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Believable/realistic fleet doctrine/tactics

Discussion in 'StarLife' started by GarfunkeL, Jul 26, 2011.

  1. GarfunkeL Racism Expert

    GarfunkeL
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    One thing I really liked in MoO3 over its predecessors was the scope of the fleet actions - something larger and grander than before. In both MoO1 and MoO2 it was fairly simple to come up with a all-around great ship after which you merely pumped up that single model out and then proceeded to curb-stomp all opposition. This is, of course, totally boring. Thus I hope that the fleet actions in your game would draw inspiration from late-WW2/early-Cold War-period instead of the more common Napoleonic-period or falling back for the trusty rock-paper-scissors-school. Hence, few ideas/points to consider:

    1) No boring "every weapon is equal if you research it enough"-syndrome, Space Empires being the epitome. Each weapon system should have a purpose for its existence.

    • Light-speed beam weaponry - most accurate but short range because of power issues, perfect for cooking warheads of missiles/frying small craft
    • Relative-speed kinetic weaponry - rail/coil guns, inaccurate but range practically unlimited, great for both surprise attacks from long distance (enemy is not evading) and for spamming important volumes of space
    • Missile weaponry - self-propelled and self-guided, can keep up with enemy evasive manoeuvres but is the slowest of the three and has limited range (propellant running out) but different warheads offer variety and good destructive capability, plus possibility of a stand-off strike

    At some point all energy-production issues are solved and you get laser-weapons that can pump out Petajoules of energy which will probably make every other weapon obsolete but that's an acceptable outcome of technological progress.

    2) Different ships for different purposes! As the danger of air power grew, some cruisers were modified, removing the large-calibre main guns and installing a ton of AA-guns instead, to quickly provide cover for battleships. This one aspect is somewhat decently covered in sci-fi games, notably in Homeworld but it is only one aspect. Electronic warfare should be an integral and important element of space fleet action - EM-spectrum is already a heavily contested battlefield and will probably not change in the future. Hence:

    • Reconnaissance - ships carrying large-array telescopes, IR-sensing domes, good old radar, et cetera. They don't need to get close to the enemy but the distances involved create lag, hence encouraging some Recon-boats to be sent closer.
    • Electronic warfare - ships with powerful transmitters, capable of sending out white noise signals to jam radar and radio, IR-transmitters that mask the real IR-signature of engines, highly luminous and reflective "wings" to fool telescopes, maybe coupled with detachable drones that can do the same in smaller scale. The enemy will know that something's going down but has no clue about the actual composition of your task force and cannot pre-target weapon systems. And how about a ECCM-boat that has nothing but bunch of tiny calibre railguns, used to pepper the enemy task force from a far, in the hopes of knocking out enough transmitters/electronics?
    • C4I - command, control, communications, computers and intelligence, basically battlefield command posts. There's going to be shitload of information flying everywhere in the middle of space combat. Already both air and naval battles employ dozens and dozens of people whose only mission is to observe the situation and maintain both situational awareness and keeping higher ups in the decision making loop while filtering unnecessary feedback. And yes, already most of them are just double-checking what the computers are doing. I wouldn't expect this to change, only to get worse. But in space, living space is much more costly so presumably combat ships would only house minimal command information centres - making lightly-armed C4I-ships reality. Using light-speed information networking systems, these ships and their crews gather all the information that Recon and ECM/ECCM-boats gather, analyse it and then issue suitable commands to other ships. Utilize a surgical strike before the opening of hostilities to remove the enemy's admiral and C4I-ship from play -> enjoy greater speed of action while your enemy is still muddling around. Would also be a priority target for any espionage operation.
    • Missile carriers - gigantic warehouse floating in space, with one side honeycombed with railguns and rest of the gargantuan tonnage devoted for missile storage - the railguns give the missiles initial direction and velocity, hence the ship itself can hang back and spit out ordnance, the missiles only activating after a certain time-period or receiving a laser-signal from the ship. This would mean that a conveniently placed ECM-boat could sneak between the coasting missiles and the command ship and then prevent the aforementioned signals from going across.

    Okay, I'm going to stop there before I get an erection. My point is that these sort of ships aren't anything new in sci-fi literature or even games but almost every game lacks enough simulationist elements in its combat model to actually warrant their usage. I'm not sure how detailed/tactical you want your combat to be so this might not be that relevant... but if you do go for a 3-D tactical space combat, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE use real physics! None of this "ships accelerate with visible engine exhausts towards each other, stop, turn on a dime, chase each other"-bullshit.

    3) Fleet maintenance - the reason why Britain managed to wage war over Falklands in 1982 and why US Navy can maintain several carrier battle groups around the globe is their extensive network of both supply bases but most importantly the unsung heroes of every naval conflict, the merchant marine which provides supply transports, fleet oilers and such. They ferry food, ammunition, spare parts, replacement crews, fuel and everything else that a fighting fleet needs. It's a great exercise in logistics to maintain few thousand sailors, aviators and marines on patrol at the Indian Ocean, now try to do it at Alpha Centauri. Yeah, some 4X games have abstract "supply points" that a ship has but then it has to return home and yeah, at least in SEIV you can create replenishment ships to keep your task forces going - but I'd like to see this aspect get at least equal, if not more, love than it got in SEIV. Again, depending on the level of detail you are going to aim but what I would love to see is the detail that was in Gary Grigsby's Pacific War/War on the Pacific, in which the AI created automatic supply convoys to your bases if they were not blockaded by naval/air units but you had to create manual replenishment convoys or otherwise your carriers wouldn't stay at sea for long. Escorting these and deciding where to do the critical resupply when everything is highly vulnerable, would be fantastic. Of course even the AI-run normal convoys should actually be present on the map/screen, ie vulnerable to sneaky interception by raiders, just like the normal day-to-day freight traffic between colonies. With a working supply system like this, your game does not need hard/soft-limits on fleet sizes because the more fleets you have and the larger they are, the more extensive your supply network - for each Yankee GI in Europe in 1944, there were almost ten others behind him, making sure he was fed, healthy, got dry boots and enough ammunition and received his pay - so the supply network balloons and gets expensive enough, forcing the player to either gamble on a shoe-string supply network or devote most of their resources to upholding the bloated monstrosity.


    Hmm, that was only 3 points, I thought I had more. Oh well, I guess the wall-o-text is rage-inducing enough at it is.
     
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  2. GarfunkeL Racism Expert

    GarfunkeL
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    Oh yeah, if you use Newtonian physics, it means that the fleets / ships will have to stick to their courses in a relatively early stage of any battle, making the recon/ECM-phase much more important, as major course corrections are very costly fuel-wise, if possible at all.

    If the combat is just like in MoO2, then almost everything I wrote above is just about meaningless, though, so it depends a lot on how detailed/tactical you want to make the combat model.
     
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  3. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    I want.
     
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  4. Norfleet Moderator

    Norfleet
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    The most consistently effective tactic across many games until you hit the magitech level is "run away, chuck long-range missiles at your enemy's faces". Short of hitting completely contrived, artificial barriers like the "Edge of the Map" syndrome (which is really stupid), if you are faster and outrange your opponents, they basically auto-lose.
     
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  5. Destroid Arcane

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    You should play Aurora GarfunkeL. It's like the Dwarf Fortress of 4x, from reading lets plays, sensors and electronic warfare is extremely important to the combat in that game.

    For some interesting takes on weapons in space combat, Attack Vector is a tabletop game designed to be as realistic as possible (Newtonian physics, 3d environment), and has a pretty good take on the strengths and weaknesses of energy/kinetic/missile weapons. The Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F Hamilton is not only an excellent space opera, but has a very reasonable take on newtonian combat, with a heavy emphasis on drone like missiles.

    I don't necessarily agree with GarfunkeL that Newtonian physics is the way to go, but the above sources are pretty interesting anyway.

     
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  6. GarfunkeL Racism Expert

    GarfunkeL
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    Hamilton didn't invent missile combat in space, though he's one of the better writers in utilizing it, especially on a larger scale - I suspect he was somewhat influenced by Clancy's Red Storm Rising, especially the scene between a USN task force and convoy and a swarm of Russian strategic bombers carrying sea skimmers.

    Thanks for the Aurora tip, here's the url for other interested parties, will definitely delve into this:
    http://aurorawiki.pentarch.org/index.ph ... Page#Links
     
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  7. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    Is Hamilton realistic or does he include superscience stuff like shields?

    Does Attack Vector have solitaire rules?
     
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  8. Destroid Arcane

    Destroid
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    He has superscience stuff - in the ships especially is a 'molecular bonding shield' which uses some sort of field to hold molecules together, but isn't a force field per se. There is also a lot of biotech (including ships, orbital habitats) in the setting, although most of the ships are not of this nature. There is also an FTL jump drive type deal but I don't remember how it works. In regular flight ships are restricted to the G-force that it's pilots can bear. He does quite a good job of making aliens seem alien, rather than space furries (in culture/behavoir, not appearance).

    Edit: Went and looked it up, they create wormholes and are able to jump ~15-20LY, but not too close to gravity wells. You shouldn't look up the tech though if you want to read the books (which you should! they are great), as there are a lot of spoilers.


    Attack Vector is a tabletop wargame, I don't see how it could be played on your own. I've never played it, but browsed the rules and scenarios a bit, a beginners game is a 1 vs 1 duel and I don't think any of the scenarios go above 3-4 ships per side.
     
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  9. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    The same way as a computer wargame - you have an AI decision table/flowchart and roll a dice.
     
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  10. Destroid Arcane

    Destroid
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    That doesn't sound fun at all.
     
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  11. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    Why?
     
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  12. Destroid Arcane

    Destroid
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    Because you will learn all of the AI rules and it will require you to do all the work normally handled by a computer, resulting in a slow (or very simple) game. Even a game as simple as tic tac toe would have quite a lengthy lookup to see what the 'computer' player does.

    Some dungeon crawling tabletop games can be played solitary, but they are 1) not very good games, and 2) the monster AI is as simple as move towards player -> attack.
     
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  13. tiagocc0 Arcane

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    Yes, I agree with you, if possible I want to avoid the missile\laser\kinetic combination, we are doing a scifi game, our imagination is our limit! We could try to create some different kind of weaponry that would perform in total different way.


    I want to avoid a game where you have to create hundreds of ships, several specialized types and then pit them against the AI only to reduce the number and then you have to restart the cycle. If that's not what you had in mind then it's okay. I do want to have specialized ships but not in the sense that if you do not have it you will most certainly fail and having it makes you have to be ultra careful how you move your fleet.
    I guess this is about a lot of traumas I has with some games. But I don't want to discard any ideas, we could be creative we use all of this ideas in a different approach and actually have it working in a game like MoO2.


    I see, I think too that maintenance is a very important aspect of the game, in a game like MoO2 we could improve it to do more than just a cost per turn, we just have to be careful to not make it another whole game inside the game.
    I mean that it should exist but not take too much time to organize it.
    What we need is a system that would work mostly automatic, but when you're in war and the system fails because your enemy is pursuing your supply line you would be able to remove it from automatic and plan your own supply line, thus a creative mind would be able to still maintain a great fleet even after the enemy had actively tried to stop you from being organized.

    Did it make sense?
     
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  14. oscar Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    The Honor Harrington series had great fights, and was pretty similar to the OP's post (sans kinetic weapons) with energy weapons being a relatively new and distrusted (but potentially very deadly) innovation to the previous deadlocks of missile exchanges (something about shield-walls there), similar to the the naval line battles of the 17th century where two hundred ships could be involved and only four sunken.

    I can't realistically see how land combat can be much different to Starship Troopers. With ever escalating fire power, mass formations and large, infantry-based armies seem less and less plausible. Hell, infantry at all seems pretty impossible without some rather good power armour (able to take a good nuking). In fact the very idea of 'armies' at all seems problematic when you have space ships capable of lobbing precise and incredibly powerful missiles/energy weapons from millions of kilometers away. I would propose fights being centred over capturing/disabling planetary fortifications (which seem essential when the equivalent of a modern day destroyer carries enough firepower to wipe out the planet's population) which when captured result in the planet's capulation (how do you fight space vessels from the ground?). Though this also gets you wondering how the hell you get your armies past the enemy's SAM sites/shields/armed satellites.

    Failing this (thinking too much about sci-fi combat gives me a headache) and you go the Star Wars/Warhammer 40k route of renamed 20th century combat, you could just have Panzer General-style hex battles (with each planet having a map that reflects it's planet, lots of 'urban' hexes could make taking industrialised planets a very bloody affair [for both civilian and soldier] while jungle planets can easily turn into 'Nam).
     
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  15. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    I created a thread about it.
     
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  16. Malakal Arcane

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    I would see this a bit differently...

    1. Energy beam weapons:
    A. Pure energy (laser like)
    -light speed 'projectiles'
    -big energy dissipation due to range - limited effective range
    -limited penetration of energy shields (energy protects well vs energy)
    -powered by energy generators as ships - possible to overload them or redirect energy from other sources
    -biggest tech advancement advantage
    -excellent point defense
    -cost a lot of energy to fire
    B. Energy mixed with matter (plasma like)
    -huge range dissipation - short range
    -bigger damage than pure energy - more effective at transferring energy
    -slower than pure energy
    -better at penetrating energy shields
    -cost a lot of energy to fire
    2. Kinetic weapons
    A. Railguns
    -untraceable after the initial energy burst (stealth killers)
    -effective at penetrating energy shields but stopped well by armor
    -weak accuracy
    -slow projectiles - at the beginning need the shotgun approach of spray and pray
    -good at point defense
    -evolve well reaching FTL capabilities of projectiles (using the FTL systems employed by fleets)
    -moderate energy consumption
    B. Rapid shot weapons (autocannons)
    -extremely short range
    -point defense and fighter use
    -almost no energy consumption
    3. Missile weapons
    A. Missiles and torpedoes
    -good damage potential
    -medium speed (compared to energy weapons)
    -can maneuver
    -good at penetrating shields
    -expensive per shot
    -easily detected, need countermeasures for point defense
    -with time their damage gets less impressive but are still effective and deadly
    B. Drones (micro-fighters)
    -very expensive
    -very good maneuverability
    -medium speed and range
    -effective at dealing with shields and armor (can use their weapons to focus on weak areas of both)
    -almost immune to point defense
    4. Fighters and Bombers
    A. Fighters
    -expensive
    -good as point defense and vs bombers
    -big range but no FTL
    -medium speed
    -easily detected
    -need point defense to be effectively stopped
    -good at penetrating shields and armor
    B. Bombers
    -expensive
    -big damage output for their cost
    -vulnerable to point defense and fighters
    -long range but no FTL/limited FTL
    -quite easy to detect
    -very good at penetrating armor, less so at penetrating shields
    5. Others (specials)
    -gravity field generators (both defensive point defense use for matter based weapons and offensive against ships with weaker shields)
    -mines (smart mines and classic mines)
    -FTL disruption items (both for travel disruption and for trapping enemy ships/sending them into stars)
    -other ideas I may have
     
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  17. Malakal Arcane

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    I would say that shields are hardly super science. Unless you meant energy shields. But we already know that there are magnetic and gravity fields and it is possible to generate some of them, thus creating, for example, a magnetic shield capable of diverting projectile weapons seems doable in the near future (especially so against weapons that need their own electronic systems to hit).
     
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  18. tiagocc0 Arcane

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    Nice list Malakal, may I use it as reference?
     
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  19. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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  20. Malakal Arcane

    Malakal
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    Sure, glad to be of assistance. I actually once spend some time thinking about how a "perfect" game of this type can be developed. Of course I cant program at all so it all was theoretical...
     
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  21. tiagocc0 Arcane

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    Nice, thanks! I've bookmarked it to read later.
     
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  22. Shemar Educated

    Shemar
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    I have also spent time thinking about such things and even though I am a programmer, involvement with other projects has prevented me from working on something like that.

    One note on movement and neutonian physics... I am a believer that good gameplay trumps realism. My imagined movement model (as it is turn based) would have a set amount of energy required to mainstain speed and course, non-linearly increasing by that speed (in reality maintaing speed should require no energy at all, but that is boring in game terms so in my game 'reality' keeping the ship in control and the energy reserves to manouvre would require that energy) and then expend additional enery to accelerate/decelerate or turn.

    Also, while I would love the idea of all that sensor/electronic warfare, I doubt the game will have fleets moving in true space (like a Harpoon in space). Battles will probably be set pieces of two fleets coming together, rather than a full simulation of fleet operations. I would love it to be the latter, but I am guessing the former is the case in this project.
     
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  23. Awor Szurkrarz Arcane In My Safe Space

    Awor Szurkrarz
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    Newtonian physics are great in game terms. Stop the lies and start the truths!
     
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  24. Destroid Arcane

    Destroid
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    I don't know that newtonian physics are so hot for a hex and turn based tactical layer, although I suppose you could display the vectors graphically.
     
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  25. tiagocc0 Arcane

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    That's right, although we could implement a system where reinforcements could come in play or even as the the two players amass a great fleet, we could give priority to what ships goes first instead of just trowing them all together at the same time.
     
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