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Combat Gameplay Discussion

#1
Talvieno wrote:I'm a little worried about how satisfying combat will be, given how it appears to look in the last dev video... but I'm sure Josh will fix things up before the game is released. On the other hand, though, combat still looks like it works pretty close to the same as it did when the prototype was released - and as it was a combat prototype... hmm. Image I'm just hoping we get dogfights, regardless of how realistic they are. There ought to be at least some pull to fighting in first-person mode and letting your fleets decide who to attack by themselves. In fact, I'd absolutely love it if it was far more fun to play in first person than RTS mode.

I think I'm going to make a thread for that...
And so I made a thread.

This thread is to discuss making the combat gameplay more fun and engaging, so it isn't point-and-shoot. Forget about realism a moment, and let's just try to make this fun.


Observe:
Levels of Combat vs Enemy Gameplay:
  1. Sit and shoot at each other, retreat if you're losing
  2. Strafe, try not to get hit while you fire (just dodge weapon lines of fire)
  3. Charge while strafing, attack quickly, throw on the afterburners and speed away to retreat (show some base level tactics)
  4. Stay in close range so they can't hit you as easily and try to outmaneuver their ship (the ability to dogfight, comes with the ability to switch targets on a whim)
  5. Take the surroundings and allied/enemy conditions into account, then dogfight if prudent (advanced tactics and reasoning)
Levels of Combat vs Allies Gameplay (works for the enemy too)
  1. Allies will fight your enemies, but otherwise ignore all friendly ships
  2. Allies try to stay clumped together in a general area instead of letting themselves get singled out
  3. Allies try to keep friendlies alive, plus #2
  4. Allies try to target the same enemies so as to take them down faster, plus #2 and #3
  5. Allies know how to flank and attack ships from multiple sides, plus #2, #3, and #4
[/b]

(note: all of the above do not require any knowledge if programmed in, other than the ship's side, and its location. It's just simple scales. You could also add in another set of scales (or nodes branching off) to show how smart the AI is when it comes to sizing up enemy ships, to know if it would be a losing battle.)

Looking at the latest dev videos, it's about at a 1 for both Combat vs Enemy and Combat vs Allies, on the above scales. If it stays as it is, the AI will just sit in one place and fire at you, so all you'd have to do to be invincible is just strafe with a small ship: http://youtu.be/A2albJYS-wI?t=16m4s

So. Should it be like this? Should combat gameplay have more relevance, in your opinion? I wouldn't be concerned, but seeing as this is basically how combat worked in the combat prototype... well. You know where I'm going with this.
Last edited by Talvieno on Sat May 24, 2014 7:43 am, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#2
Balancing small vs large ships has some things about combat mechanics but little about combined arms or things like destroyers screening a carrier or battleship...


But if you want to concentrate on the how to fly then you need to start with what you want to achieve, then model propulsion, momentum, and/or strafe drive to achieve / support that behaviour.
In that case the thread should be "Combat Flight Model" or something like that.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#4
There were some dev logs last year about something similar where Josh had some AI fighters doing hit-n-runs just on the edge of a larger ship's range, forcing the ship to re-track different ships and confusing it. Stuff like that?
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#5
DWMagus wrote:There were some dev logs last year about something similar where Josh had some AI fighters doing hit-n-runs just on the edge of a larger ship's range, forcing the ship to re-track different ships and confusing it. Stuff like that?
that was before about 3? sessions of AI ripping, afaik he hasnt re-implemented combat AI yet.
i remember him mentioning it in the devlogs "blabla building combat AI blabla".
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#6
Well, combat should always be fun, the question is how do we GET that fun?

Is it fun from high level fleet placement and out maneuvering and out "smarting" the enemy fleets?

Is it fun from having some sort of WW2 space simulation hybrid where we line the enemy ships up with the gun lines in the front of you ship and pull the trigger. (think Starwars)

Is it somewhere in between this?
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#7
I do not feel that all battles should be decided on sheer numbers and firepower, but also by the "skill" of your NPCs, combined with your first-person combat skill, combined with your strategic/tactical cunning. And yes, WWII style dogfights. =P With some additions, of course. Take a look at games like Freelancer and Freespace, for a couple of examples. I enjoy RTS, but I prefer my space battles to be more exciting than "line everyone up, and may the most guns win".
Last edited by Talvieno on Wed May 21, 2014 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#9
Talvieno wrote:(snip) And yes, WWII style dogfights. =P With some additions, of course. I enjoy RTS, but I prefer my space battles to be more exciting than "line everyone up, and may the most guns win".
Well, I hope it's not quite WW2 dogfights, (the everyone has moveable turrets style sort of points it will at least not be a X-Wing type fight, not completely anyways)

The high level moving of fleets and ships will hopefully be detailed enough to prevent a straight up line up and fire fights. (eg. moving a fleet taking heavy fire behind a planet to block the fire, while moving you heavy guns from different fleet into range, and then moving your fleet with powerful short range weaponry to block the jump gate to prevent retreat)
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#11
Zanteogo wrote:
Talvieno wrote:(snip) And yes, WWII style dogfights. =P With some additions, of course. I enjoy RTS, but I prefer my space battles to be more exciting than "line everyone up, and may the most guns win".
Well, I hope it's not quite WW2 dogfights, (the everyone has moveable turrets style sort of points it will at least not be a X-Wing type fight, not completely anyways)

The high level moving of fleets and ships will hopefully be detailed enough to prevent a straight up line up and fire fights. (eg. moving a fleet taking heavy fire behind a planet to block the fire, while moving you heavy guns from different fleet into range, and then moving your fleet with powerful short range weaponry to block the jump gate to prevent retreat)
Nah, I meant the WWII/star wars hybrid you mentioned, I was just agreeing.

And, if you look at the combat prototype video, it's not really all that exciting as far as combat goes - it's basically "let's see who has the better fleet": http://youtu.be/tUPKTTsseHQ?t=21m45s

It's not zoomed in very far for the duration, but you can see enough to tell that the ships are really just sitting there as they attack, only moving to get into or out of range.

From what I can tell of the last dev video, combat hasn't really changed much, and I'm wondering just how much of it Josh is planning on keeping there.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#13
Some in-depth tactical planning would be nice, but I would be fine with just intelligent AI that protects key ships (or each other) and uses some more advance maneuvers like flanking and strafing. I might expect some direct control, since I'm an RTS fan, but I would be fine with pre-defining formations and pathways and calling on them when needed. I just hope that the AI would be smarter than to just charge in with guns blazing and shoot stationary. :| There should be some skill involved, not a "better stats wins" game.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#14
Gazz wrote:That's a balancing issue IMO.
On a slow ship turrets would make a lot of sense but on a fighter you could save the tonnage for the turret mounts and pack heavier weapons instead.
Unless you want to build a fighter with turrets.
Most weird AI stuff would be balancing issues, I think, personally.

For instance, normally, if I saw two ships firing at each other while sitting still, I'd think, "Oh, that means the guns are too accurate, so there's no point in dodging." (However, as you see in the last dev video, and the prototype video I linked to - the guns are extremely inaccurate to begin with, so sitting still while firing isn't so much a balancing issue as the fact that dodging/strafing isn't implemented.)

In another instance, perhaps a ship is firing at close range from behind, and then flying away as fast as possible. If this is commonly observed, it could mean that one ship's thrusters are too powerful, compared to the other ship's shorter range. This could be an actual tactical advantage, though. The real test is to see if all ships exhibit the same combat issues.

Things like fighters not cooperating towards a common goal isn't so much a balancing issue as a programming issue, tho. Perhaps certain strategies could be hard-coded to make Josh's AI run faster, and then weighted based on which ones are most successful with those ships, in that universe, in those specific situations - so that the AI would behave intelligently.
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Re: Combat Gameplay Discussion

#15
Other than your vs Enemy Gameplay item #5 -- I believe you're thinking here of ships acting tactically, not strategically -- I quite like the starter post for this thread. It's a very nice categorization model for tactical competence in NPC ship combat AI.

As I've said previously:
Flatfingers wrote:I've strongly advocated for the inclusion of some kinds of "terrain" in space games such as Limit Theory. That's a requirement for tactical play.

By terrain I don't mean only physical things like asteroids and nebulae (although those are good to have). I'm talking about "stuff in space" generally that has a gameplay effect on tactical decision-making. So in addition to physical terrain, it includes natural phenomena such as particles (radiation) and waves (gravity) and energy (EM, heat, visual), as well as generated data (IFF signals, transponder IDs, jamming, spoofing, etc.).

Tactics is the application of local terrain to maximize the impact of your force on an opponent's force. Fun tactical play thus requires more than just a count of ships and weapons, which is just about who's got the bigger stick and thus isn't much fun from the "simulated violence" perspective. For it to be fun, you need terrain that affects the applicability of your force resources. That's what allows you to make choices that are fun because they're more interesting than "spam F5 until target dies."
I had some ideas about cooperation and environmental tactics myself, which I think are the two critical gameplay components for achieving the higher numbers on your two scales:
Flatfingers wrote:Environmental perception and intelligent cooperation are force multipliers.

More specifically, a lot of games such as MMORPGs treat "power" as nothing more than inherent capabilities of a character. How badass you are is strictly limited to being a function of how fast you can spam your strongest attack ability.

The result of this is that lots of people today think of power solely in terms of internal abilities. Certainly those do matter -- a bigger gun does more damage, and so does having more guns that can be brought to bear on a target.

But what about environmental tactics? What if there are physical aspects of the universe -- things that are external to a ship and its internal "powers" -- that benefit small ships more than big ships?

And what about intelligent coordination? A bunch of individuals can't build a skyscraper in anything like a reasonable amount of time, but a lot of people specializing and cooperating can get it done relatively quickly. (As Josh notes in today's devlog, something similar could be said for multiple characters cooperating to build stations and capital ships in LT.)

What if individual ships can be more effective by consciously communicating with each other to concentrate their fire? What if individual ships can work together to use deception, such as leading a big ship into an ambush?

All of these things ought to be counted as tactical "power." In a world where NPCs are going to be smarter than the average bear, it seems plausible to me that individual ship commanders ought to be able to form goals that get expressed as coordinated actions.

I think the practical result of that would still be for characters to (usually) want bigger ships... but the advantages of working together to give smaller ships more power should also encourage characters to want to behave in socially cooperative ways, including in battle, because there are tangible benefits to doing so.
Meanwhile, the Procedural variety in NPC fleet tactics thread was a pretty good one.

Etsu's Battle Tactics thread is also worth reviewing.

Finally, how should ship's scanners apply tactically?

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