Sunday, November 20, 2016

Tsushima Part 3: Results

When I ran the first phase of the battle I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I decided to play as the five lead Russian pre-dreadnoughts and let the AI handle the four Japanese pre-dreadnoughts along with two armored cruisers.  As fitting Admiral Togo's disposition at the time, the computer controlled units were set to aggressive.  Following an almost immediate intercept, I began the combat encounter and steadily issued broadside orders to each of my pre-dreadnoughts in sequence.  Additionally, I didn't designate any priority targets.  In this way I hoped to recreate certain conditions of the battle, namely the poor gunnery and ill-suited formation of the Russian ships.  The results of the engagement were surprisingly authentic.  Initially, there was an impressive lightshow of green tracers, backed up by purple rounds moments later.  As both sides closed the distance to under 10km an eruption of red secondary battery fire began.  When the pyrotechnics finally subsided four of the five Russian pre-dreadnoughts were out of action, their radiators completely shot away.  A few had even been blown in two by concentrated fire.  The last surviving Russian pre-dreadnought, while technically still capable of fighting back, had lost all its fuel tanks leaving it unable to maneuver.  Meanwhile, the Japanese had only suffered the loss of a single armored cruiser and even then the damage wasn't especially severe.  As for the Japanese pre-dreadnoughts, only the lead ship had taken a significant number of hits.  Two others, in addition to the one remaining armored cruiser, were completely unscathed.

As one might gather, the results mirrored the actual battle quite closely.  Of the four Japanese pre-dreadnoughts at Tsushima only Togo's flagship, the Mikasa, took a substantial number of hits.  What's more, the only Japanese capital ship knocked out of action during the battle was the armored cruiser Nisshin (over 100 casualties including a junior officer who lost two fingers and went by the name Isoroku Yamamoto).  Even then the ship was repaired and returned to service not long after.  Japanese naval guns had used a special kind of incendiary ammunition called "shimosa."  It set fire to Russian ships quite effectively (going so far as to ignite the paint) and in some cases forced Russian crews to abandon ship or else be roasted alive.  It's a decision that must have also faced the crews of the spaceships once their radiators ceased to function.  The glowing hot hulls of the smashed Russian pre-dreadnoughts are eerily reminiscent of flaming hulks seen in artwork and photographs of the actual battle.

For the second phase of the engagement things went a bit more off-script.  Six Japanese armored cruisers attacked a force of three Russian pre-dreadnoughts and one armored cruiser.  Two Russian pre-dreadnoughts were disabled at the cost of two Japanese armored cruisers destroyed and a further two crippled.  In the actual battle none of the cruisers in the Japanese second column took serious damage, but then again they probably weren't as aggressive as in the simulation.

The third and final phase was basically a wash.  The torpedo boats proved wholly ineffectual due to the limited performance of their torpedoes.  No hits were made and several boats were knocked out of action by Russian gunfire.  I ran this last part of the simulation twice more with more-or-less identical results.  While not a true representation of the actual battle, the results do line up with the state of self-propelled explosives at that point in history.  Torpedoes wouldn't come into their own until the first World War, and it wasn't until decades later still that all the kinks finally got ironed out.  At Tsushima real torpedo boats were only used to finish off badly damaged Russian ships or else attempt surprise strikes under poor visibility conditions.

Thus concludes my attempts to re-create the Battle of Tsushima in a space sci-fi setting.  For me it was an interesting experiment that let me get a bit more millage out of the game while waiting for updates.  I hope it proved to be entertaining to read about as well.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Tsushima Part 2: Execution

Weaponry is as good a place to start as any, so lets begin with guns.  I decided to go with four types of conventional ballistics:

Obviously green guns are pre-dreadnought exclusive.  Purple represent the primary armament for cruisers.  Yellow is a tertiary, while red acts as a secondary armament on certain vessels.  Unfortunately, the number of guns can't be directly carried over from real-world designs.  In particular, pre-dreadnoughts tended to have four primary guns, but the firing arcs paired in fore and aft turret configurations ensured that the ship always presented at least half of its main battery to the enemy.  The best we can do to replicate this in Children of a Dead Earth though is to have a pair of guns in each quadrant of a Cartesian plane.  There are still blind spots along the z-axis, but it's an unavoidable consequence of applying a two-dimensional concept to a three-dimensional space.

For torpedoes I opted to go with a custom 1.61Mt boosted fusion warhead backed by a combustion rocket motor and enough fuel for about 306kps of DV.  It has "short legs," but that's exactly what I wanted.  The launcher is exasperated from the ammo supply and has a very low rate of deployment.  Again, this is an intentional attempt to replicate the actual sea-going warships that took part in the Battle of Tsushima.  Typically, torpedo boats from that era carried three of these self-propelled explosives so the storage container for the launcher has been set to match appropriately.

As for actual ships, I came up with four basic designs:

Since the battle was fought near a small island (between Japan and Korea) next to a much larger one (Honshu), I decided to set Sylvia as the location for the fleet action.  Most historians agree that the battle was divided into three phases.  Initially there was the crossing of the "T" by Admiral Togo, which then lead to an long range artillery duel between four Japanese pre-dreadnoughts (Mikasa, Shikishima, Fuji, and Asahi) plus two armored cruisers (Kasuga and Nisshin) versus five Russian pre-dreadnoughts (Suvorov, Alexander III, Borodino, Orel and Oslyalya).

After this first clash, secondary columns of ships on both sides met; six Japanese armored cruisers (Izumo, Azuma, Tokiwa, Yagumo, Iwate and Asama) against three older Russian pre-dreadnoughts (Oslyabya, Sissoi-Veliky and Navarin) in addition to one armored cruiser (the Admiral Nakhimov).

Lastly came a night action in which individual Russian ships fleeing to Port Vladivostok fell victim to hunting packs of lighter Japanese warships.  This final part of the battle is a bit harder to represent, but I was thinking about doing something along the lines of a few engagements involving isolated Russian pre-dreadnoughts and armored cruisers fighting off attacks by small numbers of Japanese torpedo boats and protected cruisers.

Next blog post I'll run the simulations and report the results.    

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tsushima Part 1: Concept

Children of a Dead Earth is a game that attempts to simulate tactical engagements in space using real world technology.  It's an admirable goal which is sound in terms of ideas, but a bit off in execution.  Targeting systems, proximity fuses and coil gun physics are kind of wonky at the moment.  Additionally, the game doesn't account for certain things like logistics, communication, sensors, or manufacturing costs aside from the raw materials being used.  Of course, CoaDE is the product of a single individual, and the scope of the project is ballooning a bit beyond what one person can possibly tackle.  Maybe (someday) we'll get there, but for now the game is like a nearly complete puzzle that's still miss a few important pieces.  Nevertheless, I've always enjoyed military science fiction based on navel traditions - whether it be World War 2 in space (like Wing Commander and Homeworld), or a more age-of-sail-in-space style conflict such as the long running Honorverse series of novels.  There is a narrow time frame, in the real history of navel warfare, that I've always found especially interesting though - the era of the pre-dreadnought.

As the name implies, these vessels ruled the seas before the introduction of the all-big-gun warships leading up to the First World War, but after the ironclad had faded into obsolescence.  Some important factors of note from this time period include the relatively short range of guns (typically less than 6000 yards), a lack of aircraft and submarines, as well as the rise of the torpedo (and by extension the torpedo boat) as a weapon of war.  The only major navel engagement fought during the age of the pre-dreadnought was the Battle of Tsushima in 1905.  It was between Japan and Russia, and proved to be a rather one-sided victory for the former.  It was also the last military conflict at sea that took place purely on the surface of the ocean.  So, getting to the point of all this, I want to use Children of a Dead Earth to create a sci-fi version of Tsushima.  Yes, I'm taking a game that's supposed to be realistic and making it less so, but since it's not quite there yet anyway, why not?

In order to do this though there are some important things to consider, namely ship mass, weaponry and armor.  Based on the classes of vessel from that era it's pretty easy to come up with some rough guidelines; pre-dreadnought at around 8kt, cruisers at 2~3kt, and torpedo boats under 1kt.  Guns should be limited to conventional designs with relatively low muzzle velocities.  Obviously, copying over the weight of projectiles is impractical, but the ratios can be preserved.  If we consider the quickfire hand-loaded guns used on warships at the time as the baseline, then a cruiser lobs a projectile about 8 times that weight, while a pre-dreadnought can toss a shell over 40 times the baseline from a main battery gun.  When it comes to armor, pre-dreadnoughts obviously lay it on thick. Cruisers also tended to have partial protection covering the vital areas of the ship (engine compartments, ammunition magazines, etc.) while leaving other parts with only the basic hull structure for defense.  In game-terms I'm thinking about having a default armor scheme for each ship type (stem to stern) and then adding a narrow belt or two underneath to capture the feel of a citadel or conning tower.

Torpedo tech was pretty crude at the start of the 20th century so I'm thinking low acceleration missiles armed with nukes and loaded up with very little fuel.  In this way I can force torpedo boats to get in close before launching an attack.  I'm also going to set the maximum range to 10km so the AI uses them in a way that matches with their real life counterparts.  On the plus side guns won't be able to target torpedoes, since the only defense against them at sea during that time was outright evasion.  That's all I've come up with so far.  In the next blog post I'll apply these ideas to some actual designs and see what happens.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Bland Brands

Video game consoles seem to have a curse over their proverbial heads when it comes to market branding.  Practically every single hardware platform has had a name that's boring at best and incomprehensible at worst.  There has also been a lot of misdirection going on from pretty early on.

Intellivision was supposed to be a contraction of "intelligent television," but (as any gamer knows) the TV is simply providing feedback on behalf of the box it's receiving signals from - no thinking involved.  Atari liked numbers such as 2600, 5200 and 7800.  Unless you are familiar with the part numbers manufactures use though it's not really obvious what these numerals represent, nor the significance of a two (or three) fold increase.

Sega had it's share of weird names for gaming platforms as well.  Why is it called the Sega Master System?  What is it master of?...certainly not the market share.  Then came the Genesis which wasn't the beginning of anything.  It's name outside the USA was the Mega Drive, which is kind of funny when you consider its initial chief competitor was the Turbo-Grafx 16.  It's as if Sega and NEC were in a competition to see who could come up with the most extreme(ly stupid) sounding name.

Sony and Microsoft both seem to be content to use the most unoriginal labels possible with PlayStation one to four and Xbox, Xbox360, followed by Xbox One.  It sound like the former trudges mindlessly ahead while the latter ended up back where it started.  The peripherals aren't any better with names like Sixaxis, Kinect, and Move. 

Nintendo sets itself apart from the above by bouncing around between silly, dull and nonsensical.  The NES (or Nintendo Entertainment System) was a pretty inauspicious start, but at least it made sense.  The Japanese name of Famicom, short for "family computer," was downright misleading.  Then came the "super" prefix for everything.  Gameboy was a bit better, but got slapped with a bunch of labels like Pocket, Light, Color, Advanced and Micro.  Eventually, the brand name was replaced with DS, or "Dual Screen," which makes sense in a really obvious kind of way.  After that it got a "3" slapped on the front, and then a "2" when players lost interest in that particular feature.  The absolute worst though has to be the Wii.  Originally it was code named the "Revolution," but someone at Nintendo though English words wouldn't get enough international recognition so they changed the name to the Wii.  Once the "U" got attached to the end it sounded like gibberish in pretty much every language with the possible exception of French.

Looking back on eight generations of console hardware though, I get the impression that branding and success are inversely proportional.  To be more specific, the better the name the worse it does sales-wise.  Jaguar, Lynx, Saturn and Dreamcast were all financial failures.  However, the reverse doesn't necessarily hold true, Ouya and CD-i both had terrible names and still sold poorly.  Interesting little facts aside, I guess the old axiom holds true, a console is only as good as the games available for it.  This is something Nintendo should really keep in mind when it comes to the Switch.  Lots of important questions are being asked about it regarding price point and battery life, but for me the big thing is region locking.  If Nintendo wants to get behind their gaming-anywhere image they shouldn't throw up a bunch of artificial barriers between countries.  They might think their fighting the threat of piracy, but all I see is slap in the face of anyone who travels abroad.  More "joy" and less "con"...know what I'm saying? 

Oh least it isn't Red Dead Revengence!...then again Revolver Ocelot would fit right in...