Orbital units - 2 directions

Discussion in 'Planetary Annihilation General Discussion' started by neutrino, August 28, 2013.

  1. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    So there has been a lot of discussion about orbital units lately. The main difference between the approaches that have been considered are "fake orbital" that lives on a geosync shell or "real orbital" that actually follows orbital mechanics.

    Fake Orbital means units are launched onto the shell and do not move unless you tell them to, they simply "hover" but aren't forced to move to stay in orbit. These kinds of orbits are unrealistic (technically they aren't orbiting).

    Some up sides of fake:
    - you can control areas of the shell by deploying on-orbit defenses like missile launchers. This way you can have time to build things on orbit using orbital construction units and keep sats away from your base.
    - you can tell orbital units to patrol, move etc. just like regular units. So if you want a satellite to move around simply put it on patrol. No custom interface needed that different that all of the other units. The current idea is that all orbital units can move although some may be very very slow.
    - the control scheme is completely the same as all other units in the game with the exception of being able to select a movement point on the orbital shell (not implemented yet btw which is why you are stuck clicking on the ground)
    - it's easy to congregate units. For example if you wanted 10 orbital fabs to help build the giant orbital laser weapon you can simply order them to do so and they will clearly move to that location in an understandable way. Doing things like landing a bunch of landers in the same place is easy and directly understandable as well.

    some down sides:
    - it's not "real" orbital mechanics (which we support for the planets themselves btw)
    - ???? give me more


    Real Orbital means units use actual orbital mechanics which means they constantly move and their height is based on their speed.

    some up sides:
    - it's more realistic

    some down sides:
    - completely new control scheme as they never stop moving which implies high implementation cost - how do we chain orders together for this?
    - Getting units close to each other could requires multiple orbits of maneuvering and could potentially take a long time - what does the interface look like to do this? Some have suggested direct control of orbital tracks but that won't give you two units close to each other.
    - difficult to maneuver the units over the place on the planet you want for attacking in a timely manner and you may also need to cross a lot of the territory on the planet to do it.
    - ground interaction would have to be severely hampered otherwise your satellites would constantly get shot down as they went over the enemy base.

    I wanted to move this discussion to a new clear thread that was simply about the two approaches. As we discuss it I'll try to flesh out more detail on what we're doing and hopefully some of you can counter point with ideas on the "real" orbital side.

    When discussing it with Scathis and talking about the pros and cons it was really a no brainer decision to go more the fake orbital route. Especially when we are doing more interesting orbital stuff with the planets themselves. The amount of game design risk going with real orbital seems quite frankly to be very large. Most of the issues with fake orbital are easy to overcome and work within current game system design.

    I also feel like a lot of people think orbital won't be differentiated from air enough. Personally I think there are a lot of things we can do to make them different. Things like movement rates, acceleration, how they interact with ground weapons, cost etc.

    Thoughts? Let's open this can of worms.
  2. schuesseled192

    schuesseled192 Active Member

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    This is something a few of us discussed, i think allowing satellites to have a high top speed but really lousy acceleration would drastically alter the way they work when compared to air units, and it would also be more realistic than it is now, without having to use real orbital mechanics, which frankly a large portion of your customers are not going to understand to a high degree.

    Edit: Not calling us "stupid" (yes im counting myself amongst them), but orbital mechanics is a darn sight more complicated than the click to move system we've all grown accustomed to through RTS games.
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  3. cwarner7264

    cwarner7264 Moderator Alumni

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    It's really good to see this appear. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this with us.

    I'll write up a full response in due course, but for now:
    The biggest issue I have with 'fake' orbital is that it can be difficult to separate the three different layers - ground / air / orbital. Displaying a third layer as icons or as units can make things very confusing indeed.
  4. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    Yep, I've been having thoughts along those lines as well.
  5. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    I'm extremely confident that part of it can be solved. How does a real orbital layer solve that problem? Showing orbital paths only?
  6. siefer101

    siefer101 Active Member

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    I have no problems with a "fake orbit" system.. especially if it mean better gameplay
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  7. aeonsim

    aeonsim Active Member

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    Oh god this is going to get messy.

    I for one am happy with the first approach it makes sense at numerous levels and offers a form of what should be interesting orbital play with out overwhelming people or creating a massive cognitive drain. Orbital units will do what you want them to in a simple easily understandable manner.

    PA is not a 21st century combat simulator it's a SciFi strategy game that should not be bound by our current real world tech limitations.

    I also think it makes sense strategical & tactically within the game.
    Strategically & tactically geosync orbits offer numerous advantages in a combat game over standard orbits. You really don't want that critical Spy/Radar or Orbital bombardment Sat to be on the other side of the planet from the weak point you wanted it watching over, when the massive enemy attack arrives. In pretty much every possible situation the geosync provides significant advantages over the alternatives to the commander. And if you can think of a reason why a standard orbit would be better you can use patrol to create one.

    Secondly the cognitive burden is lower you do not need to learn an additional interface & or special controls or unit behaviors to work with the orbitals.

    As such seeing geosync orbits are more useful and standard orbits can be created with little difficulty I see no reason why developer resources should be wasted to develop a full orbital mechanics simulation pseudo-geosync is close enough. As if a full orbital mechanic was created I believe most people would choose to use geo-sync orbits where ever possible as soon as they realised the implications.

    The key is to make the Orbital layer feel unique, useful & fun to play.

    One possible option that might not add to much work but give the orbital "fanatics ;)" part of what they want would be a modified Patrol command that creates a loop around the planet at the chosen location (and orientation). It would save people having to scroll all around the planet to set up the orbit (and would be useful in the air and ground layers as well).

    Edited to clarify slightly and because the fanatics was probably going to be taken literally not quite as I intended it to be.
    Last edited: August 28, 2013
  8. sechastain

    sechastain Member

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    I think show and working with orbital paths is the way to go.

    I know it will be slightly different (and simpler) when we launch fabricators to other planets and asteroids - and asteroids at planets - but my gut says there has to be a way of keeping it simple, even if it's a faux-orbital, but still with an orbital feel.

    Also, I really don't want to see orbital get cluttered. If we start seeing more than 20 units on the orbital layer in games, I feel like the balance is all wrong. It's just Air 2.0.
  9. cyprusblue

    cyprusblue New Member

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    Well, right now it completely breaks suspension of disbelief for me where nothing else really does, and it does it in such a science fail way as to really bother me and detracts from the game itself. It would be better that the units didn't even exist at all than what the current system operates as as far as enjoyment from my perspective, and that feels like a real problem to me.

    Right now it doesn't even feel like air, it feels like a really bad naval warfare sim on a water planet, and everything you see is the ocean floor, while the actual "surface" is invisible that the so called satellites currently float on. The units move slow anywhere, and there is nothing that feels like it is even flight based, just really slow navy. Things move in completely unrealistic ways, like hovering over the poles, etc. It feels really "wrong" to me, I don't really know how else to say it. If the objects looked like things that could hover like that and ignore gravity, then yes, it could feel like a high altitude air of some kind, but right now, they're called orbitals, they look like satellites, and yet they act in such a way that makes me feel like yelling at the screen. It reminds me of watching Sharknado, it really is that bad to me personally from a feel perspective.

    My feeling on the matter is it might be better to drop them altogether if having a real satellite like interface is a problem, as its really jarring compared to everything else in the game, and the options talked about thus far to make them seem more different make the situation even worse, not better.


    Maybe make them look like blimps or something? I mean anything to make it believable that that object that I'm looking at could move like it does, because right now frankly it looks like a "bullshitium anti-gravity reversed poloron whatsit" powers it from the worst depths of Star Trek Voyager techno-babble handwaving. It's like the scifi equivalent of Evil Dead's graphics in a world of otherwise completely reasonable movement to objects. Yes I know there are issues with how the planes move in this game compared to reality, but it *looks* and *feels* real enough, which the current implementation of orbitals completely does not.
  10. SXX

    SXX Post Master General

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    I'm not usually talk about gameplay stuff like this because I'm think you should have more freedom in dev process, but currently I'm agree with cwarner7264.

    I'm think if we have "real" orbiting layer it's can be supportive-only. E.g it's can give you some recon information or extra tactical possibilities like cheaper/faster way for expansion on other planets/asteroids.
  11. sechastain

    sechastain Member

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    I think this is actually a very reasonable compromise.

    My only tweak would be that satellites on patrol move incredibly fast. Geo-positioned sats move incredibly slow. It should be a launch-based setting, I guess.
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  12. paulzeke

    paulzeke Member

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    I agree that faked orbital mechanics make more sense for the game, and that high top speed with low acceleration will do much to make it feel more like a satellite slowly gaining speed from it's booster.

    for the purposes of introducing some more "realistic" feel to the orbital layer, why not limit the range of the orbital shell which can be treated as "geosynchronous" to be only the area around the equator. This means if you want something to just sit there in orbit, you can do that, so long as it's near the equator. This is accurate(ish) to real geosynchronous orbit

    [​IMG]

    so with the band of say, 40 degrees to the north and south of the equator treated as an area where you can be stationary or moving, that leaves everything above the 40 degree north, and below the 40 degree south, as areas where an orbital unit can MOVE THROUGH, but cannot STOP.

    This will probably require some new UI. I'm imagining being able to click a unit and then whenIi mouse into this no-stop area, instead of getting a normal "go to here" mouse icon, I instead see an arrowed line indicating the direction that the orbital unit will continue to fly if I click there. The line could keep going past the designated point and would turn red if it enters the range of enemy fire, which would help avoid sending orbital units to their doom.



    side note - when an orbital unit is destroyed, i hope it falls from the sky in a ball of fire and leaves a nice little crater. Not just a texture stamp,
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  13. exterminans

    exterminans Post Master General

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    And let the non-fanatics turn that of, giving them the ability to place a satellite into any geostationary orbit they like?
    (Btw.: Geosynchronous isn't that easy any more, geostationary orbits are the only orbit where satellites will actually remain in "one position" relative to the planets surface. Thats yet another disadvantage of real orbital mechanics, the equator is the only zone were satellites are actually usable without any limitations.)
  14. KNight

    KNight Post Master General

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    The problem I have with this line of thought is that we'll never get to that stage where we can't have any kind of 'true' orbital mechanics because there isn't an applicable way for players to learn them because we don't have them because......you see the loop? At some point someone is going to step up and say "Learn this new thing" and I really think long term it will be in Uber's favor if they are the ones to do it.

    In the end a lot of the details we don't know on our make makes it hard to say with any certainty either way.

    I think it ends up being a shade of gray, with a bit of both.

    It sounds like you want some kinda of 'in-orbit' building method for things, and for things like that I could prolly stomach the 'fake orbital' system, they'd essentially be the 'Gunships' counterpart to the 'Planes'(units with 'Orbital' movement) but up above the atmosphere and can for for other units as well like more defensive units. On the other hand you have things like recon satellites or other 'indirect type role' units 'orbital movement' may be a better fit.

    I think the biggest problem is that many assume that when it comes to realistic orbits many assume(even yourself a bit Neutrino) that what is wanted is something that is accurate when that is not really the case. It is wanted to be accurate in the same way that the way movement for Air units and boats are 'accurate'. I think many will accept a simple system that makes assumptions and bends the rules a bit so long as at it's core it is representative of the fundamentals.

    I hope YourLocalMadScientist can find the time to have a go at a second pass of his proposal because I think in there there is a system that is simplified while still maintaining the fundamentals of Orbital movement.

    Mike
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  15. BulletMagnet

    BulletMagnet Post Master General

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    Downsides of 'fake'
    • A second layer of air. Air 2.0 as people have been labelling it.
    Upside of 'real'
    • An entirely different way of controlling units.
    How do you chain orders for buildings together? If we stop assuming that satellite/orbital units are units just like land, sea, and air, then the problems of interfacing, and maneuvering them are much less of an issue.


    Just on a personal note, Orbital was the stretch goal that I was most concerned about. Mainly because I didn't want space-battles (or to turn into that). And I'm pretty opposed to treating Air like Land - having hoards of units and having them all but heads. Ideally, both Air and Orbital would be very utilitarian and supporty. You won't get much complaint from me if Orbital units were limited to { spy-sat, solar-panels, gun-platform }.

    [EDIT:] If it wasn't clear, what Neutrino listed as downsides for 'real' I actually consider to be upsides.
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  16. cyprusblue

    cyprusblue New Member

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    Yeah, thinking about it more, high altitude balloons or blimps would be completely fine. They operate with boyancy / lift, and make perfect sense.

    The problem for me is a freefall object should act like it is in freefall, and anything other than that is very very jarring.
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  17. exterminans

    exterminans Post Master General

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    Because this would (just as you noticed) limit the use of satellites onto to equatorial regions, rendering the pole caps suddenly somewhat more attractive, for the sole reason of reducing enemy satellite efficiency. This is also likely to cause frustration, if a player suddenly can't control his satellite properly because the enemy chose such a safe location.
  18. schuesseled192

    schuesseled192 Active Member

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    If they do the High Top Speed, Slow Acceleration approach, this would be achieved anyway.
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  19. neutrino

    neutrino low mass particle Uber Employee

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    Wow, we are just thinking about this on totally different levels. 20 units? If that was the case I would nuke orbital from orbit.
  20. sechastain

    sechastain Member

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    If you can do that at will, then the balance is wrong.

    Satellites should be difficult to see or hard to intercept or both - and at the same time give you incredible intel and offensive leverage.

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