What are the rules of Battlescape?

#1

This is a question that I asked at the Town Hall but didn’t really get a good answer. That’s probably because I asked the devs to create a document that laid out the rules so that a new player could understand them. The devs then saw this document as being unnecessary as the information would be in the eventual tutorial. That’s not what the question was about though.

The question is simply, what are the rules of Battlescape?

If you’ve been following the development extremely closely you may be able to answer this, but 99% of players, including myself have very little idea what is actually going on when you enter a match. This is a problem as it makes the game less fun to play and therefore adversely affects retention.

The other aspect of the question is to have the rules written down so that they can be examined and unnecessary complexities eliminated. A written set of rules is not a replacement for a tutorial, nor should a tutorial cover every rule of the game.

Knowing the rules will benefit everybody.

  • The devs will get birds-eye view of what the game does that everyone can see and reference, allowing them to optimise and perhaps realise where there are unnecessary complexities or just bad game design.

  • Veteran contributors can see easily how things are supposed to work and possibly understand the devs vision for the game a bit better. We can also advise where it may be possible to make improvements.

  • New players can have a canon set of instructions for how things work, and until there is a proper tutorial a good starting point as to what they are supposed to be trying to achieve within the game.

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#2

The problem is that your question is really a 2-in-1 question, with one aspect being the player’s lack of understanding of the rules ( the game doesn’t give enough feedback on it ), and which needs to be addressed in-game ( not in a separate document IMO ) via tutorials, help screens and better information overall; the other aspect is more about game design, and it seems like you want the rules to be better explained to the community so that we can get more feedback.

At the same time it’s a tricky question to answer, because a lot of what there is currently in the game is not final. A lot of the systems are placeholders until we iterate on them, and a lot of things are experimental in nature. One example is the credits system which currently favors active kills; corvette players do not earn credits for resupplying/repairing other ships for example, which is a huge flaw of the game which we need to fix sooner than later. What we want to do, moving forward, is go back to a more passive / tactical system ( as per the original KS design ) but we still need to reward players for doing kills ( instead of waiting 5 minutes to get credits from the pool ), and we’re still debating on how to achieve that internally.

I could certainly write a post about the current state / rules of the game, and the things we are working on or thinking of changing in the future.

#3

Something simple, an overview of what you intend the rules to be would be something to build from.

If you think of most mods for games, they are simply a new set of rules laid over the original game. Battle Royale games have a set of rules that can be simply described and understood, the same for capture the flag, king of the hill and any other popular game mode.

Currently Battlescape’s rules don’t appear to be either simple or obvious, and I think that is one of the things that is causing you to lose new players.

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#4

I’ll post something this week-end then. But I think you might be over-estimating the complexity of the rules. At least from my perspective, they’re not very complicated. There might be more obscure details in the way the AI commander works and how it starts battles, but we can discuss this after I make the post.

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#5

Rules of Battlescape: Overview

The game is set up in a single solar system. There are 2 (currently) or 3 (possibly later) teams. The goal for each team is to conquer the majority of the Battlescapes (a Battlescape is a strategical location inside the solar system that typically includes a planet, its moons and all the bases around them ).

Each Battlescape is categorized as small, medium or large. Each category gives a number of points to your team after the Battlescape has been conquered. Match progression is linear (aka “tug of war”), one Battlescape at a time. Spawning is only enabled in the currently active Battlescape. After a Battlescape is over, players need to warp to the new Battlescape (or respawn there after dying). After a certain number of Battlescapes / points have been reached, the match ends, the solar system + player stats/credits reset and a new match starts. Note:we only have one Battlescape in game at the moment, so the match ends when a team conquers that single Battlescape.

To conquer a Battlescape, your team has to destroy the opponent’s bases inside the Battlescape. The setup is normally symmetrical: each team gets the same amount and type of bases. Those are categorized as small / medium / large factories / military bases / space stations. Each of those generate a certain amount of base credits per time ( factories in additional have the haulers mechanism, more details on that later ) and can be restricted to spawning only certain types of ships (ex.: only large stations can spawn capital ships ). In addition, each base weights a certain amount of victory points. Those range from ~250 ( small base ), 400 ( medium base ) to 800 ( large base, like Glimmerfall ).

So if in a Battlescape you have 1 small factory, 1 medium military base and space station and 1 large station, your starting team score is 250 + 400*2 + 800 = 1850 points. Note that to win the Battlescape you don’t necessarily have to destroy ALL the opponent’s infrastructure; if the relative score for each team becomes very unbalanced ( a 1:4 ratio iirc ), the victory is given to the team with the most points.

Bases can be destroyed either manually ( by destroying the important structural components, called modules ) either through critical battles - more on battles later. Each base is made of a number of modules. Just like Battlescapes, a strategical score is assigned to each of them ( ex.: hangars, power plants, comms, defense turrets are worth more than a random habitation module ) and once a certain threshold is reached the base is destroyed and its strategical score deducted from the Battlescape’s team score.

Next posts will come back on the way credits are distributed and how battles work.

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#6

Resources / credits pools

Credits are the primary way for AI and players to acquire ships and form up battles.

At the root of the system you find one AI commander per team. He’s in charge of managing the resources and spawning AI ships, assigning missions ( more on that later ) and starting battles.

To do all of this stuff, each AI commander owns a pool of credits. An AI commander receives credits that go into its pool through many different ways:

  • Haulers travel from factories to space stations in orbit and carry a certain amount of resources. These resources get converted into credits for its team when it docks at the target space station. The amount of resources / credits carried by a hauler depends on the category of factory. Small ones generate about 600 credits per 5 minutes; medium ones, 1200 credits per 5 minutes; and large ones generate 2400 credits every 5 minutes. A hauler typically takes around 5 minutes to reach its destination.

  • All bases ( not just factories ) also generate a fixed amount of credits per minute. This number is a function of the strategical score of the base ( see post above ) scaled by a constant factor ( currently x0.75 ). So a military base with a score of 400 will generate ~300 credits per minute. This mechanism was added last year because once factories were destroyed, the “losing” team had no more economy and the match was dragging with no chance of a comeback.

  • Winning a non-critical attack battle

  • In addition, in some special circumstances, some credits can be given to the AI commander / team. Ex.: a bounty on a player collected by an AI, goes back to the killer’s team. It can also happen when AI ships retreat and warp out, they get converted back into their worth of credits ( this “simulates” a ship spawning / despawning instead of travelling in warp “physically” ).

When an AI commander receives some credits, it goes into 3 “pools”:

  • Scouting
  • Objectives ( attack and defense battles )
  • Players

Let’s talk of the players pool first; AI / bots are filling up for players, therefore the distribution isn’t constant. It’s based on an “ideal” virtual number of players ( 128 per team ) + a minimum number of AI bots. If the players quota isn’t filled, the credits go to the AI for scouting + objectives instead. The player’s credits distribution happens every 10 seconds, however it doesn’t happen if there isn’t at least 25 credits per player on the team. So if there are 36 players in the team, the AI commander will wait until it has accumulated at least 36*25 = 900 credits in the player’s credits pool until it redistributes them. Distribution only happens in “batches” of 25 at a time, so if there was 1200 credits in the pool, players won’t receive 48 credits, but “only” 25 and the credits pool will now contain 1200-900 = 300 credits left.

Next up, the scouting pool. Here it’s more simple: 10% of the credits going to the AI ( aka not the player pool ) goes into the scouting pool. The scoutting pool can be spent, at random, on two things:

  • Scouting a enemy base that hasn’t been permanently scouted yet. The idea here is that even if there are no players online, the AI is still going to scout all objectives over time and battles will happen naturally. Without it, even after days, both teams would accumulate credits and never attack each others due to not knowing where the enemy locations are.

  • Spawning some scouting interceptors that can “trigger” mini battles. In addition to the official battles, the AI commander can also spend some of its credits on spawning a small wave of ships that will attack each others. This can happen anywhere in the solar system.

Finally, the battles pool, which actually isn’t a global pool. There’s a pool per objective ( aka every single base ) both for attacking and defending. Distribution is here again weighted by the strategical score of each base ( so a large base with a 1200 score will receive credits x3 faster than a small base at 400 ). Once the attacker’s credits on a base reaches a threshold ( which is also a function of the strat score of the base: x25 ), a battle is scheduled at this base. At this point, there are two cases:

  • The defender ( owning the base ) has himself accumulated enough credits to match the attacker’s threshold - in this case the battle is symmetrical in terms of forces / ship types.

  • The defender has a lower amount of credits accumulated at this base than the attacker’s. This case is more complex, because the AI commander then goes into a strategical mode where it checks other bases it owns and tries to find one which has “too many credits” compared to the potential attacker’s - and then transfers excess credits into the defender’s battle to match the attacker if possible. That’s basically the balancing mechanism.

  • If despite this transfer mechanism, the defender cannot match the attacker’s amount of credits, then the battle will be asymmetrical and the defender will be at a disadvantage. This usually only happens when a team is clearly winning; for 75% of the duration of a match, the balancing takes care of battles being roughly symmetrical in forces.

Next up: battles.

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#7

Battles

Once enough credits have been accumulated at a base, both for the attacker and defender, a battle is scheduled at this location. While there can be multiple battles happening at once, only one can be scheduled at the same time. The battle gets a countdown ( more or less long depending on the size of the battle ), and if another battle gets scheduled while a previous one is on countdown, it goes into a waiting queue.

There are currently two kind of battles that can happen which differ in consequences:

  • Non-critical battles: the winner team of the battle receives a few thousand credits as a bonus

  • Critical battles: the defending team that loses a critical battle loses its base ( it goes into “destruction mode” and reduces the victory score for the team ).

The probability for a battle to be critical vs non-critical is based on the current victory score of the team. This is the main way to balance a match at the moment. If both teams have the same score, then both teams will get the same probability to get a critical battle. The formula in use is:

P = 0.25 + 2.0 * max ( ratio - 0.5, 0.0 )

Where P is the probability for the battle to be critical ( in 0-1) and ratio is the defender team’s score divided by the sum of all team’s scores.

Ex.: Team A has a victory score of 1500. Team B has a victory score of 2000. A battle spawns for A to attack B’s base. The ratio will be 2000 / (2000 + 1500) = 0.57, hence P = 0.25 + 2.0 * (0. 57 - 0.5) = 0.39. So in this scenario there’s about a 40% chance that the battle will be critical.

The more imbalanced the team’s scores are, the higher the probability for the attacker team’s ( who is losing ) over a defender ( that is winning ) will be.

While this balancing mechanism is useful to always give the losing team a chance to come back, it can also be seen as “unfair”, as it’s based on a random number generator. In the future we’ll be working on addressing that and maybe removing the concept of non-critical battles.

Once a battle starts, two fleets are spawned roughly from the direction the closest bases ( other than the one at the battle’s) are located. They warp out, fly towards each others and engage.

The fleet compositions are randomized, but kept equal on both sides ( provided the amount of credits spent on that battle from each team is the same. If not, cheaper ships are used instead ). Bigger battles can spawn a carrier. The exact probabilities to spawn a ship of a certain category is proprtional to the ship’s cost, so there will always be more interceptors than bombers, bombers than corvettes, corvettes than destroyers, etc…

Not all the battle’s credits are all spent at once when the battle starts - only a part of it, roughly 50%. Once a team reaches below a certain threshold ( in terms of “battle odds” as displayed in the mission screen ), it spends more credits on a “reinforcement” wave. The second wave will be ~25%, the third wave ~12%, and so on, until the last wave which must contain at least a little squad of ships. Of course, if all credits have been spent, the reinforcement waves stop.

Battle “odds” are calculated based on two things: the credit’s worth of the ships still “alive” in this battle, added to the amount of credits in reserve for future waves. As previously, it’s just a matter of summing up each team’s credits worth and weighting them to find the odds:

Let’s say team A currently has 4000 credits worth of ships in the battle and 2500 credits in the reinforcement reserve. Team B is losing, has 3000 credits in the battle and 1800 in reserve. The odds are:

A = 4000 + 2500 = 6500
B = 3000 + 1800 = 4800
Total = 6500 + 4800 = 11300

A’s odds = 6500 / 11300 = 57%
B’s odds = 4800 / 11300 = 42%

To avoid battles dragging on forever, the battle stops when the odds fall below 25%. At that point, the battle stops and the remaining ships warp out, and the battle’s consequences ( non-critical = team credits bonus ; critical = loser’s base gets destroyed ) are played.

And that’s pretty much it for the game’s rules. I went a bit deeper than I originally wanted to, but hopefully it’s more clear now. If you want more details on some topics just let me know.

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#8

That’s really useful, thank you so much for taking the time to explain.

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#9

If I understand correctly stations and bases are merely a backdrop for battles and do not play any part in the battle itself. It would be nice to have the state of the base play a role in the battle odds, with for example conditioning a full battle only after anti-capital guns and mines have been taken out, and factoring destruction of key components into the victory condition.

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#10

So the situation with the war seems similar to that of the war within X3: Albion Prelude. In it, all you get told is there is a war that wages in the remote Terran and Argon sectors. The manual that Egosoft, developers of X series, provide is the same one as X3: Terran Conflict, which does not have the war.

Nowhere in X does it state that the war is always in a stalemate. As you help one side to take over the sectors you realize either the opposition gets more ships in offenses or fewer allies accompany the assault. I remember for the Terrans, the seemingly side mission, which is actually the main plot, was very vague on the first objective that I didn’t even try to lookup on the internet.

Seeing that I-Novae are unlikely to invest resources in a game manual. A community run Wiki will have to be established.

#11

This documentation of the rules of the game would form an excellent basis for a wiki.