How did we ever survive without Fleets and Tactics Management?
Figure 1: The Advent annihilate my disorganized mob of ships.
Step One: Hope for something to help turn things around.
Bridge Officer Dav turned his head up from the panel of glowing screens, “Sir, Emance Varian’s fleet has just exited phase space on the far side of the grav well!”
Smiling, Emance Boldran replied, “Well timed. We’ll merge in the middle and crush the alien scum. Move the fleet out!
Step Two: Shake your head in wonder.
“Sir! It appears as the Emance’s Garda flaks are pulling off to engage the strikecraft holding position around the enemy Skirantras…and… wait a moment…actually his entire fleet is breaking apart to attack targets scattered about the well”, says Officer Dav as his face fades to white.
Boldran shakes his head in wonder, “What does he think he is doing? They’ll get ripped apart separated like that! Bridge Officer, open a com channel to Varian’s command. We need to have a few words.”
Step Three: Correct the mistake.
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (8:32 PM):
Dude! Seriousl wth r u doin? Back bacb back back.
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (8:33 PM):
Back now or its gg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ak;l
< hoganshornet3> says (8:34 PM)
Ya wha r u writing me in messenger? Use the in game chat or I can’t know. The stupid units won’t stay with my flagship and I was busy placing my tradeports.
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (8:35 PM):
Well get em back and get them on hold position or tell them to follow him.
says (8:35 PM)
I know I know but it’s too much micro cause then they don’t engage anything or they just clujmp up around the flagship if they on follow so I gotta constantly move things around.
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (8:36 PM):
Yeah sux., how about w e’re screwed now anyways, your flaks are all dead and he’s launching the rest of the bombers. Lets quit and go complain about this on the forums instead.
< hoganshornet3> says (8:37 PM):
Yeha! Now yer talking!
Well as you can see getting large groups of ships to do what you want can be frustrating, micromanagement intensive and immersion breaking. But not for long, thanks to all the beta tester suggestions and a whole lot of experimentation. Sins already has a lot of tools to help manage large groups of units including smart band boxing, the empire tree, similar unit selection hotkeys, control groups, pip groups, the alt-key tactical overlays, infinitely queued waypoints, ability targets and attack targets, lots of auto cast options and more. The final version of Sins is going to introduce some new tools and rework some old material that will solve all the outstanding problems.
Auto Attack and Engagement Ranges:
First, let’s start with some basic changes. Previously the attack button could be right clicked to toggle through various Engagement Ranges. These controlled how far the unit could move and scan for objects to act on (I say “act on” because it isn’t just for attacking, it’s anything the ship can do). This posed a problem because normally right clicking enables/disables the auto mode of the action and now we don’t have that option for attack because it’s tied into the Engagement Ranges. Therefore we had no option but to have auto attack always on. This is really annoying because you often you don’t want your ships to fire their weapons, especially now that diplomacy is so much more important (if you are trying to earn favor with a given faction it’s probably best not to shoot up his ships). So what we’ve done is added a new section to the action grid called “Tactics Management”, added a “Set Engagement Range” button to that section and made it so that attacking could be toggled between regular and auto attack.
Now that we have a “Tactics Management” section we’ve got some room to add new buttons. Typically when players grab a group of ships and tell them to move to a new gravity well, they turn on Group Movement so that their ships all Phase Jump simultaneously. If they don’t do this their ships will all arrive at different times and be slaughtered. The problem with this is that when you get into a fight that you need to retreat from, Group Movement delays how fast you can get your guys out because they all wait for each other before jumping. It’s a pain because you have to remember to turn Group Movement off and zoom out to select a planet to retreat to. So we’ve added a “Retreat” button that automatically tells all selected ships to phase jump as fast as possible to the closest, safest planet.
Next, we are adding another button called “Create Fleet”. When you select a group of units and push this button a fleet will be created with your sub-selected entity becoming the fleet leader. Fleet leaders get a special icon above them that can be used to identify the location of fleets, to select the whole fleet and to order it around. Fleets are meta-objects that allow the group of ships to behave as a single unit with each ship doing what it does best within the context of the fleet. As a simple example consider sending a Marza Dreadnought and 4 Garda Flak Frigate escorts to an enemy planet in beta 4. As soon as they arrived there they would all spread out, do their own thing and get chewed to pieces one by one. Now, if you create a fleet of those 5 units, the Garda Flak Frigates will know to accompany the Marza, follow it in formation, and only attack targets that are threatening the fleet. Of course this behavior isn’t always what you want so it is still possible to override units’ fleet behavior by giving them custom orders. They are even smart enough to know that when they are finished the order you gave them they should return to the fleet and reassume their fleet duties.
Figure 2: Time to kill some Advent and take this volcanic planet for myself! Notice the Tactics Manager in the action grid just right of bottom center.
Figure 3: Close up of the Tactics Manager
Auto Join Fleet:
The Create Fleet Button can be right clicked to activate “Auto Join Fleet”. This means that when ships complete their current orders they will search the local gravity well for a suitable fleet to join and automatically join it. An example of when I would use this is when I have an attack fleet and a siege fleet at a planet. The attack fleet is going around fighting ships and blowing up defenses while my siege fleet is bombing the planet. Back at my factories I am producing both attack and siege ships that are rallied to the planet I’m attacking. With auto join fleet on, these ships will now automatically join the appropriate fleet (i.e. the siege ships will join the siege fleet and the attack ships will join the attack fleet). It also helps make sure that units you aren’t paying attention to will automatically join up and work together without you having to baby-sit them.
Attacking, Bandboxing, and Selection Improvements:
By far one of the most annoying things in the game is trying to move units from planet to planet when you are zoomed out and when there are colony ships in the same gravity well as attack ships. You almost never want to move them together so you are forced to zoom in and bandbox the attack ships or shift-select them all in the empire tree. Now, band boxing and selecting pip groups that include attack ships will automatically exclude colony ships. Using a similar idea, we’ve improved how combat works if you are using fleets. Imagine you have a fleet of attack ships (e.g. Cobalt Light Frigates), support ships (e.g. Hoshiko Robotics Frigates) and anti-strike craft frigates (e.g. Garda Flak Frigates). You want the fleet to engage some enemy frigates so you select the fleet (either by bandboxing, the empire tree, pip group, fleet icon or any other means) and queue up its attack orders. In beta 4 this would mean that they would all focus fire on the targets. This is stupid because repair and flak frigates are useless against frigates – they should keep doing what they are best at – repairing and killing strike craft. Well now they will. Issuing attack orders to units in a fleet or the fleet as a whole will smartly determine which units in the fleet should receive the order and which should ignore it. If for some reason you actually want to issue the order to all the units, you can override it.
Figure 4: My Advent killing fleet in action! As you can see, the AI uses fleets too so it won’t be the mop up I hoped it would be.
It’s always been very important to us that Sins makes it easy to manage things at both the strategic and tactical scales. If you are stuck babysitting your units the whole time it kind of ruins the experience. Based on the beta tester’s extensive reports we’ve taken a number of steps to improve the experience, most notably with the addition of fleets. It should be a lot easier to manage large groups of ships and in turn much easier to manage your empire as a whole.
Step Four: Revel in your Victory:
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (6:32 AM):
Sweet, complaining to the devs really paid off.
< hoganshornet3> says (6:32 AM):
Yeah, we totally p0wnzrfied those n00bs.
<-=jfiddlerman=-> says (6:33 AM):
You think if we bombard the forumz enough they’ll put the space pony faction in too?
<-= hoganshornet3=-> says (6:34 AM):
It can’t hurt to try!!!