WiC-style Aircraft

I like how WiC did aircraft (and pretty much everything else).

Basically all air assets were like strategems, which you “buy” in a build menu-style way. Ie if you wanted a napalm strike you open up the air asset menu and selected it, selected a target, and whammo!

It was actually pretty damned sweet.

So can/should we do this for 1944?

Say you build an airfield, and via that, do your thing. Within the airfield would be a menu of different options; dive-bomb attack, carpet bombing, etc; some may be attacks you have to target on a specific location, others will be area denial attacks, ie select a wing of Stukas to go and interdict an area and kill everything in it. Also, interception and air interdiction style abilities; send a wing of 3 fighters to patrol an area for a few minutes (to stop your enemy using air assets).

The length of time of air assets would essentially rely on balancing the power of the asset, and real-world fuel capabilities. For instance, the Mustang is much-vaunted for having a massive amount of fly time thanks to huge amounts of fuel; an interdiction wing of Mustangs would stay in play for quite some time compared to the shorter-ranged 109s and 190s.

As I write this, I’m becoming more interested in this, so I’ll write down an interim list of air assets, followed by a small description of special features; ie how long it takes for an asset to deply (ie the time it takes from when you select the asset and target, and when your planes show up to kill stuff):

Reconnaisance - A patrol by a single recon plane. Moderate deploy time, moderate lasting time.

Light Interception (Germany & USSR only) - An emergency scrambling of a small squadron of light fighters (Yak-9, Bf 109). Quick deployment time, short lasting time.

Ground Attack - Scrambling of a single ground attack aircraft (Rocketstang, Typhoon, Stuka, Il-2) to attack targets in a specific area. Moderate deploiy time, short lasting time.

Fighter-Bombing - Pin-point (relative) fighter-bombing against a specific single target, be it a building, vehicle, etc. Moderate deploy time, short lasting time.

Air Interdiction - A squadron of medium air superiority fighters (Fw 190, Mustang, Spitfire, etc) that patrol an area. Moderate deploy time, moderate lasting time.

Ground Attack Wave - A squadron of ground attack aircraft (as opposed to a single) to saturate an area with ground attack coverage. Long deploy time, moderate lasting time.

Attack Bomber Run - Single attack bomber deployed over an area to attack any potential targets. Moderate deploy time, short lasting time.

Carpet Bomber Run - A single bomber which line-bombs a specific target. Long deploy time, short lasting time.

Heavy Fighter Interdiction - Scrambling of heavy fighters (Me-262, P-38/P-47, etc) to interdict an area. Long deploy time, moderate lasting time.

Attack Bomber Wave - Three attack bombers deployed over an area. Long deploy time, short lasting time.

All assets would of course have variable balancing costs and perhaps other factors. They should have a slowly-resetting increasing cost the more assets are selected in quick succession, meaning that in most cases only a single asset can be deployed at a time, but also meaning that if you can intelligently stockpile enough resources you can spam successive waves of various kinds of attacks for a very powerful, short-duration strike of a huge air fleet (game ender, essentially; deploy multiple ground attack, fighter bomber and attack bomber waves over the enemy base and more than likely it’ll crush him).

This is advantageous in several ways:

First and foremost it allows for creation and balancing to be made much more easily. We will not have to worry about all sorts of aircraft being managed all over the place. It is also quite unique for the Spring experience (and RTS in general, even though essentially ripped as a concept from WiC). It’s also pretty cool and really establishes a strategic influence on the game, giving the feeling that you’re taking part in a much larger conflict with assets being called in and such.

The only downside is the inability to actually control the aircraft. However, we may be able to allow players to control them anyway – I don’t see it causing that much harm, and they’ll disappear soon anyway. It’ll usually be more advantageous, and more user-friendly, simply to call assets to an area and let them do their thing, rather than have to manage all of these unit capabilities on your own.

I really, really like the idea. You?

This is the style air support is done in Sudden Strike/Blitzkrieg (only they also have an Airdrop mission, which causes some transport planes to drop a few squads of infantry in the specified place).
Downside to this (in Blitzkrieg at least) was that it turned into wait-for-the-enemy-to-act-first game. Ie if you call in bombers, he can call his fighters and kill your planes. But if you wait for him to call in say a recon, you may now call the bombers safely - his airfield won’t be able to launch anything until that recon plane returns. And there was a limited supply of planes, so if the recon gets shot down a couple of times, that kind of mission will be unavailable for that player for the rest of the game.

This is the kind of thing I had in mind for paratroops and gliders. I’m not sure how well it will work for others though, for the reasons yuritch pointed out.

We can have separate ‘cooldowns’ for different plane types, so that sending out bombers won’t prevent you from calling in fighters the next second. Plus there needs to be something to prevent all of that being called in at once (imagine carpet bombers + attack planes + fighter-bombers covered by fighters ripping a base into pieces, with paratroop-carrying transports approaching the site), like a resource cost.
Also, do we plan to have the planes start off from the buildable airfield or come from offmap? Or maybe something mixed (like fighters being based on the airfield, but bombers coming in from the map edge)?
Which planes should do the Carpet bombing mission? That’s a job for medium bombers at least, of which we have none (that just means I ask ‘what needs modelling’).

Perhaps you have, I dunno, 10 “aircraft placeholder points” (for lack of a better name). Each mission requires a different number of points, and when you have expended them all you can’t launch any missions. The points slowly regenerate at a constant rate.

So you might be able to launch a Ground Attack Wave (4 points) and 2 Reconnaisance (1 point each) and still have enough left over for a Air Interdiction mission (3 points) but not a Heavy Fighter Interdiction mission (5 points).

Gives the player flexibility, eliminates the “wait for the other guy to do something” dynamic, prevents players from just launching everything at once while still allowing them to make full use of whatever assets they choose, within limits.

A static max number of points per player and regeneration time can be a balancing factor in the game as well, as the player with the disadvantage in CP can still use air just as much as the player with the advantage (assuming he has the CP to begin with).

Ok, that sounds good.
That still leaves us with some missing models. I see the need for following:
Bombers:
Germany - Ju88 (or maybe even Ju188?)
USSR - Pe-2
US, GB - name something like a light/medium bomber?
Ju88 and Pe-2 are light bombers more that anything, maybe something heavier (like a medium, He-111 for Germany and Il-4 for USSR for ex.) for carpet bombing?

Transports (if we’ll do the airdrop mission):
USSR - Li-2
USA, GB - DC-3 Dacota (which is the same as Li-2 geometry wise, so only 1 model is needed for all of them), gliders (modelled)
Germany - Ju52 (already modelled)

Mosquito for the brits. A-26 for the US?

I think I’d prefer a slightly more traditional approach - instead of having an airfield that suddenly spawns whatever planes are needed for the particular mission (meaning that building an airfield means you get a win or near win button in the attack bombers), you have to build those particular planes first (which can be represented by them flying in from off-map and landing at the strip.

Then, once you have planes, the airfield orders (recon mission, air interdiction, ect) are relayed to the appropriate plane. This bypasses the control issues with fast planes, and means that you still need to invest in the aircraft before you can get a bombing strike, ect. also it removes the odd fixed number nature of pre-scripted missions.

I suppose my main problem with this approach is that it means that planes are always ‘throw-away’ units - when you order a bombing run, there’s zero incentive to order it in a place where the planes will survive for another run - they’re only around for a little while anyways, then you need to buy the mission again, so you may as well just send them directly at the enemy HQ, even if there’s heavy AA. If you can use the planes from mission to mission without re-buying them, their survivability matters rather more, and the incentive to always order suicide missions goes away.

normal style aircraft are the way to go. It would be cool to make “ai” scripts for the airplanes so they do specific things (such as bomb this area and return to base, or attack all aircraft in this area, or attack all tanks and/or infantry) but besides that i don’t see a need to alter airplanes. Although, it would be cool to replace fuel with payload. That way it doesn’t matter how far the airplanes fly it just matters how much they shoot.

I think something in the middle will work better. Like that: you can build and directly control small light planes (observers, light fighters, maybe lighter ground attack planes like the Stuka or Il-2), and those are based on your airfield and start from there (and return there for refuel/repair).
However, you cannot build larger planes (transports and medium bombers, maybe heavy fighters/heavy ground attack planes), but you can call them in. They will arrive from off-map, do their mission (drop infantry or carpet-bomb a location, etc.) and will go away again. They cannot be ordered directly either (lua them to be unselectable) - you can only specify general location of their target. Plus there could be a noticeable delay between the moment order is given and the time they arrive - think of the time it takes to take off from some far away off-map airfield and come to your battlezone. This gives the incentive to use lighter ‘front-line’ aircraft for missions - their response time is lower. However, some targets may just be too heavily defended (or just too armored, like German concrete bunkers) for them to be effective - this is where large off-map planes come into play.
There can be some form of penalty for losing called-in (‘strategic’) planes, like them being unavailable for some (considerable) time after some of them were lost. This will prevent players from sending them to suicidal missions against flak batteries etc. Front-line aircraft will have no additional penalty for losing them, except for the fact you have lost an expensive unit that will take a while to rebuild.

i don’t like the idea of off the screen bomber fleets, and i want more control over the route the planes take as well as the planes themselves. Making heavy bombers totally inaccurate and only being able to make one bomb run before rearming makes it more than fair. Personally, i don’t think we should worry about putting heavy bombers in the game cause they couldn’t do close air support and were mainly used to bomb cities. 4 engine planes were just too inaccurate to bomb small targets. I don’t think anything bigger than a 2 engine plane should be in this game.

Well, I have mentioned those would be medium bombers. I.e. 2 engines (Germany had no usable heavy bombers anyway - Fw200 is not a good bomber, and USSR heavy bomber force was quite limited in numbers, unlike western Allies).
Forward enemy base and frontline ammunition storage, as well as a frontline airfield (which is what a player’s base in S’44 is) is quite a valid target for a medium bomber run. Of course, bombing a tank group in this way is useless because of arrival delay - mobile units will be far away from the target spot by the time the planes arrive.

Personally I am still all for completely automated aircraft in the way mentioned. I feel that the relative automation of air assets would be a strategic and tactical benefit for players in terms of attention; it would simply be much easier to control planes by launching missions rather than rounding up and gathering this plane or that plane and giving them specific sets of orders or some such, then maintaining their return, re-armament, repair and so on and so forth.

I’ve given it some further thought:

Interceptor Assets, such as a flight of light fighters, escort fighters or what-have-you, will have two basic purposes; the first is the most obvious, achieving superiority over a certain area to deny your opponent’s aircraft the ability to operate with impunity; and as an escort for your own assets, to protect them from the attempts at aerial denial by the enemy.

There would be some assets that are “one-trick ponies” that fly in, drop a payload, and fly off; bombers, for instance. These will be rather hard, if not impossible, to actively stop; by the time you realize a bomber is incoming, it’ll have dropped its payload and be flying off the map by the time you get your interceptors ready, let alone get them to the location.

Defense against these types of linear attacks will mainly be through anti-aircraft weaponry which is always there. This isn’t, of course, discounting “lucky” instances where you happen to have a flight of superiority fighters over an area when your opponent calls in a strike (in which case, if he’s foolish enough to call in bombers while you’ve got fighters in the area, he deserves to have them shot down).

Air interception therefore will mainly be a guard against roaming ground-attack aircraft; rocket-wielding Typhoons and Mustangs, Stukas or Il-2’s, which would patrol over an area and attack any enemy unit it comes across. In these instances it will be possible and necessary to call in fighters to counter them.

Then, of course, there is protection, sending in a flight of fighters at the same time as a flight of ground attack aircraft so that the enemy’s attempts at foiling your attacks can themselves be foiled.

As for pricing and/or balancing, the idea of “regenerating air asset placeholder points” or whatever is at the core of it. The original idea was simply to use Strategy Points (a lot of them), forcing the player to choose between building lots of tanks or calling in lots of air assets, but a whole new system may be useful (and is entirely possible). Each asset would have variable pricing depending on its strength, making strategic use important; you could send out wave after wave of fighters at the earliest oppurtune time, or store a bit, and send one massive wave which your enemy would find very difficult to counter unless he too had been waiting.

In any case the point behind all of it is that I think it would be much more tenable to manage aircraft and air assets in as automated a way as possible without removing all of the cool shit people expect from aircraft. TBH, having to deal with the quagmire of a map full of fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, fighter bombers and reconnaisance planes isn’t fun. What’s fun is seeing a Stuka dive-bombing into a column of tanks, or a huge dogfight rolling through the sky, bombers pummeling large stretches of terrain into cratered hell, so on and so forth. I really don’t care at all for managing the stupid things. Sure, having “freeform” aircraft units is almost expected in Spring, all the cool mods have it, but I think managed automated assets will be just as fun (infact I found air assets in WiC quite a lot more fun than the usual freeform assets), just in a different way, and will make the game as a whole more fluid and less micro-intensive. Having automated flights of aircraft that are controlled via one or two clicks leaves much more room for players to manage their ground forces.

It would even be cool to go a step further and manage other things this way, but it’s not entirely necessary. I am of course talking about artillery and the myriad of different types of artillery bombardment that could be automated. Similar to aircraft, artillery could be called in from off-map and provide a variety of different types of bombardment which we are not able to do with freeform user-controlled units (well, it is possible, but very difficult and micro-intensive); differentiations between anti-infantry fragmentation munitions, anti-armour/fortification rounds, smoke rounds, incindiary rounds, so on and so forth, of different calibers and durations; for instance, a battery of 75mm light artillery, or 105mm artillery, or 155mm artillery, or 210mm artillery, or rockets, or (LOL) propaganda leaflets that do nothing but cause pinning (as the enemy is terrified by threatening propaganda)… hehehe, I really like that last one…

Anyway not saying we should do automated artillery too, but it’s an idea, and one I’d like.

I think we should remove all units and have the entire game consist of ordering off map assets to the enemy base.

Hence why I suggested controlling them from the airfield. You still build them, then you can create ‘missions’ via the airfield interface - you just still need to invest in the plane before you can use it. WiC aircraft will almost certainly lead to suicide incentives - order the missions straight to the enemy base - it doesn’t matter, since the planes fly away afterwards anyways…

Also it removes the various cool bits of targeting the enemy airfield and stranding the enemy planes in the air, or finding planes on the ground, or planting AA along landing/takeoff vectors.

Planes need not be expendable. We can keep track of how many were lost and delay the next time the player can call them in appropriately (or even deny him a type of air support mission if he had lost too many of specific plane type). Like initially he can call a wing of 3 fighters, if he loses 1, he can call only 2 for the next 5 minutes (after which time he can again call 3). The enemy (if he was keeping track of air battle and noticed the fighter went down) can use that time to gain air superiority and use bombers with impunity.