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Rusknight

Air combat - what's wrong with it?

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Posted (edited)

Ground combat is good enough already even in the beta - I like it! What spoils the game for me now is an air combat. 

I am trying to understand whats wrong with it. I like bases and fighters management in general, so I want air combat to be in the game but something totally wrong with it now and its not even balance but smth else.

Its about lack of tactic elements maybe. In ground combat I can win a battle against stronger enemy if I use my soldiers wisely but in air combat its all about raw power - I have enough power and I win, or I dont have enough power (my fighters are damaged or low of fuel) and I loose. I can do very little about it even in a manual mode. Air combat is just something which is out of my control.

 

Edited by Rusknight

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Posted (edited)

Speaking about the balance I feel that repair time is too long. In april I have 2 bases with 6 falcons each = 12 falcons total and most of the time all of them stay damaged as they dont have enough time between battles for repair to 100% (350hp)

Another problem is how fuel burn in combat. You engage most of combats with 70% fuel or so and have almost no fuel\time for any tactical maneuvers there as you stay without fuel 15-20 seconds after combat start - there should be 60 seconds for maneuvers in combat at least

Edited by Rusknight

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The problem with air combat in all XCOM-likes is that regions don't do anything special. You're fighting over a blank map, so your air strategy should only vary so much.

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Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Bobit said:

The problem with air combat in all XCOM-likes is that regions don't do anything special. You're fighting over a blank map, so your air strategy should only vary so much.

I agree. The same air map (no map at all) is one more reason why air combat is dull - battle conditions are always the same

Edited by Rusknight

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Like it or not, the air combat system in the first game was quite good. There were a lot of nuances in dealing with UFOs, especially making sure that you attacked from the correct angle on certain enemies, didn't waste fuel on unlikely interceptions and used your weapons carefully. Deciding if it was worth waiting to get them over land or just splash them in the ocean to get the rep boost and clear the skies. The UFO midgame was a great deal of fun with a well developed air defense grid, slapping UFOs down before they could cause much havoc. Escorting your own troops and preventing alien missions from taking place to break down the over all alien invasion plan. Trying to use two fighters to bait an overpowered UFO so you can get the other guy in to knock him down was always tense and the radio chatter added to the feeling that you were watching this from a command bunker somewhere trying to coordinate air efforts in real time. I fondly remember making sacrifices, such as sending in Foxbats past bingo fuel to destroy an Air Terror bomber before it destroyed Los Angeles. They delivered their payloads and saved the city, only to be destroyed by the escort fighters. That turned the tide for that region and it was a great moment of gameplay that came up because I had the options to pursue that course of action. Sending waves of fighters and bombers after a Battleship or Carrier, trying to launch and then escape the area so the second or even third squadron could arrive and add their weight to the on-going fight was great. Even being able to send in fighters to knock out escorts and then escape, opening the way for slower bombers to attack was a great element.

There's some resistance to it because it was real time and not turn-based, but that's not really accurate. Since you could pause and issue orders at any time, it was effectively turn-based. You queue up your orders and react to what happens, unpause, let things play out until you need to pause again and do so. 

Unfortunately, the XCOM Enemy Unknown and Xenonauts 2 style of launching planes into a weird almost idle battler mode isn't fun or satisfying. If that's the style of air combat you prefer, you might as well just take it out of the game entirely and have ground based missile systems get a percent based kill on UFOs that enter the defense range.

I think expanding the original model of air combat to make it more interesting with something like pilot experience, different altitudes acting as different 'battle grounds' or 'layers' to your defense (some UFOs are up too high to intercept with normal aircraft and you have to develop new planes that can get up to them and even eventually break the atmosphere into space.) as well as a more complex selection of gear for planes would really have improved the game overall. AWACs and tanker planes as well as recon planes could even have a purpose and you could launch your own bombing missions on alien installations or landed UFOs. Even something like a helicarrier would be an interesting idea for the end game.

I know this will never make it into Xenonauts 2, but I think everyone should seriously consider for their XCOM-like games, the possibility of making the air war something integral and interesting rather than an afterthought.

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18 hours ago, Rusknight said:

I agree. The same air map (no map at all) is one more reason why air combat is dull - battle conditions are always the same

Altitude and terrain topography should be a thing. There should be cons and pros to high and low altitude.

For high altitude, you're dealing with thinner air and clouds obstructing visibility.

For low altitude, you're dealing with dense air and terrain. Flying low over water is a death sentence. Hilly or mountainous terrain makes it easier to evade. Flying low over sand desert makes heat seekers less effective. Etc. Tiny bits like that could be implemented in a simple way like "what type of terrain is the aircraft over nad what altitude? Ok, apply bonuses/penalties!" 

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I don't think terrain should be integral to air combat in any game. It's nice to have but rely on it and you just have worse land combat, because air combat after detection is mostly just "get behind the enemy".

A map on a strategic level should be integral though. When UFOs just spawn randomly there is little depth. There ought to be alien bases and/or countries that do more than just give money. The core of air/naval games is logistics and detection.

" Flying low over water is a death sentence. " Why?

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Seeing as the X2 air combat is currently almost exactly the same as the X1 air combat, I can see how people would be dissastisfied with it. The esstial thrust of air combat in X2 is either:

1) Run straight at your opponent 

or

2) If you have more than 1 aircraft, kite your opponent into revealing the section of UFO that is uncovered by weapons and start shooting

I spent quite a lot of time making air combat more interesting in X1, resulting in three generations of Flying Circuses, and I'm sure Charon can recount his experiences of changing up air combat for X-Division. In my case, what I aimed to do was create an interesting puzzle to crack. Each new UFO presented a different type of challenge. Perhaps it fired swarms of micro missiles. Perhaps you had to fly between multiple turrets. Not all my creations were successful. I think that if X2's air combat is to be more fun, it needs to create new problems of positioning. The rotating turret and energy shield are a good start but there's a lot more that I feel could be done.

 

Firstly, I think that Goldhawk should steal Steambird's control mechanism for aircraft. The mechanism that the original Steambirds uses is an excellent fit for X2's air combat. You can see the turning curve for your aircraft and plan for where it's going to end up without constantly hitting the pause button every few seconds. When the aircraft reaches the end point of its planned movement, that's when you can set up the next plan. I can see this being useful for also setting up and controlling multiple aircraft at once, as you could bandbox aircraft together and set them all by the same plan. 

 

Secondly, I think Goldhawk should take a leaf from shmups, specifically the boss fights in shmups. As frantic as Boss fight shmups are, they are all about positioning and that's made possible through the wide range of projectile types that bosses have. As things currently stand, UFOs have two types of projectile - homing and non-homing. There's no continious beams, no aerial mines, no splitters. no swarmers. There's no telegraphing, no wind-up, no obvious lock-on. I'd like to see more projectile types that encourage positioning, because, at the moment, they don't, really. 

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6 hours ago, Max_Caine said:

Seeing as the X2 air combat is currently almost exactly the same as the X1 air combat, I can see how people would be dissastisfied with it. The esstial thrust of air combat in X2 is either:

1) Run straight at your opponent 

or

2) If you have more than 1 aircraft, kite your opponent into revealing the section of UFO that is uncovered by weapons and start shooting

I spent quite a lot of time making air combat more interesting in X1, resulting in three generations of Flying Circuses, and I'm sure Charon can recount his experiences of changing up air combat for X-Division. In my case, what I aimed to do was create an interesting puzzle to crack. Each new UFO presented a different type of challenge. Perhaps it fired swarms of micro missiles. Perhaps you had to fly between multiple turrets. Not all my creations were successful. I think that if X2's air combat is to be more fun, it needs to create new problems of positioning. The rotating turret and energy shield are a good start but there's a lot more that I feel could be done.

 

Firstly, I think that Goldhawk should steal Steambird's control mechanism for aircraft. The mechanism that the original Steambirds uses is an excellent fit for X2's air combat. You can see the turning curve for your aircraft and plan for where it's going to end up without constantly hitting the pause button every few seconds. When the aircraft reaches the end point of its planned movement, that's when you can set up the next plan. I can see this being useful for also setting up and controlling multiple aircraft at once, as you could bandbox aircraft together and set them all by the same plan. 

 

Secondly, I think Goldhawk should take a leaf from shmups, specifically the boss fights in shmups. As frantic as Boss fight shmups are, they are all about positioning and that's made possible through the wide range of projectile types that bosses have. As things currently stand, UFOs have two types of projectile - homing and non-homing. There's no continious beams, no aerial mines, no splitters. no swarmers. There's no telegraphing, no wind-up, no obvious lock-on. I'd like to see more projectile types that encourage positioning, because, at the moment, they don't, really. 

Agreed. The Steambird approach reminds me of Aeronautica Imperialis and X-wing, where maneuverability arcs are a major part of the strategy. I could definitely get behind that idea and I especially like your suggestion of making enemy weapon types more diverse. You could further improve things by adding armor/shield facings, specific weak-points and subsystem damage, especially with larger UFOs where you might need pinpoint strikes to cripple their defenses before moving in for the kill. More powerful weapons could make such tactics unnecessary against older UFOs as the game goes on, mirroring how ground combat becomes easier as your firepower increases.

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One thing about the missiles as well. In Xen 1 they always went in a straight line. Air to air missiles tend not to. Especially short range maneuverable ones. If you evaded them they wouldnt turn back on you.

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19 hours ago, Bobit said:

" Flying low over water is a death sentence. " Why? 

It makes you quite visible on radar.

Look a bit into air combat mechanics. It's very interesting.

 

I suggest videos like these (especially the second one). The guy explains a lot of things, especially near the end, when he does the battle overview, as he explains both combatants actions.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

DCS is such a cool game, I just wish it didn't involve 20 minutes of eventless flight. Other "milsims" like Squad don't have such waiting time. I don't actually care about the sim, I just care about capturing the unique mechanics. Also you probably need a joystick and tons of cash but oh well.

Edited by Bobit

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On 4/9/2020 at 9:38 PM, ooey said:

One thing about the missiles as well. In Xen 1 they always went in a straight line. Air to air missiles tend not to. Especially short range maneuverable ones. If you evaded them they wouldnt turn back on you.

Not accurate. The IR sensor or radar is on a gimbal that has a limited range. Once the missile misses a target, its lost sight of it and most of its energy in most cases. There's no way it turns back around and keeps chasing the target. It might find something else to track beyond the initial target though. A missile that constantly is updating the intercept point would be more accurate, but the distinction is almost unnecessary at the range/time involved in Xenonauts air combat. They're not launching AMRAAMs at like 20nmi or anything like that.

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On 4/10/2020 at 2:02 AM, Max_Caine said:

Firstly, I think that Goldhawk should steal Steambird's control mechanism for aircraft. The mechanism that the original Steambirds uses is an excellent fit for X2's air combat. You can see the turning curve for your aircraft and plan for where it's going to end up without constantly hitting the pause button every few seconds. When the aircraft reaches the end point of its planned movement, that's when you can set up the next plan.

Yeah Steambird’s not only hit the nail on the head with air control but also the presentations. I truly love how multiple layers of lines can represent mountains and turbulence which should be mimicked by Xenonauts but to a greater extent that have them affect gameplay and just not eye candy.

On 4/10/2020 at 2:02 AM, Max_Caine said:

The rotating turret and energy shield are a good start but there's a lot more that I feel could be done.

This is true. I think the best way to do it is to completely reworking how beam and missile weapons work against ships and adding even more options for maneuvering as the game go along. For instance we can have laser weapons be completely negated by shields but will quickly devastate any ship that lost it. While rockets which can easily kill shielding and be guided can be shot down by turrets or dodged. Kinetic weapons like bullets whir does terrible damage and have short range can bring down shields with no actual way of negating it damages. More advanced weapons like plasma and mag can even expand this system even further with esoteric devices like, plasma anti rocket mines, teleporting bombs that need a time to focus on target to fire, swarm missiles and precision mag shots. Basically by changing how weapons work would force the player to either evolve their strategy to fit their new equipment or stick with what they know.

Adding to that is the multiple ways of changing your plane maneuver and fly with upgrades. Maybe you can add thrusters to increase the turning rate, gravity pushers to make it go sideways, to actual teleporter modules to make the plane jump in short bursts and change it direction completely. Hell you could forget all that maneuvering and fill the plane’s equipment slots with shields, turrets, drones and turn it into a flying tank (a futuristic Su-25 Frogfoot;)). Kinda similar to choosing small or large planes in some shmups depending on you play styles.

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Posted (edited)
16 hours ago, indaris said:

Not accurate. The IR sensor or radar is on a gimbal that has a limited range. Once the missile misses a target, its lost sight of it and most of its energy in most cases. There's no way it turns back around and keeps chasing the target. It might find something else to track beyond the initial target though. A missile that constantly is updating the intercept point would be more accurate, but the distinction is almost unnecessary at the range/time involved in Xenonauts air combat. They're not launching AMRAAMs at like 20nmi or anything like that.

Missiles do have the ability to turn and maneuver, if perhaps not turn 180 degrees. I was stating that in xen 1 they don't turn. It may be an idea to allow them a degree of maneuverability  so you have to evade them until they "burn out". It might make air combat a little more complex. From what I have seen this is the weakest element in xen2 at the minute.

Edited by ooey

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13 hours ago, Xeroxth said:

(a futuristic Su-25 Frogfoot;)). 

And what's wrong with a futuristic A-10 may I ask?! I guess you live in the east?! :rolleyes:

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21 hours ago, ooey said:

And what's wrong with a futuristic A-10 may I ask?! I guess you live in the east?! :rolleyes:

Personal preference, I guess. :cool:

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This air war side of the game, will have enjoyment for a number of player, but for me it is just a means to a End.

I would be just as happy, with the installation of missile batteries, to take down Alien UFO's.

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On 4/12/2020 at 3:24 PM, ooey said:

Missiles do have the ability to turn and maneuver, if perhaps not turn 180 degrees. I was stating that in xen 1 they don't turn. It may be an idea to allow them a degree of maneuverability  so you have to evade them until they "burn out". It might make air combat a little more complex. From what I have seen this is the weakest element in xen2 at the minute.

I see what you're saying, but that really only makes sense in very long range engagements where you can defend against a missile by forcing it to expend all its energy and fuel trying to constantly adjust course before it reaches you. Maybe instead of having "dodge" as a maneuver, you could deploy limited counter measures, when if timed right would disrupt target lock. The aliens don't have much in the way of missiles currently, but I suppose you could include that as a more common weapon type. UFOs with countermeasures would be interesting too, an extra level of tactics around baiting them to expend their CMs before hitting them. You kinda had this in X1 where you could bait enemy fighters to launch their missiles and then break off to the overworld and then re-engage them once they were depleted for a more advantageous attack.

As far as I know, the missiles in X1 are almost impossible to evade without "dodging" so it's probably fine as is, although some other way to more strategically deal with those weapons would be interesting.

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On ‎4‎/‎12‎/‎2020 at 7:36 AM, indaris said:

Not accurate. The IR sensor or radar is on a gimbal that has a limited range. Once the missile misses a target, its lost sight of it and most of its energy in most cases. There's no way it turns back around and keeps chasing the target. It might find something else to track beyond the initial target though. A missile that constantly is updating the intercept point would be more accurate, but the distinction is almost unnecessary at the range/time involved in Xenonauts air combat. They're not launching AMRAAMs at like 20nmi or anything like that.

Missile info:

 

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Just now, TrashMan said:

Missile info:

I should have just posted that. Good video. My point is that once missiles fly past their target, they can't just loop around like in a cartoon and continue the chase.

I don't think air combat needs to be this complicated, but maybe different type of tracking systems could be developed to be more effective against UFOs?

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Flying Low is most certainly NOT a death sentence. TrashMan got it exactly opposite, flying low AVOIDS radar.

 

AcYtR.gif

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3 hours ago, Comrade said:

Flying Low is most certainly NOT a death sentence. TrashMan got it exactly opposite, flying low AVOIDS radar.

 

AcYtR.gif

Sorry, Comrade. Trashman got it 100% right. Flying low over water is a death sentence inside of engagement range. You have nowhere to hide and no energy to maneuver with. Flying low avoids radar in certain circumstances, but most of those circumstances are when dealing with surface radars. If you are within detection range of an enemy aircraft, flying low will just make you easy prey, unless you're in an exceptionally mountainous area. The only time you want to fly low over water is when approaching an enemy ship or surface installation and you're trying to use the curvature of the earth to conceal yourself until the last possible moment. There are also many problems with doing it this way and arguments for approaching as high as possible instead (mainly that once they see you, you can't do anything except hope you get them first, which is why many anti-shipping missiles do this, but combat aircraft do not.)

I can see altitudes being useful in a couple of different ways. You have to actually engage the UFO, so the UFO is going to generally pick the altitude where the battle takes place. UFOs typically don't react to human aircraft unless they're directly under attack or the UFOs are interceptors. A Scout UFO might be at a low altitude, scanning towns, abducting people, mutilating cattle, etc. Your aircraft/weapons could have different performance at low altitude and gain some sort of advantage from attacking from medium altitude and dropping down on top of them, etc.

An AWACS plane could be in the area and provide some additional data or bonuses to attacking the UFO. This AWACS would then need to be protected from UFO interceptors which would easily destroy it if unprotected.

High altitude interceptions could be necessary against more advanced UFOs and maybe even some sort of stratosphere level interceptions in the very late game or against specific rare UFOs.

These are just ideas, but it's certainly possible to expand the air combat into something interesting.

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Posted (edited)

I suppose it's all about complexity and the time they have to implement something more complicated with regards to air combat. Personally I don't see it and they should probably make ground combat much more of a priority since it is the core of the game (which they have done). Something better than what was in xen one is undoubtedly expected though. That all got a bit samey after a while. It needs sprucing up a bit, giving you surprises occasionally (maybe alien fighters turn up if you don't destroy the UFO in time and you have to tackle them too or retreat).

Perhaps this element will be moddable by the community, but it would be a major mod to do!

Edited by ooey

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