Author Topic: [Nevermind!] Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.  (Read 2004 times)

Offline x4000

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[Nevermind!] Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« on: September 06, 2016, 04:57:18 PM »
Update:

Ultimately:
1. There are some issues with them.
2. But people really love them despite that.
3. A better solution is not readily at hand.
4. The game would be poorer, for a lot of people, without them.

QED, they stay for now and can be revisited in some other manner in the future.  This thread shows both how much room there is for innovation in this area, as well as how much work and prototyping there would be to actually get to something that works at least as well as the current setup.  Trying to do that while also implementing the game as a whole... not good for time or budget. :)

Original:

Oh forcefields, how do I hate thee... but all my plans for how to deal with replacing them were based on space platforms.  And I don't want to reopen that can of worms.

Here are the problems I have with them:

The Mild
* They have traditionally been a CPU hog, but the spatial partitioning AND the squads help solve that.  Still, though.
* Visually they can be a mess, because you have to be able to see the forcefield and if there are a lot of stacked forcefields you still have to be able to see the ships under them.

The Moderate
* Players are using these to do things like block wormholes, which is pretty annoying since that's a cheap way to get around using tractor beams.
* Players HAVE to use stacks of these to protect their home stations... but even then, their home stations can go down in a jiffy.

The Very Annoying
* Trying to fit a bunch of ships under a forcefield is an exercise in frustration.  Please, fit this stack of circles inside this larger circle.
* The AI isn't very good at it, either, and we can't expend too much CPU on it because that would bog things down.
* There becomes an arms race between AI ships that need to be able to chew through forcefield abuse on the part of players (let's put ALL my forcefields right here!), and between forcefield effectiveness. 

Area-Based Protection Stinks
* In general, trying to fit ships into a certain area is problematic, as noted above.
* But increase the area, and you just increase the number of ships players try to cram in there.
* At the same time, players stacking forcefields with one another is a huge issue, too.
* I don't like arms races, because either people on the extreme ends are "getting away with stuff" and complaining about that, or people in the middle are finding it too hard to use things or out of balance.

Candy Tech: Personal FFs
From this section, newly added: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IdzU90psGas_3UFe23BLvsGQ8fclec49NmnbHfwkZ8w/edit#heading=h.9s53ob5ar9w1

Another example of what should become a candy tech are personal forcefields: this was previously handled with shield bearers, kinda-sorta.  But basically, rather than having the ability to “snap ships to other ships,” which was a great idea by chemical_art previously, simply having personal forcefields as an upgrade for ships in the candy tech area would be good.  Basically the ships in the squad take no damage until the forcefield provider is down, unless something can shoot through said forcefield, etc.  These would protect nothing beyond the squad itself.

This I really like!

But Beyond That...
All of those things like munitions boosters and forcefields and so on that are adjacency-based can be just such an irritating amount of micro to try and set up, because things are not organized around spatial relationships in that way.

Frankly I would rather handle that sort of thing either as one-time decisions (tech upgrades), or as some sort of local-area or planet-wide setting that I can manage.  Aka, maybe I'm paying a bunch of energy on a planet from some sort of giant machine, but all damage dealt to any of my ships is decreased by 50%, and the damage that was prevented goes to this machine instead.  So kind of a half-effective but much-more-widespread forcefield.

It gets away from the two issues of both pure protection and then the need to counter with things that can slip past that (raid starships suddenly ending your game), and the need for fiddly bits of local-area boosters.  Planets themselves are small enough battlefields that doing things planet-wide seems okay to me.


I don't want to stop anyone's method of play, but I do want to make things efficient, clear, and less micro-prone.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2016, 05:00:15 PM by x4000 »
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Offline Cinth

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2016, 05:03:58 PM »
The tech path is probably the easiest and cleanest of anything we could potentially think of.  That can handle shields and boosters.

I'd like to see shields be somewhat global, as I'd want to protect more than just ships and be rid of the dumb penalties for having turrets under shields.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2016, 05:07:58 PM »
I guess one desire folks have is an ability to locally say "you guys right here are more defended than generally your kind is."  That speaks a bit to a kind of tower-defense-like mentality of "upgrading individual towers."

Maybe we should have some sort of way of spending something... hey, something like crystal!... on upgrading specific squadrons of whatever-it-is.  Turrets or whatever else.

So perhaps you have some turrets that are Mark II, but then you've used crystal to upgrade them 5 types, so they are actually II-E in their denotation.  With one upgrade they are II-A.  That becomes a defensive-only sort of upgrade, using this secondary resource (crystal) that is exclusively for that purpose and nothing else.  And of course you could schedule a bunch of upgrades all at once on them.

Or something along those lines might be interesting?
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2016, 05:09:55 PM »
To add to the headache, the player can micro which forcefields are under which (if the "blob" is big enough) to cycle them out for repair, bypassing the "forcefields that take damage, deal 1 damage to all other force fields" rule.

As for a solution to the problem....I just don't know.

My only thought was "force fields are planet wide, have infinite size, don't block movement, and are planet capped at 1."  A ship is either in the system (and protected) or not.

Offline Captain Jack

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2016, 05:15:12 PM »
Wow, did you just find a use for crystal?

Draco's idea of a planet-wide forcefield generator is exactly what I was thinking. Very Return of the Jedi.

Side note: Turret pods is a misnomer. We should call them batteries.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2016, 05:18:10 PM by Captain Jack »

Offline Cinth

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2016, 05:18:18 PM »
I guess one desire folks have is an ability to locally say "you guys right here are more defended than generally your kind is."  That speaks a bit to a kind of tower-defense-like mentality of "upgrading individual towers."
Technically, I kinda came in from the TD crowd (though I do play 4x also).

Quote
Maybe we should have some sort of way of spending something... hey, something like crystal!... on upgrading specific squadrons of whatever-it-is.  Turrets or whatever else.

So perhaps you have some turrets that are Mark II, but then you've used crystal to upgrade them 5 types, so they are actually II-E in their denotation.  With one upgrade they are II-A.  That becomes a defensive-only sort of upgrade, using this secondary resource (crystal) that is exclusively for that purpose and nothing else.  And of course you could schedule a bunch of upgrades all at once on them.

Or something along those lines might be interesting?

You have seen some of my defensive setups.  I mean, those are things of legend.  How would you quickly and easily convey this in something like that?  I mean I'm down with having a secondary resource for a second line of upgrades, but how are we going to keep everything straight?  Or are all those MkIIs getting the upgrade?
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline Tridus

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2016, 05:25:36 PM »
I guess one desire folks have is an ability to locally say "you guys right here are more defended than generally your kind is."  That speaks a bit to a kind of tower-defense-like mentality of "upgrading individual towers."

Maybe we should have some sort of way of spending something... hey, something like crystal!... on upgrading specific squadrons of whatever-it-is.  Turrets or whatever else.

So perhaps you have some turrets that are Mark II, but then you've used crystal to upgrade them 5 types, so they are actually II-E in their denotation.  With one upgrade they are II-A.  That becomes a defensive-only sort of upgrade, using this secondary resource (crystal) that is exclusively for that purpose and nothing else.  And of course you could schedule a bunch of upgrades all at once on them.

Or something along those lines might be interesting?

Is Crystal a limited resource, like K? Isn't it then doing the same thing, except it's just a question of where you spend it on defenses? Seems kind of redundant to me, but what about this?
- Crystal is used to power forcefields on an ongoing basis. More crystal you can draw from means more/bigger forcefields (for a bigger ongoing drain). Then it can be unlimited but you're limited in how many FFs you can power with it.
- In order to avoid micro, I'd probably have it not cost crystal to have a FF turned on, but it *does* cost to have a FF regenerate. That way there's no reason to shut a FF off when it's full, then rush back to turn it on when you are going to get attacked. (Alternately: make it so you can't turn them off once built, and provide an ongoing drain, to limit how many planets you can cover with high power FFs. Low power ones should be relatively cheap, I'd say.)

Being able to build a planetary FF that covers all defenses there would be interesting, provided it's not just a matter of stopping 100% of damage until the FF is drained, then everything is exposed. Maybe have it stop 20% of damage (increasable via tech/mark upgrades). That way units are still going to be suffering loses, but the FF will provide a defensive boost for quite a while before it's drained (and give a higher percentage on the command center, so just rushing past isn't the smartest way to go every time).

In terms of offensive usage, that doesn't really exist here... but damage negation like Protector Starships offered is an offensive themed variant. Ships could gain personal shields with upgrades or modules (aka: Riot Starships), there just wouldn't be an area one.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2016, 05:30:59 PM by Tridus »

Offline Cinth

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2016, 05:30:39 PM »
Being able to build a planetary FF that covers all defenses there would be interesting, provided it's not just a matter of stopping 100% of damage until the FF is drained, then everything is exposed. Maybe have it stop 20% of damage (increasable via tech/mark upgrades). That way units are still going to be suffering loses, but the FF will provide a defensive boost for quite a while before it's drained (and give a higher percentage on the command center, so just rushing past isn't the smartest way to go every time).

Then it's just armor with a different name.  There are already weapons that do splash to shielded units (Plasma).
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline chemical_art

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2016, 05:30:43 PM »
Not a fan of a resource, in any form, that is only useful for only defensive application.
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Offline Orelius

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2016, 05:38:13 PM »
I'd be OK with the removal of placeable forcefields if our command stations were maybe a hundred times more durable than they currently are.  Currently, command stations are so fragile they explode if they're sneezed on, and so are other critical structures.  I'd also need some other way of impeding wormhole travel, because defense is pointless if the AI pain train can just run past it towards your home command center.  Additionally, without forcefield blocking wormholes, tractors and gravity turrets become much less useful since they'll just get blown up instantly.

I'm also not really a fan of a planetary shielding mechanic - I think it would be very difficult to find a value for the shield that isn't either low enough that it's worthless or high enough that it makes smaller AI attacks irrelevant.

As for crystal as a shielding resource, I think that could work fine.  Just make the amount of crystal nodes you captured increase the cap for forcefields you can make.  Then you can avoid the problem where in large empires, your stuff isn't as well shielded because you can only place so many forcefields.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2016, 05:40:01 PM by Orelius »

Offline Tridus

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2016, 05:40:52 PM »
Being able to build a planetary FF that covers all defenses there would be interesting, provided it's not just a matter of stopping 100% of damage until the FF is drained, then everything is exposed. Maybe have it stop 20% of damage (increasable via tech/mark upgrades). That way units are still going to be suffering loses, but the FF will provide a defensive boost for quite a while before it's drained (and give a higher percentage on the command center, so just rushing past isn't the smartest way to go every time).

Then it's just armor with a different name.  There are already weapons that do splash to shielded units (Plasma).

I don't really think that's true, unless everything has armor until you do enough damage, and then it doesn't. Armor doesn't operate as a percentage reduction unless you're capped at 80%.

A giant planet wide FF that just stops everything for a bit and then goes away is going to be very hard to get right, balance wise. Too weak and it drops in one salvo on a big wave, too strong and it negates everything for long enough that the defenses cut the wave's DPS down considerably before the wave starts hitting anything for real.

Maybe we just shouldn't have larger scale FFs at all, but it'd be a substantial departure considering how important they were in Classic. I think having *something* in that role is a lot more interesting than not, though, so I hope some form of the idea survives. :)

Offline Cinth

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2016, 05:48:02 PM »
Armor reduces incoming damage unless armor pen, thus same as armor (redux of damage unless penetrates).  If it's mechanically the same, it might as well be the same.

FFs already melt under concentrated firepower anyway.  We have a cap that's high enough to effectively cover all assets on a choke planet.


smaller AI attacks irrelevant
If you have anything set up for defense, the relevance of those wave are already questionable.  And you should have defenses up on border worlds.
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline Orelius

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2016, 05:55:41 PM »
If you have anything set up for defense, the relevance of those wave are already questionable.  And you should have defenses up on border worlds.

Assuming that the global forcefield will also cover tractors and grav turrets, several waves worth of ships could be killed for essentially free.  It's one thing to annihilate an incoming wave because you've parked your fleet at the wormhole, and another thing for waves to be completely irrelevant.  There's a reason why human forcefields give damage penalties.

Offline Cinth

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2016, 06:04:19 PM »
You've never seen one of my setups :D

On a one entrance world, you don't need grav/tractor turrets at all.  You can use FFs to create a funnel and stack the AI ships into a killzone for stuff like beams.  Grav 3s can extend beyond FF range so you could use them if you wanted.  Kahuna has some pretty good setups also.

Right now normal waves are of no consequence.  Especially in low AIP games.  In fact, I don't think anything regular is a threat.  It's the special mechanics that hold threat.  Stuff like CPA and Exo.

Also the mod fort FF doesn't give the penalty last I checked.
Quote from: keith.lamothe
Opened your save. My computer wept. Switched to the ST planet and ship icons filled my screen, so I zoomed out. Game told me that it _was_ totally zoomed out. You could seriously walk from one end of the inner grav well to the other without getting your feet cold.

Offline Orelius

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Re: Forcefields need to die, help me kill them.
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2016, 06:20:55 PM »
You've never seen one of my setups :D

On a one entrance world, you don't need grav/tractor turrets at all.  You can use FFs to create a funnel and stack the AI ships into a killzone for stuff like beams.  Grav 3s can extend beyond FF range so you could use them if you wanted.  Kahuna has some pretty good setups also.

Well, thing is, the main resources you use for those setups, forcefields, and beam cannons are limited and often reserved for that one killworld that cuts off your home systems from the rest of the galaxy.  Making one killworld isn't really a hallmark of how individual border planets should be able to be defended.  It's ok to vaporize things at a chokepoint world, it's weird if every single border planet can come out unscathed from waves, especially if you invest nothing other than MK1 turrets and a shield into it.