The Next Generation
Tuesday, 13 December 2011 Written by Optec
It was quite silent around here for a few weeks, due to our intense development of the next, big patch. Today, I want to start a series of news posts introducing all the new stuff we are working on.
"Next big patch"? Now what is he talking about, you might ask. Well. If you are a close follower of the forums, you will have read that we were working on a lot of features in the background for the past year and the first collection of them - called faction redos - are inbound!
So what is the content you can expect? Basically, it's one of the most complex patches we have made so far, stuffed with new units, models, special effects, AI, "trekism" and - the focus of this package - a completely revised gameplay to make Fleet Operations even more fun both in multiplayer and singleplayer modes!
The next patch will be the first and largest package of a series of releases, which will revamp the way the different factions are played, including completely new game mechanics to make the different factions feel as close to the shows as possible.
Okay, okay, I have to start somewhere, as this is far too much to explain in a single news post. So let's start with a new gameplay element which affects all the factions: the unit profiles. If you read the guide frequently, you will have noticed that units in Fleet Operations are classified by a number of properties. Most obviously the three basic attributes, offensive value, defensive value and system value, but also a collection of hidden properties, like size, classification (is it a cruiser or a destroyer) and similar stuff. While most pro-gamers will know these characteristics and their respective benefits, they were just to complicated and opaque even for experienced users - including the dev team.
So a new mechanic will be introduced, simplifying the way you can recognize your ships and introducing completely new strategies unseen in Fleet Operations or Armada 2. Every unit shows its profile in its tooltip along with all of its attributes which are relevant for game mechanics. All hidden properties have been removed. A vessel gains unique abilities or characteristics, inherited from its profile. But let's skip all the theory and jump into some examples of the new profiles.
Disruptors, Phasers and Photon Torpedoes. These are the main arguments which build an offensive strike ship. Vessels of this profile, like a Bird of Prey or the Defiant Class, are built to bring more firepower to your fleet. As you can easily guess, their offensive values will be higher than other ships of their size and they will perform well in face-to-face combat. They are your main tool for "removing" selected hostile targets or for delivering area damage to whole fleets. Their special abilities underline this character by offering additional overall damage, helping to eliminate or disable a selected hostile target or performing better in combat generally.
Ok, the name gives away what we are talking about now: The defensive tactical command ships of your fleet. Good examples of these vessels are the massive D'deridex or the sturdy K'beajQ. Equipped with both heavy shields and a strong hull, these ships act as lead vessels for small squadrons and draw fire away from your more fragile attack ships. This actually leads to a new gameplay mechanic. In the past, ships have always tried to attack the vessel with the least maximum shield+hull strength. Now, if a defensive vessel is nearby, the ships will target the defensive ship first, allowing it to offer cover for the rest of your fleet. A player can of course still select targets manually, but defensive ships offer an interesting gameplay element, especially if fleets are on the move and don't follow exact attack orders. You will now want to pin your enemy down to blast his precious Bird of Preys to bits! Consequently, the special abilities of a defensive ship help it to sustain more damage, recover more rapidly from damage taken or increase its general defensive capabilities.
Many vessels, especially the popular Starfleet ships like the Galaxy Class, were never designed to be dedicated attack or command vessels. Instead, they bring a bit of everything and are remarkable for their ability to adapt to certain situations by modifying technology. How often did we see a certain piece of equipment, like a torpedo or a shield emitter, used to serve a completely different purpose in the shows? And that's the strength of allround vessels. They will neither offer you incredible firepower nor will they be shield bastions, but they are very solid, fault-tolerant and easy to maintain, which becomes especially important if your enemy tries to interrupt or disable your fleet maneuvers.
Oldies are goldies. Support Vessels, like the Canaveral or the Siege Cruiser, are actually one of the oldest additions of gameplay features in Fleet Operations. These ships don't have a precisely defined role in your fleet, but offer support in certain means, mainly through the use of their abilities. Unlike in past versions of Fleet Operations, the micro-management to use support ships has been eased a bit to make them more fun to use. We also tried to reduce some less interesting or less useful abilities into equivalents which offer more strategic capabilities. This leads to support vessels now having two active abilities, which can be researched independently, and a passive supporting ability, helping ships or stations nearby. Canaveral Class ships, for example, now always increase the sensor range of nearby stations as soon as you bring them close to one, without the need of further micromanagement from your side. You can then choose to research two abilities for them, either disrupting hostile targeting systems with the popular Sensor Blackout, or offer nearby friendly ships the chance to share the targeting scans of the Canaveral to allow them to target multiple ships at once.
And there are more. Other profiles you can easily come up with are "Carrier" or "Scout", but all stations have also been tagged into different profiles, like "Yard" or "Platform". While this appears to be just a cosmetic feature, it helps to understand the way certain game mechanics work. An ability, for example, might have an extra effect on hostile Offensive Vessels or might speed up the construction of a Yard. The profiles help to easily identify which units are affected by introducing a consistent nomenclature throughout the whole game, unlike older versions of Fleet Operations, where abilities often referred to "small targets" or "cruisers", but no player really had a clue which vessels these might be.
Hm, I think that's enough for today. Stay tuned as we will reintroduce some of the most favorite vessels of older versions in dedicated newsposts in the next weeks - starting with the Federation as they are the faction which is almost completely migrated to the new system - and talk about the many peripheral changes like wider technology trees, new units, special effect updates and stuff.
PS: The renderings in this post are also available in wallpaper resoultion if you maximize them.