Did I mention that combat readiness (“CR” – briefly, a measure of how good a shape the ship is in, 0 to 100%) has lots of tendrils into other areas of the design? I think I did. That’s not a bad thing; in fact that’s rather the point. It does, however, mean that I end up adjusting a number of mechanics in the name of everything fitting in better.
One such set of mechanics is just about everything surrounding fighters. In the current release, they’re a bit rough around the edges, especially in the campaign – a few things don’t quite make sense lore-wise, and a few things combine to make them weaker than I’d like them to be.
The first big one is that fighter wings no longer go back to a carrier as a single unit. Instead, individual fighters peel off when they need to repair or rearm, while carriers launch replacements for every wing that needs them. This does a couple of things.
First of all, having more flight decks is actually useful. An Astral’s three decks can crank out replacements at an alarming rate, one that a more modest carrier will be unable to match. This is particularly important because with more decks, fighters can regain their numbers more quickly – instead of being massacred piecemeal as replacements trickle in. (As it stands in the current release, the three decks on the Astral are overkill; hardly any fleet can make use of all of them.)
Second, carriers stay busy. There’s almost always a fighter coming in for a landing, a few circling waiting for a free deck to land on, another fighter preparing to take off, etc. More traffic all around lends the proceedings a livelier feel.
Where does CR come in here, you ask? In two ways. One, the carrier’s CR determines how long it takes a flight deck to prepare a replacement. Two, the fighter wing’s CR determines how many replacements are available, with each successive replacement launching at a lower CR level. By the end of a long engagement, the replacements being launched are hastily-prepared affairs that can hardly fly a sortie without suffering some kind of malfunction.
If a fighter wing is destroyed in its entirety, with no replacements being prepared, then it’s out of the battle. Note that this means a single flight deck can ensure a fighter wing can not be taken out until its CR is exhausted (even if it gets unlucky and catches some shots it would usually avoid), as a replacement will always be in the process of being prepped for launch. On the other hand, having multiple wings supported by a single deck exposes them to greater risk.
These mechanics merit a few adjustments in the command system. The “Repair & Refit” order (the one that tells a wing to go back to a carrier for repairs) is no longer needed. Frankly, good riddance there. Even though it wasn’t a major issue, I was never quite happy that watching your fighters like a hawk for the right time to give this order was a possible way to increase their effectiveness.
This is a new assignment. Fighter wings that are significantly understrength – say, only 2 out of 4 are left – will head to the nearest rendezvous point and wait for replacements to arrive before rejoining the battle.
Rally Strike Force
This assignment works as before, serving as a routing point for bombers to go through before going off on a strike assignment. But like “Fighter Rendezvous”, it’ll also serve as a rallying point for understrength bomber wings to recover.
In the Campaign
The changes in the campaign have to do with increasing fighter wing longevity. If there’s a carrier in the fleet (rather, a ship with a flight deck, not necessarily a dedicated carrier), then a fighter wing simply can’t be destroyed. If its taken out of a battle due to either being lost completely or its CR being exhausted, it’s not lost to the fleet. It might not be useful for a while until it regains some CR, but that’s another matter.
On the flip side, if there aren’t any ships with flight deck, then fighter wings can be lost entirely, and lost fighters can not be replaced.
In either case, fighters immediately repair any damage sustained in combat. It seems superfluous to keep track of something so relatively minor when a few extra points of CR net a whole new fighter chassis. As for the lore: let’s just say that fighters are fairly simple to repair, and further, any combat damage taken probably wasn’t all that serious, or it would have destroyed the fighter outright. (It might make sense to consider the fighter’s displayed hull integrity as a measure of its “luck” rather than a linear representation of structural damage it’s taken. Right up until 0%, it’s pretty much intact – after all, it doesn’t suffer diminished capabilities. But, perhaps this isn’t something that makes sense to overthink, given that a hitpoints bar is already quite an abstracted thing.)
Comment thread here.
In a previous post, I’d talked about combat readiness. One of the benefits of that system is that it makes it easy for other mechanics to tie into it, whether they’re in the combat or the campaign layer. I’d like to talk about what’s more or less an overhaul of the various fleet management mechanics, both fixing some long-standing issues and streamlining the approach without oversimplifying it. First, though, a brief recap of how things currently work.
The player character has a “fleet points” stat that determines the maximum size of their fleet. (So do the AI fleet commanders, but never mind that for the moment.) The fleet has a cargo, fuel, and personnel capacity, based on the stats of the ships in it.
These are all soft caps – you can go over them, but doing so costs extra supplies every day, and there’s a risk of accidents when any of these is exceeded by too much.
Overall, this works well; there’s no reason to throw out the system and start from scratch. I’d actually started writing out the issues with the current system, but since it does work fairly well, it’s hard to build a compelling case against it. So instead, let me outline the new approach, and point out how it’s better.
The general idea is to replace fleet points with something based on supply consumption, and since supply consumption already plays a role in other places, it can all be rolled together to clean things up. Enter the new stat, “logistics”. It’s a measure of how many units of supplies per day your character can manage to distribute efficiently. So, supply consumption up that limit is fine, but going above it introduces penalties.
The things that consume supplies are:
- Ship maintenance – ships have a new stats that indicates how many supplies per day they require for maintenance. More on that later.
- Crew and marines; marines consume more to reflect the cost of keeping those armored suits in good repair
- Ship repairs
- Combat readiness (“CR”) recovery
- Being over-capacity in fuel, cargo, or personnel – a fixed supply cost per unit
The daily supply expenditure on all of that is added up, and together with the logistics stat, is used to produce a logistics rating (“LR”), which is a percentage value. Use up to the logistics value results in an LR of 100%, and it goes to 0% when supply use double the logistics value. For example, if your logistics stat is 50, and you’re using 75 supplies per day, the LR is 50%.
LR has the following effects:
- When below 100%, reduces the maximum combat readiness of all the ships in the fleet by up to 50% (at 0% LR)
- When at 0% for more than a day, there’s a chance of an accident happening (note that simply being way over capacity in something is not enough to cause one now)
So, what does all this actually do, and why is it a good thing?
First of all, the logistical situation in the fleet is reduced to a single number. How it got there is another matter, but it’s very easy to see how you’re doing at a glance. Accidents are also simplified, as there’s just one cause to watch for (well, two, since running out of supplies will also cause them, but that’s very much related.)
Fleet points are no longer used in the campaign, which means they no longer have to do double-duty in expressing both the combat strength of a ship and its logistical requirements. This means the fleet point values (now renamed to “deployment points”) can be more accurate – particularly for ships whose value lies in their non-combat stats.
With ships having a maintenance cost and it being a limiting factor on fleet size, supply use takes a central role – instead of being something to keep track of in addition to fleet points.
Second, the effects of LR give the player a dynamic choice between having a smaller, elite fleet, and a larger, less organized one – if they decide to run close to 0% LR, and accept the combat readiness penalty. What I mean by “dynamic” is the player can make this choice at any time. They can already make it by spending skill points to increase the fleet size, but that choice is only made once when the points are spent. Choosing what LR level to go with allows for a range of approaches within the same skill point distribution.
Issues & Solutions
But there’s a problem, you say! What if I’m running at 100% LR, get into a battle, and now my supply use goes up to recover lost combat readiness – but now there’s a penalty to the maximum CR because the logistics rating went down from the new supply use, so it’s stuck at the lower level. Right, that’s not good.
The solution here is that recovering CR doesn’t actually cost any supplies. Rather, being at maximum CR reduces the ship maintenance cost dramatically, but the full value still counts against the logistics rating. So, CR changes have no impact on the logistics rating.
What about repairs, then? You can already suspend repairs on a ship, but that might not be enough. Say you’ve got a battleship that can consume 50+ supplies per day to repair – you’d have to choose to either repair it at the full speed and taking a massive logistics hit, or not repairing it at all. That’s no good; so the actual amount of supplies spent on repairs can be set explicitly, and these supplies are distributed evenly between all ships that need repairs. There’s also a maximum amount that can be spent on repairs every day, and it can be changed by skills and such.
Fleet Member Controls
There are a number of fleet member controls that go hand in hand with these changes and/or address existing issues.
Repairs on the specified ship are stopped completely.
A mothballed ship has its maintenance cost reduced by 90%, and that includes its impact on logistics. So, you can have lots and lots of mothballed ships in your fleet without taking much of a logistics hit. On the downside, while mothballed, a ship provides no cargo/fuel/personnel capacity. Restoring a mothballed to combat readiness is a time-consuming task – the ship starts at 0% CR.
Any ships flagged as a “logistical priority” receive first pick of supplies for repairs, and crew. Any leftover crew and supplies then go to the rest of the ships, which in the case of repairs often means nothing until the priority ships are done. Both supplies and crew are distributed evenly among the ships in each group. (With the addition of CR, not having a full crew complement just reduces the effective & maximum CR for a ship, and unless there’s not enough crew to maintain the minimum CR level, it can still be deployed in battle.)
Maximum Crew Level
The maximum level of crew to use on a given ship can be set. If no low-level crew is available, higher level crew will then be used. This should be useful for civilian ships you don’t want to use elite crews on – especially if you need to designate them a logistical priority to get repairs done quickly, since they’d get first pick of the crew then. It could also come in handy to achieve a specific crew distribution, though I wouldn’t expect this control to be used all that often.
Overall, the new system is both simpler than the current one and allows for more expressiveness, both for the player and for the game design. The new fleet member controls allow for a flexibility that’s lacking in the current system, but don’t require excessive micromanagement.
Discussion thread here.