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Author Topic: Alien Teams  (Read 2388 times)

Offline Rodmar

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Alien Teams
« on: August 20, 2016, 02:47:31 pm »
Hello, this topic follows on another one where I questionned on last year the alien team generation as guessed by reading the .ufo files.
This is sketched at http://ufoai.org/wiki/Proposals/Alien_Team_Selection
One year later, here are my feedback, and a refined proposal.

There are already several Alien equipment categories: workers and soldiers, several Alien mission types and teams, and several Alien units (Taman, Taman light, Taman armoured...), all of them depending on the alien_interest variable, i.e. the campaign advancement.
However, for any given alien_interest, mission type, and UFO, we end with:
  • only one category (either workers or soldiers, not both);
  • a random number of any possible species as written in the .ufo files (e.g. a nearly all-biological or all-robotic team);
  • some early units are dismissed from mid-game on: Bloodspiders (BS) and Hovernet (HN);
  • one species, the weakest but presumably the most psi-capable (?) doesn't seem to be necessary anymore when terror, XVI, harvest and assault missions are scheduled;


The ideas developped thereafter are:
  • the crews of the UFOs are increased, quite reallisticaly in order for the alien mission to have any chance to be conducted;
  • the larger crews have a (greater?) chance to be lessened due to a crash: there would be a greater difference between a crashed UFO mission and a Terror mission, for instance, leading to strategical choices (to shoot down an UFO or to wait?);
  • through we'd need several alien teams for an automated spawning system (a team spawned in town, another one around the UFO, another one inside it), as I don't know the engine limitations here, all that follows has but one goal: to generates only one alien team that is manually spawned by the mapper;
  • the randomness is quite kept, but without impacting realism;
  • each alien unit has a goal throughout the game: a gunship would not be piloted by an Ortnok in heavy armour;
  • once a more complex system has been developped, alien teams, thus battlescape mission may become very diverse and tailored.

The mean used here is to generate the final alien team through a modular system and the sum of several (1-3) components or sub-teams, each depending on the alien_interest, and each having specific spawning points (if possible during map design/generation):
In short,                            alienTeam = teamCrew + teamMission + teamDefense
where:

  • teamCrew: the crew assignated to the UFO when performing an athmospheric flight. It's always the same whatever the mission, basically pilots, navigators, techs, gunners. One could have versatile crews that act both while in the air, and on the ground, but we can figure that the Ennemy's behaviour is more specialized and stereotyped, thus separating the actual crew from the team needed to conduct the mission (especially for ground missions). A crew would usually stand in or by the craft, ready to take off (if not automated), and this could lead to some interesting map missions (to storm a large UFO while only defending against outside Aliens).
    However, the UFO's crew should include any mission team member who are not deemed to leave the UFO, in order to make it easier for the mappers to place the spawning points (?). I mean that in any mission, a Corrupter would have presumably more Tamans than a Harvester, but those Tamans would not be running at civilians, and rather staying in the Corrupter's wing housings. Such Tamans (not really needed to fly) could be included in a Corrupter's crew, an not in the XVI mission team (presumably spawned outside of the UFO).
  • teamMission: the team that is likely to conduct the mission on the map when everything's gone good for the Aliens. They are mostly deployed outside of the UFO, often far from it, or as sentry around it.
  • teamDefense: a special guard team, mostly robotic and always soldiers, that is only there in case the UFO is assaulted while landed, or has land crashed, and its crew is not potent enough to defend itself. This would ensure that a valuable UFO is no more abandonned by its defenders, and that a house-large UFO get more defenders than currently, without necessarily implying that a given mission would be conducted by a large number of ennemies (balance concern).
    All in all, that would mean that the Alien team on the map would depend on the UFO's status (far away, landed, crashed), and the mission type, allowing for more diversity in game. Also, the player would experience a kind of "endurance" concern (no more large map won with one ammo clip per soldier, durability of the medikit), but the fact the alien team is now fragmented in two or three prevents the player to be overwhelmed during the first turns (whereas the number of enemies has increased).
    An added benefit (?) would be to increase the number of ennemies on the map without necessarily increasing the time needed to win the mission, because of (possibly) new mission alternative objectives, such as:
    - to clean a map but the UFO from any hostiles (and waiting for an aerial strike to finish the UFO off)(thus saving any civilians still alive);
    - to storm an UFO (to prevent it from taking off) while leaving the Alien survivors still outside to the local forces.

1/ A quick remember of current (v2.5) state:

Current appearance order and team strength (approximative data because I took them from this forum and not the game files, sorry):
  • Beginning: 1st month; alien_interest 20-49: Scout, Fighter(50?), 3-4 Tamans / BS
  • Early game: 2nd-6th month; alien_interest 50-199: Scout, Fighter(50?), Harvester(80), 4-8 Tamans / BS / HN(50) / Shevaars(80) / Armoured Tamans(110)
  • Mid-game: 7th-10th month; alien_interest 200-309: Alien Base, Scout, Fighter, Harvester, Supply(200), Corrupter(200), 4-12 Tamans / Shevaars / Armoured Tamans/CBS(200) / (Breeder(200)) / Ortnok(250) / CHN(280)
  • Late game: 11th-13th month; alien_interest 310-399: Alien Base, Fighter, Supply, Gunboat(310), Bomber(310), ..., 6-18 Shevaars / Armoured Tamans / CBS / Ortnoks / CHN / (Breeder) / Armoured Ortnoks(310) / (Alien Tank(310))  Particle weapons
I remember that there's a last stage "Finale" that would run from 400 to 10000.

2/ UFO's crews:

teamCrew is declinated as many times as there are Alien assets (UFOs and bases) and alien_interest categories (let's say 5 as for now).

teamCrew_scout(alien_interest)
teamCrew_fighter(alien_interest)
teamCrew_harvester(alien_interest)
teamCrew_supply(alien_interest)
teamCrew_corrupter(alien_interest)
teamCrew_gunship(alien_interest)
teamCrew_bomber(alien_interest)
teamCrew_base1(alien_interest)
teamCrew_base2(alien_interest)
teamCrew_base3(alien_interest)
teamCrew_ripper(alien_interest)
teamCrew_battleshipBridge(alien_interest)
...
Developping assets, such as bases on Earth may be described as several assets depending on their size.
Largest assets, such as battleships, motherships, etc, may be described as several assets, each one for the corresponding map (in case other assets can't be reused).

This crew don't usually leave the asset, except it's a crashed UFO. Perhaps one unit would spawn in the hold near the exit and ready to look outside.

Examples:

teamCrew_scout(alien_interest=1) = 1 Taman
teamCrew_scout(alien_interest=2) = 1-2 Taman
teamCrew_scout(alien_interest=3-5) = 1 Taman + 1 Shevaar
For all the early UFOs, Tamans tend to be replaced by Shevaars: perhaps they are less "costly", but this could impact the "smartness" of any non-linked ground team.
teamCrew_corrupter(alien_interest=4) = 4 Tamans + 2 Shevaars
Note that 2 of them are actually "medics" in each wing.
teamCrew_gunship(alien_interest=4-5) = 1 Taman + 2 Shevaars + 1 Ortnok
(2 in the cockpit, one on the upper deck, one in the hold; they could be even less given there might be a Defense team as well)

Of course, anybody could argue that such a tiny UFO should be manned by but one unit. Why not. It's fully tweakable and reallistic.
Note that there are no Ortnok, to heavy and to unfit, and no robotic units, totally useless to man an UFO.

3/ Mission teams:

teamMission is declinated as many times as there are mission (sub-)types (scheduled missions) and alien_interest categories.

teamMission_scoutingAerial "flying-by scouting at medium to high altitude"
teamMission_scoutingRemote "ground robotic exploration with no landing craft"
teamMission_scoutingLand "non-remote ground scouting"

Note that as Hovernets (HN) are not encountered at the beginning, only aerial and "no-return" land recons are possible at this time.
The second type would then be the only one conducted with early, smallest craft such as Scouts and Fighters, because they are not deemed to land (and take off).
They would hover near their target and launch Hovernets. Later, they would retrieve them and return to orbit. Thus, this mission wouldn't have any UFO to retrieve.
The later type would be of no use with a non-land-and-take-off-able (and not com-linked) craft. It could be used by early Harvesters, and Gunships, however. But we can figure that an automated Harvester is scheduled to exfiltrate the scouting party when mission is over.
Their goal would be to precisely assess a position, to retrieve materials or specific objects, etc.
All of this becomes non-pertinent if Scouts and/or Fighter have a VTOL or a very low altitude hovering capability (such as a chopper without a landing gear), enabling them to drop and retrieve non flying units.

teamMission_escortSmall "Fighter"
teamMission_escortMedium "Gunship"
teamMission_escortLarge ???

These types would include any non-ground mission, such as bombing run on Phalanx assets, and aerial retaliation. There are a mean to tailor the size and composition of the Alien team found on a map when such UFOs are shot down.

teamMission_terrorSmall "terror against civilians with a small craft"
teamMission_terrorCiv "terror against civilians"
teamMission_terrorMil "terror against local forces" (or team_mission_retaliation?)

The first one would only occur whenever a Fighter is used for first Terror mission.
The later replacing the second as alien_interest increases and it becomes frequent that any terror mission is opposed by PHALANX forces, and this would trigger an additionnal memo.
"terrorMil" could be the only mission conducted by a Bomber, except in the first encounters, when they only bombing run (and gunning) strategic targets (thanks to their superior ordinance), hence the name they are given.

teamMission_harvestBiomass "to collect biomass, anyhow"
teamMission_harvestBodies "to collect human (dead) bodies"

The later replacing the former as alien_interest increases, and triggering an additionnal memo. The need for full bodies means more Ortnoks (to handle them) and less BS.
No Combat Hovernet (CHN) for the harvest task, as heavy plasmas aren't quite compatible with fresh biomass.
The harvest team should have non-bleeding, non-plasma, and non-heavy weapons, rather incapaciting weapons, to not spill the biomass and organic fluids.
Remember that there should be a Defense team near/inside the Harvester too, to fry any opposition.

teamMission_supplyFundation
teamMission_supplyBuilding
teamMission_supplyManpower
teamMission_supplySupplies

Those missions would obviously result in Alien base fundation, Alien base development (growth), Alien base reinforcement, and Alien base/Local allies supply, respectively.
Payload would be workers for the first ones, Soldiers and Breeders for "Manpower", given that a payload of workers would still correspond to "Building" even if the base is built already.
The last one would need only a few handlers (mostly Ortnoks) but could host robots, and even a tank. Possibly, the value of the captured craft could depend on the mission as well (more alien materials?).

teamMission_xviMass "to infect a large number of civilians, without any selection"
teamMission_xviVip "to infect a few high-ranking, highly influent, VIP humans"

Both types would be conducted until the end of game, the later one triggering an additionnal memo when it becomes evident that the Ennemy is able to target VIP for a purpose.
The difference would be that "xivVIP" would have more soldiers to deal with the VIP guards, and more "ninjas" to infiltrate a small bastion; maps would be specific (Mansion, Villa, UNO base, ...).

teamMission_baseAttackSmall or teamMission_baseAttack1
teamMission_baseAttackMedium or teamMission_baseAttack2
teamMission_baseAttackLarge or teamMission_baseAttack3

The first base attack could be operated through a "suicide" Fighter mission (as it seems possible in v2.5) that would "crash" land right amidst the targeted PHALANX base's buildings.
Hence, attack team would be rather small.
Next base attack would be conducted by medium class UFOs such as Harvesters, then Gunships.
In late game, base attack UFOs would shift to Bombers.
Also, to emulate a multiple waves assault, there could be several chained baseAttack maps with different-size alien teams.
Moreover, these missions could be used on certain maps where PHALANX has to rescue a stormed UNO or local military base.

teamMission_baseDefense1
teamMission_baseDefense2
teamMission_baseDefense3...

There could be several mission sub-types depending on the size of the alien base, if there's no other mean to render this.
Also, this would help in designing staged maps such as alienBase_entrance and alienBase_innerBase.

teamMission_diplomacy

This mission is used when the UFO (or a localized ground convoy) hosts an embassy, presumably a linked or numerous party.

Examples:

teamMission_scoutingRemote(alien_interest=1) = N/A (no Hovernet at AI=1, and BS would be useless for that purpose)
teamMission_scoutingRemote(alien_interest=2) = 1 Shevaar + 2-3 HN ?
teamMission_scoutingRemote(alien_interest=3) = 1 Shevaar + 3 HN + 0-1 CHN ?
This is to stress that the "controler" should be rather included in the UFO's crew, because he's not deemed to land (Scout, Fighter).
teamMission_scoutingLand(alien_interest=4) = 1 Taman + 2 Shevaars + 3 HN + 1 CHN
teamMission_scoutingLand(alien_interest=5) = 2 Tamans + 2 Shevaars + 3 HN + 1 CHN
teamMission_terrorSmall(alien_interest=2) = 2 Tamans + 1-2 Shevaars + 2 HN + 2 BS
teamMission_terrorSmall(alien_interest=3) = 1 Taman + 2-3 Shevaars + 1 Ortnok + 2-4 HN + 0-1 CHN + 1-2 BS + 0-1 CBS
In such a "non-return" terror mission conducted by a Fighter UFO, total crew could exceed 6 : the units are simply packed together inside.

4/ Defense teams:

This allows for mixing soldiers with otherwise workers inside the UFO.
Those specialized teams are only there in case the asset is assaulted, and the normal crew (e.g. the only gunner) is not enough to defend it.
I'd see them too like "life buoys" as when a scout is shot down, and is considered as valuable enough (sensible data?) to be defended if this situation occurs.
They don't usually man the craft, nor venture outsides.
Note that the provided numbers depending on alien_interest are quite fantasist as I didn't check up the real triggers appearing in the .ufo files (e.g. when given missions, UFOs, Heavy Tamans, Ortnoks or CBS start to appear, ...).


teamDefense_none(alien_interest) "2 HN at most for aerial recon/decoy, and for scouting a crash site"
teamDefense_small(alien_interest) "Scouts, Fighters, and possibly Supply Ships, all disposable crafts"
teamDefense_medium(alien_interest) "Harvester, Corrupters, Gunships, and possibly Supply Ships, all valuable crafts"
teamDefense_large(alien_interest) "Bomber, Ripper, Battleship?"
teamDefense_base(alien_interest)
For small crafts, only robots are assigned as the hold is most probably already crowded, and they may be carried outside.
The later is used if required through it may be redundant with "teamMission_baseDefense".

Examples:

teamDefense_medium(alien_interest=5) = 2 Shevaars + 1 Ortnok + 2-4 HN + 4 CHN + 2-4 CBS


5/ Forming the final Alien team:

During the mission generation, all the teams are summed up.

As for the relation between assets (UFOs) and mission (sub-)types, we'd get:

Scouts -> teamMission_scoutingAerial teamMission_scoutingRemote teamMission_scoutingLand
Fighters -> teamMission_scoutingAerial teamMission_scoutingRemote teamMission_scoutingLand teamMission_escortSmall teamMission_terrorSmall teamMission_baseAttackSmall
Harvesters ->  teamMission_scoutingLand teamMission_escortMedium teamMission_terrorCiv teamMission_harvestBiomass teamMission_harvestBodies teamMission_baseAttackMedium teamMission_diplomacy
Supply Ships -> teamMission_supplyFundation teamMission_supplyBuilding teamMission_supplyManpower teamMission_supplySupplies teamMission_diplomacy
Corrupters -> teamMission_escortMedium teamMission_terrorCiv teamMission_terrorMil teamMission_xviMass teamMission_xviVip teamMission_diplomacy
Gunships -> teamMission_scoutingAerial teamMission_scoutingLand teamMission_escortMedium teamMission_terrorCiv teamMission_terrorMil teamMission_baseAttackMedium
Bombers ->  teamMission_escortLarge teamMission_terrorMil teamMission_baseAttackLarge


Example:

A Corrupter is sent to perform a XVI mission on Earth during mid-game:

teamCrew_corrupter(3) = 3 Tamans + 2 Shevaars
teamMission_xviMass(3) = 3-4 Shevaars + 2-3 Ortnoks + 1-2 HN + 1 CHN + 2 BS
teamDefense_medium(3) = 1 Shevaar + 0-1 Ortnok + 2-4 HN + 2 CHN + 0-1 BS
Total Crew: 3 T 6-7 S 2-4 O 3-6 HN 3 CHN 2-3 BS / 11-14 bio-units (for an AI level of circa 14 if com-link is destroyed), 8-12 robots
of which: 5-7 Aliens & 4-5 robots are spawned throughout the map, 5 Alien "workers" stay in the landed UFO or hide in nearby cover if a crash, and 1-2 Alien "soldiers" & 4-7 robots are spawned in the lower bridge or around the UFO, to guard it.

This illustrate both how the team could be tailored (by tweaking the spreadsheet which those figures come from), and that there's some work before something satisfactory comes out, for any combination of alien_interest/asset/mission.
This isn't necessary to have three different alien teams, but the spawning locations or areas should be different for each team component (crew, mission, defense).
« Last Edit: August 20, 2016, 03:05:22 pm by Rodmar »

Offline Rodmar

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Re: Alien Teams
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2016, 03:05:37 pm »
TL;dR
Above is a proposal to develop the current Alien Team generation system (without totally breaking it).
For a minimal added complexity, and a few lines more in a script, this could lead to a very versatile generation system.
However, it depends on the capacity to change the way current alien teams are defined, namely their  fixed equipment, composition, number, and mission assignment.
It would be nice too if spawning areas on the maps could be assigned to given sub-teams, so that the mapper wouldn't have to manually define each actor's spawning location.