Throughout February we’ve been working on Predestination’s planetary exploration and colonisation gameplay, designing the first Reptile race, and sorting through the ideas from our Kickstarter backers. With the core planet gameplay complete and the reptile race reveal in the works, we’re shifting development focus to a part of the game we didn’t really get the chance to properly show during the Kickstarter campaign: Tactical fleet combat.
Every space 4X game has some kind of ship combat system, but most games have chosen to discard the MOO2-style tactical combat in favour of realtime 3D gameplay or even automated fights that you have very little control over. With Predestination, we plan to not only revive turn-based tactical combat but revolutionise it!
Read on for a breakdown of the Tactical Combat system, details of some fun new weapons we worked on with our work experience student Niall, and to submit your own ideas for awesome ship weapons and special abilities!
Key features of tactical combat:
Hexagon grid:- Tactical combat will happen whenever any player gives a fleet the order to attack another fleet, planet or outpost in the same system. It’s also possible to order a fleet to intercept an enemy fleet and engage them in empty space, and combat can happen at temporal rifts and other space objects. Combat is turn-based and takes place on a hexagonal grid designed to give highly tactical gameplay, with each fleet starting at opposite ends of the battlefield.
Solving the first-turn problem:- MOO2 had a problem where the first player to take his turn could get an overwhelming advantage by destroying several enemy ships before they even had a chance to attack. We’ve solved this problem by mixing both fleets together into a single turn order with the order being decided by each ship’s size, speed and maneuverability. Smaller and faster ships on both sides will tend to take their turns first, then medium sized ships, and finally large slow ships like battleships and orbital cannons.
Custom ships:- You’ll be able to design your own ships by selecting a base hull size and adding weapons, engines and special modules. Ship hulls have limited power output, and each weapon or module uses a certain amount of that power. You’ll research new types of weapon, thrusters, shields and armour, and special modules like afterburners and scanners. The idea is to design a set of custom ships that work well together to execute whatever strategy you want, like having one big artillery battleship with no engines protected by a squadron of small point defense frigates.
Tactical terrain:- Nebulae and asteroids will sometimes be on the battlefield, providing tactical differences to each fight. Asteroids could provide cover against projectile and beam attacks, and may even contain explosive compounds that could be ignited during the battle. One nebula type might obscure enemy sensors while your ship hides inside, another might deal damage over time, and another could super-charge the attacks of any ship inside it. The possibilities for tactical terrain are limitless, and certain weapons will even deploy new tactical elements on the map!
Weapon types in Predestination:
The main weapon types in Predestination are:
- Beams (e.g. Lasers)
- Projectiles (e.g. Mass Drivers)
- Drones (interceptors)
- Mines and deployables
Beams and Projectiles:- Beam and projectile weapons instantly hit their targets and can only fire in a certain firing arc extending out from the ship. Beam weapons will be more effective against shields and projectiles against armour, but the difference won’t be so large that it leads to rock-paper-scissors gameplay.
Missiles and Drones:- Missiles will travel to the target ship or map hex and explode, dealing damage to a single ship or in an area, while drones will travel to the target ship and attack each turn automatically until they run out of energy and need to return to the base ship. Both drones and missiles can be shot down but are difficult for large ships to hit, so you could use small ships for missile defense.
Mines and Deployables:- Mines and other special weapons can be deployed on the battlefield and will automatically react to nearby ships. Example deployables may include damage amplifiers, shield bubble generators, target scatterers, and cloaking fields.
Weapon modifications:- Throughout the game, you’ll be able to research various weapon mounts that modify how a weapon works. An example would be the Point Defense mount for beam and projectile weapons, which reduces the weapon’s range significantly but lets it automatically get a free shot at anyone who flies into range. This is our Reactive Strike system that can be used tactically to lock down large ships and stop them from moving. Other examples include a beam capacitor that fires twice but takes a round to reload, or an overloaded missile modification that increases its area of effect at the cost of speed.
Special weapons and abilities:
As part of his week of work experience with us, student Niall came up with ideas for several new special weapons for the low-tech human faction. We’ve implemented his first weapon idea (The Junker) and just had to show you it in action!:
- The Junker:- What do you do when your non-combat ships like transports are pinned down in a battle? If you’re playing the low-tech human faction, you open the cargo bays and jettison rubbish everywhere. The Junker is a special ability that can be used by certain ships once per combat to jettison junk in all directions, slowing all ships in the area (movement costs two movement points per square instead of one). The field of junk spreads out after one round of combat and then dissipates after a second round. The ship that fired the junk is immune to its effects, so you can use it to escape like a squid releasing ink.
- Orbital Junkyard:- If one of your planets is attacked and you have a ship still under construction, it’s usually not going to be any use. The low-tech humans have the solution: fling your half-built piles of scrap at the bad guys! This is a module for space stations that gives them a special ability usable once per combat to fling a scrap ship in a particular direction. If there’s a half-built ship at the station, it will fling this instead and add a bonus effect. Some ideas for effects include rigging it to explode when enemy ships get near, or turning it into a giant magnet to drag small ships away from the station!
- EMP:- Releases an electromagnetic pulse that scrambles nearby ships’ computers. The pulse is completely blocked by shields, so the enemy shields must be down before it will have any effect. The pulse disables one or more of the affected ships’ weapons or modules for a few turns, and has a greater effect against Mechanoid races.
Have any ideas for weapons and ship modules?
If you have any ideas for your own weapons and ship modules, head over to our new Tactical Combat ideas thread on the community forum to discuss them! Do you have an idea for a missile, a mine or a special effect you’d like to see available to beam weapons? Maybe you have an idea for a type of nebula, or a special ship module like a tractor beam that flings asteroids around or a miniature black hole generator? No matter how crazy your idea is, if it relates to tactical combat then we want to hear about it! We’re building this part of the game right now so now’s the perfect time to develop weird and wonderful ship modules.
— Brendan Drain, Lead Developer