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Monday, November 14, 2011

Space combat functionality

I'm trying to finalize how space combat works, and how ships should work in terms of design and functionality. I would like to hear your feedback on those ideas.

The goal is to have a turn-based combat, and yet have a fair combat. With that in mind, I'm thinking of changing how ships are designed.

First of all, I'm thinking of changing the system so it's components based. This means you can add more than one engine, for increased speed (there are two types of engines, interstellar and sublight engines), or layer on armor for a heavily armored ship designed for ramming other ships (yes, you can kamikaze your ships!)

I don't really like the idea of issuing commands, then having everyone move at the same time, for many reasons. I want the classic MoO 1/2 space combat feel where one ship move at a time. Now that the game is designed for fewer ships, I think I should go with that approach, instead of everybody moving at once. However, how to make it balanced, so the first player don't have too much of an advantage?

While thinking about that problem, I think I've hit on a solution. For those who've played X-Com, you may find this familiar. Each ship would be powered by reactors that provide power output. The more reactors you have, the more power you have available per turn. Each ship will have 100% power per turn, and each action will consume a certain amount of power, based on the power required, and the available power. Also, your ship will have time constraints. All ships will have the same amount of TU (Time Unit) unless you have technology that gives you more time.

For example, let's say a scout ship have a power reactor that provides 200 PU (power units), and an engine that will consume 20 PU per movement. It also have a laser cannon that consumes 50 PU. In combat, the player will see that moving a ship will cost 10% power per tile moved, and firing the laser cannon will cost 25% PU. So you can either move the ship 10 tiles (or less, depending on if it was diagonal or not), fire the laser cannon four times, or a combination of both.

Now if that same scout upgrades its reactor so it provides 400 PU. The scout now can fire the laser cannon 8 times, or move up to 20 tiles, based on its power output.

However, there will also be a time constraint. Firing a laser cannon (since it need to recharge and cool down) will take up maybe 30 TU? Then it can only fire three times per turn, regardless of the 200 or 400 PU reactors.

The engine moves at the same speed, let's say 20 TU, for either reactor. However, if the scout have a second engine component, the movement time cost will be halved to 10 TU, but has the twice PU requirement. So with 200 PU reactor, and two engines, it would cost 20 PU for each engine, but halve the TU to 10. However, the ship would still move up to 5 tiles, because the power will be exhausted, instead of time running out. If you replace the reactor with an upgraded one, providing 400 PU, then you can move up to 10 tiles in the same turn. Or you could move 5 tiles, leaving 200 PU and 50 TU for the laser to fire once.

The above numbers are an example only, and subject to balance. I really like this idea, because instead of cramming 30+ plasma cannons on a ship, and having all of them fire at once against the hapless victim, you have to balance the time/power usage. So if you have an ultra-powerful planet-destroying weapon that consumes say, 50,000 PU, and your ship only provides 10,000 PU per turn, you'll have to charge it up to 50,000 first, so every 5th turn you can fire it. Or you could move a bit, then charge it with the remaining power. You can pack a bunch of different weapons (no need for multiple weapons of the same type, unless you're guarding against component damage in combat) that have varying time/power consumption. So if you see a bunch of missiles, you can use your point-defense laser cannon with its low power/time usage to take them out. Or you can focus on using the big weapons against big ships.

Certain weapons will have ammo limits (particles and missiles), those weapons usually have very low power usage because they use ammo instead of power for the weapons. Shields can be recharged using PU, or left alone. Repairing using auto-repair will consume power as well. So you'll have to plan on how to allocate your PU and TU, or your ships are doomed.

There's also one other thing that you will need to consider. Each weapon have an accuracy stat and range limitations, so you'll have to consider those as well when firing. For example, a laser dissipates after 5 tiles, and have accuracy of 80%. You could fire it at any tile (similar to X-Com), but it won't be guaranteed that it will hit that tile. You may end up hitting your own or an ally's ship!

So with the above rules, the start of battle will mostly consist of ships getting into firing range, so the first player don't have too much of an advantage. I think this solution will be the best for my game. I welcome your feedback on this.


  1. Sounds pretty good :) I'm a little hesitant though because I liked the simplicity in MoO1. But
    I'll play along, when you let us play these new updates I will let you know what I think. Happy coding :D


  2. Don't worry, I'll try and keep things simple and clear for the players. In the ship design screen, it will tell you exactly how much power and time each component will use in an clear manner so you can design without guessing.

    I also plan on the UI being simple for space combat. Passive components will have "on/off" switches, if on, they automatically deduct power each turn (not time units though). They include shield recharging, cloaking, auto repair, and other passive systems. Firing will be a simple action, you select a weapon you want to fire (it will display power/time usage in list of components), then right click on a tile to fire at it, or "charge" button to have it ready for firing for a future turn. Moving will be just left click on a tile. That's it!

  3. That's the game I'd like to play! But as Walloping sad, don't make it to complicated.

    Also put some limit on number of components such as engines. GalCiv 2 haven't had that kind of limit and because of that it was easy to break the game with ships that can travel anywhere on the map within 2 turns, see every tile, etc.

  4. I agree, I don't like complicated games. That's one primary reason why I'm making this game :)

    Some components, such as armor or engines, have a percentage based space usage. Instead of a pre-set space usage, they uses a pre-set percent of the total space. So if an engine is 10% space usage, then you can have up to 10 engines, regardless of size. But it won't work because you'll need reactors, which will be percentage based as well. Interstellar engines will require a certain amount of power, so you must have enough power for all the engines. So I don't think it'd be possible to have that situation you described in GalCiv unless you mod the technology files to have 1% space usage for both engine and reactors and insane speed for them :) But that won't be the case in the normal game :)

  5. I'm iffy about a system that at a fell swoop renders weapon batteries a near useless strategy considering how iconic the barrage of doom is to science fiction. Maybe having a stack of lasercannons could reduce the TU cost to fire a single laser cannon.

    So the space scout Daring Do has a single laser cannon that takes 30 tu to fire. but the space dreadnaught Compensating For Something has six lasercannon which means that it costs 5 tu (30/6) to fire a single lasercannon.

    Sound good?

  6. Haha, don't worry. The problem with firing laser cannon one at a time is that it will get tedious quickly with 20 ships on each side. If you recall, I'm planning on doing a "mix-n-match" approach for each component. The technology item, the mount for that item, and any special modifiers.

    So say you want a barrage of doom. You can select "Laser", then pick a mount that fires 10 times, at 5X the power consumption, and same TU, and 15x space usage. Then you could add modifiers such as shield penetrating or reduced power usage.

    Then each time you "fire" that weapon, it will fire 10 times. Is that sufficient to ease your worries? :)

  7. Well. It means one can't fire your laser battery except as one ungodly barrage. But if you're building a ship which has racks and racks of armaments then you probably don't care about subtlety, nuance or flexibility so sure.

    Consider my worries eased.

  8. X-com type squad management can be a lot of fun-- i wish there were more games inspired by X-com.

    But it is also pretty time consuming. What works for 8 troops/ship doesn't necessarily scale to dozens. Do you have rules that would practically limit the number of ships that would be in play? It realistically might take hours to fight a human opponent if both sides had a couple dozens of ships.

  9. The difference between X-Com and this is that there's no cover in this game. Think of all the aliens arrayed in plain view for your soldiers. Combat will be a lot shorter like that :)

  10. Well, not as much as in X-Com. However, you could hide behind asteroids (they come in varying sizes), or behind a heavily armored ship designed to shield other ships. Or even behind a slow moving enemy ship that have its weapons disabled.

    In X-Com, there's cover everywhere, compared to that, this game have scant cover :)

  11. Space. It's big and empty. Those are kinda the defining characteristics of it. What exactly were you planning on using as cover?

  12. I think there should be a limit on how much a ship can charge up its PUs. Maybe have batteries be a part of a ship and/or make it so max PU = 5 * (PU charge rate).

    The reason I want a cap is so that a small, fast scout ship can't run away while charging it's PUs (it might only use 50% of its PUs per turn while a large ship might need 100% to travel the same distance) and that way it can use it's saved up PUs to travel to the big ship and then shoot it with a 10x mount or something.

    I would recommend either going with a simple multiplier of PU charge rate to be the cap, or have that be the cap and a special ship feature (think auto repair modules from MoO1/2) could be a battery that would boost the maximum PUs that could be charged up.

    Like Warped Realities, I would like to be able to mount multiple of a single weapon and fire it many times. It sounds like your mount solution might work, but it might do quite what I dream of. Would it be possible to have 5x firing mount and a single firing mount of the same weapon on a ship?

  13. That's why there's two components, the Power Units and Time Units. So if you move using 50% of your PU as the small ship, you may have used up all of your time units, leaving you unable to do anything else.

    Moving will generally cost more time units than firing weapons, and firing weapons generally will use up more power than moving.

    As for mount, please check the new equipment selection post. I've scrapped the idea of a pre-set mount firing x times. You now can specify the number of an equipment to add. You can have two groups, Laser Cannon x3 and Laser Cannon x17, with each group firing separately (x3 will consume less power and time than x17 one, and you can fire x3 repeatedly without firing x17 one in a turn)