Gunnery challenges

This is just a quick thought about shooting stuff from space ships.


Something that we’ve always talked about is that gunnery is not complicated by air turbulence or driving across the ground to throw off a shot. Rapid fire weapons might throw themselves around because of recoil, but for the most part, every round is going to behave itself from muzzle to target.

In the warp prototype system, I came up with the idea of dynamic arenas, where there is an interaction area around each ship in which weapon fire can be exchanged - to duplicate the sense of an ICP arena. The radius of this area is 20 ship radii. For a 1km long ship, that’s a 20 km diameter area; plenty of room for engagements. A battleship would have a rather huge arena around it. Note that if you’re a 50m fighter in that 20km diameter arena, your weapons can still travel freely in that area even though your own area is only 1km across.

Well, what happens when a weapon leaves that area? It just goes poof. Nice for data management and acceptable for gameplay purposes. But why does it do that? Well, the fiction is that the ship’s matter and everything in the ship is warp shifted and that the warp drive is creating a field in which that warp shifted matter can accelerate at ludicrous accelerations, move at multiples of c, etc. When warp shifted matter leaves that field (the arena), it destabilizes and goes poof. Stuff can be warp stabilized on its own so that it can survive beyond the limits of the ship’s field, but that’s another story.

The Actual Idea:

If there is a field around the ship that is stabilizing the rounds/beams being fired, then surely that field can have instabilities that mess with the weapons being fired. This emulates atmospheric disturbances. Or heck, even disturbances so severe that they can form essentially physical obstructions.

To start with, I was just thinking that the warp level of a ship would determine the degree of disruption. Moving fast would create more disruption, making combat at speed a more difficult proposition. Pick the disruption that you want to see.

Then there’s the idea that acceleration introduces disruption. Firing while changing speed would introduce the greatest spread or inaccuracies.

Then there’s turning, combinations of the three, and likely other actions. The short form is that the warp field surrounding the ship that makes this ‘bullet’ stabilization possible can be used to introduce inaccuracies in weapons fire - if that should be considered a good addition to gameplay.

This idea can be taken to rather extreme degrees, where warp drives have procedurally-determined hard spots - places where warp-shifted matter cannot cross. This creates both invulnerable places around the ship, but also blind spots for sensors and weapon arcs. A sensor ship would want to find a drive that has no hard spots while a miner might be very happy to have lots of them so that shooting at him is difficult.

These spots may also shift over time. The idea is that you use a 3D noise function for the basic disruptions, but if they shift over time, you go 4D - the same technique used for clouds that form and dissipate. Mix that with speed, acceleration or turning and you might have a really wild time - especially if an experienced gunner can spot the patterns in advance for his ship’s drive.

Cone of fire type mechanics are great for when the player has no control over those weapons other than picking targets, but if we’re talking about manual gunnery i’d rather not be annoyed when my gun starts fighting at 45 degree angles to the barrel because of some distortion. For projectile weapons, In space games acceleration’s inherent effects alone is enough to throw people way off target even with weapon lead or lag indicators, in many cases you could just avoid a turret indefinitely by spiraling a certain way. (Lasers are another story of course.)

Eve’s tracking speed/signature system is actually a pretty good example of a system like this that works well and is interesting for the ship pilot, lets you fight much larger groups of enemies and draw them out, play angles to try to pick groups apart.

I think a system very similar to Starsector would be amazing. Altho i’d also like to have some sort of auto-locking on target and i simply fire whenever i feel the turret has a good chance of hitting.

For example: my turret has a turn speed, my target’s transversal sometimes goes too high and it’s up to me to keep an eye on the tracking and click on the fire button whenever i feel it should hit the target. FPS-twitch style shooting in 3D space is annoying because the silly pew-pew-lasers have a very slow travel time (for some reason). I do like to simply let the AI fire the weapons and i focus on piloting and positioning (and manage my power levels).

I don’t like the idea of any disruption to the targetting system. If it’s a futuristic scenario, we would have computers to calculate and correct any distortion effects, most home computers could do that even with the computing power we have today.

We have weapons on ships at sea today that can target and hit an outboard motor on a boat at vast distances with uncanny accuracy, even allowing for a quite severe swell. One only needs to watch the series about the Australian Coastguard and see the cannon they have on the newer ship they were assigned to. On several occasions, they disabled the inboard motor on small craft without sinking the boat at all. If they can do that now in a heavy swell at sea, I am sure computers of the future can compensate for a spaceships manoeuvres.

Lasers = Fairly low damage but high accuracy due to beams travelling at light speed.
Kinetic = High damage but low projectile speeds resulting in lower accuracy for targets that alter speed and direction often. Prediction only works if the targets velocity and direction do not change.
Energy weapons = Very high damage but very low speeds, only good for slow moving or very large targets or anyone stupid enough to fly in a straight line while under fire.

infinity is likely to have 6 directional thrust, meaning lasers dont just gain more accuracy, they completely nullify the effect of acceleration in any direction. Acceleration which is amplified by factors like distance and weapon slowness. Balancing lasers requires more than just lower damage, you need something to compensate on some kind of curve. Something like a harsh damage dropoff range, or a requirement to hold them on target for extended periods before the thermal capacity of the armor is reached and damage begins.

Also, missiles and rockets/torpedos is a good topic worth discussing. In SC the only rockets they put ingame essentially just act like a slightly slower version of a kinetic weapon, i’d prefer if rockets were somehow more unique in their capability. Something like, they accelerate over time meaning the accuracy penalty due to distance and enemy acceleration is lessened(this would complicate coding the prediction indicators though). Maybe they have proximity detonation and shake the enemy ship making returning fire more difficult. And then torpedos end up just being bigger, slower, higher yield versions of rockets.

Missiles are pretty simple from a game design sense, they have been done well in many games. Lock target, fire, deploy countermeasures etc etc. I liked MW:LL missiles a lot but you cant really rely on terrain to hide you from them in space so that wouldnt work for B:S

Or damage never begins, and the purpose of a laser is to disable - per our discussions back on the old forums. Lasers could then be used at longer ranges. It would be particularly helpful to disable weapons that are normally used at close range.

I’m not a fan at all of fire and forget weapons. Rockets and torpoedoes are one thing, but guided missiles are just too simple. “Missile, go kill that ship.” I really want to see some skill in deploying weapons, which is why I like the idea of complicating gunnery.

Missiles that are actively flown would be much more appealing, a bit like laser-designating a target for a modern missile.

When I think of torpedoes, I think of the world wars and the way that the ocean currents and thermal gradients could affect a torpedo - and the fact that they’re pretty slow. In space, it’s tough to come up with an analog.

I’ll resurrect a design principle that I brought up in the old forums, which is one target per player. I do not have eight turrets for which I can designate eight targets. I can designate a target and then involve as much or as little firepower at my disposal on that target. If a ship wants to attack multiple targets simultaneously, it brings more players. More players means more targets.

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However I could imagine ambush situations where you find yourself suddenly surrounded by multiple targets and without backup. Lets assume you’re flying a larger ship with multiple “turret” hardpoints. Being able to set all weapons to aggressive could be useful, however this could limit accuracy, or have an impact on power distribution etc.


I think a good solution for missiles is to complicate ewar/ship signatures and base their effectiveness and deployment on that, to make missile gameplay a strategic layer on top of all the other gunnery stuff. To continue to harp on SC… it has 3 different signature ratings, EM, infrared, and cross section, with different implications for each. high EM is put out by shields, weapons, and other electronics, infrared is put out by thrusters and weapons, cross section is the size of the picture the ship takes up. So, a ship can rotate to a favorable angle and have a lower cross section. Any of the 3 can be used to detect a ship but missiles specialize in tracking one of the 3 signatures. You have different countermeasures that work differently, flares you want fired somewhere away from your ship and distract, chaff you want to pilot so it ends up between you and your target and obscures your signal (maybe temporarily depending on if the missile can re-aquire), and then theres other ewar possibilities which arent explored in the alpha for that game.

Honestly this is a good base to a potentially great system. Not that im suggesting complete plagiarism but…

for torpedos i think it would be fine to have them just be big slow rockets intended for anti-capital ship duty. Its a bit of an odd comparison but world of warships does torpedo gameplay quite well, in that you have to take into account the possibility of an enemy battleship deploying them against you and accounting that into your positioning in cap vs cap fights. The extra plane of motion would complicate things but in a good way.


I’m confused by your definition of a rocket. I’m assuming that it’s a dumb-fire weapon.

If that is the case, then IMO rockets would be immediately ineffective, given the great distance the rocket has to travel during normal combat. Only at extreme CQC would dumb-fire rockets be able to hit their target, like a surprise bombing run or something.

One solution I would suggest is to have a separate firing mechanism for rockets. Once fired, the target must be kept inside of it’s “tracking circle”. Rockets would be the fastest self-propelled weapon to compensate, and do medium damage.

To reply at both @JB47394 and @Arkenbrien , maybe missiles should be effective only when the target follows a parallel plan, is very predictable, or is at very short range (in that case that could be dangerous for the sip opening fire).

I assume a space missile have an effective range before becoming pure ballistic: the ship gives first impulsion, then major part of the missile’s velocity is created by its inner fuel. However, his propulsion can be partially redirected on its side to make a curve … but let’s not forget about the momentum!

If an initial force F makes the missile go into straight line (suppose vector on 2D plan (0, 5, 0) ), applying another force G that goes slightly on its left (vector (-1, 0, 0) ), resultant will be that the missile still goes forward fast, and slightly on the left (vector (-1, 5, 0)). It’s not like in atmospheric conditions where the air’s friction will eventually nullify the F force: once a missile launched at high speed on a given 3D line, even going perpendicular is a real challenge.

Also, I don’t see missiles having retro-fuses on their front, so they have to work on 5 directions instead of the 6 available.

Therefore, we can create the following gameplay for missiles: ships that can escape the fastest their 2D plane perpendicular to the missile’s line, or are already moving on a orthogonal vector, will the most easily avoid missiles. Also, maybe you can calibrate your missiles: make them burn all their fuel fast if you expect to take by surprise and therefore don’t leave much time for reaction, or make it save a lot more because you’re chasing something that you can’t reach yet, but can’t maneuver easily.

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Or… lets say each turret comes with a directional radar to provide human gunners with lead indicators.

In the event of being ambushed while alone, you’d have a big red button labelled “Fire EVERYTHING” which would activate those radars, start moving each turret in a search pattern, and as soon as a turret detects anything at all it starts shooting.

If it’s shooting at an enemy, great. If it’s shooting at a passing asteroid or distant planet, less great, maybe provide a way to reset individual turrets to make them try to find another target. If there are any of your friends nearby… don’t press the big red button.

Surprise bombing runs tend to be rather effective.

Making rocket batteries something like a super-shotgun in space would make sense to me. You don’t need a long barrel to help a rocket accelerate, so instead you could bolt a bunch of them together. A fraction of a second between firing each might not be enough time that the engines of one rocket wont scorch the nose of another, but with their acceleration profiles being identical it would be enough time that the difference in velocity would bring them far apart before any real damage was done.

Fit a fighter with 5 9-rocket batteries, hide behind a rock (or a friendly capship) until someone comes by, pop out for a second to fire everything, then back behind cover to spend, say, a second per rocket reloading (each battery loading concurrently). 10 seconds of damage output, plus whatever bonus you get for using hard-to-aim weapons, on target (or harmlessly passing it by) in only a couple seconds of exposure (plus flight-time).

If you get into a situation where popping back behind cover to reload isn’t an option, you’d still be able to fire one rocket per second from each battery, and if it’s a close combat scenario you could maybe have a low specific impulse-small fueltank variant that fits in the same launcher.


Useful only for the guy being ambushed. The guys doing the ambushing are suddenly fighting the game software instead of the player. It’s no longer player versus player gameplay. That’s why one-player-one-target is so necessary; it focuses on players fighting each other interactively using the ship’s weapon systems.

I just have no use for gameplay that focuses on solo gaming in a multiplayer game.

I think all that stuff is great. I just want to make sure that any weapon system requires interactive control by the gunner. Most of the electronic warfare stuff tends to make defense interactive as the defending ship pops flares, jams signals and otherwise reacts to the incoming missile. But as with the ambush scenario, it results in players fighting the game; they have to defeat the AI in the missiles instead of faking out the player controlling the missile. That was something I hated about the ICP. Somebody would pop out a missile and I’d be obliged to maneuver like crazy to avoid it - even though the other player wasn’t obliged to do anything.

Different missiles may give better or worse information to the player based on the various signature ratings, sensors and so forth, but it should fall to the player to decide which signals are false, which are real, which are applicable, and so on.

Traditionally, rockets are unguided self-propelled projectiles while missiles are guided self-propelled projectiles.

Braking is a perfectly reasonable thing to do when you get no lateral thrust as a result of moving at speed (i.e. lift from the missile body in an atmosphere).

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This isnt all bad, avoidable missiles are one of the few tools you have in open space to create a kind of terrain and limit an enemy’s movement patterns. It just becomes a problem when the missile feels too cheap to fire or the balance between just taking the missile and having to avoid it isnt done well. For example, you can fire off a missile defensivley but if the other guy is at full shields he might not care and keep is sights on you, but if you’ve already stripped them then he actually has to take measures to preserve his hull.

Speaking of missiles that force the opponent to evade, MIRV missiles are a lot of fun. Itano circus anyone?

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I’d like all gunnery to be manually aimed and have no ‘spread’.

I think weapons fire should inherit the velocity of the platform from which it is fired. (This is physically accurate but will feel unfamiliar to most)

The difficulty of hitting your target is purely a question of the velocity of the target relative to the attacker making it more difficult for the pilot to correctly lead the target.

I don’t like the disruption idea described by JB as this introduces a degree of randomness to weapons fire which cannot be overcome by skill. However JB did touch on that…

I’d be interested to hear this fleshed out if you have ideas JB?

The result of the disruption idea is that hitting one’s target would be more difficult while one is manoeuvring more erratically. - Weapons fire inheriting the velocity of the ship results in a similar difficulty modifier but has no randomness and can be completely overcome by a skilled pilot.

One game that features inheritance is Tribes. The latest in the series, Tribes: Ascend, has only one weapon that has 100% inheritance, other ‘Spinfusors’ (type of weapon that shoots relatively slow moving projectile) have 50% inheritance meaning that the projectile inherits only half of the velocity of the shooter.

Here are some videos that give you a flavour:

Oblige the shooter to guide the missile and I’m fine with having to dodge it.

Note that my preference is that every shot that lands does damage that is expensive to repair. So it’s important to avoid implementing weapons that give cheap hits; the attacker must be using skill to get hits.

I would be astonished if this was not the case. If you want to experience this, try engaging targets from moving vehicles and aircraft in ARMA 3.

On spotting patterns? Make the field disruptions visible to gunners. There’s a blue haze over there, and that means that physical shots will be slowed. There’s an electric sparking effect over there, and that means that energy shots will be scattered. There’s a shimmering effect everywhere, and that means that sensors are blocked (in both directions).

I’m certainly not interested in ‘randomness’ per se. The goal is to challenge player skill, so being able to understand the specific disruptions of the current ship’s drive field is essential. The field is procedural, predictable and variable according to the actions of the ship.

Once begun, this can be used for all manner of effects. Instead of just intensifying effects when maneuvering or accelerating, new effects could pop up or existing effects could vanish. Effects could move around - predictably, of course. Effects could also be procedurally affected by use of ship systems. Sensors, weapons fire and so on.

The most extreme version of effect is saying that weapons fire disrupts the field along the path of the departing round or beam. This is not procedural, so it would be much more data intensive, but it suggests a lot of interesting possibilities. Imagine trying to maintain a line of fire with a repeating turret only to find that you can’t fire along that same line because your rounds are disrupting the field. The disruption might slow or scatter or even start detonating the rounds - and that problem only crops up in that area of the field (i.e. that side of the ship). Elsewhere, you can use repeating turrets without any adverse effects.

I suppose with a lead target indicator it becomes less of an issue, but the effect is not something the average gamer would be familiar with.

I hope that there are many things that the average gamer is not familiar with in Infinity:Battlescape.

projectile velocity inheritance for 6dof space games is pretty standard. even some non-space games like tribes do it. are there any that dont?

I also agree with no spread, theres no real reason to introduce spread innacurracy in a 6dof game where it will likely be hard to hit stuff as is. spread just reduces the skill ceiling in this case.

If the missile is simple enough to dodge its not a cheap hit unless you are forcing the other player’s hand in some way. Maybe you intentionally forced the other player’s EM readings up by having them put more power to shield while they were firing distortion cannons at you, or they tried to flee which balooned their IR signature. The missiles are tools to control behavior, optimally the other player is told what kind of missile is tracking them and can adapt, but adapting may cost them manuvering or firepower in other areas.

i dont really like the idea of manually guiding a missile to another fighter, it would be very sensitive to the acceleration balance between ships, and require immense timing skill for proximity detonation and hitting properly and kinda removes the strategic element from it, you cant take advantage of your opponent being distracted if you got put in the missile your guiding, and then it becomes too easy to counter attack for the enemy even while dodging, missiles you are supposed to have few of so it seems odd for such a low stocked item to give you such a disadvantage. Maybe on a ship crewed by multiple people?

Im imagining missiles as something you have like 4-6 on a mid sized fighter, once you use those up it would mean you need to go back to base before getting more, theyre not things you could spam, and if you fire them all at once it becomes easy to avoid them all at once. ballistic ammo would be much more generous and energy weapons would be infinite.

This is taking a page from wulfram II, it was an old hovertank game but the way they did missiles was pretty good, you had to buy them before leaving base and stock up on around 10 or so total. You had piercers which were for low direct fire damage and hard to dodge, hunters which were long range high arc and easy to dodge but would force the enemy to either stop and shoot them down or move very drastically out of the way. thumpers which knocked the enemy around (some sort of EWAR missile would fit here). They also had deployable homing minefields and an extremely long distance extremely low damage laser, it was only enough to keep up with the enemy’s armor repairs(it would be shields in battlescape). But the extreme distance meant you could check the enemy’s movement and irritate them quite a bit. Shooting down missiles would be something i wouldnt mind seeing as an option, giving you the choice of taking a wide avoidance path or taking a straight line reverse retreat to get a straight shot at a pursuing missile.

Weapon projectiles, missiles, rockets, torpedos, etc will all inherit the velocity of the platform from which they were launched. For dumb projectiles a targeting computer provides assistance by estimating the lead on the target and displaying an indicator on the HUD. This has already been implemented in the prototype.

Agreed =).


All this stuff is primarily for larger ships, yes. But I’d dogmatically stick to the idea of one-player-one-target. Leave fighters with guns and bombs/torpedoes, and leave the manually-guided missiles to bigger ships that don’t operate at a significant disadvantage by using them.

Manually shooting them down or using automatics like a Sea Wiz point defense system? I’m just not seeing players engaged by the attack and the defense. Certainly not symmetrically (automated attack versus manual defense) It’s more like a hangar war, where the attacker gets the best guided missile he can find and the defender gets the best point defense he can find.