Saturday, 11 February 2012 Written by 

Line of sight is one of the more important concepts in any good real time strategy game. In order to know what build order your opponent is using, where he or she is setting up construction for expansions, resource harvesting, or forward bases it is necessary to stay vigilant throughout the match.

In past Fleet Operations’ patches line of sight hasn’t been as independent or transparent as we wanted it to be. Thus, the first and most obvious change to line of sight occurs with respect to your humble scouts.

Effect on Scouts

In order to facilitate scouting, all scout-craft have drastically reduced build times. This allows a player to get line of sight “on demand,” replace destroyed scouts rapidly, increase numbers of scouts – and importantly – not tie up the starbase build queue for too long.

In addition, there is a crucial difference between types of scouts that you will have already noticed in all patches: some can cloak, and others cannot! In the past this allowed the unparalled ability for Romulans and Klingons to see anything, anytime, and anywhere. In team games this is especially noted, because when one side has a cloaker you can bet everybody is going to ask that player to build some scouts for the rest of the team. Cloaked scouts are far easier to micromanage, because rarely do you have to worry about one being caught, not to mention it being quite easy to “guard” fleets while cloaked and thus follow them around.

However, as a counterpart to this strength, your several uncloakable scouts now get a new toggleable ability, “Grey Mode”. When Grey Mode is toggled on, the scout shuts down many non-essential systems: it reduces velocity and cannot use any weapons to boot. On the other hand, the craft will not be automatically targeted and is harder to hit. Thus an opposing player must pay attention to manually attack the scout with an “attack” command. This allows a non-cloaker to position scouts in more dangerous areas (say, next to some automated defenses). Just as against cloaked scouts, a player must spend time and energy to hunt down these pesky hard-to-target spies.

In general, you can thus expect to find a player using unclockable scouts with greater ease and reward (and in larger numbers), as there is less micromanagement required to use them efficiently.

Image  Image

Effect on Military Units

The second set of changes occurs with respect to your ordinary military units. A skilled player could get away with using only the initial free scout in most games and many players rarely build more than a single scout. Most units in fact had a fairly good sight range, and it is still possible to see games in these previous patches where people do the vast majority of their “casual” scouting with the fleet, instead of with, well, scouts. You know when to leave a battle, because you can see the enemy approach your own fleet’s extreme sensor range.

Typical military units now have their sight radii matched to their weapon range. Consequently, a long-ranged Rhienn has a long-ranged sight radius, a short-ranged Intrepid has a short-ranged sight radius, and a medium-ranged D’deridex has a medium-ranged sight radius. Artillery and Strategic ranged units will still require spotters to make effective use of their full weapon-range however.

Tactical Examples

From an immediate gameplay effect this means that almost all vessels have received at least a slight decrease in their line of sight. From a more tactical perspective, if you are flying around with a fleet of short ranged ships, you’re going to have pretty low visibility. You won’t be able to see what’s happening out beyond that mining station you’re attacking, and if a bunch of long ranged ships start to fire on your fleet … you won’t even be able to see them if they stay at that range.

This encourages the player to do at least two things:

Build far-sighted scouts and keep them ahead of the fleet (or with the fleet – an excellent use for Grey Mode) or mix longer ranged ships with the fleet. In either case, the player gets a tremendous boost by mixing, because he or she can effectively stay out of way of enemy fleets and hunt down stragglers.

Consequently, this has had an impact on other well-known tactics. It’s now far more dangerous to simply rush only fast, short-ranged ships into an enemy expansion, because you might find yourself ambushed with no advanced warning. First, a player can safely keep scouts watching your shorties without you even knowing, and second, longer ranged ships can be brought to bear on the short-rangers, and pin them down much more quickly than in previous patches. The more a player relies on smart unit compositions, the more he or she can be expected to do well.

Likewise, the decrease in sight range makes it easier to retreat and scatter miners from expansions when under attack. Attackers have to spend far longer chasing these individual ships, because they might not necessarily know where each has gone.

This has also opened up the floor for tactics that take advantage of a player’s watchful eye. For instance, you might imagine that constructors can be strategically poised to build a pesky turret behind an enemy’s base for distraction ... and at the same time, who knows who’s watching that construction vessel.


Effect on Civil Units

Of course, decreasing the line of sight of civil units like the constructor or miner means that there can be some undue effects on newer players when trying to find their expansion.

For this reason, a new passive ability has been added to all constructors: a “resource scanner”. Using enhanced ranged scanning protocols for extremely dense objects, it’s now possible to reveal nearby resource moons from outside the typical range of the constructor.

This allows a player to know the rough location of a resource patch ahead of time, but not have to memorize the exact location of a moon. Of course, it’s still important to know the layout of a map if you don’t want to invest in a scout immediately. Map knowledge in any real time strategy game is necessary, especially as Fleet Operations heads to more dynamic maps in the future.

‘Till next time!