Fighter Update

Did I mention that combat readiness (“CR” – briefly, a measure of how good a shape the ship is in, 0 to 100%) has lots of tendrils into other areas of the design? I think I did. That’s not a bad thing; in fact that’s rather the point. It does, however, mean that I end up adjusting a number of mechanics in the name of everything fitting in better.

One such set of mechanics is just about everything surrounding fighters. In the current release, they’re a bit rough around the edges, especially in the campaign – a few things don’t quite make sense lore-wise, and a few things combine to make them weaker than I’d like them to be.

So, changes!

In Combat
The first big one is that fighter wings no longer go back to a carrier as a single unit. Instead, individual fighters peel off when they need to repair or rearm, while carriers launch replacements for every wing that needs them. This does a couple of things.

First of all, having more flight decks is actually useful. An Astral’s three decks can crank out replacements at an alarming rate, one that a more modest carrier will be unable to match. This is particularly important because with more decks, fighters can regain their numbers more quickly – instead of being massacred piecemeal as replacements trickle in. (As it stands in the current release, the three decks on the Astral are overkill; hardly any fleet can make use of all of them.)

Second, carriers stay busy. There’s almost always a fighter coming in for a landing, a few circling waiting for a free deck to land on, another fighter preparing to take off, etc. More traffic all around lends the proceedings a livelier feel.

Where does CR come in here, you ask? In two ways. One, the carrier’s CR determines how long it takes a flight deck to prepare a replacement. Two, the fighter wing’s CR determines how many replacements are available, with each successive replacement launching at a lower CR level. By the end of a long engagement, the replacements being launched are hastily-prepared affairs that can hardly fly a sortie without suffering some kind of malfunction.

If a fighter wing is destroyed in its entirety, with no replacements being prepared, then it’s out of the battle. Note that this means a single flight deck can ensure a fighter wing can not be taken out until its CR is exhausted (even if it gets unlucky and catches some shots it would usually avoid), as a replacement will always be in the process of being prepped for launch. On the other hand, having multiple wings supported by a single deck exposes them to greater risk.

These mechanics merit a few adjustments in the command system. The “Repair & Refit” order (the one that tells a wing to go back to a carrier for repairs) is no longer needed. ¬†Frankly, good riddance there. Even though it wasn’t a major issue, I was never quite happy that watching your fighters like a hawk for the right time to give this order was a possible way to increase their effectiveness.

Fighter Rendezvous
This is a new assignment. Fighter wings that are significantly understrength – say, only 2 out of 4 are left – will head to the nearest rendezvous point and wait for replacements to arrive before rejoining the battle.

Rally Strike Force
This assignment works as before, serving as a routing point for bombers to go through before going off on a strike assignment. But like “Fighter Rendezvous”, it’ll also serve as a rallying point for understrength bomber wings to recover.

In the Campaign
The changes in the campaign have to do with increasing fighter wing longevity. If there’s a carrier in the fleet (rather, a ship with a flight deck, not necessarily a dedicated carrier), then a fighter wing simply can’t be destroyed. If its taken out of a battle due to either being lost completely or its CR being exhausted, it’s not lost to the fleet. It might not be useful for a while until it regains some CR, but that’s another matter.

On the flip side, if there aren’t any ships with flight deck, then fighter wings can be lost entirely, and lost fighters can not be replaced.

In either case, fighters immediately repair any damage sustained in combat. It seems superfluous to keep track of something so relatively minor when a few extra points of CR net a whole new fighter chassis. As for the lore: let’s just say that fighters are fairly simple to repair, and further, any combat damage taken probably wasn’t all that serious, or it would have destroyed the fighter outright. (It might make sense to consider the fighter’s displayed hull integrity as a measure of its “luck” rather than a linear representation of structural damage it’s taken. Right up until 0%, it’s pretty much intact – after all, it doesn’t suffer diminished capabilities. But, perhaps this isn’t something that makes sense to overthink, given that a hitpoints bar is already quite an abstracted thing.)

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