Random Carrier Battles: what’s in the prototype, then?

Yesterday, we spoke briefly of what’s getting left out of Random Carrier Battles’ first playable prototype. Today, we’ll cover the happier side of that story: what’s in!

UI stuff
I have some informational interface tasks to take care of, to allow players to view task force members and elements of air groups. I figure to stick this on the left side of the main UI.

Some aircraft design improvements
I believe I’ll need to make some tweaks to aircraft and escort design, to specify quality of armament: the early use of the TBF Avenger was hampered by the poor quality of the Mark 13 air-launched torpedo, and I can’t capture that in the system as is. Similarly, British battlecruisers, German pocket battleships, and Yamato aren’t well-captured by the system as is. (Battlecruisers, in this framing, would be heavy cruisers with good guns; Scharnhorst would be battleships with poor guns, and Yamato would be a battleship with good guns.) Although surface combat is out of scope for the initial prototype, I want to have enough data to do a passable job at it when I come to it.

I may also have to make radios a feature of airplane design, so that types with historically good radios can communicate better than types with historically poor radios.

Aircraft handling: repair, fueling, arming, launching, recovery
Aircraft handling is a big focus of Random Carrier Battles: more than previous games in the carriers-at-war genre, I want to get down into the weeds. I want to track aircraft status to a fine-grained level of detail, down to how far along arming and fueling have progressed, or how warmed-up the engine is. On deck, I don’t think I plan to track exactly where planes are spotted, but I may do some tracking of takeoff run available—this would penalize light aircraft carriers with large air wings by preventing them from launching everything in one go, which is, in my view, a feature.

In terms of discrete development tasks, I’ll have to figure out how to turn a designed air group into an air group instance in the game world, build systems to hold air operations status and control transitions between air operations states, and build UI to control it all.

This feature will also lay the groundwork for land-based airfields, as well as seaplane tenders and seaplane-carrying cruisers.

Air combat!
Making this one heading is perhaps a bit ambitious on my part, but there you are. Air combat has a bevy of subordinate features, including representing armaments (to give damage) and ship and aircraft systems (to take damage), a planner for missions, and unit combat behavior AI.

Systems and armaments are the easiest of the bunch; they merely involve defining a set of systems for each class of asset, along with a set of armaments generated from the asset’s statistics and arming status.

The mission planner is a complicated feature, and one which I hope will be industry-leading: a central clearinghouse where admirals can view all missions currently planned or in progress, create new missions, cancel unlaunched missions, and eventually, handle every air operation in the task force. For now, it may fall to players to prepare the aircraft assigned to missions on their own initiative, depending on how the aircraft handling features shake out.

Finally, combat behavior AI: this is by far the biggest feature under this heading, and the hardest to handle. It includes automatic marshaling of air groups (players won’t have direct control over aircraft in flight), CAP behavior, scout plane behavior, strike planes’ flights to their targets, and attack behavior for dive bombers and torpedo bombers. Ships will also have to maneuver under direct attack (that is, to avoid incoming torpedoes, and to throw off dive bombers’ aim).

Initial spotting and scouting
Spotting and scouting in their fullness will require a lot of work, so I’m going to build a simpler system to start with. Simply put, you can see everything on your side, and anything within horizon range of your ships and planes.

Submarines will come later.

That’s that! I hope you find these plans as exciting as I do. I hope to get the demo to a state where I can take some usable screenshots and videos and submit to Steam Greenlight, at which point I’ll be hitting you up for upvotes.

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