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.

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