Fighters and how to make capital ships feel big, Wake Field

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Fighters and how to make capital ships feel big, Wake Field

Postby The Hedge Knight » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:47 am

This is short because there is not much to it, but it's because it should be simple and no game ever does this. Even bloody flight sim's forget to add this.

Okay so picture this, you are in the SR8-XTREME and flying low over a ship. Twenty enemy fighters are behind you and you are speeding around, battle raging in the space around your sleek and extreme ship. But you notice something is wrong, when you look down; the ship is simply slowly pulling away under you as if you were biciclying at a leisurely pace.

Fighters should feel fast, you should feel like some one who is speeding along, not like you are simply on a casual stroll.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby JoshParnell » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:22 am

The problem is that making fighters really fast breaks the feeling of scale of the world. I would like for large ships to feel really large, but the ability to whiz around them effortlessly trivializes the scale, making them feel much smaller and less important than they actually are.

I mean, fighters will be fast, but I have to be careful to maintain the feeling of grandeur with respect to scale. If you can suggest a way to do this while still making fighters "really" fast, would be open to suggestions :)
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Kitsune » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:18 am

There's a reason no space sim ever does this: it's because it isn't realistic. Sure, terrestial fighters move faster than ocean-bound carriers, but that's not terribly applicable to space now is it? It's the same as your standard giant sci-fi walker vs. infantry; the infantry appear physically to be moving much much much faster, but the individual steps for the walker are so much bigger that it more than makes up for it. It's more a matter of acceleration vs. top speed. Fighters are going to have the former; capitals, the latter.

That said though, one of my fondest memories from Descent Freespace was dueling enemy fighters while zipping back and forth between the engines of a capital vessel. Good times.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby The Hedge Knight » Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:30 am

It isn't realistic to have ships in any shape that is not a tube with a rounded head but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be different.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Gazz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:33 pm

JoshParnell wrote:I mean, fighters will be fast, but I have to be careful to maintain the feeling of grandeur with respect to scale. If you can suggest a way to do this while still making fighters "really" fast, would be open to suggestions :)

The mass fluctuation drive of fighters is affected by huge masses in the vicinity.
The closer you get to a capital ship, the slower your fighter gets.
When near the hull you might have 50 % of your top speed.

This makes dogfighting "in and around" a capital ship possible because the (way too fast) fighters have their top speed reduced to something an autopilot has much fewer problems with.
Also, flying over a capital ship takes longer, making the ships seem bigger. =)


In Rebirth, capital ships emit some kind of drag field.
Depending on distance to the closest capital ship, the movement vector of the cap ship is added to your own.
A fighter with it's engines off but close to a capital ship will move with the capital ship.
This eliminates a whole bucket of problems and offers even more feature potential.
  • When landing, you don't have to joust the ship, trying to match rotation and movement in all 3 dimensions while aiming for the docking bay. As long as come to a stop in the general vicinity of the docking bay, your fighter will be a virtual attachment of the cap ship, copying it's every move.
  • When launching, it doesn't matter if the ship is turning or rotating. You will not hit the sides of the launch bay on the way out. You just go straight. Always.
  • You can really dogfight around a capital ship as if it was stationary. It's not a mad 3D puzzle.
    You can do a Star Wars trench run on a ship that is maneuvering.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby JoshParnell » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:36 pm

Gazz wrote:The mass fluctuation drive of fighters is affected by huge masses in the vicinity.
The closer you get to a capital ship, the slower your fighter gets.
When near the hull you might have 50 % of your top speed.

This makes dogfighting "in and around" a capital ship possible because the (way too fast) fighters have their top speed reduced to something an autopilot has much fewer problems with.
Also, flying over a capital ship takes longer, making the ships seem bigger. =)


In Rebirth, capital ships emit some kind of drag field.
Depending on distance to the closest capital ship, the movement vector of the cap ship is added to your own.
A fighter with it's engines off but close to a capital ship will move with the capital ship.
This eliminates a whole bucket of problems and offers even more feature potential.
  • When landing, you don't have to joust the ship, trying to match rotation and movement in all 3 dimensions while aiming for the docking bay. As long as come to a stop in the general vicinity of the docking bay, your fighter will be a virtual attachment of the cap ship, copying it's every move.
  • When launching, it doesn't matter if the ship is turning or rotating. You will not hit the sides of the launch bay on the way out. You just go straight. Always.
  • You can really dogfight around a capital ship as if it was stationary. It's not a mad 3D puzzle.
    You can do a Star Wars trench run on a ship that is maneuvering.


Excellent, love these kinds of sweeping simplifications. Will almost certainly implement it :)
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Gazz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:57 pm

I'm not sure how well the slow-down thing will work. That was just a spontaneous idea which would allow "feeling huge" capital ships without actually requiring gigantic differences in scale.
While it sounds nice to have a capital ship that is 1000 times longer than a fighter, these orders of magnitude are a major PITA with physics and with modeling the surface of cap ships in sufficient detail.


The "drag" from Rebirth is a freaking brilliant idea which brushes away all sorts of close proximity / navigation problems!
Just imagine you're sitting in space, minding your own business, and a We Brake For Nobody ship crashes into you. Except that it doesn't. It "plucks" you out of space, embedding your ship in it's drag field.
That means capital ships no longer need to try to evade a fighter that crosses their path! This is a considerable advantage in AI course plotting because you have a lot more "free space" to maneuver a big ship in. Fighters and other small change can simply be ignored!

Carriers also don't need to stop to launch or retrieve their fighters, no matter how wacky the landing / launch bays are aligned in the model. Up, down, port, aft? Irrelevant!
Only when you consider all the implications, you realise how brilliant that is.

Of course, it's not quite as easy as adding the movement vector because you need to take the capital ship's rotation into account so the movement across a circle segment also needs to be added, as well as the actual rotation, transposed to the fighter's current alignment. More difficult than adding 3 numbers but still not rocket science.
Given that you wrote a realtime 3D engine, I don't think this would be beyond your abilities. =P

Still, landing on a (much bigger) ship that is underway would be a snap because the player doesn't have to do any 3D vector math to align the speed vectors and rotation.
The infamous "rotating station landing" from ELITE would be trivial since when you get close enough, the station automatically imparts it's own rotation on your ship.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby JoshParnell » Mon Dec 24, 2012 1:17 pm

Gazz wrote:I'm not sure how well the slow-down thing will work. That was just a spontaneous idea which would allow "feeling huge" capital ships without actually requiring gigantic differences in scale.
While it sounds nice to have a capital ship that is 1000 times longer than a fighter, these orders of magnitude are a major PITA with physics and with modeling the surface of cap ships in sufficient detail.


The "drag" from Rebirth is a freaking brilliant idea which brushes away all sorts of close proximity / navigation problems!
Just imagine you're sitting in space, minding your own business, and a We Brake For Nobody ship crashes into you. Except that it doesn't. It "plucks" you out of space, embedding your ship in it's drag field.
That means capital ships no longer need to try to evade a fighter that crosses their path! This is a considerable advantage in AI course plotting because you have a lot more "free space" to maneuver a big ship in. Fighters and other small change can simply be ignored!

Carriers also don't need to stop to launch or retrieve their fighters, no matter how wacky the landing / launch bays are aligned in the model. Up, down, port, aft? Irrelevant!
Only when you consider all the implications, you realise how brilliant that is.

Of course, it's not quite as easy as adding the movement vector because you need to take the capital ship's rotation into account so the movement across a circle segment also needs to be added, as well as the actual rotation, transposed to the fighter's current alignment. More difficult than adding 3 numbers but still not rocket science.
Given that you wrote a realtime 3D engine, I don't think this would be beyond your abilities. =P

Still, landing on a (much bigger) ship that is underway would be a snap because the player doesn't have to do any 3D vector math to align the speed vectors and rotation.
The infamous "rotating station landing" from ELITE would be trivial since when you get close enough, the station automatically imparts it's own rotation on your ship.


Yep, it really is an absolutely brilliant idea!!! :)

And as for the math - it's already done, it's the exact same math that was used to keep my ship docked in the carrier in the last demo! So I've already sorted all the moving frame transformations out...this is basically just a "soft"/automatic version of landing.

Bahahaha I love it so much. :) :) :)
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Gazz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:27 pm

Yup, same thing, save for the distance scaling.
Well, and some rule for which kind of mass / class affects which size of "small ship".

The mind boggles at all the crazy maneuvers we would be able to fly.
Correction. Will be. =P



Since the ship designer can build any kind / size of ship, there are no convenient ship classes you can attach labels and behaviours to.
Unless you go with some sort of base hull system to limit the scope of a "hull's" abilities in an abstract way.
I already built some flex into the system because hard cap limitations are aggravating. You could have a slightly larger or smaller battleship if your dream components don't quite fit by 3 points. =)

Then you could easily tell which ship is "small" and which is "capital", regardless of equipment.
While there are advantages to full freedom of procedural generation, a "smart" AI is one hell of a lot easier to do when the engine can look at a ship and go "This is a fighter hull. I'll make it behave like a fighter, attacking in waves / formations, and not like a capital ship."
It does not take away the principle of procedural generation - it only structures it in gameplay terms.
There shouldn't be many main classes, though. Class-creep is another of X3's problems. There are four types of civilian transport ships in the game. (one is buggy =)
Sub-classes or properties added by specific ship equipment. That would make sense. If you spend 40% of the ship's structure points on external cargo module hardpoints, your ship get's the "merchant" property.



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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby DWMagus » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:35 pm

Originally I was going to say:

It's all about scale. Small ships only feel fast when you're around other small ships. In Freespace 1, even around some of the larger ships you felt fast. Then you got to the Lucifer. Due its sheer size, it felt like you weren't even moving.

Scale is what makes it seem like something isn't moving, but you know your speed is exactly the same, and dogfighting around that massive ship proved that. It proves that you really are just a small part of the machine. In Freespace 2, the SJ Sathanas vs the GTVA Colossus exlemplified this fact.

But then Gazz piped up and made things all nice and better for the coder. Meh, either way, I'll be happy. The drag idea adds for much more interesting mechanics that will show themselves instead. It makes sense after all, that if you have an inertial drive that space gets dragged around you, like a boat in water.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby jawdan » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:42 pm

I like this idea very much!
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby ghyt » Mon Dec 24, 2012 3:43 pm

I have nothing to add to this, but I can't resist saying dear lord that whole drag thing sounds math as lumps. As math as all the lumps. SO looking forward to that!
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Hardenberg » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:02 pm

I have, however...

What happens when two drag fields intersect, especially if both caps are moving in opposite directions (basically, a near-heads-on collision, barely avoided)?
Would it make sense to apply the drag fields to stations as well (meaning that you will get slowed down when you approach the installation, at the very least)?
How easy/hard is it to remove yourself from the drag field again?

"Who's that rusty hunk of junk following you?"
"Oh, that's Mike the Miner. Our drag-field plucked him from an asteroid back in the Zeta Draconis system, and he's been struggling to get free ever since. Don't mind him."

The basic premise sounds neat, but I'd need to see the effect in person before I can pass judgment. If it means that passing close to any larger craft will take me along for a ride to nowhere with a massive course change thrown in for good measure, then I'd prefer to have a toggle for that behavior.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby Gazz » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:14 pm

That's about the only condition that needs to be considered.

The way I would set it up:

  • Capital ships try not to collide. (yay!)

  • If Ship S is in the drag field of capital ship A and capital ship B is closing, B needs to be 30% closer than A in order to suck S out of the drag field of A.
    This adds a great deal of stickiness to the system because S could not flicker between 2 different drag fields.
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Re: A Request For Fighters

Postby DWMagus » Mon Dec 24, 2012 4:15 pm

Hardenberg wrote:I have, however...

What happens when two drag fields intersect, especially if both caps are moving in opposite directions (basically, a near-heads-on collision, barely avoided)?
Would it make sense to apply the drag fields to stations as well (meaning that you will get slowed down when you approach the installation, at the very least)?
How easy/hard is it to remove yourself from the drag field again?

"Who's that rusty hunk of junk following you?"
"Oh, that's Mike the Miner. Our drag-field plucked him from an asteroid back in the Zeta Draconis system, and he's been struggling to get free ever since. Don't mind him."

The basic premise sounds neat, but I'd need to see the effect in person before I can pass judgment. If it means that passing close to any larger craft will take me along for a ride to nowhere with a massive course change thrown in for good measure, then I'd prefer to have a toggle for that behavior.


Gazz stated that there would be a limit (he threw out 50%) on the slowdown you would receive. There should be an absolute cap to the slowdown as well. I'd also wager that each vehicle/ship/station should have its own drag field and only affects ships that are X amount smaller than their own. A fighter's drag field won't affect another fighter's drag field. A corvette won't affect a freighter's, but might affect a fighter's. A carrier won't affect another carrier or corvette, but might affect a freighter, etc.

It wouldn't exactly be a gravity well, so while you do have some drag affecting you when you try to leave the other ship, it isn't holding you in place, nor acting against your thrusters. You'd just slightly more fuel to cross the distance than if the bigger ship wasn't there (if fuel is implemented).
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