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Acharis

How to greatly reduce fleet micromanagement?

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It's about 4x games.

 

It usually/always looks like that: you have thousand planets on every one you produce some ship, every turn they produce new ships and you send them all in one direction (front line), it takez zillion turns for them to reach the destination half the way they become obsolete :D I'm exaggerating of course but not that much. And there is also all this managing these ships aftey the finally arrive (splitting/merging fleets, changing composition, retrofitting/scrapping outdated ones).

How to fix it? How to make it not a chore? How to keep the fun and interesting choices while getting rid of everything else?

 

 

Generally, it's all about giving the player options to build right ships and deliver them to the right place at the right moment, everything else is just an excessive fat.

 

 

My ideas:

- building ships - it should not be done on planets but on shipyards (only few planets would have these), shipyards draw resources/production from plantes and produce ships, all the ships in one place (or in more, each shipyard could produce separately), the important thing is shipyards can produce infinite number of ships per turn (it's all about production value of all planets). I would also go as far as magically teleporting new ships directly to the fleet.

- formations instead of units - instead of moving units separately and form fleets from there let's create empty fleets/flotillas first and then assign a certain proportion of ships to each fleet (and let the computer worry to deliever these there) - althrough I have no idea how it could work in details :)

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I think star drive did the whole building thing quite well. You would design your ships and design fleets from those ships. Then you could just acquire all free ships of missing types to the fleet or decide to have them built. That means, that one could quite easily reclaim whole fleets. What it doesn't solve is the "depracated before battle" problem, but that comes down to a too fine Research tree. That is, when you have lots of updates akin to 5% more accuracy which need to be installed and they are quick to research, then of course you will run into that problem.

As a solution you could have the incremental updates deploy directly (reconfiguring the weapons and stuff as opposed to installing new ones) and have the bigger upgrades take longer to research but bring some real game changers to the table.

As long as you have slow ships and fast research you will always run into this problem, if the research doesn't directly deploy to the front.

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I'm a big fan of tech upgrades affecting existing ships - particularly drive technology. There is nothing more annoying than having to dig through the fleet interface to split off that one ship with the lvl 1 drive that is slowing your entire fleet to a crawl.

 

The alternate solution would be to sharply limit the number of tech levels (say, 3 levels of drive tech only), and space those levels far enough apart that you don't tend to have multiple drive levels overlapping.

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A combination of Galactic Civ II and a stardrive would be best I think.  In galactic civ II you could set you focus which determines the allocation weapons and defence and the game generated ships for you that met that focus each time you researched a new technology.  Develop a better shield and all your star fighter mark I in production get upgraded to mark II.

 

Something like that I think would be be good but more detailed.  In the designer view you have the option to use upgrade stubs rather then specific items. Those stubs will automaticly use the best available tech as it becomes available. A place an engine stub on your fighter and the design will always include the best engines as you research them.  Along with this refits and upgrades to existing ships should be automatic when at starbase or shipyard.

 

Stardrive had a fleet design system where you designed whole fleets and could place order to build, replace, and requisitions ships for those fleets.  So if you design a fleet of a hundred ships you can press one button and it will send build orders to your shipyards making fleets easier to manage, since you didn't have to worry about individual vessels. 

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I think it would be interesting to do interstellar travel like in The Algebraist (Iain M. Banks).  (And in other books too, I think, but I can't think of which at the moment.)  The civilization can stretch tiny spacetime flaws into wormholes, and travel is instantaneous between wormhole gates, BUT the gates have to be built together and one end has to be towed slowly to the next system.  So it would take your empire some time to expand your network to planet X, but once you've got a gate at planet X it doesn't take any time to get a new ship from planet A to join the planet X fleet.

 

On the other hand, the gates aren't that large, individually, so you can't just warp an entire battlefleet to Planet X unless you've got a lot of gates there.  So every battle isn't the entire empire against the entire empire, you still have to position guards at your borders, especially to guard those fragile gates.  It's just that you don't have to wait a dozen turns for a new ship from your industrial core to make it to the border, and nor is it particularly important to give ships different speeds.  

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To simplify fleet management, maybe explore commanders and rank. When a flotilla wins a skirmish the surviving captains earn rank for the victory, these commanding officers return to a shipyard to find the shiny new ships you've commissioned and dock their corvettes and supporting detail. Your own rank increases from commander to rear admiral and you now have squadron at your command and all your commanders now have task elements of their own to command. The increase in rank allow the player to feel connected to characters instead of just unit types or formation types. As you move up in rank you are tasked with logistical consideration of not only what to build and where to put it but also, who should command it. This simplifies fleet management since the player is always only really in command of a dozen or so individual units, however as rank increases that dozen change from single role ships to outfitted fleets of their own. Players can select a commander and micro manage their units/formations or simply put that commander in the right place at the right time with the knowledge that they know how to handle their own units. Hope that made sense.

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I'd suggest adding a step between research and ship production: ship design. Make it a slow process. Some engineers somewhere figuring out how to wire those components you chose together in a way that doesn't blow up or run out of juice. This means there will be less distinct ship designs. Allow the player to select ships by ship type, e.g. combine them into a squadron or fleet to control together, or fly them all back to the shipyard to get an upgrade. I like the idea of relatively few shipyards, because they become a strategic resource that can be attacked or embargoed. 

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I'd check out freeorion.org . The whole game is tailored around the concept of minimizing micro-management. It is not quite there, but you can surely get some ideas from there, I bet.

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I have checked Star Drive, it indeed does what I described. But... well, how to say it, I'm not sure how to put it, well, I simply didn't like it :) I didn't like it at all, actually I preferred thousand times the mincromanagement in MOO2 style. It was a real chore, all these idiotic ships (especially freighters) going absolutely everywhere without me knowing what is where, what is it doing and generally me getting completely lost. That game made me snap.

 

You know, maybe it's not the micromanagement that bothers me, or maybe not the only one, I think it might be the useless level of detail. There are these ships moving around between fleets or planets and being displayed on the map. What for? I don't care, I simply don't care :) I want the game to give me a simple tool to say "I want fleet A to have supersonic fields and station on borders with Xeonants and the fleet B to have powerful beam weapons and continue my conquest of Antarians". I don't want to be bothered by these zillions ships crawling on the map doing their things (I can play Prison Architect if I wanted this, it's done million times better there).

 

I realized, as a player I want these:

- fleets - and not lame "Fleet 1", "Fleet 2", I want these fleets to be cute and unique and distinctive, with their special abilities, history, tradition, banner, training, attached units.

- admirals - I don't care what for, I want each fleet to be lead by an admiral, so I can look at their faces after a lost battle knowing who is guilty of wasting my marvelous plan and say "you failed me, you failed me bro" and then click one of numerous buttons describing in what way such admiral will be executed :)

- ability to split/merge a fleet (but only within same fleet) so I can send part of it to another system

- some easy way to replace/upgrade ships within a fleet

- I can accept some hidden "moving single ships behind the scenes" because it might be needed to avoid abuse, or some delay of arriving ships to the fleet, but hidden, secondary, I don't want this trash on the main map, I don't want to be bothered that these small single ships are crossing enemy zone to join the fleet and die intercepted, I don't, I don't care about such level of detail, I don't want such simulation that forces me to care where a single ship goes! Give me some penalty to a whole fleet "fleet inside enemy zone/route to the nearest starbase broken -50% to ships arrival time" and that's it, but please, don't make me *think* on single ship level!

 

In short, no to automation, yes to abstraction & simplification :)

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I recently played Sins of the Solar empire rebellion (curse you steam sale!!) and felt disappointed but it got me thinking.  The back bone of your fleet in that game are capital ships and each race has 6 different types and can have at most 12 in play at once I think.  But it all feels rather flat and boring and usually just left it to the AI to fight all the battles.

 

But then I read your last post and remembered Battlestar Galatica.  What about a fleet management system that was like that? Each Fleet has its core 1 or more capital ships and a number of support ships. The player customizes their flag ship with all the bells and whistles they want chooses an admiral and the support ships and that's its.

 

The admiral would have a command point rating which is the total amount points you have to spend on that fleet as they level up they gain special abilities, contacts, and increased command points.  

 

Support ships could take many forms.

  • Fuel ships - that increase range
  • Munitions Ships - That provide rearming outside of starbases
  • Scout ships - search nearby systems
  • Assulat Craft - For boarding enemy vessels
  • Strike vessels - small fast attackers
  • Carriers - Carrying wings of bombers and fighters
  • Civilian ships - for colonizing planets.

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Many RTS games let you tell your production buildings where to automatically make the produced units travel to when they spawn. This is usually done per-building.

 

However, with battles fought on many fronts, you should be able to place global "rally points". Instead of setting locations per-building, you set multiple rally points and buildings (or spaceyards in your game) would send their produced units to the nearest rally point (even if it's across multiple parsecs of space). You should be able to manually override it for buildings, telling a specific building to send their units to a different rallypoint even if there are nearer ones, but in general as your "frontlines" of war move, you (the player) can just shift your various rally points around - say, a half dozen of them for different lines of war.

 

I generally like the idea of fleets being composed of ships in various states of advancement and various states of age and dilapidation. However, if it decreases the enjoyablillity in one area of the game (some ships slowing down entire fleets), work around that flaw to make the game enjoyable even if you have to do some handwaving (make entire fleets move at their combined averaged speed, or at 0.75 of the difference between the fastest and slowest ship).

Edited by Servant of the Lord

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Servent, one good example of this is the new Planetary Annihilation. The player can double click any structure(like mass selecting units) to select all alike structures (SCII does this as well if I'm not mistaken). Once the player has mass selected the production structures they can then not only select a group rally but create queued rally location and/or patrol areas for all units produced to move or attack-move to. Its a great system in real time and I can only imagine it would be useful for turn based as well.

 

As for unit speed, I've always thought it would be interesting to have variable control of unit speed using the mouse wheel (or something of the sort). It would be interesting to be able to push ships beyond their engines capability at the risk of a meltdown. The variable control of the mouse wheel could be case sensitive as well. Cursor over friendly ship to adjust shields, cursor over enemies to adjust power to weapons, group select and micro a squad of starfighters to "set shields double front" or "go in full throttle this time, that should help keep those fighters off our back", etc.

Edited by Mratthew

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This topic made me realize it's the "thinking of individual ships" that I loathe.

 

How a "real" imperial campaign looks like. The Grand Admiral is sitting in front of a holo-something and sees the insignia of formations (in land military the smallest unit at this level is division) grouping tenths of thousands of ships, he/she does not see individual ships, actually, the high command doesn't even have access to that information! Line commanders DO NOT pass to the high command the information where each solder is or a platoon or a company. Actually, the high command does not even communicate with line commanders directly at all :)

 

And how it looks in games? You feel like a low level logistic officer that needs to act because the supply of toilet paper on some small frigate is running low...

 

I generally like the idea of fleets being composed of ships in various states of advancement and various states of age and dilapidation.
Yeah, I like it too for some reason. Some rusty outdated ships have an appeal of some sort I suppose :)

 

 

BTW: I propose to split the Speed of fleets discussion to there: http://www.gamedev.net/topic/658326-speed-of-fleets/ since it seems to be a bigger issue.

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