Thursday, May 29, 2008

Little Friends

I have officially started work on the Interstellar Era of Fleet Combat. This will take a while as many new technologies are needed. But the first one I am working on is carriers and fighters.

In real naval combat, fighters completely changed the game. Battleships were now irrelevant -- you couldn't get close enough to a carrier group to hit it with your big guns before the fighters and bombers took you down. It will be interesting to see what impact they have in FCO.

Fighters (I use that as a generic term as there will also be "bombers" that are meant to go after capital ships, but they all fall under the umbrella of "carrier craft") will not be under your direct control. I have thought about this, and it seems like directly controlling dozens of fighters each turn would be a pain. Plus it just isn't realistic -- the fleet commander issues orders, it doesn't tell the fighters when to fire or which direction to fly.

Fighters will come in "wings" -- a small group of probably two to six individual fighters. You can give general orders to a fighter wing, but they will fly and fight on their own. The orders will be like "defend ship x", "attack ship y", "intercept fighters", etc. The fighter wing will launch from the carrier and carry out its mission for a set amount of time. After that time, they must return to the carrier to refuel and rearm. You will be able to change their orders while they are in flight, but you won't be able to tell them where to fly or when to fire.

A small carrier in this era will probably carry four fighter wings and a top of the line heavy carrier maybe a dozen. (To days carriers haul about 70 planes which you could say is equivalent to 16 "wings").

I haven't decided yet if carriers will come pre configured or if they will come empty. I think there is some element of skill involved in properly outfitting your carriers just as there is in properly creating a fleet. So I think carriers will be quite cheap in terms of CP, but each fighter wing will cost CP. So a loaded carrier will end up being very expensive.

I can see some interesting choices about sending fighters after capital ships. Ships in this era will more commonly be outfitted with point defense systems which will cut fighter wings to ribbons. You may need to hurl a bunch of missiles at a target to occupy its point defense system long enough for the fighters to get in and score some hits before the PD can recharge. Should be fun.

But don't hold your breath, there is still a lot of work to do...

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