While reading over some of the suggested new orders in another thread, the thought came to me that perhaps the current “Attack X” orders are trying to do too much at once. Right now they control both weapon targeting preferences and also maneuvering. I think those two parts should be split out into two different sets of orders: movement orders which would tell the ship’s pilot where to fly to and target selection orders which would tell the crews of the various turrets what to aim at.
Movement orders would tell the ship where to go and who to try to fight with. There have been several suggestions for new movement orders in addition to the “Keep Moving” order that has already been added (I proposed “Flank Right” and “Flank Left” for example, to allow quick ships to get at the less well defended ships in the rear of a formation). When you think of maneuvering separately from targeting there are even more options to consider. For example, a “Defensive Screen” order might tell a point-defense ship to position himself along a line between enemy missile ships and a friendly target (and if the missile ships shifts its fire, the screening ship would move too). It might be possible to avoid using distance explicitly in the movement orders, if they can check what ranges are preferred in the targeting orders.
Targeting orders should be assigned to individual weapon turrets (or selected groups of them). Since each could have different priorities, I could direct a cruiser’s beams lasers to target frigates and damaged cruisers, its blasters could be fired at ships with strong shields and its defense lasers and tractor beams could be focused on fighters that are in close. With weapon specific targeting orders you’ll finally be able to forbid your megaton missile crews from firing at fighters that move 20 times faster than their nukes do, without needing to restrict all other anti-fighter weapons. The existing orders “Cooperate”, “Defender”, “Vulture” and “Retaliate” would all be targeting orders, since they’d direct the weapons crews to prefer certain targets. Some new ones might be “Target is Fast” (for tractor beams), “Target is Slow” (for low tracking speed weapons, and maybe also to tell anti-fighter weapons to go for the fighters caught by tractor beams first). I know that I’ve seen “Attack Shields” and “Attack Armor” requested more than once too. Other interesting ones might be anti-point-defense or anti-anti-fighter.
With these kinds of orders I think it will be much easier to come up with combinations of them to implement a grand strategy to carry the day. I wanted to share this idea to see if other players have ideas of ways the movement and targeting orders I propose could be used. What do you think?