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Space warfare without the problems of space

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So my game is all about building sci-fi ships then using said ships to fight against other players (all combat is 1v1). Being about ships dogfighting in space, this raises an important flaw in the setting: Ships dogfighting in space make no goddam sense!

So I'm trying to come up with a setting that makes at least some sort of sense. The options I have so far are:

1) Make it steampunk in space: The idiocy of having steam powerd ships in space might be enough to offset the 'ships dont bank in space!' mindset. The drawback is all the technology I have in the game so far is based around future tech like cold-fusion drives and plasma cannons. Replacing all these with steam powered equivilents might be tricky and remove some of the familiarity that players might have with certain tropes. That being said, I do like the idea of a space zepplin...

2) Turn it into a sport - All the players are actually competing in a sport that limits the speeds ships can fly at. This could fit in quite well with the competitive nature of the game along with the emphasis on ship building and brand name parts. But why would the competition exist in the first place? What possible reason would people have to become good at this sport? Maybe it's an illegal sport, like street racing? This could work in well with the idea to have pink slips for level capped players. The more I think about it, the more I like the idea, but what other reasons could there be for the sport? Mmmmm....

3) It takes place in low orbit: The planet is a giant sprawling network of buildings and tunnels with nearly all areas being not much more than slums and gangs. The ship fighting therefore takes place in the tunnels and the skies of the planet itself, creating more excuses for ship-vs-ship combat.

3) Leave as is - Yes it makes no sense that ships are dog fighting in space, but it doesn't really matter. Lots of games still have dog fights in space, so maybe it's fine.


What other ways could this make sense? Does anyone know of any table top games or other settings where this works? Any other suggestions as to what could make this setting work without all the inherent problems of typical space warfare?

Cheers!

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If I'm right, the setting is a slum-planet that has a lot of industrial aspects to it and your favorite idea is a "sport" kind of setting? If this is correct, then I think the idea of having the planet be a place that outcasts or prisoners are sent to build aircrafts and fight each other. A way for the government to get rid of prisoners in their jails and keep the population low enough on the planet that they can keep sending them there. Possibly a source of entertainment as well. This kind of story has been done a few times before in different types of media, so there is plenty to draw influence from.

And to solve the problem of them getting away, there could be satellite turret things that orbit the planet and prevent that or possibly a force field that prevents the crafts from leaving the atmosphere.

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3) Leave as is - Yes it makes no sense that ships are dog fighting in space, but it doesn't really matter. Lots of games still have dog fights in space, so maybe it's fine.

I've never really had trouble suspending disbelief while watching the dogfights in Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica. I'd say leave it as is - one of the strengths of fiction is that you don't have to be constrained by the laws of physics.

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"Ladies and gentlemen. Children of all ages. Welcome to the space-dome. Welcome to the greatest event in the Galaxy. Welcome to the Spaceship Show."

Okay so I cribbed from a standard circus ringmaster speech (internal cringe at scary clown-type monsters).

If I were take all of your ideas and then posit them under one theme it would be this: An expo, fair, circus, event something along the lines of the "Galaxy's Spaceship Show". Here at this venue you can show off your customised spaceships, race against others in your spaceship racers in a variety of environments from the deep asteroids belts to the underground tunnels to the outer atmosphere of the sun itself, fight the Death Match season to see whom will be the supreme Starfighter, look at upcoming ship designs and new parts for sale etc.

Tbh if I don't stop myself here the dribble of insanity would never stop. Though from a game design perspective I can see a lot that could be incorporated fairly easily into a theme like that.

Some research areas that might help:

  • The works of David Weber who developed the Honour Harrington series take spaceships and war in space and akins them to naval warfare i.e. no dogfighting persay but rather combat based on positioning in space etc and more time spent in transitioning to points where combat could take place.

    • A very old game called Descent which utilised spaceship combat inside of tunnel systems. The 3d creation was very good for it's time and still to my mind has some of the best designs utilising all 3 dimensions in terms of mapping.

      • A game called Traveller very much a scifi contemporary of dungeons and dragons. Included a lot in terms of ship design and constraints.

        • Also don't just think about steampunk which is very much flavour of the month atm also look back at other themes such as the art noveau design periods.

          • Not quite sure why I am putting Firefly last -- very little space combat persay but what little it had was good.
          • edit note: Forgot to add Babylon 5 -- producers of that show tried to stay close to hard physics with that show

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3) Leave as is - Yes it makes no sense that ships are dog fighting in space, but it doesn't really matter. Lots of games still have dog fights in space, so maybe it's fine.


If you have faster than light travel your throwing away most of physics anyway so you might as well.


If you want inspiration the mass effect codex is interesting
http://masseffect.wikia.com/wiki/Codex/Ships_and_Vehicles#Space_Combat:_General_Tactics

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Took me a while to find it but it had been awhile. Everything you want to know about anything to do with spaceships...okay slight exaggeration but damn good site nonetheless (Once you get over the initial culture shock of blue).

http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/

edit: Gah! Was going over the space links and found someone had posted same link 2 days earlier. I want my time back!


Ships dogfighting in space make no goddam sense!


I must admit to having been somewhat tardy in actually in getting around to putting my thoughts in about the above quote. The primary reason is because I was trying to find an article written about 30 years ago. It was a panel discussion of writers who basically spent the entire time wrestling with dilemma of science fact versus science fiction and the use of it in creative writing. Sadly I could not find it which is rather annoying because it was hands down the most comprehensive debate I have ever seen on the subject. To summarise that entire discussion into one cohesive statement I shall quote Mark Twain:

"Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story, unless you can't think of anything better."

Dogfighting in space is not a reality to our way of thinking at this point in time. Indeed according to what seems general opinion it will never be a reality. I respectfully disagree with that opinion because in no way have we plumbed the depths of what truly is possible in or outside our universe. We live in a time where people have determined the cosmological model of the Universe is approximately comprised of 5% observable reality, 25% dark matter (which we haven't found yet) and 70% dark energy(which we also haven't found). 500 years ago Copernicus told us we were not the centre of the Universe. So in terms of science fact what little we know is most likely going to alter when someone discovers that the key to dogfighting in space was really as simple as doing (insert appropriate earth-shattering discovery that makes everyone look stupid for having believed other stuff till then).

In my honest opinion, ignore the frustration of thinking "Ships dogfighting in space make no goddam sense!" and instead create a game that you will just simply enjoy playing...though I also am partial to space zeppelins (but only if they are filled with hydrogen tongue.png).

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As a follow up -- a setting you might consider is something akin to the Colliseum and gladiators. Gladiators were mostly slaves but could through the fighting distinguish themselves to earn their freedom but more importantly they gained access to better food, clothing etc. The argument for spaceships and the loss of resources in losing a fight could be offset by the fact of having patrons, sponsors.

So Player A is a slave beholden to NPC Alpha who as Player A progresses rewards him with access to superior resources etc. Basically a way of hiding the levelling system behind an artificial entity.

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Really good responses!

@Stormynature: Thanks for the links and the information. That projectrho website is a fricken goldmine! :D

@blarkfase: Oooh, I like that!

I'll sum up some thoughts and reply a little later today, I just wanted to jump in now and say the feedback so far is much appreciated.

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Here's a simple thought: Dogfighting in space *is* impractical, that's why it always happens near planets/space stations/hyperspace jump points. If you want to hijack someone's ship or steal their cargo, wait where you know they'll go. You could make escaping into the impractical depths of space part of the mechanic, e.g. if you're the aggressor you need to trap them or shoot their engines to stop them escaping, if you're the victim you need to find a way to slip past them (maybe hiding behind something) or using gravity slingshot.

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I think it import to be consistent to your idea of how to portray space combat and not be overly concerned on realism. After all no one ever complains that space battles in movies don’t take place in total silence. Or that people aren’t worried about heat dissipation which would be the primary concern in any energy weapon based combat. Since without an efficient way of cooling the ship everyone on board would eventually cook from the heat exchange. Even if the ship itself suffered very little in the way of damage, in fact your own weapons and engines would be contributing to the heat build-up.

One thing you should decide is what the purpose of the combat is which will then impact your designs for tech, combat, and other aspects of the universe.

For instance if it’s all about piracy then the tech the pirates had the old anime Tenchi Muyo GXP would make sense. The pirate ships were all geared around trapping, disabling, and boarding other ships and less emphasis on fire power. For instance they used missiles filled with dozens of small remote drones that would infiltrate ships and disabling ship systems. They also fired heavy mass packets as a weapon that threw off the ships mass distribution causing the ship to suffer damage if it tried to warp away. Since after all if it’s about piracy your main goal is disable the ship and take its cargo heavy weapons could very well destroy what you are trying to steal.

A future sport could work very well and lets you add a whole sponsorship, reputation, and popularity aspect to the game. After all people watch UFC, Robot wars, and heck even star craft for some reason. So why not in the future have ship to ship combat.

Making a sport also gives you freedom add tournaments, rules, classes, and restrictions. You could for instance have a light circuit in which under 50 ton ship compete in or an Endurance Challenge where 16 ships compete with no repairs or reloads between matches.

You could also let the player equip flare as part of their load out which are items that boost popularity or relationship with your sponsor but don’t give and real combat advantage.

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