I think the real problem lies in the fact that the networking techniques were designed for stationary environments with slow-moving characters. In a Battlescape game with moving space stations, you’d effectively get fast moving environments with fast-moving characters. If you made planets and stations into “characters” that were updated like ships, then you’d just have a lot of fast moving characters all dancing around each other.
The basic problem was brought up in the networking discussion a few updates back. In essence, you see other ships a short time in the past. Perhaps 1/10th of a second. If two ships are just racing around at high speeds shooting at each other, the server can probably mask the problem. Things are pretty hectic and you won’t notice the deviations. The server sorts out the delay and does the hit detection, etc.
But when you’ve got two ships that think they’re flying a few dozen m/s relative to a space station, it gets a bit tougher to mask. The ships are actually moving at 5km/s, meaning that 1/10th of a second delay puts their positions 500m in the past. But the players are thinking in terms of a few dozen m/s, so that large position error becomes a serious problem.
A more straightforward demonstration of how the networking technique gets wonky is just two ships trying to fly in formation at a speed of 5km/s. If each sees the other 1/10th of a second in the past, then each will see the other 500m behind. It’s clearly going to be a strange experience to know that you’re side by side but each seeing the other 500m behind. I doubt many players are going to handle that well.
The whole “arena” or “bubble” thing that I keep bringing up is a technique to address all this. It causes a space station to become an arena. The networking code continues to use the standard FPS techniques, but it does so with velocities that are back down in the few dozen m/s range. So things make sense again, and orbiting planets and stations become practical. At least in terms of the networking.
In this aspect of design, planetary surfaces are easier than orbiting space stations because the speeds are so much lower. The Earth’s equator moves at 460m/s. If two ships were fighting at the Earth’s equator, they would see the other ship’s position 46 meters behind (assuming that 1/10th of a second of delay). That’s perhaps one ship length. It’s still going to mess with formation pilots, but combat seems practical.
Orbiting planets are out of the question. The Earth orbits the sun at 30km/s. That would add 3km delay to ship positions. That is, if two ships were hovering over the same point on the Earth’s surface, each would see the other 3km away.