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What is a space sim? (visa vis combat)

 
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MajorFreak
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PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 5:31 pm    Post subject: What is a space sim? (visa vis combat) Reply with quote

Milo (starshatter) wrote:
OK, so this means that you found space combat fun in earlier games but not in more recent games? Why do you think that is? Have the games gotten worse at doing space combat, or have they stayed the same while your expectations have increased?
Ben Sones wrote:
The last one.

Here's the problem: most space fighter combat essentially boils down to turning battles. Except most of the ships turn on a dime, so mostly it ends up being a series of joust-like passes where you unload everything you've got, turn around, and then come back and do it again.

In real world flight sims, you have to deal with physics (even the most elementary sim models gravity) and avoiding the ground. In hardcore flight sims, you get more advanced elements such as energy management and avionics (in modern sims, detecting the enemy is half the battle).

I'd like to see a space sim that takes a more "hardcore sci-fi" approach to modeling what fighter combat in space might really be like. Would you really have the equivalent of fighter jets in space, or would everything focus more on larger, submarine-like ships (yeah, I know--we'd probably have unmanned drones in reality, but that wouldn't make for a very fun game)? Given the direction that modern air combat is taking, wouldn't stealth play a major role? Would ships really dogfight, or would you have more WBVR (WAY Beyond Visual Range) combat? What sort of weapons would they employ? I mean, really--lasers and small-scale conventional missiles? Consider that you are in space. Is there any reason why space fighters wouldn't carry heavier ordinance, such as tactical nuclear missiles?

And for the love of god, would somebody model sound (or the lack of it) properly, for once? I was really happy when Firefly did this (before it got cancelled). I can see it being really effective in a game--everything outside your ship is dead silent, and then you focus all your efforts on modeling the sounds within your ship--the roar of the engines, cockpit noises, etc. I think it could be really dramatic, but nobody seems willing to try. Apparently developers are afraid that Joe Average will be turned off when he can't hear the "boom" of the bigt explosions.

But, hey--Joe Average isn't buying space sims anyway, as pretty much everyone here acknowledges. So go for it!
Brad Grenz wrote:
That carriers would come to dominate space combat as they have naval combat is not an alltogether illogical extrapolation. The dogfights in Starwars are of course stylized. Pilots would be acting at great distances using sensors like modern fighters today.
Milo wrote:
No, perhaps not altogether illogical. But it is mostly illogical. Everthing depends on the specific abilities of the technology involved, but here are some general ideas -

The top speed of a large wet-navy surface ship is much lower than the top speed of a jet driven aircraft because of drag. In space, the opposite case is true because of fuel.


A fighter-sized craft would have higher linear acceleration than a larger vessel, but a guided missile would have acceleration that is higher still. An unmanned weapon might even have greater range than a manned fighter, simply because it you can't expect a pilot to fly something the size of an X-Wing fighter for several days before having to engage the enemy. A guided missile could coast for as long as necessary without expending fuel or bio-consumables.

It is true that a fighter-sized craft could sustain higher lateral acceleration and turning rates than a larger vessel (due to materials stress considerations). But since neither vessel is likely to be able to outmaneuver a precision guided warhead, the advantage of maneuverability may not be that significant. If combat comes down to shooting down each others missiles with lasers or KKV missile defenses, the advantage would go to the ship that can mount the greater number of defensive batteries and the greater level of armor.

I could go on, but the basic point is that you can't assume that the advantages of airborne fighter craft necessarily translate into spaceborne fighter craft. Therefore, the analogy with modern naval carriers is suspect.

One thing small fighters would still be good at is force projection. I think it would make sense to have orbital fighters that can enter a planet's atmosphere and prosecute ground targets. Presumably, this would be in conjunction with orbital bombardment using unmanned munitions.
Idar Thorvaldsen wrote:
This all depends on what kind of speeds you're thinking of. One problem with unmanned craft over such long distances is that guidance becomes difficult (assuming no FTL communication); signal latency of several minutes, very weak signals, jamming etc. Then you'd need something aboard to guide it, either a good computer with a sophisticated program, which might still not be good enough, or an AI, which would probably be very expensive, perhaps more expensive than a human.

At high speeds, traditional armour might not even work, as the kinetic energy from a missile would be unstoppable by anything. Also, at long range and high speed, hitting stuff would presumably be difficult, both with beam weapons/very high speed unguided projectiles, and guided missiles. If a ship is moving in the right direction relative to a missile, it could dodge that missile simply due to the fuel and maneuverability limitations of the missile.

In my opinion, the most interesting space combat I've encountered has been that of CJ Cherryh. Fairly low-tech, where combat is primarily about speed, and not getting hit by enemy missiles.

grabbed this while hunting down derek smart popcorn threads...one in which was started about "sci-fi space sims being mainstream" bleep
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MajorFreak
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 11, 2003 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GUTB wrote:
The defining aspects of space combat is weightlessness and lack of vacuum. These factors mean that an object propelled in a direction will not slow down until an equivalent amount of force is used to counter-act it in the opposite direction. Therefore, as speed increases, it becomes more difficult to change course. Smaller objects that require less energy to accelerate and turn can therefore easily out-accelerate and out-manuever any larger object. Therefore, all vessels will be defenseless to avoid guided missile weapons.

Space is a vacuum, so lasers and particle weapons became far more efficient. If we accept the existence of fusion reactors and the like, such weapons can become incredibly potent over very long distances. A small fighter-sized vessel would be reduced to carbon instantly upon being struck by a reasonably-powerful laser or particle weapon. Since these weapons move at or very close to the speed of light, it becomes virtually impossible to miss with them, and virtually impossible to
avoid it.

So, with the existence of weapons that are impossible to avoid, we are left to puzzle out how fighting vessels in space can last past their first encounter, and what shape future space combat will take. In this case, there are to clear answers that are obvious to us: Stealth and Armor.

With various passive and active measures, a fighting vessel will attempt to remain undetected by the enemy, while trying to detect its foes in turn. If and when detection is made, the targeted vessel must be able to stand a chance against the strike, and the attacker must be able to weather the inevitable counter-strike. Against missile
weapons, point-defense lasers and mass-drivers and against laser or particle attacks, powerful armor plates to soak the energy. Since these cannot exist in any reasonable degree on a fighter-sized craft, such craft will become largely obsolete. Space battles, then, would be a sudden-death, high-intensity contests of rapier-like strike and counter-strike.
Memnoch wrote:
Maybe so, but I'm sure you would agree that the flight model that I-War depicts is a little easier to belive what combat would be like i.e. it takes a while to slow down and you can turn around and face in different directions to your acceleration vector or whatever you want to call it before you start to slow down, even with the engines going, rather than the model that Freespace and Freelancer etc. depict where you just turn on a dime and continue to travel in the new vector without slewing much if at all. If God for bid we do start to bring weapons into space, if we haven't already (Here's looking at you Bush!), then I think those pilots are going to want to take advantage of the environment rather than just fly along nose forward all the time. Just
watch B5 and the Starfuries.
FLY135 (bit of a confusing dolt, but hey) wrote:
People seem to get hung up on the realism factor when the subject of Newtonian physics in a space sim comes up. It isn't realism that is the main point. But there is something serendipitous about the convergence of fun gameplay and realism. Naturally if you don't find that Newtonian physics enhances the gameplay in any way, then the realism argument is just a red herring that detracts from the main point.

My main point was that it doesn't make sense to argue Newtonian physics over the realism issue. But that the type of combat that it offers make for fun gameplay. People compare it to dogfighting and that's exactly what it is. In flight sims overly simplied dynamics are generally shunned. But for some reason in space sims they are widely accepted. Flight dynamics in a space sim are far more simple to implement than atmospheric flight. But they do add substantually to the gameplay, so why leave out the option? I see Milo's point about testing and he certainly is more versed in the subject of game design. But I find it hard to believe that Freelancer would have been ruined by something so easy to add to the design.


This opinion reminds me of 2300AD's space combat system, "StarCruiser" (a sci-fi PnP RPG by GDW)
    long since out of business..the old FASA group; anyways, the system was about missile cruisers and mostly follows GUTB's concept. Actually, missiles that were nukes that were lasers...quite fascinating with the passive/active sensors and drones, etc. Unfortunately, the rules were buggy as hell and boring to boot, not to mention this game relied on FTL "stutterwarp engine" technology that made NLS detection systems rather touch and go -- there were no "FTL sensors" of a reliable sort i believe?
I personally prefer C.J.Cherryh's fictional details. see her thread in this forum about that stuff...it's like 2300AD's system, but since she's a decent author of scifi fantasy it's more entertaining and "believable"
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MajorFreak
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 12, 2003 3:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

USENET wrote:
>>> >I consider ALL space-sims to be equally unrealistic.....because I have
>>> >absolutely no way of knowing, or even guessing, what that "reality of space
>>> >combat" might some day be. I doubt seriously that any of us will live long
>>> >enough to find out. That said, you have to enjoy pc games on the basis of
>>> >whether they are subjectively "fun" to play. That's really all there is.
>>> >Yes, I would like FL to be a deeper, more challenging game....but I still
>>> >enjoy playing it just as it is. It's equally true, however, that I'm
>>> >probably going to get bored with FL not too long after I finish the plot
>>> >missions. :-)
>>>
>>> Maybe so, but I'm sure you would agree that the flight model that I-War
>>> depicts is a little easier to belive what combat would be like i.e. it takes a
>>> while to slow down and you can turn around and face in different directions to
>>> your acceleration vector or whatever you want to call it before you start to
>>> slow down, even with the engines going, rather than the model that Freespace
>>> and Freelancer etc. depict where you just turn on a dime and continue to
>>> travel in the new vector without slewing much if at all. If God for bid we do
>>> start to bring weapons into space, if we haven't already (Here's looking at
>>> you Bush!), then I think those pilots are going to want to take advantage of
>>> the environment rather than just fly along nose forward all the time. Just
>>> watch B5 and the Starfuries.
>>
>>I'll concede your point. My specialty is history rather than physics, so
>>I'm not too concerned by WWII aircraft flight models in space (I just
>>pretend it's all "fly by wire"... that constantly firing, powerful attitude
>>rockets provide the illusion of a WWII flight model ;-) Heh, heh, as you
>>can see I haven't a clue ). Frankly, the space combat described by GUTB
>>makes me think that space warships will likely be unmanned (after all, AI's
>>will probably be pretty sharp by then). Hell, I suspect that
>>ground-controlled warcraft are going to replace manned warcraft in the next
>>quarter-century or so (well, not if the USAF has anything to say about it).
>>I suspect we have the technology right now to leave the pilots on the ground
>>(no risk of highly-trained specialists and bigger weapons payloads in
>>smaller aircraft)......but I digress.

>I think you are right. Given the fact that space combat will most probably not
>have to overcome things like gravity, atmospheric friction etc, acceleration
>and inertia will be the primary concern. Human pilots would have to stay
>alive, let alone conscious to be of any use. The first conflict where there
>are human pilots on one side and the enemy using remote pilots is going to be
>a very one sided battle. The remote operated craft won't have to be restricted
>to safe levels for things such as acceleration as there won't be anyone inside
>to get damaged.

You know I hadn't even thought about how having human crewmembers limits
maneuverability. For space combat, I envision a large mother-ship
drone-carrier crewed by humans. This ship stays well out of the action (as
carriers do now) and launches unmanned drones which actually perform the
combat. The drones would be controlled by AI or, remotely, by humans aboard
the carrier (of course, given the speed at which radio waves propagate,
distance would be a critical factor). In the near term, I can also see this
as the future of aerial combat....perhaps in the not too distant future.
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