New Game

Dondragmer - I hope to sort out much of these issues by leveraging the community for lots of play testing while still in the early stages of development. :)
all good points btw :)
 
You've had some discussion of complex wingman orders. These seem tempting, but risk turning your game into an RTS with a clumsy control scheme
As the game develops one thing that can add some variety is how the wingman AI interprets your commands. That allows you as the developer and the player to keep the control scheme simple with basic commands like "attack/protect my target" "disengage" etc. (Although one that I always thought was missing from the wing series was "this one's mine" wherein the AI protects you but doesn't engage your target directly IMO). If you define individual AI profiles for the wingmen one might behave more aggressively toward a particular class of enemy ship, or want to engage their targets at close range with guns and only use missiles as a last resort, that kind of thing. If you don't make it too obvious by giving the wingmen callsigns like "guns" players can figure out which wingmen they like to fly with vs. the ones they don't. Each player has a unique playstyle so it'll be a unique experience.

If you want to add a further layer of complexity, you could add some kind of courage/reliability score, that as a player flies with a particular wingman more often, the AI is more likely to follow the player's commands to the letter vs saying "screw it, I'm going in guns blazing" Depending on the universe that may or may not be appropriate, it might be more likely that they sit on your wing and bitch at you. (see Flash, WC3) :)
 

Kaunisto

Commodore
Oh and one more thing, which is extrapolation on some points from earlier. as you want' to let player choose their ship you should avoid two things:
1. A ship that makes most people think "I flew this once and I will never want to fly it ever again"
2. A ship that makes most people think "Now that I can fly this, I don't want to fly anything else ever again"
On the other hand, you don't want ships to be too similar. And if ships are all evenly balanced but each designed for certain job (bomber, anti-bomber, dogfight etc.) there's a risk that for each mission one of the ships is obviously best choice.

I'm not sure how all this should be done. Maybe 4-6 ships so that you simply sacrifice speed and agility for armor and firepower step by step?


One more general thing: random elements. I'd really like more games to have some random level/mission elements, within reasonable limits. For example, an encounter of either 2 medium enemies or 3 easy (or whatever is good balance) 50-50. Or a group of enemies can be at nav 2 or nav 3. This kind of little things that don't make the mission (significantly) easier or harder, but keep player on toes and add replay value.
 

Mancubus

Rear Admiral
One thing about controls: consider adding controller support. Joystick would be great, but also think of x360 controller as many PC gamers have some kind of of xbox pattern controller. This obviously shouldn't mean that game is not easyto play with keyboard/mouse.
 
One thing about controls: consider adding controller support. Joystick would be great, but also think of x360 controller as many PC gamers have some kind of of xbox pattern controller. This obviously shouldn't mean that game is not easyto play with keyboard/mouse.
I'll be testing using both a xbox1 and ps4 controller :)


Thought would give a little update. Here is a preview of a concept for one of the ships in the game. Feedback is welcome :)

Wraith_dev_1.png
Wraith_dev_2.png
 

Kaunisto

Commodore
For gameplay, I prefer guns to be in middle. In some WC ships you occasionally almost have to choose if you're trying to hit the enemy with left or right guns.
Of course that doesn't matter if this is enemy ship - enemy like that may even be more interesting.

On the other hand missiles IMO are cooler shot from sides.
 
This is an early concept for an enemy ship. :)

And i agree. Guns that are too spread a part affect combat. They either force you to get in really close, or your rarely using your full firepower with each hit.

j.
 

Dark Sentinel

1st Lieutenant
Well to the question of side mounted guns.
I'm not sure how to translate it, since I'm not a native speaker, but will try to expain.
In many WWII flight sims you have to set up the weapons alignment (not sure if this is correct term) range - the distance on shich all your bullets and shells will pass through one point in space.
Probably you can let player configure the alignment at home (1000 clicks? 1250 clicks? Whatever distance you like), change it in flight.
Or just make all your round fly into the target and say "automated alignment system".
 
Well to the question of side mounted guns.
I'm not sure how to translate it, since I'm not a native speaker, but will try to expain.
In many WWII flight sims you have to set up the weapons alignment (not sure if this is correct term) range - the distance on shich all your bullets and shells will pass through one point in space.
Probably you can let player configure the alignment at home (1000 clicks? 1250 clicks? Whatever distance you like), change it in flight.
Or just make all your round fly into the target and say "automated alignment system".
I believe what you're referring to is called 'harmonization' of the guns. basically aligning the angle of the weapons so that the bullets converge at single point as you said.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
As the game develops one thing that can add some variety is how the wingman AI interprets your commands. That allows you as the developer and the player to keep the control scheme simple with basic commands like "attack/protect my target" "disengage" etc. (Although one that I always thought was missing from the wing series was "this one's mine" wherein the AI protects you but doesn't engage your target directly IMO).
I'm in favor of detailed communications, as long is they're actually useful. This means that:
  1. You need few wingmen (my own preference is to only ever have one.) Adding more wingmen will usually reduce the tactical benefit of stopping to issue orders to any one of them.
  2. The AI needs to be sophisticated enough to respond to the orders you issue.
  3. The opposition should also sometimes coordinate their actions - and sometimes fail to do so.
In the late 1990s I tried to make a 2D space combat game, something in the line of the Star Control series but with larger maps and Wing Commander-style missions. Because I hadn't put much thought into it, I duplicated the Wing Commander communication system: press C to communicate, number for recipient, number for message.

Then someone pointed out that there were less than 10 messages, so instead of numbering the messages available at any given time 1,2,3..., I gave them fixed numbers. Like:
  1. [Wingman], attack
  2. [Wingman], attack my target
  3. [Wingman], return to formation
  4. [Wingman], return to base
  5. [Wingman], request status
  6. [Target], insult
  7. [Carrier], request docking
  8. [Carrier], request status
If a command didn't make sense, it wasn't offered, and didn't do anything when you pressed the number. So command 1 only appeared if you had a wingman, they were still alive, and enemy ships were visible.

Then I realised that I could simplify my programming by having these commands work all the time, instead of only when C had been pressed recently. Pressing the C key still brought up a list of the commands that were currently available. So, communications were reduced from 3 key presses to 1.

I am not suggesting that you adopt this exactly, since it has some problems:
  1. Gamepad users still need an alternative communication scheme (probably pressing a button to display a circle of messages, and selecting one with the directional controller).
  2. This uses up all the number keys, which could otherwise be used for speed or weapon selection.
  3. You have a hard limit of 10 messages, and even using 0 risks confusion.
  4. It's possible to send insults by spamming the insult key. If you include insults, there should be some actual effort involved in sending them. (Why haven't we seen a game like this that includes Monkey Island swordfighting insults?)
On the other hand, you don't want ships to be too similar. And if ships are all evenly balanced but each designed for certain job (bomber, anti-bomber, dogfight etc.) there's a risk that for each mission one of the ships is obviously best choice.

I'm not sure how all this should be done. Maybe 4-6 ships so that you simply sacrifice speed and agility for armor and firepower step by step?
How about having ships require extensive service between missions, so any ship you choose will be unavailable for the next mission or so? That means you can be less concerned with balance, and can even have obviously inferior/superior ships. If you can complete the next mission with the worst ship in the hangar, take it, and save the other ships for the harder missions in the current series.

(Just don't combine this with losing ships outright when your wingmen are shot down. That amounts to punishing the player for flaws in the wingman AI.)
 
This thread has generated some good ideas and discussion.

Wingmen
In Wing Commander (1-2) you could pretty much guarantee how your wingmen would interpret your orders. I.e. Asking Spirit to form on your wing in the middle of a fire fight and she obey's, whilst Maniac just ignores your completely. In WC3, your dialogue choices in the FMV sections would "improve" the performance of your Wingmen (if chosen correctly).

To expand on that further, how you fight and command your wingmen could also affect the performance/moral of your wing. Make appropriate orders and kill the enemy efficiently, the wingmen will feel confident in following your orders (perhaps even back off for that kill you want, if you asked nicely). Keep getting churned up by the enemy, cause too much friendly fire, kill stealing? Your wingmen won't want to be flying with you and has a negative effect on their flying style and on orders you give. Binary Domain had a similar mechanic, though other than some dialogue changes, I didn't notice much effect.

Also the loss of a wingman means they won't be there to fight other battles. Or perhaps you have a reserves list, while not as pro as the pilot you lost they at least stand in for cannon fodder. Though that reserve list isn't going to be in-exhaustible and helping them to survive will help improve their performance in future fights.

Gun synchronising
As @Dark Sentinel and @DefianceIndustries discussed harmonising would be very helpful, if at all possible? Especially if you have two types of guns with different firing speeds, allowing both to hit if you lead your target correctly.

WC3 had some sort of gun synching, though I think that just made the bullets fire at the same time, I like the more dual machine gun firing effect (first barrel, then second) that it defaults to. I remember a game dev talking about a game mechanic where the bullets would gravitate (magnetized) towards a target, which was implemented because the players found it hard to hit the enemy (instantly made it more fun to play and the payer didn't notice what was happening).

Star Citizen and Elite has it's gimbal mounted turrets.

Wingmen orders
Once again interesting ideas already discussed.

Depending on the complexity of orders, you could have a power wheel, think Mass Effect, which stops time to allow you to give out specific orders. Give you a tactical view of the field by pushing you into a 3rd person perspective and allow you to use that perspective on your wingmen enhancing your situational awareness, something I never feel I have in 1st person combat view. On the flip, you can give simple commands so that the combat isn't stalled each time you give an order.

Ship durability
I like @Dondragmer 's idea. Taking heavy damage means it's in the shop longer. If you played XCOM:EW then think wounded soldier's. Which you could extend to wingmen taking physical damage in the cockpit.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Should A and D be YAW or ROLL? or should the player choose?
I'm fine with space shooters that ignore Newton, but rolling just makes no sense. Please make A and D YAW (or give me the choice if some of the airplane pilots out there expect ROLL).

Wingmen orders
Depending on the complexity of orders, you could have a power wheel, think Mass Effect, which stops time to allow you to give out specific orders. Give you a tactical view of the field by pushing you into a 3rd person perspective and allow you to use that perspective on your wingmen enhancing your situational awareness, something I never feel I have in 1st person combat view. On the flip, you can give simple commands so that the combat isn't stalled each time you give an order.
I'd quite like to see this, but only if implemented with great care to maintain pacing. I like FTL, but it rewards (and sometimes demands) pausing the game every five seconds to issue new orders. If anyone out there makes a game with this system, make sure it's optimal to issue new orders at moderate intervals, like every 20 to 60 seconds. Also avoid any micromanagement of your own ship in such a game - no weapon selection or power management. (Do still have some weapon variety, but on different ships. This would reward using the right wingman for the right job.

You also want some story acknowledgement of this system. Do your opponents have it too? Will you know when they activate it, and suddenly every fighter in the action sphere is targetting you? Or are you a psion, AI or brain in a jar, with the unique ability to coordinate these orders? Will your wingmen ever refuse orders, or complain because you ordered their best buddy into a fatal charge?

Ship durability
I like @Dondragmer 's idea. Taking heavy damage means it's in the shop longer. If you played XCOM:EW then think wounded soldier's. Which you could extend to wingmen taking physical damage in the cockpit.
Yes, I have been playing the 2012 X-COM lately, and it probably did influence my suggestion. I like turn-based strategy, but often minor setbacks end in me save-scumming until I've leaked all the fun out of the game. X-COM is one of the few where I've managed to acknowledge a squaddie's sacrifice, then keep playing. (However, after two Total Party Kills I did reload for the alien base assault and some of the longer missions that followed that.) I strongly recommend game designers who want long-term continuity study just how X-COM encourages this. However, it also relies on having no fixed time limit and having aliens that only escalate once X-COM starts succeeding. This does not fit stories with a tighter narrative. There, early failures lead to a death spiral (not fun) and early successes may build to overwhelming power (also not fun).

That or you could make a complete game very short, once again like FTL. If it's only 30 minutes from beginning to end, I'll play on past a dead wingman or failed mission, see how the epilogue turns out, then restart and try to do better. However, for this sort of design, you must make sure that there's a lot of variety in the start of the game. 30 seconds in, I should be flying a different ship with a different wingman in a different mission.
 
Top