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Kinneas

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POSTS: 1877

Report this Oct. 25 2005, 10:02 am

http://startrek.perpetual.com/?p=devblog

DEVELOPER BLOGS

Oct 25, 2005 - Space Combat

Hello again! This is Eric, here to talk about space combat. As Daron alluded to a few weeks back, we're beginning to have a solid picture of how ship combat works  and there has been some concern about the direction Daron mentioned. I'd like to elaborate a little bit on what Daron mentioned and explain the reasoning behind our model.

First off, although Daron mentioned 2D, our space combat is in 3D. The ships are 3D models, and the planned graphics engine should make our space combat look absolutely gorgeous. One of our goals for space combat is to create a cinematic experience  we want players to really feel like they are living out scenes from an episode or movie. This means lots of camera angles are available, including space shots, bridge shots, and scenes from around the ship. We expect space combat to be, in a word, breathtaking. When many people hear "2D" they think of sprites or other antiquated technology, and that isn't what we're talking about here.

What Daron was referring to was 2D movement. This is indeed our baseline for movement  it's the starting point from which players can diverge when they need to. This means that players will be able to steer the ship without having to take three dimensions into account, in general. Some people have reacted as if this was a travesty of canon, but that isn't true at all. Actually, we're modeling exactly what we see in the shows. You rarely see a battle where one of the vessels is pointed upside down or rotated 90 degrees. Heck, the number of times we've seen the Enterprise in a vertical direction can be counted on one hand. Most of the time, the ship is shown in a 2D plane, facing off against other enemies in roughly the same 2D plane. This is because Star Trek battles are not about dog-fighting and outmaneuvering. They're about strategy and outthinking one's opponent.

Also, keep in mind that oftentimes a crew of players is going to be working together to control their vessel, not just one player, so we want the entire crew to have exciting and interesting things to do. This is another reason to avoid focusing too heavily on heading and azimuth decisions: we don't want to overly glorify the role of the person steering the ship. The entire bridge crew should have an equal part in determining the fate of the vessel. This reflects the spirit of Star Trek: while the pilot is important, and certainly saves the day occasionally, success in most episodes comes from the interaction of the entire bridge crew working together.

Finally, 2D movement helps make the game accessible. STO needs to reach a large market, and in order to do that, it has to be easy to learn. Piloting a ship needs to be almost second nature. It certainly can't require elaborate training. In fact, that's a universal rule for STO: the very basic version of every game concept can be grasped very quickly, but it has hidden depth. Just because we're making the game accessible doesn't mean we're dumbing it down  we're just introducing the complexity slowly, over time. While a young ensign might only be able to handle movement in a 2D plane, a seasoned veteran knows many tricks and maneuvers that take the ship out of that plane. They might do this to attack the top or underside of an enemy, get between two enemy ships, or escape into a nebula. 3D movement isn't missing from STO, but it's also not an immediate and constant concern.

It's worth saying explicitly: we aren't making a star ship simulator here. Simulation-based games appeal to too limited a subset of players: people who happen to love Star Trek, *and* are strongly analytical, *and* who love complex games that take many hours to learn. However, we aren't making an arcade shooter, either. We've simply abstracted away the actual nuts and bolts of ship movement because they don't need to play a big part in Starfleet battles  the important part of a battle is not a ship's angle, but what clever things the ship does during the fight. So this decision doesn't hurt the game's immersive atmosphere or the strategic experience aboard the ship. In fact, just the opposite: by simplifying the everyday angle calculation, we free up the crew to do the really interesting things that actually win battles: pulling off fancy maneuvers the enemy isn't expecting, adjusting phasers to overcome unusual enemy shields, hacking into enemy computers, and all the other exciting things we see bridge crews doing in shows. We want to deliver the dramatic moments of the TV shows  without getting bogged down in the dull parts.

Although the hardcore sim fans won't be entirely happy with this choice, they may be just the sort of people who get the most out of STO's space combat. If you have the analytical skills needed to master a space simulation, you'll be able to spot the depth and complexity of STO's system. Much of this advanced strategy may go right over the head of a more casual gamer, but this depth will allow the hardcore gamer to take on harder missions, defeat tougher opponents, and boldly go further than any other Star Trek game has allowed.

Our plan for STO's space combat defies simple categorization  it's not quite like any other Star Trek game that's come before it, so it can be hard to compare it to other games. More details will be forthcoming in the months ahead. What we're aiming for, though, is to perfectly meet our goals of being accessible yet deep, of being exciting yet immersive.

We're still evolving our plans for space combat (as well as just about everything else), so we're open to change. We're especially interested in hearing suggestions that help us meet our goals: space combat needs to be easily understood but have deep gameplay, it must be immersive yet exciting, and it needs to be solo-player accessible while being very group-friendly. It's a tricky problem, and the more you can collaborate with us, the better our game can be.

Until next time!


Eric Heimburg

Kinneas

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POSTS: 1877

Report this Oct. 25 2005, 10:12 am

First impressions:  No, sir.  I don't like it.

 More later.

furrycheeky

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 11:09 am

Hmmm so it sounds like and advanced version of the Starfleet Command series of games, but an experienced pilot can perform a loop the loop, temporarily appearing in a 3d plane. Not what I would have hoped for.

"we free up the crew to do the really interesting things that actually win battles: pulling off fancy maneuvers the enemy isn't expecting, "  

Surely this would involve allowing 3d movement to attack from blind spots etc?

68th

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POSTS: 527

Report this Oct. 25 2005, 1:34 pm

Quote (furrycheeky @ Oct. 25 2005, 8:09 am)
"we free up the crew to do the really interesting things that actually win battles: pulling off fancy maneuvers the enemy isn't expecting, "

Surely this would involve allowing 3d movement to attack from blind spots etc?

Exactly what I was going to say. Also...

' This is because Star Trek battles are not about dog-fighting and outmaneuvering. They're about strategy and outthinking one's opponent. '

Well, in my experience of watching most major battles in Star Trek, they ARE about dogfighting and outmaneuvering. Yes there have been times when outthinking and plain strategy were used, but not to the extent they claim...just my opinion.

Give the helmsmen a joystick I say!

SirCedric2

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 1:45 pm

Here are some key parts of the Blog I would like to point out 1st.

1. While a young ensign might only be able to handle movement in a 2D plane, a seasoned veteran knows many tricks and maneuvers that take the ship out of that plane. They might do this to attack the top or underside of an enemy, get between two enemy ships, or escape into a nebula. 3D movement isn't missing from STO, but it's also not an immediate and constant concern.

2. Much of this advanced strategy may go right over the head of a more casual gamer, but this depth will allow the hardcore gamer to take on harder missions, defeat tougher opponents, and boldly go further than any other Star Trek game has allowed.

Ok this to me at least, sounds like they will leave the door open for special Combat maneuvers. Here are a few examples that we have seen in the shows.

A. The Picard Maneuver
http://www.ccdump.org/picardmaneuver.htm

B. Maquis Play Dead
http://www.ccdump.org/maquisplaydead.htm

C. Riker Maneuver
http://www.ccdump.org/rikermaneuver.htm

D. Tuvok Antimatter Maneuver
http://www.ccdump.org/tuvokmaneuver.htm

These are just a few examples of the special maneuvers I think should be in the game. Yes if your an ensign you should have basic moves, but like what was said, once you get more XP then the above maneuvers plus more should be open to you and your crew. It will take a full crew to pull the moves off, but it still should be something to that nature in the game.

JazH

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 2:25 pm

Perpetual need to clarify if they scrapped formation in space, if there are few out of plane maneuvers, I'm thinking SFCIII style.

What's Perpetuals explanation of this?

Xenesis

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 2:37 pm

Quote
Some people have reacted as if this was a travesty of canon, but that isn't true at all. Actually, we're modeling exactly what we see in the shows. You rarely see a battle where one of the vessels is pointed upside down or rotated 90 degrees. Heck, the number of times we've seen the Enterprise in a vertical direction can be counted on one hand. Most of the time, the ship is shown in a 2D plane, facing off against other enemies in roughly the same 2D plane. This is because Star Trek battles are not about dog-fighting and outmaneuvering. They're about strategy and outthinking one's opponent.


QFT.

You cannon people really need to lower the pitchforks about this whole 3d thing. In fact the way they're setting this up, specialty maneuvers will be even more impressive and valuable to learn and pulloff.

Anyways, I'm wondering if they will have the classic ship rocking when it gets hit by weapon fire. :question:

Aiten

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 2:39 pm

Sounds like an awful idea.
Space, its 3D, not an invisble Go-Kart track restricted by gravity.

Have a default plane, for example in Freelancer, you press spacebar and your vessel automatically aligns itself to the rest of the galaxy.  Definatly do not force a 2D space on us and have special 3D actions as we progress!

Xenesis

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 3:45 pm

Quote (Aiten @ Oct. 25 2005, 2:39 pm)
Sounds like an awful idea.
Space, its 3D, not an invisble Go-Kart track restricted by gravity.

Have a default plane, for example in Freelancer, you press spacebar and your vessel automatically aligns itself to the rest of the galaxy. Definatly do not force a 2D space on us and have special 3D actions as we progress!

LoL speaking of Freelancer and go kart track restrictions, guess what happens you decide to high speed warp to other areas in that game, oh yeah go through go kart gate warps.

STO will probably follow the same thing, you plot point a to point b and then hit warp, it'll auto ride you to the destination, and even then it'll keep you on a straight 2d course to that point.

Randul

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POSTS: 32

Report this Oct. 25 2005, 3:55 pm

well kinneeas and other detractors(airten) you must remember that this is the initial thought on paper, nothing is set in stone, obviously they read these boards and others.
Based on the above blog, and LOGICAL reason based conclusion, i estimate, that there will be more of a 3d plain then you are freaking out about, he said we will be able to do manuvers, well guess what, that includes big azz manuvers and small ones, everything you want to do youll be able to do, what they did was make it simpler, easier to understand and execute, whats so wrong with that.

Aiten

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POSTS: 1040

Report this Oct. 25 2005, 4:29 pm

The question lies, does this mean that all planets and star bases will be on the same level?  Would seem a little far fetched the whole galaxy was on the same y axis, which would have to be the case with 2D travel.

3D travel is just as easy to learn, we have used it since the days of X-Wing vs Tie Fighter etc.

68th

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 4:37 pm

Quote (Xenesis @ Oct. 25 2005, 11:37 am)
Ship to ship fighting in Star Trek IS about out thinking your opponent, discovering their weakness and using it against them, not just flying around in a circle like a maniac just trying to hit each other until one runs out of shields.

Hmm...
Well thats not entirely correct. Most battles to me just looked like ships 'flying around in a circle like a maniac just trying to hit each other' which is what attracted more fans to the series. Take episodes like DS9 5.13, 6.3, 7.13, in my view the more entertaining episodes because of the simple fact that hundreds of ships were blowing hell out of each other and for Star Trek, that was a nice surprise. Yeah there were some cool 'strategies' and 'weaknesses found' like with the Breen (not sure on spelling lol) energy weapons which rendered ships powerless, but just as often, if not more, the battles were just ships blowing hell out of each other.

Blakpyre

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 5:47 pm

The only specific instance of 3d combat being an 'issue' in ST was STII:WoK.('His tactics imply two dimensional thinking' or soem such quote)
I think that this is one point where purists might have to bow to the 'game' aspect of STO. Although 3D may leave more tactical variation from a movement perspective, IMHO it would be seriously hard to allow all of the 'functions' of different crew members to make a difference when they are trying to continually re-orient themselves on a different axis with no view or ability to re-orient their own view.
If the helmsman has the ship "upside down" (loose terminoligy I know) how is the engineer supposed to know?

Surat

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 5:57 pm

I am guessing that these restrictions have much more to do with saving CPU cycles than it does with simplifying combat for players, or avoiding making the helm the star of the show.  Each role will attract a specific personality/gamer type - I say let the twitch junkies become pilots and stay pilots.

Way back when, in my MU* days, we also faced this problem, and solved it simply by making the pitch +/- 90 degrees and abandoning roll altogether,  thus eliminating a hell of a lot of processing when it came to shield facing/weapons arcs.   Yaw was retained as a full 0 - 359 degrees.

These were relative to the center point of the ship in it's current attitude.

The helm during combat would maneuver the ship relative to itself or a selected target, usually the closest attacker.  Maneuvers or "evasives in a particular direction" would be used to direct the helm during combat because time constraints would not allow detailed courses to be called by the CO.

I was the XO on a ship which I had the pleasure to command during combat, and I found myself asking our navigator to simply keep a particular shield facing the enemy and let them use their own discretion on how to achieve that.

Courses would be "laid in" relative to a currently selected planet, or other astral body, or the galactic core.

CannonFodder

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Report this Oct. 25 2005, 10:18 pm

""When many people hear "2D" they think of sprites or other antiquated technology, and that isn't what we're talking about here."

that because many people know the difference between a 2D and a 3D based game, and that exactly what we are talking about here.

"Just because we're making the game accessible doesn't mean we're dumbing it down"

but thats exactly what you are doing. if you really want to make it accessible, then how about giving the helmsmen the option to choose which method that he/she would use. i.e. option 1: left, right, foward and backwards. option 2: left, right, forward, backward, up, down, roll right and roll left. i would hate to see the poll numbers for these two.

"Some people have reacted as if this was a travesty of canon, but that isn't true at all. Actually, we're modeling exactly what we see in the shows. You rarely see a battle where one of the vessels is pointed upside down or rotated 90 degrees."

please don't use the canon card here. this will probably come back to bit you, and it probably will. someone might argue that you favor canon only when it suits your needs.

"we don't want to overly glorify the role of the person steering the ship."

so you make it to where most people will not want to pilot a space ship at all when you restrict what many people call basic maneuvers instead.

"While a young ensign might only be able to handle movement in a 2D plane, a seasoned veteran knows many tricks and maneuvers that take the ship out of that plane."

this is the only statement that i noticed that could have the potential to salvage whats left of a dumbed down class. if your intentions of ever allowing full maneuver options to the helmsmen would be through the use of skills aquired through experience, then this may be acceptable. meaning rookies only having the options to maneuver right, left, forward and backwards, while veternans would be able to maneuver right, left, forward, backward, up, down, roll right and roll left.

"3D movement isn't missing from STO, but it's also not an immediate and constant concern."

then perhaps you should include this topic in your next official questionair and see what the final results would tally. whats not an immediate and constant concern to you may not be the same as the ones who actually matters the most, the people who will buy STO.

"the important part of a battle is not a ship's angle, but what clever things the ship does during the fight."

i disagree here. the most important part of a battle has angles written all over it. keeping your strong-side shields (foward, aft, starboard, port, dorsal or ventral) to target while aligning the weapons that are at the ready. as far as ship movement is concerned, you have all but killed the options a space ship would normally have to do anything clever.

to conclude, i do not like this at all one bit. i have not read one viable point not to include full 3D maneuvers to the helmsmen class. they mentioned introducing the complexity over time, well my question is how complex can it be to press 6 different buttons to maneuver your ship 6 different ways? i have also never heard any crew member not being able to or not being as useful in their profession because the helmsmen decides to roll or pitch the ship. there is no way that anyone is going to tell me that an engineer can't do his job right because he doesn't know which way is up. the only person that this would in a sense effect would be the tactical officer with changes in the firing archs relative to the enemy. its clear to me that at least in this blog, that even though the majority have spoken in favor of having all maneuver options open to the helmsmen, the developers have for the moment  chosen ignore them.

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