Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Age of Contention

The main battleship design during the Terran era was a cylindrical vessel body where one end housed the propulsive drives and the other end, the main laser batteries; this design is retroactively known to us as the Lance-type battleship. Contrary to popular perception, Lance-type battleships were not armed with a single very massive laser cannon, or even a small number very large lasers; rather, the main laser batteries were formed of a sizable number of heavy (in terms of output, not size) lasers recessed into the main weapon receptacle, each of which contributed to a large beam of immense firepower. However, since the laser batteries themselves are hidden within the body of the cylindrical vessel body and only exposed in combat, it is easy to understand how such a public misconception came about.

This battleship design resulted in a ship that could output heavy forward fire, but only presented a small cross-section that was difficult for enemies to hit. This was excellent at siege warfare against immobile orbital or planetary targets, but difficult to use against naval targets. Admirals relied on flanking and ambushes to place their ships at optimal positions where damage could be properly inflicted on enemy fleets, but such tactics were rarely effective. However, the very impotence of battleships ensured that battles during the late Terran era were relatively bloodless, even though wars large and small broke out all the time. Hence, the late Terran era was also nicknamed "The Era of Inconsequence".

The status quo was eventually broken by an innovative battleship design, pioneered by the Caled. The primary weakness of old Lance-type battleships was an inability to target (and consequently damage) anything that did not lie in the narrow arc of fire directly forward. This problem stemmed from the cylindrical vessel design, which made it difficult to situate weapons of any effective size on the sides of the ship. The Caled overcame this problem by constructing spherical ships (though in practice the ships were polyhedral rather than pure spheres) with weapons facing each possible direction except the rear (where the engines were). Such ships were considered ugly and were named "Spikeballs" according to their spiky appearance. However, their combat potential was very high, compared to the earlier battleships.

Though some naval designers recognized the value of the Spikeball-type battleship, politicians and naval planners were unconvinced by the advantage of this new design. The Caled themselves secretly doubted the unproven worth of their new ships, and did not pursue construction of Spikeballs on a massive scale. This turned out to be a massive error, though, as it gave rival powers some time to begin their own experiments in battleship design.

The value of the new battleships was proven in the battle of Proxima Delphi, where a fleet of Spikeballs-type battleships was able to inflict decisive damage on a fleet of conventional warships, while suffering little damage themselves. Henceforth navies everywhere adopted the Spikeball design over the older Lance-type battleships. The sole exception was the Terran navy, which found itself in the unenviable position of being stuck with a large fleet of outdated vessels and having insufficient resources or industrial capacity to modernize its fleet on a large scale. This led to the diminishment of Terran power and prestige and the loss of its position as the galactic superpower, though in any case it was still a first-rate power of prominence.

The Spikeball battleship brought about a new era in naval warfare. Though no power was especially advantaged by the introduction of the Spikeball (with the minor exception of the Caled, who unfortunately due to their initial hesitation only retained a small numerical advantage in the number of modern battleships), since all powers had equal access to the design and production of Spikeball-type battleships, the galactic scene was changed forever. Where naval battle in the Terran era was inconclusive, the newer battleships were much more capable of dealing damage to each other. Battles could once again be won or lost, and wars were once again bloody.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Defence versus Attack

In several games, in particular RPGs, defence is quite boring when compared to attack. I tend to skip defensive skills or traits, unless death is penalized in gameplay.

Imagine two characters, one who specializes in defence, and the other attack. If properly balanced, we expect both characters to be equally successful in combat. Yet, most probably the attack specialist preferred by far. Why? Because killing the enemy is more enjoyable than surviving the enemy. This is particularly true if combat is repetitive, or if it is necessary to fight some trash mobs. Defensive skills simply extend the length of combat.