Ship class roles and mechanics discussion (pre-alpha)

Having now played around a little with the first iterations of capital ships, I wanted to start a discussion on what we envision for each ship class. The idea is to iron out some of the possible implementations in order to help weapons and balancing to be added successfully.

This is a basic outline of what I think about each ship and what it needs:

  • Interceptor - should be agile (a little more than it is now) with light weapons, but plenty of energy to keep firing. Good for harassment of enemy fighters.

  • Bomber - Heavier weapons, perhaps chews through energy faster as a result. Should be able to equip bombs/torpedos and some kind of countermeasures to help protect itself.

  • Corvette - Anti-interceptor/bomber. Smaller and faster than capital ships but with turrets, unlike fighters. Effective against ships smaller than it, not so much against larger ones.

  • Destroyer - Serious hardware. The most mobile capital ship, perhaps with a more interesting variety of weaponry. Perhaps flexible about whether it equips a loadout to attack smaller ships (lighter, faster weapons) or bigger ones (heavy guns, missiles etc).

  • Cruiser - Heavy hitter of the fleet. This should be a tough cookie that takes effort to destroy, but its weapons are largely focused around attacking other capital ships. Big guns, thick hull, but also a large target for bombers.

  • Carrier - currently the largest ship, but should not be the most powerful in terms of firepower. Point-defence weapons should be able to defend against other fighters/corvettes and missiles, so that teammates can launch safely. However, if attacked by destroyers or cruisers, it’s going to need help quick.

We need to expand on these roles. How manoeuvrable should each ship be? Should it be effective in atmosphere? Do you agree with the weapon suggestions? Is there anything we could add to make the roles more interesting?

(Keep it real, focused on the pre-alpha state it’s in currently. The aim is to be useful to Flavien as more weapons are implemented and roles become clearer)

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I think you’re off to a good start.

  • Interceptor - I agree they should be more manoeuvrable than they are now, and I think lighter armoured too.
    For weaponry, I’d like players to be able to choose between less powerful but more rapid fire, and more powerful but lower rate of fire. Sustainable DPS should be the same either way.
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I’d hope the ship roles aren’t too fixed.

As far as equipping ships go, a standard guideline for non-capital ships would be:

Short range with much higher damage = less space for fitting shielding/lower hp. Very dangerous to be flying with this sort of set-up, but highly rewarding for skilled pilots.

Long range with much higher damage but less accuracy (torpedoes/missiles) = less space for fitting shielding/lower hp and reduced speeds. The lower speed allows them to be caught if they’re not paying attention, and destroyed quickly when/if caught.

Smaller, medium range weapons on larger ships (think interceptor weapons on the bomber) = more HP and slightly improved speed. A bomber fit in this way would still be slower than an interceptor.

*TLDR, if a ship is fit to take on larger enemies, it becomes more vulnerable to smaller ones as their defence against the larger opponents is already ‘don’t get hit’.

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Not sure about this, unless the shields are made stronger. I can barely survive as it is with the interceptor, without making is more squishy!

I agree that this kind of flexibility would be nice, but I fear it would rapidly become very difficult to balance at such an early stage in development. For now, I would suggest that well-defined roles are exactly what the ships need (not fixed, but well-defined).

What we need is for people to choose a ship based on a strategy, not just “I’ve earned enough credits now, I want a bigger, better ship!”

If the roles of the ships are clear, people might be more likely to choose one appropriate to their goals, then can have a certain amount of flexibility within that. But it is the age-old debate of classes vs. customisation.

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The idea was enhanced manoeuvrability would increase survivability. It would be small and nible relying on avoiding damage rather than tanking it.
Reducing armour would reduce mass making it more manoeuvrable.

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Many spaceship-based PvP games such as Fractured Space and Dreadnought rely on very archetypal roles to define each ship, be it a light, maneuverable damage dealer, a tricked out support ship, or a slow moving tank, although the aforementioned games do only focus on capital ships and only a handful of ships in a match.

I like the idea that the ships represent certain roles, but that they might have the flexibility to serve whatever needs might arise. For example, you might strip all the guns off a corvette and convert it into a support vessel with shield generators (either single target or spherical area), repair modules (either a beam or drones), EMC (disrupting heat-seeking weapons and jamming electrical systems.

These loadouts though might have to be presets, because especially as you get into the capital ships, (almost) nobody wants to sit there customising dozens of different hardpoints. So what if when selecting a ship, you were then presented with the option of (for lack of more appropriate terms) “DPS”, “Support” and “Tank” to determine what your loadout will be. These three options can also have significantly different implications based on which ship you choose, but see below for a rough indication of how each role might tuned.

ib-role-balance

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Don’t forget that the ships exist to achieve goals. Constructive and destructive interactions with facilities. There was supposed to be a siege capital to attack surface installations, right? So the Cruiser would have some kind of heavy weapon intended for that. That same weapon could be used to nail another capital, just like EVE Online’s Titan weapons. They take a while to activate, but when they fire, they hit hard.

I bring that up because it can change the modality of the Cruiser. If the Cruiser is working on firing its siege gun, the rest of its systems may be heavily compromised, requiring lots of support from other ships to keep it safe. When not playing siege engine, it could be a straight-up capital brawler.

Please stay far away from labels like that, especially so early in the design process. As soon as people start thinking in those terms, it’ll be all over for Battlescape’s gameplay. It will BE DPS/Healer/Tank, and all players who have played that trio in other games will instantly recognize it and dismiss Battlescape as “World of Warcraft in Space”.

That said, @Sab1e’s basic list does exclude support roles. Ammunition and repairs are certainly necessary supplies. Carriers are essentially a support ship and may be the ideal way to have a kind of forward operating base. They can carry supplies, ships, and perform repairs. Flavien has stated that Carriers will act as spawn points, but I’d argue strongly against that - unless a carrier has a limited total number of respawns before it must return to base to restock. If a carrier can carry 20 interceptors and 10 bombers, then that’s the number of times that players can respawn at that carrier before it has to go visit the interceptor factory to get 20 more interceptors and the bomber factory to get 10 bombers.

The Destroyer should also be capable of being configured for logistical support, but the Cruiser should probably be impractical as a logistics ship. It could be done, but the return on investment just wouldn’t be there. Why? So that the Carrier remains the king of logistics. The Destroyer would be the lighter logistics ship.

For supply transfer and repairs, please don’t put in magic beams. Just hard dock the ships and do what needs doing. Put particle effects all over the damaged ship while it’s being repaired (welding, grinding, sloppy laser sintering, whatever). Supply transfers would be through the dock point, so there’s nothing visible there.

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Those labels were for the purpose of my explanation only, hence the disclaimer, and were only meant as a point of reference. I was just toying with a simple way to inject some variety.

Understood. The problem is that the labels were used, and you even created a little spreadsheet that organized the information in terms of the trio. If others take that pattern and run with it, suddenly everyone is thinking in terms of the trio. Thus the desire to nip it in the bud.

Note that even @Sab1e’s list could set a precedent on gameplay that could limit its diversity and appeal - but I think it’s a pretty good starting point.

By the way, we’ve discussed all sorts of systems for over a decade now, and while Flavien has read them all and undoubtedly has used them as food for thought, he ultimately does whatever he’s going to do. Is there much point in fleshing these things out beyond the bare bones idea?

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Maybe not, but people still like discussing it. I think most of us are just anxious for the gameplay iterations to start.

And this is what it’s intended as! The last thing I want to do is limit gameplay design.

I do agree that we should focus on believable spaceship roles. This will be more focused on manoeuvrability, weapon power, sensors and survivability. I definitely don’t want to stray into healing/arbitrary-buffing roles really - I don’t see that fitting in.

I also don’t think every ship should be able to adapt to every role (within its class). Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big supporter in choosing weapons etc, but a bomber is for attacking capships. Interceptors are for… Well… Intercepting! And so on.

I brought up your list only as a pedantic point. I can’t think of anything markedly better than what you’ve suggested.

Nor do I. My only real problem with this thread’s premise is that we don’t know what we’re designing the roles for. We can only discuss ship design (and gameplay design in general) if we know the gameplay scenarios that Battlescape is trying to manufacture. That is, what’s the experience that the player should find in Battlescape? The roles would be designed to support that experience.

I figure that Flavien has a very specific experience in mind for the players, and he doesn’t need or want a lot of gameplay ideas from us. He wants us primarily as a sounding board for what he creates. He wants to know if we hate or love something he created, not if we have any great ideas for what he ought to create.

If you think about it, not many who are capable of designing and building software products would do otherwise.

I think ship design should reflect their intended primary purpose:

Interceptor/fighter is smaller, offensively minded unsustainable anti interceptor/fighter/bomber.

Bombers are unsustainable anti capital/stationary.

Corvette is a larger, defensively minded unsustainable anti interceptor/fighter/bomber.

Destroyers are sustainable anti everything but capitals.

Cruisers are sustainable anti capitals/stationary.

Carriers are what bring sustainability to corvettes and below, as well as on site repairs to capitals.

These would be the primary roles, and you’re never going to be better at that role with a different class of ship. You CAN use one for the "wrong"purpose and, given enough skill or luck, come out on top. Preferably, you could even rig your ship for the wrong purpose as a deception. It still would not be as good as the class of ship dedicated to that role.

I also agree that carriers should not have infinite supplies, and would like to see the carrier pilot have sliders to set what they carry. That being said, they should have a HUGE amount of space for storing ships and supplies. These supplies should cost everything up front and would have the prices set by the carrier pilot from there.

This would create several gameplay elements: attacking would need supply lines for an extended siege. Carriers would have a varying cost based on their load: a faster carrier would lack in stock, but allow for a “rush” strategy. Targeting carriers becomes even more valuable: the enemy loses a spawn point, they lose a repair point, and they lose all the resources invested into the carrier. It also encourages players to pool resources: a fully stocked carrier with hundreds of fighters and bombers is going to be EXPENSIVE.

My 2 cents…

I do think that different ships should generally fill certain roles, such as what @Red_Syns suggested, however I would stress the word generally. I think that, depending on the load out and how the ship is set up/tuned, a player should be able to fill many different roles on a single platform. Limiting the roles so that the most effective and only viable way to perform a certain tasks will drive players away from experimenting, and lead to a more basic, rock-paper-scissors interaction. Giving players a wide variety of tools to experiment with will reward the player for trying out different tactics and styles of play. Of course, there will always be a meta, and some ideas may be doomed from the start. But that’s not to say that other methods should be infeasible or impracticable. Like a squadron of corvettes doing a run against a capital ship, or a bomber dog-fighting an interceptor. Certainly, these might not be the most effective means under normal circumstances, however I believe the ability to do just that should exist for when the extraordinary is required.

As I have said before, give the players tools.

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I’m just going to focus in on one ship for a moment, to discuss the level of flexibility.

The Bomber

We all agree there should be a certain amount of decision making involved in loadouts, in order to equip a ship for a certain objective.

Perhaps the clearest way to streamline this process is to keep the definition for each ship quite vague, but have everything confirmed with that role.

E.g. Definition: the bomber is for targeting specific objectives and blowing them up.
Within this definition, there would be a wide scope for customisability. A player may choose to equip more heavy cannons and rely on strafing runs, or choose to switch out for a more missile/bomb focused loadout. Maybe a mixture of the two.

If the player desired, and has enough skill, there’s no reason they couldn’t attempt to take out some interceptors on the way, or to sneak in and scout a target, but the focus of the ship is still making big BOOMs. The important thing is it’s not limiting them to only bombing stuff, just making it easier to do so. I’m sure heavy energy cannons would be more than enough to smash a few unlucky interceptors as well, but it could be tricky to line up a shot on them.

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Based on what I’ve seen from Foxhole and Running with Rifles, Battlescape could benefit a lot in terms of depth with limited non-combat roles such as scouting, ferrying, and scavenging/salvaging. In those games, there are semi-persistent elements that Battlescape won’t have, but the mechanics could still add to the experience.

For example, take the NPC haulers. They’ll either have an AI deciding where to haul the resources or they’ll just have predetermined paths. I can’t think of any player-involved way of doing things except for voting or having a designated commander. The simplest and most effective solution is to make the haulers’ paths minimal and regardless of the current tactical situation. That way, the monotonous hauling is taken out of the player’s hands and players can form their own supply chains by hauling spare parts, ammo, etc where they’re needed.

The current credits system is fine for small ships, but capital ships should be more involved: players could purchase parts of a capital and gather them at a station with a capital spawn point to “build” them. This would be more logistically involved than just buying capitals with credits. Of course, there is a point where hauling dampens the fun, so this wouldn’t be any more complicated.

For salvaging, perhaps each match would start with a few wrecked stations and bases, which when salvaged would yield parts that can be sold for credits, fit onto a hardpoint, used to repair bases, etc. And when new wreckage is generated, they’d also get salvaged. These mechanics wouldn’t be too complicated to implement and could add a lot IMO.

I’m seeing the corvette as the best class for this kind of playstyle.

I like the idea of salvaging, if we were to have a role that isn’t directly focused on combat. It would potentially be quite dangerous if you’re trying to recover stuff from a battle, so it wouldn’t necessarily be non-combat.
Could be a way of gathering resources for the team as well as exploring.

Scouting is the other obvious one.

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In light of other debates, I have adjusted the title of this thread to accommodate any discussion about the ships and ideas on how they could be implemented!

Enjoy. :blush:

The Corvette is the ship i am most unsure about where i want to see it in the long run. Maybe it can be the only small craft with a jump drive to operate on long distances without Carrier/Station support nearby. Be a long range bomber who can selfdefend and haul a lot of ammo.

But the weapon discussions indicate that ship roles might be a lot more flexible than i originally thought, depending on weapon loadouts. The turrets already make the Corvette a unique small ship, but its obviously larger cargo potential also makes it interesting for specialist jobs - strong active Sensors/Jammers for example. Could be a jump beacon to allow fleet precision jumps. If there ever was a capture mechanic for stations/bases where you have to deliver soldiers ( Corporate Security Personel, this is the SFC after all ) to initiate a takeover, the Corvette could do that job if there is no budget for a dedicated dropship/boarding specialist.

Yeah, the corvette is a tricky one. I see it as anti-interceptor/bomber fleet support currently. It should be effective against small targets but will be shredded by a destroyer’s point-defence.

Yet, it will probably still perform reasonably well in atmospheres, so maybe a ground strike role could also be viable, given that capital ships are likely to really struggle in atmosphere.