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Starsector 0.95a is out! (03/26/21); Blog post: Of Slipstreams and Sensor Ghosts (09/24/21)

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Author Topic: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet  (Read 4518 times)

Gothars

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Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« on: June 10, 2018, 06:42:59 AM »

My favorite phase of a Starsector campaign is the start, when you have a single ship or a small fleet. During that time it's not hard to keep your fleet supplied, and you have a maximum of direct influence on the outcome of battles. It also speaks much more to my sense of adventure (no doubt influenced by many sci-fi shows) than travelling with a big fleet.

As you progress through the game you continuously grow, and that "lone explorer/hero" phase must eventually come to an end. (Too fast for my taste, but that's another topic.) There are currently some incentives to use a small fleet, but the whole game principle is about growth, so these incentives can never be more than a consolation for not being bigger yet.

What I would love to see in the game are reasons to go back to that small phase later on, at least for a time. (As a side effect that would increase the value of the combat aptitude.)

Some ideas:

- Jump points that have a fleet size limit. Those should lead to interesting systems (with suitable challenges for small fleets) or be shortcuts across the sector.
- Missions that require a small fleet. For example a faction could hire you to infiltrate an enemy fleet as a mercenary. They enemy might welcome a single ship in its midst, but hardly an entire fleet.
- It's an older idea, but the ability to dispatch a single ship to bring back help when you're out of fuel would be awesome.
- Maybe a certain hostile faction would only register you as a thread once you're above a certain strengt limit, enabling you to explore their system unhindered while on you own.



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SCC

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2018, 07:15:57 AM »

I always thought that the best way to do so would be by allowing players to have multiple fleets and the ability to jump between them at will, sort of as if it was an RTS with direct unit control, but Alex has shot down that idea already.  The concept of being big not always being best is neat, but economic incentives can only take you so far and forced restrictions may feel somewhat cheap sometimes. I think that stealth could be used in some situations, missions or redacted territory, where it could be possible to avoid some/most of enemy fleets by using small fleets, or at least small ship size ones.
The biggest advantage of going back to small fleet later would be that instead of using d-mod lashers you could bring out hyperions or scarabs instead, you have resources to do that now.

Megas

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2018, 07:47:56 AM »

My favorite phase of Starsector is the end, when my character is at maximum power, has a variety of the best ships and weapons, and can absorb a loss (if I did not reload games).  My least favorite is either the start when my character is at my weakest or early midgame where player needs to gamble his entire fleet against equal or better enemy forces for a while to make a profit, and losing just one is catastrophic.

It gets annoying if I am forced to downgrade to a Dram plus second frigate to do exploration missions and raise cash should my primary fleet cannot keep up with bounty progression.
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TaLaR

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #3 on: June 10, 2018, 09:22:51 AM »

The only way to reduce your fleet size temporarily is to leave most of it stored at friendly planet.
Since storage is going to cost money in next version (including ships), downsizing fleet will be become even less attractive option than it is now.
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Sarissofoi

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #4 on: June 10, 2018, 10:18:25 AM »

The only way to reduce your fleet size temporarily is to leave most of it stored at friendly planet.
Since storage is going to cost money in next version (including ships), downsizing fleet will be become even less attractive option than it is now.
Storage not gonna cost money on your own faction colonies just in friendly one.

SafariJohn

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #5 on: June 10, 2018, 10:24:23 AM »

I think the crux of the problem is that the Starsector's theme suggests small fleets scrounging around, while the combat system is at its best with big fleets. I feel like there is a happy medium somewhere, but I'm sure one silver bullet will not get us there.

Maybe a step in the right direction: insert a gap in AI fleet size by shrinking mid-sized fleets and growing large fleets. Contrast will make large battles feel more epic, while also giving the player a period where they can see they are more powerful than most fleets but clearly weaker than large fleets. In the later stages of the game, when the player isn't going after large fleets at least, they'd have a clearer target fleet size to optimize towards.

Smaller average fleet size would also make a lone cruiser/capital ship more viable. Actually viable? I don't know.

Something else that would help: if the game gave better guidance, whether descriptive or mechanical, to players regarding ships/loadouts that perform best in fleet settings vs. ships/loadouts that can handle things on their own.


- Jump points that have a fleet size limit. Those should lead to interesting systems (with suitable challenges for small fleets) or be shortcuts across the sector.

Bouncing an idea off that one: jump points that cost exponentially (so to speak) more fuel to transit for bigger fleets. Conversely there could be JPs that are free for small fleets.

- It's an older idea, but the ability to dispatch a single ship to bring back help when you're out of fuel would be awesome.

We could (sort of) do that if we could leave ships mothballed in a stable orbit like we can crew and cargo. Or has this been added to 0.9 already? I don't see it in the patch notes.
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Alex

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #6 on: June 10, 2018, 05:27:19 PM »

Was thinking about this a bit. One point to consider is the process of downscaling your fleet to do specific <thing> is cumbersome. You know the obligatory point in almost every RPG where they take all your stuff and then you have to get it back, and how that's a bother? I think it might feel kind of like that.

Given that, I think something like this would work better if it worked out to being a playstyle choice rather than something you go back and forth on often. Although, some degree of re-tooling your fleet for a specific challenge is good, so this isn't black and white.

The way fleet speeds worked way back before burn levels, for example, I think is a reasonable example. You just sort of naturally gravitate to a fleet size that works for you, and it doesn't have to be huge. Of course, that had other problems.

So now we've got supply and fuel costs which in theory might perform the same function, but as money-to-run-a-fleet becomes less and less of a concern as the game goes on, that's not going to work. I don't see this changing in 0.9 - while there ought to be a many more way to spend money and hopefully "too much money" would not be a problem, it still ought to outscale your fleet costs.

Thinking this through further, this means a mechanic to encourage smaller fleet sizes would need to have a direct impact on your fleet's performance rather than added cost. A current example would be sensor profile, though that's counter-balanced to an extent by sensor strength. (Operating costs could perhaps still fall in this category, if they let you do qualitatively different things as far as how long you can stay out w/o resupplying, etc...)

I wonder if some sort of skill might not be an answer here; skills seem like a good way to add new mechanics - it both doesn't complicate the "base" set of mechanics and there's a clear avenue for explaining how something works.
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FooF

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #7 on: June 10, 2018, 07:36:57 PM »

Was thinking about this a bit. One point to consider is the process of downscaling your fleet to do specific <thing> is cumbersome. You know the obligatory point in almost every RPG where they take all your stuff and then you have to get it back, and how that's a bother? I think it might feel kind of like that.

Given that, I think something like this would work better if it worked out to being a playstyle choice rather than something you go back and forth on often. Although, some degree of re-tooling your fleet for a specific challenge is good, so this isn't black and white.

The way fleet speeds worked way back before burn levels, for example, I think is a reasonable example. You just sort of naturally gravitate to a fleet size that works for you, and it doesn't have to be huge. Of course, that had other problems.

So now we've got supply and fuel costs which in theory might perform the same function, but as money-to-run-a-fleet becomes less and less of a concern as the game goes on, that's not going to work. I don't see this changing in 0.9 - while there ought to be a many more way to spend money and hopefully "too much money" would not be a problem, it still ought to outscale your fleet costs.

Thinking this through further, this means a mechanic to encourage smaller fleet sizes would need to have a direct impact on your fleet's performance rather than added cost. A current example would be sensor profile, though that's counter-balanced to an extent by sensor strength. (Operating costs could perhaps still fall in this category, if they let you do qualitatively different things as far as how long you can stay out w/o resupplying, etc...)

I wonder if some sort of skill might not be an answer here; skills seem like a good way to add new mechanics - it both doesn't complicate the "base" set of mechanics and there's a clear avenue for explaining how something works.

Skill Idea: Fleet Optimization

Years of discerning the exact capabilities of every ship in his/her command gives an experienced commander the ability to do more with less. Operating a fleet less than 50/30/20 Deployment Points gives the following bonuses,

Level 1: +5/10/15 maximum Combat Readiness (all ships in fleet).
Level 2: 15/25/35% reduction in CR Deployment Cost and Recovery Cost. 2/3/5x per ship bonus for Coordinated Maneuvers & Electronic Warfare.
Level 3: +5/10/15% Flux Dissipation (all ships in fleet).

The rationale here is that is a.) not all or none and b.) rewards small fleets with both campaign and combat bonuses. I also thought about the "deploy more to gain buffs" of EW and CM and worked those in as well. An intentionally tiny fleet could chain-deploy, likely have both speed and range advantages (if you capitalized on CM and EW), and win flux wars with otherwise equal ships. If you maxed all this out early, your initial fleet would be pretty powerful but as soon as you start adding, you would see less and less positive effect until you completely outgrow it and lose all the bonuses completely. This has the net effect of making the skill points useless. You might have to put in a warning or visual queue that the skill isn't working because your fleet is too big.
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PCCL

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #8 on: June 10, 2018, 09:19:04 PM »

I bring back this as another idea that can incentivize a smaller fleet.

It's the main reason I conceived of the system, really. Growth is a fundamental part of the progression of this game, but growth does not necessarily mean more/bigger ships. What if instead we can focus on building a small but elite taskforce?

Probably too intensive to implement at this stage of development, but I do hope some form of this makes it into the game.
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Goumindong

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #9 on: June 11, 2018, 01:57:35 AM »

The main problem with downsizing or being small in general is that there simply is less to do.

There are already skills that make fielding a smaller fleet (in absolute size rather than deployment point size) valuable. Skills that increase the power of your own ship and the power of additional ships (which fit in a small fleet better than large ships). Skills that synergize with a small fleets low sensor profile and make up for its lower sensor strength. So specific skills that apply only to small fleets seems fairly pointless to me.

Rather most everything in the game gets harder in ways which require scaling up fleet size. Bounties get bigger. Exploration gets more dangerous and requires more fuel. Etc etc.

What there aren’t are things that get harder as your fleet gets bigger. Part of this is because of “sustained burn” making every fleet as fast as any other. (So see my thread on fuel for a partial solution). But most of this isn’t.

Examples of things that could exist:

Interdiction could negate the ability to run away. Small fleets have an easier time interdicting because they can get closer without having targets run away.

Small fleet bounties: They always try to run instead of fighting unless you’ve interdicted then. They have good sensor profiles and avoid big fleets. They have fast ships so they’re going to get away if you do hit them without interdicting.

High value smuggling: requires you not be seen landing on a planet. OR customs scrutiny increases based on the size of the cargo hold. AND hard failure states for being seen rather than being able to retry getting to the planet without your transponder on.

Spy missions: get close to enemy fleet to identify ships/loadouts without being spotted by the faction. E.G. the Hegemony is going to send a fleet to kill some AI on the fringe worlds. You need to get close enough to ID the base location and base without being spotted. If you’re spotted the AI will reconfigure* and the Intel will be worthless

*it won’t, but that won’t matter for the mission failure state.





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Megas

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #10 on: June 11, 2018, 06:37:55 AM »

There are two reasons to go small after you get a big fleet:
* "Operating costs" - mainly if I shop or explore in a system... or if bounties outlevel my fleet and I need a two frigate fleet to do missions.
* Transferring ships from one stash to another (because you cannot transfer ships if you have too many).

Since player can build colonies and using others' storage will cost money, player will probably consolidate his holdings as soon as possible, instead of scattering them across the sector.


Re: Foof's post
We used to have something similar with Logistics in the 0.6 era.  Only problem, pre-0.65, you need an Atlas fleet to have enough capacity to loot endgame fleets without overflow.  In 0.65, you had food runs dominating income, best exploited by 15+ Atlas fleet with one or two Hyperion soloing endgame fleets (and that will take more than 100 Logistics).  If you want to fight (bounties on the side) with a full-blown combat fleet, it was better to deploy all, destroy enemy instantly, and stand down to recover half CR (because you curbstomped enemy fast with overwhelming force).  Frigate swarms exploited this best, and they were much faster than every other (otherwise viable) fleet.  Bottom line, huge fleets were optimal because they maximized profit of 0.6x cash cows.

And because cleaning out markets (to force more new monthly stock) is expensive, there was no such thing as too much money.  It was like using a gold-find character in Diablo II to grind for gold and gamble it all away with a few clicks at Gheed's for a chance of a unique or good rare (or high level specialty item).

0.7 did away with food runs, killer frigate swarms, and... Logistics (and by extension, efficiency bonuses).

Maybe small fleet efficiency bonuses, determined by character level, can make a comeback since the 0.6 era cash cows are gone.


Re: Goumindong 's post
Interdiction is... clunky.  Player probably wants Sustained Burn.  Using interdiction turns off SB and kills your speed.  If the enemy was faster than you (and it will if you have Prometheus in your fleet), you either need SB or EB to close the distance.  EB costs too much, and turning on SB delays your fleet enough that enemy recovers and you are back to square one.  So far, Interdiction is only useful (to you) to cause a persistent pursuer (with EB or SB on) to back off from your fleet (because they run away), not to catch the fleet you want to kill.  Addition of Interdiction mostly gave AI another tool to grief or troll the player, usually non-hostiles getting in your way.

Bounty fleets?  Sustained Burn outspeeds them, and if you need a bit more agility, toggle it off, redirect, toggle it on.

Stealth and smuggling?  Just rush to the planet with SB on and pray.  Sometimes, the patrols are away or distracted, and your huge fleet of capitals and superfreighters make it, and you can do whatever.  When I try to sneak with a small but slow fleet, what happens is one among 1) faster patrol wanders unaware toward my fleet and it is hard to get out of the way, 2) patrol pings sensor burst and my stealth is blown, 3) too many patrols crowd around planet and fleet size does not matter, better to come with big fleet and destroy them, 4) I make it... and my capacity is not enough to fully take advantage of deals; wished I brought Atlas and/or Prometheus with me.

And I have no problem with Sustained Burn dominating travel, since player can use whatever ships he wants, instead of the frigate swarm of doom.  The only time Sustained Burn is a liability is which I need to push through solar wind to reach a pinata in space, like research station inside a star's corona.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 08:13:15 AM by Megas »
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Sarissofoi

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2018, 06:59:21 AM »

BTW Can you donate ships to your colonies?

Goumindong

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #12 on: June 11, 2018, 02:28:15 PM »

Interdiction is hella useful for catching fleets if you sneak up on them. The addition of negating the ability of enemies to retreat would make it super valuable at getting to the stuff in cargo holds.

Sustained burn is a problem yes but it’s not the be all end all.

Also you cannot SB into a planet on this construction. You win if you aren’t seen. Not if you aren’t scanned.
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Megas

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #13 on: June 11, 2018, 03:17:57 PM »

Also you cannot SB into a planet on this construction. You win if you aren’t seen. Not if you aren’t scanned.
That is the thing.  Even if I try to be stealthy (with a small fleet), it does not always work (and not reliable enough).  Sure, it is a bit easier to sneak with a smaller fleet, but not enough to be worth it (to give up my main fleet).  If I fail with a big fleet, I get a consolation prize of ships, weapons, and other junk left behind from the enemies I kill, and I move on to the next market to try again while things cool down.  If I fail with a stealth fleet, the jig is up, and it is time to reload (either because I get caught and ruined or I waste too much time evading fleets in vain).

Are you saying you cannot dock while SB is on in this latest release?  No matter, I guess that means turn it off before I reach the planet?  Would make things a bit harder, but maybe not enough to matter too much.
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Gothars

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Re: Reasons to (temporally) use a small fleet
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2018, 03:21:33 AM »

Given that, I think something like this would work better if it worked out to being a playstyle choice rather than something you go back and forth on often.

But can it ever be a viable playstile choice? The way I see it, you're building a game about managing a grant fleet and building your own star nation. The (mid- and late-game) challenges in the game are all build with that in mind. Providing a host of entirely different challenges that can be overcome (only) by a small fleet would basically mean building content for another entire game!

That's why I suggested small-fleeting as a part-time job; players could still do Starsector's main thing while occasionally dipping their toes into other waters. You'd need much less content than you would for enabling it as a playstile all on its own.




One point to consider is the process of downscaling your fleet to do specific <thing> is cumbersome.

I wonder if some sort of skill might not be an answer here; skills seem like a good way to add new mechanics - it both doesn't complicate the "base" set of mechanics and there's a clear avenue for explaining how something works.

Maybe combine the two, a skill that makes downsizing the fleet less cumbersome. Imagine you could use the fleet tab to mark ships as being part of, like, a core-fleet, comprised of your most elite or most exploration focused ships. Then, on a station (or even in space?), just click a button to transfer all non-core ships and the supplies you can't carry into storage. Click again to reverse the process.

Could also be generally available of course, without skill.

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