A Better Air Game

A Better Air Game

Discuss game development here, from a distinct game project to an accessible third-party mutator, down to the interaction and design of individual units if you like.

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PicassoCT
Journeywar Developer & Mapper
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A Better Air Game

Post by PicassoCT » 01 Sep 2018, 23:41

I ve been contemplating for a while Air for nearly all spring games there is.
And i think it would be good to have a Air only game to push the sorry state of affairs Air game is mostly in.

Air suffers from:

1) Non-Determinism
Air Units battling never lead to a predictable outcome, dependent on the skills of the player. One can load the dice, by sending in a thousand throws, but the result is always down to "luck". Luck being, the Units Behavior, controlled by the Set Values, its potential MidAir Collissions, LowRes-Heigthmap and its given orders- interacting at high speed with the rest of the game.

2) Lack of Control

Air is more difficult to controll by its very nature. It takes part in a 3d space, whether the controls threat it as such or not.
Air can only be microed decently for slow units.
Air Defenses are for fast Units only viable on full automatic. So Air turns into a strange mixture of a 2Dimensional Tank battle without terrain, and some hyper-fast "The Settlers" where commands are just a indication of Priority of Destruction if you make it this far. For the purpose of this essay, these praerie-"hover"-tanks with wings do not exist.
None of this is really challenging- or actually interesting.

3) Visuals & Gameplay clash
Fast jets, swarming droneships, the Air Game is dominated by the visuals of every movie ever made, showing air Units (Jet Planes, Space Ships). We also sub-consciously expect heroics - individuals units attacking with outstanding maneuvers or sacrificing themselves to slam into larger units.
Those Visuals are a target, but also a obstacle. They lure gamedesigners away from what could be archived.
They also force us to either give up on control consistency (Priorty TargetSettings vs actual Micro).
All these problems would affect naval Units too where it not for physics.

4)SumaSumarum
As a result of this, Air is basically shunned and deprecated for most Spring-games. Its used when the pathing is broken, the map is horrible or the Ships dont get through. Its even less beloved by gamedesigners atm then naval units. It still survives ingame due to the visual appeal and nostalgia.

The Plan:

So i imagined a purified Air-Game, basically a GameDev Mod whose only purpose is to push the Air Game as a concept onwards.

The Units:

Stationary:
- One Unit Factory.
- Two Defense Turrets - one with precise large Damage in small Area. One with imprecise small Damage in large Area.

Mobile:

- Fast (Light Armoured / One Directional Mobility)
- Medium (Medium Amoured / Dual Directional Mobility)
- Slow (Highly Amoured / Multi Directional Mobile)
- Stationary ( Non Amoured / Non-Mobile)

All three Unit Types come in two Variations- one is a Distributed Drone Swarm- the other one fused together "Heroe" Unit.
Drones can change theire Nature by going through the Stationary Stage for the Transformation.

Drones ways suicide attack.

Controlls:

Each Speed Category has a separate Set of Controls.

High Speed Units: Have pre drawn Spline Paths, who continue to exist even after a Unit ceased to be.
Medium Speed: Close to the traditional Air-Tank Controls.
Slow Speed: Something similar to the homeworld approach, allowing for Greater Arcs.

Anyone any additional ideas?
Last edited by PicassoCT on 04 Nov 2018, 22:51, edited 1 time in total.
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raaar
Metal Factions Developer
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by raaar » 02 Sep 2018, 23:35

The current lack of control on many of the games is partly a design decision from the game devs. They could have chosen to make the aircraft more maneuverable but more expensive (less spammable). On my game i've tried to do that and it kind of works. On ZK they're also more maneuverable.

Some key parameters for strafing aircraft behavior:
- weapon range
- flight altitude
- max velocity, acceleration
- effective turn radius and turn time
- use smooth mesh or not
- when diving, how close do they get to their targets before turning away

what should these be, then?
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MasterBel2
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by MasterBel2 » 03 Sep 2018, 05:10

I just had this random idea of a "cruise"/"engage" toggle where cruising raises the altitude and speed of the aircraft, lowering the accuracy of the missiles/bullets?

One of the characteristics of air is that most can't shoot backwards. Or can, but is kind of weird when it does (unless it's something like BA's Krow?)

It would be interesting seeing what kind of first-person game could be created with aircraft, also, and what could be learned (both about games and the engine) from that?
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Forboding Angel
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by Forboding Angel » 03 Sep 2018, 05:42

The biggest problem with air in spring is the fact that spring mimics physics and ballistics. As a result, having a "to the number" style damage model is nearly impossible because the cruise altitude gets added to the distance. I originally thought I could bypass this by using cylinder targeting combined with the tag that allows for nearly infinite vertical range. Unfortunately, that tag only applies to beamlasers.

What this means is that, for the most part, you will always be stuck with a game model where you have to have dedicated anti-air. Having a starcraft 2 style model of range is range and if aircraft are in range, they get hit is impossible.

On top of this, most gamedevs probably don't realize that spring gives all units 50% extra air los, so if your unit's los range is 500, in the air it's los range is actually 750. This can cause a lot of issues if you are trying to have a gameplay model where all units can fire at air. It can also cause some havoc on balancing.

Spring still has a lot of hardcoded *isms values that can causes these little subtle effects that, when added together, cause serious issues wrt balancing.
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FLOZi
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by FLOZi » 03 Sep 2018, 19:09

Forboding Angel wrote:
03 Sep 2018, 05:42
On top of this, most gamedevs probably don't realize that spring gives all units 50% extra air los, so if your unit's los range is 500, in the air it's los range is actually 750. This can cause a lot of issues if you are trying to have a gameplay model where all units can fire at air. It can also cause some havoc on balancing.

Spring still has a lot of hardcoded *isms values that can causes these little subtle effects that, when added together, cause serious issues wrt balancing.
Spring defaults to 1.5x LOS for Air-LOS, but doesn't force it. So not really a hardcoded *ism, imo. ( https://springrts.com/wiki/Gamedev:UnitDefs#Sensors )
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Forboding Angel
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by Forboding Angel » 03 Sep 2018, 22:38

Hardcoded in the sense that it is a bad default that overrides expected behavior. Not hardcoded in the sense that it can't be changed. Poor wording on my part.
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sprunk
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by sprunk » 04 Sep 2018, 21:29

Forboding Angel wrote:
03 Sep 2018, 05:42
cylinder targeting combined with the tag that allows for nearly infinite vertical range. Unfortunately, that tag only applies to beamlasers
I believe the tag does apply to everything except burnblow weapons.
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Forboding Angel
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by Forboding Angel » 05 Sep 2018, 02:46

And then you run into the problem that lasercannons don't impact the target. This issue has nothing to do with burnblow (I wish it were that simple).
https://youtu.be/t9Mat1MVDgA
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PicassoCT
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by PicassoCT » 07 Sep 2018, 06:58

So lasers won't hit, but I can make eternally living homing rockets to work around that.

I'm more focused on the control scheme though. I want to improve upon the TA/SupCom advances like Zero-KS Formation did for ground units.
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Google_Frog
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by Google_Frog » 01 Nov 2018, 16:28

I agree with the four problems highlighted in the OP. I would add the distinction that fighters suffer the most, followed by bombers, and that gunships can be designed to avoid many of the issues if you're careful. Air poses design issues that transcend technical issues, such as cylindrical LaserCannons.

My approach has been to look at the decisions that may be available to a player, then to make the mechanics or UI such that there are decisions that are feasible to implement. This is difficult with fighters because it is very difficult to click on anything which is both fast and in the air. The solution I have is a special ability which grants a fighter a massive burst of speed and acceleration. The ability requires no target, so all the player has to do is select their fighter swarm and press the hotkey. This opens up choices such as a real ability to disengage, or the ability to dive important targets. If we want players to make tactical decisions in air battles I fear we may have to resort to target-less abilities. It would be great to make players able to pick targets, but it seems unfeasible for the speed and size of planes that many games tend to use.
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raaar
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by raaar » 01 Nov 2018, 17:25

lasers not being able to hit what should be in range is a stinking bug that should be fixed, is it mantised?
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PicassoCT
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Re: A Better Air Game

Post by PicassoCT » 02 Nov 2018, 12:39

Sorry raar but Bugs are not the topic as far as I see it. The problem is actually generated by something working very well.. the physics engine simulating jets and projectiles.


We gamedesigner simply haven't caught up ui-wise with what the engine is capable of.
gf solution is basically using this design space as a special ability to escape or have a sort of attack jump.
I hope I got that right.

The solutions are usually adaption to the slowness of the human user, by reducing speed- creating what is basically a water game in a second plane above the ground.
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