Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Optimum Range

I’ve been playing eve-online again for a few days, partly as research, partly because it’s l33t. Something that struck me was the insane complexity of the game. The sheer number of ship modules available is breathtaking, and this is a game that doesn’t revolve around them as much as GSB.

The level of detail of the modules is also very high. A weapon in eve has a silly number of statistics associated with it. I quite like complex sim games, so it’s reassuring to see that there are so many people happy to play a game that has that much involvement.

With this in mind, I’ve added one of my favorite space battle concepts, which is optimum range. For example, a cruiser beam-laser will have a range of 1200 meters, but an optimum range of 800 meters. The way I’m calculating it is to leave armor and shield penetration the same for the whole range, but damage done varies by 50%. So at range 0 damage is 50%, it scales up to 100% at range 800, then drops down to 50% at 1200 where it then drops to zero.

Is that realistic? maybe to some extent, most weapons in real life have an optimum and max range. I know my bow does, although thats mainly a matter of accuracy rather than damage done. (getting hit by an arrow is bad news at any range).

I think this will lead to much more intricate strategy, In theory, one fleet could sit at maximum range blasting away and doing X damage, out of range of their enemies guns. Closing to optimum range might deal more deadly blows, but would open you up to return fire.

It also means that there is real gameplay advantage to keeping your distance a bit, which makes the game look nicer and less cluttered.

12 thoughts on Optimum Range

  1. it’s realistic… the question is “is it fun?”

    You’ll have to do some testing before you can answer that particular question.

  2. I crunched the numbers and determined that it will immediately add 5 units of fun to the game, plus an overall 7.5% increase to future features. :P

    I think that adding myriad clever mechanics is the most important thing at this point. Especially for a game that’s a sim, whose audiences generally eat details like this up. Optimal range is a good example of a mechanic that is trivial to implement but potentially rich in gameplay.

    So even if you determine that it has to be removed because it doesn’t work, it’s not like you’re removing your complex boarding-party invasion module (you’ve got one of those, right? ;))

  3. Heh. The fun thing is a big deal.

    Optimum Range reminds me of fighting Burn Eden and BoB from Eve. Before I left Eve for good*, they were rather good at exploiting what I call “corners” of different optimals.

    A corner is the place in a venn diagram where you get a star shape of different overlaps … either in positives or negatives. From one point of view, being able to shoot your enemy without them being able to do anything back is awesome and is good tactics. But it was NOT fun to be on the receiving end of it, and making it too easy to do that to an AI will make the game less fun because it gets difficult to make it too hard or too easy.

    Back in the early days of EvE, CCP’s designers were good about balancing out the corners when they mathematically diagrammed things. That’s one of the reasons there ARE so many variables, and one of the reasons they have such weird percentage numbers and logarithmic falloffs. Back in those days, there really was no such thing as an “I win” button in Eve. Then they stopped balancing things as well (or it got too complex to effectively balance) and the game became more about PvP than it was about living and roleplaying in a different universe. I guess the numbers prove me wrong, but that wasn’t much fun anymore.

    ( * – I was in a large alliance that was on the losing end of a bob/goons/germans/russians clusterflock, and we lost several large assets to questionable glitches in the game mechanics. Several GMs were later fired after an internal investigation. I got tired of paying $15-30 each month to be pissed off, so I quit playing and got a life. )

  4. It’s nice to see you’ve played EVE. I’m not player of EVE Online, but a very good friend of mine is. Also I’ve tried it couple of times in the past and I regard EVE Online being “the only true MMO game”. Everything else is simplistic shit. It’s funny how I can regard such thing from a game that is not my “cup of tea”, and still be able to see how it is so good in its own way. Partly the reason I don’t like EVE is the learning mechanism, which favors players who have started playing the game earlier. EVE is also one of those game in which players can have control of the “market”, so its good for trader players too. It’s sad to hear how things turned bad for you :(

  5. I can’t remember about the others but SpaceEmpires IV certainly has a optimum and maximum range value and I personally finds it adds a lot more strategic value to the game. One of my favourite tactics is to launch as many missles as possible at max range while speeding up to follow along with them to try to get my fleet to arrive in optimum range for my lasers at roughly the same time as the missles hit in order to keep the enemies shield regen. time as low as possible.

    I’m just getting more and more excited to play this game with every blog you post. One question though with the battles being pre-planned would I be able to plan a situation like i described above before the battle? As I’d love to be able to tell my ships to sit back and fire a few rounds at max range (Outside the enemies max range aswell to avoid any enemy fire) before coming in closer to finish the job.

  6. Not quite, it depends on how things are set up. You basically give a max range of engagement against each enemy type, and the ship attempts to match it, but the minute a weapon has a viable target within range, it will fire, you don’t currently have a way to specify holding fire until a certain point.

  7. ckiffski, have you ever played Nexus – The Jupiter Accident?

    I know it is not this gendre (it was all tactical…), but there were quite a few very nice “strategic” options to choose from just how a ship should behave in combat, like escort other ship, frontal assault (oh yes, a very flashy way of getting yourself killed), keeping at max weapon range, and few others… Those maneuvers had different names to what I wrote above, but that was their basic idea. If you are looking for inspiration in EVE, full blown MMO, you should look at Nexus as well.

  8. I like the idea of damage falling off past the optimum range but I’m not so keen on it working up to max damage…. I guess you could make an argument with a beam weapon since you could have a focus element but I don’t see it with a pulse weapon… or missile for that matter?

  9. Personally I like the idea of ranged damage however for a realism standpoint:

    Missiles. They wouldn’t do less damage… but they could run out of fuel and therefore be unable to home in?

    Mass drivers. There is almost zero friction in space. One thought I have with this is that a ship could be equipped with some sort of “tractor” field/shield which could slow down mass driven weapons. The further away the attacker the longer the defender has to reduce the speed of mass driven weapons (or even unguided/fuel expended missiles).

    Beam weapons. Over very long ranges there might be some dispersal of the beam….. dmaz’s comment about focus is reasonable but then if there was a focus element it could simply be refocussed!

    At the end of the day it’s a game so if it “feels” right it will be fine :)

  10. Just to expan on what Dragon wrote.

    Mass drivers – At a longer range I imagine there would be a great chance of something moving the projectiles off course? Gravity, impact with other debris, solar winds? I really have no idea but I imagine the further it goes the higher the risk of the aim being off. So basing it off something like that I’d imagine mass drivers would be less effective given a longer range as a perfect hit might miss by a few centimetres due to the longer exposure to external influences.

  11. Hm, from the physics point of view the optimal range is not very realistic.

    LASERS, particle beams, kinetic projectiles, all have decreasing efficiency with traveled distance (maximum efficiency is at the gun-barrel). Ok, in the vacuum of space, projectiles have the same efficiency anywhere on the trajectory (no friction). However, even with the lack of atmosphere, LASERS and particle beams suffer from the scattering effect and beam broadening. At most, if you suppose that the beam weapon is very well collimated and there is insignificant broadening/spreading, then on short game-play distances it should not matter whether you fire from up close or farther away.

    The idea of focusing (for lasers/particle beams) is also a bit stretched in my view. Focusing can be done in very short distances and for LASERS is quite useless (or at least again a bit overstretched – most like trying to find a mean only to justify a purpose).

    I think that distance should be maintained in game battles as in today air-air/armor engagements. Distance is a protection against enemy fire because lack of precision grows with distance, and victory should come to that one that has best aiming (that means technology&upgrades). Therefore I would keep my ships far from enemy not because my weapons work best at that range, but because I can hit the enemy quite well from afar, while he misses all the time due to poorer ship design/technology.

    I spite of all above, I think the game might still be fun by using an optimal range. It is up to you to test the game-play :)

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