Author Topic: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas  (Read 20618 times)

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Offline General Battuta

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Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Hey guys! Things have been quiet lately. The Voice Acting Deathmarch ate up one of the sprints we usually use to push an act towards completion, so Act 4 is a still a while out. Act 1 and 2 voice acting only needs a few more hours of work, but I don't know when it'll happen.

I thought we could share some of our internal (spoiler-free) design documents. This is a brief written to identify and solve challenges in Making Bombers Fun. Feel free to crib the mechanics for your own mod!

Quote
For Act 4 we face the challenging task of making the Durga, Vajradhara, and Lapith (plus the Izra) all distinct, interesting, and fun. We face a few key challenges:

  • Waiting for aspect lock while getting beaten around by flak is boring and frustrating.
  • Afterburning to point blank to fire your bombs is dangerous and familiar. This is especially a big problem because the UEF bombers only get a few torpedoes, so all their eggs are in very few baskets.
  • Getting killed by your own bomb shockwaves sucks.
  • Our combat environment is fast and lethal. Bombers are slow. Their shields and HP are not adequate defenses - it just means you spend a few more seconds with you screen flashing red before you die.

To address these problems, to maybe create the first bombing experience in a FreeSpace campaign that's actually fun, here's what I've been thinking. Our fluff has always painted UEF bombers as supremely badass. Let's work with that.

Here are the core design principles I'm following: every bomber should have a core offensive experience and a defensive 'oh ****' button that the player can push to escape tough situations and feel resilient.

Lastly, all bombers should have quality-of-life upgrades to avoid frustrating player experience.

The Durga

The Durga is the UEF's rabid dog. The Vajradhara is a slugger that will make a fleet fight miserable, but the Durga is the ship that will kill your destroyers if you slip them out of position or try to (say) jump your whole fleet above Earth. To live up to this role, it needs to get in fast and strike with overwhelming power.

The Durga's offensive capabilities are provided by the Redeemer, gun banks, and its payload of torpedoes. This is fine. It's fun as hell to shoot things with Redeemers. I'd like to propose only a couple changes here:

The Redeemer should be able to damage shields. It's just too much fun to swat down enemy fighters with it. I think the core experience of the Durga is firing loads of Redeemers.

We should consider permitting the UEF torpedoes - Warhammer, Jackhammer, and Sledgehammer - to lock on much more quickly. We should also consider giving them defensive capabilities. I'm gonna give this its own section later on, but it's definitely applicable to the Durga, because waiting for aspect lock when you could be shooting Redeemers is lame, and the Durga pilot should never be forced to fly in a straight line waiting for lockon.

The Durga's defensive capabilities should be based, paradoxically, on aggression. In order to avoid overlapping with the Lapith, I'd suggest we treat the Lapith as a dive bomber and the Durga as a strike bomber. The Lapith has more sustainable speed and tactical range - it's constantly quick and agile. The Durga, however, can make itself really really mean - tough enough to suppress enemy defenses and press the attack.

So, here's what I'd push:

  • The Durga should have a defensive burst capability. This should be the pilot's tool for surviving inside an enemy warship's defensive envelope. I'd suggest a limited set of non-renewable charges. Each one could provide a few seconds of massive gun, shield, and afterburner regen. This allows the pilot to survive, move, and attack.
  • The Durga should absolutely spray countermeasures. We can SEXP or LUA this. It should pop flares in multiple directions every time the pilot launches a countermeasure.
  • The Durga should be a natural fit for self-repair systems and ammo packs.
  • The Durga should have an intrinsic resistance to shockwave damage.

The Vajradhara

The Vajradhara should be a pocket warship, the kind of weapons system that enters a fleet fight with the intent to maul cruisers. If the Deimos is the GTVA's T-80, then the Vajradhara should be the A-10: a weapons system wholly intended to shatter large numbers of enemy warships in the face of fierce resistance.

The Vajradhara's got the Vajra gun. In order to differentiate it from the  Redeemer, which is a fairly long-ranged high-alpha weapon, the Vajra should be designed to get in close to a warship and just tear it up. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the Causal Ocean there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. The rest of the Vajradhara's offensive gameplay should be built around feeling like a flying fortress. It should have powerful turrets, effective torpedoes, and gun pods.

The Vajradhara's defensive capabilities are a problem. It's slow. This means that if it gets into a trouble spot - tailed by multiple fighters, or, worse, inside overlapping flak envelopes - it's screwed. Players hate feeling helpless.

  • The Vajradhara should have massive, customizable defensive assets: hardened shields that take reduced flak damage, for instance, and optional secondary-mount jammer pods that provide beam-protect.
  • The Vajradhara should be intrinsically resistant to shockwaves. It should, perhaps, have intrinsic self-repair. Like the Durga, it should spray countermeasures everywhere.
  • The Vajradhara's turrets should be gnarly, perhaps tied to gun energy level, and as a secondary option the player should be able to upgrade them further - perhaps upgunning them from Rapiers to Sidhes.
  • The Vajradhara's oh-**** button should be the ability to disable all weapons to enter a turtle mode in which guns and shields regenerate rapidly.
  • The Vajradhara should be able to mount gun pods in its secondary banks. These could fire Gattlers or maybe even Redeemers.
  • As a spectacular defensive option, maybe we should let the Vajradhara death-blossom Slammers or a similar close-defense munition in multiple directions.

UEF Torpedoes

I'm going to leave the Lapith aside for now, since I think its role is probably clearer and easier to design.

The Jackhammer and Sledgehammer are not effective weapons right now. You get very few of them, and while they do a ton of damage, they're huge, slow, and easy to intercept. We need to sex them up. I have a few suggestions:

Extremely rapid lock time. Waiting for aspect lock sucks. Just let them snap to target. This wouldn't affect the AI, since it doesn't wait for aspect lock.

Defensive options. We could give both warhead types some hit points. Could we create decoys - the warhead bus opening to deploy the main munition and several decoys that'd race ahead? The warheads should also be speedy, though perhaps not too speedy.

Excellent seekers. They shouldn't be much bothered by GTVA capship flares, which are counters to Apocalypse spam and smaller anti-turret weapons.

UPDATE: The Sledgehammer has given birth to the Revelation, a standoff anti-destroyer weapon which attacks behind a huge screen of decoys! As a tradeoff, it can't target subsystems. The Jackhammer is experimenting with becoming the Jackhammer IIEC, with enhanced survivability and a couple decoys.

This is a relatively old brief, so a lot of it has changed during gameplay testing and iteration. But it's a cool example of the kind of work we're doing to make a traditionally pretty ****ty part of FreeSpace gameplay more fun.

 
Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Thank you so very much. As an avid UEF supporter, I could only reassure myself that the GTVA could be beaten by our bombers. The UEF (Storywise at least) relies heavily on the Durga, but it really is a more effective Ursa. Big and deadly, but so slow they get destroyed by the weakest fighter. These changes should make the UEF bombers what they deserve to be, highly advanced, survivable capship killers that can reach the target and smash it with a large array of weapons. Apart from how nice it is to have UEF bombers actually do well in a story sense, most bomber missions are super boring and uninteractive. Usually designers have to skew the fighter combat so far in the favor of the player that there is nothing to do in the bomber, just charge the capship and fire some bombs. These modules you talked about should really let the player defend themselves from enemy fighters in fun interesting ways, while also giving the bombers a way to survive in a capship's AA pockets and do damage. I look forward to seeing these superbombers in action.

EDIT: After rereading the list, I (somehow) missed Vajs spamming automatic multidirectional slammers. The awesomeness level just went way way up
« Last Edit: June 18, 2015, 03:27:20 pm by Aslandor11 »

 
Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas

Extremely rapid lock time. Waiting for aspect lock sucks. Just let them snap to target. This wouldn't affect the AI, since it doesn't wait for aspect lock.

Defensive options. We could give both warhead types some hit points. Could we create decoys - the warhead bus opening to deploy the main munition and several decoys that'd race ahead? The warheads should also be speedy, though perhaps not too speedy.

Excellent seekers. They shouldn't be much bothered by GTVA capship flares, which are counters to Apocalypse spam and smaller anti-turret weapons.

UPDATE: The Sledgehammer has given birth to the Revelation, a standoff anti-destroyer weapon which attacks behind a huge screen of decoys! As a tradeoff, it can't target subsystems. The Jackhammer is experimenting with becoming the Jackhammer IIEC, with enhanced survivability and a couple decoys.

I haven't played around enough with the UEF anti-cap ship primaries, so I can't speak as to their effectiveness. However, in a universe where (the GTVA at least) can send in a Maxim strike with Aurora bombers, the actual warheads have never been a particularly effective tool. I've often thought that fighter based anti-capital secondaries should have seeking and speed characteristics more similar to a Stiletto. Granted that capital ships have much better ECM than fighters, but they rarely move quickly enough that even dumb-fired weapons of moderate speed would miss. Long lock-on times only made it easier to kill the bomber without giving the bomber anything more than a very minor seeking advantage. Perhaps that was necessary for game balance reasons, but I think it is possible to do better, and make it make more sense within the context of the BP canon.
« Last Edit: June 18, 2015, 03:51:53 pm by Rheavatarin »

 

Offline General Battuta

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Long lock times occur when the warhead needs to punch through defensive jamming to create an effective attack profile. It's less about physically hitting the target then about exploding in the right way when you do.

 

Offline Lepanto

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Useful thoughts! About time someone shook up bombing in Freespace!
"We have now reached the point where every goon with a grievance, every bitter bigot, merely has to place the prefix, 'I know this is not politically correct, but...' in front of the usual string of insults in order to be not just safe from criticism, but actually a card, a lad, even a hero. Conversely, to talk about poverty and inequality, to draw attention to the reality that discrimination and injustice are still facts of life, is to commit the sin of political correctness. Anti-PC has become the latest cover for creeps. It is a godsend for every curmudgeon and crank, from fascists to the merely smug."
Finian O'Toole, The Irish Times, 5 May 1994

Blue Planet: The Battle Captains: Missions starring the Admirals of BP: WiH
Frontlines 2334+2335: T-V War campaign
GVB Ammit: Vasudan strike bomber
Player-Controlled Capship Modding Tutorial

 

Offline swashmebuckle

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Someone set up us part 4!!!!

 

Offline niffiwan

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
This sounds pretty cool, but how do you intend to balance the bombers so that they don't become superships and obsolete fighters? Heck, I already have this feeling regarding the Uriel+Slammers...

(also, maybe a minor nitpick, but the AI does wait for lock time, the catch is (IIRC) that it doesn't use the same HUD lock-triangle calculations which reward "staying on target", so the AI can manoeuvre however it likes and still lock in the base weapon lock time)
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
UEF bombers are superships. They're expensive, short-duration, maintenance-hungry beasts designed to kill everything, once. They use the Federation's technological and economic advantages to the fullest.

But if the Federation (or, even, the Alliance) were to somehow liquidate all the resources put into making, say, Uhlans, and turn those resources into the equivalent strategic cost in Durgas + support infastructure, they would probably lose effectiveness on net, not gain it.

 

Offline niffiwan

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Ah, of course, I keep forgetting the offscreen (for Freespace) costs of the UEF ships. I wonder how many spaceframes & techcrew they need to keep a single bomber in combat.

Still, just show how much of a TEV supporter I am; the WC Excalibur never provoked this sort of reaction from me  :lol:
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
You'll get to see next-step Alliance bomber doctrine a lot in act 4 too. They're moving suicide bomb truck duty over to drones using new long-range/high-speed munitions, commissioning their own superbombers, and doubling down on SSMs.

 

Offline Lepanto

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
STOP MAKING US SO HYPE FOR ACT 4 UNLESS YOU'RE READY TO RELEASE IT. :hopping: THAT'S AN ORDER, BY THE AUTHORITY OF ME.
"We have now reached the point where every goon with a grievance, every bitter bigot, merely has to place the prefix, 'I know this is not politically correct, but...' in front of the usual string of insults in order to be not just safe from criticism, but actually a card, a lad, even a hero. Conversely, to talk about poverty and inequality, to draw attention to the reality that discrimination and injustice are still facts of life, is to commit the sin of political correctness. Anti-PC has become the latest cover for creeps. It is a godsend for every curmudgeon and crank, from fascists to the merely smug."
Finian O'Toole, The Irish Times, 5 May 1994

Blue Planet: The Battle Captains: Missions starring the Admirals of BP: WiH
Frontlines 2334+2335: T-V War campaign
GVB Ammit: Vasudan strike bomber
Player-Controlled Capship Modding Tutorial

 

Offline CT27

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
You'll get to see next-step Alliance bomber doctrine a lot in act 4 too.  commissioning their own superbombers

I thought GTVA bomber doctrine was moving away from things like the Ursa and Boanerges?

 
Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
The UEF's ultimate plan isn't to beat back Steele with bombers. It's project Shambala.

What does that entail? SSM relativistic Fenris strikes.

Where's your God now, Steele?

 
Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Quote
The Vajradhara's got the Vajra gun. In order to differentiate it from the  Redeemer, which is a fairly long-ranged high-alpha weapon, the Vajra should be designed to get in close to a warship and just tear it up. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the Causal Ocean there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. The rest of the Vajradhara's offensive gameplay should be built around feeling like a flying fortress. It should have powerful turrets, effective torpedoes, and gun pods.

whaa...?
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Offline General Battuta

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
You'll get to see next-step Alliance bomber doctrine a lot in act 4 too.  commissioning their own superbombers

I thought GTVA bomber doctrine was moving away from things like the Ursa and Boanerges?

Yes, because they're terrible. In the modern battlespace they're built to fail. Consider the Ursa!

Jobs: Get close to a target. Shoot lots of bombs at it. Hold off fighters with a turret and heavy shields. Drive away and jump home.
Problems: Slow, so it can't get close. Carries lots of bombs, but they are only useful up close against lightly defended targets. Clumsy, so it can't really hold off fighters. Isn't tough enough to survive long enough to fire all its bombs.

So you need a bomber that is either: fast, expendable, and doesn't require much escort to get close. Or a bomber that is slow, not expendable, can protect itself reasonably well, and doesn't need to get close. How do you achieve the latter?

You can give it a lot of turrets, which creates a zone of protection inside which it's not safe to dogfight. You can give it local SSMs and long-range primaries. You can equip it with defensive systems so it can bug out when threatened.

 

Offline T-Man

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
I am liking the ideas here, particularly the 'Turtle mode' on the Vajradhara and how you're looking to give each their own 'spirit'. Am sympathetic that it'll likely make balancing the thing 100x harder so do respect the BP team for going for it. :yes:

I've always felt many spaceship games tend to be 'the next ship must be bigger and more dakka!' and there's rarely mentions of 'out of game' factors in the design (like logistics or maintenance) or how ships might evolve in ways other than brute strength (like reducing their cost or logistics demands, etc). I have liked in BP and it's canon how you've considered those in many ships and concepts, such as here your mentions of decoy-using torpedoes and the GTA's switching to drone pilots for bombers (am surprised in fact :v-old: didn't explore that idea themselves much).

Nice one, and thanks for the post too to let us know :).
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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
First thought is that these new generation bombers make sense even in the canon. Bomber missions are rare, the objectives are of utmost importance and so the bombers SHOULD be expensive, sophisticated and very effective. Obviously, it fits nicely with UEF's general spacecraft philosophy.
I was a huge fan of Act 3 and the tactical aspect of it's missions and Act 4 sounds very nice. Can't wait, what a tease.  :)

 

Offline crizza

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Why not rework the aspect lock-on completely?
Once the bomber has a lock, as long as he stays in a certain range to it's intended targe, it won't be removed.
So, fire the first salve, circle a little bit, turn towards the target and fire again.
The decoy thingy is a great idea, I actually proposed it for the Hydra :D
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Offline Commander Zane

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
I've never wanted to fly a bomber* as much as I do now.

Slammer death-blossom. What else needs to be said?

*Other than an Athena. But who uses that as a bomber anyway?
« Last Edit: June 19, 2015, 07:37:56 am by Commander Zane »

 

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Re: Act 4 Preview: Durgas and Vajradharas
Dunno if it would be a solution fit for a bomber, but the UEF seems to have a thing for swarm logic torpedos, why not launch all your ordnance at once, maybe as a multitarget too? =P It would go alongside the logic of get in, do a major hit, get out.
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