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Starsector 0.95.1a is out! (12/10/21); Blog post: The Pilgrim's Path (07/19/22)

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Author Topic: Allow mid-battle reinforcements to enter from sides to break up stalemates/blobs  (Read 1767 times)

Helldiver

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During large battles, various factors contribute to battles devolving into two blobs fighting near a map border, usually that of the side that is losing/getting pushed in. One of them is that mid-battle reinforcements can only come in from one direction and usually fly right into the blob and feed into the stalemate at the losing side's map edge.

My suggestion to help solve this issue is to allow mid-battle reinforcements (maybe after a certain amount of time has gone through?) to enter from the sides of the map, towards their respective team's border. This would cause the losing side's reinforcements to naturally flank the winning side's mass of ships as they approach the blob, breaking up the blob as the winning side's ships will either try to move backwards to avoid being flanked (the usual AI behaviour) or be destroyed - either way, pressure is relieved and the battle can shift away from the border.
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Alex

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Hmm, that's an interesting idea! I'm wondering if this is only an issue due to the currently-very-high fleet sizes, though The next release scales things down a good bit (a lot less capital ships in fleets, fewer fleets, and an emphasis on quality in stronger fleets, instead of leaning so heavily on numbers) so it might not be an issue anyway.
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Helldiver

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Hmm, that's an interesting idea! I'm wondering if this is only an issue due to the currently-very-high fleet sizes, though The next release scales things down a good bit (a lot less capital ships in fleets, fewer fleets, and an emphasis on quality in stronger fleets, instead of leaning so heavily on numbers) so it might not be an issue anyway.

I find that it occurs even without capital spam.

Once a side has an advantage, the losing side will start backpedaling up to their map border and get squeezed there. Ships joining on the losing side just go straight into that and although the winning side's ships take longer to reach the fight due to being on the opposite side, I rarely see the losing side push out of the border again.

Since the ship AI usually tries to not be flanked, I figure that adding extra entry/spawnpoints to the sides for each team would help a lot in forcing the winning side away and giving breathing room to the losing side. These would be more useful to whichever side is currently losing, which is the point. The fleet AI would simply need to know to make use of these extra entry points when fighting close to the their border (the player would naturally know to use them and just needs the option in the reinforcement UI, like how you can select left and right spawn for frigates right now).

The main gameplay goal is to avoid fighting at the map border which is really bad in terms of camera, ship movement etc. And also making battles more interesting in general! It would make taking care of your flanks and not just pushing forward important.

There are other things that go into blobbing like small map size, lack of major map objectives and overall low weapon range, but I think that even beyond those blobbing at the border is gonna happen naturally and this solution could be a useful one even when other factors are being fixed.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2021, 11:37:16 AM by Helldiver »
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FooF

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I kind of like this idea, too, as long as the player can't bait the AI into kill zones (though, coming from the top of the screen into my waiting fleet isn't any better).

Interestingly enough, I think a use-case for Frigates in the late game might be to deploy them directly behind the enemy once a certain time/reinforcement threshold has been reached. In the same vein, I don't think Capitals should be able to "sneak around/behind" at all. However, Cruisers/Destroyers could come in from the sides and Frigates would have the option of both side- and rear-entry due to their speed. Perhaps Phase Ships (as a class) could also attack from behind, regardless of size (a Doom behind enemy lines would be awesome).

@ Alex

I'm curious about the AI behavior if the OP's idea were implemented. If Fleet 1 (who is winning) and pushing Fleet 2 back suddenly is faced with Fleet 2B from the side, how does it prioritize targets? Part of me wants the AI to finish off the stragglers of Fleet 2A but another part of hopes it adjusts fire and protects itself. Or is it just a completely dynamic process almost entirely dependent on local battle space?
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intrinsic_parity

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There are already significant problems with the AI's inability to account for potential reinforcements. I see it when I am winning handily and some of my ships are pushing up to the enemy spawn/going on long flanks and then the enemy deploys their last ships and gets a random kill on one of my ships (that is usually facing away from the spawn). The AI does not consider that large enemy ships may suddenly spawn and ends up super out of position. I think this suggestion could make those problems much worse. It's very unsatisfying to be winning comfortably and then take major loses because your friendly ships are not accounting for ship spawns. Anything like the OPs suggestion would have to be paired with AI changes to respect enemy spawn locations IMO.
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Helldiver

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There are already significant problems with the AI's inability to account for potential reinforcements. I see it when I am winning handily and some of my ships are pushing up to the enemy spawn/going on long flanks and then the enemy deploys their last ships and gets a random kill on one of my ships (that is usually facing away from the spawn). The AI does not consider that large enemy ships may suddenly spawn and ends up super out of position. I think this suggestion could make those problems much worse. It's very unsatisfying to be winning comfortably and then take major loses because your friendly ships are not accounting for ship spawns. Anything like the OPs suggestion would have to be paired with AI changes to respect enemy spawn locations IMO.

That's where you, the player comes with orders.
If you spot major threats coming from the side, putting a waypoint away from the border and telling your ships to regroup there will avoid them getting flanked by the sudden arrival of some dangerous ship. And in doing so, bring the battle away from the border, which is intended!
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SafariJohn

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I think I've suggested this before. Something to consider is that it assumes a fleet has reserve ships to deploy, which IME is not usually the case.
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Helldiver

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I think I've suggested this before. Something to consider is that it assumes a fleet has reserve ships to deploy, which IME is not usually the case.

The suggestion mainly aims at helping with issues in longer battles where reinforcements come into play. I think it could be situationally useful even in smaller skirmishes though.
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intrinsic_parity

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There are already significant problems with the AI's inability to account for potential reinforcements....Anything like the OPs suggestion would have to be paired with AI changes to respect enemy spawn locations IMO.

That's where you, the player comes with orders.
If you spot major threats coming from the side, putting a waypoint away from the border and telling your ships to regroup there will avoid them getting flanked by the sudden arrival of some dangerous ship. And in doing so, bring the battle away from the border, which is intended!
I don't want to be wasting a bunch of command points just to prevent the AI from making very obvious mistakes because it doesn't know the mechanics of the game. The game is designed around the AI being fairly independent and not requiring micro-management, it's not an RTS where the player is expected to control all the friendly forces precisely. I also have reservations about how well the AI can actually follow orders, but that's a separate issue.

Also, I would have concerns that this just doesn't play out in a fun way for the stronger attackers. It seems like the attacker gets punished for pursuing the weaker defender which will result in situations where you can't finish the enemy because you will get pincered so the battle drags on for a while. If my fleet is much stronger, I want to get the battle over with and move on. IMO even fights don't have issues, and I don't have a problem with uneven fights resolving quickly.
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Helldiver

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Also, I would have concerns that this just doesn't play out in a fun way for the stronger attackers. It seems like the attacker gets punished for pursuing the weaker defender which will result in situations where you can't finish the enemy because you will get pincered so the battle drags on for a while. If my fleet is much stronger, I want to get the battle over with and move on. IMO even fights don't have issues, and I don't have a problem with uneven fights resolving quickly.

If you don't cover your flanks when pursuing an enemy and get punished for it I don't see how that is a problem. If you are actually stronger you will win, using a bit of tactics instead of just hugging an already border hugging enemy. Putting up a waypoint for rallying purposes is less micro-managing than telling an individual ship to attack a target.
You also write about your fleet being much stronger and wanting to move on, but if the battle is dragging on and you get pincered as you also say, then you weren't that strong and the enemy did have a chance. If you're heavily outclassing the enemy then there's no issue either, you'll just stomp them or you're already in a chase instead of a regular battle.

I won't pretend that this will solve every issue with border hugging and blobbing, but I think that it would be a step in the right direction and I am willing to defend it heavily as I love large battles and am having no fun whatsoever when the very common scenario of one team getting an early advantage turns into blobs at the opposite team's door that don't ever move until the battle ends.

PS: In case it wasn't clear in the original post (in which case my bad), the added entry points that I'm suggesting aren't near the middle of the map. They'd be on the sides but close to the each team's respective border, and would be mainly useful for breaking stalemates at the edge/border pushing when reinforcements come in.
« Last Edit: January 17, 2021, 05:34:16 PM by Helldiver »
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intrinsic_parity

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If you just set waypoints, your ships will sit at the way points and the enemies will die slowly (if at all) because the AI generally plays safe and falls back whenever it is in trouble. That is what I mean by 'dragging on', it takes a long time because you have to play safe to avoid losing ships to AI stupidity, even though your fleet is strong enough to crush the enemy quickly.

The issue is not whether you will win, it's about losing ships. The problem is that you can randomly loose a cruiser to a few random ships that spawned behind, even when your fleet is dominating. Those sorts of loses are painful, even though you were never in danger of losing. A cruiser can be 50%+ of the profit off a bounty. Having to play around that randomness is annoying, and IMO the AI should be at least aware enough to try and avoid those situations without the player constantly checking/managing their fleet. The game isn't meant to be a RTS. Currently, the AI will sit with its engines facing the enemy spawn because it has no idea that ships could spawn.

Even in the current game, I have encountered these issues, although not to the same extent. There are a lot of fast ships I have to micro-manage or avoid entirely because if I do nothing, they sometimes wander into the enemy spawn (or chase things into the enemy spawn) and die to enemy reinforcements when the rest of my fleet is doing fine and winning. There are also times where an enemy onslaught will burn in on top of a friendly ship and instantly kill it, even though that onslaught dies 10 seconds later and my fleet wins with minimal effort. These sorts of random loses are not sustainable when you are trying to make money off combat. I would like improvements to the AI's awareness of spawn points regardless of this suggestion.
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Sandor057

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(a Doom behind enemy lines would be awesome).

While thinking on the carnage caused by a stunt like that is both mouth-watering and terrific at the same time, I think that would be a bit too much for the AI (or the unaware player, e. g. myself) to counter. I'd draw the line at frigates for flanking. I'd warily suggest basing flanking on actual ship speed, but I think that could lead to a lot of crazy Safety Overrides + Unstable Injector builds.

On the whole I am all for making it able for reinforcements to flank, however I'd prefer that to apply to both sides where it makes sense, so if one side is severely outnumbered, no flanking. You should however only be able to flank with a portion of your frigates based on your relative fleet size. It would provide quite some incentive to leave some escort for those 2 lonely Herons at the back, or to even arm them so that they can stall or effectively repel a few frigates.

Still, you don't need a lot of ships for blobs to happen in the middle of the map, or somewhere on the top or the bottom, so adding this possibility would be quite an useful tiebreaker. Also a related suggestion is to be able to choose the entry point of fleets (left, right or center part of the bottom), so that battles (especially with allies involved) do not cause blobs preventive to effective deployment.
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Megas

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When my fleet is not powerful enough to win in a single round (NPC full-strength endgame fleet vs my not-quite-there-yet fleet), I camp my fleet at my side of the border and wait for the enemy to engage at my side of the field for a home field advantage.  That way, if my ships run out of PPT, I can retreat them quickly, and reinforcements burn in right on the action immediately.  Also, there were times I waited until an enemy drifts to my side, then I deploy reinforcements, ambush the enemy, and kill a ship before it can drift far enough away and start its obnoxious cowardly way of fighting.

As for waypoints, my experience is the cowardly AI plays keep away and my ships yank at their chains trying to get at them.  They also drift too far away from their waypoint, with makes it useless for holding a point.  Sometimes, I almost want to escort instead of waypoints because escorts do not drift as far.

Multiple phase ships are a pain to fight against because phase ships exploits stock AI weaknesses well, and I need to micromanage my fleet to prevent my ships from being stupid and letting phase ships kill them.
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Morrokain

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If this were to happen, it would be ideal to only allow frigates and maybe destroyers to do this. It gives those ships a lot more utility in the late stages of the game. Also, even with the toned down fleets, having a capital suddenly spawn and flank you would be very painful. That way the burden of balancing hullsizes is somewhat eased in the sense that smaller ships at least have a distinct role even if they won't match a capital/cruiser fleet pound for pound. I also like that it kind of organically makes sense in my mind rather than feeling like an arbitrary rule to promote fleet diversity. Skill bonus dilution isn't bad, per se, but I think it can be argued that it is a little arbitrary feeling. Can't always avoid that of course but here is an opportunity for a feature that doesn't feel that way (to me).

I really must reiterate that I don't think combat should be built around the notion that the player never loses ships. It's just unrealistic imo and drives the game into undesirable situations such as eternally kiting fleets. (The waypoint analysis is accurate I think and a good example of this - why would I as a player use waypoints when they are ineffective? You would have to build your fleet around pure alpha strike damage to use them. I guess you could make the argument that they are somewhat useful for area denial? But, because of backpedaling I think the enemy would eventually just move around the waypoint anyway and the actual effect is that the battle is further drawn out. Idk maybe I'm wrong here I rarely use them.)

We have confirmation that Alex is reducing the punishment of D-mods so hopefully that will help reduce the prevalence of this mindset. Megas brought up story point hullmods increasing the desire for min/maxers to not lose any ships with this investment, and so I think it would be a good idea if these hullmods were kept intact when recovering a disabled ship.
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Megas

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I really must reiterate that I don't think combat should be built around the notion that the player never loses ships.
This is what I dislike about named bounties.  You lose a capital, there goes about a half million credits, and you only get the bounty which is less than the cost.  (I consider the vendor trash loot as coverage of expenses like repairing and refueling your fleet.)  Even fighting 150k bounties against their multiple cruisers seems like a bad idea when my fleet is evenly matched at best and I may not have a colony yet.  (Usually, I have Apogee and destroyer clunkers vs. their pristine multi-cruiser fleet.)

I do not consider named bounties worth it unless the chance of victory without any casualties is high.  By the time I can do this with mid-level bounties, they quickly spike again to ludicrous multi-capital fleets (when I may not have yet acquired a capital of my own), and by the time I can do it again against endgame fleets, the combat game is won, and I avoid named bounties altogether so I can focus on the whack-a-mole zombie pirate threat that will devour the core worlds if I do not intervene (which hurts too).

We have confirmation that Alex is reducing the punishment of D-mods so hopefully that will help reduce the prevalence of this mindset. Megas brought up story point hullmods increasing the desire for min/maxers to not lose any ships with this investment, and so I think it would be a good idea if these hullmods were kept intact when recovering a disabled ship.
Today, in the current release, if we lose a ship, we can trivially replace it (in late-game) by building another one.  Cheaper than shops, and it comes with free crew, fuel, supplies, and weapons!  Late in the game, I do not mind losing ships in battle, and I splurge on replacement ships thanks to high income.

Next release, if we want to rebuild the ship, it probably does not get permamods granted by story points builtin for free, so player will need to spend two or three story points per ship replaced.  This is like a level drain.  On the other hand, if we want to restore the ship to avoid paying the story point tax, instead of paying bargain prices from our Orbital Works, we pay an exorbitant cost in credits much higher than our Orbital Works or even shops from NPC markets.  Combine that with gameplay changes that may likely lower income, restoration of large or high-performance ships seems a dumb idea, and it will probably be faster to reload and try again instead of taking the loss and spending too much time grinding up back to square one.

Because Loadout Design 3 does not exist next release, we will need those permamods to outfit our otherwise OP-starved ships.
« Last Edit: January 18, 2021, 04:49:44 PM by Megas »
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