Today we're covering how we're trying to encourage fleet composition in Lord of Rigel. Many strategy games tend to have an arms race where the larger units, in this case spacecraft, are always better. In space strategy games often the largest ships have the most tonnage or slots for equipment and can outperform smaller craft. Often in the end game only the largest ships remain effective. We wanted to strike a balance so that small craft are useful in the game, even towards the end. There's a few things we've decided to do on the strategic and tactical scales to do this.
First of all on the strategic side, ships have a command point cost, going over this means ships have maintenance fees that scale up rather quickly. Smaller ships like Frigates cost less in command points than a large Titan. Also tied to ship scales are how quickly vessels can be detected by sensors. Larger ships are detected at further ranges than smaller ones, meaning that you'll have advanced warning about the large ships in a fleet before the smallest classes.
In the tactical side of things a few mechanics we've added also help avoid “large ships always win” and “small ship spam.” We've placed a hard limit on the number of ships on screen at once, although reinforcements can arrive after ships have fled or been destroyed, to try to avoid spamming smaller craft. But the main things that make smaller ships advantageous are a lot of small mechanics that add up together. Smaller ships are harder to hit with beam weapons while larger ships are easier to hit. Smaller ships with an equivalent drive type will also be faster. Ships have shield and armor facings, and flanking maneuvers grant damage bonuses. But most importantly ship subsystems can be targeted. Overall this means that a large Titan can be flanked and have key systems disabled by a wolfpack of smaller, technologically equivalent, but cheaper ships. So in terms of size classes, keeping a balance (large ships are good against medium, medium are good against small, small ships are good against big ships) is key.
Also in terms of composition balancing weapons is important. Beam weapons have some serious advantages (no ammunition requirements) and drawbacks (range penalties, low hit chances, variable damage). Missiles have a high hit chance and do a high amount of consistent damage, but can be easily intercepted and have limited ammunition in combat. Finding a way to balance the needs of point defense weapons, regular sized weapons that can be used for reaction fire, and heavy spinal mount guns is a critical part of both ship design and figuring out an overall fleet composition. Mixing some “missile boats” with some point defense picket ships, with some heavy hitting beam vessels covers most of the bases and will do well against more specialized fleets.
That covers the basics of fleet composition. Quite a few different game mechanics come together from weapons to the overall game economy work together to try to encourage more balanced fleet compositions than other space strategy games. Of course at the end of the day sometimes building a small moon with a single powerful planet killing laser is just plain rewarding, but that technological marvel can be pretty vulnerable to a group of lowly frigates used right!
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