Author Topic: A modest suggestion: hull types removal  (Read 2488 times)

Offline x4000

  • Chris Park, Arcen Games Founder and Lead Designer
  • Administrator
  • Zenith Council Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 30,699
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #45 on: September 02, 2016, 03:30:39 PM »
Since my opinion has been sought out on this particular topic at this particular time: I have no opinion yet. ;)

I am leaning toward not having hull types... kinda-sorta.  I want to get substantially more involved ship designs in a way that is fun, and not in a way that requires memorization.  To some extent what this discussion is about is combat roles, and how to differentiate ships.  The fact that this argument is happening at all is, to me, a sign that ship mechanics themselves are not robust enough to provide interesting variations in battle roles.

In an ideal world, there would be no hull types and no ship to ship bonuses or penalties at all.  Nothing artificial like that.  Or if there are hull types, keeping it very broad and a bit more scientific-seeming (on the surface at least), versus having too many categories of it.  Aka having something like 3-5 types, and leaving it at that.

This is just my current working set of thinking at the moment, since it was solicited via PM. :)  In no way is this the plan yet.

Overall I am working from the bottom-up, and you guys are talking about some mechanics that are much higher-level than I am right now,and there are a lot of good points being made.  However, I'm still focusing on things at the lowest possible level and building up from there.  I want for the ship designs to be a lot more interesting in terms of their mechanics and roles in the game than AI War Classic remotely allowed.
Have ideas or bug reports for one of our games?  Mantis for Suggestions and Bug Reports. Thanks for helping to make our games better!

Offline Orelius

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 328
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #46 on: September 02, 2016, 09:20:47 PM »
I'm of the opinion that hull types and damage bonuses become increasingly meaningless and obscure as fleets get bigger and battles get more chaotic.  It's literally impossible to determine if your ships are actually shooting an enemy ship that they have a bonus towards, and in most cases on your end, you use every single ship you can make regardless of their hull type.  Furthermore, all of these bonuses ultimately become completely irrelevant in endgame, such as with fallen spire.  Your capital ship beam weapons don't really care that much about bonuses since they literally annihilate everything they come into contact with.

There's also a matter of the intuitiveness - there are wayyy too many hull types, and it's not apparent what having a certain hull type even means.  Some are super obvious - golems are ultra heavy, but the difference between composite, close-combat, polycrystal, and many other assorted things are still incredibly opaque even for veteran players.  Not to mention that shottype is pretty much irrelevant for bonuses, and only matters for fringe cases of immunities - it's all really difficult to understand in a general sense.

I think that armor and shot types should either be completely removed, or assigned in a more unified and consistent sense.  Maybe missiles do well against swarm ships?  Then give all missile attacks the same bonus against swarm-size ships.  Maybe energy bomb attacks do bonuses towards structures and large ships?  Then give all energy bomb attacks the same bonus against large ships and structures.  The important part here is that missiles should always be good against swarm and energy bombs should always be good against big things.  This'll make ship roles much easier to understand.  Maybe this ship has a swarm hull and an energy bomb attack?  It must be good en masse against capital ships.  Does this ship shoot lots of missiles?  It's good against swarm!

However, ultimately, in large scale battles, all of this goes right into the dumpster because you will throw literally everything you have anyway, regardless of bonuses or maluses.  This is only really meaningful if it's possible for you to see the AI army composition in some sense.  And even then, you aren't really capable of controlling the composition of your fleet aside from some costly fringe case.

Here's what I think we will need for hull types and shot types to be meaningful:

-A way to scout or predict composition of AI forces.  Waves being monotype isn't enough, as they're often just turret fodder and on too short of a time scale to adapt. 

-A wider range of ships that are freely available to choose/research in the early-mid game.  You're going to want your full caps of fighters/bombers/frigates regardless of the situation, but your other ship choices are locked behind a significant barrier.  You're pretty much stuck with your triangle ships for a decent chunk of the early game with no real ability to adapt.

Offline zharmad

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,066
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #47 on: September 03, 2016, 03:01:28 AM »
However, ultimately, in large scale battles, all of this goes right into the dumpster because you will throw literally everything you have anyway, regardless of bonuses or maluses.

Hum. I believe this is due to the cap system. I can remember no other RTS games that enforce players to have equal amounts of every component of the balance graph at max supply - instead they allow players to fail their fleet composition by building too many of one or the other.

...this is probably an important issue too.

Offline eRe4s3r

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,801
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #48 on: September 03, 2016, 03:52:46 AM »
I would also argue that a larger blob filled with useless ships is less efficient than a streamlined DPS blob... hence why I would prefer a squad/fleet system where I can build a ratio of ship types "into" and most importantly, where I can DEFINE that ratio as a global template and just click "build fleet X" that way I could queue a fleet of a certain composition and the only limit the game should have is a fleet limit. No ship cap, but a fleet (or cal it Squads or whatever) cap.

Fleet size could be something we "increase" via captured research along with a ship type upgrade and a capital ship (aka fleet flag ship) upgrade. That means your fleet is defined by the capital ship you choose, and the ships and in what ratio they are in the fleet. (This would also mean that you could balance ships differently without breaking composition thoughts and tactics...) also utility stuff (armor/firepower/shield) could be applied FLAT to the entire fleet comp as long as it maintains cohesion. Which could be a leader perk or some ability we can level up through an campaign. The AI obviously needs to behave or act differently enough to stand out as still a unique enemy.

What you think of that? ;P
« Last Edit: September 03, 2016, 03:56:02 AM by eRe4s3r »
Proud member of the Initiative for Bigger Weapons EV. - Bringer of Additive Blended Doom - Vote for Lore, get free cookie

Offline zharmad

  • Hero Member Mark III
  • *****
  • Posts: 1,066
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #49 on: September 03, 2016, 04:55:13 AM »
Well, having a fleet composition screen where players choose what ratios to put in is functionally analogous to the modular ship design - it would be similar to swapping spire battleships for a cohesive group of base starships, shield bearers, laser gatlings, etc.

Definitely viable,  and needs identical streamlining functionalities such as default fleet variants, auto-optimisers, and well thought-out upgrade paths.

The ship hulls concept even transfers back into modular ships as having weapons specialised to take out subsystems.

Offline eRe4s3r

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,801
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #50 on: September 03, 2016, 05:33:23 AM »
The ship hulls concept even transfers back into modular ships as having weapons specialised to take out subsystems.

More importantly, if we collect ships under a fleet cohesion we could get away by displaying icons for subsystems that are targeted by enemy fire and basically a status indicator which modules are present in the fleet (and in what numbers), which would get you vastly better feedback as you get currently (where anti-engine fire for example can leave your already slow as molasses ships stranded behind without you even noticing until it is too late). It could also be used to have icons display the "MK" value of the subsystems, assuming that is still a thing.

So overall this could be done with a pretty streamlined "at a glance" GUI implementation that lets you judge how your fleet/squad is currently faring against the enemy and as bonus, it would speed up every part of the game. Imo, an attack on an enemy system should also no longer be a random hunt for mobile ships that are scattered everywhere, but the AI response should be localized and strong, which would allow for less netflix time, and more shooty shooty explody.

*and the fleets could level up/gain XP, and maybe fleed leaders could even become a permant global thing that give human an option to bring one of their leveled fleet admirals into the fray. And these admirals would then define what ship (modules) are unlocked at the start?

Well anyway, that's my ideas ,) I won't be sad if nothing of that is implemented.
Proud member of the Initiative for Bigger Weapons EV. - Bringer of Additive Blended Doom - Vote for Lore, get free cookie

Offline Wingflier

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,741
  • To add me on Steam, click the little Steam icon ^
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #51 on: September 04, 2016, 12:55:41 AM »
Overall I am working from the bottom-up, and you guys are talking about some mechanics that are much higher-level than I am right now,and there are a lot of good points being made.  However, I'm still focusing on things at the lowest possible level and building up from there.  I want for the ship designs to be a lot more interesting in terms of their mechanics and roles in the game than AI War Classic remotely allowed.
I completely agree with you.

And I feel that the hull types really took away from that. Because instead of balancing each ship around what it does, most the time the choice came down to which ship had the best hull type bonuses against what you were having the most trouble with.

I think that once a baseline of stats are created for each archetype (Fighter, Bomber, Frigate, Support, Starship, Raider etc.), then each individual ship of that type can have mechanics that are really neat, because the strength of that mechanic can be leaned against its overall stats, balancing the two where necessary.

Just because a ship belongs to the Bomber "archetype" doesn't mean that it can't be completely unique and different from the other bombers. Two examples I gave earlier were the Youngling Tigers and the Spire Armor Rotters. They're both bombers of course, they both want to kill big things and things with a lot of armor, but the way they accomplish this goal, and the way they assist your fleet in doing so is vastly different.

The reason I recommend the Archetype system is to help new players understand the basic role of the ship, without creating an artificial mechanic that allows this ship to accomplish its goals. Each ship can be tagged with its Archetype, and once the player understands the Triangle, they will have a basic idea of its role, even the specifics are something that obviously require experience. The more veteran players can look at the stats themselves, but all a new player has to see is "Fighter", and they'll get the general gist of what it does.

For me at least, this is the best of both worlds. It's easy enough for a new player to understand without knowing anything about the game, yet deep enough and nuanced enough for an experienced player who understands the intricacies of each ship and how they fit into your fleet.

I also think this will fit better into your new "Squad" based system, because using squads which are much more well-rounded than before allows players to really get into the game quickly without needing to know much about Hull Types or specific interactions past the basic triangle -- but of course professional players can create much more intricate fleets.

Either way, I want to thank you reading through this discussion, because I feel that the Hull Types and Armor System were the two biggest issues that AI War had originally. It's nice to have our ideas considered, and of course to have the option to mod the game to make our dreams a reality.
"Inner peace is the void of expectation. It is the absence of our shared desperation to feel a certain way."

Offline Nuc_Temeron

  • Newbie Mark II
  • *
  • Posts: 24
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #52 on: September 06, 2016, 02:33:15 PM »
This is a mega-thread so I admit that I skimmed it.

When my fleet approaches enemies, I enjoy analyzing which ships are the right ships for the job. I think the Hull Type / Damage Multiplier system is very richly developed and works well, IF YOU UNDERSTAND IT. It's confusing at first, and if a newer player shrugs it off and just blob attacks everything they'll likely miss out on a lot of the tactical richness that this game offers. But if you understand it completely, it works great in it's current form, I think. It could be streamlined a little.

I worry that if you just "do it like other games do it" (which is basically what the OP is suggesting), everyone is going to always just blob attack. Why would I break out my Fighters to engage Bombers coming towards my fleet if Hull Type / Damage Multiplier wasn't in place? In most games, I just grab my whole fleet and tell it to attack their whole fleet. That's not what AI War: _FLEET COMMAND_ is about though. Hull Type / Damage Multiplier encourages me to pause, think, examine, strategize, plan and execute operations with small groups of carefully-chosen ships. I love that! That's fleet command.

There are quite a few types though. If they were trimmed down just slightly that would be fine, though I think that 3-5 is not enough. Are there 16 currently (I think?), if there were 10 or 12 I think that would be an improvement.

One suggestion that I would have, to make it easier to distinguish which ships are "right for the job", is this:
a. On the sidebar, where we see all the ships / buildings at the planet, allocate a tiny spot in the corner of each ship's square icon for a tiny dot (red or green).
b. When I mouseover a ship or building on the sidebar (any one, mine or someone else's), I can hold down a key to display on the sidebar which ships this ship has a bonus against, and which ships have a bonus against it.
c. This information is given through the itsy-bitsy dot from a above.

So, if I mouseover my Fighters on the sidebar, all ships that have a damage multiplier vs Light Hulls would get a red dot, and all ships that have Close-Combat, Medium or Polycrystal hulls would get a green dot. This is super-simple to use for the player, provides at-a-glance target consideration, and uses virtually no screen real estate. It also retains the unique nature of this game and avoids doing it like other games do it.

Offline Wingflier

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,741
  • To add me on Steam, click the little Steam icon ^
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #53 on: September 06, 2016, 03:01:03 PM »
Quote
I worry that if you just "do it like other games do it" (which is basically what the OP is suggesting), everyone is going to always just blob attack.
Actually, we've been having this discussion for many years, and one of the main objections TO IT has been that it would reduce blobbing, which people didn't like.

That's actually why I didn't put "reduces blobbing" in the main post, because classically speaking, people haven't been very in favor of that suggestion.

I even made a poll at one point, asking people if they want blobbing in the game, and to my surprise most people said yes.

So personally, I agree with you, blobbing really hurts the game. It turns it from a deep, rich, and tactical strategy game into well...a blob.

And personally I think that the Hull Types system actually creates that problem. The squeaky wheel gets the grease right? Blobbing has been a topic under discussion for many years and many forum threads, so if it were true that Hull Types solved that, it wouldn't even be a conversation.

In actuality, the unnecessary complexity of the Hull Type system leads players to blob precisely because it encourages it. When each ship in your fleet is doing 8x extra damage to something, the problem solves itself. Something in your fleet is going to hard-counter whatever you're encountering, so why do you even need to tactically spread your fleet?

In a system based on stats, where there are no bonuses per-say, but that the entire system is designed so that certain ships fare better against others because of their natural attributes, blobbing them together in one big ball like that would be incredibly inefficient, and in some cases I dare say, disastrous.

I've already explained many times in the thread that the Hull Types system would be replaced by a much more informal "tags" system, of 'Fighter', 'Bomber', 'Frigate', etc. So players would still have a general idea of what a ship does, even without looking into its specific stats. (However, the advanced players could look at its stats and make it even more effective.) This suggestion makes blobbing much less common because you see a group of enemy ships labeled "Bomber"? You pull your "Fighters" out of the fleet and go tackle them. You see an enemy ship labeled "Frigate"? You pull your "Bombers" out of the fleet and go handle that. Grouping them all together like before could work, but since you aren't getting those massive bonuses like before, you're liable to take a lot of unnecessary losses.

It seems like Chris' goal with AI War II is to remove a lot of the unnecessary micromanagement from the game in areas like logistics, base building, and defense, and I think it would make the most sense if the extra efficiency the player is afforded could be added to the most interesting part of the game, the combat portion. For me at least, this is the best way to do that.
"Inner peace is the void of expectation. It is the absence of our shared desperation to feel a certain way."

Offline tadrinth

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 426
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #54 on: September 07, 2016, 02:44:38 PM »
When each ship in your fleet is doing 8x extra damage to something, the problem solves itself. Something in your fleet is going to hard-counter whatever you're encountering, so why do you even need to tactically spread your fleet?

You see an enemy ship labeled "Frigate"? You pull your "Bombers" out of the fleet and go handle that

That sounds more like an issue with the AI having a big mixed blob of ships that doesn't spread out.  IE, if the AI has an even mix of fighters, bombers, and frigates, and keeps them all in the same spot, then what exactly do you do against that?  In either an organic or an abstract system, the fight might be over faster or slower, but you're going to take heavy casualties and the side with more ships is going to win.

That suggests that if you want to reduce the tendency for humans to blob, you need to first make sure the AI isn't blobbing; either it needs to avoid using a mix of ships, or its ships need to spread out so you can engage them separately.

There are mechanics that support the first approach: non-schizo waves are all one unit.  AI planets have reinforcement type preferences; ie, one system might be very fond of bombers while the next system over is very fond of fighters. This might be a little bit too subtle for people to notice, but it's in there.

The differing ship speeds encourage the second approach.  When the SF shows up, the fighters will arrive first, and the missile frigates and riots last, just due to the innate speed differences.  Even a schizo wave will separate out if it has enough travel distance to do so. 

 
I'm of the opinion that hull types and damage bonuses become increasingly meaningless and obscure as fleets get bigger and battles get more chaotic.  It's literally impossible to determine if your ships are actually shooting an enemy ship that they have a bonus towards, and in most cases on your end, you use every single ship you can make regardless of their hull type.  Furthermore, all of these bonuses ultimately become completely irrelevant in endgame, such as with fallen spire.  Your capital ship beam weapons don't really care that much about bonuses since they literally annihilate everything they come into contact with.

Vanilla games are less prone to this, I think. Last game had no superweapons except champion;  I was microing different groups of ships quite heavily during my last AI homeworld assault.  Speed boosters as bait, sentinel frigates to take out the OMD, maws to take out the reprocessors guarding the disassembler guard post so my bombers could get through.  Wasn't all hull bonus based, but hull bonuses did play a role. 

So, if I mouseover my Fighters on the sidebar, all ships that have a damage multiplier vs Light Hulls would get a red dot, and all ships that have Close-Combat, Medium or Polycrystal hulls would get a green dot.

I love this.  No matter what solution we end up with, I think this would be useful; the information required HAS to exist for the AI ships to be able to make tactical choices.

Offline Wingflier

  • Core Member Mark II
  • *****
  • Posts: 2,741
  • To add me on Steam, click the little Steam icon ^
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #55 on: September 07, 2016, 04:27:33 PM »
Quote
IE, if the AI has an even mix of fighters, bombers, and frigates, and keeps them all in the same spot, then what exactly do you do against that?
In that case you would ideally take your long-range ships and try to outrange the blob, picking off one type before moving in with the rest.

There are some long range Bombers in the game (Zenith Siege Engine, Anti-Armor) and some long range Frigates (Zenith Beam Frigate, Tackle Drone Launcher). Once the Bomber or Frigate had taken out most of its priority targets, then you send in the counter.

For example, if the Siege Engines took out all the Frigates, then all that's left are Fighter and Bomber types. That means you can send in all your Fighters without risk of them getting hard countered and have a tactical advantage in the fight.

The thing is, with the 'Fighter', 'Frigate', 'Bomber' Tags, situations like this would be relatively easy to navigate. However, with the Hull Types system how would you know at a glance which kinds of ships to shoot? With dozens of ships within a single blob, which ships counter your ships? Which ones have bonuses against your hulls? What's the best target(s) to take out first before sending in your Fighters?

It's so overcomplicated that you could not perform the example I just gave in any reasonable timeframe, you'd be better off just sending your own blob and letting it sort itself out (which is what people generally do).
« Last Edit: September 07, 2016, 04:29:05 PM by Wingflier »
"Inner peace is the void of expectation. It is the absence of our shared desperation to feel a certain way."

Offline tadrinth

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 426
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #56 on: September 08, 2016, 03:21:29 PM »
Hence my argument for certain things regardless of the final system chosen:
1) making sure the AI is not using big mixed balls of ships; either use 1-2 types, or use speed differences to spread them out.
2) having very sharp counters (5-6x, not 2x) so that it's worth the time to micro
3) adding UI support to facilitate sorting out which ships counter what 
4) possibly limiting the number of ship types players have slightly (there's a lot of default starships and nebula ship rewards)

I think the hull type system itself would work fine with some relatively minor changes:

1) consolidating hull types into a smaller set that's very intuitive; light means 'dodges stuff', heavy means 'has armor', but WTF is Neutron?
2) making bonuses consistent and intuitive within each ammo type (energy bomb always beats heavy but loses to light armor, because exploding balls of plasma wreck armor but are easy to dodge)

None of those are incompatible with ALSO having a fighter/bomber/frigate ship class system.  I have a half-baked ammo/hull system that looks like:

A set of 'agile' hull types, consistently used by brawlers/raiders:
* Light: pretty good at dodging, a little armor
* Ultralight: relies entirely on agility to survive

Assault hull types, used consistently by bombers and other assault craft:
* Polycrystal: some armor, can still dodge, but amazing heat resistance (laughs at flame waves)

Heavy hull types, used consistently by frigates and larger:
* Armored: its got a lot of armor
* Ultraheavy: it's got layers upon layers of armor
* Shielded: it's got forcefields

And then ammo types (need more of these):
Shell: bullets spam; poor armor penetration but can hit slow moving stuff; counters all assault hull types, but especially polycrystal
Energy Bombs: Slow moving balls of plasma that can melt through armor, but easily dodged; counters all heavy hull types, but especially armored (doesn't penetrate layers as well as something more specialized)
Homing missiles: Good at hitting stuff that dodges; counters all agile types but especially light
Photon lance: good vs any armor or shields, but amazing vs ultraheavy (sustained beam drills through layers of armor)

Then you could give, say, shell ammo a 4x bonus vs all assault-type hulls, but an 8x bonus vs polycrystal.  This is essentially how anti-armor ships work in Classic; 5x vs ultraheavy, and up to another 5x vs anything with max-armor. 

Then everything is automatically in a ship class (fighter/bomber/frigate) based on hull type, and you just don't give them ammo that reverses the triangle (no light ships with energy bombs). 

I'm not entirely sure how productive it is to post this, but I think it's an interesting blend of AI War Classic and what people seem to want: counters that are intuitive (to assist with recall and fulfill fantasy), easy to tell at a glance (ie, a number in the tooltip), and easy to implement and balance (ie, not purely organic).

Online Draco18s

  • Resident Velociraptor
  • Core Member Mark IV
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,925
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #57 on: September 08, 2016, 03:57:17 PM »
1) consolidating hull types into a smaller set that's very intuitive; light means 'dodges stuff', heavy means 'has armor', but WTF is Neutron?

I'd rather "light" and "heavy" be in the actual armor value.  I'd rather the hull type tell me what it's made of.  Neutron armor is clearly made out of neutrons, same way polycrystal is made out of...polycrystal.
"Swarmer" and "melee" hulls are fine descriptors, I suppose.  Even if it's not a material, but a role, you can figure out how to handle those things: AOE.

Offline tadrinth

  • Sr. Member Mark III
  • ****
  • Posts: 426
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #58 on: September 08, 2016, 04:09:49 PM »
What if I called it 'defense type' instead of hull type?  It's an abstraction of the means by which the ship stays alive in combat.

That lets you be much more general.  Maybe a ship is hard to see, or blasts static to jam locks, or has a cloud of drones around it. 

No need for a separate mechanic with numbers to balance for all of those; you just figure out which kinds of weaponry work really well against it. 

You don't even really need to have armor values.  You can abstract that into the defense type, and abstract armor penetration into the ammo type bonus system.  Then you don't have to worry about exactly how much armor or armor pen each ship has; just give it an armor-based defense type, or ammo type with bonuses vs armor. 
« Last Edit: September 08, 2016, 04:15:40 PM by tadrinth »

Online Draco18s

  • Resident Velociraptor
  • Core Member Mark IV
  • *****
  • Posts: 3,925
Re: A modest suggestion: hull types removal
« Reply #59 on: September 08, 2016, 04:21:23 PM »
What if I called it 'defense type' instead of hull type?  It's an abstraction of the means by which the ship stays alive in combat.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Quote
You don't even really need to have armor values.  You can abstract that into the defense type, and abstract armor penetration into the ammo type bonus system.  Then you don't have to worry about exactly how much armor or armor pen each ship has; just give it an armor-based defense type, or ammo type with bonuses vs armor.

Really, if either of the two systems are to be scrapped, it should be the armor/penetration.