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Monday, June 25, 2012

Squadrons Part Deux

Alright, things have settled down, so I've started work on the game again.  So far, I've updated the data files to support squadrons (this means each race now can specify ships and squadrons when starting a game), and started on converting the UI to work with squadrons.

Ever since some commentators commented about clickfests in space combat, I've been trying to think of a better solution that will both allow you to appreciate your ship designs, and at the same time, reduce micromanagement.  Then I realized that the answer has been staring me in the face ever since I implemented squadrons.  Why not control each squadron as one unit in space combat?  The more I thought about it, the more it makes sense.  So here's my final design for space combat:

Each ship will have three component types:  Equipments, Weapons, and Specials.  Equipment are passive items that affects the ship's stats.  Weapons are active one-time use per turn.  Specials are similar to weapons, but affects an entire squadron.

Equipment includes engines, computer, shield, armor, etc.  System Engines will be discarded, simplifying the game to just one type of engine.  You can modify "combat movement" by modifying it in the Engine equipment window (Think of MoO 1's combat movement in ship design).

Time/Power units will be discarded, and movement will be hard-coded, and not handled in scripts.  However, there may be some specials that affects position of a squadron, such as a teleporter.  So it's still possible to modify ships' positions.  All ships in the squadron will move as one.

Shockwave weapons will be discarded, due to you handling squadrons instead of individual ships, and also because I can't think of a good way to implement a traveling shockwave in the current physics system.

Instead of one empire moving all of their ships/squadrons on one turn, it will process each squadron individually.  The order is determined by how long it takes to recharge weapons, specials, and engines.  So if we have two squadrons, one takes 10 "ticks" to recharge, and another takes 25 "ticks", the first will go twice before the second has its turn.  Powerful weapons will take longer to recharge, and higher combat movement will take longer to recharge as well.  If you've played Final Fantasy Tactics, you will be familiar with this system.

The amount of ticks required are determined by the longest recharge weapon, special or engine of ANY ship within a squadron.  So if you want a quick-hitting squadron, only fill the squadron with scouts/light fighters.  If you want heavy-hitting squadrons, group them together as to not hinder the lighter ships.  Planet-destroying weapons will take the longest to recharge compared to others, so you will have to defend the squadron while it charges up.

There will be special equipment that can affect recharge rate, both for benefit of your squadrons, or to put enemy squadrons at disadvantage (technology nullifier, anyone?)

When you attack a squadron, you don't click on individual ships.  Your squadron will automatically target different ships within the squadron, firing all of its weapons that are in range.  You may then target a nearer squadron with any remaining weapons that weren't used up in previous attack, move your squadron, or end your squadron's turn.

When you create a new squadron, it will display ticks required to recharge, as well as movement speed and other information.  Also, during space combat, it will show a list of squadrons in the order they will take turns, to help you plan out your strategy.  Missiles/torpedoes/bombs will travel between each squadron's turn.  They will have a specific speed per tick, and your point defense will have recharge periods as well, so it's possible to have your point defense fire twice or more between turns if the missiles travel slow enough.

One problem with Master of Orion 3 is that if you equip a ship with cloaking, but put it with other ships that don't have cloaking, the cloak is useless because the game handles detection on a per-taskforce basis.  So I'm going to avoid that by having specials on any ship apply to the entire squadron.  Consequently, those specials will take up a lot of room.

For combat resolution, when two hostile forces are in the same system, it will prompt both of them to place their squadrons above their desired target.  Let's use an example:

Empire A has 5 squadrons, and Empire B has 2, but also have a planet.  Empire B wants to defend its planet, so he places both squadrons under the planet.  Empire A decides to attack the planet with 3 of its squadrons, and leaves 2 in edge of system.  Neither can see the other empire's squadron placement.  Both then press "commence", and the combat commences with 2 of B's and 3 of A's squadrons, and the B's planet.  When the combat is done, regardless of the outcome, Empire A can send the other 2 squadrons that wasn't involved in combat to the next system.

This will introduce some interesting strategies.  Do you want to block ships from passing through your system?  If so, you must place your squadrons at the edge of system.  Or do you want to defend your planets?  Place some squadrons there as well.  Or both, splitting up your forces.  You think the enemy will attack planet X, and place some squadrons there, but it turns out that he attacked the defenseless Planet Y.

Space combat can involve more than two empires.  For example, two empires ganging up on a Guardian in an attempt to overpower it.

So far, this system is the only one that really clicks with me, so this will be the final design.  I hope to have the new UI for this done within a month.  Then I'll finish up the space combat, including movement and missiles/torpedoes.


  1. I haven't had a chance to download the demo yet, I hope to tomorrow, but this sounds like one of the more fun combat systems I've heard of. I haven't played MoO1/2, my TBS gaming starts with SMAC/Civ3 and forward, but this game sounds great! I love shiny 3D graphics, but I still think that pixel art and 2.5D games look great. Keep up the great work!

  2. Another radical change of game design :P

    I like those changes. Those could make interesting gameplay experience. Though I have no clue how will you make an AI that can play with all these features.

    I haven't donated yet so I didn't play any closed alpha demo, how many planets per star system are in the Beyond Beyaan?

  3. Not sure how I feel about not being able to control individual ships in space combat. I mean I suppose it makes sense for massive engagements. But i dunno what the intended scale is and there's a certain charm to being able to control ships individually.

    Then again, if the scale is really really large I can I presume use the Anime Massive Battle Paradigm. Where I have lots of squadrons of cruisers and one flagship which is absolutely massive, expensive and powerful and is in a squadron all on its lonesome so it can be commanded individually.

  4. Alarickc - Thanks!

    Ivan - the max is 10 planets, you can customize which/amount of planets for each star system. I have yellow stars to spawn between 4 and 8 planets, with favorable environments, as a example. Yes, the change is radical, but I felt that it is necessary to avoid the end-game tedium of space combat.

    Warped Realities - You can still control individual ships, if you modify the squadron size in gameconfig.xml to be big enough for only one ship, and have all ships occupy the same amount of squadron space. It'd then be similar to MoO 1 (small and large ships both take up same amount of space). This gives me more flexibility in that I can have either individual ships or squadrons.

  5. But at the same time there's nothing stopping me having multi ship squadrons and single ship squadrons in the same game?

    So that I can start off playing with individual ships being commanded individually and then expand up to the Anime Massive Battle Paradigm as my empire grows. With squadrons of cruisers and my ridiculously powerful centerpiece flagship.

  6. Yes, that's correct. At beginning, you'll have few ships, so most likely you'll only have one or two ships in a squadron. Then later in end-game, you'll have squadrons full of ships.

    The idea is to reduce micromanagement and tedium of late-game combats.