Planet invasion mechanics

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echo2361
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Planet invasion mechanics

Postby echo2361 » Sun Jun 28, 2015 4:40 pm

I like the fact that it takes a lot of investment in troop transports to conquer high population planets.Too many games allow for 2-3 troop transports to conquer a planet of billions of people when I believe a full planetary invasion and occupation should be a monumental undertaking. That being said, in SiS once I’ve build a group of 5+ troop transports, I’m free to conquer as I please without needing any downtime between invasions, assuming I win the space combat of course. I’m thinking there should be some mechanic to slow down invasion tempo.

Maybe troop transports are built with a loaded regiment of troops ready to go, but once they invade they need to return to a friendly colony to reload for another invasion? This could, or could not, involve taking a unit of civilian population to create a military regiment. I've heard pro and con arguments on using civilian population to create military units in other games so I think that is a topic open for debate if planetary invasions were to progress down this line of reasoning.

Another idea involves maybe using a troop transport to invade a planet “uses up” that transport, forcing the player to build more to invade a different colony. This second option is more straight forward than the first reloading troops idea, but less appealing to me because I never understood why other games make troop transports disappear post-invasion when those vessels should still be available to be reloaded and used again after conducting a planetary assault. Still, it would probably be easier to implement so I'll put it out there.

So what are the devs and other testers thoughts on this area of the game? My apologies if there are already plans in place to change the way planetary invasions are handled. I've been away from the game for a while due to computer issues so if I've missed something I do apologize.

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Arioch
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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Arioch » Sun Jun 28, 2015 6:38 pm

What I would like to do with the invasion mechanic is to eventually have the Planetary Assault Forces be actual units that you construct and then load onto transports in the same manner as colonists. This would allow for a similar but slightly more complex ground combat model in which there is a random element and both the invading and defending ground forces may take damage or casualties. This would require at least some of the invading units to heal or be replaced, and hopefully reduce the "steamroller" quality of current invasions.

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enpi
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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby enpi » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:26 am

In the current build I never needed more than 1 single troop transport to conquer a planet, so I am for the system Arioch suggested. it would be much more rewarding to have constructed units for invasion. (or at least different units like MOO2) For this it would be mandatory to carefully design a rule system which well thought out and balanced.

First step would be define the goals of new invasion rules. What exactly do the designers want to achieve with it? Should it be abstract like in MOO2 or played out on a tactical map? How complex can it be and why? Is it fun to play? (maybe the most important question). Should planetary invasion last more than 1 single strategic turn to give the enemy the chance to bring on his own troops from nearby worlds? (like it is solved in endless space) how much time would it cost to implement it? etc.

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Arioch
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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Arioch » Mon Jun 29, 2015 8:52 pm

Here are some of my notes for my ideas on the ground combat system -- and I'll stress that these are just thoughts, not concrete plans yet.

  • Ground combat screen: Simple non-interactive window in which MOO1 style sprites line up and take random shots at each other for a fixed number of turns. Both attackers and defenders can have troops, and the defenders can additionally use colonists as militia, so an invasion will still require a significant number of troops to subdue a large population even if there are no defending troops.
  • Ground combat should probably go a fixed number of rounds, and then if there is no victor, the battle must be resumed next turn. Maybe give bonuses to ground combat for ships in orbit that have fighters or other bombardment-friendly weapons. Maybe make this part of the combat itself instead of a separate bombardment phase. And, of course, allow for infrastructure damage as well as population loss.
  • Could be done as a single "Go" button that then runs a set number of combat rounds, or a more discrete system in which the attacker presses a button to fight each round, giving him the option to retreat at any time.
  • Bombardment could use a similar dialog, showing colonists, defending troops and infrastructure being destroyed in each round of bombardment.
  • Troops as units that are built individually and are treated the same as population in terms of transport. Troops are displayed in the same panes as colonists, and the proposed new population move dialog could be used for troops as well.
  • There can be different troop types, tanks and mechanized units in addition to infantry, available as techs increase, and racial differences between unit types. And maybe there could even be sprite layers for different weapons and armor on regular infantry (changing with tech levels).
    • Maybe building them consumes population as well? What about food and living space to house them? If so, most troop units would represent half a population point (the bulk of the unit in terms of capacity required for movement is with its equipment, so 1 troop and 1 colonist unit still require the same transport space). Disbanded troop units convert back to population at the same rate.
  • Civilian colonists can aid in the defense of a planet to a lesser degree, and there can be techs/buildings that allow some of them to fight more effectively as militia. There could also be Fort or Bunker or Fighter Base improvements (that perhaps share slots with PDBases) that actually help in ground combat. There could be offensive and defensive “cards” played by each side that could effect speed, rate of casualties and collateral damage.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby sven » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:12 pm

Arioch wrote:Here are some of my notes for my ideas on the ground combat system -- and I'll stress that these are just thoughts, not concrete plans yet.


Yeah, so just to bring this discussion out into the open a bit -- my position is that most of this sounds like fun, but, I'd like to keep the micro burden as low as possible, while still allowing for this kind of satisfying small-sprite mini game.

Here are some specific thoughts:

  • Having ground forces grow automatically might help keep the base micro burden low. If you wanted a major troop buildup on some world, the best way to achieve that might be by transporting them in from other core worlds, rather than queuing up build commands. That said, perhaps, there could also be a "Recruiting" activity, which would boost the base ground unit production of a planet in a way similar to the beaker production boost that you currently get from the "Research" activity.

  • Having troops get stronger as you tech up makes sense, but, to keep the UIs simple, having troop strength be a global property (as is the case with strategic speed), is probably preferable to trying to track and display a range of different unit types. So, older army units would "auto upgrade" whenever their empire's ground combat tech improved.

  • The mechanics and UI used to load troops into orbiting transports needs to be as simple as possible. This means 1) the troops in a transport are probably either wiped out or survive intact after combat. Storing damage levels other than "alive" and "dead" feels like an unnecessary complication. 2) There should probably be a button that just loads troops from a planet into all available transports. I'm not sure where this button goes in the current UI, but, it should be obvious and easy to get to. We'd probably need to make room for it somewhere in the bottom bar menu -- maybe replacing the current "show defenses" button?

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Arioch » Mon Jun 29, 2015 9:23 pm

sven wrote:Having ground forces grow automatically might might help keep the base micro burden low. If you wanted a major troop buildup on some world, the best way to achieve that might be by transporting them in from other core worlds, rather than queuing up build commands. That said, perhaps, there could also be a "Recruiting" activity, which would boost the base ground unit production of a planet in a way similar to the beaker production boost that you currently get from the "Research" activity.

An alternative to this would to simply allow colonists to be converted into milita, which could be used offensively as well as defensively (at reduced strength). And dedicated marines could additionally be specifically constructed. (Though you might get more than 1 marine unit per construction action).

sven wrote: Having troops get stronger as you tech up makes sense, but, to keep the UIs simple, having troop strength be a global property (as is the case with strategic speed), is probably preferable to trying to track and display a range of different unit types in a single empire.

I think we want to keep the number of different troop types possible at any given moment as small as possible (1-3). Troops would level up automatically with new technologies. I think fighters should work the same way; you still have interceptors, bombers, etc., but their weapons, armor and engines upgrade automatically with the latest tech.

Basically all races could have one militia unit (which might be the same as a colonist unit), one marine unit, and then some might have a special unit. Phidi might have only militia. Tanks and battlesuits could be special units, or just upgraded versions of regular marines.

sven wrote: The overhead of re-loading troops needs to be as simple as possible. This means 1) the troops in a transport are probably either wiped out or survive intact after combat. Storing damage levels other than "alive" and "dead "feels like an unnecessary complication.

Troop damage levels are probably not necessary, but something to keep in mind if later down the road we find that armies are still steamrolling opponents and need some kind of cooldown.

sven wrote:There should probably be a button that just loads troops from a planet into all available transports. I'm not sure where this button goes in the current UI, but, it should be obvious and easy to get to.

I think this is something that we can integrate into the population move dialog.

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echo2361
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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby echo2361 » Tue Jun 30, 2015 3:17 am

Thanks for opening up with your thoughts on this topic guys! It is nice to see where things may be heading. For me, the focus of a good space 4x game will always be on the space battles, but just having a little bit of nuance to ground combat can go a LONG way to adding to the enjoyment of a game. The games that totally skip ground combat (i.e. the lets just nuke everything from orbit and recolonize mentality) feel too simplistic to me while those that dive to deeply into ground combat end up with micromanagement issues.

Top priorities for me:

1. Ground combat that takes multiple strategic turns, at least for higher population worlds.

Planets are massive things filled with billions of people/aliens. It should take a major effort to capture one and that effort should take a long time. Unless I'm dropping millions of troops on a small colony of a few million people, it should take a few turns of drawn out ground combat to subdue and pacify an enemy population. Planetary bombardment should lessen this time obviously since it reduces population size, but in general if you want to take a planet and its population mostly intake, it should take a few turns. That being said, I'm glad to see this specific comment from Arioch:

Arioch wrote:Ground combat should probably go a fixed number of rounds, and then if there is no victor, the battle must be resumed next turn. Maybe give bonuses to ground combat for ships in orbit that have fighters or other bombardment-friendly weapons. Maybe make this part of the combat itself instead of a separate bombardment phase. And, of course, allow for infrastructure damage as well as population loss.


Anther reason I like the idea of ground combat taking multiple turns is the idea of the defender rushing a reinforcing fleet with troop transports to break the siege of their colony. If the defender can manage to drive off an attacker's space forces and land reinforcing ground troops mid-combat, that adds a lot of drama and interesting player options and opportunities.

2. A small amount of unit diversity.

I see a discussion going on between just having general military units that get better via tech upgrades vs. having a few distinct and different military units. I'm personally in favor of the later. I'm not asking for nearly the same variety in troop types as we see in ship types. I just think its nice to be able to pick between a few different ground units that have certain advantages/disadvantages. As Arioch mentioned, having basic militia units formed from civilians makes sense. Then having a marine infantry unit for all races sounds good. Tanks/mechs following as special units make sense. Maybe there is room for artillery here as well. Having a slight rock/paper/scissors system going here would encourage players to maintain diverse armies. Something like artillery is particularly good vs. tanks, tanks are good vs. infantry, infantry can tackle artillery pretty well. Things like that.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby sven » Tue Jun 30, 2015 5:25 am

echo2361 wrote:The games that totally skip ground combat (i.e. the lets just nuke everything from orbit and recolonize mentality) feel too simplistic to me while those that dive to deeply into ground combat end up with micromanagement issues.


Yeah, as always, it's a question of finding a suitable compromise between the frequently conflicting goals of realism and elegant mechanics. Here's a link to a google doc with my current design ideas -- everything in there is potentially subject to change, of course, but if you want to offer some comments on the particulars, please feel free.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby JohnnyW00t » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:39 pm

sven wrote:Yeah, as always, it's a question of finding a suitable compromise between the frequently conflicting goals of realism and elegant mechanics.

As a fellow code monkey my gut tells me you are going to want to save the ground game for SiS 2.0. What you have now with bombard and invade works fine.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby enpi » Tue Jun 30, 2015 1:43 pm

I have to admit that I really like all the proposals from Arioch, Sven and echo. They sound like a super fun simple ground combat subgame and I am looking forward to try them out once implemented. Just press "go" the units are queued in their row and 1 combat round begins. if both sides survive, the combat goes into the next strategic turn. Thats wonderful.

Regarding the question if races should have "general" groundtroops just with occasional tech autoupgrade or different types of troops like MOO2, I am for the second suggestion (the first is also ok so nothing against it, but the second - different troop types sound little bit more fun)

-militia (weak but free planetary defense)
-infantry (basic unit)
-armor (strong in attack)
-racial unit (?)

you could also introduce special units with technology (like rangers which fight good on difficult planets like swamp or forest, marines which have high attack when dropped from orbit, artillery which has no value of its own but supports other friendly units on the planets, skimmers for gas giants, or naval ships - fight good on water planets, propaganda-warriors - reduce combat value of enemy milita)

military buildings could be: barracks (like MOO2), bunkers (which increase combat value of defenders)
ship modules could be: invasion HQ (supports combat value of attackers)
Last edited by enpi on Tue Jun 30, 2015 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Awaras » Tue Jun 30, 2015 2:40 pm

I also have to say I always thought that the ground combat in MOO2 was almost perfect.
The only thing that bothered me is that ground defenses were kinda pointless, because even a modest ground invasion force was able to easily conquer a fully developed planet with maxed defenses (unless you reinforced the defenses with troops from troopships, and that mechanic of building a troop ship only to immediately drop the troops on the planet always seemed a bit weird to me. I mean, we could build spies directly, why not troops?).
This is something that should be carefully balanced - taking over a fully developed planet should be a challenging task, and a player should not be able to easily go on a rampage taking over planet after planet with a single fleet (unless he has a truly huge tech advantage).

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Ashbery76 » Tue Jun 30, 2015 6:55 pm

I liked the Moo3 system of having divisions,some tactical options and the actual ground and planet having an effect.The visual implementation sucked but the depth behind it was superior to the somewhat dull Moo,GC numbers game.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby sven » Tue Jun 30, 2015 7:23 pm

JohnnyW00t wrote:As a fellow code monkey my gut tells me you are going to want to save the ground game for SiS 2.0. What you have now with bombard and invade works fine.


Yeah, I admit, this is dangerous territory.

But I do think that right now empires are growing in power too quickly and easily. A slightly more complex combat system would slow down the pace of conquests, while the long-planned morale system would also cut back on the immediate rewards. And together they'd encourage you to pause and consolidate, rather than just rolling through the map in one go.

I'm not wholly opposed to "snowballing" -- and I think it's not an accident that many of my favorite strategy games (MOO2, Alpha Cent, Warlock) are all balanced in such a way that aggressive expansion is very much the core of the game.

However, it's also worth noticing that *all* of those titles include mechanics that make expansion much less efficient, and more expensive, than it is inside the current SiS beta build. Right now, the populations of your enemies are transforming into loyal citizens for basically no cost, and that feels pretty strange.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby Arioch » Tue Jun 30, 2015 8:13 pm

And what we're talking about is still a very simple bombard and invade system, except with explicit ground units. Since they're treated the same as population, it leverages the existing (and planned) population management and movement systems, and they're produced and maintained in the same way as ships, so the only real coding required is in the combat resolution module, which shouldn't be very complex.

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Re: Planet invasion mechanics

Postby enpi » Wed Jul 01, 2015 10:57 am

I would be disappointed if the ground combat system stays like it is now instead of implementing the much more involved system arioch proposed.
I am no expert in "control of expanding speed of empires/AI" or so, but I would rather play a interesting game where I have plan ground combat carefully than a boring one. :)


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