I had barely brushed this in Joint Node Editing but I think it deserves it's own topic.
If I have 20 fighters of the same type but 10 are equipped as interceptors, 20 as space superiority fighters, and 20 as fighter-bombers, how could I organise them ingame?
Organising them in wings means high compartmentalisation and can easily lead to a bulky UI.
- I equip a fighter with nothing but powerful long range anti-fighter missiles and basic sensors.
Fast engine, maneuverability is not required.
If I need fighters or bombers taken out now, I send the interceptors.
That's a very limited role and offers little in the way of survivability or mission endurance but they are a useful tool.
- So I save this loadout as a Role and call it Interceptor.
- The game calls it "Interceptor (Frumpy Fighter)" because a loadout only works with a specific ship type.
- On the tactical UI I can issue an order to all local ships with a certain role.
I order all "Interceptors" to attack a bomber wing that I don't like and...
- all interceptor (Frumpy Fighter) launch to intercept the bombers,
- all interceptor (Gladius Fighter) launch to intercept the bombers.
- Once roles are defined I can re-assign a fighter to be an "Interceptor" by selecting the role and it will try to auto-equip everything it needs for that.
A lot nicer than remembering the exact parts for each specialist fighter you keep in your fleet.
- Roles can interact.
I don't order my fighters to protect a specific bomber.
I order "Fighters" to escort "Bombers".
The fighters probably split up to distribute themselves evenly to cover all ships with the bomber role and attack any hostile small ships that get close.
(Any auto-attack should include a reality check so fighters don't throw themselves against capital ships =)
Most likely the splitting-up isn't necessary since I gave a similar order to bombers, who now fly in a temporary formation.
- Wishlist item:
A ship can have more than one role.
It is labeled and equipped by it's primary role but maybe a ship type is more flexible than that.
It would react to orders to both Interceptors or Space Superiority Fighters.
- Wishlist item:
You mentioned using auto-generated icons. The game could suggest random selections of them and you can pick one that you like for a specific role.
Better visual distinction for graphically-oriented players.
If I arrange parts for a weld and one is a leeeetle out of alignment, I don't look for a hammer. I look for "something rather light to tap the part a bit". Maybe some pliers. Maybe a small wrench. Whatever is closest.
A computer would look for an exact match so only a hammer would qualify. Computers are bad mechanics.
Roles are a concept that scales well and scale is the ancient enemy of UIs. =)
You can use them with 4 ships as well as with 400 ships in 23 wings.
Same UI in both cases.
It's coarse. You get more detailed control if you go down the chain of command and give an order to a specific wing of fighters.
Often this isn't necessary. You don't need an Operations Plan to send out interceptors to put the smack down on some enemy bombers.
Roles are not the solution to everything but they can help bridge the gap between neat and computer-compatible organisation and human crazymad ideas of how to run a fleet.