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Topics - Morbo513

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16
Suggestions / Squadrons
« on: January 21, 2020, 06:25:10 AM »
The single biggest killer of my ships in battles is loss of fleet cohesion. Individual ships can easily become isolated and overwhelmed, while escort orders can result in the escort ships either putting themselves in too much danger, or not contributing to their escort target's survivability at all.

What could help resolve this is Squadrons - these would be set up in the campaign layer. Once in battle, ships that are part of a squadron will stick together, attempting to maintain a given distance between one another. They'd attack the same target wherever possible, while any orders given (except retreat) would be given to the whole squadron by default. They would decide to withdraw simultaneously when appropriate, instead of the escorts often putting themselves between the enemy and target ships, which is usually much more dangerous than necessary. Full assault would not be mutually exclusive with the squadron acting as such, in the same way escort orders are thrown out the window.

17
Suggestions / Assault order
« on: January 20, 2020, 03:06:07 PM »
An in-battle order that can be given to individual ships - to behave as if "Full assault" were enabled. There are often situations where it's advantageous for some ships to hold back while others attack, but where having them target a specific ship is detrimental. In the same way as a retreat order, giving the order to one ship will cost 1 CP for the first, any subsequent ones are free unless the game has been unpaused. This also allows you to maintain escort and harrass orders, rally points and captures while upping the aggression of those certain ships.

18
Suggestions / Addressing Early - Endgame progression
« on: January 20, 2020, 09:18:33 AM »
I started typing this out in response to this part of this post in this thread: http://fractalsoftworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=17726.0

[...] On the early game, it's by far my favourite part. When every credit counts, when every ship matters, that's when I think this game is at it's best.
With which I agree.

In my opinion, it currently feels like you're being rushed along into colonisation - the beginning of the end-game - from the moment you start.


 One of the primary reasons is the absolute proliferation of carriers - You can't really succeed against them without fighters of your own - a few wings of half-decent fighters can be a nightmare that persists longer than your frigates' CR - so you're being driven to get what are relatively expensive and high-upkeep vessels quite early on.


Another is fleet size in general. The scale of fleets/ battles seems to have only increased since 0.65. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the player will often be severely out-gunned. Throw in carriers and that's a lot of ships the player's losing, assuming they don't just reload and avoid the battle. So again, you're constantly being encouraged to increase the size and power of your fleet to scale with the ever-increasing threats you'll face.

Two things further compound this:
First there's the scaling of bounties, which in short order become relatively huge in payout and corresponding enemy fleet strength and/or distance from the core. Meanwhile, system bounties seem to diminish in frequency. The player can often find themselves in a position where their fleet isn't strong enough and/or lacks the range to take on the lowest-paying fleet bounties, and there are few options for profiting directly from combat. Taking a commission and going after enemy merchant fleets is usually my go-to - which again puts the player at risk of entering situations they aren't prepared for as faction fleets are generally a few times more powerful than the average priate fleet of equivalent size - forcing the player to further arm-up.

The second is the fleet cap. If you only have a certain number of ships you can bring with you, most of the frigates and eventually destroyers are going to have to go, to make the most out of your fleet composition. This means your fleet's slower and more cumbersome, which means being forced into more battles where you absolutely need carriers because there absolutely will be enemy fighters - further diminishing the value of the majority of frigates and some destroyers.

Finally there's colonies themselves. They are a practically endless, practically uninterrupted stream of supplies, fuel, crew, ships and credits. Your primary moneysinks are gone, and you're making profit on top. This enables the player to acquire and maintain an end-game fleet fairly effortlessly - but up til that point the player is dragging themself up to keep up with the escalating threats they must deal with throughout the course of gameplay. It goes from just scraping by on your ships, weapons, supplies, fuel and funds, to any losses you take being practically inconsequential. In other words, you go from watching everything - supplies, fuel, funds, ships, crew - ticking down to 0 and scrambling for things to help you avoid that - to everything always ticking up.

Combat and management of your own fleet are taken a few steps back - There's no difficulty to setting up a profitable colony, and once you have it properly established you're swimming in cash. Pirates and Pathers aren't a huge threat, and NPC factions aren't aggressive enough in trying to sit you back down - I don't imagine most of the powers that be in the sector would be too happy about some random space-bounty-hunter or trader and/or ex-faction officer setting up a new society.


Colonies:
1) The other factions - which have been established in the sector for a long time - should have a more over-bearing presence, especially if your colony/ies are closer to the core. Tri-Tachyon want to buy out your industries. The Hegemony demand a tithe. The Luddic Church attempt to convert your population and use their influence for their interests. The Diktat want to influence you against the Hegemony, the Persean League want you to join them.

In other words, you should need to sacrifice something significant to keep the other factions happy. If you decline to do so, open war has to be costly even if it doesn't quite reach the colonies in question.

2) The player must buy/commission their colonies' fleets. This could be a simple slider that drops down when you click the fleets% bit in the colony management UI - funds to allocate for fleet construction/acquisition, upkeep and maintenance - up to a maximum determined by what currently determines max number of fleets. It could have even greater depth - The player has the option to manually compose the fleet out of available hulls, and give it its mission - Patrol X jump-hole, stable location, planet, ring system.

3) Allow the player to commission faction fleets to find and/or engage pirate/pather bases that threaten a market's stability.

4) A state of open warfare threatens the stability of worlds likely to be affected by it, and those which provide ships, weapons etc to fuel it.

5) Less take-home profit from industry and exports. #1 covers this to a degree, but currently the player invariably ends up with more money than they know what to do with.

6) Increased demand from all industries and structures - to the point it results in the market in question generally having to import from outside its faction, and for stockpiles and what the player adds to them to actually matter.


I got some further ideas about having the player be more involved in the actual governance of their populations, and their population's disposition to the faction. Tax rates, conscription to raise marines and crew for fleets, etc. - but that's beyond the scope of this discussion.


Fleet cap:
From what I know of it, I don't believe the planned exceed-fleet-cap-for-increased-supply/mo will resolve this element of the vicious cycle. It's still a hard cap because the game punishes you disproportionately for exceeding it.

 I think the actual supply upkeep and fuel consumption of all those ships alone are enough to for the player to want to keep it sane. If not, a fleet-cap of supplies/mo or DP or OP simply makes so much more sense in my mind - you're not forced to try and fit frigates, destroyers, big bois and carriers within the same 30 ship limit.

Bounties:
1) Drastically increase the frequency/max number of simultaneous system bounties.

2) Bar bounties. A pirate boss' underling might want you to raid a convoy for him, an independent trader captian might be seeking revenge against the pirate that destroyed his fleet. A disgruntled League officer wants you to assassiate his captain. These would more consistently be of a smaller scale.

3) Give bounty-fleets a "threat level" by which the player can filter them, along with distance and faction/paying faction. It might even be worth giving bounties a dedicated menu.

All in all, allow the player to go after bounties they can comfortably beat at practically all stages of progression. Individual ships, smaller fleets of varying factions, up to the omni-present huge ones.

Carriers:
Big old can of worms this one, I'd suggest checking this thread: http://fractalsoftworks.com/forum/index.php?topic=17507.0

My take is that carriers should be somewhat rare. The autoforges that produce fighters are difficult to manufacture correctly, LPCs corrupt themselves after extended use (LPCs as consumables?), fighter pilots are hard to train (Fighter pilots as a separate resource to crew?) - so there aren't that many floating around in the sector.

Exactly how to go about making them rare/harder to sustain/less incredibly powerful in combat, I'm not sure - but the intent is to reduce their incidence especially amongst smaller fleets, to help reduce the impetus the player feels to constantly up-arm themselves.

Generally I feel that destroying fighters in combat should have more of an impact. Alternatively or in addition, that interceptors be made infinitely less threatening to frigates and above, fighters quite a bit less so, and bombers unchanged - while their effectiveness vs one another is also generally unchanged. And/or frigates and above should have a better time of combating them too - being able to fire PD weapons (Or any weapon targeted against a fighter) past/"through" friendly ships otherwise in the line of fire - in the same way fighters themselves can - would help.

Fleet Size:
Balancing the size of NPC-faction fleets against Player-faction fleets, and the player's own fleet sounds like a delicate task. After all the maluses to production and profit, that might be enough to diminish the average size of what the player comes up against depending on what actually influences it. Changes to fleet cap mechanics could also affect the composition of NPC fleets, with larger numbers of frigates and destroyers being more common - as opposed to the few, plus many cruisers and carriers that is the current standard.

Finally something largely unrelated - please allow the player to blacklist hulls/weapons/fighters from their faction fleet compositions.

19
Suggestions / Crosshair-type cursor for battles
« on: January 19, 2020, 05:05:26 AM »
Simple version: A less-obtrusive cursor for battles. A small circle, a crosshair, something along those lines.
The complicated version is giving it a bit more functionality. First thing that popped into my head is having it change colour depending on how many of the selected weapons are aligned with your cursor. The next was the quintessential expanding-with-recoil. It could indicate weapons ready to fire, or weapons in range through the same or alternative means.

20
Suggestions / Megastructures and additional terrain
« on: January 11, 2020, 06:59:41 PM »
Battles and/or story content that has you navigate your ship(s) through megastructures - things like hollowed out asteroids, megalithic artifical structures, ship graveyards, debris fields - potentially even within planets' atmospheres. The possibilities with it are endless, but the idea is to have battle/exploration gameplay with some static, fairly unique terrain on a bit more of an intimate scale. Some of these spaces could be too tight for larger ships to practically navigate. There could be recursive mission types that take you into these spaces, with rewards like weapons caches, blueprints, goods. Certain sizes might restrict the battles only to frigates, or severely reduced deployment points.
They'd basically be the equivalent of Mount & Blades' bandit hideouts - where you take a few of your best ships with you into a small-scale, close quarters fight. It'd be even better with a system like Starship Legends.

21
Suggestions / Merge/restore CR after retreat
« on: October 25, 2019, 01:20:37 AM »
In short, between phases of a battle the player (and enemy) would be given the opportunity to "merge" the CR of surviving ships. Handwave is that crews, munitions and supplies are re-shuffled to a few ships to keep them viable, effectively mothballing those ships that the CR is sourced from. The efficiency of these operations would be influenced by skills, officers, the presence of logistics ships and spare crew available. This would be less efficient overall during the transition between battle and disengagement attempts, as opposed to fighting another battle.

Calculating it to me seems like it'd be a pain - of course 5% of CR from a frigate would not equate to 5% CR on a cruiser. There would be a cap to how much CR can be restored too, again influenced by hull sizes, crew, skills, logistics etc.

The aim is to make CR a little more elastic, because it's often the deciding factor in whether you win or lose; Who has the most ships that outlast the oppositon. If you burn through the majority of your fleet's CR without decisively winning or at least being able to cleanly disengage, you've already lost, likely to the extent of being wiped. This would allow the player to beef back up a small handful of their ships, crash-mothballing the rest to potentially swing the battle, or at the very least restore some ships back to the point they're able to provide some cover a disengagement.

I was also thinking about the ability to restore a portion of CR to ships at an exponentially higher cost than it would take "naturally", again up to a cap. I've always looked at the retreat scenarios as the pursuing fleet catching up to the fleeing fleet after some time, some of which could reasonably be spent by both sides in patching up what little they can. 


22
Suggestions / Speed-up-time (Shift) as a toggle
« on: May 29, 2019, 02:05:52 AM »
My poor goddamn pinky finger. The length of time you spend travelling between point A and B, you're holding Shift down longer than not for many parts of the game. It'd be wonderful to have the option to set it as a toggle - or alternatively, two binds for it, one being a toggle for it and the other (shift) not.

23
I won't drone on so long as my last thread cause this one's relatively simple at face value. When you the player enter a battle, appropriate enemy/friendly fleets (friendly/neutral with your current enemy and hostile to you/your allies, and vice-versa) who are in sensor range and/or pursuing any fleet involved and/or not otherwise occupied can join the player's battle with a delay.

For example, I engage a Merchant Convoy while one of their Strike Fleets is just off-screen. They are so and so far away, so it will take them so and so long to reinforce, for argument's sake I have 10 minutes real-time before I'm outgunned.

As another example, I get intercepted and am massively out-gunned by a Pirate fleet. Some Independent bounty-hunters with even more, better ships than the Pirates are 5 minutes away, recognise my plight and take pity on me so they decide to join in. I can then commit to "moving in to engage", to delay the Pirates long enough for the Bounty Hunters to arrive.

For mechanical simplicity, this functionality could end at normal engagements instead of extending to retreat battles too. I imagine that'd be a lot more work to sort out.

Anyway, this would make joining battles the same for AI joining a Player's battle as it is the other way round. It would allow us to do away with the scenario where you're just a pixel too close to a second enemy fleet when engaging the first, or just a pixel far enough to dodge having to deal with it. Instead, if another enemy fleet's in range and not otherwise engaged it will join the battle, it's just a question of whether you'll be done before they do.

24
Suggestions / Battle Orders - Make me a captain, not an adviser.
« on: July 20, 2018, 08:26:38 AM »
Currently, SS leaves me butthurt when it comes to relying on friendly ships not to get themselves killed; to work in unison and use violence of action to effect when the opportunities arise; to recognise their importance within the fleet compared to the importance of their immediate orders.

I really don't believe in the command points mechanic, or the orders we have available that they govern. If I'm not mistaken, a few minutes in a battle as we see it is actually meant to be hours in "real-time". The notion then, that the commander of a fleet can only give one order to a ship or group of ships every so long strikes me as silly to say the least. Realistically, someone in such a position would be reeling off commands to other ships every passing second. You could handwave that as some off-screen tactical officer doing the job, but they're bad at it. Point is, AI do not have the oversight or creative thinking required to make effective tactical decisions and effectively coordinate multiple elements simultaneously. This is frustrating when its deficiency results in taking losses, as punishing as they are in this game. If I lose a ship I want it to be my failure that resulted in it, and if I don't I want it to be down to my efforts over dumb luck and making sure I fit AI-friendly loadouts.

The orders themselves are too binary. If I order one ship to attack another, it doesn't mean I want them to pursue them until one of them dies. When the target ship retreats behind their lines and I rescind the order, I don't want to have to wait another 2 minutes to issue another one.
Likewise, I want to be able to give commands to my carrier and its fighter separately. Especially where mods are concerned, many carriers are equally capable up on the line and their firepower is wasted when the AI decides it should instead be cowering behind the ranks.

The AI in general is very competent on an individual basis, don't get me wrong, and that extends to generally fighting cohesively. But I've lost count of the number of times I've been begging for one of my ships to pull back when they're over-extended for them to just fly into an Onslaught's cannons, or for a group of ships to go all in for a kill before the target's fleet can come to its rescue, only to have them to remain uncommitted and let the opportunity slip by. All because I issued one too many commands a minute ago to right some other wrong or take advantage of some other opportunity. Sound familiar?

Despite all this, the orders you can give often aren't followed with the intended course of action. You want to form a "wing" of frigates so you make one the leader by giving another two an Escort command on them. Have fun watching those two never commit until the leader pulls back enough for the enemy to push forward and enter the escorts' weapon range. Or you've ordered some ships to escort a tanker during a "strategic" retreat. Those escorts will get bogged down by the first enemies the group run into.


What I'm proposing is to put the tactical element of battles firmly in the player's hands. Do away with the arbitrary command points system, and give us universal, granular control of our ships' behaviour.
The first part of it is to remove Command Points as a mechanic. They're an arbitrary limitation, and with orders of such singular purpose, don't rank high regarding skillpoint and hull-mod investment, or tactical importance re: command relays.
Off the top of my head I don't have a solution as to what those skills and hullmods could be replaced with, but by most accounts I've heard they lack purpose in the first place.

Many of these could be rolled in to one another, or take precedence contextually. It's the principle that I'm attempting to convey, all the following is just an example of possible implementation.

Disposition:
Tactical Retreat - Immediately disengage, retreat and remain beyond nearest enemy's weapon range + 500 units.
Timid                - Remain outside of nearest enemy's weapon range, only entering if risk is low.  Immediate disengagement if any damage taken.
Cautious            - Remain outside nearest enemy's weapon range, entering occasionally to chip away at its flux/armour/hull. Disengages on hull damage.
Steady (Default) - Enter nearest enemy's weapon range as needed to maintain balanced damage output vs input. Disengages at high flux/moderate continuous hull damage.
Aggressive         - Keep enemy in range of all non-PD weapons, withdrawing to avoid continuous hull damage.
Reckless            - Keep enemy in range of all non-PD weapons, withdrawing only to vent flux or on heavy damage.
Kamikaze          - Attack nearest or assigned target without regard for incoming damage, and do not disengage until told otherwise. No regard for damage.

Disposition is the most important element to me, and (in addition to removing CPs) achieve 50% of what I hope for here.
Officer personality could still exist but take a back-seat. Eg. a Reckless officer set to Timid will fluctuate between Reckless, Aggressive and Steady. A steady officer set to reckless would fluctuate between reckless and aggressive. Kamikaze and Tactical Retreat would never be ignored.
For the enemy AI's purposes, factions could have global modifiers to their fleets' average disposition based on the types of officers their markets produce.

Escort behaviour:
Protect                  - Ship will maintain positions between its escort target and the nearest enemies (Screening with frigates, escorting non-combat ships etc)
Wingman (Default) - Ship will defer disposition to escort target; engage enemies it engages and disengage when it disengages
Defend                  - Ship will maintain an orbit around escort target, but pull back "behind" the target when threatened (Mainly for PD-heavy craft supporting other ships)

This is the other 50%. There's little else you can do to maintain cohesion between given groups of mutually-supporting ships. Being able to determine how they act when escorting lets you ensure they cover one anothers' weaknesses, or maximise the effect of mixed damage types across ships.

Fire discipline:
Dictates whether and in what situation the ship should expend its limited missiles
Hold Fire    - Ship will not fire limited missiles
Salvo Fire   - Ship will fire one salvo from each of its launchers at the nearest or assigned target
Fire at will  - Ship will fire missiles as situation dictates (current behaviour)
???            - Ship will fire all launchers at closest or assigned target until expended.

Beyond Hull, Armour, CR and ships, missiles are the only other finite resource across your fleet within battles. It only makes sense to be able to control their expenditure.

Flux discipline:
Determines how much flux buildup a ship will tolerate before disengaging (would swap them to Timid/Tactical retreat until flux is vented).
High     - Will disengage at ~40% flux
Normal - Current standard behaviour
Low      - Will disengage at ~95% flux
None    - Will drop shields and continue engaging their current target until they take too much damage as determined by disposition.

For ships that have heavy armour but weak flux/shields, or weak flux/shields but heavy/short-range firepower and other combinations, this would help you in matching their behaviour with their capabilities where disposition alone might hamstring them or sentence them to certain death.

Retreat behaviour:
Orderly - Retreating ships will seek out and join any other retreating ships, will orient their ship/shields to protect them from damage, engage enemy ships between them and retreat.
Fighting withdrawal - Retreating ships will seek out retreating friendlies if any. Will attempt to fight off attackers as they are pursued to within enemy weapon range.
Careless - Will bee-line straight for the exit, keep their shields down for maximum speed, and only use PD if any to destroy incoming missiles & fighters.

Defaults for these could be set up in the loadout screen per-ship, or fleet-wide in the fleet management screen, in addition to being able to set presets. Ideally there'd also be a command to have all ships revert to their presets; failing that, default behaviour.

I had more ideas for this but like I said, a lot of them can be rolled in or applied contextually so I removed a lot where that was the case. Most of it's covered by disposition.

25
Suggestions / Yellow Alert (Ability)
« on: November 17, 2017, 04:55:45 AM »
Yet another one of my bathroom-induced ideas.

Yellow alert would be similar to e-burn in that it's an active, time-limited ability.
I'm not going to be too specific with numbers, but the idea is you'd activate it and it would inflate your fleet's combat readiness and add 10-20% burn speed. This would come at the cost of increased supply consumption and (doubled?) recovery costs, and multiplied repair/recovery time (scaling back to original CR) after a battle is fought in yellow alert. This would allow you to invest more in an individual battle, and allow you to catch up to a fleeing fleet outside of E-burn, but make you much more vulnerable than you otherwise would be once the battle is over.

26
Suggestions / Marine/Boarding mechanics - a different take.
« on: September 15, 2017, 03:37:30 PM »
Nothing so broken as other suggestions.
Idea's pretty simple really: You "capture" disabled enemy ships during combat by hovering close by, in the same fashion as a capture point. The conditions you have to meet are that the wreck is intact, and you have enough marines on the ship(s) doing the capturing - So a combat frigate with a crew of 30 probably won't be able to take control of an Onslaught.
Another possible pre-requisite is the ship(s) carrying those Marines also have a boarding pods hullmod or weapon - and all Marines are split across those ships - Lose one and you lose a lot of Marines.

A short while after successfully capturing a wreck, it will be flown off-map in a similar fashion to a mothballed ship. This will guarantee its recoverability and reduce the supply cost (Handwave: The Marines put out the fires. Handwave 2: Those fires are what kills the remaining crew in the absence of Marines) to do so. It can still be re-destroyed while attempting to exit the map, at which point it's 100% guaranteed to fragment and be irrecoverable, along with most of the Marines in it.

The intent is to create more dynamic, emergent objectives within battles, while also allowing the player to be more selective with which ships they attempt to recover, and give certain ships a purpose within combat. You could have a non-combat personnel transport ship for the sole purpose of recovering prised enemy ships - it gives your enemy a target, and you something to protect. Or, you can down-size your crews to have room for Marines on most, allowing you to use swarms of boarding-capable ships to both capture and protect a wreck, at the expense of CR.

Where it gets icky, as usual, is how the game would work out how many marines vs crew are on what ships, or if the player would have to do that manually (Something I think we want to avoid; I wouldn't mind, but I'm not the entire playerbase).
There's also the issue of accidentally capturing wrecks you don't want, just by Marine ships being close enough for long enough - maybe this could be avoided by having to give an order specifically to capture a ship before the process can begin (except for player ship?).
Finally, there's also the fact that wrecks will maintain their inertia and eventually drift off-map. Maybe a tractor-beam type weapon, or some kind of equipment that can be used to halt drifting wrecks?

27
Suggestions / Combat Arena
« on: August 05, 2017, 05:50:34 AM »
This suggestion is basically for a free-for-all arena style minigame as an addition to the campaign, sorta like MW4: Mercs' Solaris - a way to integrate more arcadey and varied battle scenarios into the main game without compromising the nature of the campaign. In other words, you go with your fleet to a particular planet or station that hosts these fights, and get to compete in different leagues - usually based on ship class/size. Typically you'd field one ship per event, but others may allow you to field a small fleet. There could be all sorts of modes like CTF, point control, racing, straight up free-for-all and team-deathmatches with varying fleet sizes per participant, etc.
Any ships of yours that are destroyed would be recoverable along with all their weapons/LPCs and officers, but may still incur D-mods.
Prizes could come in the form of cash, ships, rare weapons, officers, all sorts.
You could "sponsor" a faction, in other words represent them in this arena - losing alignment if you don't perform well and vice-versa.

Only question is if battles are able to support more than 2 sides.

28
Discussions / Angels Fall First
« on: June 21, 2017, 12:25:05 PM »


What is Angels Fall First?
The quickest way to sum it up is this: Battlefield 2142, crossed with Battlefront II, crossed with Unreal Tournament's Assault gamemode. In other words, it's a Sci-Fi FPS and Space Combat hybrid, with objective-based gameplay, class and vehicle customisation, and just all-around cool stuff.


Gameplay
AFF is split into four gamemodes - First, Ground and Space battles, which are each divided into "Territories" and "Incursion". Territories plays out much like Battlefield's Conquest mode, or the ubiquitous Domination gamemode. Incursion, on the other hand, typically has one side attacking and the other defending. In ground incursions, the attackers must take over sets of control points, much like BFBC onwards' Rush gamemode, but also includes objectives such as opening a fortress' gates and taking over LZs as forward spawn-points. On some maps, both teams may have access to vehicles; Each has their own FAV, APC, Tank, Walker and Gunship. These are deployed periodically, typically being awarded to high-performing players and dropped on the battlefield, rather than spawning at CPs available for anyone to use.


In space, things get a little more interesting. On some maps, the attackers' first objectives might be space-based, while the next set may include boarding the defenders' space station and fighting it out as infantry, taking over CPs in the same fashion as the ground battles. Both teams have access to a wide array of strike craft filling different roles; Interceptors, bombers, brawlers, dropships - wait, dropships?

In much the same fashion as vehicles in ground battles, in space battles players may be awarded sub-capital ships; Corvettes, Frigates and Destroyers. Beyond that, certain stages of a given space incursion, or at predetermined times in Territories, one or both teams will deploy capital ships (Typically the attackers in Incursions). These capitals pack a serious array of weapons, and can be used to deny large areas of space. Not only that, but they serve as a forward spawn for its team, able to deploy strike craft. The best part? They're fully crewable by players, down to point-defence turrets.
But wait, it gets better - the enemy team can board them, if they can get a dropship through its fields of fire.

From there, boarders can spawn on the dropship if they weren't already onboard, until it's destroyed by enemy fighters. This allows them to wreak all kinds of havoc - disabling individual weapons systems, going for the shield generators, or straight for its reactor core, forcing its owners to fight in close-quarters if they want to hold on to their capital ship.

AFF has full bot support, being an Unreal Engine game. They can be a little dumb at times, but they're nice to shore up playercount.
All your individual weapons, vehicles and strike craft are fully customisable, with ammo types, attachments, different weapons and countermeasure loadouts, and in the latest updates, camouflage schemes and colours (There is also the option to disable this entirely client-side, if hot pink & yellow tanks aren't your thing).


I think that about covers it. A word of warning though, it is in Early Access. It's a little light on content and players, and is also somewhat unoptimised (Though I wouldn't know with my hardware, I get 20fps max in anything released post-2010). The playercount is down to the devs' decision not to advertise it until it's complete, or at least has had all its kinks worked out. That said, the bots provide plenty of meat for the grinder, you can even play offline if you choose to.

Steam page here:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/367270
Currently on sale for £13.37.

Edit: Sorry about the page-stretch. Also note, the screenshots in here are from an older version, using the old UI. The latest update released the other day contained a completely overhauled HUD, it's now a lot cleaner and more legible.

29
Last night, I attempted to invade Umbra for Metelson; I finished the battle, but the game crashed almost immediately after. Reloaded the save today, completed the battle and finished the invasion, and about a minute later got the same crash. "Fatal: Null", something along those lines.

Snippet of Starsector.log:
Code
749237 [Thread-4] ERROR com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain  - java.lang.NullPointerException
java.lang.NullPointerException
at data.scripts.campaign.events.DS_PersonBountyEvent.spawnFleet(DS_PersonBountyEvent.java:1257)
at data.scripts.campaign.events.DS_PersonBountyEvent.startEvent(DS_PersonBountyEvent.java:592)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.events.CampaignEventManager.startEvent(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.api.impl.campaign.events.CoreEventProbabilityManager.startPersonBountiesIfNeeded(CoreEventProbabilityManager.java:120)
at com.fs.starfarer.api.impl.campaign.events.CoreEventProbabilityManager.advance(CoreEventProbabilityManager.java:109)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignEngine.advance(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignState.advance(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.BaseGameState.traverse(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.state.AppDriver.begin(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain.main(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.StarfarerLauncher$1.run(Unknown Source)
at java.lang.Thread.run(Unknown Source)

Mods:
Lightshow for Ship/Weapon pack 1.32
Dynasector 1.21
BRDY 0.90
Common Radar 2.4c
Console Commands 3.0 WIP3
Dassault-Mikoyan 0.95c
Disassemble Reassemble 0.5
Interstellar Imperium 1.17.1
LazyLib 2.2
Leading Pip 1.81
Metelson Industries A3.00
Nexerelin 0.8.1
Portrait Pack 1.2.3
Save Transfer 1.11.0
Ship/Weapon Pack 1.20
Tore Up Plenty 0.81
Underworld 1.10
Version Checker 1.7c
AudioPlus 1.0.4
GraphicsLib 1.2.0
prv Starworks v1 RC5

I'd left a lot of those mods without updating them for the past few weeks. I'm going to update them all now that I have an excuse, but I'll leave this here just in case it's helpful

30
I have no idea how technically feasible the first part of this suggestion is, but it goes like this: The brightness and colour of the cone-of-fire indicator will change depending on the background, and even better, dynamic elements like explosions, debris, asteroids and whatnot. Sometimes you'll get certain background or environmental effects that make them practically invisible. I doubt it's easy to implement though, so the next best thing is allowing the player to customise it, split into the inner "actual" cone, and the outer arc. Currently they're monotonous and it's hard to tell what the actual path of the projectile will be based on the inner cone.

The other half is a less obtrusive cursor for battles, something a little more symmetrical instead of the traditional cursor. Even better if it were split into two parts - one of which would extend out to a certain distance from the ship with the other acting as the "actual" cursor, so you can get better use it to index what's in your path or line of fire.

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