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

Campaign Battle Frontiers

My latest playtesting has convinced me to change the way ai attacks happen in the upcoming GSB campaign. Previously, there was a complex system involving local threat levels, which changed over time based on the strength of your fleet combined with the number of enemy-controlled systems linked to your world by hyperspace warp tunnel thingies.
And that works fine, and its cool, and mostly staying.

But what was happening was that you would conquer a system, push forwards and conquer the next system, and there was still a threat ‘behind the lines’ to recently conquered worlds. That was fine too, but I also coded a little ‘unlikely but possible sneak attack’ system whereby any of your worlds could get attacked at any time. If you didn’t have a big fleet sat there, this would be unopposed, you would lose the system, and maybe now have a gap in your supply lines.

Frankly, in game terms, this is a pain in the exhaust-port. It’s frustrating and annoying to lose a system behind the lines, and it’s wasteful to keep a fleet in every system just in case. The good old ‘pushing-back the frontier’ system is better.

I’ll keep the gradually lowering threat level thing, but ditch the sneak attacks. Once you have conquered a world, and parked a big-ass fleet there for a few turns, you can mvoe on and not fear losing it. It is, after all, a big map to conquer.

On an unrelated note, can whoever codes the cursor stuff at ATI get their shit together please? Multiple monitor setups in windows 7 are basically chaos with an ATI card. Random cursor corruption when swapping monitors, and an invisible cursor if it goes into text carat mode and back again on the secondary montior… These are not new bugs, from what I read, so why are you tweaking drivers to get an extra 1 FPS on starcraft when you should be fixing basic windows functionality? Bah!

11 thoughts on Campaign Battle Frontiers

  1. There was a month last year where my mouse cursor would, randomly (just sitting there at desktop, or in 3d game, any time!) grow to 5 times its normal size and stay that way until reboot.

    I kinda just had to get used to it.

  2. I approve of the design change. Creating an expansion tax (i.e. having to keep a fleet everywhere) would be cumbersome and annoying, and potentially offset benefits of growth and progression through the campaign. Good job catching that prior to release. :)

  3. I think that if there are going to be attacks behind the lines they could be inside jobs: I.e. Civil war, A revolting planet (in the sense that it politically breaks away, not the smell) or similar. Once your empire is larger than the enemies in games like this it can be a steam roll and any change that makes the 157th turn as much fun to play as the 5th is a good one IMO.

  4. “There was a month last year where my mouse cursor would, randomly (just sitting there at desktop, or in 3d game, any time!) grow to 5 times its normal size and stay that way until reboot.”

    Any chance you were just slumping forward, closer to the screen? That happens to me all the time. Usually on Saturday Nights after chucking out time.

    Nice design choice. I hate fiddly design that reduces your overall enjoyment because it’s more realistic.

  5. Hey there, I was wondering if there’s any plans for a Random Battle generator? Maybe something along the lines of the computer selecting from a large pool of pre-designed ships or ship-combinations? It’d be a fun way to test if your fleet is well-rounded.

  6. Would it help at all if you had an indicator of which planets were more vulnerable to sneak attack (i.e., likely to be attacked)?

    Then you wouldn’t need a fleet at EVERY planet, but it would become a strategic choice as to whether to leave a fleet in a vulnerable system or not. Perhaps the fleet could even impose order and tighten defenses while there, decreasing the planet’s “threat level” until it dropped to nothing again.

  7. Indeed. There is a threat level for each world, so I could allow that to build up. Maybe have a value of ‘stability’ for each world, so maybe 1 in 8 of them were prone to an ever rising threat level, and have those as weak spots.

  8. Pushing the frontier is always great but perhaps if there was a sneak attack it could be a lightning raid only. A quick raid of only fast frigates that disables those systems facilities for a short time. Unless you have a cruiser or a few frigates to defend the system.

    I don’t know the difficulty but adding static defenses like space stations or orbital weapons platforms would make things more interesting.

  9. Perhaps having a fleet would calm not only the local planet, but also a larger radius depending on the size of the ship. A frigate could ease the tension of neighbouring star systems, while a cruiser would have a calming effect for several jumps/sectors (however planets are spread). Their presence could reduce the likely hood of a rebellion.

    In game mechanics, I would have a civil unreset meter (which could be tracked by the “threat” system). Having ships inside the “calming” radius would cause that to slowly decrease. If there are no ships (or not enough), the unreset meter would increase. As the meter fills up, the odds of a civil revolt happening increase. If a revolt happens, it shuts down the planet for several turns, and in that time, the player would need to send in ships to quell the rebellion. If they don’t, they lose the planet.

    You have the mechanic of a chance of losing a planet, but countered with the ability of a player to prevent it from happening after the event has triggered. The added range of calming of larger ships would reduce the resources needed to have the effect. Say for every 9 planets conquered, you had 1 cruiser, 3 frigates and a dozen fighter squadrons spread out between them.

    You can also have some equipment being better at calming a planet. A cruiser whose only weapons are ion cannons meant for disabling enemy ships isn’t going to be as effective a deterrent as a frigate loaded with nothing but bombs.

    You can also add a “sneak attack” element where, when the revolt happens, they are supported by some ships from the original faction, but small ones. Perhaps fighters & frigates that has been hidden on the planet before it was taken. Perhaps this can allow for a game mechanic of building these kind of invasion defences, where fighters & frigates are hidden against an invasion.

    The presence of these hidden ships would counter the calming effect of nearby ships, requiring a larger presence to counter it. If the rebels know they have 3 frigates hidden on the surface and there’s only 1 frigate in orbit, their civil unreset bar will grow since they would be confident of victory.

    Tracking down and destroying these resources would be part of the “calming” effect of nearby ships, but only if they have either a threshold of ships (say a cruiser or 5 frigates for example). Conquer a planet, then have a few cruisers spend several turns in orbit policing the people while looking for weaponry that would be used by rebels.

    When playing Civ 4, I would always make sure my invading armies had a surplus of personnel to hold & defend the cities, as well as quiet civil unrest. In some of my larger maps, I would say that easily over 75% of my invading army were soldiers intended for holding the captured cities.

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