Ship speed and challenges

When designing challenges, it seems like there is a strong incentive to make ships with near-zero speed, ensuring that they will have as much room as possible for armor, shields, and weaponry. If the challenger does the same, to fight on approximate parity in terms of available space for firepower, then they’re forced to wait for a half hour while their ships cross the screen.

In terms of having the online challenges be fun and playable, this sucks :slight_smile:

I’m not sure what the best solution to this is. I think part of the problem is that the two long range weapons in the game - plasma and missiles, also are respectable all-around damage dealers. The difference in damage per second between these weapons and the more powerful close range weapons doesn’t seem to be enough to balance out the “home base advantage” of being able to park your ships engineless on your own side of the map, loaded up with armor and shields. A few potential ideas though:

Nerf plasma. I’m not sure by how much, there seems to be plenty of debate on this on the forums…

Add a new weapon that outranges plasma and missiles, but at a steep damage penalty. Challenge missions with stationary tanks will still be boring as heck, but at least they won’t be rewarded by being the most difficult to beat. The damage penalty would have to be sufficient that fast ships with closer range weapons still tend to win (otherwise it just becomes the new plasma).

Add a minimum ship speed requirement for challenges (draconian and heavy handed, but doesn’t interfere with the single player).

Comments welcome. I’m curious if other people are finding the same thing, or if I just haven’t hit upon the appropriate counter yet.

If the problem is as you describe it (I’ve not played enough to be able to judge that) the solution you propose of adding a weapon with longer range, very low damage but great shield and armor penetration, would solve it.

It would have to be impossible to put that infinite range weapon in a fast ship, though, to avoid creating a parthian shooting ship problem.

Make it drain power and crew like nobody’s business then. No room to stack engines on top of a huge drain.

What about making designs only valid if they have a bare minimum of components installed? IE, you can only save a design if it has at least 1 engine, at least 1 power generator, and at least 1 weapon.

In the long run, I hope to add challenges where this kind of thing is enforced. So you could have a deep space engagement where every ship taking part needed a speed of 0.5 or better to get there, for example.

Interesting! Challenges with different criteria could be fun.

Personally, I’d really like to see a mechanical incentive to design ships with a reasonable speed. I know a moving ship is a bit harder to hit, but it’s hard to build cruisers (and even frigates to some extent) that are fast enough for that to compensate for the extra slot investment in power and engines.

Of course, one of the principal advantages of speed in real-world military situations is the ability to respond quickly to shifts in the tactical situation, or to take control of the situation altogether. I think the addition of new orders and improvement of some existing ones could really help here, especially if we can get a way to effectively execute flanking maneuvers. Getting some reasonably-quick cruisers around the sides to start hitting the long-range heavy weapons boats could be a pretty viable tactic. Maybe even allow ships with a high enough speed to deploy further into the battlefield than slow ships?

Rebalancing long-range vs. short-range weapons might be advisable in any case, as plasma in particular is indeed pretty brutal. It has to be possible for short-range ships to close the gap and start doing appreciable damage, and right now that’s pretty hard to do against a plasma-heavy fleet.

I can just see the message for the battlefield now:

Spatial anomalies: Ships require above 0.5 speed to avoid being PULLED INTO A BLACK HOLE!!!

Or even:

Spatial anomalies: Due to micrometeors ships require at least 1 armour module, unless you want them to look like swiss cheese.

In hand to hand combat, translation speed is required to be able to quickly change distance of engagement.

GSB already has the weapons to make that an interesting ability but it lacks the orders. Ships don’t use their full speed to really enforce the optimal distance.

For example:

  • Red has a large inmobile castle.
  • To beat it, Blu implements a fast longest range shooter (even if his range is the same as the castle, he’ll hit because his target is inmobile while dodging the castle’s long shoots.
  • To beat the long range shooter, Red implements fast hunters. They quickly move to a very short range and kill the shooter.
  • To beat the hunters, Blu implements average speed hunter defense. Those have to be somewhat quick to avoid being crushed by the castle while they chase the hunters.
  • To beat the hunter defense, Red implements a big (opposite to hunter) strong killer. It doesn’t need to go too fast, and he can easily protect against weapons chosen to kill hunters.
  • To beat the killers, Blu implements corvettes and fighters.

And the game returns to a fight between balanced and interesting deploys.

The only barriers to this behaviour (inherently good) are:

  • The longest range weapon that can be put in a ship faster than its tracking speed.
  • The way to tell a ship to never get under that maximum distance voluntarily to force teh need to chase it.

That would be absolutely fantastic, but only if the terrain matched the description.
It may be intractably difficult to implement, but I would love to see a description like the first one quoted, and then see the battle start and all ships wind up pulled toward a random edge of the screen with a force of 0.5 and they all immediately turn to face away from the point and start thrusting. Since weapon arcs are currently irrelevant this wouldn’t gimp anybody due to facing issues, but with no other effort required the goal is accomplished. You don’t even have to put in code to check that engines of the appropriate thrust have been installed: if they have, the ship will survive but if they haven’t the ship will eventually get sucked away - and at no point do you infuriate me as a player with an ‘error’ dialogue which says, “Invalid Fleet, you must have an engine module.” (To which I always reply, “No, I don’t have to have an engine module, I just have to be willing to lose my ship…”)

Likewise with the second description it only needs to be implemented by having the terrain inflict constant random small hits of physical damage with a low (or bypassed) crit rate. The effect is achieved, unarmored ships suffer and die.

The important point I’m trying to make here is that in both of these cases I still have the choice of fielding a ship which I know is doomed, and the description text is meaningful to the game instead of being irrelevant flowery text, and both of these things are Wins.

Maybe a solution to slow ships is to tie engines/power supplies together.

Have engines provide power rather than drain it and have them be the primary source of power for the ship. This way to get the power you want to run the rest of the ship, you have to put in engines.

Have all engines provide the same basic power to the rest of the ship, just bigger ones deliver more thrust and a little more power. This will further encourage quicker ships since you’ll have to pack in engines to get all the power you need on a big cruiser.

Perhaps “left over” power is used to improve thrust (“More power to the engines!”). So you can make fast ships by putting lots of big engines but not using all the power.

This fits somewhat more with the genre (the Enterprise didn’t have a separate engine room / power plant). It would also simplify ship design since you don’t have separate power plants to worry about.

I have to take a bit of issue with that. The enterprise had it’s big warp nacells and then it had the warp core with the antimatter that fed power to those nacells. It sure looked like two different parts of the ship. Sure one was intimately connected to the other but this is also the case with GSB in that the engines are dependent on the power core.

It’s a bit drastic, but perhaps you could tie ship speed to turret tracking speed? Now there’s an incentive to speed up a cruiser.

I like the idea of tying the Engines into the Power formula for a ship. Perhaps a power plant could work in a similar way to a cars’ battery, needed to get the ship underway and continue to supply power when the engines are not running - or in our case destroyed. The Power plant should generate a relatively small power charge, but primarily is used as a power store that the engines recharge and the ship systems drain. If the Power plant is drained then it would seem to be logical that any charge generated by the Power Plant would be directed to critical systems such as life support, self destruct and emergency disembarkation…and every other system stops working. If the Engines are still supplying charge, then the Power Plant will recharge over time and if the ship is still alive it can recommence hostilities.

I like it, Wraith!

Let me play with that idea a bit; assume that all ships have “engines” regardless of the modules assigned to the hull. Energy in excess of what you need to power weapons/shields translates into thrust. Engine modules, rather than supplying thrust themselves, increase the efficiency of that translation, at the price of crew, cost, and mass.

I would go on to propose that energy allocated to engines might vary with ship activity by way of weapons and shields. In other words, when the ship isn’t shooting guns or operating shields then it’s imbued with additional thrust.

Now your engine-less wonders aren’t so immobile by default - they just slow down tremendously when power gets diverted to weapons. I don’t suggest that this solves the tendency toward less mobile fortress-cruisers, but it would change the nature problem.

I like that idea a lot…the micrometeors would also prevent fighter squadrons from being used (unless you armored them up. BWAH-HAH-HAH!!!)

Wiki has a nice (and free to use) picture for black hole for the background. If you want something homemade, I can whip up a GIMP script to make a nice picture or two.