could be dynamically loaded. So the game is only drawing the interior of their ship - not everyone elses.

An engineer would have nothing to do until damage is inflicted or they are onboard another ship to sabotage systems.

An engineer would actually be very busy making sure the ship runs smoothly: Scotty didn't just repair damage.

I can imagine some players would enjoy managing power levels, making sure ammo feeds are being routed efficiently, monitoring fire control and shutting down bulkheads to prevent fires spreading, assigning the limited complement of repair 'bots to their duties, and other engineering-type things.

I think, though, that considerably more players would want to be fleet commanders, fighter drone pilots or boarding party marines. To avoid the instant death that the lack of an engineer would bring, I'd say that ships would have an AI engineer which wouldn't be quite as good as a player-controlled engineer. Player-controlled engineers would work in tactically important ships (perhaps using teleporters to move between them).
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Short range teleporting would be another way to board, meaning ships would need to move into close proximity.

I'd just teleport a bomb over. Or, if you think you'd want to take control of the ship (although in reality I'd scuttle it before you got the chance), teleport a few canisters of nerve gas over.

You could say that teleportation is possible between teleport stations, so a marine could teleport directly from the "marine frigate" to the (automated) boarding probe. This avoids the question of exactly how many boarding parties get killed on the way there (since there's no stealth in space, the answer is "pretty much all of them"): you can fire hundreds of boarding probes, since only one needs to get through their defenses.

As long as a boarding probe is attached and functioning somewhere in the battle, a marine would have somewhere to go. There wouldn't be any point teleporting nerve gas in this instance because the boarded ship would just close the bulkheads around the part of the hull the boarding probe attached to. So bring explosives.
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* MMORPG: in the context of the online rpg, and given the dynamic loading system, there would be the possibility of trade stations, skill building, crew for hire, trading ship parts...all sorts

Not necessarily impossible, depending upon how you design it.

Because space is mind-bendingly huge, there's no real need for a ship to be able to fly from a battle around Jupiter to one in the Alpha Centauri system, even flying from low Earth orbit to the Moon would take days under constant thrust (unless your ships are stupidly fast, but that presents its own problems), and that's ignoring the impossible fuel requirements.

For all practical purposes, each area of space can be entirely separate: no need to worry about maintaining a single model of the entire universe. The only things that need to be shared between regions are player stats and equipment, which is not particularly difficult. If it's okay not to have thousands of players participating in a single battle, then you don't need to use fancy MMORPG techniques for handling the networking. And whilst it would be really amazingly great if you could have thousands of players participating in a single battle, I'm pretty sure that it wouldn't actually happen even if the technology was there.
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* Physics: Given that every ship would need to have self contained 'gravity' properties, this could allow for low/zero gravity scenarios on heavily damaged ships...floaty fun!

Cool but certainly not impossible. Elite Force had variable gravity in one level. Rune had gravity changing direction in one level. Hell, any game which lets you swim under water effectively simulates variable gravity.

Note: Synthetic gravity is another impossible technology you might want to blame on an ancient civilization. It also opens up possibilities for the offensive use of gravity. Imagine the confusion a boarding party could sow with a device which flips gravity on command.
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* Huge ships: well...just that. Huge ships.

Huge ships aren't necessarily difficult. If you build them out of prefab components they'll be easy to design and quite light on memory usage: it would also be quite easy (compared to having to build it polygon-by-polygon) for players to put together their own ships out of parts. It would make the graphics engine more complex, since it would have to deal with stitching together prefabs, but that's not infeasible.

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You should check out Puzzle Pirates. Combat in that game is ship-to-ship, with each ship having multiple crewmembers. While it's possible to run the smallest ship on your own, it requires significant multitasking skills. More generally, the smallest ship can hold up to 7 with a minimum recommended crew of 4, while the largest ship can fit over 100 people. Each person on a ship selects a station, thereby taking one of the following roles:

Sailor
Gunner
Carpenter
Bilger

Additionally, the captain of the ship performs navigation. In combat, this means deciding where to go and when to fire cannons; outside of combat, it's a separate duty that enhances the efforts of the sailors.

Outside of combat, the ship naturally accrues damage, which carpenters can repair. It also accrues water in the bilges, and takes on water faster if the ship is damaged. Bilgers can keep a shipshape ship clear of water, or remove water once the ship has been repaired (really skilled bilgers can hold the bilge steady even when the ship is damaged, too). The ship's top speed is adversely affected by the state of its bilges; sailors can speed the ship up but can't overcome the drag of the bilges. Gunners simply clean out fired cannons and reload them from the ship's stores. Finally, in the event that one ship grapples the other, every crewmember aboard participates in a sword battle.

Thus, each crewmember has a specific duty to perform that is essential for the proper performance of the ship. Moreover, every duty, except that of gunnery, must be performed continually or else the ship grinds to a halt. This helps keep people from getting bored. Typically, the gunners will choose an open station for one of the other duties when they aren't actively engaged in combat.

Note that for very large ships, typically one or two crewmembers get the job of keeping everyone else in line. Invariably there are people who don't want to do their station, or get distracted chatting, or want to do a station that is already full or that they don't have permission for.

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