maneuvering for a shot

Combat in TorchShips will feel a lot different than the usual space combat simulation.There will be very few ‘turn and burn’ furballs during combat and most engagements will take place at very long ranges.

Two factors in the TorchShip universe definitely affect tactics. Combat is rarely to the death, especially early in the game, your goals are to drive off or cripple opposing ships, not destroy them. Secondly – AI and combat software is not very capable (in fact due to Earth’s Silence and subsequent AI backlash most human governments and religions ban even sub-sentient AIs and any type of sophisticated software). There are no autonomous drones that can fight without guidance – all combat takes place between human crewed spacecraft.

Combat is almost always triggered by Faster-Than-Light entry into a masspoint – a planet, a comet, or a group of asteroids. Your ship will enter realspace with a small residual velocity (about 5 km/sec) and positioned at the FTL mass limit of the body (about 3,000 km for a earth sized mass).

system entry

Phase 1 – Initial entry and meeting engagement

Initially you will need to find and identify your target (or targets) . Hostile ships can be hiding among neutral or civilian shipping and stations or masked by the planet or other bodies in orbit. Enemy ships can deliberately accelerate more slowly than they are actually capable of or reduce the output energy of sensors, beam weapons, or reaction engine exhaust (‘sandbagging’). They can confuse you and make you hesitate to shoot, but they can’t hide from you – remember there is no stealth in space! (point of huge debate but I think atomic rockets proves this unequivocally)

laser cannon shot

Phase 2 – Maneuvering for position and beam fire

At long ranges you will maneuver to stay ‘up-orbit’ of your target (so that you’re firing down the gravity well and getting the small benefit of the planet’s gravity) and using local terrain and neutral shipping and stations to mask your ship if that is possible.

If your opponent’s path is predictable you can attempt to seed the space ahead of them with time delayed missiles or kinetic rounds.

You can snipe with long range laser cannon fire, you have an unlimited number of shots, but the cannon does use energy and generates a lot of waste heat that will have to be dealt with.

When not maneuvering keep your fore or aft shield orientated toward any hostile ship firing beam weapons at you. If you take damage rotate your ship to minimize burn through.

missiles inbound

Phase 3 – Missile launch

As you enter missile range you have multiple options – you can fire at extreme range – or close and attempt to overwhelm your target’s point defense. Missiles can be timed to launch in a cluster, or used like mines and timed to drift in to the path of your target if positioned correctly. You can run out of missiles, but they have very low heat and energy costs to fire.

Phase 4 – Short range duel, railguns and reaction drive

Though rare – combat at shorter ranges can use the railgun (kinetic lance) to hammer your opponent. Even your reaction drive can be used as a weapon at extremely close ranges (<20 km).

If you are in combat around a neutral planet or defending your own system you must be very careful of the long term vectors of any ordinance you fire. It is all well and good to fire dozens of missiles and hundreds of kinetic rounds at a your target, but some will miss and some of those if not aimed and launched carefully could impact the planet or neutral/civilian shipping and stations and cause horrific damage and casualties.

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12 Responses to Combat

  1. one addition to this – one of the screenshots shows laser fire in space – it is true that unless a beam is fired through debris or dust it wouldn’t be visible – though I would still like to show in the UI that you have fired – still working through this issue…

  2. David Perry says:

    Sounds awesome! I think UI-augmented laser lines are perfectly permissible 🙂

    • David Perry says:

      The concept of preventing collateral planetary/orbital damage is interesting. I imagine certain volumes/vectors being blocked out by the UI as no-fire zones – I wonder how this could be visualized. This would definitely add some gameplay variety.

  3. Bibi says:

    Actually, faster than light travel introduces a level of stealth in space, and I don’t recall reading anything about faster than light sensors. With light speed lag, you’ll be able to see everything before your arrival, by however many light-seconds something is away from you. For the same factor after arrival, no one will see you.

    Ship A arrives, and sees ship B, 1 light-hour away-ago. Assuming neither are moving relative to each other, B will see A’s arrival 1 hour after A’s arrival. That gives A, 1 hour to formulate a plan, and maneuver based on B’s actions while unaware. That’s assuming some very big maps, maybe for high end gameplay.

    Big questions: Will Torchship have lightspeed lag? Time dilation? Visible alteration of the universe the closer you approuch the speed of light?

    @ John Gillespie: Visible vectors, and more than one ship being visible at once, beyond a 100 km, isn’t realistic either. “Obviously” the laser is a computer simulacrum.

    I once made a mod eliminating visible lasers from a game; what a waste of time. They’re a must have, no matter the explanation.

    • TorchShips will have lightspeed lag. Delta-Vs are low enough that time dilation and visible alteration of the universe as you near ‘c’ will not really be a factor (drives are very energetic and can accelerate your ship at 5Gs but only for hours, not weeks and months).

      I’m keeping FTL as a simple scenario linking mechanism – but will incorporate sensor lag so if Ship A arrives from FTL, it can see Ship B immediately – Ship B can’t see Ship A until the arrival wavefront reaches it. Though it will be seconds of lag instead of hours, based on the engagement ranges. Also FTL exit is at fixed low velocity, this keeps an opponent from boosting up a projectile to .99c over months then FTL jumping it to a planet and destroying it before defenses can react.

      • Bibi says:

        Why have any starting velocity? If some is lost, why not lose all of it?

        I wondered about lag and dilation, because there is a series of books, The Lost Fleet, which revolves around jump point faster than light ships, confined by light speed sensors and comm. Your game reminds me of it strongly, and I think there is a good chance for a mod in this, or inspiration for a super advanced fleet. The Lost Fleet ships have engines and power supplies capable of getting a ship up to .2c, and back down to 0 within the space of a few hours, and can do it roughly ten times or more.

        What’s really interesting about the setting is how the admiral of the book controls the fleet in a completely coordinated manner, pulling off complex formations, despite light lag. The entire fleet has a relativity compensated clock system, and the admiral calls out orders to be performed at XX:XX on the clock, so everyone can get into the formation at the same time. Will there be fleet mechanics?

        Also of interest might be how they declare starboard to be any turn toward the main star, and port to be away. With the fuel load and acceleration they have they don’t bother with orbital mechanics, just maneuver orders. They also have kinetic guns accurate enough to hit planetary targets clear across a system; though, combat ranges are much shorter and pass in a fraction of a second.

    • Albert says:

      “I once made a mod eliminating visible lasers from a game; what a waste of time. They’re a must have, no matter the explanation.”

      you can also have a slightly less pulpy effect by making them look like the images you find at Atomic Rockets–Laser_Cannon

      to be precise this image

      And this is the detail

      but laser “beams” and trajectories and other stuff can be made to look more like navigation aids than soft sci-fi crap, like they did in Homeworld series of PC games.

  4. Albert says:

    “It is all well and good to fire dozens of missiles and hundreds of kinetic rounds at a your target, but some will miss and some of those if not aimed and launched carefully could impact the planet or neutral/civilian shipping”

    Ok for damaging civilian shipping and stations (I’d friggin love to see a burning o’neill habitat), but I’d like to point out that there is nothing you can realistically do to a planet with an amosphere to speak of without using weapons specifically designed to deal damage to it.
    Nukes burn in reentry unless you wasted the mass to give them a heat shield (which is not necessary for a ship-to-ship wepaon), kinetics burn/explode when impacting the atmosphere.

  5. Tim Keyes says:

    When ships maneuver around a planet or other body, I assume we’ll lose the ability to see and track them? Will there be satellites or some other sensor platform that can be launched to scout around the planet and give us a full view around it (assuming they don’t get shot down) so players can try and set traps with missiles,etc as ships come around to engage?

    • right now if a ship maneuvers around a planet or other body and you lose line of sight you will lose the ability to track them – launching small sensor platforms to increase the baseline and work around that is an interesting idea – I’ll take a look…

    • Bibi says:

      That’s a fantastic idea. I remember reading about a satellite which is roughly a six inch cube. A whole bunch of disposable ones could be carried and sequentially launched to daisy chain them around celestial bodies.

  6. Pingback: Torchships Q&A: Detailed Procedurally Generated Combat-Based Chaos | Space Game Junkie

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