A Manifesto on the Relationship Between Fighters, Titans and AI

    Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Yetimania, Jun 24, 2014.

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    What do you think about my ideas?

    1. I totally agree

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    2. I agree somewhat (Please post to explain)

      8.1%
    3. I disagree with your assumptions, but largely agree with your conclusions (Please post to explain)

      0.8%
    4. I agree with your assumptions, but disagree with your conclusions (Please post to explain)

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    5. I disagree with your assumptions and your conclusions (Please post to explain)

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    6. Too long; didn't read.

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    1. Yetimania

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      I was halfway through a post on another thread about balance between big and small ships when I came to an interesting realization that might have been obvious to some of you, but wasn't to me, and that is the connection between use of fighters in battle and AI.
      There's a lot going on here, so bear with me. I'll start by listing some assumptions I'm making about what players desire the game to look like, then I'll talk about what the *perceived* obstacles from Starmade resembling that game and what the *actual* obstacles are, as I see it, because it's not completely intuitive. This is going to be long. Sorry.

      Assumption One: Players desire mixed-size fleet battles
      What I mean by this is that an ideal battle in might look like something out of the Homeworld series or Battlestar Galactica: groups of spaceships of different sizes fight each other, with different ships of different relative size and power level. A larger spaceship is, all things being equal, a more effective spaceship than a smaller spaceship for most purposes. However, if the larger spaceship was better in all cases, why would there even be smaller ships?
      So: What people want is there to be a reason for having small ships, but also for large ships to be fewer in number and more dangerous than small ships.

      Assumption Two: Players desire mixed-role fleet battles
      AKA "All things should not be equal"
      In the above assumption, I stated that "all things being equal" a larger ship should beat a smaller ship. However, from what I have noticed in discussions, people's general goal is that large ships are vulnerable to smaller bombers (ie, highly-specialized small ships) not to, say, small scout ships or small harvesters or even small space superiority fighters. So what people want is the option to allow specialization in their spaceships at some cost. For example, in order for a small ship to be able to do credible damage to a large ship, it must sacrifice speed, durability, or weapons that can plausibly hit fast-moving small targets.
      So: People want smaller ships that are purpose-built to damage larger ships to be able to do so, even though that would result in a less-versatile or well-rounded spaceship (such as a bomber or ion cannon frigate from Homeworld).

      Assumption Three: Players want larger ships to be more difficult to obtain than smaller ships
      One big problem in the game as it stands is that there is no real bar to having a larger ship except that it takes more patience to build. It is trivially easy on most servers to acquire the credits or blocks needed to crank out a titan early on if you know what you are doing. In most people's ideal game, as far as I can tell, the increased strength and versatility of a large spaceship is in part countered by the increased difficuly in obtaining such a ship and the increased cost in losing it. This means that it would be risky to field your titan if you know you can't replace it (and if you can afford to replace it, why don't you cut out the middleman and buy another? Which puts you right back to square one--if you lose one, you can't replace it). It also means that if you can take out an opposing faction's capital ship, you have achieved a significant victory and can pat yourself on the back.
      So: People want more powerful ships to be balanced by higher cost, and for there to be economic tradeoffs (for 1 destroyer I could get 10 bombers, for example)

      Assumption Four: Players want their own individual actions to be meaningful
      AKA "Everyone wants to be the hero"
      There's a reason that, most of the time if two players work together, most of the time each one flies their own ship rather than having one player be in the core and another in a computer. Everyone wants their own, personal actions to be critical to the outcome of the battle, and not feel like one more grunt in a war that is too big for them to understand or influence. This is also why most players like to fly in the largest ship they can get their hands on: because they want to be the one who makes the difference.
      HOWEVER, this comes with a very large caveat: I only mean that most of the time, most people want to be the the guy flying the big, powerful ship. I personally have a lot of fun controlling a turret on a larger ship flown by a buddy. But, even then, I always pick the biggest turret on the ship and let the BOBBY AI handle the point defense. Cooperative flight of larger ships should be taken into account in the final vision of the game.

      Conclusion One: A Functional AI is necessary to allow for swarms of fighters
      One issue when people discuss balance is they compare one ship to one other ship. "This titan can generate shields faster than that fighter can do damage! Shields are OP." And that's true--fighters, even damage-specialized ones, currently cannot plausibly harm capital ships.
      But maybe they shouldn't be able to by themselves. In most people's imaginations, it is a swarm of bombers that takes down a dreadnaught, not a single bomber challenging the titan and winning. The combined mass of a titan and a horde of bombers have comparable DPS presently, and would be a really interesting battle to take part in, but, presently, it can't happen. The reason for this is that you would need a group of dozens or hundreds of players able to sign in at the same time, in the same faction, and each willing to only fly a measly bomber and not show up to the party in their biggest ship they personally own.
      So, in my opinion, the factor fundamentally limiting the usefulness of fighters is not so much math currently (except perhaps some easily-tweakable numbers here and there) but the lack of finding hundreds of pilots willing to be redshirts in someone else's story.
      This problem is nullified if a practical ship-controlling AI is implemented. If you, from a carrier, are able to give commands to a large group of bombers (attack that titan, attack that turret, return to the carrier, etc.) then we get the swarms of strikecraft we all want without having to play the game as an extra. Until we have AI, we'll still be dealing with trying to balance unrealistic, 1 on 1 scenarios.

      Conclusion Two: Carrier-based respawn points are necessary to allow for PC-controlled fighters
      "But Yetimania," you say, "I want to be a fighter jocky in space! I want to fly a fighter and shoot down those bombers, or be the pilot behind the critical bombing run that cripples the capital ship's main turret!" Of course you do. So do I. Just as its unrealistic to expect dozens of people to want to do this in any battle, its also unrealistic to expect everyone to want to be in control of a slow, clumsy, juggernaut.
      You should be able to expect the ability to fly a fighter in a large ship engagement. And you should be able to expect the ability to be effective. But you shouldn't expect to survive it.
      In Star Wars, a bunch of X-wings destroy the Death Star. It's awesome. Everyone wants to be Luke Skywalker.
      Nobody wants to be one of the nameless pilots killed along the way. If you can be taken out of a battle because a point defense turret so much as glances at you, you're not going to have fun. The solution to this is to allow PlexUndeathinators to be placed on spaceships, giving people the option to have two respawn points set: one on a ship, one on a planet/starbase. If the ship is still intact, you respawn on the ship (and can hop into another fighter and fly back into the fray). If the ship is destroyed, you respawn instead back at home, not floating in an endless void.
      Respawning fighter pilots allows people to have fun piloting a fighter for the whole battle, and not just until some turret takes you out. And if you're on the carrier and there's no fighters left onboard, a)your opponents have achieved a meaningful victory in annhilating their enemy's fighter screen, and b)you can hop into a crew position on the carrier, like a turret or weapons computer, and still take part in the battle, just not necessarily in your favourite way.

      Conclusion Three: A functional economy is necessary to fully balance larger spaceships
      Because why show up with a cap ship and ten fighters when you can show up with eleven cap ships? In Homeworld, Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and any other sci-fi series you can name, you can sure bet that barring any economic or logistic restraints whatsoever, they'd make every spaceship a Battlecruiser, Battlestar, or Star Destroyer, respectively. The tradeoff should be between one large ship and many small ships (or something in between), not between many small ships and many large ships or one small ship and one large ship.
       
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    2. Izikiel

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      An impressive read. While there are a couple of other reasons as well, I think you nailed the largest ones (especially for video games).
       
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    3. AtraUnam

      AtraUnam Maiden of crashes

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      You pretty much nailed everything.
       
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    4. BION

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      I totally agree
       
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    5. NeonSturm

      NeonSturm StormMaker

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      Balanced:
      Small fighter: useless on their own (no player inside)
      Small fighter with some logic blocks (=weight =size) = as useful as a player ship
      => players can take out bigger ships

      But:
      If the same amount of logic takes equal weight (absolute, not relative weight) on a small ship and a large ship, the battle-deciding blocks will have a higher % vs the % of logic blocks in 1 large ship instead of multiple small.

      =>Conclusion:
      What blocks ever control a space ship must grew linearly with bigger ships or fit - all together - in a very small area / have very few weight - that means they should not have much weight in balance decisions.


      Another fact:
      If the surface area increases by the factor 2 for x, 2 for y and 2 for z, the volume inceases by a factor of 8.
      => If you double hull thickness, a weapon's damage output doubles 3 times (x8)

      That means that weapons on 2x (in all directions) larger ships will only take 1/4 (2/8) time to penetrate any armour layers.
      => this might be a hope for small ships if they can out-maneuver the main guns, but also a drawback for defence vs smaller turrets.


      Should the effectiveness of /equal mass/ in small ships be greater than same overall mass in one big ship?

      Maybe yes. But maybe the big ship should have the option to defend more effectively vs a certain (lower) size range at the cost of being able to compare itself to an equally sized ship or a swarm of smaller ship outside this specific range.


      About realism:
      I think most space fights will either occur between pirates and civilians (=not military)
      or with a split ship: being able to split or even drop a combat part from non-combat part and escape with non-combat parts more easily in case of a loss, while the attacker needs both (non-combat to chase, combat to actually do damage).

      If my assumption above is true, non-combat-part interceptors and battleships have a very different design.


      => Last word:
      I hope a few issues resolve with the new non-lethal weapons (stop effect, etc)
       
    6. Stakhanov

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      Effective and controllable fighter AIs are Pandora's box. People seem deluded on the outcome of such a feature.
      Unless there's hardcoded limitations , you could be looking at hundreds of drones per player. Then , assuming they show basic initiative , people could stuff dozens of drone-controlling alt accounts in ship cores docked at the heart of their capship. The resulting swarm would saturate any defenses as there's only so many turrets you can fit on the exterior of a ship or station. Players would stand no chance as it's not humanly possible to optimally deal with hundreds of chaotically flying targets - they'd have to rely on their still functional turrets to fight for them.

      Things meant to counter swarms , such as damage pulses , would not work against kiting drones. Even focused on the same target , their spread on a 2km sphere would not give any advantage to ships with such weapons , until there's thousands of them.

      AI fighters and turrets have one exceedingly unfair but easily obtained advantage - they can fight through any level of lag. Players cannot. They would inevitably dominate the battlefield.
       
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    7. Azereiah

      Azereiah Way gayer than originally thought.

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      You're forgetting the massive amount of space needed to use fighter drones. In a straight capital ship fight, you're better off using that space for more guns and shields.
       
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    8. Izikiel

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      If the fighters are built well enough to both take a hit or two, and dish out a little damage, then it is more efficient to use them rather than more shielding and guns. For instance, if they are enough to take out turrets and distract larger ones, they can tip the balance to your favour (especially if you can outmaneuver them after the major turrets defending the sides are gone). It all depends on how you use fighters.

      Still, the game is currently tilted towards larger ships, I agree. Lot's more balancing to do, (an economy refinement would also help out, reducing the number of larger ships) until the game is finished!
       
    9. Yetimania

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      There would be limitations, of course. The effectiveness of a fighter, obviously, increases as it gets larger (so smaller swarms of more powerful ships might be better than the lag-inducing larger swarms of smaller ships), and as Azereiah pointed out, docking space on the mothership would be prohibitive. I would imagine a mothership would lose to a straight-combat ship of equivalent size, but 4 combat ships and a mothership might be more effective than 5 combat ships.

      EDIT: of course, there could always also just be a hard cap on how many AI ships you can control. Or some economic soft cap (maybe you require expensive computer blocks to control them)
       
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    10. NeonSturm

      NeonSturm StormMaker

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      I think the best way to buff small ships is inaccuracy of weapons combined with very accurate lower-damage-output weapons.
      Bombers can use effective anti-large weaponry, capital needs to equip shitty lasers for example.

      What we need is a way to nerf large (server-crashing) swarms.
      Maybe give each player a certain amount of the server's cpu time and the more a player exceeds it, the more delayed he gets physic updates from the server (=lag), etc.

      Maybe need a way to nerf really large swarms also because of balance issues - if you count hangar space maybe less because of an OP mother-ship, but because OP squadrons on follow or just docked on the hull of a big ship.


      I suggest to allow a weapon to hit multiple targets with chain effect computers (bounce and hit nearby).
      The closer the next ship target is to the last one, the more damage % it receives.

      Example stats:
      Range: 2km inaccurate (cannon), 1km accurate (beam)
      Damage: damage * (100% - %traveledRange) after first target
      The larger the swarm, the closer the drones/fighters.
       
      #10 NeonSturm, Jul 18, 2014
      Last edited: Jul 18, 2014
    11. ltmauve

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      Bobby AIs are apparently supposed to disappear. If that is the case, limits on the size of drone swarms would be done through limiting access to NPCs.

      Also, the game is stable enough to have 150 drones pounding away on something without crashing. My FPS starting hurting more than my ping when I ran across an area with that happening.
       
    12. Keptick

      Keptick Overkill titan builder

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      I suggested the exact same thing in a faction's thread (I think it was the DFN). But I never got the motivation to make a full post like this. And to be honest, you laid it out a lot better than I ever could.

      PROPS TO YOU SIR!!! +1
       
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    13. Keptick

      Keptick Overkill titan builder

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      Swarm missiles, nuff said.
       
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    14. Calbiri

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      I did SO enjoy reading your post, well thought out, and essentially a far better description of how I see things than i could have written out myself.
      Thanks for writing this, and Stickied!

      PS, I added "Titans" to your title, just for clarity on the thread page (you can undo that if you prefer)
       
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    15. Mered4

      Mered4 Space Triangle Builder

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      While it would be nice to have an anti-swarm "Little Doctor", it would render fighters nigh on obsolete, returning us to the point where we started.

      I'd also like for TINY ships (aka TieShrooms from Tomino's fun and evil Drone Library) to be less efficient/effective than true FIGHTERS (something slightly larger than the default docking size, something you, as a player, would fly in and feel ok fighting in). That would encourage less lag-inducing drone spam, without completely invalidating that concept.

      Also, as you say. Swarm missiles do very nicely already :D:eek:
       
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    16. jzimmerman4

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      The only problem I see with undeathunators on ships is that players will use that to spawn back in on their titan and jump in the core before it overheats. However if this could be prevented I really like the whole concept.
       
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    17. NeonSturm

      NeonSturm StormMaker

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      That would not really be problem.
      Players which try to get to the core risk to get shoot down again and again losing more and more credits just to sit in a 0 hp core.

      Better try to split weapon arrays into two (=power penalty for more arrays in one computer) and kill power, power tanks and thrusters, to make the enemy ship unable to run away or power the shields and weapons.
      Try a hit&run strategy - maybe just build mode needs a cool-down after being hit.
       
    18. Mariux

      Mariux Kittenator

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      We could also work around this by making undeathinators turn off while the ship is overheating.
       
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    19. Keptick

      Keptick Overkill titan builder

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      I imagine that the ship undeathinator would be destroyed anyways. If it's not then the player will be spawning in a wrecked ship with no shields beside a hostile ship that will most likely kill the player again.
       
      #19 Keptick, Aug 10, 2014
      Last edited: Aug 11, 2014
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    20. Mered4

      Mered4 Space Triangle Builder

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      Exactly. You'd be live bait in a school of piranhas.

      Or a diver without a cage in a bay of sharks - assuming you could even get back to the ship core after a respawn.
       
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