Thanks for the kind words everyone... and I should admit up front on my end: I'm just taking it one step at a time. I have no modding experience, and I'm very appreciative of all the advice from vets. It's really the engine that's moving my thinking forward. I don't know how far I'll get, but it's a fascinating process, and what would please me most is to have this exploration generally be a useful contribution to the community.
I really like Carbon016's observations, both in post and on the Dawn of Victory site, about the linearity vs. cyclical pacing, and the implications of the early capship. Definitely good reading; still thinking about that a lot.
Taking a digression to the "Asymetric Fleets" aspect, on this post:
Because what I'm exploring an "asymetric fleets" approach, I've been working on the racial doctrine-level aspect of it. It's 100% SoaSE, just... "tweaked."
A major implication I've been hitting is that, not only do asymetric fleets strongly influence individual player tactics, but they make make inter-racial alliances and combined battlefleets more important. I.E., since every race brings more unique vessels to the table, each will be able to exploit tactics that others cannot. If the fleets are well balanced while being asymetric, then combined alliance fleets will have the most versatile, comprehensive capabilities.
Below is race-level concept work. I've divided it into an overview, sub-principles, and "counterforce", which speaks very briefly to the (1) weaknesses of the doctrine, and/or (2) the adapting-to-the-enemy research aspect of the game.
This obviously very generalized. I thought it would be better to look at the big picture first, and use it to guide specific fleet & tech modifications:
TEC Military Doctrine
TEC forces are the least expensive, least technically advanced, and backed by the best economy. TEC doctrine has evolved to counter other TEC-like assets, which is logically consistent by the game starting condition of fragmented TEC-like worlds. The Advent “reappear” and the Vasari are new arrivals. Whereas the Advent forces are tailor built for anti-TEC action but suffer from a relative vacuum of practical experience (and the Vasari are a savage, experienced force so utterly mauled that they lack the majority of even their basic unit designs), the TEC war machine has a balance of military experience and practical infrastructure. A product of much civil infighting and economic hubs, they believe in the efficacy of static defenses and simple, robust vessels. In game terms, TEC player(s) represent the emergence of a brilliant and resourceful leader(s) on an initially backwater TEC world.
TEC Principals of War: Doctrinal Specifics
Capitol Ship Doctrine: Flagships. TEC caps historically act as flagships of battle groups, self-sufficient from each other and usually surrounded by a force of lesser craft. Only the Dunov is designed as a predominantly support vessel.
“Keep It Simple, Stupid. Guns, nukes, and steel.” TEC put their trust in heavy metal: armor, cannons, missiles, nuclear weapons, big industry. The old stand-bys. The results: cheap, robust ships with the worst shields and simplest weaponry, built like bricks.
“Get there first with the most ships.” Produce, produce, produce. The TEC economy delivers the requisite materials to churn out massive fleets. They utilize all branches of heavy industry, including salvage.
“Built the right tool, and the job becomes easy.” TEC doctrine focuses on a broad core of cruiser and frigate designs. Rather than try to build “one-size-fits-all-foes” uberships, TEC innovation and market-force design processes excel at producing many different designs for specific roles. TEC has more vessel designs available than the other races.
Counterforce: Faced with the Advent and Vasari, TEC designs as initially fielded may rapidly be eclipsed, particularly 1:1, since Advent vessels are specifically designed to counter them. TEC must spool up the war economy and adapt fleet composition and vessel technologies to match these strange, sophisticated foes.
Advent Military Doctrine
Advent vessel designs and doctrine are formulated to defeat TEC. This is a war the Advent have prepared for. However, onset of hostilities occurs sooner than expected, leaving many vessels still in development when the first shots are fired. In game terms, premature launch of the long-awaited campaign is precipitated by either the arrival of the Vasari, the emergence of a dangerous TEC leader(s), or both. Advent civilization possesses objectively inferior economic capacity, but is highly technically advanced. Heavy reliance on superior shield and energy weapons technology allows them to field a militarily comparable if not superior per-unit force, despite a lesser heavy industrial capacity.
Tenets of Forced Enlightenment: Doctrinal Specifics
Capitol Ship Doctrine: Mutual Synergy. Advent caps are designed to operate in mutual-support groups, bolstering each other and the surrounding fleet. Given the tendency for historic TEC powerhouses to dispatch self-reliant caps with cruiser-frigate battle groups, the Mutual Synergy Doctrine is a logical way to demolish TEC cap assets, one by one, using the concentrated force of multi-cap-ship Advent “Synergy Groups”.
“Higher Unity through Combined Arms Warfare” & “The Illuminator Doctrine.” The Advent doctrine further emphasizes force-wide synergy. The Advent Martial Hive-Mind initially envisions an Offensive Trinity: strike craft, illuminators, and cap ships, with other vessels providing mix of support, force protection, and auxillary power. The theme? Combined arms and anti-armor weaponry. Illuminators and Advent bomber wings were designed specifically to counter TEC heavy armor. Illuminators are so central to Advent offensive anti-battlefleet strategy that some might characterize the general Advent battlefleet strategy as “the Illuminator Doctrine.”
“The Bomber will always get through”: Strike Craft Dominance. Noting a perceived weakness in TEC fighter air superiority capabilities, the Advent have invested heavily in developing a lethal strike craft and light carrier force. The Advent’s highly compressed technologies, AI, and consciousness-uploading technology are well suited for this. Theory calls for utilizing fighters to secure air superiority, then deploying bomber assets with special weapons to demolish heavy TEC vessels and structures while fighters lacerate enemy frigates. Perhaps in arrogance, the Advent rely on fighters for fleet defense and do not field a dedicated flak vessel.
Transcension: Defensive plans leans heavily on the still-developmental Transcendia Starbase.
Counterforce: Advent forces are theoretically “perfect” and tailor made to kill TEC, but the Advent have a comparatively weak body of actual combat experience. The difficult realities of vac war are about to come crashing down on them, where ECM and the psychic shock of mass death disrupt the Hive Mind, and making a “perfect choreography” impossible. The Vasari will be a bloody surprise, with their phason armament and the horrific psychic shock that Vasari mind-contact can cause Advent sensitives. Likewise, the Advent underestimate TEC’s ability to produce diverse and direct counterforce. Advent research & vessels must rapidly be adapted to account for the realities of war.
Vasari Military Doctrine
Traditional Vasari fleet doctrine is built upon large battle groups of capital-class (and larger) ships. Frigate and cruiser weight vessels are auxillaries. Roles recognizable in the current conflict - long range fire support ship, heavy battle cruiser, assault ship, etc. - are all traditionally occupied by multiple classes of specialized capital ships.
The Ugly Truth: The Vasari have "the wrong fleet for the wrong fight." Their strategic objective is continued Exodus, not a solar empire. The Vasari intention is to drain this system(s) of resources, build exodus fleet ships, and leave. Technologically, the absolute capabilities of the Vasari "should" be far in excess of either TEC or Advent, but the Vasari who arrive on-scene are a mauled remnant of a single destroyed fleet vessel. Especially early, Vasari units have coherent roles are of high individual quality, but are oddly matched to the current conflict, necessitating tactical dexterity.
Along with their fantastic technologies, the Vasari have some grinding handicaps:
- Insufficient designs for frigates and cruisers adapted to the current conflict.
- Serious informatic voids: Total design loss of most Dark Fleet capital ship designs. Loss of all hyper-capital design and construction capability.
- Inoperable Doctrine: Vasari doctrine, crippled by the loss of central assets, is unable to account for the current conflict.
- Defunct Economic Reliance: Traditional Vasari strategies of building immense, highly advanced fleets were supported by a seemingly inexhaustible industrial juggernaut – which is of course conspicuously absent now. No “civil society” came with this remnant, only fleet Vasari – meaning very little of the Vasari’s hyper-advanced industrial technology has survived.
This serves to place the Vasari more-or-less on parity with the other players.
The Art of Savagery: Doctrinal Specifics
Vasari Capital Ship Doctrine: Backbone Force. Vasari caps, in their full (and lost) variety, fill most of the roles that TEC and Advent cruisers fill. Starting Vasari capships have marginal synergy, and have somewhat odd roles compared to the relatively “classic” roles of the Advent and TEC caps.
“Close the Technology Gap.” Vasari stand to benefit more from research than the other races, and have more total research options. There is a lot they “half-know.” More than other races, the Vasari benefit from increased capital slots. More cap designs are available via research and fill powerful tactical roles. The Kostura itself is a mobile capital "frame weapon" ship.
“The only true faith is faith in the Fleet.” Mobility doctrine. Ships are better than static defenses. No Orkulus Starbase. The Vasari expect the Nameless Enemy is to appear at any time. All static structures will have to be abandoned, sooner if not later. The Vasari anti-starbase weapon is a vessel.
As in current SINS, the Vasari will need to play a more pronounced "asymetric game," early game. If a Vasari player can get counterforce and capital research online, and the resources to back up heavy vessel production, the "guerrilla" Vasari can eventually produce the most terrifying individual chunks of metal in the game.
Counterforce: Many Vasari vessel prototypes are counterforce developments, as the Vasari develop expedient sub-capital ships to “plug the gaps” in their battlefleet capability.