I got the code in today for ships to escort others, and for formations. There is a very clunky ugly GUI for setting it up, which needs fixing at some point.
Basically, in the deployment stage before a battle, you can add orders to each ship which will instruct them to escort or fly in formation to a specified other ship. If that ship is destroyed, the orders get ignored. Escorting is the same as saying “Do what you want (according to other orders) but dont get more than x meters from this ship.” Formation is the same as saying “Always remain at this exact offset in X and Y terms from the specified ship”. The formations are in world space, not relative to the parent ship, and this seems to work best.
It seems to work (although I havent’ tried fighter formations yet), and I can see already it will lead to much more strategy in the game. You can set up ships to be flanked by other ships with anti-fighter lasers, thus providing a screening layer for a cruiser which might have invested in big guns and not have room for anti-fighter modules.
Plus a group of cruisers or frigates flying in formation looks pretty cool, especially after I fixed a silly bug which meant 75% of the laser bolts were not getting drawn. It’s real mayhem now :D