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SirWeeble

Realistic space battles - fun or not?

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I'm not developing a game on this idea, and likely won't for the foreseeable future, but it's something I've mused about and researched for a long while. I wanted to share it and see if anyone else thinks there's room for an interesting game within the speculative fiction.

 

Star-wars/Star-trek-esque space battles are cool and interesting, but essentially the paradigm of "fleet battles" has been trapped in WW2 naval-battle iconology for nearly a century. Even modern full scale naval battles wouldn't be anything like this, so any depiction of space battles using ww2 style fleets is just as likely as them lining up in massed infantry battles in space.

 

From what I've researched, if in the future there were space battles, they would occur at mind-boggling ranges. 10,000 or 100,000 miles or more. Fighting would probably be very slow and i would take hours or days for the shots to reach their target. Spaceships would likely be coated in light or radar absorbing materials to prevent detection and the majority of the "battle" would be focused on spotting an enemy target, calculating trajectories and alternate trajectories, firing, and waiting for results. Staying stealthy would also be a big focus. The more shots you fire, the more likely you will be spotted and fired upon. There would likely be some sort of counter-measures if you can detect incoming missiles (which would presumably have a heat signature), but projectiles would not be detectable. Too small and no heat signature.

 

It seems that mass-drivers and missiles would be the only realistic weapons to use, although lasers would be a possibility, but they wouldn't be nearly as damaging.

 

Defenses would likely consist of surprisingly primitive things. Chaff would likely defect or soften mass-driver rounds. If a 4-inch mass driver hits a pebble-sized chaff while moving at 5,000 mph, the impact speed would likely shatter the mass-driver round or knock it off course. Reflective or particle chaff would be an effective counter to lasers, and lasers would probably be the defense of choice against missiles.

 

Armor would more than likely be useless, as almost any hit would have the impact power of a nuclear weapon.

 

It seems that ships would likely be fairly small. Likely modern-spaceship sized with weapons attached. Probably quite ugly, and utilitarian. I would imagine a fairly small crew as well Maybe 3-5 people. If they were meant to operate in space for an extended period, the bulk of the craft would be the living quarters. 

 

The only way I imagine this being any fun would be as a simulator-like real-time strategy style game (that can fast forward) Either controlling  a handful of ships or controlling one from FPS mode from inside the cockpit - but interfacing the controls to access the "strategy" game. I imagine something with the tenseness of the "Hunt for Red October", or "Crimson Tide", or other similar submarine battle movies.

 

I've a few ideas for such a game for a while, but never started prototyping it because my fear is that while i would intend for it to reflect tense submarine battles in slo-mo, it might end up playing like a really boring and slow version of Battleship (the board game).

 

 

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You really should get a prototype up and running fast.

 

I tried to make a hacking game that was real.  So boring.

In my experience, the more realism, the less fun it is.  

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As long as there is no concept of shield/deflector/absorber/whatever, any space battle would be throwing rock to each other from your glass castles.

 

Without this all I can come up with atm is a cloak and dagger game also involving using gravitation of planets (to speed up, to crash) , astroid belts, black holes and stars.

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As long as there is no concept of shield/deflector/absorber/whatever, any space battle would be throwing rock to each other from your glass castles.

That's roughly what modern surface warfare looks like (supposing we still had large naval engagements). A direct hit with a single anti-ship missile is enough to take out at least frigate and destroyer class vessels, and as ships generally lack the speed and maneuverability to evade incoming missiles, they must rely on point-defence systems and electronic countermeasures to survive.

 

(if you are interested in the real-world context, both the Yom Kippur/Ramadan war and the Falklands war are instructive as to this form of warfare)

 

Especially given the range of aircraft and missiles in this day and age, warfare is heavily centered on intel and air superiority. If you know where the enemy is before they know where you are, and you have the air superiority to reach them, then you have a near-insurmountable advantage.

 

In terms of a space game, this starts to look, as you say, as a game of stealth and positioning. You want to remain undetected while finding the enemy, and when you find them/are found, you want to be in a position where it's easy to chuck missiles at them (i.e. down a gravity well), and hard for them to return fire.

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"Realistic Space Battles" look rather dull, seeing as they don't exist and therefore don't happen. 

 

However, since that is an overly boring answer it is better to start looking at how technology could advance and make warfare something remotely worthwhile.

 

Something that is often overlooked during these conversations is the more "Geo-political" angle. On earth we have conflicts because people with different views and goals are close enough that they can actually "do something about it", which in turn rather frequently results in warfare as the easiest answer. "They can't be right if they're dead!" kind of solutions to problems.

 

So, Why is there a conflict? Why is anyone so angry at, or scared of, someone else that they're willing to invest the time an energy into trying to kill them when there are several AU or more between each other most of the time? Start with the question of "What could possibly drive us to spend that much time and energy to even try fighting a war", and then look to what technology you might have and want to use to fight that.

 

Energy, relativity, and Delta-V all start to really matter when it comes to figuring out how to fight a war. And if you develop some kinds of technology, then it is going to really have an impact on how two or more sides are going to duke it out. Highly intelligent nano-bots that are hard to detect? Well why even have a war when you can send a few merchant or diplomatic ships? 

 

So if you are going to start along the lines of designing a "Realistic" system, you're going to have to define what your realism is and what can be done within it.

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A realistic space combat game would be boring.

 

There would be no sound, for starters...

 

It would be like a very slow game of battleship.

 

Perhaps espionage would make it more fun, operatives on board the enemy ships with the goal of suicidal sabotage... 

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A realistic space combat game would be boring.

 

There would be no sound, for starters...

 

It would be like a very slow game of battleship.

 

Why should that make it boring? Board games also don't (usually) have sound. :)

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As long as there is no concept of shield/deflector/absorber/whatever, any space battle would be throwing rock to each other from your glass castles.

That's roughly what modern surface warfare looks like (supposing we still had large naval engagements). A direct hit with a single anti-ship missile is enough to take out at least frigate and destroyer class vessels, and as ships generally lack the speed and maneuverability to evade incoming missiles, they must rely on point-defence systems and electronic countermeasures to survive.

 

Considering there are no modern realistic tank simulators of note or modern battleship games, it's quite possible that the entire concept just ends up being boring. Modern air combat is very similar. They never see their target or who's shooting at them. Just a radar lock and missiles away. I imagine someone somewhere has set out and actually made realistic modern war machine games, but if they end up being boring and un-fun, we're unlikely to know about them.

 

I would imagine if you put the targets 1000s of miles apart, it just amplifies the eventlessness, but at least with sci-fi, there is room for fudging some details.

 

Luckless: while i didn't literally mean "realistic", but extrapolated realism. AKA hard sci-fi, just a very-hard version. In hardest-of-hard sci-fi standards, even Battlestar Galactica is a bit "soft". Faster than light travel is only possible if theoretical matter exists (like negative mass matter) or possibly the ability to enter a black hole (which would require FTL to reach). As well, the large "carrier" type ships in Battlestar Galactica would be a uselessly huge target.

 

I've sketched out several concepts and made a few prototype levels of hard-sci-fi game designs - with orbital colonies as the setting, but overall our solar system is extremely empty and boring.

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a-bomb pumped x-ray lasers was something talked about decades ago (and got into the sci-fi medias)

 

 

of course space warfare must have targets - planets/asteroids/space stations which being largely stationary (dont maneuver) offer their own different issues from ships (and non-military transport ships usually wont be as maneuverable, wont carry many weapons or be armors end are usually numerous as compared to military units)

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As long as there is no concept of shield/deflector/absorber/whatever, any space battle would be throwing rock to each other from your glass castles.

That's roughly what modern surface warfare looks like (supposing we still had large naval engagements). A direct hit with a single anti-ship missile is enough to take out at least frigate and destroyer class vessels, and as ships generally lack the speed and maneuverability to evade incoming missiles, they must rely on point-defence systems and electronic countermeasures to survive.

 

Considering there are no modern realistic tank simulators of note or modern battleship games, it's quite possible that the entire concept just ends up being boring. Modern air combat is very similar. They never see their target or who's shooting at them. Just a radar lock and missiles away. I imagine someone somewhere has set out and actually made realistic modern war machine games, but if they end up being boring and un-fun, we're unlikely to know about them.

 

 

On the naval side of things there was Dangerous Waters and Sub Command, though they were both released a while ago. I don't know of anything more recent than that. There were a few flight simulators in the '90s that were modern-ish, and pre-'90s (again on the naval front) there was Red Storm Rising, which I still play from time to time to this day in an emulator (the others are all so old that they mostly won't run on my PC).

Edited by Oberon_Command

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