Author Topic: Transport Ships: How should these function?  (Read 1340 times)

Offline zeusalmighty

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Transport Ships: How should these function?
« on: February 06, 2019, 06:42:51 PM »
TLDR: This post is to generate discussion on the role that transports will play in AI wars 2 by considering success/failures in classic

Transport ships, however they are implemented, will have tremendous impact on gameplay. Indeed, many strategies in classic would otherwise be non-viable without them.

The first iteration of transports ships are in, so it's now a good time to think about how these ships should function.

Classic's Versions: Transports and Assault Transports

Transports were fast and somewhat fragile (relative to their size). To ferry across multiple hostile planets, it was advisable to take out tachyon sentinels along the relevant wormholes, and escort transports with cloaking starships. Transports ran the risk of dying in transit without cloaking or armed escort

Assault Transports had cloaking and gained firepower proportional to capacity. A full assault transport could take out (weakly defended) guard posts without having to unload. IMO these units were essential science investments--these were the safest way to ferry fleet around and additionally offered special tactics (e.g., bring fleet to enemy planet and wait to unload until AI is distracted elsewhere)

*It's worth mentioning that in classic, a starship took the same slot as a single fleetship, which effectively buffed starship transport cheese (especially using the spectacular spire transports)

**[edit] as Draco reminded me, transports had attrition to prevent some of the cheesiness transports presented. AI response to "Deepstrikes" was also aimed to reduce cheesiness. Perhaps one or both of these concepts will be needed

AI Wars 2 Transports
I think it's safe to assume that this unit is in flux, so it will likely be very different in the long-run. However, the mass mechanic as the determining factor of how much a transport can carry is so intuitive that it can be counted on as a base feature. I suspect we will also be getting something akin to the assault transport (my hope anyway). But for now, let's focus on the transport.

The question is, what should this unit be like?

Currently, I would characterize the transport as: fast, fragile, expensive, high cap (won't ever run out), large capacity (ie., spacious)

IMO, transports are currently both too fragile and too expensive--its very difficult to ferry units between disjointed planets unless you neuter everything in between. Kill those OMD's and sabot guard posts before attempting

Here are some variations worth considering:

*slow(er), tanky, expensive, low cap, large capacity
*slow(er), fragile, cheap, low cap, large capacity
*fast, tanky, expensive, low cap, small(er) capacity
*fast, fragile, cheap, high cap, tiny capacity
*slow(er), tanky, cheap, high cap, tiny caapcity
*etc....

Something else to consider, should there be a big difference between mark 1 and mark X? (E.g., mark 3 gains cloaking)

I'm presently in favor of boosting their HP, everything else being equal. But certainly the high caps for this unit could be toned wayyy down, I think it would be preferable to have these as a low cap unit personally.








« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 07:01:52 PM by zeusalmighty »

Offline Draco18s

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2019, 06:52:55 PM »
Transports ran the risk of dying in transit without cloaking or armed escort

:giggle:
You know why they have 30% attrition, don't you?

Me.

Here's how you use them pre-attrition:
1) Build every single transport you have.
2) Load up as few as possible.
3) Get the loaded ones towards the rear as you give them a move order (semi-optional).
4) Give them a move order up to (about) 7 system hops away.

At 7 systems away the transports carrying your fleet are going to be running low on health and most or all of the empty ones will be dead. If you lost one carrying actual fleet, don't worry about them (if you are unable to load them up into an empty one). Let them rebuild and ferry them back out to the system chosen at (4) at your earliest opportunity. Or pause there and move to (5).

5) Take that system.
6) Repeat as needed.

I will also note that the last game of Classic I ever won (at diff 7.6) was with this tactic. See this AAR.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 06:55:43 PM by Draco18s »

Offline Ovalcircle1

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2019, 08:09:45 PM »
OP Assault Transports or bust.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 08:59:49 PM by Ovalcircle1 »
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Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2019, 08:52:00 PM »
I don't have any real confidence left anymore to do changes myself to balance, so if there's a general idea that's agreed on, I'll throw it in.

I'm hesitant to introduce cloaking or weapons though, since if it's decided that was a bad move they're not cleanly removable.

Note introducing a weapon makes them into a combatant, which may pose problems in other areas such as how AI guards react.
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Offline ptarth

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2019, 09:47:50 PM »
Here are some thoughts:
  • Give Tachyon weapons a secondary passive effect that damages any ship being carried by another ship.
  • Attrition variant - When a transport is on a non-allied planet, it takes X/sec damage based on the mass being carried. When transport reaches Y% health, it unloads all ships (and cannot be reloaded until it is above Y% health)
  • Replace transports with a limited wormhole creation/anchoring system (e.g., Sins of a Solar Empire's Phase Stabilizer from a Antorak Marauder)
Note: This post contains content that is meant to be whimsical. Any belittlement or trivialization of complex issues is only intended to lighten the mood and does not reflect upon the merit of those positions.

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2019, 03:09:31 PM »
Hull: 40,000
Shield: 10,000

Cap: 10
Metal: 40,000
Tech Cost (MK2 first): 750, 1250, 2500, 5500, 6500, 8000
Base Capacity: 30 mass_tx

First proposal: Shields 10,000 > 40,000. Cap 10 > 6.

I did notice I had the behaviour of sending multiple transports simply as chaft. If one with units died, simply pick them up with another and continue. A similar change to the proposal would perhaps reduce the annoying micro there for the same effect. It's not interesting, so it can safely go I think.

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Offline zeusalmighty

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2019, 07:26:50 PM »
Hull: 40,000
Shield: 10,000

Cap: 10
Metal: 40,000
Tech Cost (MK2 first): 750, 1250, 2500, 5500, 6500, 8000
Base Capacity: 30 mass_tx

First proposal: Shields 10,000 > 40,000. Cap 10 > 6.

I did notice I had the behaviour of sending multiple transports simply as chaft. If one with units died, simply pick them up with another and continue. A similar change to the proposal would perhaps reduce the annoying micro there for the same effect. It's not interesting, so it can safely go I think.
Are those the present values? Hmm, maybe I'm misrembering

Couple things come to mind:
1) Do we really want more than 3 marks of this unit? Can't ever imagine spending all that science, unless this unit was ridiculously broken
2) A carrier should be bigger than the things it carries, so it is reasonable that it have decent durability. I like this unit having 50/50 health and shields, but the values may need further tinkering...likely higher
3) That chaff strategy, yes, I think this a cheesy tactic that needs to be addressed accordingly. Perhaps this will be better accomplished by limiting how quickly transports can load/unload, something like 10 Mass/sec

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2019, 07:48:16 PM »
Are those the present values? Hmm, maybe I'm misrembering

Yes. Taken from the game file.

1): Probably not. I can't imagine why you'd ever make it that high.
2): Maybe. I'm a bit cautious on the health for now with no lack of Deepstrike response, etc.
3): I'm unsure if a load/unload rate cap would amend it. Perhaps with a low cap of Transports, but with the current or similar number, you would have enough chaft Transports to pick up the stranded units with little delay.

Whatever is done to Transports, I imagine it should be fairly clear to a player as a priority. Don't want a hidden mechanic.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2019, 12:30:24 AM »
Here are some thoughts:
  • Give Tachyon weapons a secondary passive effect that damages any ship being carried by another ship.
  • Attrition variant - When a transport is on a non-allied planet, it takes X/sec damage based on the mass being carried. When transport reaches Y% health, it unloads all ships (and cannot be reloaded until it is above Y% health)

I like the sound of these two ideas.

3) That chaff strategy, yes, I think this a cheesy tactic that needs to be addressed accordingly. Perhaps this will be better accomplished by limiting how quickly transports can load/unload, something like 10 Mass/sec

For the record, I'm all in favor of addressing the chaff strategy, but I'd like to do so in a way that still lets me go long distances when I need to. The 30% wormhole attrition limited transportation to 4 hops: 1 in supply and (absolute max) 3 out of. Usually you only managed 3, and skipping over 3 systems was hardly worth the effort.

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2019, 06:37:10 PM »
Deepstrike threat used to trigger based on your distance from the nearest non-AI-held planet.  That meant that you didn't suddenly trigger deepstrike if you lost your forward command center, but it also meant you could give yourself quite a bit of deepstrike capability if you took out AI command centers along the way.  That seemed like a pretty good system overall.  I don't remember where deepstrike threat spawned, it should probably be in the system that triggered it or an adjacent system. 

It would be less annoying if transports attritioned rapidly whenever they would trigger deepstrike threat, rather than per wormhole transition.

If having more marks of transport was desirable, the safe travel range could scale with mark, with the addition of cloaking in there somewhere.  Being able to invest in deep strike capability seems cool, but having a consistent safe travel range might be easier to plan around.

Offline WeaponMaster

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2019, 03:26:25 PM »
A few things about assault transports before people immediately write them off as too OP for AI War 2:

1. The multi shot mechanics have changed drastically. Before the dps wasn't too high per shot, I think somewhere around like 1000 damage a shot every 6 seconds, but because all 30 shots could hit the same target, you would get a burst of 300,000 every 6 seconds which was enough to just go around popping fortresses, guard posts, and shields. Now that the multi shot can only hit separate targets, something like gaining a 1500 damage shot for every 2 Mx stored doesn't seem too bad.

2. Related to point 1: the largest issue with the assault transports was a bug that never got fixed, the shot count wouldn't update after you unloaded units. They were basically 10 free Mk3-ish starships due to this bug.

3. The healing for stored ships was a bit broken because it cost no metal to heal the ships, completely negating the need for mobile repair bays or engineers during offensives. If this gets changed so that it only heals 1000 metal each second to one ship at a time, it would be much more balanced.

Edit:
4. Now that the spreadsheet damage system of armor types is gone, they've lost their near-immunity to guard posts and fortresses (who had 0.01x damage multipliers vs scout armor). Maybe in place of that they could get something like "takes 10% damage from ships farther than X distance away (slightly larger than its firing range)", that would make them tanky but without letting them go through planets destroying everything in their path.
« Last Edit: February 19, 2019, 05:45:18 PM by WeaponMaster »

Offline RocketAssistedPuffin

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2019, 03:43:06 PM »
Trying this for now:

* Transport Cap 10 > 7, Shields 10,000 > 50,000, cannot be upgraded above Mark 3.
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Offline zeusalmighty

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Re: Transport Ships: How should these function?
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2019, 05:09:18 PM »
Sounds like a good baseline, Puffin.

If deepstrikes do return, be interesting to have marks correspond to planet-hopping limits