Balancing flight mechanics


In my head, it also potentially allows some drastically different fighting styles. In space, of course, the ability to turn your ship depends on the ratio of mass to thrust - air resistance isn’t a factor like it is on Earth. This results in that feature we all recognise from Newtonian flight: the ability to turn in any direction without changing the travel vector.

Large ships would take a while to do this because of their increased mass, but smaller fighters could do it much more quickly.

So if flying with “power to main thrusters”, redirecting the ship would involve turning to bring those thrusters to face in the right direction. This provides plenty of opportunity to build up speed and fire in unexpected directions (as opposed to the manoeuvring option which presumably would fly more like a normal aircraft).

The idea of allowing players to adjust how much they want this effect would introduce a level of challenge and encourage them to continue playing in order to master more advanced flight tricks. Or possibly make them ragequit. But we might see an interesting difference between fighters and capital ships here; there is a legitimate reason for the big ones to use manoeuvring thrusters because they turn more slowly. "Jousting " and dogfighting would be left for the little guys. A good contrast?


I disagree with that. There are multiple balance points attainable, and brainstorming can help identifying them and thinking about their pros and cons. Case in point, you can have an Allegiance-like ‘slow and close’ balance, or an ICP-like ‘fast and far’ one.
Of course, testing will be mandatory later anyways.

There is also Pioneer, an open-source fan remake of Frontier - bonus points for full-sized planets. However, last time I tried, dogfights were pretty clunky and the AI not very bright. Good players do tend to ‘orbit’ an opponent instead of jousting here as well, though.

About in-game thruster power management, I can’t see that working. If you have a given energy per second to distribute between all thrusters (in opposition to having each thruster always at its nominal strength), then it should balance it automatically : it is obvious that the optimal result is “everything on the thrusters currently firing”, so there is no actual decision to make.
That would be like having to manually reaffect energy to weapons after each shot.

About pre-flight thruster power management, you have to expect people to come up with “rear”-accelerating fighters (so you can decelerate and fire at a target at the same time), which will look bizarre in atmosphere. Complexity, but probably little depth there.

Better to keep the tried and tested thrusters/weapons/shields power management triangle.

I sure hope not, that’s always a sign of a bad game design.


It is also obvious that there is a straightforward gameplay solution to this: that it takes time to shift energy around. Yes, if there was an ability to instantly apply full power to a particular thruster, that would be optimal, but if not… well you’re going to have to decide in advance, which involves predicting how you might want to fly.

Mmm… no. While it’s certainly tried and tested, I would rather see something new than stealing something old like that. Unless they had a fresh way of implementing it.

Back to topic about flying, the user interface is clearly going to be very important if there is going to be any kind of drifting possible. Indicators to show which way you are flying being one - which could be again related to a reference of choice. For example, if you are travelling from a base to a planet towards a battle, your reference might be the planet. Then during a fight, you might target an enemy and use them as reference.

All this depends on how open the world of Battlescape is. How much do you let the computer control and how much do you let the player control?


Sounds like overcomplexifying the gameplay for little depth gain. Maybe you’re right, though, so I would be curious to test that in game.

Novelty for novelty’s sake is never good. This is true for videogames as well as for any form of art. When you are doing something new, there should always be another reason than simply ‘Because it’s new!’
Power triangle has been there for maybe two decades, and it stuck because it works well. Now, maybe it wouldn’t add much to I:B’s gameplay and should be cut. Maybe another system would work better instead (or in addition) like this thruster redirection, or shield redirection. Or maybe it should be all be cut altogether. But those should be considered independently from the fact that others did or didn’t use them.

The reference point is a problem that will need to be adressed indeed.
The simplest way to avoid dogfighters zipping past each-other at 100 km/s is to limit the maximum speed relative to the reference point.
In atmosphere, said atmosphere does that - the reference point is the air, and by extension the surface. Near the surface of an airless body, speed is limited for technical reasons (stuff needs time to be generated and drawn by the engine).
In space, the concept of “warp bubble” seems to work pretty well : when ships are nearby, the warp interference, in addition to allow interaction between ships, prevents anyone from going further than a given speed relative to the barycentre of the battling ships.
A problem arises when one is leaving the atmosphere : how does it manage the transition?

I would be wary of any limitation of this kind by way of computer : at some skill level people will wonder why the hell is this -expletive- computer preventing them to do it their way - kind of like a growing child would feel if they can’t remove the training wheels on their bicycle.
I’m not saying that it can’t be done, but it would be quite harder to pull off.


I wonder if this could provide a useful mechanic.

Obviously, crossing a line and immediately switching from atmospheric to warp-style flight interaction would be a bit rubbish. It just occurred to me that if there was a gradual boundary, perhaps it could cause difficulties. Reentry in real life is quite a dodgy process and even though we would probably perform powered entry to atmospheres, why not use that fact?

For example (bear with me here - I’m making this up as I type): two fighters are circling and trading shots in orbit. They are staying close because of warp interference, making it hard to accelerate away. One does eventually put power to thrusters and dive towards the planet, followed by their opponent.
Upon coming into contact with the atmosphere, the ship’s systems need to go through a transition to planetary flight mode. When at speed, this could perhaps cause instability as it crosses the boundary.
During this transition phase, the ship being chased could use that instability as an opportunity to lose their pursuer, or perhaps turn the tables on him/her.
(And vice versa for leaving an atmosphere)

Might something along these lines provide an incentive to use planetary atmospheres during a fight? Not just as a different location, but as an obstacle itself?


Yes, I think the transition is one of the greatest opportunity for I-Novae and most of the cool scenarios I personally envision centre around transitions, may they be from atmosphere to space, from planetary to interplanetary or whatever.

Throwing all the warp discussion away and concentration on the actual transition from orbit into the atmosphere I envision several effects that could be interesting, challenging, action packed and not that far from unrealistic.

First off could be the atmospheric drag starting to affect the spacecraft. The direction of the craft could determine the amount of drag the craft experiences. Like skydiving! In case of a long ship pointing the nose towards the ground or pulling it up could control the descend.

If a heat system is implemented the shock heating could start making heat managment dificult and using all the power of the internal systems dangerous to the craft itself. So for instance a fighter who uses the air to guide his movement could save power/heat for one or two more shots from his weapons before overheating.

Supersonic speeds make crafts behave strangely … especially if they aren’t designed for it. So spacecraft could be unstable in higher atmospheres and flip out if over-steered. This could make pursuit or evading a game of going to limits and not crossing them. A sharp manoeuvre could land that last hit needed or get you out of enemy fire … but it also could destabilize your craft and make you loose control.

And finally … somewhat atmospheric flight. With drag and some lift. Not airplane like lift but some.

Clouds … talks for itself …

Now deep inside the atmosphere the transition is completed.

How much I-Novae wants to invest into their atmospheric model will determine what of those will pretty much be a given or feel much more “pinned on”.

Battlescape gameplay suggestions

This whole area was discussed at great length in the old forums. Multiple times. The discussions even went so far as my building a multiplayer 2D full-size solar system environment that explored a couple ways that seamless warp travel might work, based on all those discussions. It was ‘seamless’ in that you could fly between any two destinations in the environment and have a Newtonian experience the whole way.

There were two approaches to warp. Both of them assume that the closer you get to something that disrupts your warp, the slower you moved.

ONE. The original system was structured such that ships were on warp frequencies. Ships on the same warp frequency did not disrupt each other’s warp drives. When two ships on different warp frequencies encountered each other, they would slowly come to a stop wherever they were, and then have to interact with each other.

This system had a couple problems:

A. Smaller ships could intercept larger ships and pin them down. It was EVE Online’s warp disruptors system, but everyone had a perfect warp disruptor. All you had to do was change warp frequencies and go after someone.

B. Interactions between friendlies required either that the friendlies stop and interact, or that they rely on some automated system that allows them to get near each other while still moving at speed. For example, my recollection was that Crayfish, at least, favored automated intercepts.

C. Combat was always stationary when considered from the scale of a solar system. If the fight started halfway between Earth and Mars, that’s where it was going to finish.

TWO. The modified system was one where the original system’s “automated system that allows friendlies to get near each other” became the full time treatment of all ship interactions. There are no warp frequencies. When you are flying in a fighter and approach a battleship, you automatically start to match velocities with it, while it (being the vastly-larger ship) continues to fly around unaffected. It doesn’t matter if it is friend or foe. If it’s a friend, you fly into the hangar. If it’s a foe, you blow up the hangar.

Ships can fly in formation with each other as they fly around a star system. If you want to fly in your shuttle between Star Destroyers as they zip along 1km away from each other at a speed of 0.1AU/s, go for it. It’ll be a trivial task, just like flying between them as if they were stationary.

Intercepting a ship from a distance requires a bit of skill. You’ll have to manage not only your approach vector, but your power level as well. Realize that you can leave your power at 100% and as you approach a ship, your velocity relative to that ship will drop and drop until you are moving at 3km/s relative to it. But if you want to intercept it and stay with it, you’ll want to get your relative velocity down to perhaps 200m/s at time of closure. That’ll be a touchy maneuver, but the warp prototype demonstrated that it’s practical.

Because the modified system lacked warp frequencies to give friendlies free flight when anywhere near each other, there was a rough edge to it where if you were in a busy system, with lots of ships flying between two planets, you would encounter a bit of congestion as ships moving in the opposite direction tried to push you back. Because space is so large and because warp disruption only really kicks in at close distances, any such headwinds tended to be pretty minor. Most of the time, almost nothing at all. Occasionally a momentary pause - and only in congested areas. Smaller ships would just know to stay clear of shipping lanes. Unless they were pirates.

There are piles more scenarios that I could go through, including running fights. The original system precluded the idea of fights that ranged across a star system, while they are standard fare in the modified system. In general, the modified system just worked. Whatever you would do in a small scale Newtonian environment, you could do at the star system scale.

I very much wanted to get my hands on the I-Novae engine so that I could implement the modified warp system in the full engine, but I just lost patience and wasn’t going to invest any more of my time and energy. So now I check back here and watch for interesting gameplay discussions. Sadly, these are not the forums of old.


Yes I remember that test program and how well it worked. It’s certainly a possibility. Unfortunatley, I guess a lot of us long-timers simply don’t have the energy to recreate some of those discussions! Most of them are probably redundant now anyway.

The point still stands though, as it could get extremely complicated once many ships are introduced like I-Novae is planning. In principle, this warping interaction would still work, but might be hard for the average player to understand what is going on. I have a feeling it would work better for the MMO than I:B.

I-Novae are going to have an interesting challenge: creating a flight combat system that’s reasonably easy to pick up and play (to grab customers), but also one that is innovative and exciting (not just an existing game with a reskin).


The enhanced Warp Interdiction system IS easy to pick up and understand. It needs minimal thought and can be easily explored by trying it out. Also I think todays gaming community is more open to experimentation, less turorials and walls of text are needed.

And why should discussion be redundant? Now at the time close to the design documentation (it is prpbably allready done but by the sound of the devs still pretty loose) gameplay discussion is still reasonable.

The problem for me personally is that most the discussion from the old forum still apply to battlescape and most of the best ideas concerning warp, weapons, UI or flight mechanics were allreedy posted.
We need those old forums online to reference those posts.

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Assuming a suitable mix of ship sizes, I think there’s room for combat at just about every range and most styles to be viable. The really tricky one under Newtonian flight mechanics is close range combat. You can force it by giving ships weapons with stupidly short firing ranges, but I think it makes more sense for close range combat to be seen as a small fighters vs larger or capital ships type scenario. Fighters would then engage with other fighters at medium ranges, while frigates and larger ships would take on enemies of similar sizes to themselves at long range.

And sometimes, if INovae plays things right, you’ll just see two battleships pull up along side one another and blow the ever loving crap out of each other.

I think interception at high speeds needs to be considered less from the point of view of the attacking parties – this “how are we supposed to catch them when they’re flying at a bajillion mph!!!” stuff really doesn’t amount to much more than concerns over whether a particular preferred trapping or combat technique will work – and more from the point of view of the traveller. Travel – particularly space travel – is an inherently boring endeavour. It either needs to be made more fun and interesting, or it needs to be eliminated. Eliminating travel kinda sorta breaks things, especially in an MMO setting, so ways of making it something other than staring at a nearly static screen need to be brainstormed.

One of the ways to make travel more interesting is to make it dangerous. This means that players need to keep an eye on their scanners and other instruments while travelling in order to make sure they’re not about to be attacked. This is where I prefer JB’s warp model over the frequency based one, as interception and warp field merging doesn’t halt travel. It turns combat into part of the journey. For larger ships, it even makes arrival at their destination a viable escape route! And if one favours durable ships and “slow” warp speeds, you could end up with combat lasting 10s of minutes, with the arrival time essentially acting as a countdown timer to when the attackers will either have to disable their target, or break off their attack.

I still think there’s room for frequencies, or some other kind of advanced management of the warp system (and, well, every system, really; I like the idea of having an “advanced” mode for just about everything on your ship), but I’m no longer convinced their place is in the realm of interdiction.


Exactly my thoughts on the travel/battle thematic. I want to see this realized, I want to see dynamic moving battles instead of (just) fixed backgrounds or stadions. Not that those aren’t cool too but its something that will definetly stand out and be worth it.
The attackers getting more and more agressive as they try to disperse the enemy reinforcments on route to the main battle. In the end they fail and are dropped right into the center of enemy flak fire and crushed by a flod of deadly projectiles. Had they suceeded the battle for the station might not have been lost.

Can you elaborate further? What advanced functions could you imagine and what would they affect?


I was wondering the same thing. I’m a big believer in depth of gameplay, but I figured that the raw warp system would have enough challenges in it.

In general, the more nimble your ship, the less skill required. The more evasive your destination, the more skill required. Flying a nimble fighter to a large planet requires the least skill. Trying to chase down a fighter with another fighter requires the most skill. Stuff that lies in the middle includes rendezvous with a friendly fleet, and intercepting an enemy fleet - while flying ships that vary in performance. Intercepting a battleship with another battleship while both are on the move is not easy.

Warp frequencies and other modal changes might have a role in combat. For example, if there are warp-seeking missiles, the guy firing the missile may have to lock to your current warp frequency before firing. That frequency may be determined by the game according to the size or configuration of your ship (and accurately figuring that out for an enemy ship could be a skill test). In an effort to reduce your warp signature on the frequency which the missile is looking for, you can ‘detune’ your warp frequency, but it will also reduce your warp performance, costing maneuvering and velocity for a given power setting - perhaps while boosting heat generation, broadband warp signature detection etc.

If there are submarine-like ‘warp noise makers’, then a pilot might kick out a noise maker on his warp frequency and then detune his ship’s warp drive and evade. The evasion would be sub-optimal, but the combination might be all that’s needed to evade a missile that’s been detected early enough.

Detuning would be a skill test itself, where if you mess with the frequency too much or too quickly, it could do damage to your warp drive, or just shut it down entirely; stall your engine. And the only quick way to restart is to have a larger ship come along and give you a jump start. Though for the sake of gameplay, the engine would reset after a time, but you’d be dead in space. If you flew near a gravity well in an effort to evade, you might very well end up contacting the surface.

Some pilots might even get clever and go into a fight with a detuned warp drive. If a missile is sent their way, they can retune their drive to nominal again and have a better chance of escaping.

Restarting a stalled warp drive could also be a skill test. The stall has misaligned a bunch of pieces in the engine, and it falls to the player to sort them out again. Or, using a more traditional treatment, it’s on a timer and the gear you buy determines the length of that timer. (rolls eyes)


Really? You find a timer less eye-roll-inducing than yet another minigame?


The roll of the eyes was for the gear changing the length of the timer. Timers are pretty standard fare, but don’t constitute entertainment in and of themselves. The rampant reliance on gear to decide so much nauseates me, resulting in what Kichae once called something like The Battle of the Hangar, because you win or lose by configuring your gear back at base, not by what you do in the field.

In this situation, in order to create real entertainment, there would be an engineering aspect to the game. This particular skill test would be one of many engineering tasks throughout the game, keeping busy those players who are interested in engineering (or tinkering with stuff, whatever). The more general pattern is that players improve systems that are, by default, automated. In this case, the crew can wait for the warp drive to restart, or somebody who is good at engineering can tackle it. That person would also address combat repairs, which could get really interesting if they have lots of leeway in innovating jury rigged solutions.

Just as I would want the game’s combat system to allow for some creativity by combat commanders, I would want the engineering system to allow for some creativity by its players. A minigame doesn’t really do justice to what I’m after.

This is primarily for an MMO, of course, but it can be applied to a degree in smaller-scale games.


Not directly related to the main topic, still
Having “minigames” for the sake of dodging a simple timer is not something that ends well IMO. It just becomes a repetitive thing where it’s essentially still a timer, except now you have to do the countdown manually. (Not to mention the annoying feeling of “I could be doing this faster” if you are not willing to play the minigame) I’d rather have a battle of the hangars situation instead of some flat minigame. If something similar is to be implemented, it should take time to learn how to use it (maybe even hide the rules, so people have to experiment and figure out how they can get better results).


I don’t want to be the one to stifle a good discussion. Feel free to follow the ideas through, as long as they are centred around flight mechanics!


Tracking, for one. I was thinking along lines very similar to what JB’s since mentioned.

Other ideas I have floating around in my head are more related to the idea of the warp frequency being a slider; there are other warp sliders one could imagine: Warp field radius, warp field strength, things like that. Given a finite amount of energy to the warp engines, different combinations of field radius, field strength, and field gobbilygook could result in higher warp speeds, or making your warp field more difficult to merge with, etc.


I would be very leery of putting in controls that alter the basic operation of warp drives. Movement speeds, disruption ranges, etc Those things constitute the game’s movement system. I was going to offer that improving performance could be implemented at a heavy cost of side-effects, but I don’t even like doing that much.

In my opinion, from a design standpoint, it’s much safer to explore ways that the warp drive can affect other aspects of gameplay. For example:

  1. Let players play with the warp frequency to alter how sensors work when applied to them. The player might choose to trigger a fog-bank type effect on a particular sensor band or bands, at a cost of drive performance. The player can’t see out of the fog bank on those bands, but nobody can see through the center of it either. This is an expansion of the missile scenario. Ships could engaging in blocking (i.e. jamming) activity. Imagine deploying a “mine field” of such fog generators, creating an interplanetary fog bank. I suspect that such things should probably also exist naturally, when certain conditions are right in a procedural star system. Players would then be faced with the question, “Is that a natural fog bank or is someone hiding something?”

  2. Let players play with the field to increase heat generation for any ship that interacts with their warp field. The closer to the center of the field, the more heating. Because the player’s ship is at the center of the effect, it hits him hardest. If he’s got good heat management gear or simply doesn’t generate much heat anyway, he’ll be fine.

  3. I can’t remember any other parameters from our old discussions. We talked about lots of systems, and a warp field becomes a great way to alter the environment in which those systems operate. In a space game that’s invaluable as a means of turning all that empty space into a more complex environment. I think there’s a lot of gameplay mileage to your idea of fiddling with the warp field when applied to stuff that isn’t about movement.

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Infinity Battlescape: Metagame

In terms of actual gameplay, I am wary of this idea. It strikes me that the average player would see this simply as irritating, arbitrary restrictions on where he/she can fly successfully with their current equipment. But then, I’m not convinced by the whole heat management idea as a whole anyway.

Back to flight mechanics, I do agree the warp system with interdiction is one of the best ways we (as a community, and you personally JB) managed to come up with. How would it work with fleets though? Centred around the largest ship? The warp field gets more diluted the more ships that are there, so ending up with a collective barycentre, if you will?


Coded frequencies? Each player could ‘tune’ their warp drive to the same frequency so it wouldn’t interfere with other ships in their fleet. Or just a basic ‘join fleet’ UI feature that does this automatically.

Would make for interesting drama if anyone could drop their whole fleet out of warp at any time. Betrayals and all that.