"Why no real time ship combat?" Touchy subject we know. As game designers, when we approached the development team about implementing this system the question came up. Ultimately the best answer probably lies with game philosophy that we have covered many times before: game pacing, focus, purpose and scale. In this article we will go over how real time ship combat doesn't properly meet the above requirements.
Let's start with game pacing. The simple answer here is that having real time space combat in a turn based core game can lead to disjointed game play. Some 4x games have tried different strategies about how to implement ship combat including using cards and mini games. These too can seem like a disjointed experience, particularly having a mini game that doesn't represent the whole. Ideally in terms of smooth game play, the simplest solution would be an auto resolve system for ship combat. We have included that feature in Lord of Rigel, but many players, including those of us on the Lord of Rigel team, love destroying stuff! For this reason, we've given the player a choice between automatically resolving a fight or fighting it out themselves.
Focus and purpose are other questions raised during our development phase. What is the focus of Lord of Rigel? What is the purpose of ship combat? Are we trying to make a good ship combat simulator with an empire game behind it, or is our goal a 4x space strategy game with ship combat? We believe that ship combat is a means to an end for a 4x space strategy game and in particular Lord of Rigel. With that being said, there are some places where we can sacrifice realism to make sure that the player isn't focusing their research and species choices around what works best in ship combat.
So how do we scale tactical combat into the game? We chose to make tactical combat similar to that of Master of Orion 2. However, we have tried to add features that the player can choose to use that will enhance the ship combat experience such as sub system targeting, fleet reinforcements, and flanking bonuses that provide marked improvements to ship combat without rewriting the book on ship combat or adding in a ship combat simulator that feels foreign to the core game and that could distract the player from the core 4x game play. Players should expect to see ship combat in Lord of Rigel like picking up an old friend (Master of Orion 2), but with lots of new twists and fixing some long standing balance issues.
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