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greenpower

Less Spaceships with more Personality is more Fun

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Don't you think that space strategy games are still missign the mark in what concerns Spaceship design? Galciv2 did a nice effort by allowing us to costumize our spaceships but I think something is still definitely wrong in what SpaceShip design is concerned. There are too many spaceship models and too many possible costumizations. Spaceships are ultimatelly easy to build which allows the creation of tons of them. In late games sooner or later the game looses its interest because there are just too many spaceships crawling around. Its overwhelming and irrealistic. If you think about the StarWars, StarTrek and BattleStar Galactic series how many spaceship models do you usually see? I invite you to read my latest article in this topic at: http://www.spacesector.com/blog/?p=55 Let me know what you think about this. [Edited by - greenpower on July 24, 2009 7:56:28 PM]

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Well it depends on what the average Battleship size is and what amount of resources a species or space nation has to spent on battespaceships.
And older ships don't disapear. There are some option to handle older ships.

Well Earth made it's baby steps so not a theme for a space RTS.
But a fictional species. That had a realy long time ago, made there baby steps. And after that still a long time ago starting kolonising and mining there sol system and kolonise even there neighbore stars and there planets. There space era is like several centuries long.
So they have a lot resources to spent for many years.
If they use 1/4th on BShips it could be a couple of 100 compararable to naval carriers size. As a crude guessing. or 100 modern 60 previous gen and some older still in service.

If you look at starwars with there insane sized ships that unreal. You need to have a lot of Stars and there planets and roid minded to deliver such resources. It's not impossible, but the empire must be realy big.

BSG had lot's BShips. But got there ass kicked by cylons. Kolonials have a lot of kolonies, planets and so multiplanet resources. So lot of those Battlestats.
But I miss different classes and also the evolution that classes go true. Due to the series focus on a older class you know there is at least a new modern class Pegasus. The back story isn't there, if there are more classes.

Startrek. Due to manny races you get many set of ships.
each race have there own list of ships.
And the federations use ship classes. Wich is more a form of naval sheme. You have some shipyard. And a big ship produktion cycle is long. In time tech advances and new better designs and adoptions comes in. Also produktion cycle aren't synchron. So let asume buildig a ship cost 1 year. With 5 ship yard somewhere in a production cycle. Each 2 years there come new designs so new class. Each year adoptions and tech advances, steady each 9 months, so a variant of a class.

So you get something like this, a space nation with 8 classes where the older once are retrofit and modernised. To old are broken down for resources and each clase have 3 to 7 ships build, with 2 to 3 variants.

Lets say 32 BSships.

So with 7 species you have at some point 150 to 400 ships where there are 1 to 9 of the same type

Because there can be different roles for big ships there is a need of different classes. so you can have 5 current classes. And lot of older once.

Wenn encounter a alien race on war path.
Classes don't match.
Types that did well in other inter planetary wars. Could be a bad thing agains this new foo. And are not produce anymore. But after some years of losses a class to adress this comes up. Current class might get a heavy update to adopt to new effective tactical choices needed agains this foo.
There is a armsrace and there are ships build that works well and better classes design to repel enemy types better.

So it's a natural thing in war to get newer classes.

This means lot of different big ships.

The problem I have with space ships in games scifi series is there unrealistic conctruction. Some ships would break if gravity get a hold on them. Or wenn they have to avade at full power. In real life.
Like the adromeda spagetti design.
Wasp boddy shape of TOS Enterprise.

So if you go for realism. There is no balance. There is a arms race and the goal is to have the better ship. It means also a lot of diversaty wich consume Content creation resources of a dev team.

This problem is that you have one gameplay style for a game that grows on you and become something different.
The problem is the fases of the game.
RTS there can be a large difference between the fases.
Like start game, mid game, end game.

In RTS you start with a few ships.
in this fase you can micromanage one to 3 ships. So the gameplay is aimd at costumation heavy and techtree.

In mid game the gameplay shift from Captain of a lead ship to large fleet admiral play. Where you handle a large feet. Here resources and logistics and customisation must be handled more automated. Because as admiral you have not the time to micromanage a fleet of 16 Battle ships and escort and support ships. The tactical command gameplay take a lot of your attention.

Wenn you get to a fase where you have reach Space Empire status. Lots of resources. The gameplay must shift to a higher level of abstraction.
You handle fleets, so actualy admirals

Optional you handle the composition and size of fleets and there armanent.
You build fleets. Not ships
You can build even bigger supereorityships then before.

The problem is most RTS is that a Emperor must micromange his whole empire it self. If his wariors are dodo's

Automation on many levels of core gameplay lead to a complex and deverse AI requierment. Could be why this fase is ignored.

The game change from ship customizing sheme to a fleet cusimizing sheme.
And Battlstar command menu to a more fleet command menu.

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I do far prefer having less designs I must say. It just makes sense.
In real life you don't get one individual ship being made very often; you get a class of identical ships being made.
Even if you're making a totally new class of ships it would still be based upon principals established with earlier designs. The entire reason you can now make super advanced ships when you couldn't 10 game years ago is that your engineers and scientists have worked with what they had and figured out how to make it better.

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time scales in RTS are always screwy anyway. Your talking lots of "game years" between ship design improvements. Sure the actual combat in the RTS makes it feel like it is at normal time speed we are accustomed to, but the resource gathering and construction are highly compressed time scales.....or do you really think it only took 2-3 mins to build that super duper giant battle cruiser? so an RTS is kinda operating on two different time scales. so the resource gathering/ship construction is probably taking a long time between new ship designs if you go by its highly compressed time scale.

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Original post by SuperG
In mid game the gameplay shift from Captain of a lead ship to large fleet admiral play. Where you handle a large feet. Here resources and logistics and customisation must be handled more automated. Because as admiral you have not the time to micromanage a fleet of 16 Battle ships and escort and support ships. The tactical command gameplay take a lot of your attention.

Wenn you get to a fase where you have reach Space Empire status. Lots of resources. The gameplay must shift to a higher level of abstraction.
You handle fleets, so actualy admirals

Optional you handle the composition and size of fleets and there armanent.
You build fleets. Not ships
You can build even bigger supereorityships then before.

The problem is most RTS is that a Emperor must micromange his whole empire it self. If his wariors are dodo's

Automation on many levels of core gameplay lead to a complex and deverse AI requierment. Could be why this fase is ignored.

The game change from ship customizing sheme to a fleet cusimizing sheme.
And Battlstar command menu to a more fleet command menu.


I think you may have touched the wound right there. Better level of Automation and higher level of Abstraction needed is needed on late games. As a side comment I really fancied your idea (explicit or implicit) of the player having a career evolution throughout the game (I think I never saw this explored in any space strategy game before). You could start as a pilot, then promote to captain (where you could manage a squadron for example), then to admiral (where you could manage entire fleets), and then to Governor for example where you could manage a colony and so forth...

But ok, back to the issue. With the right level of automation where local governors could handle the job for particular galaxy sectors it could be possible for the player to keep handling fleet management because now you have reduced your area of intervention. With a higher level of abstraction it would be even better. The idea of managing fleets instead of individual ships is a very interesting one. At some advanced stage of the game the player could switch the abstraction level (if he wanted) to make only the big decisions on particular topics or all of them. Examples: Option to attack a particular planet; Option to make an agreement with a particular race; Option to start building a new spaceship design, etc .. The player could sit back and watch his empire from a bigger perspective and decide to focus his attention on what he's really interested to. Maybe focus the attention with a particular negotiation, or spaceship plan (like when the Emperor Palpatine was completelly obsessed with his plans for the Death Star and seems not to care with other trivial businesses)

Give us more automation/governor options and more abstraction levels and maybe its possible to manage thousands of ships in late games.

[Edited by - greenpower on July 26, 2009 5:57:31 PM]

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Original post by greenpower
There are too many spaceship models and too many possible costumizations. Spaceships are ultimatelly easy to build which allows the creation of tons of them. In late games sooner or later the game looses its interest because there are just too many spaceships crawling around. Its overwhelming and irrealistic
The need for numerous customizations is reasonable when you consider the various demands of space and space travel. NASA, currently, has pretty much one design because the shuttles are serving mostly one purpose: flying back and forth from the ISS. But, let's say NASA suddenly decides they want to send ships to mine asteroids. NASA would likely design a new type of mining shuttle that was shaped and fitted specifically for mining operations. Also consider satellites, space telescopes, probes, and rovers. Each borrows from a similar intention: the right tool for the right job.

I completely agree with your point about expenses; space is not cheap. However, take in mind advancing technology and available resources. Fusion power is a typical advancement I've seen in a few games. If we could efficiently control and reproduce the fusion process... Wow. Fusion alone would greatly enhance our production speed and capabilities.

In many space strategy games, civilizations typically span multiple hospitable planets. Having access to even a second earth-like planet would be phenomenal--think of everything we've built and consumed from the Earth's extraordinary amount of resources alone, and then to suddenly double those available deposits. With that kind of resource power, we'd have no qualms over pumping out dozens and dozens of different kinds of spacecraft to meet our various needs and desires.

In a game, sure, I see your argument; hundreds of different kinds of ships can be a bit overwhelming and not very fun to play with. But, assuming the technology and resource requirements have been met, then I disagree when you say it's not realistic. The scenario you describe of having too many ships crawling around, as not being fun, is exactly what would happen in real life if we had the kind of futuristic technology we see in games.

Now, as to how to work around those problems to make space strategy games more fun and engaging? ... Let's keep talking.

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I completely agree with your point about expenses; space is not cheap.

Actually, once in space, it is not that expensive. What is expensive is getting into space (and if you have to lift all your life support materials as well, that makes it a constant cost).

We currently need to lift all life support materials into space each time, this is what the major cost of a constant presence in space comes from.

If you could mine asteroids, and get everything you need form them (oxygen from the water for life support, hydrogen from the water for fusion power generation and fuel, carbon for organics, metals for construction, silicon for electronic, etc) then as they are already in space, you do not have the costs for getting them into space.

Also, using rapid prototyping technologies you could construct space ships from the asteroids as well. If the ships you build have these rapid prototyping factories in them (there are rapid prototyping machines that exist today that are about the size of a desktop printer and cost under $500 - look up RepRap) then they would effectively be Von Neumann probes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-replicating_spacecraft).

There are massive amounts of material in the Oort cloud, or, it might be possible to dismantle a small moon (like the moons of Mars) and turn these into ships using Von Neumann probe concepts.

Remember, each ship is capable of constructing more of its kind, or even other kinds. You could even have each of the individual ships capable of constructing factory ships, which then in turn can construct any of the smaller ships (a Von Neumann probe ecology).

A variant of the VN ship is the seeder which stores genetic material and has the ability to grow that material into an organism. This seeder could contain the genetic material for a human that can become the crew of the ship.

If crew are lost, this genetic material can be grown (there might be many in different states of growth) and these could replace the ones that were lost. They could even be cybernetically incorporated into the very structure of the ship (they are the ship).

Given this scenario, it becomes feasible or there to be millions (if not billions - or even trillions) of ships in a system. Each one capable of self sufficiency, and even rebuilding the entire fleet. With sophisticated command and control systems (based off of colonial insects for example), the whole fleet could be co-ordinated as needed.

This kind of scenario is feasible with technology only a few more years advanced than what we have now. In fact, most the technology exists, it is just not to the level where we could do this.

So, when it comes to realistic, this is a much more likely scenario than Star Trek, Battle Star Galactica, or Star Wars. All these assume that production technologies do not advance from the 1960s, except in the size and location that they are working in.

From a game player's point of view, however, they will likely be in control over a group of these ships. So if each ship had a level of automation, the player just needs to select a target and they should do the rest. Including dealing with any incidentals on the way, like other enemy ships encountered, avoiding attack and such.

A Skirmish, might involve thousands of such ships, and an massive battle might involve millions. And, if we are talking about interstellar empires, rather than just a single system, you could be dealing with trillions of combatants.

Have a read of a short story by Alastair Reynolds called "Spirey and the Queen". It is set within such a "war".

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Ya, there are a number sci-fi stories based around the ideas of space battles involving millions or unmanned vessels. It all depends on what you want to achieve

Masters of Orion 1 and 2 had the best ship design system in my opinion. Plenty of different ways to design and customize your ships.

The first one went with the masses of ship idea, while the second had smaller numbers of ships. In the original once your production technology was sufficiently powerful you could easily produces hundreds if not thousands of small ships a turn on every planet. This led to battles towards the end game with small numbers of large ships and thousands of small escort vessels.

The original is also the only space game I’ve played where you can conquer planets without first destroying all its space defences.



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Looking at Orion I’m reminded of Galcon on the iPhone. In this all options are reduced to the minimum, you have one ship and construction is automatic and based simply on planet size but it can be a frantic and pure strategy game.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Masters of Orion 1 and 2 had the best ship design system in my opinion. Plenty of different ways to design and customize your ships.

The first one went with the masses of ship idea, while the second had smaller numbers of ships.

Yes now I remember from MOO1 all those tiny ship stacks (thousands of them or more being destroyed by the hundreds with single shots of doom rays). This ship masses concept of MOO1 was abandoned by recent games but I think it still deserves a second look since it could help on late game fleet micromanagement.

However I have to say that I don't fancy the idea of having thousands of tiny ships crawling around. I would prefer that those ships could be associated with the design of carriers or large battlecruisers as support units (that is what they are anyway). These could be modules of small fighters and bomber units (kinda like the vipers in Battlestar Galactica). After each battle the number of ships could be re-established via normal repair in any nearby planet starbase.

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look at how Sin of a Solar Empire uses strike craft. Sure you can go in and directly manipulate each craft if you want, but they group them into squadrens. You can also go in and directly assign squadrons a particular target, but they allow you to assign them to a quick group (or just alt select to select all within a gravity well), and these you can assign to a particular target.

So, if you think about it, if you have an all carrier fleet (and I have :D ) you can literally be directing thousands of these strike craft. At around 6 craft in a squadron and a carrier controlling 2 to 3 squadrons, and having around 100 carriers, this is actually around 1,800 craft.

Now instead of needing the 100 craft, if you allowed ConCom ships and factory ships as the "Carriers", then you could have these thousands of strike craft at you control.

Some suggestions as to the type of strike craft (you don't want many types):
Interceptors: Good at taking out slow moving bombers.
Fighter/Bombers: Good at taking out ConCom/Factory ships, and Fighters.
Fighter: Good at taking out Interceptors.

ConCom/Factory Ships: Defence systems are good at taking out Interceptors and Bombers.

Now, instead of directing every single ship, you essentially direct the swarm of them. The player places a "tactical point" somewhere on the map and the strike craft fly there and take out any targets in their sights automatically.

There is a game called "Attack of the Killer Swarm" at the experimental gameplay project (http://experimentalgameplay.com). The idea of this is that you control a killer swarm by clicking the mouse at a point and the swarm flies there and throws a person up in the air to kill them. Each particle of the swarm is independent and moves by itself, just as each strike craft in my idea would.

Players would not be able to directly issue orders to a strike craft (or even a squad), but would control them on mass, and the ships would try to perform the best they could.

In a way it would be a bit like controlling a single ship where that ship had a lot of weapons that could fire. But, instead of the weapons just vanishing at the target, they would instead return to the ConCom/Factory ship for refulgent and rearming (and they would ahve a longer range, and could destroy each other).

Combat will not be about who has the biggest guns, but who has the greatest stamina and how much resources one is willing to risk for a particular objective or location.

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I'm about to commit 4x sacrilege, but here goes: I think Master of Orion 3 was on the right track with its "task forces". Of course, as with everything else in that game, it was a good idea done horribly wrong.

Instead of first building your ships and then assembling them into fleets, I think it should be done the other way around. When I'm preparing for war with another civilization, why should I have to micro-manage every single ship that's built? Given X number of ship classes, I should be able to dictate how many fleets I want, what they consist of, and where they're located, all without having to submit individual build orders. The nice thing about this, IMO, is that building a single ship becomes a subset of this mechanic - in that case, I'm just saying to build a fleet of one ship.

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However I have to say that I don't fancy the idea of having thousands of tiny ships crawling around. I would prefer that those ships could be associated with the design of carriers or large battlecruisers as support units (that is what they are anyway). These could be modules of small fighters and bomber units (kinda like the vipers in Battlestar Galactica). After each battle the number of ships could be re-established via normal repair in any nearby planet starbase.


I sort of feel like I’m waving the Masters of Orion 2 is the greatest 4X game banner but MOO2 had what you suggested for strike craft. There were 4 type (fighter, bomber, heavy fighter, and assault craft) they always had the best tech available and were basically just weapons on a ship. The only difference was that they had to fly to the target, could be destroyed, and if the target was destroyed would attack the next nearest target until they ran out of ammo and returned to the carrier.

Quote:
Players would not be able to directly issue orders to a strike craft (or even a squad), but would control them on mass, and the ships would try to perform the best they could.


The swarm concept gave me an interesting idea for battles with hundreds or thousands of ships it would be an interesting concept to set you battles though the old military screen mark up.

You would have meshes that you manipulate to create the size and shape of group in your battle plan. There might be a large wing comprising 1000 lightly armed probes leading the way followed by a block line of missile ships. And you just direct them by drawing lines on the battle map.

If want the probes to advance to wards the centre of the enemy fleet at full speed attacking all target of opportunity. You would select full speed, and attack all and then drawn a line to where you wanted them to go. The game would handle the rest. Like wise you could select the bombardment option and draw a line though the enemy fleet to direct your missile ships to fire an equal spread of missiles along that line.

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Instead of first building your ships and then assembling them into fleets, I think it should be done the other way around. When I'm preparing for war with another civilization, why should I have to micro-manage every single ship that's built? Given X number of ship classes, I should be able to dictate how many fleets I want, what they consist of, and where they're located, all without having to submit individual build orders.


I agree its an idea that has only been mentioned a few times, but it would be nice to design a fleet by selecting the ships and formations you wanted to make up that fleet and then select the shipyards you want to produce that fleet and let the game deal with the production queues for the individual vessels.

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Original post by TechnoGoth
I agree its an idea that has only been mentioned a few times, but it would be nice to design a fleet by selecting the ships and formations you wanted to make up that fleet and then select the shipyards you want to produce that fleet and let the game deal with the production queues for the individual vessels.


That's really what I meant - I just didn't go into that much detail. :P

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