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'Secondary' Mechanics Design - Construction
Typhoone
Hi team;

Yet another thread to kick-off secondary mechanics design in PDS:RM. For reference, 'secondary' mechanics of gameplay like research, modules, build, resourcing, etc are attempts to integrate the lore of the universe with the actual way the game is played. It's where I'll spent a lot of my development time trying to make PDS unique and different from Vanilla, but also to make it interesting to players.

Let's discuss 'building' mechanics in PDS:Remastered. In vanilla Homeworld all ships are built within the scope of the battlespace using some kind of nano-lathe assembly process. I know the community has felt that near-instantaneously constructing ships within a matter of seconds breaks the realism aspect a little bit. Given that, how does PDS do ship-building different? Ironwatsas will undoubtedly probably write a gigantic lore article about this and I'll link that from this post whenever we get there.

The game engine itself presents us with three ways ships can spawn on a map:

Spawn from Builder-unit: The default method of unit construction in vanilla HW, a unit is created and spawned from a builder-unit such as a carrier or shipyard. Logic mechanics allow the unit to have met certain prerequisites (e.g. a Destroyer can only spawn out of a Shipyard-class facility, only after it has built a CapShipProduction submodule, and only after DestroyerTech has been researched).

Spawn from Hyperspace: A unit can also spawn into the battlespace via HS. This is almost exactly the same mechanics as Spawn-from-Builder, except the unit does not 'appear' out of the docking bay of a ship, it will Hyperspace next to the ship as set by it's parade-formation data. This allows craft without a docking bay to 'radio in support' for example, or how a Shipyard appears in vanilla HW2.

Spawn from crate: A feature of HW2 skirmish mode, units can spawn and become 'un-boxed' from a crate megalith in the map. The crates can spawn as neutral ships and then are acquired by sphere-of-influence to the player that brings other units in range.

Beyond these three recipes for ship construction, there are a few other notes to take into consideration around build mechanics. Ships which can build other ships or submodules (whether in a docking bay or via HS) have an ability called "CanBuildShips", this also gives them ability to be selected in the build-menu UI, and to appear in the fleet build info UI overlay. If every ship could build, this menu would start to look really ugly and crowded. There are also the 'display' families of where units appear and the RU cost for ships, how they are displayed in the build menu (e.g. standard text that shows what their roll is, what weapons they are equipped with, etc). There is also the build time / speed of of construction, and the ability to modify that value through research or submodule ability modifiers.

So how will PDS take advantage of these mechanics in such a way that meets lore and is engaging to the player? In PDS the frequency with which off-map built ships will warp into the battlespace, and the focus on more realism means we should look at re-structuring the vanilla "fighter modules build fighters" mechanic. Here are some proposed ideas to start the conversation, let me know your thoughts!

--Off-map construction is the primary construction method. An entire build-chain of 'fleet command dispatches a vessel' becomes the precedent for how ships are constructed, rather than nano-laything a destroyer in 120 seconds. This may still be an option (see below), but we want to player to have to rely on off-map support for populating their fleet. A "deep space communications relay" and a "fleet command module" with research options unlocking different kinds of doctrines or battlefield support priorities unlock new ships for the player to have dispatched to them. Should they cost excessive amounts of RUs? Should build-time be very-short or near-instant? Or even longer as ships make the HS transit from high command or the nearest reserve base?

--Micro/Nano-construction is still an option, but simplified. Instead of Fighter, Corvette, Frigate, and CapShip production modules - let's just have one 'construction module'. If you want to build ships locally (maybe only small- or medium- sized ones?) you need a construction module on the carrier or frigate. It takes a large-module slot (frigate-module on carrier or SY) and can be augmented by also building engineering/science divisions or choosing different doctrines. Local ship construction should take longer, but perhaps cost sufficiently cheaper RUs?

--Single-build strikecraft versus squadron-build: in-line with the off-map construction or on-map assembler, something I am really excited about developing for PDS is multiple ways strikecraft can deploy. For PDS, we are leaning towards a squadron is a maximum size of one ship, although strikegroups (GBX is developing new strikegroup code for formations) will allow mix-and-match of ships within a squadron. But what I am hoping to eventually script for PDS that I think would be unique is as follows:
*A player can build a single-fighter inside a builder unit with an assembler module at a certain cost. For example, a light interceptor (size 1) for 100RUs. It will spawn out of the builder docking bay, and requires a construction module and possibly an appropriate tech level.
*A player can also request, from fleet command, a squadron of light interceptors. This would cost (for example) 1000RUs, then a HW1-style fleet support frigate would HS near the builder-unit, with 6 light interceptors already docked. The light-interceptors undock and switch to player control, and then the support frigate warps out. This would cost the player slightly 'more' than building locally, and may take more or less time for construction, but allows them to get fighter-reinforcements 'in bulk' and also match with the lore of pre-constructed fleet assets.

--Large ships need crew or command capacity? Ironwatsas and a few others threw around the idea of a 'second resource' besides RUs that would be needed for building ships (especially larger ones). It is possible to add a secondary resource to the game (similar to what HW:Complex did, albeit not overboard with many different kinds of resources) and require the player to have a certain amount of officers or crew-members before they can deploy a destroyer, or enough pilots before they can deploy interceptors. How, thematically, would the player get new crew or build this resource? Should things periodically warp in? Should a 'naval academy' training module periodically increase their crew capacity? Lots of options here, and I'd appreciate any feedback on if we even want to go down this path with PDS:RM

--What are the differences in the way VGR versus HGN versus other race build?

--How/Should building mechanics change between 'eras' of the PDS universe?

--Other build concepts/thoughts for consideration?

Please let me know your thoughts, recommendations, and other discussion points for how we want building mechanics to look in PDS Remastered!

Typh.
 
mrWHO
I was always under impresion that ships builded via Hyprspace-in method are the ship called via short range Hyperspace jump from nearest (off-map) shipyard.

This worked well lore wise because only bigger ships could do the call in (Carriers, Shipyards, some Battlecruisers - esentially the sub-task forces flagships).


The only thing that we could adjust would be replacing Shipyards with some kind of dedicated command ships - realistically speaking having you clumsy Shipyard directly on frontline is not safe and sound (even if it pack battlestation grade deffensive power) - strategically speaking it stupidy as monthership-class ships cannot be easily replaced and all mothership-size contryction facilities are far from frontlines and most probably static super stations or megaliths add-ons.

So basically shipyards stay safe off-map and dedicated command ships call in reinforcements.

That way only strikecrafts/drones could be produced locally, but lore wise it would be greate if you could order e.g HGN Assault Squadron that consist with pre defined number of Fighters/Bombers/Corvettes (we could have like a dozen types of squadrons assembled according to each race/faction combat doctrine). Once the squadron is completed the delivery ships (like the old HGN Auxilary Carrier based on the Bishop freighter) hyperspace in, launch the squadron from it's hangar and then hyperspace out once hangar is empty.
 
Ironwatsas
So a few thoughts I've had on the above statements, and how it should go. Elements of all three systems will be in place.

As far as Shipyards are concerned, MrWHO is indeed correct. Facilities that large and important would probably be located as far from the battle as possible. So, for the most part, the player will command their fleet from a Fleet Carrier or proper Warship. This will be the 'mothership' analog for the taskgroup.

That is not to say Shipyards will not be present. There are many scenarios where a Shipyard is in the battlespace, for various reasons. In some cases, rapid reinforcement in the field will trump the safety factor if distiance. Sometimes the shipyard is the object of an enemy offensive and must be protected, or the strategic and tactical circumstances would make it vulnerable if it wasn't kept close to the fleet, or it needs to be nearby to coordinate communications or supply efforts, or the fleet commander is simply very aggressive and using the high-value asset as either bait or a rapid reinforcement source to lure the enemy into a decisive engagement.

In most cases though, your average match will consist of more mobile Carrier vs Carrier encounters. Shipyards being present, due to their low tactical mobility, imply a more static 'base' oriented situation involving one party defending a fixed position. Carriers are more suited to the sorts of fast, mobile engagements required in 4G and 5G battlespace. And in some cases, even they wouldn't be present.

Now, as for building, there are some implications here. Especially due to the GBX engine's ability to have multiple build queues. For our purposes (outside of the Singleplayer campaign and maybe certain scenarios), research and research modules will be redundant; Most of that sort of R&D would happen far from a combat zone and be conducted with more specialized ships and equipment. Build-capable ships would come with some pre-installed modules, with the option of replacing them as needs must. So, to list off some of the general ideas I've had, both lore-wise and gameplay wise (The big "How ship building works" lore article will come later!);

  1. Any extra build systems or resources we implement should be relatively straightforward and intuitive. Complicating things like, well, Complex mod makes for a distraction to the core of the gameplay (which is commanding ships in a battle line).
  2. For our purposes, the magical PDA technologies of vanilla HW2 exist, however they are highly exaggerated in gameplay terms. Lore wise, they'd take hours or days to do what (ingame) takes seconds. And would therefore be far less efficient than larger, dedicated assembly lines and simply calling in re-enforcement.
  3. Fighters and Corvettes would be built from Carriers in the same way as in vanilla HW2, abiet far slower than before. The 'main' build option is calling in reinforcements from 'off map' via "research" options (Sun Tzu's scripts). However, there will be a strictly limited amount of reinforcements available for a given engagement. If the battle drags on, replacement ships will either need to be built in-situ (which takes longer/costs more).
  4. Capital ships will pretty much all be called in from Hyperspace. The "Operational Support Priority" concept (a'la Sun Tzu) basically calls in a small strike group at once, and effectively allows a complete engagement to be fought up to and including battleship class vessels without any sort of mothership/shipyard/static facilities present (these are purely situational/optional/special vessels). The 'build one ship at a time' mechanics will still remain for once all re-reinforcement are expended, but will be prohibitively expensive and require a substantial set up of infrastructure, and mainly limited to large-scale strategic operations. Most matches will be over before you run out of re-enforcement.
  5. At least two resources will be present; RUs (which are shorthand for all the materials, equipment, etc, needed for ship production), and Manpower (which will replace or supplement traditional unit caps). The former can be mined by resource collectors or brought in by off-map supply ships, the latter can only be supplied by off-map transports. The transport must dock with the command ship; if it is killed before it does so, the resources/personnel aboard are lost.
  6. An idea I had would be for destroyed ships to eject pilots, escape pods, or black boxes. In either case, recovering allied (or enemy) E-pods will result in substantial bonuses. In neither case will this lead to instant manpower, since friendlies would surely be too injured/shaken up to go back into combat right away, and enemies are enemies. A manpower or supply bonus of some kind would be given for recovered personnel. Keeping men alive and taking prisoners should be encouraged!
  7. There should be a flexible limit to how many ships can be operated at once. Specifically the command and control capacity of your carriers and command ships. The more flotilla leaders you call in, the more your tactical C&C grows. Weather this is implemented as Cataclysm-style "Support Units" or something else needs to be determined. There should also be penalties for losing C&C equipped ships (as well as recovery options). Like, for instance, ships that are 'over the limit' if your Command Frigate is blown up are no longer able to be directly controlled. HOWEVER, there should be some way of setting up contingency plans, like "retreat to this beacon/coordinate and wait for us to mobilize a new C&C asset".
  8. There should of course be a hard limit on how many ships you (and the Game AI) can run at a given time, to restrict the size of the engagements (to prevent PC obliteration or wildly lopsided affairs).
 
mrWHO

Quote

Fighters and Corvettes would be built from Carriers in the same way as in vanilla HW2, abiet far slower than before. The 'main' build option is calling in reinforcements from 'off map' via "research" options (Sun Tzu's scripts). However, there will be a strictly limited amount of reinforcements available for a given engagement. If the battle drags on, replacement ships will either need to be built in-situ (which takes longer/costs more).


This kinda reminds me the system from Wargame (e.g. Wargame:Red Dragon - highly recoment to check it on Steam)


To take more inspiration from Wargame it would be cool is we would have "Strategic points" on the map.
While not giving any direct RU/manpower bonus controling the strategic points would allow you to increase your initial "reinforcements pool" - by convincing local command to dedicate more ships to your area for final breakthrough. You would still have to pay with RU/manpower for them, but it will discourage turtling and make map control even more important.

Dunno how complex would be the implementing of this into Sun Tzu script, but I accume most of the work would be to go through all avaliable skirmish maps and place the strategic point there (could be in form of stations, derelicts, container depots/trade stations that respawn RU containers from time to time)
 
Typhoone
Thanks for chiming in guys! A few quick notes:

Re: concurrent build limit - It is possible for ships to have concurrent build queues, this feature has been implemented but I have yet to test it. I hope to, when I have some time, experiment with this and engage the modding community here.

Re: escape pods - I just thought of a brilliant way to potentially experiment with this. A ship can 'SpawnSalvageOnDeath()' and we could totally create a megalith/relic object which is an E-pod, and when that pod is 'salvaged' run some script against modifying an additional resource or changing a battlefield circumstance. This is really cool and something that I think would really differentiate PDS.

Re: strategic control points - this is possible, but a bit heavier of a scripting lift. HW:Complex did this as a separate game-mode using control-point gameplay. It's something I can look more into, as a potential long run "PDS Evolution" sustaining game mode with control points being neutral shipyards or something.

Re: LST's support priority research scheme - I don't remember or know how this script automatically spawned units after research was complete. I knew that it enabled building of certain units with short/near-instantaneous build-times and low-cost. Does anyone know where that was in the PDS code-base or what version if there was an auto-spawn function? I can easily take it to the next step and expand on that a lot more if that is there, otherwise I would use some of my code base from HW:Complex to make a more-simple, more PDS-appropriate system.

Re: additional resources - Yes, I am for adding one, maybe two additional resources besides RUs. One being some kind of command capacity and the other possibly crew or general 'supplies' which can also come from refining RUs, shipments from fleet command, or something similar. I intend to start another secondary mechanics thread when we are ready to flush that out more. It will need to come later in the scripting pipeline with current bandwidth.

Awesome comments everyone, way to keep the discussion alive.

Typh.
 
yasotay
Guys, most of this sounds great to me. But I warn against getting to "Complex". Having played a Complex version of Homeworld I got lost in all of the potential routes and ended up yelling at the computer because I went on a path that precluded me from getting certain ships. Trying to figure out all of the potential paths became labourious and I stopped playing the mod.

Food for thought.
I am ancient
 
Ironwatsas
My thoughts exactly, Yas. Right now I'm sort of throwing ideas out there, trying to think of what would make sense in the context of a skirmish level, and add a degree of randomness and 'connection' to other events in the galaxy. Generally, spice things up a bit, but mostly in ways that are out of the player's control.

Yasotay does make a good point: Options that would perminantly restrict ships due to cryptic resource or research choices should either be very clearly marked, or chosen in the pre-skirmish options (I.E. setting the tech level for 3G/4G/Early War/Late War/Etc).

So I'm throwing ideas out there and we can figure out what's feasible/economical/desirable and what can go. Worst case scenario, if we add something that turns out to be really scrappy in playtesting, we can get rid of it fairly easily the way github is set up.
 
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