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ApplianceShowdown

We need a FLEET COMMAND update

Suggestion

What I'm talking about is having groups of ships (fleets) to command around from the map. Yes, you can simulate this by selecting multiple ships at a time on the galaxy map, or by drag clicking in the sector tactical view. However, these are fairly limited, for a few reasons:

  • You have to do the selecting ships every time you open the galaxy map, and if you have a lot of ships, this means a lot of scrolling through the ship list. Yes, Ctrl+A is a thing, but it becomes useless as soon as you want multiple ships in a sector performing different tasks
  • Managing large or multiple fleets quickly becomes click-intensive and exhausting, to the point where it's not fun
  • The current orders and order chain system, while nice, is pretty limited. There aren't enough orders for everything you'd want to do, and there are a few annoyances with it, which I'll get into later

So, what would "better" fleet controls look like in Avorion?

I propose the following. First, a fleets window, where the player has the ability to group their ships into fleets. Each fleet has a number of properties.

  • Name.
  • Single color flag, used to mark ships in-sector and on the galaxy map.
  • Formation, which the player can select from a dropdown (line, wall, delta, vanguard etc.) as well as customize with a "size" slider which scales the formation positions.
  • Maintain formation - This could consist of three settings: Always, out of combat, and never. Always would be useful for a fleet consisting entirely of capital ships, where you'd like them to maintain formation even during combat. Out of combat for a fleet consisting of a mix of ship types, or mostly fast ships, as corvettes would have the freedom to move around during combat. Never would simply mean that the fleet syncs jumps and other orders with the flagship, but aside from that won't care about their positions in-sector.
  • Default stance - The basic stances could be passive, aggressive, defensive which dictate how the fleet responds to enemy threats. On aggressive, the fleet would move to attack any hostile entities. On passive, the fleet would remain still even with hostile entities present. On defensive, the fleet will hold their position, but will fire back at any hostile entity that attacks them.
  • Attack priority - ships or stations.
  • Flagship - The player will have to choose a ship to be the flagship of the fleet. Now, I imagine there should be some consequences for the flagship being destroyed in battle, for which there are several possibilities - the first and probably easiest to implement is to simply disband the fleet. Another is for the game to choose another flagship for the fleet, then issue an emergency jump to the nearest safe sector, or a random one if none is available.

Fleets have the following additional mechanics:

  • Ships cannot be added to the fleet unless they are in the same sector as the flagship
  • Only ships with captains can be added to a fleet
  • Destroyed ships are automatically removed from the fleet
  • Certain orders (mine, salvage, repair, refine) sent to the flagship, as well as orders issued from the sector RTS mode are propagated to the other ships in the fleet. Orders override fleet idle behavior determined by the formation & stance settings.
  • The flagship's order chain is only executed if all ships in the fleet are present in the same sector as the flagship. This means, for example, that if issued a chain of jump orders to travel to a particular distant destination, the fleet will wait for everyone to be present in the next sector before making the next jump.

On the galaxy map, fleets should appear in a new section of the ships interface, or a new interface altogether, where the player can select a fleet to then issue orders. The only other important thing the game really needs to do to support fleets, aside from the UI and the mechanics I described above, is override movement for fleet ships so that they attempt to put themselves in formation when the option is checked.


Additionally, I propose a new "Admiral" crew type of which one would have to be present on a ship in order to assign it as flagship of a fleet. Admirals cannot be hired on bases, instead they are obtained by promoting level 3 captains. Admirals would have quite high upkeep, I'm imagining somewhere in the 100K-1million range.

Alternatively, if possible, make the admiral's upkeep proportional to the number of ships in the fleet, or a percentage of the entire fleet's upkeep, which would allow fleets to be used relatively early on (a fleet of 2-3 small mining ships, for instance) while still having an appropriate price tag for large fleets of large ships lategame. Perhaps even have a higher level cap for the admiral than other professional crew, and higher admiral level would give some interesting fleetwide bonuses. (improved passive heal, very small fire rate bonus, evasion bonus for carrier fighters, etc)


I also propose a few QOL changes and additions, particularly to orders.

Changes to orders

  • Buy good - Add an optional combobox to choose specific stations to buy from. Add an option to fill the cargo hold rather than have to type a specific amount.
  • Sell good - Replace the "prefer own stations" checkbox with a combobox of specific stations to sell to.
  • Mine - Add an optional combobox to select ores you want to prioritize. Eg, the player can choose "mine only avorion" or "mine everything except iron".
  • Salvage - Add an optional combobox to select materials to prioritize.

New orders

  • Dock/undock orders - can choose from a dropdown of allied ships in the current sector, or dock secure containers or material asteroids until docks are full (requires object detector or mining system, respectively).
  • Board - choose from an optional dropdown of hostile stations, or by default attempt to board all hostile stations present
  • Collect Loot - Simply collect all available loot, prioritizing weapons and upgrades first, then cargo, then materials
  • Transfer cargo - Choose from a dropdown of allied ships/stations, a good, and an optional quantity. Flies to the target and retrieves the cargo.

New carrier orders

  • Attack all hostiles - Currently, your only options are defensive (the enemies have to shoot you for it to be useful) or attack (only works on a single target)
  • Intercept order - First prioritize enemy boarding shuttles, then torpedoes, then fighters.

Miscellaneous changes

  • Editable order chains. Imagine if instead of having to redo the entire order chain when you make a mistake, or want to make a small adjustment to one of your freighter routes or miner routes, you can open the order chain for editing, choose the step you want to change, and then make changes to that order or select a new order to replace it. 
  • Make order chains pausable. Aside from being a helpful option for the player, it's also necessary for my next two suggestions.
  • Entering a ship should not cause the order chain to be aborted. Instead, put the order chain on pause until I exit the ship, at which point it can be resumed manually.
  • Automatically pause order chains while creating/editing them. There is nothing more annoying than when I go to create an order chain, and the ship executes the first order before I give the second one, which causes the list to be aborted and I have to start over.
  • Make the ship list in the galaxy map more compact. It should look more like the ship list in the F9 sector tactical view. (text/icons only, sorted by ship class rather than alphabetically) In its present form, the images are not as nearly as useful as ship class would be, and scrolling through it is tedious.


So, what do we have to gain by adding fleet controls? A lot. I know there are plenty of people who wish we had better fleet controls, as it's been brought up here and on Discord quite a few times, and I've seen it mentioned in several Steam reviews. Avorion dips its feet into the strategy side, which really adds this extra dimension and a lot of fun for fans of classic space sims, but the limitations and the finicky controls tend to leave actual strategy fans disappointed. So yes, this might be a very ambitious suggestion, but I feel like there's so much untapped potential here.

I'm interested to hear you guys' thoughts.

Edited by ApplianceShowdown

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I would add one more thing to the QoL changes. The repair command for fighters at the moment is quite annoying for players who've never used it before, as it requires a selected target.  I would change that so if no target is selected, it is interpreted as a "repair me" order, because having to select my own ship takes time that I don't always have.

For the fleet mechanics, I don't know what more you could add. It would definitely make fleet management less tedious.

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Yeah, I have always hated that the 'fleet' tab is even called that when you can't actually make a fleet. I would really like to see a system like in Space Empires 5 where you can create a fleet, name that fleet, add and remove ships to that fleet, assign a flag ship, and even create custom formations for that fleet. Then you would just select the fleet when you want to give that group of ships orders. But it would also be great if you could create different elements within that fleet each with their own formation and sub-orders. Something else you should be able to do is give all ships orders to engage enemies at a set range, or at least an option for 'point blank' range, 'optimum' range, and 'max' range. That way you can have your ships/fleets fight at the best range for the weapons they use. And for non-combat ships you should be able to give them orders to 'run away!'

As for the list of orders. The way it is now is just terrible. If you mess one thing up in your order list you have to just reset and start over. There needs to be a schedule like system where you can add orders, set conditions for orders and even change the order in which it carries out those orders. It would be great if we could have a similar system to games like Transport Fever or Factorio. Then you could set up cargo ships on trade routes and even add in IF/ELSE/AND/OR conditions, so you can do things like having your mining ships go to a refining station, if their cargo is full, then jump back into their mining loop when their cargo is no longer full. And of course you should be able to switch ships to a stand by/carry out orders mode, like how you can switch trains in Factorio to and from automatic/manual mode when you want them to run or not run through their schedule.

I'm sure all of this stuff would have to be in a major update, but I think it is one of the biggest things this game is really lacking and a thing that all players would very much like to have. 🙂

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