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Starsector 0.97a is out! (02/02/24); New blog post: New music for Galatia Academy (06/12/24)

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Topics - vok3

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General Discussion / Why can't I punish treacherous agents?
« on: November 20, 2022, 05:57:20 AM »
Scenario 1: I stop by a planet.  It's minimally developed, no patrol or military base, so no guard fleets.  I feel like tacbombing it, so I do.  Then I fly off somewhere else, singing Judy Garland songs.

Scenario 2: I get a mission from an agent to tacbomb the exact same planet.  I know the planet has no guard fleets, so I figure it's worth doing.  I go to the planet.  It has a strong guard fleet in orbit - multiple cruisers at least, usually.  To tacbomb it, I will need to distract or fight past this fleet.  The expected cost of the expedition has suddenly skyrocketed and is not at all congruent with the information available at mission briefing.

Obvious conclusion #1: the only reason the guard fleet is there is because I have the mission.

Obvious conclusion #2: the only other person than me who knows that I took the mission is the agent.

Obvious conclusion #3: the agent betrayed me and set me up - or, at BEST, has appalling security breaches in his organization.

Why does the game not recognize this?

Why is it GUARANTEED that a guard fleet shows up in case of a mission, while they NEVER show up if the player depends only on his own resources and initiative?  Why are ALL agents hopelessly corrupt in this regard?

Why is it not possible to have at least some agents who are trustworthy and/or have decent security and no leaks and therefore the attack will come as a surprise the way it should?  Why is it not possible to, upon observing that the details of the operation were very visibly leaked to the enemy, return to the agent, snarl something witty, and shotgun-blast him out a skyscraper window?

General Discussion / Sad tale of the satbomber
« on: April 11, 2022, 10:28:54 AM »
Returning to the core worlds after an extended voyage, I stopped in at a pleasant little indie planet to refuel.  The fuel-pump attendants were very polite and professional and I thanked them and tipped them as a gentleman should. 

Upon departing, a local enforcement patrol signalled a desire to inspect my compliance with regulations.  Being a gentleman, I graciously assisted them.  When the officers saw my cargo hold full of meth and kidneys they had a bit of a fit.  I tried to explain to them, first, that I was fully complying with their laws and regulations and the meth and kidneys was destined for a market that did not share their peculiar moral preferences, second, that I had been very careful not to allow any of it off my ship while in their quaint little dominions, third, that every bit of the meth and kidneys was absolutely my property by right of salvage, not theirs, especially since the kidneys had been cryofrozen on a decivilized world since the collapse and the former owners were in no position to express any opinions on the matter, fourth, that they the inspection officers were not under any circumstances going to confiscate anything, especially as the proceeds from this property had been earmarked by myself for paying some rather notable bills which would certainly help encourage local industry and commerce in their stellar neighborhood, and finally, that if they persisted in any foolishness my salvaged superdreadnought's reality disruption weaponry should be measured against their two dinky little frigates before anybody did anything hasty.

My entirely reasonable arguments unfortunately fell on deaf ears.

Two rather small expanding clouds of debris later, I proceeded on my way to my next intermediate stop prior to the final destination for my meth and kidneys.  This was another quite nice indie planet where the subject of a minor delivery awaited.  Upon arrival there, however, I found that word of the previous incident had preceded me.  As I had been, quite lawfully and rightly, travelling with my transponder activated as specified in chapter 252.11 section 3 subsection 14 of the Interstellar Navigator's Standard Regulation, I had been positively identified during the preceding minor altercation, and this second indie world had inexplicably decided to align its entire foreign policy in every detail upon whatever decisions would be made by any other indie world - in short, defining its government as policy as the exact diametrical opposite of "independence" - and most particularly those events involving my first stop with the overly zealous enforcement officers. 

To be precise: although I had never committed a single infraction of any sort in this world's jurisdiction, and in the previous incident had been guilty merely of protecting myself and my property from highway robbery under color of law, and in any case that incident - being in an entirely different solar system and sovereignty - did not and should not concern this world's authorities in the least - nevertheless, I had been declared an Enemy Of The People, to be shot on sight.  And any docking privileges were to be refused.

Retaining my patience with, it must be admitted, a certain degree of difficulty, I requested permission to at least drop off my charge - as it happens, the child of one of the chief planetary administrators, whom I had agreed to convey to this location as a favor to a friend.  You will scarcely believe what happened.  Docking privileges were once more refused.  How regrettable an age this is, when a parent will refuse to see their own child simply because of a minor quibble with the captain of the vessel upon which the poor child travels!  Feeling great sympathy for the poor child, and being of a naturally generous and expansive character, I attempted docking incognito, as it were.  Unfortunately this planet, too, had overzealous enforcement officers, who insisted that, primus, I was not to dock with my transponder on, secundus, I was not to dock with my transponder off, and tertius, PEW PEW PEW.

Somewhat exasperated, I and my superdreadnought dispensed with these arguments, giving them the attention and concern they deserved.  The planet's night sky quickly became calm and peaceful once more, speckled with the occasional bit of drifting wreckage - I'm sure it must have sparkled beautifully when seen from the ground.  This, unfortunately, I could not verify, as when I attempted to dock incognito once more so as to discharge my duties and allow the poor child to rejoin its ungrateful parent, it became clear that not only would I be denied docking privileges regardless of transponder status and presence or absence of overzealous enforcement officers, but that this state of affairs could be expected to persist for "many months".

It is very important to note at this juncture: I had given my word.  I had given my word to deliver this child safe and unharmed to parental authority by a particular date, a date which was at this point merely a few days in the future.  I am an honorable gentleman; it is a particular point of pride that I have always kept my word and always achieved what I have said I would do, whether the commitment be to the noblest fleet commander in the Hegemony or the most contemptible guttersnipe of Eochu Bres.  When I have said I will do something, I do it.  And I had done! - here I was, with the child, at destination, in visual sight distance - and the very parent to whom I had sworn to deliver their beloved child, a powerful and influential member of the planetary government, was refusing to permit me to do so!  A parent, refusing to accept their own child!

I persisted,  I argued.  I pleaded.  A few days passed.  The deadline arrived.

And passed.

I had broken my word.

I'm afraid at this point I rather lost my temper.

In a towering rage, I broadcast to the planet that their execrable stupidity would no longer be permitted to commit such offenses against my honor and good name.  I removed the silly little patrols that had arrived in the interval, and I saturation bombed the planet.

These insufferable fools would never again be permitted to make a mockery of my sworn word.

Proceeding onward to a much more liberal and enlightened port of call, I disposed of my meth and kidneys in a satisfactory manner, as well as putting the child off with a suitable gratuity - sufficient to buy a frigate and thus to determine one's own way in life.  Quite satisfied with this outcome and having recovered my equanimity, I then made my way to a major center of civilization, eager to taste the fruits of high culture with my newfound wealth.  How shocked, how dismayed, how perturbed can you imagine I was, then, to discover - upon arrival at this teeming metropolis, my home port for many years, inhabited by several of the finest and most infuential personalities in the starlanes, each of whom I had the pleasure of calling "friend" - that I was to be denied docking clearance!  And not only that: in shock and horror, I discovered that I - I! - who had done so much, worked so hard, flown so many light-years for the rich and powerful of this world - was to be attacked on sight by the local defense fleets!

It is a satisfaction - a bitter one, but a satisfaction nonetheless - that my superdreadnought's reality disruption weaponry proved as effective against battleships as it earlier had against frigates.

But, as the vapor clouds slowly dissipated, I was confronted with an intolerable fact.  The same - same! - arguments were presented by this planet's government in turn, to the effect that in light of my horrendous crimes - crimes which, I remind you, consisted merely of protecting my own property, refraining from violating local trade statutes, attempting to keep my given word, and above all, flying with my transponder activated as per the Interstellar Navigator's Standard Regulation - all previous services and favors I had performed were forgotten, all previous debts the rich and powerful individuals of this world had incurred in my regard were to be ignored, all friendships now inconvenient, and I was to be consdered merely criminal scum.

I!  Criminal scum!

I remember well how my eyes narrowed and my keen gaze flashed at the seriousness of the situation.  This precedent, if allowed to stand, could well be disastrous.  I took immediate action.

I saturation bombed the planet.

Remorse took me like a hyperspace storm.  Was this truly justice?  Was this truly befitting a gentleman?  I needed spiritual advice, so I flew directly to the nearest Church world, seeking guidance of the soul.  They denied me docking privileges and would not hear my plea.  I saturation bombed the planet.  Frantic and distraught, I needed to sit and think.  I needed calm reflection and good wine.  I needed supplies and simple mercantile truths.  I went to a League world, where I was denied docking privileges, so I saturation bombed the planet.  Exiting into hyperspace, a passing Hegemony fleet diverted course to attack me without warning.  I systematically disintegrated every single one of their craft, returned to their home base, scattered the ashes of their dead into the atmosphere, and then saturation bombed the planet.

The matter could no longer be left to chance and happenstance.  The question of right and wrong must be made clear, and all must proclaim their allegiance.  I proceeded to the closest planet in the very next system over and, upon discovering their attitudes to be inadmissible, I saturation bombed the planet.  Proceeding to a more liberal if slightly disreputable port of call, I found them quite bemused and uncomprehending as to what was going on and quite willing to do business in the usual way, so after purchasing a suitable amount of fuel I left them in good order and newfound wealth while I proceeded to the next three civilized worlds and saturation bombed each planet.  From there on I don't recall the details.  There may have been some minor encounters with fleet commanders, patrol inspectors, star fortresses, and whatnot; I'm afraid it all became a bit of a blur in the targeting reticles of my superdreadnought as I moved on, world to world, summoning each one to declare its allegiance to Truth, Justice, and the Starfaring Way, and saturation bombing those who ululated their piffling little irrelevancies while refusing me docking privileges. 

In retrospect, I suppose the truly surprising thing is that not one of these planetary administrations ever took note of the pattern of events and considered that perhaps their wrong-headed principles should be set aside in the interest of self-preservation and averting the saturation bombing of their planet.

Regardless, this is why civilization in the Persean Sector consists exclusively of the Sindrian Diktat, the Tri-Tachyon corporation, and the assorted bands of freelancers and independent operators colloquially known as "pirates".  Gentlemen adventurers all, we understand that one can't build a space empire without saturation bombing a few planetary eggs, and we never respond unprofessionally to the necessities of business.

General Discussion / Why do the AI captains do these things?
« on: March 11, 2022, 09:48:57 AM »
Small flimsy ship, engaged with something that will eventually overpower it.  Multiple friendlies are nearby - not close enough to assist directly, but close enough to reach in time for support.  Small flimsy ship has the maneuverability to get to support but instead moves away from friendies to make sure nothing can possibly save it in time.  This happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME.  It's like they're deliberately trying to do it - the frigates zoom in at maximum speed, separating from the main body, then when engaged, they retreat off to the sides, away from the friendly heavies, rather than back in the direction they came from to get help.  Or worse - I've seen frigates move in on enemy destroyers, move past the destroyers, and then lead the destroyers AWAY from the other friendly forces, WHILE deliberately staying within weapons range of the destroyers.  There is absolutely no possible outcome to this except the destruction of the frigate to no benefit - as such, this behavior should never, ever intentionally happen.  And they always die unless the player micromanages them.  It's such a deliberate thing there has to be some sort of specific logic in the code that is making them do it, and whatever that logic is, needs to be ripped out and electrocuted and totally expunged from the face of the universe.  I can sort of see how under some (very specific, very particular) circumstances some players might want to deliberately kite enemy support away from the heavies (although my experience is that it is nearly always better to quickly pop the support and then gang up on the heavies), and maybe there's some concept of attempting to envelop the enemy fleet and attack from all directions, but that needs to be an option or the consequence of specific orders, not a default behavior - and definitely not default when backing away from superior forces.

Small flimsy ship, assigned to escort larger ship.  Larger ship enters furball.  Small flimsy ship sits behind larger ship and does absolutely nothing while larger ship eats repeated Reapers and Atropos.

Small flimsy ship, in a furball in general vicinity of heavy cruiser or capital.  Maneuvers to place itself directly between the heavy friendly and the primary enemy target.  Sits there.  Friendly heavy can either not shoot at all and wait for flimsy to blow up, or shoot through flimsy and blow it up directly like it deserves.  (I have done this repeatedly when flying an Onslaught.  I don't bother recovering them, either.) 

Small flimsy ship, in general vicinity of friendly heavy with burn drive.  Drifts in a direction that will place it in front of friendly heavy.  Friendly heavy ignites burn drive.  Flimsy has plenty of time to move out of the way; doesn't.  Gets body-slammed by heavy, taking significant flux and/or hull damage.

Small flimsy moving forward.  Is completely alone.  Starts sighting multiple enemy forces.  Keeps moving forward until suddenly it is taking massive damage.  No one could have predicted this!  Small flimsy tries to retreat but blows up.

Small flimsy is retreating from overpowering enemy force.  Friendly heavy is coming up to engage said force.  Small flimsy attempts to retreat through friendly heavy, bangs off shields.  Attempts again, bang again.  Continues attempting to retreat through friendly heavy until fimsy blows up.  Sometimes it goes from full hull to boom in a matter of seconds.  It's as if flimsy expects heavy to get out of its way.

Small flimsy is assigned to escort something bigger, is already at high flux.  Really big enemy is approaching, launches a hellstorm of missiles and gunfire.  Friendly bigger is retreating, shields up, no flux, in no immediate danger.  Small flimsy charges into the enemy fire, fluxes out, blows up.  I've seen this repeatedly and it never makes any sense.  Often it's an escort carrier that very carefully puts itself out front so as to get blown up before the thing it's escorting even starts shooting.  Often also it's a frigate that makes a point of going in there and fluxing out almost instantly, then promptly taking most or all its hull in damage.  Why do they do this?  Why, why, why, why, why?  The player does not want them to do it.  The escort target does not need them to do it.  It accomplishes absolutely nothing whatsoever.  After seeing it often enough the player is inclined to think that there is zero purpose in deploying frigates, ever, for any reason, because all they do is die.  Why?

Ship is assigned a waypoint to defend.  Enemies approach waypoint.  Ship backs away from waypoint while still out of range of either side being able to hit the other, because being polite and ceding territory is more important than orders.  This happens both with user waypoints and the game-defined control points, and it is definitely specific to the waypoint order, because as soon as you cancel said waypoint the ship happily charges into combat.

Ship is assigned a waypoint.  Ship engages a small fast target.  A minute or so later, ship is literally ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE FREAKING MAP, still with a green arrow pointing all the way across the map to the waypoint it knows perfectly well it's been ordered to defend, and still moving away from said waypoint to follow its obsession.  I've seen this with un-officered ships, so don't blame Reckless.

Ship is engaged with an enemy that will probably beat it.  Player orders ship to move to a waypoint, which would involve moving away from the current engagement.  Ship totally ignores movement order and continues losing battle.  Player assigns "avoid" order to the target.  Ship totally ignores avoid order and continues losing battle, including chasing current target farther away.  This too I have seen with unofficered ships - not overloaded or flamed out, either - so don't blame those.  The priorities are simply wrong: the ships are taking current combat to be more important than the player's orders, and that's just not the way it should work.

Enemy ship is given a "concentrate fire" order.  Two (2) and only two (2) ships from your fleet, one of which is always on the OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE MAP, drop whatever they're doing and suicidally charge enemy ship.

Enemy ship is given a "concentrate fire" order.  Not trusting AI captain judgement for some unfathomable reason, the player then selects one of the ships that auto-targeted the enemy and manually sets it to attack the chosen target, to make sure it doesn't spontaneously wander off to smoke a joint or something.  Game thinks: "One of my two selected units for this task has OTHER ORDERS!  I need another ship!"  Some other ship that has no business responding to this order now is selected to attack the target, even though two ships (one auto-selected, one player-selected that would be auto-selected if not for the player order) are already on the task.

Friendly ship is set to attack specific enemy.  Enemy promptly retreats through the middle of its fleet. Friendly ship decides the obvious best most sensible thing to do is to charge right through the middle of the enemy fleet, letting the entire enemy fleet pour fire into its flanks and rear.  This is definitely a good way to make sure the enemy blows up and not us.  Definitely effective.

Start of battle: carrier is given an order to move to a specific location.  Player unpauses.  Carrier immediately starts moving AWAY from the direction indicated - soemtimes to either side, sometimes directly away, almost never towards the destination.  This happens very consistently, with carriers in the front line and no friendlies or asteroids obstructing their movement.  Why?

Start of battle; player clicks one of the four control points and chooses "capture".  A ship is auto-selected to go there.  Having seen from previous deployments how the ships will change their mind and zigzag based on who's recently used a speed boost and who happens to be ahead. player selects said ship and manually sets it to take the control point.  Game thinks: "The ship I had selected to respond to that order now has OTHER ORDERS!  I need another ship!"  Some other ship auto-targets the control point.  Player now needs to clear previous orders and re-issue them, doing all the manually defined captures first.

Player wants to capture a control point but expects possible light resistance.  Selects two ships rather than one and manually clicks the control point.  ENTIRE FREAKING FLEET now is set to obsess over that control point.  What the hell?

Friendly ships have captured a control point.  Enemy forces are approaching.  Friendlies, being polite, back up to let them take the control point.  Player, being impolite, selects friendlies and manually sets them to attack enemy forces.  Ship ON OTHE OTHER SIDE OF THE FREAKING MAP decides that control point has nobody trying to control it and obviously the best thing to do is for THIS specific ship to fly there, the maximum distance and longest time possible, past an absolute maximum of enemy ships that might interfere with the voyage.  Because this is definitely a productive and useful thing to do.

Friendly ship has 360 degree shield coverage (Apogee is where I have particularly noticed this).  Friendly ship is at zero flux.  Enemy ship is approaching.  Friendly ship drops shields.  What the hell?  This isn't a one-time thing, they seem to really, really want to drop their shields as enemies approach.  Then they take armor/hull damage after re-shielding as the coverage slowly builds back up.  It's ***.

I understand that AI is not an easy problem and that there's a lot of stuff going on and for a coded algorithm to be able to understand the intricacies of all these factors is a lot harder than for a human being taking it all in at a glance.  But really, the AI behavior needs a revision or overhaul.  A major part of choosing which ships to use is knowing which ships the AI can't screw up with - which has very little to do with their on-paper capabilities.

To sum up, the things I would want to see:

1) Maneuvering to stay not-too-close to friendly heavies but close enough to benefit from their supporting fire.

2) Maneuvering to stay on the flanks of friendly heavies, relative to the nearest enemy concentration of force, rather than on the line between them.  This regardless of whether the ship is currently on escort duty or on its own.  (On some occasions it is useful to have escorting frigates zoom by in front to absorb some incoming fire and give the heavy a chance to recover, then move away quickly for the frigate to recover.  That's useful.  But SITTING THERE, in front of the heavy, is not.)  Even when the friendly heavies are all bunched up, as in a station assault, when there's not much room to maneuver - the lighter ships need to try to avoid staying on the line between any given heavy and the nearest big target.

3) Keeping track of the approximate locus of the center of friendly force cocentration, and being increasingly disinclined to move farther and farther away from it under normal circumstances (full assault and/or specific attack/movement orders would override this; possibly also a favorable ratio of deployed force).

4) Just because you CAN go at a certain speed does not mean you SHOULD.  Depending on the strength of the opposing forces, staying at something under maximum speed can be a good idea to remain within a certain range of the central locus of friendly forces.  (Maybe this is considered already implemented through escort orders.  The problem is, escorts are usually about 10% effective at anything.  They mostly just hang around without shooting.  The only ships that are worth using as escorts are Afflictors and Omens, because their firepower has no relation to their utility anyway.)  Default behavior should not be suicidally stupid behavior; the player ought to be able to trust that the ship captains, lacking specific instructions, won't deliberately slam their ships into the nearest wall but will do something that is perhaps not optimal but at least reasonable.  Frigates and destroyers (Shrikes, I'm looking at you) charging at top speed ahead of the rest of the fleet, into the teeth of enemy fire, and getting instantly vaporized, is not reasonable.  They should never have been implemented to have this behavior in the first place; since they do, it should be modified ASAP.

5) Any specific movement or retreat or avoidance orders take immediate and absolute priority over anything.

6) Any attack/capture orders are lower priority the farther away the target is.  This would also help fix the phenomenon of "charge that guy even though he's retreating twice as fast as we can follow and going through the middle of the enemy fleet".  As the target got farther away, the friendly ship would pay some attention to the clouds of hostiles it's entering, and it wouldn't go on a full-blown charge after the target until those were cleared - or until the target had moved back into range.  And this repetitive thing of setting an order and having two units respond, one of which is always ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE FREAKING MAP, has got to stop.  There really needs to be some sort of weighting of travel time to the destination involved in picking which units are appropriate for the task.

7) Remaining engaged with the current target is of higher or lower priority depending on relative flux levels and remaining hull.  If you're at half flux and the nearby enemy has 1% hull left and you've just got orders to go attack something on the other side of the map, sure, see if you can finish this guy off before leaving.  If you're at high flux and his paint is barely scratched, get the hell out of there.  This would be a good place for officer personalities to come into play.

8) There needs to be a differentiation between "focus fire on this ship and try to move into range of it, but do try to avoid blowing up" and "suicidally attack this ship, disregarding all other factors".  There may be cases where "suicidal attack" is something the player wants to do - I haven't seen any, but I won't rule it out.  It definitely should not be the default behavior.  Officer personality might play in here also.  Right now the difference between engage and concentrate is "one guy shoot this guy if he happens to be nearby, otherwise do whatever" versus "two-ship suicide run".  I want the ability to lay multi-ship alpha strikes on a target without getting baited into a chase, or having to micromanage it each time.  Basically, I'd like to be able to concentrate fire, like the order says!

9) Manual orders to attack a ship or capture/defend a waypoint are not exclusive with automatically assigned priorities. If the auto-selection would choose a ship, and that ship has manual orders to do exactly what the auto-select is looking for, it counts as fulfilling the requirement rather than excluding the ship in question. 

10) Waypoint orders need to differentiate between "try to secure this at your discretion" and "hold this spot at all costs".  The difference is not how many ships get assigned to it, but in the behavior of the ships that are assigned to it.  Right now the difference between "capture" and "defend" is the difference between one ship backing off and letting them take it while pointing a green arrow to the spot, or the whole fleet backing off and letting them take it while pointing arrows to the spot.  Neither is terribly useful - often a significant part of the oncoming armada could be picked off by concentrated fire if the friendlies would just stand and fight.

11) Orders involving control points that are not "hold this position at all costs" should NOT absolutely require a ship to fulfill them, superceding all other priorities.  Currently, that is the case: if you have a ship that the game has assigned to the "capture" task, and you set it to something else (like, say, "destroy this ship that's trying to steal the control point from you"), the game SHOULD NOT try to hijack some other ship to fulfill this utterly useless task that is being fulfilled anyway through the manual command, forcing the player to assign manual orders and objectives to every other ship on the map to prevent them from charging over there even through the middle of the enemy fleet.  I should not have to un-toggle the "capture" on a control point in order to be able to specifically tell the nearby carrier to send a fighter strike at the frigate trying to steal it - and no, I do not trust the carrier AI to handle the situation on its own; too often I have seen them back off without a fight, which is just aw349awcn9;3w9o75!@!.  Setting an order on a control point should be "I'd like this done, if somebody's available reasonably near by and isn't fighitng for their lives".  Even if the friendly ship is not actively on the "capture" or "defend" task, the task IS being accomplished so long as the ship is nearby: the result is what matters.

12) Front-locked shields don't get dropped at low flux levels unless there is no enemy within range 1200 or so.  The wider the shield arc, the less inclined the ship is to drop shields.  Flickering omni shields makes sense because you can bring it back up wherever you need it.  Trying to flicker a 360 is a waste and just gets you tagged by Salamanders - and nerfing Salamanders is half the reason to use a 360 anyway.

And finally ...

13) In addition to the "Dismiss" option for your officers, there is also a "Public Firing Squad" option, which will permanently remove said officer from the game and strongly discourages all your other officers from doing whatever incredibly retardedly stupid thing it was that officer did in this most recent battle.

What?  I can dream, can't I?

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