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Official CommentsSpace Battles

Tom Hughes

June 21, 2000:
Tom Hughes discusses some principles of Ship Combat. (1.3 MB .mpg file)

    Yes, combat is going to be real-time, and that makes us all nervous. BUT... Will it be pausable real-time? In that, you can pause, give orders and then unpause? This makes real-time combat much more easy to swallow.

I'm not sure about multi-player (how did they do it in Starfleet Command?), but I would expect to see that solitaire. However, we're designing it, frankly, so that even guys like you and I won't need to pause the real-time action.

Consider: You've got a HUMONGOUS fleet. Bigger than anything you ever saw in MOO2. You've organized into... what? A dozen or so Task Forces. That dozen "pieces" is what you're commanding in real-time. And we're not talking "twitch" real-time, either. No, this is more like HARPOON, Death Star approaching Yavan "cinematic" real-time. Ample for you to think under the pressure and easy for you to issue commands on the Fleet and Task Force level.

    Alan, so far your ideas for MOO3 are rather good, although I am suspicious with anything to do with real-time...;)

Me, too. And believe me, I wouldn't be putting it into the game unless I was certain sure that it was the right thing to do. In my deepest designer's soul, I KNOW that this is the right decision when taken in context with the rest of the game.

    So it's like Task Force 1942 or the Great Naval Battles series where you give basic commands like move this direction, shoot here, ect., and the ship captains do the rest?

Something like that. There's actually 3 levels of doctrine / AI (ship, Task Force, and Fleet). And there really is a "captain" character on every ship who has his/her affect on the battle.

    A captain on each ship, and the battles are large? I hope that selecting the right captains for your ships isn't critical.

It isn't. Ship captains are a product of your race, government, military traditions, etc. It's only the ones that rise through the ranks and get promoted up to highest levels that you'll ever have to really deal with.

    My knee-jerk reaction is to cringe when I hear terms like real-time strategy with a 4x game; however, for what it's worth, I am *more* than willing to give you folks at Quicksilver the benefit of the doubt, so long as the reasoning behind the decision is *not* to add another marketing buzzword to put on the game's box, but to enrich the game in some way.

I wish there was another term than "real-time strategy." First of all, most real-time games are NOT strategic, they're tactical, and the "strategy" in them generally is lasso a bunch of guys and fling them at something. They frequently degenerate into mind-numbing click-fests and that's just not for me.

MOO3 is about as far from that as there is and still be real-time. I'm NOT a big real-time guy, people. I would NOT put in real-time combat if I thought it was wrong for this game. However, I passionately believe it is RIGHT for this game because I am able to see it IN CONTEXT with the rest of the design. That context matters; it is a HUGE design.

The real-time combat you'll see in MOO3 is "original." It's not C&C in space. It's not a click-fest, it's not pulse-pounding. It's a deep, thinking-man's space/naval combat simulation with maneuver on the Task Force and Fleet level.

    How will the other players be able to continue while some are engaged in a battle?

If some people have a battle going and you do not, what can you do?

Well, remember, there is a "turn sequence" because MOO3 is a turn-based game. So, after the Planning Phase, there is the Combat Phase.

Tentatively, you may be able to observe a battle during the Combat Phase that you're not fighting under the right circumstances. For instance, if your Military Ally is fighting there, they'll give you a seat at the show. If you've got an intelligence mole in one of the fleets, you may get a more localized "eye view" of the battle, etc.

But even if you don't observe a battle, you can still access your whole Empire and make decisions. That is, you can start working through your next Planning Phase a little early. I see combat as a good time to dig into low-level, detailed information that might interest you (individual spy reports, planet production queues, etc.). And since combat is real-time, and considering the scale that it is being conducted on, it shouldn't take too long to resolve battles (even huge ones), so players won't have long to wait in any event.

    Continuous real time is a pain, though, because you lose track of what is going on.

Look, I'm not a big real-time guy, and I'm designing this for other guys like me. Combat will occur at a thoughtful pace. Often, the best thing to do at a particular moment will be nothing. That's right... nothing! Just keep your eyes open and your mind working and watch the situation develop for a little longer before committing to some change in plan (if you even need to change your plan; with change, of course, there is always an element of risk -- how good are your civilization's military traditions and Leaders?). Any player who insists on constant, twitch-level interaction in the real-time combat in MOO3 will, like you said, lose track of what's going on -- and MOO3 is a game about keeping your focus.

    Question: Since Quicksilver helped design STARFLEET COMMAND, will MOO3's real-time combat resemble it?

Somewhat. Combat will have the same level of depth, or more. The biggest difference is that you'll be operating at a task force level, rather than with individual ships. Control will be comparable, though typically in MOO3 more of the basic maneuvers will be handled automatically by your commanders, since you'll have more than one task force to oversee in a big battle.

This also affects the combat visuals. You won't be looking really close-up at a single ship; you'll be watching the "light show" as numerous ships clash.

    Each weapon having it's own unique visual effect and sound The sound and visual affect associated with weapons impacting on shields (or something similar but better)

Oh you'll like what we're up to with this... How about ship that not only get impacted/damaged, but that the nifty FX actually give you real game feedback as to how that ship, Task Force, etc. is faring?

We have lots of nifty visual tricks up our sleeves, but one of the key things here is that all visual flash gives you real feedback on what's happening. It's not just watching numbers count down (although there is that element still present). It's watching ships break apart, having engines explode, showing that they are ripe for boarding, and on and on and on... just to scratch the surface.

    If this is real time then initiative is on of course. I'd guess that you would almost have to let us play admiral and provide use with feed back and progress reports while we command our officers on what to do. If we set up attack plans before contact then things could proceed with each admiral or system commander making changes on the hopefully not very fast fly. A combat might last a while but ability would make a big difference.

Go to the head of the class, Dwight, you nailed it.

Before every space battle, there is a "planning" segment where both sides select their strategy in approach and intensity to the battle (among other things). Essentially, it is "the plan" your forces go in with. Your job, as Grand Admiral on-the-spot, is to watch the plan develop. (A common military axiom is that "no plan survives contact with the enemy.") So you need to keep an eye on things and be ready to make adjustments if you feel they will help you achieve your goal in that battle.

No, how rapidly your Task Forces and their individual ships respond is a function of many things, including training/doctrine, Leadership, and morale. Of course, if the enemy is shooting at them, that has a deleterious effect on implementing commands, too (except the "withdraw" command, of course!)

When you look at everything that will go into a space battle in MOO3, you'll see that is hasn't been done this way before, so I can't really give you another design so you'll have a frame of reference. A battle is something you first PLAN and then ORCHESTRATE. Think of what Yamamoto or Nimitz was feeling, and that's the kind of experience we're shooting for at the higher level. (Of course, you can also get down and watch a couple of Task Forces going at it and see the spectacle. It will not only on be an amazing light show but, as previously mentioned, darned informative because all of the effects have a concrete game meaning in terms of firepower, damage, etc.).

    Will we be able to combine our fleet with an ally to fight against one common enemy? For example, Humans and Surans against Meklars?

Yes, but only one "commander" for each side. That is, I can send you (or SELL you) ships, and our combined forces can cooperate in battle under ONE of us.

As envisioned, there are two vectors affecting the relationship between allies when their fleets are cooperating in combat.

First, there is the allied fleet's "book." As in, their military structure flying "by the book." If their doctrine is to hang back, they will tend to do that; if it is to charge forward, they will do that. If it is to retreat rather than press on to victory or death, they will do that, and so forth. Now, you can try to press a "cowardly" allied fleet to "glory" (read: "death"), but if that's goes against their grain, its Task Force Commander might soon countermand that order.

Second, there is the Allied Brunt Formula. Simply stated, if two allies share common enemies, and one seems to be bearing the brunt of the suffering inflicted by them, it will "raise their negatives" (to use American political jargon) with their ally whom they feel is not doing their share of the work. This "perception" builds in tolerance for like-minded civilizations working together and some intolerance for different-minded civilizations working together, plus the threat factor of the enemies engaged.

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