Author Topic: Replacing PDCs  (Read 53740 times)

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Offline Steve Walmsley (OP)

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Replacing PDCs
« on: September 18, 2017, 06:05:06 PM »
I posted a comment in the changes discussion thread about removing PDC and enhancing ground forces to compensate. Having given this some thought, it solves a lot of issues in the game that add complexity without really adding a lot in the way of additional game play. PDCs create exceptions for a number of rules, add complexity (in the sense of awkwardness rather than variety) to ground combat and their maintenance-free status can be an exploit. They create a lot of orders and rules around prefabrication and assembly and can't be effectively upgraded.

I've decided to replace them with some additional types of ground forces to improve defences planetary defences and keep all 'ships' in space. This thread is to look at the options for the ground combat enhancements. At the moment I am thinking along the following lines (but I am open to suggestions):

1) A unit with air defence capability that functions as a CIWS for the planet.

2) A unit with similar capability to ship-based energy weapons, designed to fire ground to orbit, rather than ground to ground.

3) Probably adding some basic form of ground unit design rather than having specific unit types. This would include (for example) CIWS techs, ground to orbit techs based on ship-weapons, ground-based attack/defence split into armour and infantry-based techs (based on weapon & armour techs), maybe the bombardment ability of Titans so as an alternative to Titans you could develop different forms of artillery. Concealment tech to make units harder to strike from orbit. 'Garrison' rating separated from defence. 'Movement' tech could be personal armour, tracked vehicles, combat walkers, etc.. A combination of these techs would determine unit cost, size, capability, etc.

4) Troop transport bays and combat drop modules would be for infantry (personal armour) types - a different module would be needed for heavy armour or ground to orbit capable units.

5) The type of planet could affect which units are most effective - specialist units for extreme temperature, or mountainous terrain (based on tectonic rating), or mostly water planets, etc. Terrain would also determine the effectiveness of different movement types.

6) An option to be considered is removing the restriction on energy weapons in atmosphere. Ground units armed with ship-type weapons would become a serious deterrent, especially given they are more dispersed than ships and harder to eliminate. I would need to add rules on destroying installations from orbit, but not sure how much of a problem that is given that most powers want to capture installations rather than destroy them. Energy-armed spacecraft in orbit could be assigned for fire-support missions when assigned to direct support of a HQ unit.

7) Units would not increase in capability with tech and would use the tech at the time of creation. However, units could be converted into a cadre unit (and retain their experience) so they can be used as the basis for a new unit with improved capability.

8) These changes could lead to a paradigm where it is very hard to bombard a well-defended planet from orbit so you (still) have to nuke from a distance and risk environmental and industrial damage, or develop very fast drop pods to get troops to the surface (through defensive fire) to take out the ground-based defences (Hoth).

Comments and suggestions welcome.
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Offline jonw

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2017, 08:25:43 PM »
This sounds really interesting, and I love the RP side of being able to design your own combat units.  Having a water navy for hydrosphere planets, or the Martian Olympus Mountain hardcases would really make them stand out.

If you are thinking of letting planet modifiers affect combat, doesn't this resolve the atmosphere situation? Ground units with ship energy weapons would be very effective on bodies with no atmosphere, degrading as atmosphere thickens.  If you are terraforming a colony and adding atmosphere, you are trading the economic advantage of habitability with losing the powerful defence option.

Offline georgiaboy1966

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2017, 08:37:07 PM »

Been a player since the Beta of SA, 1993?

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Offline georgiaboy1966

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2017, 08:39:43 PM »
Grav vehicles for tanks, troop transports, artillery, AA

Can be inserted from orbit but transposrts must land to remove from planet.

ie like the old FASA game

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Offline Bremen

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2017, 09:44:02 PM »
I'd say there's really two aspects of this idea. The first is removing PDCs and giving some ground units planet to space weapons, and the second would be changing ground units to use custom designs. Either can really be done without the other, though obviously it would make for less work to do them both at once.

I posted my thoughts about the first change in the thread, but the short of it is I really like the idea but think it would be cool if instead of making all weapons penetrate atmospheres better, different kinds interacted with atmosphere differently. Mesons should continue to work as they do, obviously, but I think it would be interesting if large railguns had much better bombardment capability than lasers; gives them something to be excel at (well, besides 10cm railguns as anti-missile flak). High power microwaves, plasma carronades, and gauss should probably be useless through any thick atmosphere, and I have no clue about particle beams (cause radiation like missiles?).

Thinking about the second, customizing ground units, is an interesting idea. Someone in the Titan discussion already suggested the idea that there should be HoI style soft and hard attack (the former better against infantry and the latter better against armor), and I think if you go with custom ground units that's the way to go. Maybe switch over to a system that tracks how many soldiers/combat units in a division and assigns damage that way. For example, when designing a ground unit, you'd start by picking a template:

(made up examples)
Light Infantry Battalion: Contains 1000 soldiers
Heavy Infantry Battalion: Contains 800 soldiers and 20 Crew Served Weapons
Power Armor Battalion: Contains 400 combat suits
Light Vehicle Battalion: Contains 40 light vehicles
Heavy Vehicle Battalion: Contains 10 heavy vehicles (like tanks or anti-space cannons)
Fortification Battalion: Contains 10 heavy emplaced weapons (must be in place for a month before they can fire?)
Scout Titan: Contains 1 Scout Titan (assuming larger ones would take more transport capacity than a battalion)

Or even something customizeable, where you pick whatever combinations (with better armor techs?) and if you go over 1000 weight it just takes more than one troop transport bay to move. Give each unit some rating for hit points and/or armor. Maybe just armor (sort of like missiles), to avoid having to track hit points on 400 different suits of combat armor.

That on its own might handle minimizing the impact of ground bombardment and heavy weapons, assuming a 30cm laser or Titan Assault Gun could only kill so many foot infantry. It kinda makes sense that orbital bombardment would work better on a force of tanks or planes than a group of infantry that's trying to hide, after all. OTOH.. you still need ground to space weapons if you're keeping bombardment using the standard combat system, since even if an orbital strike kills 1 soldier you could easily fire a thousand times before one ground combat tick.

Then you'd get to pick weapons for the units. I like the idea of units being researchable, but I think either they should have a prerequisite of the equivalent space weapon, or be the same tech as the space weapon. If your ships use particle beams, it's thematically fitting that your power armored troops would too. It would include anti-space weapons as well, though those should probably be on the heavier side; you probably wouldn't want 1000 foot troops with anti-space laser rifles.

Gauss rifle/cannon/assault gun: High rate of fire (more than one shot per combat tick), making them very good when shooting "down" (tank shooting at infantry, titan shooting at power armor, etc)
Lasers: Good damage but lower rates of fire, all around good weapon.
Railguns: Slightly less damage, faster rate of fire than lasers, another baseline weapon.
Meson: Chance to damage regardless of armor (though maybe scaling down based on just how much armor; a meson rifle shouldn't regularly take out a titan)
Plasma: Bonus in close combat/boarding, maybe replacing the old marine unit?
Particle Beam: Low rate of fire, high damage, good for shooting "up" at larger units?
and so on.

Maybe artillery/bombardment weapons too, though to be honest they've never seemed to be that different from standard combat with how ground units are fought now.

Offline Langer

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2017, 12:16:56 AM »
I already tend to design PDCs as either SAM anti-missile batteries, or anti-ship batteries or a simple one with best available sensors.  I think an in depth tech tree of ground units that encompasses the ability to do that instead would be a great addition.

I'd wonder how an equivalent unit for sensors would work - seems less fitting to a ground unit, but maybe a different type of installation.  Have Deep Space Tracking Stations for Ships, but some other type of Tracking Station for incoming ordnance.

Offline QuakeIV

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2017, 01:23:44 AM »
I would agree with the idea of equipping ground units with ship type weapons and removing the atmosphere limitations.  That sounds pretty cool.

Perhaps you design 'heavy equipment' for them, and the unit upkeep is based around the exepcted msp usage of those parts?  So like, gun, reactor, fire control combo of some kind.

Offline alex_brunius

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2017, 04:06:18 AM »
My main concern here is that this will greatly change the timespans involved and troop needs for ground invasions. Most beam weapons fire every 5-30 seconds and have infinite ammo, while ground combat updates on the 5 day cycle, so after around 86400 such 5 second pulses.

No matter how much the orbital bombardment hitchance is reduced by ground unit concealment any sufficiently large beam fleet will be able to precision wipe out 100% of the defending ground units in very short order, meaning all ground units any attacker needs will be for garrisoning purposes.

Real campaigns like Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq have taught us that no matter how much superior firepower you have, that is not how reality works. Boots on the ground are always a must.

What I propose to resolve this is the following balance:

  • New beam FC component added "Orbital bombardment Firecontrol", which enables aiming and firing beams on ground units
  • New techline added "Orbital bombardment sensors & firecontrol" that gradually increase Orbital bombardment precision stat
  • Mechanics: Only ground units with heavy weapons for firing on space ships can be 100% destroyed by orbital bombardment, but when destroyed by bombardment their cadre survives ( making them faster to rebuild )
  • Mechanics: Maximum damage possible to inflict on all other ground units is based on a comparison between orbital bombardment and concealment stats. High bombardment vs low concealment might result in being able to reduce unit morale and readiness by 80% while the reverse situation could reduce them by just say 20%. Equal tech level results in for example 50% damage cap

This should ensure that bombardment can neutralize ground-space weapons, as well as support ground assaults, but not remove the need of ground assaults entirely.

If you want to make a more accurate and detailed model then the land surface area as well as vegetation & animal life (biosphere) and tectonics could influence how easy it is to conceal units. Hit chance reductions could also help ground-space weapons inflict disproportional damage on bombarding warships before they can be destroyed/knocked out.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2017, 06:15:40 AM by alex_brunius »
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Offline mtm84

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2017, 04:37:46 AM »
I'm kind of bummed out, but I guess I can always play older versions if I want some hardened missile silo and quad mason turret action.  Though I guess all you are really losing is extra armor and free maintenance compared to orbital weapon platforms.  And not being able to build with factories as opposed to in a shipyard.

Offline Tree

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2017, 05:18:52 AM »
I guess hangar PDCs will have to be replaced with civilian stations then?

Offline Zincat

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2017, 05:59:14 AM »
I am completely in favor of this. I'd like to summarize my thoughts on the matter.

First however, I want to point out that going forward with this would not really change anything. Players can still do the same things as before, with orbital defense stations. Such stations would be fundamentally the same as PDCs before with the caveats that:
1) They require shipyards to build.
2) They consume maintenance, which is an improvement because it makes them more balanced
3) They are not confusing, they don't interfere with ground combat, they don't have free armor
4) They still have considerable advantages over mobile ships of similar tonnage, because they do not need engines, jump engines, fuel, require less supplies etc etc. Basically, a lot more space for weapons, defenses and hangars.
5) It makes a lot more sense for missiles and fighters to be based on orbital bases. Escaping planetary gravity is NOT an easy thing, and from a technobabble point of view, the whole TN thing + escaping the atmosphere always posed some problems in my opinion.
I think these are all positives.

Now on to the changes:
- I believe that removing the restriction to energy weapons in atmosphere is of capital importance for this new paradigm of ground combat and planet invasion/defense. This way you can have ground units that are effectively orbital batteries, capable of shooting at any warship that comes too close, or at any incoming troop transport. Bombarding with missiles from afar the planet may or may not work. You no longer have planets that are complete sitting ducks as soon as the enemy fleet comes into close range. Now they can effectively fight back and pose a credible threat, and be adequately difficult to actually conquer.

- I especially like the idea of having ground unit types vary depending on the planet type, such as ships for water words or guerrilla fighters for densely forested worlds.

- Regarding how the troops are actually customized and the "retrained", I would do away with the cadre system. Instead I would give each type of troop a different, set number of "slots". For example, an standard infantry unit could have a "weapon slot" and an "armor slot", and these slots could be filled with components. I'd prefer if these components were customizable  , like ship components are, but maybe fixed components based on technology could be ok. Then, once you have a full "troop template", you can train/build such troop at the appropriate facility.
Later on, if the player designs improvements components, it's just a matter of updating the troop template and retrofitting the existing troops. A cadre system is unnecessary.

A practical example. Let us say I am making a standard Light Infantry troop. This troop has a weapon and an armor component. So I design a "laser rifle mk1" and a "composite armor" components, make a template for the troop type with this components and build 10 of them.
Later on, due to improved technology, I design a "laser rifle mk2" components. I update the troop template, and queue up the 10 troops to be retrofitted.
Flexible, nice and rather easy  in my opinion. The components obviously end up influencing the troop strength for ground combat as well.

A sample troop list could be something like:
Light infantry: one "infantry defense" slot, one "weapon" slot
Heavy infantry: one "infantry defense" slot, one "heavy weapon" slot
Light tank: one "defense" slot, one "heavy weapon" slot, one "weapon" slot
Heavy tank: two "defense slots", two "heavy weapon" slots
Ground-to-Space battery: one "defense" slot, one "anti startship energy weapon" slot
Interception atmospheric craft: One "evasion" slot, one "ciws" slot

The sky is the limit, you can add Titans, multiple types of infantry or tanks, radar units,  etc as wanted.


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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2017, 06:42:11 AM »
With the planned shift to the maintenance system, maintenance-exempt PDCs that can house hangars are problematic.

However, I feel like many of the planned changes for C# add complexity while possibly reducing depth, with reasonably complex but not open-ended system (like Titans, which could have been modeled like ships are, preferably with some overlap in systems) and logistics challenges that beg to be played around instead of meeting them straight-on.

It's plausible for a superior opponent to quickly eliminate one's powerful and highly visible assets (titans, PDCs) while lacking the capability to take out one's dispersed ground units without massive bombardment, so I don't have a problem with different time scales.

If we want to introduce beams from orbit I'd tie it to the intelligence system (fire control would be a trivial problem against ground targets, knowing what to hit would be the challenge). But I'd be for keeping things separate... large assets like PDC and titans can grind through large forces of regular ground units, but are vulnerable to direct strikes from similar or orbital assets, and largely useless for police duties.


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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2017, 08:15:12 AM »
If this is the way forward I think everything will be fine if you build this system out of Auroras core feature, component customization and ship designer.  If you do the same with ground combat, everyone will be happy.  Vehicle/mech designer.  Stick no locomotion on, and you have your silos, wich I love.  If you want to make it easy for new players, have 4 designers.  Space, Fighters, Landvehicles, Mechs.  Then the confusion will be gone.

I only have one more whish.  Make naval yard expansion on a set tonnage basis.  Adding 10k 20 times is abit tedious.  Make it have a target tonnage and auto expand until that target is reached.

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Offline bean

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2017, 08:25:19 AM »
Yes!  This is fantastic.  I'm entirely in favor of this change.
I do think we should consider some realism in terms of what weapons work through atmospheres.  To a first approximation, high-frequency lasers will be useless, as will particle beams, plasma carronades, and high-speed projectiles (probably set by weapon range).  This would create an interesting dynamic with second-class bombardment ships (beyond the meson ships I use now.)
To a second approximation, you'll need to look at atmospheric composition to see how lasers will do.  That would probably need to be tied into a look at how atmospheric composition changes albedo and such.  Probably not worth it initially.
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Offline Garfunkel

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Re: Replacing PDCs
« Reply #14 on: September 19, 2017, 08:41:28 AM »
We have to get rid of the Attack and Defence stats for ground units. They are completely illogical anyway. What we need is a firepower stat and a toughness stat. And preferably two of them - one for infantry/light armour and another for heavy armour/titans. Soft attack attacks Toughness and Hard attack attacks Armour. Both units shoot at each other at the same time. Casualties are counted simultaneously before rolling for the next round of shooting - so it is possible for units to wipe each other out.

Then we can have multiple technologies affecting these stats, not just Ground Unit Strength. We have personal armour increasing toughness, armour stat could be improved similarly to space ships or even use the same tech, then have light weapons tech and heavy weaponry tech to improve soft/hard attack - it's bit unrealistic but makes it easier for players to understand. Reinforced space suit tech that allows ground units to fight in hostile environments or in vacuum but with reduced stats, then higher levels of that tech reduce the malus.

I'm not a fan of removing atmospheric limitations completely. Reducing them, sure, but let's not take them completely out.

Ideally we could build our ground units from the, well, ground up. Have design window for a ground unit that allows you to choose how many companies you want a battalion to consist of and whether these are guerilla/motorized/mechanized/armour/airmobile/naval/hover/titan company. Then based on your choice, you could further configure the company - for some this would be ship-style weaponry, for others it could be whether to use up-to-date equipment or older stuff and whether the unit will be equipped with environmental suits and so on. That makes it possible to create special function companies and/or techs, so we get communications and supply units, cloaked units, ECM and EW units, drones and so on.

Combat engineers and construction brigades should be able to increase the entrenchment value of other units on the same planet. This entrenchment value is added to the toughness and/or armour values of the units but only when they are defending. Combat engineers then can also reduce the entrenchment value of enemy units but construction brigades cannot do the same.
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