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Customizing the "Attack" Command

#1
I'm sure there have been a billion little suggestions thrown out in various threads concerning this, but let's pull all of that together into a single, organized list of the best. Here's the question:

What kind of options would you like to see for the "attack" command?
I.e., when you give one of your ships a command to attack something, what parameters would you like to be able to specify?

Here are some examples off of the top of my head:
  • Distance
    Your ship will try to maintain a certain distance from the target. Useful when you know that your ship has a range advantage, or perhaps that the other ship is incapabable of dealing with threats up-close. In the former case, you will order your ship to attack from many KM, whereas in the latter case, you will command it to attack from only a few meters (probably only in the case of fighters).

    Region
    Imagine a cube surrounding the target, you can specify one or more faces of that cube, and have your ship try to stay within that projected region. For example, suppose you know that the most powerful flak turrets are on the top and bottom of a given cap ship...then you will command your fighters to restrict themselves to one of the side regions, so as to avoid the heavy threats on the top and bottom. This is a great option for exercising your knowledge of the target ship if you've encountered it before.

    Formation
    This isn't really specific to the "attack" command, it will be an option in virtually any command in which you are ordering multiple ships. Pretty obvious one. But for the "attack" option, I imagine you will have a few more advanced options, such as when to break formation (if ever) for the attack run. Maybe that could be a distance, i.e., fly formation until 1 KM from target, then break and attack individually. Or you can say to maintain a strict formation even during the attack (although I'm not yet sure if that will be possible).

    Retreat Condition
    Specify a condition for retreat - hull drops below certain %, shields down, etc. Good if you don't want to lose your ship!

    Stopping Condition
    Specify when to stop - sort of the reverse of retreat condition. Target's hull drops below certain %, target shields are down, etc. Good if you won't want to destroy the target completely.

    Subsystem Targets
    Specify how big of a "threat" each subsystem is, essentially creating a ranked list of sub-targets for the attacker to take out. You can also specify if certain subsystems should be left unharmed. This is how you will go about disabling particular subsystems, like the engines or weapons.
I'm sure there are lots of great options that I've missed, so let me know what kind of things you'd like to be specifiable in the attack menu! Of course, each option will have a default, so if you want, you can just hit "attack" and not worry about it like in a normal game. But for the more strategic players, I would like to offer an insane level of control :geek:

Also, please make sure that your suggestion is functional, not just "cool." Each of the examples I gave has a clear functional purpose, and you might use each of them to achieve a certain effect. Make sure that you're clear about why someone would want to specify the parameter that you're suggesting.

Thanks! :D

PS ~ Mods, please feel free to edit this post and add good suggestions to my list as they come up :)
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#2
Having to order an attack to configure a ship's retreat conditions seems backwards.
IMO some of these are Rules Of Engagement rather than options of the attack command so the ROE should be separate - standing orders that affect how the ships act.

Some are options of the attack command, of course, like the quadrant to attack from.


(Automatic) Attack priorities are important and probably fit better into the ROE.
If I assign 4 space superiority fighters to escort a bomber squadron, I don't want them fly off to "defend" their bombers against a destroyer who got a missile through so the bombers are "under attack" from it.
That would require some sort of ship class or size system. Entering the desired target tonnage range sounds fiddly.

On the same token, self-defense is a major issue.
In X3 it's super easy to head off every attack if you keep the attackers busy with hard-to-catch fighter drones. Even a destroyer will break off when it's attacked with the equivalent of a spit gun.
Formations are practically useless in that game since self-defense overrides any kind of intended formation / escort setup.
A capital ship should therefor be able to ignore "minor threats" and only let it's automated turrets engage those.

Is there such a thing as turrets that are not controlled directly by the pilot/player?
In X3, every turret section has a "turret script" assigned, which operates the turret / the lasers that belong to it. What to attack, when, with which lasers. I've written a few of those over the years. One of them is now "the" turret script in X3:AP.
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#3
Gazz wrote:Having to order an attack to configure a ship's retreat conditions seems backwards.
IMO some of these are Rules Of Engagement rather than options of the attack command so the ROE should be separate - standing orders that affect how the ships act.
Indeed, that's fair.
Gazz wrote: (Automatic) Attack priorities are important and probably fit better into the ROE.
If I assign 4 space superiority fighters to escort a bomber squadron, I don't want them fly off to "defend" their bombers against a destroyer who got a missile through so the bombers are "under attack" from it.
That would require some sort of ship class or size system. Entering the desired target tonnage range sounds fiddly.
Attack priorities I'm not so sure about. I would like to display an actual list of the scanned subsystems on-board the target, so that each time you get a unique list of subsystems. In this way, specifying priorities at the global level would not be possible, but I do like the idea of specifying broad priorities - such as weapons/thrusters/shields, rather than specifying specific prioties, such as "Aft UberCannon Mark I". Merging these is an open question.

As for your concern with an escort group breaking off to engage a large threat, I see it more as an issue of time to destroy attackee. Specify in the global options that you don't want to automatically engage ships that would take a long time to destroy (i.e., perform a relative computation of my ship's DPS vs total target strength, and don't even consider automatic engagement if the resultant time is above the threshold). This way, fighters will break escort formation for threats that can be taken out quickly, but not for something like a destroyer, where they recognize that there isn't much hope of dealing with it in a timely manner.
Gazz wrote: On the same token, self-defense is a major issue.
In X3 it's super easy to head off every attack if you keep the attackers busy with hard-to-catch fighter drones. Even a destroyer will break off when it's attacked with the equivalent of a spit gun.
A capital ship should therefor be able to ignore "minor threats" and only let it's automated turrets engage those.
Is there such a thing as turrets that are not controlled directly by the pilot/player?
Sure, I think it's easily handled by a threat prioritization system. Compute a threat rating for each enemy in range, then focus fire on top threat. That way, drones will still be taken care of, but only after the real threats have been destroyed.

And yes, we will see automated turrets. I don't want to get too fiddly, as you say, with commanding individual turrets...but I guess we will need a lightweight priority system for turrets as well.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#4
For retreat and stopping conditions, have the ship consider the amount of firepower currently in air (er, space). Particularly for slow moving projectiles or missiles, it does no good for a ship to retreat at 10% shields if the next missile is going to blow it apart when trying to warp. That ship hulls in X seem to made of wet cardboard is another problem, but still retreat/firing conditions should consider projectiles that are about to hit said ship.
Post

Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#5
JoshParnell wrote:Attack priorities I'm not so sure about. I would like to display an actual list of the scanned subsystems on-board the target, so that each time you get a unique list of subsystems. In this way, specifying priorities at the global level would not be possible, but I do like the idea of specifying broad priorities - such as weapons/thrusters/shields, rather than specifying specific prioties, such as "Aft UberCannon Mark I". Merging these is an open question.
Definitely no global defaults for specifically named subsystems. With them being PG, that would just be silly. =)

The only global subsystem targeting default that may make sense is anti-fighter vs anti-capital weapons... but I'm not sure how well that can be quantified.


JoshParnell wrote:As for your concern with an escort group breaking off to engage a large threat, I see it more as an issue of time to destroy attackee. Specify in the global options that you don't want to automatically engage ships that would take a long time to destroy (i.e., perform a relative computation of my ship's DPS vs total target strength, and don't even consider automatic engagement if the resultant time is above the threshold). This way, fighters will break escort formation for threats that can be taken out quickly, but not for something like a destroyer, where they recognize that there isn't much hope of dealing with it in a timely manner.
That's what I meant. Different point of view but the same thing.
If the escorting fighters are equipped for anti-fighter work, attacking a destroyer would simply be suicide and then they could no longer do their actual job of protecting the bombers from fighters.

Would have to be min + max settings, though. I wouldn't want my battleship to break off and start chasing some scout across the system. That's what missiles and auto-turrets are for.
Obviously, a specific order to attack this target would override the default.


JoshParnell wrote:And yes, we will see automated turrets. I don't want to get too fiddly, as you say, with commanding individual turrets...but I guess we will need a lightweight priority system for turrets as well.
I did write something lightweight for X3:AP since no processor hogs would be tolerated for the vanilla game. =)
  • The turret battery looks for a target within it's field of fire.
  • To do that it checks all visible (to it) targets against a list of priorities, starting with #1.
  • As soon as a valid target makes it through the filter, the script starts engaging this target until destroyed or out of range.
  • Repeat ad infinitum.
The player can assign one of 10 "programs" to such a battery.
(due to legacy issues I couldn't just generate new slots if desired)

What's new in X3:AP is that you can edit the priorities for each of the 10 programs.
Each such program consists of a list of priorities.
The player can append any "available" target priority to the end of the list or click a selected one and toss it back into the pool.
There is no saving/loading or any other UI element included. If you adjust the priorities, they take effect. As in realtime for all turrets that are using this program. KISS.



The target filtering in the script is pretty simple. Each such priority is a subroutine.
The main loop calls them in the order described by the "turret program". As soon as a target is returned, go dakkadakkadakkadakka.

With these priorities you can add a turret section to "your" main guns, too.
You tell some Flak battery to
  • 1. Intercept missiles
    2. Attack fighters
    3. Attack my target
That way this battery always attacks what you are shooting at if it's not busy doing it's "real" job.
No need to fiddle or micromanage these things in the middle of a fight...


One permanent complain in X3 was that the turrets would never do what the player thinks they should be doing.
In AP, the player gets to tell them precisely what to do. No more complaints.
(Oh, and I didn't include the bugs from the previous vanilla script. Probably helped, too.)
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#6
Retreat conditons
30% of formation destroyed / disabled / fleeing.

That way a formation of bombers could break off if they are getting pounded while you were busy looking elsewhere.
It's difficult to do, though, because destroyed ships are no longer in the formation to be counted. And if they are remembered, when does this counter reset?



This would work if a wing were a more permanent structure. It would actually have some extra benefits.

Let's say you define a Heavy Attack Wing. 6 bombers and 4 escorting fighters.
(being in the same wing, the escorts could easily be limited to only "defend", not find their own targets of opportunity)
You do all the configuring, set all the priorities. And stuff.
In one engagement this wing looses 1 bomber and 2 fighters.

These 3 ships are still kept in the list, marked as destroyed.
Since they are not yet "taken out of the game" all their setting are still intact.

When your wing returns to the carrier (which may be able to build replacements), the wing is automatically restored to it's default complement.
Basically, the destroyed fighters/bombers are taken out of the penalty box and come back with all their fiddly settings intact.

That way you could run carrier fleets without constantly having to replace individual fighters and "repair" all their settings.
All you would order is FIX IT and the carrier / shipyard would know what to fix.


Also, ship orders and ROE can always be handled on a per-ship base while the "wing" is only a container that doesn't need it's own conditions / properties.


If the ships in such a wing have a home base (say, the Tiger's Claw), the wing could be listed on the homebase object as destroyed / inactive when all ships in it have been destroyed.
So even if I lose an entire wing of fighters, I'd tell my carrier to FIX IT and wouldn't have to worry about all the micromanagement.


Entire wings could be copied, too. Instead of setting things up all over again for my newest carrier, I'd clone the wings of the existing carrier.
The ships in these wings would all be marked "destroyed" but the entire mess of settings, equipment, and whatthehellever would be ready to go.
Just deliver a truckload of supplies and the carrier starts filling out it's fighter complement.
All the choices you could ever want with none of the micromanagement.
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Post

Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#7
Gazz wrote:wing as a more permanent structure
That is a really good idea (particularly if some form of insurance is implemented). The most frustrating part about fighter usage in X is not necessarily the replacement cost, but the pain of getting new ships, fittings, setting correct turret commands, setting correct missile usage, etc etc.
Post

Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#8
How about something much simpler? This might cause some gnashing of teeth from others but it would be perfect for me. :)

Stance

Defensive:
  • Fire in self-defence (of this ship or its ward) only when fired upon.
  • Approach to maximum firing range from target.
  • Do not belay previous orders to pursue engagements with the enemy.
  • Retreat from enemy engagements when damage is critical.
    (What constitutes critical damage could be user-defined, predefined or left to the AI to decide)
Offensive:
  • Fire upon any hostile or known enemy within range.
  • Approach to minimum firing distance from target.
  • Belay previous orders to pursue enemies when the opportunity arrises.
  • Fight to the death.
Vector

Strict:
  • Do not break formation to take evasive action when under fire.
  • Do not break formation to pursue engagements with the enemy.
Flexible:
  • Stray from formation to take evasive action when under fire.
  • Stray from formation to pursue engagements with the enemy.
    (This would make formations elastic rather than non-existent)
Orders:
  • Attack: engage the enemy until it is destroyed or a retreat condition is met.
  • Disable: engage the enemy until it no longer poses an immediate threat.
  • Harass: Follow the enemy and attack whenever they come to a full stop.
    (Sub-options are quadrant and sub-system but they do not have to be specified)
Stance and vector would be attributes that can be set for any formation at any time. When it comes time to give an attack order, all one has to do is decide between the three attack options. Once a ship has been targeted in the tactical HUD, subsystems will light up to be selected (wireframe view or some such) and then quadrant, but these are entirely optional. Sometimes I'll be making a devious attack planned to the nth degree and I'll want all the specificity I can get, sometimes I'll be fighting for my life and trying to muster forces and direct fire as quickly as I can. I would like to see as much as possible of the nuance of AI behaviour moved to places other than the attack command.
Last edited by Zero Gravitas on Fri Jan 18, 2013 6:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#9
Gazz, I completely agree, I will provide facilities for easily saving/loading/templatizing parameters so that you can create squad configurations as you suggest. I guess certain parameters will only become accessible at the squad level, since they only make sense in that context - for example, retreating when 30% is destroyed, as you said. Formations are another big thing that only make sense at the squad level.

So we can think of having properties at 3 different levels: global -> squad -> individual. Perhaps we will even insert a "fleet" level in between global and squad, although I think it may be past the point of diminishing returns.

I really like the idea of formalizing squads and considering them as objects. I was already planning to do this, but you've given me a bit more inspiration in the way of saving/loading squad configurations. Here's what I was thinking: you bring up a "squad editor" that has two boxes: members and leader. Then, you drag units to either of the boxes, depending on their role. BUT - why limit it to this "specialized" layout? After all, all I'm really doing is giving you two template choices for behavior and saying "pick between them" for each unit.

Here's the generalized/better idea: for a given squad type, you define unit templates. This is no different from configuring unit behaviors as individuals, except that you now have access to squad-only options. You name these unit templates, for example "Leader," "Member," "Support," etc. Then, when you bring up the squad editor, when you select the new type that you created, you will be presented with three boxes: "Leader," "Member," "Support." You can then drag your units into these boxes to assign them to particular roles in the fleet. Roles which you defined the behavior of, of course. Then when you execute, those units will all receive specialized instructions based on the role they were given in that particular squad.

Perhaps a bit complex, but, honestly, the flexibility of this system is approaching absurdity. Can you imagine all the cool possibilities? Even just the three-unit system I described could be powerful. For example, defining the "Support" role to mean "only come into battle when 10% of squad is lost." Perhaps because you want to conserve the support ships, maybe they are using expensive ammunition and you don't want them to engage for easy targets.

Let me know how that sounds, but I've pretty much sold myself on it :P Of course I will provide plenty of default templates for those who want to quickly define a squad without worrying about parametrizing all the roles.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#10
JoshParnell wrote:easily saving/loading/templatizing parameters so that you can create squad configuration
+ as many as I have.

This makes preparation and organization of forces an important aspect of an engagement, I can't agree with this more.

I've always loved Formation editing, and Last Remnant's Union system was really fun for me. Perhaps it could be implemented with bonuses for the participants in a similar manner? If that is possible then maybe a formation/Battlestance editor that allows customized placements and priority lists of units and (possibly) manually balanced bonus association (Fighter Escort BattleGroup, loose spherical fighter screen that has bonuses to evasion and speed, penalizes shields,can be attached to a Specific ship or other BattleGroup to fulfill their escort role, for example).
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#12
I really like the sound of that because organisation of ships is horrible in X3.

JoshParnell wrote:So we can think of having properties at 3 different levels: global -> squad -> individual. Perhaps we will even insert a "fleet" level in between global and squad, although I think it may be past the point of diminishing returns.
I think the question is rather where the difference between a fleet and a squad is.

If a squad is an object then I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to add the squad "Recon Wing Delta" as a unit to the squad "2nd Fleet".

Since Recon Wing Delta is still a squad of it's own, I could order it to scout ahead to look at something. Then the recon wing returns to it's spot in the formation of squad 2nd Fleet and continues doing what it normally does.


Let me know how that sounds, but I've pretty much sold myself on it :P Of course I will provide plenty of default templates for those who want to quickly define a squad without worrying about parametrizing all the roles.
It sounds really nerdy and I love the concept but I strongly disagree in detail. =P
Your system is more complex without being deeper.

The reason why I suggested wings being only containers and all ROE and such being only individual ship options:
It works equally well for one ship or 50.

There is precisely one point of contact for the player.
Even "RTB when 30% of formation lost" would be a ship option. It doesn't do anything with a single ship but with it being an individual option, you could sacrifice cheaper ships, while setting the expensive ships in a squad to return earlier. The others would keep fighting, covering their retreat...

Any such squad would always be a template, too. Could have a custom 3D formation, everything.
You simply clone that particular squad. Done.



The reason for X3 being so messy at organisation is that there are 3+ (off the top of my head) parallel structures of controlling bunches of ships.
You can order an individual ship, you can order a formation by ordering the lead ship and have to pray that the followers choose to follow, you can order a wing, you can order ships with a particular homebase, you can order "all fighters in the sector", and so on.
Some of these conflict and break or override others.


The fewer types of structures there are, the better. So I suggest having one.
All the options are tied to the ship. There is never a situation where you have to find out in which level of organisation a particular option is hidden.
The only container structure is the squad. All it does is bookkeeping (who is present / destroyed, which ships to put on backorder) and making sure that an order given to the squad is relayed to all members.
Full stop.

That's an easy system to learn which is important for accessibility.
If someone wants to make it more complex? Sure, knock yourself out.
Create child squads, which would amount to the "Leader" / "Support" boxes in your squad template.
Add an "Escort" squad to the "Heavy Bomber" squad so you can temporarily detach the escorts and give them new orders. No problem.

It's still only one system. One layer of complexity. If someone wants to create such structures they can surely handle it but a new player doesn't needs to know anything about that.
This comes much later when he has several squadrons and sees that squadron A can be "put in" squadron B.
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#13
Gazz wrote:If a squad is an object then I see no reason why you shouldn't be able to add the squad "Recon Wing Delta" as a unit to the squad "2nd Fleet".
KISS, right? That makes a lot of sense. How would a pre-set priority structure work with that though?

If Squad I (Interceptors) is attached to Squad C (Cruisers) as an escort with priority:
  • Screen heavy missiles
  • Destroy Bombers in X Radius of formation
  • Destroy Fighters in X Radius of formation
  • Destroy subsystem's of Attached Squad's (Squad C) current target
  • Orbit Attached Squad's (Squad C) Leader within X Radius
and Squad C has these priorities:
  • Destroy Support ships within X Radius
  • Destroy ship with greatest DPS threat in X Radius
  • Follow player
Would there be ways attach squads to each other without having them share built in priorities? I can understand Cruiser, Destroyer, Battlecruiser groups in the same fleet sharing global priorities for simplicity, but when it gets down to Support Ships, Interceptors, even smaller Frigates and Corvettes that fulfill specific roles the orders of the general fleet would hamper those unit's effectiveness.

Perhaps have two attachment options, one under the Fleet, and one as an Escort? Squads attached into the fleet would share orders given to all groups above it in the structure, where Squads attached as escorts would be attached to a Squad or Unit for movement (Either by sharing orders or simply being tied to the Squad/Unit it is attached to {Position=Within X Radius of Attached Squad/Unit} for example), but would not share engagement priorities or orders with it's parent squad/s.
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#14
Gazz wrote:It sounds really nerdy and I love the concept but I strongly disagree in detail. =P
Your system is more complex without being deeper.
Well, yes, because it's the same system...I'm not so convinced that we're actually disagreeing? :|

My suggestion, more or less, boils down to a fast way to create a squad (i.e., build the container to which you refer) and give its members well-defined roles (i.e., the individual ship settings to which you refer) in a single interface. It is more of a fast shortcut mechanism for doing what you've already suggested in an organized way, than a replacement for individual ship settings! I agree, all settings are still fundamentally at the ship level, but we do need a fast/organized way to save and dispatch these settings. I concede that it probably makes sense to bring squad-only settings down to the ship level and simply ignore them in the absence of a squad.

Where exactly are we in disagreement? :P

About the cloning vs. presets thing? I don't agree that cloning is a suitable replacement to saving/loading named configurations, although it can be handy when you need to do it quickly and with minimal fuss. But I'm hesitant to say that both should be supported...

EDIT: Here's my TL;DR : I am not advocating squads as a functional control structure in and of themselves, I'm simply advocating a mechanism for quickly creating and dispatching an implicit structure among individual units.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford
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Re: Customizing the "Attack" Command

#15
JoshParnell wrote: I concede that it probably makes sense to bring squad-only settings down to the ship level and simply ignore them in the absence of a squad.

Where exactly are we in disagreement? :P
This one fiddly bit. You know how much details matter to me! =P
That way all the options stay concentrated in one place. Options that make no sense are greyed out but the player always knows that this is the place where he will find them.

About the cloning vs. presets thing? I don't agree that cloning is a suitable replacement to saving/loading named configurations, although it can be handy when you need to do it quickly and with minimal fuss. But I'm hesitant to say that both should be supported...
Definitely not both. Multiple systems doing the same thing means twice the complexity and twice the bugs. Do not want.

I had been considering a way to "export" a squad as a template so that you don't have to browse through 142 similar squads but only get a selection of the "default" squads that you want in the list. That's the reverse approach of creating a template, then filling it up to be a squad.
It would eliminate the need for a distinct "template designer" because you would manage a squad the way you always do.
Assign ships, fiddle with their options, maybe assign a 3D formation.
Then you save this as a template, complete with which ship types to use so that the options / weapons make sense.


Your design is one step more abstract. You are detaching the exact ship type from the role in the template.
The obvious advantage is when you update a ship design.
Your template stays more generic and the template remains usable for a longer time without alteration - but there is more work involved in mass producing something like a "Mark 7 Bomber Squadron".

I would really appreciate a "minimum fuss" option for copy/paste of squadrons - or entire carriers outfitted with squadrons of ready-made fighters...
If copy/paste is allowed, going down the nested squadrons is just nested loops. Recursion. Pfft.

My dream is that I set up a task force of a few battleships and carriers plus a screen of destroyers, carrier-based scout, fighter and bomber wings... and then tell the computer to build me 20 of that.
Sounds kinda lazy, doesn't it? (and a leeetle bit megalomaniac, I'm afraid)
But once the foundation is in to do THIS on the squad level, it's all the same thing. Nothing but recursion until you get down to the lowest child squad.
Infinite scaling of the squadron/template UI so that the UI grows with player progress. That is what I want.

I guess it's a matter of scale. I'm bad at scale.
I don't think of managing 5 or 10 ships. I think of what happens when I have to manage 3500.
Do I want to assign 500 new fighters to the role of "Leader" or "Support"?


YOU probably want to use your system for procedural generation of AI faction fleets. =P
Steal the player's templates and see how well he does against his own designs - only with different ships.
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