Fighters

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Josh
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Fighters

#1 Post by Josh » Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:51 pm

Ever since joining the Free Orion project, there have always been little things that always managed to bother me somehow. I put them aside because I felt that they weren't important, but most of the time I never asked "why", like why was it done that way or why couldn't it be done this way. So here I am, questioning one of the little things that just won't leave me alone.

Why fighters?
I know there is a certain sensational coolness factor associated with them, but I mean
Why?
Because FO doesn't have an up and running combat engine I have no idea how they are intended to work in this game, but if the past is any indicator, I don't expect much anything to change. Fighters are often given all the treatments and attention of small ships, except most games treat them rather like glorified missiles or small ships, but with certain restrictions and player is just expected to work with it, like not being able to design them yourself, or having them move in a different way, or needing a mother ship to work from instead of having some independence.

So, instead of treating them like small ships, why not cut out the middleman rather than go through the pains of making a whole set of rules, restrictions and arbitrary behaviors for them? IMHO, it would make so much sense to have small, medium, large, huge and tiny size ships. I think it's worth hearing some thoughts on this.

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Geoff the Medio
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Re: Fighters

#2 Post by Geoff the Medio » Sat Sep 06, 2008 7:40 pm

To start, we have something called fighters in FO because they're a popular theme in military science fiction and it's possible and useful to fit them into the game.

In realism terms, fighters are generally distinguished from ships by their lack of independence. Aircraft carriers transport fighters, but the fighters can't operate independent of a carrier or air base, whereas the carrier, or other surface ships, can move about on its own. The same usually applies in science fiction (although exceptions exist, which usually are exceptional).

Strategically, having fighters be a separate class of object makes the purposes of point defense weapons more clear. Fighters and missiles are not ships, and are vulnerable to PD. If PD was instead good against smaller ships, or variously effective depending on ship size, we'd need to rate all ships with a size value (which I don't intend to do) and relate this to PD effectiveness. Ship / Not Ship is much simpler in that regard, and for players to keep in mind.

The effectiveness of PD against missiles and fighters also sets up (part of) our planned "RPS" system (where fighters and missiles are weak against PD, but PD is nearly useless against beams) for weapons. If fighters were replaced by smaller ships, we'd need to rework that, as the smallest ships could presumably use beams. This aspect is somewhat arbitrary, however.

Practically, having fighters and missiles be a distinct type of object from full ships lets us have a lot more fighters in the game than would be practical for ships. Ships contain a lot of information, such as their hull and parts (which likely each have some status), name, any damage, and more. Fighters and missiles should be much less complicated, likely having just a type name that has some associated properties in battle. Keeping track of fighters or missiles thus just require keeping a counter for how many there are, while keeping track of ships means making a new ship object, giving it some presence on the galaxy map and in the UI. If we want to have a lot of fighters, that could mean a lot more ships to order around on the map, which could be awkward or inconvenient. Having hundreds of fighters in a fleet doesn't have any effect on the galaxy-map representation or interaction, however.

Also, if we wanted smaller ships to act like fighters - being carried and launched by bigger ships - we'd need to add a mechanism to have ships carry other ships, with various restrictions on how that's done, and UI that allows doing so while still treating the smaller ships as ships, etc. I realize some have wanted such an ability, but it's not really necessary and would potentially be a lot of work.

You talk about fighters getting the treatments and attention of small ships, yet being treated like glorified missiles. I'm not sure what this means, and the two points seems contradictory. But fighters shouldn't be any more "glorified" that missiles... In battles, fighters are likely somewhat more controllable than missiles, in that they can be ordered to attack several targets in sequence and don't blow themslves up to do so... But outside battles, they're pretty much the same as missiles... tracked by a number as a type of ammo.

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Josh
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Re: Fighters

#3 Post by Josh » Sat Sep 06, 2008 8:24 pm

[color=#BF0000]Geoff[/color] wrote:You talk about fighters getting the treatments and attention of small ships, yet being treated like glorified missiles.
Sorry. What I meant to say was, "Why not treat fighters more like small ships rather than glorified missiles". Or if you want the other angle, why even have them at all? Master of Orion I and GalCiv don't really have fighters as we understand them; the smallest ship class in MOOI is small, and in GalCiv is Tiny, both of which were called fighters from time to time. Nonetheless, both games became staples of the genre, so we know it's at least possible to make a really great game without them.
When it comes to fighters in general, I understand "popular", and I understand "possible", I just don't get why it's particularly "useful" to propagate the fighter meme.

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Re: Fighters

#4 Post by General_Zaber » Sun Sep 07, 2008 9:38 am

Well I think fighters just would make more sesne in the hyrid real/turn based time we are going with. The way they can move really fast and engage the enemy long before warships can reach eachother. Also they make a very good reserve force to maneuver to where ever their needed most, something even small ships probably can't do nearly as fast.
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Re: Fighters

#5 Post by MikkoM » Sat Sep 13, 2008 10:18 pm

Just a quick thought, but depending on our damage model perhaps fighters could have a higher change at damaging individual components/vital systems or they could damage more of them with a single strike than any other weapons, as fighters are flown by an intelligent pilot or perhaps some sort of an AI, and have a possibility to hit multiple targets before they are destroyed.

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Krikkitone
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Re: Fighters

#6 Post by Krikkitone » Tue Sep 16, 2008 2:55 pm

Well I would stick with Missiles/Fighters as basically the same thing

Missiles= one use weapons
Fighters = reusable weapons

Otherwise the same (Both need to be able to avoid/resist PD to do maximum target damage... more important for Fighters than Missiles as Fighters will spend more time in PD range)

If experience is in, Fighter/Missile Experience would be the experience of their Carrier.

You could make "smarter" missiles/Fighters (both manned and unmanned versions available)
You could make "armored/shielded" or "maneuverable"

Basically they are designed with a simple tradeoff system
1. Weapon power
2. Ability to avoid being hit
3. Ability to survive being hit

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Josh
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Re: Fighters

#7 Post by Josh » Fri Sep 19, 2008 6:02 am

BTW if anybody is still curious why I bothered to bring this up, this next link probably had something to do with it. It got me thinking (a dangerous thing, I know)

Why aren't there fighters in Sword of the Stars?

And before you say something like "this isn't SotS", I'd like to beat you to the punch and say "yeah, I know that".
Instead, I'd like to think of this as "research" :)

Edit:
This is in response to Geoff's first post, because I think he deserves a better arguement than what I gave.

To start, fighters are possible and definitely popular, and that's probably why they are so prolific, but usefulness is debatable I think.

In realism terms, fighters don't work in a space context. They are too small to go long distances by themselves, and they waste fuel, space and ammo on a carrier that could be used for supplies or missiles. They also suffer on accounts of maneuverability and the fact that many of the abilities and advantages they'd have in an atmosphere do not apply in space. The U.S. military recognizes that missiles also have the capacity to rob fighter craft of their offensive strike roles, with their ability to safely destroy targets with the accuracy and reliability of fighters and the cost effectiveness of a single missile. It was one of the controversies behind the TLAM program. Realism, of course, doesn't apply here.

Strategically, having fighters be a separate class of object does not make the purpose of PD more clear. As long as missiles exist, you still have LR, and a point for having PD. The lack of fighters has no effect on the clarity of PD, because it's clearly designed to knock down small objects. On top of that, it isn't necessary to assign arbitrary new values to a tiny ship to make it more vulnerable to PD than what would already be present in the current design. Small ships (I would hope) are naturally more vulnerable to damage than large ships, even against light weight weapons.

It's even conceivable that the effectiveness of PD against missiles and fighters could also be carried over to other small objects that PD would be effective against, like satellites, mines, asteroid chunks, mass driver shells, photon torpedoes, debris etc. The RPS system wouldn't even bat an eye if fighters disappeared. Missiles can also be extremely varied.

Practically, having fighters and missiles be a distinct type of object from full ships could let you have a lot more fighters than per ship. Ships are also more detailed than weapons. Any way you look at it though, all that stuff has to be kept track of somehow, and that sounds like a problem related to the design of the user interface. There are other practicable systems that might work better in this context, such as the grouping of like ships into stacks ala MOOI or heroes of might and magic or the Total war series. I believe that some support has been voiced for such a system, and to be honest, if huge armadas really are a goal for FO, this is probably the best way to go about it anyways. In the end, however, don't fighters share more in common with ships than weapons? They aren't single use, they receive orders, you can presumably modify them, so it seems unfair to treat them like reusable weapons, especially if you consider that fighters don't exactly fit perfectly in the binary fighter/bomber format (the "what if I want a shuttle?" question)

Also, as for smaller ships acting like fighters, I didn't intend for them to precise extensions of fighter craft, complete with a mothership and carrier bays, unless of course that is an absolutely must have feature. I was under the impression that ships follow a particular hierarchy where:

Small (smallest and fastest)
Medium
Large
Huge (largest and slowest)

and fighters are basically just a size smaller than small. They basically obey all the same rules as normal ships (customization, speed, maneuverability, shields, space, stacks, costs, ammo, supply etc.) and MOOI is probably the simplest example of how this would work.
Now this next statement is just me and my opinion right here, but the best reasons not to have fighters in the context that they exist now are
1) It is not fair to treat fighters as mere weapons (re-usable missiles) when they share more in common with ships. (classes, orders, not single use, etc.)
2) Fighters have been done to death, everybody has them, and it's sort of getting old.

Oh man, I ramble a lot don't I?
Last edited by Josh on Fri Sep 19, 2008 8:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Fighters

#8 Post by Krikkitone » Fri Sep 19, 2008 4:22 pm

Well I think the key thing since Indirect Fire is a key part of our sace combat system, then if a fighter is a 'glorfied Missile' missiles should have the ability to be glorified... but not much.

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Re: Fighters

#9 Post by MikkoM » Fri Sep 26, 2008 6:51 pm

It seems to me that this thread has shown that fighters differ from both ships and missiles, and so have a reason for their existence in the game.

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The Dave
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Re: Fighters

#10 Post by The Dave » Wed Dec 24, 2008 3:22 am

Just to clarify, will you be able to design your own fighters in the game? Because I was definitely missing that from MoO2 in a big way.

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Re: Fighters

#11 Post by IConrad » Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:17 am

Aha!

The key to the question of fighters is that in space, they would actually be //more// useful than a fixed craft. Pound per pound, the range and versatility of fighters is in their ability to exceed the fixed location of their carrier. The name of the game, again, is force projection.

Sure, a single vessel packs way more punch than a single fighter. That's an obvious statement. But in terms of their ability to represent a single vessel over more of the map, they are invaluable. Also, if you lose all your fighters you haven't lost your capital ship -- which is by far the much, /much/ larger investment. Separating your ability to project force from your primary capital cost is a major selling point of fighters. As is their versatility in roles.

Here, I'm imagining that fighters could be assigned to a number of roles; thus far we have "fighter", and "bomber". I would like to see perhaps a few more. "Interceptor", "Fighter", "Bomber", and "Assault Transport" (Maybe "Advance Scout"). Interceptors are basically roving point-defense. They defend the fleet and stay in close proximity to their carrier, or whatever point they're assigned to defend. Fighters are mixed-purpose vehicles; they can play as /either/ point-defense /or/ capital-ship attack. They pay a penalty by being less effective at either one than a specialized craft. Bombers are somewhat obvious; they are capital ship / fixed point (including planet) assault craft. It is generally a good idea to have interceptors play escort to your bombers in order to prevent enemy interceptors / pd from being able to pick them off. (Fighters do not need this escort since they can defend themselves, but do less damage). Assault transports operate like bombers -- but they carry troops instead of bombs. A sufficiently large number of assault transports could even be used to do a "combat drop" in game to attempt to take over a planet without eliminating the enemy forces. Advance scouts, if included, would basically be roving sensor platforms designed to spot enemies without giving away the position of the capital ship. (They could easily use non-interceptible communications like point-to-point coms.)

Frankly, I feel this would be a radically superior approach to either that of MoO I (Where they used a percent calculation to automagically tell you how many got through absent player input when you attacked a defended installation) or MoO II (Where undefended transport ships simply got squashed automatically). (No, you can't tell where most of my space-4x playing has been done!!)

If for no other reason, including fighter-type vessels for assault transports would be -- in IConrad's not-so-important-opinion -- a big selling point to the game. And if you're going to use them, why not use the other types as well?

You also have the -- yes, I must mention it again -- tacticians in the crowd clamoring for fighters because remote vehicles is what today's "game" is all about -- and it's only getting more and more exacerbated. UAV's are the "next generation" of fighter vehicles, and we're including them in more and more of our military strategies, for one simple reason: They Work.

There's no reason to assume that fighters wouldn't have viable operational periods to outlast a single engagement; so fuel for fighters is a non-issue. Just require re-launch at each combat start, and track them the same way we seem to be tracking missile reserves. (You can't get more fighters if you don't have more pilots, etc.)

We of course don't want to make them so uber that they overtake every other strategy in the game -- but the answer to that is simple: limit the number of such vessels in each carrier. (MoO III made the mistake of allowing relaunches every set period of time. I cracked the hell out of that with high stealth and large clouds of relatively weak fighters. Victory through attrition, HO!!!)

:)

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Re: Fighters

#12 Post by marhawkman » Wed Dec 24, 2008 4:47 pm

Has there been a decision on whether to allow fighters to move along starlanes? IMO it'd be simpler and better to not bother with that and require that they be loaded in a ship for transport.
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Re: Fighters

#13 Post by OndrejR » Thu Dec 25, 2008 1:05 pm

If fighter has not interstellar engine, it simple can't go to another star system. Orbital station is the same principle. If huge cargo ship has enough space to load fighter or orbital station, it doesn't matter what cargo ship transports.

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Re: Fighters

#14 Post by Josh » Fri Dec 26, 2008 1:09 am

One big point for me at least that still remains is how much one can influence fighter craft design. Nobody has really answered this, but I would venture to say that no, you won't be able to actually customize fighter craft. Only fighters and bombers will be available, and those will be auto customized, ala MoOII.

so what about FTL fighters?
and what about cloaking fighters?
and what about heavy fighters?
assault shuttles?
wild weasels?
the list goes on and on what you can do with them. It was a thread in SoTS that I read that got me started on this idea that fighters are really seen more like small versions of ships, which got me thinking you don't want carriers or fighters-as-weapons, what you really want is another ship size.

I mentioned dropping fighters and replacing them with another ship size exactly because of this. Not because I think fighters are uncool, but because I think it's by far the better way to treat fighters, and because otherwise they seem more like missiles. I don't think treating them as a weapons subsystem encompasses at all what the fighter craft is in science fiction. Some people are okay with that, but I don't think I am.

But the way the design philosophy has been going so far, this is just not gonna happen, which is why I just dropped the point.

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Re: Fighters

#15 Post by eleazar » Sat Dec 27, 2008 2:33 am

marhawkman wrote:Has there been a decision on whether to allow fighters to move along starlanes?
I believe that's the implied definition of "fighter": A tiny ship that needs to be carried between star systems.

Without re-reading the v0.4, i don't remember any reason that fighters can't be customizable like other ships, however fighters would probably very few slots.

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