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Author Topic: Formations?  (Read 3890 times)

frag971

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Formations?
« on: June 19, 2013, 12:03:12 PM »

One of the reasons why i only like to play carrier+fighters is that AI is pretty dumb for what i want to do. Very often a single capital ship will go into a group of enemies all by itself and die from overwhelming fire. Would it be possible to design formations? Perhaps a simple grid-like system where i place all my fleet and it will always try to keep it that way.

Obviously let me hotkey different formations (Ctrl+1, Ctrl+2?) and a toggle to disable them in combat, that will keep them in line.

And yes i know i can order my ships to stay in specific places but i really hate the very limited amount of orders i get so i never end up using them anyway unless in extreme emergency or i simply want the idiot frigates to retreat so i can actually solo kill the enemy fleet without ship losses.

In a semi-related note: Are there plans for "commander mode"? A special ship which has little combat potential but would allow me to control my ships like in typical strategy games like starcraft 2 perhaps? Or is the current orders system to stay (i never use it)?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2013, 12:18:31 PM by frag971 »
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xenoargh

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2013, 01:51:10 PM »

A "commander mode" could be implemented by giving you a ship that, if piloted by the player, gave you lots of CPs.  That should be pretty easy to mod in.

The need for formations is pretty acute; in theory, it could be accomplished via some modding but it would be very difficult to give the players controls without access to any sort of UI tools.
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Thaago

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2013, 02:44:29 PM »

Command ships would be nice - a hullmod that gives CP at the cost of a heck of a lot of OP - could really help in large battles. Formations though... I completely disagree with you. Not only do I think there is no need for them, I also think there is no way they would work. I think formations are fundamentally incompatible with the game's combat mechanics. For the example of a capital ship running off alone: an escort command on the capital would solve your problem. Pick the level you want, or make a custom group that will work well with it. The current command system can gives a very good level of control as long as you realize that the combat is not RTS. And in my opinion if it were more RTS like the game would suck badly. I highly suggest trying to use the current system - it is different, but works pretty well (yes it can use some tweaks).

Reason in a nutshell:
The level of detail for each ship is much much higher in starsector than in RTS's (shield facings, weapon ranges, weapon arcs, an armor grid...). This in turn makes the tactics much more complicated than the RTS "sit here and shoot/stab them". Sure RTS can have more complicated mechanics with status effects, area effects, cloaking... but in the end you sit there and shoot them (or run there and stab them). I love RTS games - but the control scheme they used is designed for an entirely different scenario.

For example, two tactics that the directional shields and active venting make very important: flanking and retreating. The AI actively does these things - sometimes not perfectly, but it does. I don't think formations could accomplish either of them. Even larger ships benefit very much from timed retreats - the lead ship will retreat when at high flux, forcing you to deal with the escorts which remain forward. Lead ship vents and re-engages, saved from most of the damage because it was covered for a few seconds. If the formations have wide 'leashes' that allow ships to individually retreat... then its not any different from an escort command, is it? If they don't have a large enough leash, then any ship on the edge of a formation will get slaughtered.
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xenoargh

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2013, 08:17:08 PM »

The ideal formation in 2D warfare like this, where ships cannot shoot through each other much, is a line of battle, which is how real formations of real ships fought, and with good reason. 

This means every is ship as physically close to one another as they can be, without quite being in AOE from the one weapon that might deal significant AOE on a single strike- the heavy torpedoes. After that, you want ships with a strong left-side / right-side to hold the flanks, forward-firing to hold the center.  Unlike those ships of the 17th/18th/19th centuries, these spacecraft tend to have their heaviest firepower forward, so they don't need to stay perpendicular to the enemy in order to maximize their effective firepower.

After that, you're fine, and there is literally no reason aside from Objectives to disperse more than that.  It's ideal.

Any enemy that enters the range of the center piecemeal will die too quickly to trade much DPS, and will most likely be destroyed in detail without taking down any shields.

This is why players tend to do a whole lot of "grab everybody to guard my ship" stuff; it's the one command that gets closest to the ideal.

But it fares pretty poorly when multiple targets engage; I have frequently moved up on targets and suddenly I'm in the middle of enemies, because my erstwhile "team" has all decided to maneuver on their own, taking their own targets and maneuvering wildly, taking them far enough away from my ship that I no longer can expect support.  IRL, they'd all get court-marshaled afterwards for disobeying orders, lol.   

The AI also fares pretty poorly in terms of placement and flanks; if I'm in a Capship, I expect my Cruisers, Destroyers et al at my flanks and conform to my turns, not form in a loose blob behind me.  Since they're faster than me, it should work out, but the AI doesn't do that.

Same with the targeting command; it should select that target for all ships guarding you, so that you can all fry it together, or the player can kill a lesser threat while your long-range snipers take down that cruiser that's approaching at 1500 su.  But it's not working that way; the player is having to do the killing strikes. 

Same with arranging a bombing run. The last thing you want is dispersion during the strike; ideally, all ships should be time-on-target and arrive within a second or two of each other, ideally from multiple angles, so that the target's AAA is unable to kill any bomber Wings.  A formation command putting bombers in a wing, that they couldn't break until the center of the formation was < 500 SU of the target's collision circle would be ideal and would result in classic envelopment most of the time.

Same with strike runs by torpedo fighters.  You want dispersion to maximize angles and for all strikes to arrive nearly simultaneously.  There, maybe 1000 su would be ideal for most cases.

But the big issue is interceptors.  They should hold formation and only split when one or more Wings are being engaged, then return to formation when they're not.  This gives them enough concentration that they can expect to defeat any two Wings simultaneously without losing any Wings themselves (they'll lose members, of course, but that's just how that goes, and if they can be replaced in the future on the fly...).

Right now, the fighters do a great job of flanking and spreading out, but that's only useful when it's lots of fighters vs. a single large ship.  It's just getting them defeated in detail when the enemy has flanks with AA.  I've lost track of how many hundreds of fighters I've taken down simply by keeping my own fighters within my fleet's AA umbrella and letting the enemy get destroyed one Wing at a time as fast as they arrive, doing little or no damage. 

Put 4 Wings of any Fighter together and force them to stay leashed until it's time to attack, and then attack the same target, though, and they're a massive threat, because then the concentration works the other way.  16 Talons can kill most things in the game in a couple of passes, if they aren't killed in detail.  We're really going to see how this works when Fighters are more-or-less immortal so long as your carriers are up.

Concentrated firepower is vastly more important than fancy AI maneuvering.  It's why Zerg Rush works in the first place.  It's why putting Marines in Bunkers is cool.  It's why people loved Peewee rushes. 

The game is very much a RTS; it's just a RTS with very complicated characters.  There are resources to spend, you can get more forces on the battlefield over time- all the RTS elements are there. 

They're still trading DPS in a 2D world, though, and concentration matters.  In a game where lots of the characters have self-healing hitpoints (shields) it's downright lethal; whoever gets through Shields or puts an opponent into Overload has the overwhelming advantage from then on.

That said, I don't know if there's a perfect answer for this and I'll defend the current status quo to some extent (not least because some of it is stuff I suggested, lol). 

From an issue of gameplay, the way it works now makes the player more of a hero, and with the new hero buffs and the fact that a lot of players put themselves in their biggest ship, it's probably OK for the rest of the stuff to be blobby and not terribly tactical.

I like that the player-as-hero works really well.  I like that a lot; I think it provides a nice way to split experience levels and I only wish that the C&C tree was as rich and vital as Tac and Tech are.

But I would love it if having rigid control was possible, for the cold-blooded, tactical-warfare people who are willing to do math and build a fleet that meets their exact requirements.  I think it'd be awesome if, someday, we had a way to trade Fleets with one another and could pit our Fleets against each other, with AI control but player direction as to formations and initial objectives.

It would give players lots to experiment with; it would give mods all sorts of options, and it would feel dramatically right, to see two huge lines of warships meet in a sea of electronic death.

Right now, we can't even mod up a reasonable simulation of WWI ship-to-ship combat, though.  Let alone the lines of battle that were the classic naval strategies of the period before that, or the more modern, ring-shaped formations that are used to conduct ASW and AA duties for a modern task force, centered on a carrier and its tenders

Note how close they are keeping station there- that is all that is necessary IRL, and it keeps all the firepower of all those assets where they need to be, concentrated, unless one or more frigates needs to respond to ASW threats after interrogation by other assets.  They only disperse a lot more than that if they are worried about nukes.
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Ember

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2013, 08:28:52 PM »

I'm finding AI responses to be a bit questionable at just how smart it is, sometimes I find my ships in a rather deadly formation smashing ships left and right, and sometimes I find the battle has turned into a massive mess with ships of both sides all over the place. I'd say the most interesting thing that has happened was when one of my destroyers shoved itself between me and a cap ship I was tangling with when I was overloaded, and buggered off when I was back fighting


Edit: wow first post? I've been lurking a while
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Starlight

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #5 on: June 24, 2013, 04:16:29 PM »

But I would love it if having rigid control was possible, for the cold-blooded, tactical-warfare people who are willing to do math and build a fleet that meets their exact requirements.  I think it'd be awesome if, someday, we had a way to trade Fleets with one another and could pit our Fleets against each other, with AI control but player direction as to formations and initial objectives.

Hey there, enjoyed the post, but that bit, must say;

You have played Gratuitous Space Battles right?  Because you're describing Gratuitous Space Battles.  The multiplayer works exactly like that, with the posting of and retaliations against Challenges.'  You design your ships (with a very flexible slots system,) you set your formations, you give them orders and they operate as they are bid.  When you're sure you have a killer fleet, you post it online, someone utterly crushes it and ideally sends you a fleet back for you to attempt the same to (and super ideally, you get a rock-paper-scissors-OMGFIGHTERBBQ to-and-fro going on for a while.)

Cliffski (the dev) did eventually put in a 'Direct Control' system, but it's a: optional, b: rubbish and c: doesn't work on the Challenges you post.  GSB is pretty much still all in the cunning craft of an AI fleet. 

It's a game I've enjoyed immensely.  I'm quite proud of my 0.33 speed well-balanced Rebel fleet and the way it crushes turtle after turtle. z: )

Incidentally, if you were (as seems likely) already aware of GSB then please do excuse me, because really I suppose I just wanted an opportunity to go on about GSB.
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Alex

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #6 on: June 24, 2013, 06:13:01 PM »

The ideal formation in 2D warfare like this, where ships cannot shoot through each other much, is a line of battle, which is how real formations of real ships fought, and with good reason. 

...

After that, you're fine, and there is literally no reason aside from Objectives to disperse more than that.  It's ideal.

I don't think that'd really work out in practice. In the game, anyway - RL has enough other constraints to make it quite different. In-game, a rigid line of, say, destroyers or whatnot would readily fall to a few frigates picking at the flanks (again, force concentration). My point is, though, that just about any rigid formation has an effective counter that involves picking away from the edges and staying away from where the firepower is concentrated. I strongly suspect that the way the AI is coded, ships allowed free rein would beat a rigid line-of-battle, as they specifically try to identify weak points in the current enemy disposition and maneuver so that enemy ships get in each other's way.

(A ring formation doesn't have any weak points, sure... on the other hand, it's not great for concentrating firepower.)


From an issue of gameplay, the way it works now makes the player more of a hero, and with the new hero buffs and the fact that a lot of players put themselves in their biggest ship, it's probably OK for the rest of the stuff to be blobby and not terribly tactical.

Just wanted to mention that that's very much an intended state of affairs. The general tendency of the AI to err on the side of caution also leads to AI-vs-AI fights taking relatively longer, giving the player more of a chance to influence a larger battle as well.



In a semi-related note: Are there plans for "commander mode"? A special ship which has little combat potential but would allow me to control my ships like in typical strategy games like starcraft 2 perhaps? Or is the current orders system to stay (i never use it)?

I don't see changing it, for pretty much the reasons Thaago laid out. I think the way it is now is good (always some room for improvement, ofc); I don't think intricate strategies are compatible with the way the combat works, and the way combat has to work to be enjoyable from a piloting perspective. If all you do is give a few capture orders, maybe a "rally carrier", and then a few retreats, and disregard the rest of it, then imo that's perfectly fine. You've shaped the battle to some extent, and can then fight out the rest of it.
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frag971

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #7 on: June 26, 2013, 06:24:13 AM »

I don't see changing it, for pretty much the reasons Thaago laid out. I think the way it is now is good (always some room for improvement, ofc); I don't think intricate strategies are compatible with the way the combat works, and the way combat has to work to be enjoyable from a piloting perspective. If all you do is give a few capture orders, maybe a "rally carrier", and then a few retreats, and disregard the rest of it, then imo that's perfectly fine. You've shaped the battle to some extent, and can then fight out the rest of it.
Fact of the matter is i never field anything else aside from my piloted ship besides dockable fighters because AI loses my ship every single time because it goes in alone. The orders system right now is awkward and extremely limited in use.

I also find myself ALWAYS going for the same set of skills no matter what. There are some skills or traits that are downright useless unless nothing else to spend points on.
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Alex

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #8 on: June 26, 2013, 09:33:01 AM »

Fact of the matter is i never field anything else aside from my piloted ship besides dockable fighters because AI loses my ship every single time because it goes in alone. The orders system right now is awkward and extremely limited in use.

Hasn't been my experience, on either count. Not trying to invalidate yours, obviously, but I'm fairly certain you could adjust what you're doing to both have survivable allies and make effective use of orders.

(For instance, if you send in a lone capital ship vs a larger enemy force, it's going to get swarmed almost regardless of what it does... but a Defend order in a proper location can do a lot to prevent it from going beyond where you want it to. Generally, put Defend orders farther back than you think you need to, if they're giving you trouble. Also, an emphasis on defensive hullmods and flux-efficient weapons helps, especially if you go into situations where the enemy outnumbers you heavily - which, given that you're probably invested into some combat skills, you probably do.)
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Silver Silence

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #9 on: June 26, 2013, 10:50:44 AM »

On the topic of formations, I'd like to be able to change the default formation of fighter wings. I much prefer the formations that are shown in the wing previews in the fleet overviews compared to them flying in wing or box formation. I think it's referred to as the claw formation in-game, isn't it? I don't quite remember the various formations. But 6-ship delta wings can end up so splayed out and easy to pick apart while the few box formations I've seen in my travels are often incredibly rigid in their flights.
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Gothars

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #10 on: June 26, 2013, 11:36:29 AM »

Generally, put Defend orders farther back than you think you need to,

I thought for some time now that it would be nice to see the area an assignment covers. Maybe when hovering the cursor over it light up the grid squares. Or just show a faint circle.

I am to this day often not sure if a e.g. a rally carrier order is far enough from the frontlines to really keep them save. So I tend to place them too far back and lose fighter repair efficiency.
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Jazwana

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #11 on: June 26, 2013, 03:31:36 PM »

One comment (question?) I have is something I noticed while playing today.  I assigned an enforcer and fighter wing as wingmen to my onslaught, and naturally the enforcer moved into the lower left (8 o'clock) position as I advanced towards the enemy.  When I stopped, it moved into the 9 o'clock position.  However, then something interesting happened.  While keeping my facing "up" (12 o'clock) towards the enemy I reversed my ship to lengthen the engagement time as enemy fighters were bearing down.  To my surprise, the enforcer decided to circle around in front of me crossing my bow and then moving back down into the 3 o'clock position on my now right flank.  When I stopped, it circled some more through 6 and back into the 9 o'clock position.

My question:  Is this how escort behavior is supposed to work?  Just random that it decided to circle around me?  What were the logic rules used to decide it's positioning:  escort behavior defined or just dodging missiles and other enemy fire?

My suggestion:  If this is deliberate escort behavior, I would judge the rule is "stay to the left (or right) of current escort target vector, regardless of target's heading / firing angle.  I would love to see this changed to something that

1) takes into account the escort target's firing solution:  Am I as an escort in the way of the target's guns?  If I am larger than the escort target, I stay in the way: there is probably an enemy farther out that I need to block.  If I am smaller, I should move out of the way!

2) takes into account the escort target's engines and armor damage.  Is there a damaged armor side?  Move to that angle so I act as a piece of armor for my escort target.  If not, get between the engines and the enemy if the enemy gets close enough.

3) Still defaults to a line abreast or delta formation if no enemies are close enough.


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frag971

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Re: Formations?
« Reply #12 on: July 03, 2013, 09:53:29 AM »

One comment (question?) I have is something I noticed while playing today.  I assigned an enforcer and fighter wing as wingmen to my onslaught, and naturally the enforcer moved into the lower left (8 o'clock) position as I advanced towards the enemy.  When I stopped, it moved into the 9 o'clock position.  However, then something interesting happened.  While keeping my facing "up" (12 o'clock) towards the enemy I reversed my ship to lengthen the engagement time as enemy fighters were bearing down.  To my surprise, the enforcer decided to circle around in front of me crossing my bow and then moving back down into the 3 o'clock position on my now right flank.  When I stopped, it circled some more through 6 and back into the 9 o'clock position.

My question:  Is this how escort behavior is supposed to work?  Just random that it decided to circle around me?  What were the logic rules used to decide it's positioning:  escort behavior defined or just dodging missiles and other enemy fire?

My suggestion:  If this is deliberate escort behavior, I would judge the rule is "stay to the left (or right) of current escort target vector, regardless of target's heading / firing angle.  I would love to see this changed to something that

1) takes into account the escort target's firing solution:  Am I as an escort in the way of the target's guns?  If I am larger than the escort target, I stay in the way: there is probably an enemy farther out that I need to block.  If I am smaller, I should move out of the way!

2) takes into account the escort target's engines and armor damage.  Is there a damaged armor side?  Move to that angle so I act as a piece of armor for my escort target.  If not, get between the engines and the enemy if the enemy gets close enough.

3) Still defaults to a line abreast or delta formation if no enemies are close enough.
These are one of many issues with the current system. I would love to place ships (outside of battle?) in a formation editor and give it cool names like "Eagle" formation with two frigates at my cruiser's side and they will STICK to that relative point until i tell them to break formation. Or a "Spear" formation with 3 overdrive cruisers very close to eachother in a triagle. Things like that.

It's different than orders. It is selecting 3 ships and clicking on "Spear Formation" and the other two ships would fly behind me. This would work amazing with frigates - say i want my ship with main damage guns with the other two ships having PD and missiles and they would do their best to stick to that position behind me.
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