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Acharis

Automatic/semi automatic building space ships

27 posts in this topic

I would like to discuss a concept/mechanic I had for a while (it's full of holes and questions). It's for some sort of space empire building strategy (like 4x, but not necessarily, anyway, that's less important, I think this concept can be used in various games).

 

The whole premise is that the player should make only important/interesting decisions and all/most micromanagement should be either eradictated or automated. This topic is a question how to achieve it.

 

 

1. Fleets organization

I thought like this: the player can have around 6 fleets (each colour coded (red, yellow, blue, orange, etc) and individualized (history, banners, special abilities), also each fleet has an admiral). Each fleet is made of 2-6 flotillas, these are numbered and colour coded (example: 1st red flotilla, 2nd red flotilla, 4th blue flotilla).

Fleet is an administrative/organizational unit only, it does not appear on the map, only flotillas are the units the player can move around.

The fleet decides of the composition of the flotillas, all flotillas (within same fleet) share the same ships composition. Flotillas are also identical in size (within same fleet, red flotillas can be smaller than yellow flotillas for example).

 

So, basicly the player decides on the ships composition, upgrades, etc on fleet level. And decide tactical/operational stuff (where it should be, whom to fight, when to retreat) on flotilla level.

 

 

2. Imperial decisions (the player)

Generally, I want the player to be able to say "I want red fleet to be made of the best ships with elite crew; the blue one should have all ships with ionic shields because I want them to fight with Xelthars who have these nasty ionic weapons; the green fleet should be made of average ships and it should be the biggest fleet since it will serve as my standard fleet; and the yellow fleet should be made of all leftovers we have". Then the game should act accordingly and build ships and allocate these between flotillas and reinforce and maintain until player's wishes changes smile.png

 

As I see it, there would be two "fleet standards", the one the player asked for and the one that was delivered at the moment (just like in a real life, fleets constantly under change/rebuild/upgrade).

 

 

3. Crew as the bottleneck (assumption)

I feel that this system would need a limit of total ships that are active (produced and assigned to flotillas). Like based on population of the empire (100 pop = 1 ship manned). And the ships probably should be treated more like "weapons" that you "equip to crew" (typically the player would have quite a lot outdated ships that are not put in any flotillas and just are stockpiled). But that's just my light assumption, feel free to ignore it.

 

 

 

4. Construction of ships (most of the questions are here)

Now the harder question, how to handle construction of ships for the setup in 1)? Obviously, the traditional "click a factory/shipyard on planet X and set a queue of ships to build" would not work here.

 

Probably this system should have these properties:

- the player decides a total budget for military

- the player decides what to build in what proportions and in what priorities and which fleet should get it

- the game should build all these ships as desired by the player (most likely not ideally what asked for, just overall similar) under the budget constrains and then deliever it to flotillas

- the game should handle all replacements (units lost in battle) and upgrades (replacement of old ships to new models)

- the player should have some saying in form of important decisions like "obsolete this ship and don't include it in any fleets even if we have these already stockpiled" or "start producing the Dreadnought MK75 now" or "do not produce this model of the ship yet, even through we have it researched" or "produce first destroyer class ships because we need these the most"

 

So... how exactly such auto ships build system (algorithm, UI, etc) should work/look like? biggrin.png

Edited by Acharis
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What would be the advantage over just setting a desired ratio for battleships/cruisers/artilleryship/etc. in his fleet, setting some kind of ratio about upgrading,

and letting the player just send any amount of any ship he has to, well, anywhere ?

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What would be the advantage over just setting a desired ratio for battleships/cruisers/artilleryship/etc. in his fleet, setting some kind of ratio about upgrading,

and letting the player just send any amount of any ship he has to, well, anywhere ?

Well... that's just what I want. A system where the player sets up some ratio of ships and chooses upgrades on general level and then the game produces the ships and sends these in unified "packs" (for example: 1 flagship+2 battleships+8 destroyers) wherever the player desires.

 

The question is how exactly such system could work :)

- what the interface for "setting up" things should work (priorities? drop down list of ships?)

- how the game handles replacements of battle loses

- how/when the game sends new produced ships

- how the game handles removing outdated ships and replacing the fleet with new ones

- etc

 

 

Unless I misunderstood and you meant something else?

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The question is how exactly such system could work smile.png
- what the interface for "setting up" things should work (priorities? drop down list of ships?)

 

For just this one task a point system would work.

 

Have a fleet definition interface where your player defines the number of every vessel type in some way. To meet your ambiguous fleet design, have a class specification on each slider. Each ship is assigned its class, that's a given, so even if the player didn't know when the next one of any type were to be completed, the ships are queued and added to a fleet that accepts them.

 

Dealing with Replacements

As for ship strengths, the game could assign an asset life expectancy and have it depreciate a % of every ship's strength value, starting with 100 until the strength is 0. At which point that ship is decommissioned if it hasn't been blown up already, whether or not the ship itself is still top of the line.

 

The player would need to determine what threshold for strength a fleet average needs to be before an entire fleet gets decommissioned (given there's an entire new fleet prepared at dock).

 

Dealing with Limits

You said that you might want to limit the fleet with crew population. It isn't too hard with this system, you'd have a limit to the number of active ships, at least one ship in an active fleet would have to dock before it is replaced. In the case of a ship getting destroyed you could begin transferring a replacement crew gradually over time, this way nobody is getting replaced before their body is cold.

 

Some other

Now the only suggestion for the fleet I'd have left might be to allow the player to specify exact matches must be available if there were any special types of ships. Usually the game design would provide exact matches for desired ships if this were even a possibility, but I'm guessing it hasn't been determined.

 

You mentioned something about an empire. This stuff could get painfully intricate. How in depth is this possibly hypothetical game going to be?

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Note: if someone already posted something similar to your idea, post yours as well, if nothing else this would allow to evaluate how intuitive a certain concept is (if 3 people thought it could work identical way then the odds are the concept would be understood by the player as well).

 

 

OK, my idea now smile.png

 

Classes of ships

Definitely there should be hardcoded, predefined classes of ships (no "ship designer" feature), so it can be understood by the game AI and be clear on the interface. Each class would define both size of the ship and its purpose. Like these:

* flagship (big)(provides command & tactics bonuses to other ships in flotilla)

* battleship (big)(primary short-medium range combat ship)

* cruiser (big)(primary long range combat ship, relatively weak armour)

* carrier (big)(carries squadrons of fighters)

* destroyer (average)(universal, provides protection for big ships, anti fighter, anti torpedo)

* frigate (average)(similar to destroyer but more specialized for anti fighter)

* torpedo corvette (small)(secondary long range combat ship)

* recon corvette (small)(scouts & decloak)

 

When you research a new hull you get Destroyer 2, then Destroyer 3, etc. Better versions but the function and size identical.

 

 

Customization of ships

Since the predefined classes of ships do not give the option to "design my own ship" (which is always nice) I thought of those 2 ways of customization.

 

1) When a new hull/ship is researched the player gets a mutually exclusive choice to select a version of the ship (like "Do you want the Destroyer 2 be faster, heavier armoured or have better electronics?"), this decision is permanent and affects all Destroyer 2 ships you will build, you can't change your mind (of course when you research Destroyer 3 you will have a new choice again).

 

2) Slots & equipment. Each ship would have certain slots (weapons, armours, electronics). BUT, these are not the usual slots you fill during ship design in most game, you fill these AFTER the ship is constructed (ancient Reunion on Amiga had this feature and it worked nicely). You can also change there. So, you can sort of, reequip the ship anytime (by installing/uninstalling additional shields for example).

 

So, in practice you would first build a ship and then build (completely separately) various equipment (shields generators, missiles, tracking computers). And you can install these on your ships, or you can take the older equipment from your old ships and install on the new ones. Or you could don't build new ships and just produce only better equipment for your slightly outdated ships.

As a bonus feature, you could be purchasing unique/rare equipment from alien traders that you can't produce yourself but you could fit on your existing ships, or find in alien ruins some artifact powerful weapons and mount them on your primitive ships.

 

An important limitation would be what a ship could install (for example Destroyer 1 only electonics up to level 5) or maybe some energy system (each ship produces certain amount of energy which can be used on equipment, newer ships would produce more energy and therefore be able to install better equipment).

 

 

Interface

I think each fleet should/could have a drop down list with a ship class and then a field to enter the percentage/ratio of ships of that class. Then a fleet would have a "priority" which would determine if it gets older or newer ships. And the last field, how many ships total in a fleet should be (or maybe if the fleet should be huge/big/above average/average/below average/small/tiny in size compared to other fleets).

And below some sort of "priority list of equipment" (what you want to have installed on these ships, the higher on the list the higher chance of it being produced & installed).

 

Then there would be a global "military size" slider which determines how many ships total all your fleets should have (active) and "military spending" which determines how many resources are spent on producing new ships and equipment each turn (or separate sliders for ships production budget and equipment production budget?)

 

 

AI

Based on the player's interface setting the AI would try to produce new ships/equipment and redistribute among flotillas. Also, there would be a stockpile of unused ships. Also all of these replacements/moves are instant (teleport).

Possible AI rules:

- first calculate how many ships each flotilla should have optimally (based on total ships available, number of flotillas and their designated flotilla sizes)

- next remove up to 5% of "wrong" ships from a flotilla and send these to stockpile (skip if flotilla below 50% of optimal size, which probably menas under heavy casualities)

- next remove up to 20% of any ships from a flotilla that has above 100% of optimal size (like if the player changed a setting and wants this flotilla to be smaller)

- next add up to 10% of "good" ships to any flotilla that is below 50% (emerency combat loses replacements)

- next add up to 10% of "good" ships to any flotilla that is below 100%, sorted by flotilla priority (higher priority flotillas would get ships faster and of better quality)

- if the flotilla is enganged in combat halve all the replacement percentages above (it's harder/slower to replace/reorganize if under fire), if the flotilla is near a star base double all the replacement percentages (it's easier to replace near base)

 

 

 

You mentioned something about an empire. This stuff could get painfully intricate. How in depth is this possibly hypothetical game going to be?

I would really want to avoid that question smile.png I don't have any specific game in mind, I just want to pursure & discuss this mechanic. If you can see it working in some tiny little game, fine, post about it. If you find it fittable to a big space opera 4X, post about it as well.

Edited by Acharis
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Percentage didn't seem perfect because of reasons:

 

  1. You'll need to predefine a rounding system that seems optimal.  At the very least tell the player what ships they're assigning on the same interface or their 1% flagship will end up as 0 flagships and that fleet's pretty much doomed.
  2. There's a likely scenario where the player wants to add 1 more frigate and it'll take a little bit longer than one button press if they need to juggle the percentages. The human error rate will mean recalculating group percentages takes a very long time if the program doesn't.
  3. With percentages, If the interface is not a player specified number of ships and then a combination of sliders or ticks or some other point system, then it is so easy for the player to enter an invalid percentage. They will for one reason or another make a 99.9% input or a 1000% input that needs to be handled. 

You could make it work if enough was added to make percentages reasonable, but it seems like a tough spot to begin.

 

 

Yes... 9/10=0

But how to make it a different way than percentages/ratios? Letting the player enter the exact amount would not work (too many fleets, max amount changes each turn, generally too many variables and too much annoyance). The trivial trick would be to introduce big numbers (you start with 10,000 ships at the very beginning), but... that's a lame/last resort solution.

 

As for "the player wants to add 1 more frigate", it's simple. I would not allow the player to do so :D That level of precision would not be possible :) The AI assigns ships and the player can only give instructions to the AI. It's the player's job to take the limitations of the AI into account.

 

Solution... I think I would need to cheat here :) Like adding a rule "make sure there is at least 1 flagship per flotilla no matter what the player told you (except if you were told to have 0% of these)".

Another idea, maybe instead of percentages give descriptions to the interface? Like you can set for each fleet "none/minimum/optimum/maximum flagships" and "none/few/some/many destroyers/cruisers/battleships". Then the AI would interpret these descriptions reasonably (so no 0 flagships in a fleet or a fleet that has 1 flagship and 1 combat ship).

Also, if needed (I don't like it) I could allow the AI to do not fill a flotilla (if the forces are spread too thin already, if it does not have a full squadron available (1 flagship, 3 capital ships, 8 escort ships) it would not add any ships to a flotilla at all and spread these between other, already operational, flotillas).

 

 

Scrapping & obsoleting ships

How about some sort of preferences per ship type. You would have a list of all ship types (not just classes, Destroyer 1 and Destroyer 2 listed separately) and a checkbox next to each.

* If you check "allow scrapping" it means the AI would be allowed to destroy that ship (and regain some resources) if it feels it's not needed anymore (it does not mean the ship will be scrapped immediatelly after selecting that option, actually it might never got scrapped, it's just an option for the AI).

* If you check "obsolete" it means the AI is not allowed to put these ships in any new flotillas, even if there is a shortage and no other ships are available (it does not mean the existing obsolete ships will be removed from the fleets, but if these get removed/damaged/etc for any reason they are not going back, will stay in the central stockpile/reserve).

* If you check "allow production" (checked by default) it means the AI is allowed to produce this ship (probably used in rare occasions, like if you are about to research a new cruiser in a few turns and want to prevent the AI from producing the current ones and do not weant to mess up with the desired percentage/ratio of cruisers in existing fleets).

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I feel like considering crew. I have some ideas that are already in plenty of existing games that probably fit the bill.

 

The new crew could be randomly generated. Or they could just as easily be standard, the game relying on the ship differences. As for standard, there could technically be no crew, the ships controlled by a central computer hub instead of pilots (I've seen this). The following only applies to individuals being randomly generated.

 

The personal history of every member being generated. Full text for anyone but unique crew members would be over-embellishing. A simplified version is having pre-stats rolled, this gives them variable aptitude. Stats could mean just about anything, from just a few skills necessary for their job, to every single aspect of their character that determined what job they'd take.

 

That's all vague right now, but if the crew is able to function as separate party members, this is where there is some way to tell who's better, who's elite.

 

The possible crew member histories are game-dependent, so I can't really give a valid example.

 

I'll use Dwarf Fortress as an example. The legendary iron colossus killed 2 princesses and sacked 3 towns, then after 350 years of wandering aimlessly he finds some dwarves dug into his precious iron molehill. He seems to be in pretty good condition, considering his bad eating habit. But 10 legendary wrestlers who do nothing but talk and wrestle all day make quick work exhausting it, and deafening it. We could somehow extract the bones, but the giant corpse had to be composted because the chefs were too busy taking sacks of 10 seeds and putting them in the 86 seed sacks from the sack containers.

 

More importantly, the dwarf who dealt the killing blow has it on record that he shouted the loudest when it fell.

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The new crew could be randomly generated. Or they could just as easily be standard, the game relying on the ship differences. As for standard, there could technically be no crew, the ships controlled by a central computer hub instead of pilots (I've seen this). The following only applies to individuals being randomly generated.

The personal history of every member being generated. Full text for anyone but unique crew members would be over-embellishing. A simplified version is having pre-stats rolled, this gives them variable aptitude. Stats could mean just about anything, from just a few skills necessary for their job, to every single aspect of their character that determined what job they'd take.
Heh, a nice concept :) But if there are 200 ships, each with 100-500 crewmen then it will be simply way too much to degiest by the player... Note that DF has like 150 dwarves max, here we are talking about tenths of thousands at minimum (and what if the fleet consists of 10,000 heavy dreadnoughts each holding 2,000 crewmen)?

I was thinking about something like this, but with captains only (and governors of planets).

 

But yeah, overall this conept fits the automation mechanic for sure.

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I would give the planets each some command point(maximum fleet size) then let the player set the exact amount of ships in every fleet and just let them be build.

 

I'm not realy expecting huge fleets so build-order would be qeued by incoming "orders"(replacements needed)

If expecting bigger fleets i would try to have all different ship-types be built simultaneously(because i already limit fleets in size)

 

The player can just select any ship to be send back to it's homeworld and be dismantled(probably just a buildbonus on the next ship of that type) and thus replaced.

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I would give the planets each some command point(maximum fleet size) then let the player set the exact amount of ships in every fleet and just let them be build.
You might be getting new planets over time, also planets should not be equal in command points production (an outpost should give far less than an old established metropoly), this might lead to hell micromanagement of all fleets each turn, or almost each turn.

 

But apart form it, I wonder, why is there such "resistance" against any proportional/percentage system? Isn't it more fun than setting equal units for each fleet? Or maybe the whole concept of "let the player tell what kind of fleet he wants and the game will try to build one for him" is flawed? Or maybe it's too confusing?

 

I'm asking because I want to establish if it is only me who likes this concept and normal players would not find it appealing at all? Or if there are only objections to details (how exactly it should work) but the overall concept is very appealing to you?

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You might be getting new planets over time, also planets should not be equal in command points production (an outpost should give far less than an old established metropoly), this might lead to hell micromanagement of all fleets each turn, or almost each turn.

New planets isn't a real problem, the player should still have *something* to do.

And yes, if commandpoints would just slowly grow over time, the micromanagement would be huge.

Then again, i do believe there will be *some* kind of planet-management, just need to allign those to not burden the player.

 


But apart form it, I wonder, why is there such "resistance" against any proportional/percentage system? Isn't it more fun than setting equal units for each fleet? Or maybe the whole concept of "let the player tell what kind of fleet he wants and the game will try to build one for him" is flawed? Or maybe it's too confusing?

I like the concept, but i already had fleet-size per planet because it fits in an idea of mine, and i got lazy :P
Thing is you'll (first) need to know very well what you wanna give the player(aka how random the ship building will be) then make a long "prioritising-formula" to get it exactly right and if i tried to describe it i 'd probably fill a page with it.(and then you re like:but it doesn't seem random enough :P )

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@ Acharis

I'm reevaluating the concept again.

 

The disadvantage for automation has always been if a human could do it better, they will perceive an error.

 

The impact successful automation has is you end up replacing human control.

 

We're trying to figure out how to remove the player from ship-building, right? This is perfectly sensible if the ship building were a small part of the game, not central to the experience a player has. So the game couldn't be represented as a traditional rts micromanagement game, seeing how those decisions would be central to the gameplay experience a player would expect.

 

Let me know if that made sense.

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Well... that's just what I want. A system where the player sets up some ratio of ships and chooses upgrades on general level and then the game produces the ships and sends these in unified "packs" (for example: 1 flagship+2 battleships+8 destroyers) wherever the player desires.

 

Hmm, thing is, it determines the fleet-ratio which is send to fight/defend/explore/etc, you're not sending ships, you're sending pre-made fleets, so the player has even less control unless you allow a multitude of different fleets, in which case you better allow any ship to be send.

 

Compare to my idea, which is much the same, but the fleets are actually tied to planets, so the fleets realy do behave differently, and it will make sense to the player instead of feeling like an (artificial) construction. (Different fleets aren't realy helping the player, but they can be part of the difficulty/challenge)
(fleets tied to planet, i guess i should elaborate;max range from home-planet, bonus while defending own planet, plus fleet-strength/composition will also be determined by resources available on the home planet)

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"The disadvantage for automation has always been if a human could do it better, they will perceive an error."

Only if the automation is an option, not if automation is the only way to do it.

 

Do you remember a game on Amiga called Lemmings? These blue "peoples" were beyond total idiots. And the player's job was to not make them (all) die horribly and in a completely stupid way (like falling down the cliff they obviously see). It didn't feel wrong or an error. The imperfection of the automation was the part of the game (actually the core of that game :D).

You could not micromanage there, you could not manually order these stupid lemming to turn left or right, you could not take over a single lemming (each order was a limited and scarce commodity). The automation there was not an option, it was the only way to interact with the game.

 

 

"so the player has even less control unless" and "to get it exactly right"

Yes, less control and not exactly right/perfect/accurate. That's the core idea. The player gives orders/priorites and the AI executes it, but never perfectly accurate to what the player wanted exactly.

 

Yes, the player moves premade packs of ships, not single ships and yes, he can't send a single ship on a recon mission. Althrough, the different fleets (red, blue, yellow) can be composed differently so he could make very small/weak blue fleet and use the blue flotillas as cheap recon formations.

 

 

 

That's the core idea, so, what you think? Will it be fun? Is it worth pursuing?

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Tie the different fleets to something that seperates them.

Maybe needing a refuel-ship for each flotilla, influencing max. flotilla-size & max. range of different flotilla's.

Maybe even put bigger engines in the grey fleet so they 're faster.

 

Make it so, that at some point, let's say the player needs to put his ships in defensive positions,

he will actually want more of flotilla's from yellow to stack  them on his planets,

he wants some flotilla's of grey because they're fast and puts them on the planets that could be surprise-attacked,

while he can see the attacks on other planets coming and can move grey flotillas to help defend(but not yellow, since they have tiny engines and are too slow)

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That's the core idea, so, what you think? Will it be fun? Is it worth pursuing?

 

I can't answer this directly because it's not the way I'd think.

 

The concept of automation is worth pursuing, even in a narrow scope such as ship building, for the purpose of simulating.  Adjusting the fleet composition would allow changes in a simulation for your game. The control given to the player are (some) fleet composition variables, so they would have control over that simulation.

 

That's all I'm really sure we went over so far.  The game would be defined by more intricate details.  It's my opinion that if those details didn't all come together, it would still be possible to make a fun game.

 


Do you remember a game on Amiga called Lemmings?

 

If I make a comparison here, it'd have to be that the game Lemmings was a physics puzzle, the simulation was gravity which was meant to be circumvented by building and digging. What we might might have is an economy puzzle, the simulation being everything the player can't change directly but would attempt to through all decisions being made.

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Make it so, that at some point, let's say the player needs to put his ships in defensive positions,
he will actually want more of flotilla's from yellow to stack them on his planets,
he wants some flotilla's of grey because they're fast and puts them on the planets that could be surprise-attacked,
while he can see the attacks on other planets coming and can move grey flotillas to help defend(but not yellow, since they have tiny engines and are too slow)
Yes, yes, exactly :)

 

The player says that the Yellow fleet is defensive force and should have heavy defence, the Grey fleet should be fast and have the best survival pods since heavy casualties are expected due to light armour, the Red fleet is the invasion force and should have best weapons, elite crew, contingent of Space Marines and pink toilet paper because that's the favourite colour of the admiral :)

(and then the Admiral of the Red fleets gets constantly frustrated becasue the pink toilet paper is soo low on the priority queue that factories produce only some stupid shields and warp drives and never deliever any pink toilet paper :D)

 

And all these are "said" by the player. "Ordered" to be made. Without all this horribly tedious "let's move the newly produced Fury of The Emperor #416 battleship to fleet A, but wait fleet Z just lost a flagship so maybe move it there instead" and repeat it for every single ship every single turn :)

Same strategic decision, but almost no micromanagement. Also less perfect execution and less direct control over which small ship is where at the moment.

 

 

I'm looking for mechanic and interface that would allow something like this.

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The game would be defined by more intricate details. It's my opinion that if those details didn't all come together, it would still be possible to make a fun game.

Hm? It could be a fun game even if details don't fully work together? I haven't looked at it this way... but you might be right...

This automation thing an indirect control over fleet building seems quite fun (at least to me biggrin.png) and even if all together not working seamlessly it might still be a fine game...

 

 

 

If I make a comparison here, it'd have to be that the game Lemmings was a physics puzzle, the simulation was gravity which was meant to be circumvented by building and digging. What we might might have is an economy puzzle, the simulation being everything the player can't change directly but would attempt to through all decisions being made.

LOL, I haven't thought about Lemmings as physics & gravity puzzle, but now that you mentioned it it actually was like that smile.png

As for what we discuss here being a puzzle, I only partially agree. I mean, Lemmings was pure puzzle, you have X parachutes and a map designed to require all/most of these. What I mean is a strategy with many ways of victory and random scenarios, not a hand crafted puzzle. More randomized and unpredictable I guess.

 

 

 

Tie the different fleets to something that seperates them.

I was thinking about it more and yeah, allowing the player making *distinctive* fleets is important.

 

I got also this idea, not sure if it's a goood one. How about adding a "marker" to a flotilla? Like you have this Red fleet (with all priorities, compoisition of ships, etc), but in addition you can mark that 2nd Red flotilla is supposed to be "Recon" while 3rd and 4th "Combat". So, in addition to the Fleet setup the flotilla would be altered by the "designation/subtype/role/specialization" of the Flotilla.

So the Red Fleet would have fast ships (setup) and when you designate (per flotilla) the 2nd Red flotilla as "Recon", so it would get even more fast ships (and lighter armanent) since it's supposed to fill a role of fast recon formation (of an already fast Red Fleet).

Not sure about it through...

Edited by Acharis
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It sounded like supply automation is not in debate yet. The easiest solution would be to use the natural answer gained by imitating the automated ship production we've already theorized.

 

Give the player something to vaguely choose how well ships are equipped, call it fleet supplies. In the fleet supplies you'd remotely equip a ship by selecting core component, offensive, defensive, and luxury/misc. supply priorities. The automation takes over and the player uses whatever he gets.

 

There could be more, but the difference in each supply I listed is as follows:

core components, anything that the ship requires - e.g. personnel, fuel

offensive, e.g. armaments, weapons grade materials including mines

defensive, e.g. life pods, reactive armor, shields

luxury, e.g. the pink toilet paper, hot baths, cars

misc, unusual things, or things that aren't usually available - e.g. non-essential personnel ("scientists"), multifaceted experimental drones, something required to begin a story mission like a key item. Or for modding and testing purposes, something made up on the spot.

 

Hypothetically you might want personnel levels and missions. But if not, ignore what I say below.

 

The vague system could make things more precise with priority, clearance level, and tech level. Although, this would only be necessary if the system allowed tech level 4 gear to be installed in a tech level 5 ship or vice-versa. The clearance levels would determine if say a level 3 fleet commander could take on a level 10 mission. The priorities are the only fairly obvious bit, if a fleet needs 100% of its weapons, it gets them.

 

So, for an initial implementation I think you'd want to obscure the missions and tech levels to the player, and you'd only give them control over priorities. Having the other two properties of the supplies chain existing, displayed, yet still automated.

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Below I ignored personnel, fuel, missions for now. It's only about components (mechanical stuff you install on ships).

 

 

Production & budget

I think there should be two completely separate production facilities: shipyards (produce ships) and factories (produce equipment you install on ships). It would give more control to the player (on the ratio of ships to equipment) plus it's intuitive and realistic (orbital shipyards make hulls and ground factories equipment to install on these hulls).

Also, when idle these should produce civilian goods (actually, I feel the player should be encouraged to keep like 25% of these permanently idle for purpose of supplying civilian sector and switch to 100% only during wartime). Anyway, they player would not be punished for not having a perfect ratio of shipyards to factories.

 

As for budget, I think there should be a numeric [$1,000,000] general military budget (production of new stuff) and then a percenatge [40%/60%] budget for shipyards & factories. So, when there is lack of resources the player can tamper with just the general military spending slider while the ratios of production would remian constant.

Also, since factories & shipyards can produce civilian goods, whenever you have too low budget to use these at full capacity these would automaticly produce resources (civilian goods/income) which later allows you to increase the military spending (a nice self balancing system without micromanagement).

 


by selecting core component, offensive, defensive, and luxury/misc. supply priorities. The automation takes over and the player uses whatever he gets.
I'm not sure, I was thinking more of mutually exclusive choices (if you installed heavy armor there is not enough room for weapons; besides, if you have heavy armours you might want life pods as well I suppose), it might be more fun/reasonable this way... On the other hand having slots and saying that Hull type X can always have at least one shield and it does not limit the number of other components is fun too... Maybe some mix of these (tonnage & slots)?

 

Also, I was thinking of not having priorities for all things (if the choice is obvious).

For example, reactors (delivers energy). These could be fully automated, like if a ship has lots of weapons the AI installs a better reactor, when it has too much power it uninstalls current reactor and installs a weaker one instead (the AI would try to always install the weakest reactor that meets the energy criteria).

Or (more complex, not sure if it's good) boosters. The player would have a slider "optimum speed" for each fleet. The AI will try to add to that fleet ships that meet this criteria and if the ship is too slow it would add engine boosters as the first priority (overriding other priorities like weaponry and armour).

 

With this system I guess there would need to be some feedback system. So the AI can report to the player "we are having not enough reactors of power 40 or higher" or "more engine boosters would be nice". Then the player could adjust production priorities or budget or build more factories or order researching better reactors.

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I can't really see a flaw, but it seems overloaded with extra details.

 

  • You have the mutually exclusive design component, this would be a slots based ship layout system, and it works fine.
  • The civilian supplies would indicate there are extra economic behaviors established in the intended game, I think this means production of useless goods would be avoided in favor of these boosting goods.
  • The feedback system mentioned could occur, but I think it'd be easier to represent in strings of numbers.
  • You said something about a general military budget, but that seems to be the only budget we have to look at anyway.

Something about mentioning the player decides anything other than the ships, it just seems off-topic. So if you want to have the player to do those things, it is fine.

 

But I think it could just as easily be: player picks fleet, everything bends to make it work and it could even have a time prediction when it's done, [insert game, obstacles / something tempting the player to continue, maybe even a sandbox].

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You have the mutually exclusive design component, this would be a slots based ship layout system, and it works fine.
Yeah, but how exactly visualize it (interface)... And are these slot filled by the player or by AI?

 


The feedback system mentioned could occur, but I think it'd be easier to represent in strings of numbers.
I have two objections. First, the player needs to understand these numbers :) Second (far more important), isn't it cool that you (the player) are some sort of emperor sitting on your throne and there is your minister coming to you each turn giving you a report on production.

 

Also, numbers can't tell you everything. If I tie the AI logs to "reports" then I can show the player where exactly the production AI has a problem (AIs are rarely perfect, by the numbers it might look all right sometimes and it might be a situation easy to handle by the human, but for AI it might be sometimes an obstacle it can't deal with), so, this "report" is also a sort of "AIs cry for human help" :)

 


You said something about a general military budget, but that seems to be the only budget we have to look at anyway.
Research budget, recreation budget (so people don't rebel), spy network budget, indusutry & infrastructure budget (buildings new shipyards & factories). There will be no shortage of these :)

 


Something about mentioning the player decides anything other than the ships, it just seems off-topic. So if you want to have the player to do those things, it is fine.

But I think it could just as easily be: player picks fleet, everything bends to make it work and it could even have a time prediction when it's done, [insert game, obstacles / something tempting the player to continue, maybe even a sandbox].
I have a problem deciding what kind of level of control the palyer should have. We can discuss it.

 

My only/primary goal is that there are no trivial decisions to make, boring stuff to deal with and chores to do (like manual replacement of old ships, moving ship one by one, etc). The rest is negotiatable :D

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My only/primary goal is that there are no trivial decisions to make, boring stuff to deal with and chores to do (like manual replacement of old ships, moving ship one by one, etc). The rest is negotiable biggrin.png

In 2002 I made a game with similar premise and it was fun. The fun factor was that in that game, the player could manually pilot any unit and fight with the squadron and the fleet. The player could freely change their role to match the actions in the game.

 

1. The player can choose what and where to build (How much resource to spend on infrastructure, defense, and offense)

2. The player can choose the composition and formation of each fleet and squadron

3. The player can choose the command structure and engagement pattern of the fleet and squadron

4. The player can override and specify which target for a fleet/squadron to attack first

5. The player can override and pilot any individual unit and fight manually like an arcade game

 

One of the design decisions I made was to expose the decision points as physical objects in the game. Instead of interacting with a GUI to select what to do, the player makes decision by physically building stuff on the map. The implementation allows a player to tactically select what part of the enemy to disturb by destroying specific targets in the game.

 

In the end, I found that I just wanted to fight with a fleet in 5 minute sessions. I liked piloting a battle ship to destroy a base while being protected by small fighters. I liked piloting a small fighter with a squadron to attack battleships, or to protect supply ships from enemy small fighters. So I ended up setting up scenarios and just fight.

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Yeah, but how exactly visualize it (interface)... And are these slot filled by the player or by AI?

 

Ok here's the simplest answer to this question.

 

http://i.imgur.com/sZpIp6R.png

 

The slot component system has a market weight limit, and a specific number of empty boxes to fill. Weight is a common element in the slot system, better equipment tends to be heavier so your performance is limited. If you've ever played a game where you had to equip only 1 item per hand and wear specific equipment, it's really the same thing, but now you need to visualize the ship instead of a human. Each ship has base stats. Of course, equipping components tends to improve the ship's total stats.

 

Here's the program logic. Each ship is a collection of empty slots, the ship may be a class. A slot has / is accessed by a public method for accepting a component. If a component of the engine type were entered into a missile bay it'd be rejected, it's an improper parameter. But the missile bay could have accepted bombs and missiles if it were programmed to (it would say bombs/missiles).

 

The diagram is also a double for a user interface of the slots system. The AI would only need to understand the public methods, or how many empty slots the ship has. (In a short stretch, empty land can contain only so many factories, zoning land is also the component slots system)

 

If the player were having any hand in designing the ship, they'd see this. If the AI was designing the ship based on what it's told then it would only have to understand this and have an optimized input method, reading the ship class and then adding the proper components in.

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