Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Form Up!

Formations are now live!

I had deployed the formation manager for testing a few weeks ago, which allowed you to create and play around with formations. But you could not actually use them in battle.

Now, the missing pieces are in place and you can actually enter battle using those formations. I think this will add a bit of dynamic as well as some "coolness" factor to battles.

When you join a battle and click the "Set Initial Orders" button, you will be taken to a redesigned initial orders screen. The first thing you can do on this screen is select a formation. If you have not set up any formations, the only option will be "Standard Line Abreast" formation. When you choose a formation, the system will automatically select ships from your fleet that fit in that formation and assign them to the battle.

You can then manually assign or recall ships by selecting them in the two text boxes and clicking the assign or recall buttons. You can see the total CP that you have selected as you go.

Then you can set your approach vector just as before. This is the direction you want to enter the battle from and what direction you want your formation to face when you get there. There is now a little "preview" box that will show this approach vector graphically.

When you click "Execute Orders", any changes you have made will be committed. This should reduce the "locking" problems we had before where each change you made was committed as soon as you made it (like assigning or recalling ships). That meant a lot of transactions to the server and back which caused locking errors.

Note, that the "approach vector" applies to the formation as a whole, not individual ships. For example, here is a wedge formation that is coming in from 045 with a heading of 225:

This means the entire formation is rotated to the 225 heading.

"Substitute" ships:
Say you create a formation that is for two Lancers and an Aegis and you select this formation for a battle. But then you decide, instead of two Lancers, how about using two Angels? You recall the Lancers and assign the Angels. But the formation has "slots" only for Lancers and the Aegis. When you click "Execute Orders", the system will assign the Aegis to its slot, but then find it has two empty slots and two ships that have not been placed. It will then "substitute" the Angels into the Lancer's slots. It tries to do this based on the CP value of the ship and the CP value of the ship the slot is for. So, with the same formation, if you chose two Angels and a Fayette class Frigate. It would put the FCF in the Aegis slot and the two Angels in the Lancer slots because that is the closest CP match.

"Orphaned" ships:
Say you have a formation that is for 4 ships. You select that formation and the system auto-selects the 4 ships that fill that formation. But you still have CP left to enter the battle with. So you assign 3 more ships of various types. But the formation has no "empty slots", so these 3 ships are orphaned by the formation system. What will happen is that any of these orphaned ships will appear in a line abreast formation behind the main formation. Here is a picture where I added a few extra ships to the above wedge formation:

You can see the extra 4 ships at the back.

So, give them a try and be sure to let us know what you think.

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