These requests are not really very graphical; just a bunch of strictly functional things relating to the Deployment Screen that I don’t think has yet been mentioned either here (or elsewhere):
Please allow the Escort order to be applicable for fighters escorting other fighters. (Same for Gunships, too!) This will finally allow fighters configured for anti-fighter interception duty to continuously stick close to, say, a group of fighters weighed down with anti-cruiser torpedo ordnance.
True, such escorted fighters are still rather easy kills for direct fire ship-mounted AF guns; here, that won’t change much. But if the enemy has put up an interceptor umbrella over his ships and then considered himself “safe,” at least the escorting fighters can focus their massed fire onto the same fighters that are trying to splash your torpedo bombers. I’m weary of fighters not being able to effectively perform this simple and obvious kind of duty – yes, I mean the Escort order itself, but also the logical progression from that, which is the successful use of fighter-carried torpedoes itself. . True Escort ability for the smallest units would add a new tactical element to the game, encouraging new methods of fighter/gunship use due to the increased longevity of escorted squadrons, and defensive ability within the escorting squadrons.
The main wrinkle in the fabric is how to keep Escort fighters effective once the squadron they’re defending starts to get disorganized and break up in different directions. But should that latter, strategy-diluting, highly annoying and angst-causing “feature” of GSB1 be carried forward into the sequel? To put it mildly, I think not. Which brings me to –
GSB2 should have a means to keep fighter-squadron (and gunship-squadron!) cohesion going for a much longer period of time than happens in GSB1.
Rather than a single-fighter-level AI, there should also be a squadron-level AI that can govern all 16 fighters as a whole, in ways that it presently cannot do. The leader AI would override the individual pilot AIs only as needed – mainly, if a single fighter/gunship somehow strays into acquiring a new target that is not the same target being hunted by the rest of the squadron. The squadron-leader AI will decisively exert its will on the pilot trying to wander away and act stupid, and all 16 fighters/8 gunships will continue blazing away at a common target until it is crippled or destroyed. Only then will the squadron-leader AI designate new prey for his wingmates, and off they shall fly to focus-fire upon it until either it is doomed, or they are.
If such a squadron is accompanied by a another squadron that’s been given the Escort [Fighters] order, the combat effectiveness of the first squadron reaches even greater heights. The two attain quite a synergy; something not generally possible in GSB1. If fighters/gunships are now going to be required to worry about their Fuel Status in GSB2, I think that they should also have this proposed ability of mine in order to make the most of their “time over target” before having to refill their tanks ( more about this in a moment ).
Not only would this allow fighters to be a more concentrated offensive threat, but it would confer better defensive strength as well. Not deviating from the squadron leader’s command, and instead keeping all 16 fighters together for longer than in the original game, would be a welcome bit of serious progress. Instead of using the currently somewhat wasteful ways of the Cautious order, consider the following:
the squadron waits until half of its fighters are down to say (for example) 33% fuel remaining and/or 33% hitpoints remaining and/or 33% of reloadable ammo expended;
squadron leader then immediately takes the entire squadron out of battle & withdraws to nearest carrier that still has fighter stores left unused;
no fighters launch until all of them are refuelled, repaired and re-armed back to full ammo-magazine strength;
leader takes the whole squadron back into combat together as a functional mass formation,
repeat this entire process until the squadron has enough of its members killed that it finally drops to a strength of one craft.
Much like the UI for the Cautious order – let’s call this new thing “Combat Resupply” – this new combat order will have slider controls so that the player may select the actionable thresholds for resupply withdrawal. The flexibility & greater lifepsan that Combat Resupply provides, as well as the better attack effectiveness in battle via the improved squadron-level coding, will give fighter & gunship combat a fascinating set of dynamics.
That whole “piecemeal” and (sadly!) unavoidable degradation of squadrons in GSB1 has always really dissatisfied me. I’d greatly prefer our smallest units to operate with more intelligent & consistent goal-fulfillment instead of being on their way to mere single-pilot cannonfodder after just two or three combat passes over the enemy. Your thoughts?
Cliff, speaking of fighters & gunships there’s two weaknesses that came to my attention in the standard shoot-'em-up Combat Orders (the typical "Attack [Fighters/Frigates/Cruisers/the Taliban/1980s fashions/Earth’s ozone layer/etc.] orders). These concern user-selectable engagement ranges. No, I’m not referring to the well-known “ships move to half of the selected range” issue; that problem is surely already on your list of things to tweak for GSB2.
Mostly for the benefit of our smaller ships, I would like minimum range for all “Attack [ship size here]” orders to be lowered from 100 to 50.
Mostly for the benefit of our larger ships, I would like maximum range for all “Attack [ship size here]” orders to be raised from 2,000 to 3,000.
The former change adds an exciting and tense new set of astoundingly close-in, do-or-die engagements involving cynical gunship crews & plucky fighter aces at “Sicilian knife-fighting range”. This also allows for new types of tiny-ship armament to exist (and other equipment as well?) that are only effective – but perhaps devastatingly so – at very risky ranges indeed. If the possible GSB2 change of ship shielding away from the traditional “large sphere with plenty of empty space within it” towards being a “hull-hugging, contoured field” is put into effect, the shorter minimum range will help the tiny ships remain effective when getting inside of the target’s shield perimeter. They may have to make somewhat more close-in combat passes over the target, but overall it’s still roughly the same number of shots fired from inside of the enemy shielding.
The latter change gives a few specialized fire-support cruisers – as well as the mighty dreadnoughts, plus all starbases – the ability to better use their somewhat awkward, but asteroid-cracking firepower at a distance (one of the dreadnought-size hulls’ primary advantages) … as well as immobile fortifications’ superior extreme-range sensors sniffing out the most likely course of an enemy advance before they know that your starbase is actually ready for them.
We have a Supply Limits screen. Of course, it limits both modules and weapons, and it’s also a highly useful tool for making truly interesting missions.
I propose that in GSB2 it also gains the ability to limit [size=125]hulls[/size]. >:]
Why did that screen never allow hull deployment restrictions in GSB1??? I have no clue, and I always felt badly about not having that obvious feature in the original game, but the sequel should definitely have it! It would tilt the relative balance of power in online Challenges away from the player’s side, and back towards the challenger’s side, which IMHO is a good thing – what with the way that a single quick peek at the scenario (deploying a single junk ship, scoping out the “hidden” Expert deployment, then quitting/retreating immediately after you had a close look), a mission rated as Expert isn’t always nearly as tough as one might assume.
So…player reliance on certain annoyingly trend-of-the-moment, spam-worthy hulls? Goodbye forever, baby. Perhaps I’ll allow you to use 6 of them, or maybe even 60, but not 6000. This will encourage much less sloppiness or cookie-cutter syndrome when spec’ing-out your response to the enemy’s fleet. But aside from the salutary effect upon online Challenges, it’s an entertaining and usefully “high-res” method to more finely customize battles.
BTW, we could even have a [size=125]meta[/size]-supply limit in online Challenges. What’s that, you ask? Imagine a feature within a feature where one player messages the other player something like this:
"You can limit up to size=85[/size] 51 different types of modules or weapons, and you can limit up to size=85[/size]19 hulls;
Go choose them; then choose the individual quantities they’re going to be limited to.
All other hulls and modules/weapons WILL NOT be supply-limited – be devious. "
Then the other player does so. After that, the second player signals readiness back to the meta-Challenging player, who then messages back, “Let battle commence!” At that point, the online Challenge combat occurs, and a good time is had by all. It’s a TRULY original feature that would certainly stir up the really tired status quo of the game’s Challenge aspect.
On a related note, I think that the general layout of the Supply Limits screen could use some love. At the moment I’m too tired to ponder it in detail, but I do admit having a general feeling over the last several years that some streamlining is needed there. Player-created mods – especially if using multiple mods at the same time, which is not rare at all – can also routinely add many modules and weapons to the vanilla game. The resulting avalanche of items means that it would be highly useful to have a quicker, more effective way to subdivide and categorize all of that content when considering deployment limits.
Whether you’re talking about limiting hulls, weapons or modules, please raise the total deployment cap for everything. With truly gigantic battles coming in GSB2, the existing limit of 100 is far too tiny a deployment ceiling. Seriously, it needs to be at least a power of ten higher – new maximum supply deployment cap, [size=125]1,500[/size] per individual ship hull and [size=125]3,000[/size] per shipboard item (module/weapon).
The hallmark of the sequel game is cosmic battles of truly heroic sizes virtually unknown to vanilla GSB. To enable this more easily, we clearly need missions/maps with wider-sized battlezones, much higher fleet-budget caps and pilot availability. IIRC, GSB1 only goes as high as 80,000 credits, and (incredibly so) even only in one lonely vanilla mission (Defend Caspian IV).
In order to insure that GSB2 is a resounding success, I am asking for multiple 300k, 750k, and even some 1.250 million credit missions to be bundled with the basic or “core” copy of GSB2 plus whatever official DLC may exist for it (if any). NOTE — those quoted figured might go up (dramatically), depending on the price regime that ultimately exists within GSB2. It already is starting to look like GSB1 prices are not going to be strictly comparable to those in the sequel game, which look like everything is going to be more expensive.
After all, choosing a number of fighters, frigates & cruisers sufficient for your major fleet needs is expensive enough. Add in the purchase price of your necessary gunships, destroyers, dreadnoughts and even starbases, and that 80K budget in Defend Caspian IV is suddenly looking uncomfortably small. As the old song goes, “How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paris?” So it is with fleet-budget sizes for vanilla in-game bundled missions. This kind of change isn’t the sort of thing that can be offloaded to exist only for online Challenges – it needs to ship with every core copy of the game, too.
Cliff, I am not saying to you “this is going to happen”. What I am saying is “this has already happened”. Anyone who’s been closely following the progress of the innovative modded content for GSB1 knows that we already passed that point years ago, and we haven’t stopped yet. As official content slowed for GSB1, modding picked up the slack, and players developed an increasingly strong taste for such content. You can probably double or even triple that rate of progression for GSB2.
Also, please kindly make it easy for players to create custom Challenges that, if players wish to, can handle a fleet-budget cap of up at least 3 million credits – hopefully that’s enough to adequately “future-proof” the game beyond what will surely be seen one day as the quaint assumptions of the old, old year 2014. [ ], while still being entertaining to play on most computer hardware of today (let alone the insanely great PC and Mac hardware of the year 2019). This is not a laughable notion. What was once considered “ample” or even “diabolically huge” by GSB1’s essentially 2009 standards is now obsolete to a substantial degree, and your endlessly clever modding community is ahead of you in this area. The future is calling.
Thinking out loud…
Cliff, what are your current plans for displaying available Combat Orders as well as how the player will implement them UI-wise?
For me, I think that the pop-up Add Ship Order panel is presently “okay, but somewhat weak” – it doesn’t necessarily need to be “great” because it already does what it says on the tin and doesn’t need to do anything else. It’s job is vital, yes, but also simple enough to not need any fancy bells and whistles.
However, the descriptions of what each Combat Order does definitely DO need to be more detailed and accurate. A read-through of GSB1’s AI Thread from 2010 shows some very interesting and even occasionally mind-blowing revelations about how some Combat Orders do not work exactly as the description states! For example, the Vulture order in particular also came with some very significant trade-offs that everyone who bought the game deserves to know about – not just the few who posted in a single now-ancient forum thread about it.
That kind of specific info absolutely should have been included within the game & openly displayed there to the player. Cliff, I’m amazed that it was never patched into the game after it was revealed to us by you a year later here on the forum. Please don’t withhold that kind of data from the players in GSB2. Make sure that for the sequel, the in-game descriptions of each Combat Order (both the old GSB1 ones and the GSB2 new ones) are truly complete. A few additional tactical notes in the Add Ship Order panel about them (for players who never played GSB1) would also be a generous helping hand.
In the sequel game, by all means make this panel bigger in order to display as many new Combat Order choices as possible without needing a scroll control for the column. A larger Add Ship Order panel would be somewhat preferable over the same size panel as we have now but simply with a scroll added. With a larger panel, we can see all of the orders at the same time (I hope!).
But since vanilla GSB2 is still going to have quite a lot more Combat Orders than in GSB1 and with noticeably finer granularity to them, that portion on the Deployment Screen itself is very important to get right. If we can steal more horizontal space from the background in favor of the user controls for orders, I can’t help but think that this would be of assistance to you. We’re going to need something that’s informative yet clean and streamlined, and with no ambiguity in the data being displayed. For such a white-hot, mission-critical aspect of the game, we want to avoid all procedural awkwardness with how the player interacts here.
For example, the original game’s Escort order is a boondoggle of extra panels and redundant click-throughs. I’m sorry to say this, but that sort of thing borders upon rubbish (“I already successfully set the target! Why are you still asking me for one?”). Please promise us that this sort of User-Experience landmine will become a thing of the past. We definitely do not want a UI consultant potentially strong-arming you to make things 1,000% idiot-proof at all costs, while such overly-broad “solutions” are sometimes really just aggravations that force a player to needlessly swim upstream against the game.