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

Musing on space battle tactics and improving the escort order

Sooo. In discussing this on my forums I thought it worthy of reprising here. Basically ships in GSB2 can have an ‘escort’ order which tells them to stay with X meters of another ship (user-configurable distance). This is all well and good, but you still want those ships to be useful in battle. Whether the ships are fighters/gunships or larger ships gives this order a different outcome. Here is an explanation of the current system…

The current system has non-fighter ships heading towards the point on the radius circumference of the escort order that represents the angle between the ship they are escorting, and their currently selected target enemy ship. (see below…)

On the other hand… fighters (& gunships), when given an escort order keep picking a random position within a half escort radius range of half way between the actual escort ship, and the target ship. (See below).


Now its actually very simple to make ships that are not fighters copy the fighter behavior if they have the KEEP MOVING order (which is implied with fighters & gunships). However, my question to you is…would that be desirable? I have essentially made a guess here when coding the game as to how people are thinking. I’m assuming that if you tell a frigate to escort a cruiser, you are saying ‘ by all means attack the enemy, head towards them, but don’t get more than X distance from your parent ship’.
An alternative meaning would be ‘always stay within X distance of the parent ship. If ordered to keep moving, do so, without any preference for location.

The current system leads to ‘frigate bunching’ at the nose of a cruiser or dreadnought. This means stationary ships in some cases, and susceptibility to area-of-effect weapons and detonation waves. But it does ensure escorting ships move into range when possible. Of course, if you really want to enforce some separation, we have the formation order… hmmmm.

8 thoughts on Musing on space battle tactics and improving the escort order

  1. Three ideas come to my mind, maybe have them as selectable escorting behaviours?

    1. To prevent escorting ships from bunching spread them out on the edge of the escort radius, forming sort of a shield for the escorted unit.

    2. Similar to above, but spread the escorting units around the destination (green dot on your diagram) so that the escorting ships keep some distance between each other.

    3. Add some degree of randomness maybe? Captains of escorting ships could use their judgement to determine whether to head on and meet the attacking unit, or hold back to get support from escorted unit?

  2. Simple, have them both as an option in the order menu.
    Also, I would love to have a 1-1 conversation with you on skype or google +
    I’m a game designer too and i would like just say hi and give my personal admiration for your work.
    I’m sure your busy , but it would be easier to give a few thoughts or pointers ‘in person’. No strings attached.
    Much love


  3. 1. Separate configurable quantity for desired separation? That would alter the target location to try and ensure separation by the desired amount.
    2. Sometimes you want them to escort at the rear. The only sane option at the moment is formation, but could be configurable. Then they would aim for the point or circle OPPOSITE the ones you show.

    I am much more interested in you fixing the engagement range generally. Your rules make kiting impossible, which has to be one of the key tactics of combat. To recap:

    Current rules for engagement, IIRC: Set an engagement range, say 1,000 units. The ship will close to 1,000 units. Enemies will move (relatively predictably in most cases) and often close the range. The ship will only try and move out of the way when the range is less than 1000/2=500 units. By which time, it is dead.

    Think of a missile based ship with a maximum range of 1,200. Facing enemy cruisers with a range of 6-700 for their beam weapons. The ship would want to do everything in its power to stay at 1,100 to 1,200 range, and do damage while taking none. If the orders systems do not allow such a thing, it is frustrating and not really engaging with how the battle should play out.

    As it is, if you set an engage range of 1,200, your ship will stray as close as 600, get blasted, before turning around and dying before it can even try and extend the range. If you set 2,000, it will turn around and run faster, but go way too far, and be unable to fire itself.

    1. This is a good point, and one I haven’t really ever given any thought to be honest. Do you think it would be an improvement just to narrow that ‘permitted range’ to be more like 75% than 50%? so that if you set the range to be 1200, you start withdrawing once the enemy closes it to 900, rather than waiting for 600.
      Making the gap too short will cause maneuvering chaos methinks.

      1. 75% would be better than 50%.

        I can still imagine ships waiting to 75%, then turning, and still being caught easily by a slower ship. Better to make it configurable. I might set it to 90%, which would indeed have the ships turn almost as soon as possible, try to run away, and then after exceeding 100% (say, 1200 range), turn in again to get another volley away.

        If the ‘kiting ship’ is faster and more manoeuvrable than the target, and has longer range weapons, it should be able to kill it slowly with no problems. There are obvious design implications for countermeasures.

        This may well apply to fighters and gunships as well, and they have the agility to stay in the kind of tight range they need. There are a plentiful range of countermeasures available to larger ships.

  4. How about an additional order: “Support”?
    Frigates and Destroyers specialized in Shield Support or Anti Fighter or Anti Missile should stay behind or at the flank of the supported ship

  5. I wish ships could be grouped into “squads” and have orders apply to those groups. Formation is, in my mind, a way to sort of force roles spatially; like “defend this quadrant of the Dreadnought”. If e.g. three destroyers were a squad and the *squad* had orders like ‘protect’ (aka escort) then they could know they were trying to cover the whole ship and arrange themselves properly.

    I don’t know how it’s coded right now, but maybe this could be attached to the sub-deployment feature. Anyway, probably too complicated for the specific issue you’ve raised.

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