Why doesn't PR have hardpoint (HP) targetting like vanilla Empires at War/Forces of Corruption (EAW/FOC)?
I'll let PR speak to his reasons on this one:
All hardpoints have been made indestructible in hopes of eliminating some of the bugs associated with them that were in EaW, such as extra missiles passing through freshly-destroyed hardpoints and damage against the hull being negated. It's less micromanagement and makes battle harder, but takes away some of the tactical options. It's different from vanilla.
Why would it be nice to have HP back in the mod?
Well, I'm not sure if it was the extra work so much as it not really meshing with my concepts for Space (obviously we're not afraid to tackle some ambitious projects). With individual weapons, the existing flaws in EaW's hardpoint system just got amplified that much more to the point where it became a detracting feature. The tradeoff, however, is being one of the few games to do justice to the bigger starships.
Lots of people (especially those new to the mod) tend to want HP back. I know I did. There are two ways people commonly want to use HP.
-Graceful degradation: Use destroyable but not targetable HP to simulate the gradual destruction of systems and reduce capability slowly over time. This is a common desire from people who note (correctly) that large capital spacecraft in PR don't get "damaged". They keep all their guns and engines until the second their hull bar goes to zero. Then they explode. Most people seem to agree that this is non-canonical and unrealistic. PR acknowledges this issue.
-Targetable systems: Use destroyable and targetable HP to simulate "called shots" on vulnerable systems. This is a common desire from people who want to be able to take out specific items on the surface of an enemy ship. Think EXECUTOR's bridge sensor globes in RotJ. There has been some debate about how canon "called shots" are but we can address that in a separate FAQ as needed.
Including me, I might add. I just want to say that I have nothing against hardpoints in general, but that my position on them is determined more by the modding realities of it.
What are the "modding realities" in the EAW/FOC HP system that make PR reluctant to put them back into the mod?
In a phrase, the problem is something I'm going to call "The Overkill Effect" (you won't find this name in any of the old posts. It's just something I made up for this FAQ)
The overkill effect is actually two un-desired effects. First excess projectiles beyond that required to kill a HP fly through the model and out the other side. This is graphically ugly to see. The other problem is that the excess shots (again, shots beyond the damage required to kill the HP) are wasted: they don't just damage a generic "hull" stat. They do nothing. So when a unit shoots at a HP every torpedo, laser, and ion cannon shoots at that HP. Each HP takes a certain amount of damage before it counts as destroyed. The remaining weapons pass harmlessly through the target ship model. This is both ugly and wasteful of firepower.
An example to illustrate. So say that a Y-Wing squadron shoots at a gun turret HP on an Imperial Star Destroyer (ISD) and that it takes two proton torpedoes to blow up the HP. The Y-Wing squadron shoots 24 (2 torpedoes X 12 starfighters) proton torpedoes. The first two hit and blow up the target but the other 22 would fly through the Star Destroyer model and then out the other side of it. Same for all excess laser and ion bolts. Those shots are wasted damage (thanks to PR for the numbers):
The hull of an Imperial I is 2272 RU and it has 145 weapon emplacements. For the sake of argument, assume that every weapon would get the same amount of health. That means that each hardpoint would have only 31 or 32 hitpoints (starships effectively get double hitpoints to account for the fighter bias in XW/TF/XWA). That's equal to the damage of one light proton torpedo (32). For the squadron in your scenario to take out just one of these weapons, it would have to waste 736 torpedo damage, which is enough to drop just about any given corvette. This "wasted damage" would probably require rebalancing of all the hull values in PR.
So, why not use destroyable but not targetable HP to simulate the gradual destruction of systems and reduce capability slowly over time?
Short Answer: It would be game unbalancing due to wasted damage and visually hideous due to excess weapons flying through ships.
Long Answer: Imagine all those excess weapons flying through ships...but every time they fired. To simulate graceful degradation, you need to have a relatively large number of HP. Otherwise ships will lose weapons mounts suddenly: you'll blow up a hidden HP and all of the sudden, five turbolaser cannons on the enemy ship go quiet. The most gradual degradation would come from having one HP for each gun, engine, etc. The problem here is that, the more HP you have, the more often you're going to see overkill bolts and missiles flying through models and out the other side. One problem with this is just the looks: it'll look really really silly to always have ships shooting through each other. Another problem is that the hull and shield values of PRs ships have all been carefully balanced through playtest and the team's tweaks. It took a year. Adding HP would mean doing that all again. This would probably change PR's schedule for v2.0 (Land) alot. Finally, there might (see below) be a problem where enabling HP like this would allow the bad guys to shoot through your ships to target the HP. This would totally destroy all the fine work that PR's done giving guns realistic firing arcs and require a great deal more work to fix. In universe, it's also hard to explain where so many overkill shots go. I can see it for a small number of HP...but not enough to do graceful degradation.
The other problem with putting many HP onto ships is that it effectively makes them MUCH harder to destroy as described in the part about the overkill effect above.
Ok, then what about using destroyable and targetable HP to simulate "called shots" on vulnerable systems?
This is a little easier. The overkill damage is easier to explain away if there are not alot of HP because all warships have equipment and space onboard that is necessary for the ship to run but not necessary for it to run in combat. EAW/FOC/PR only covers combat so we can get away with a little overkill here. The real problems with a few targetable systems is the graphical effect of shots going through the opposing ship and the limited number of HP that you can use without cluttering up the interface with green icons.
What is this about "ships being covered in green" if we bring HP back?
The EAW/FOC engine is hardcoded to show green icons for each targetable HP when you mouseover a ship. The engine shows one icon for each HP. This is important because it would make ships "all green" if you made each and every gun on the ship a targetable HP. Note that non-targetable HP do not get an icon...so this doesn't appear to be an absolute show-stopper. But it does set a limit to how many HP you can show on a ship without cluttering up the screen. If you gave every gun on an ISD it's own targetable HP, for example, there'd be 145 little green icons everytime you put the mouse on an ISD. Hence "covered in green".
How hard would it be to bring HP back?
The short answer appears to be: a modest amount of work just to turn them back on but a whole lot of work to rebalance the game and make them work right afterwards.
-PR's added roughly 200,000 lines of .xml code to the mod to simulate all the canon guns on each ship. Each HP would need to get a couple of values changed to re-enable them. Actually, this part doesn't seem very difficult. People have proposed a script to do this. To the best of my knowledge, no one has played with this too much.
more on this in this thread.
-HP would need to also be defined for any other system we wanted damagable (i.e. sensors, engines, etc).
-PR is also concerned about "breakoff props" (see SpaceProps.xml, the second half or so). Unless the mod team standardized these, each HP would need one.
-There is also a very good chance that each HP would need to have it's own, unique collision mesh specified. If we don't do this, then each HP would probably revert to the generic collision mesh of the platform it was attached to. That would mean that you could hit anywhere on the ship and the damage would be taken by the HP that was targetted. Not very realistic, especially given how much time PR took to make sure that the guns in the game couldn't shoot through the ships that they were mounted on. For a little more on this, see "what don't we know about HP?".
What cannot be fixed/changed about the way EAW/FOC does HP?
-Engine hardcoded to shoot everything on the firing platform when player targets a HP.
-Engine hardcoded to show green icons on mouseover of targetable HP only.
What don't we know about HP?
-PR's not entirely sure but thinks that he'd have to write a new collision mesh for HP to prevent being able to shoot them through the ship. This is because the main collision mesh attached to each ship wasn't written to account for all the new guns he added. The effect of this would that, while your guns could not shoot through the ship that they're mounted on, the enemy would be able to shoot through your ship to hit guns on the far side. Don't ask me. I'm not a modder. This is a bunch more work ASIDE from the going through the 200,000 lines of code listed above. That's just weapons. This would also need to be done for sensors, engines, and any other systems we wanted to add HP for.
Would it be possible to have say.. weapons and engines destroyable.. but not shields and hangars?
-Yes it does look like it would be from what I've read. There might be some problems because apparently the total hitpoints of the ship are calculated from the hitpoints of the destroyable HP.
Without hardpoints, why have bombers? It seems to me that in vanilla EaW, the primary strength of bombers was the fact that they could destroy targetable hardpoints. While the bombers can still bypass shields, the damage I've noticed them doing to capital ships hasn't been very significant. Is there still an effective way to use bombers that I've missed?
PR's comment below:
While it's true that you cannot pick specific systems off ships in PR as of this writing, bombers still have their uses against large ships because:
How I see it is that every ship basically has two hitpoint bars: shields + hull and hull. When either one is depleted, the ship is killed. Normal weapons, such as lasers, must knock out the shields before they can damage the hull. Warheads (and a couple of other special weapons, such as slugthrower cannons) deal damage straight to the hull, which is ultimately what makes them useful.
Every ship has a different armament (which may or may not include anti-starfighter weapons) and a different shields-to-hull ratio. The average ship generally has twice as much shield protection as it has hull, but this can vary greatly as it upgrades. Some lines, such as the Acclamator, are focused on a strong hull over shields, so it's better to use turbolasers on them. Others, such as the Strike, have powerful shields at the expense of hull, so it's better to use torpedoes on them. Ultimately both weapons would work in either case, but in a close battle (such as Skirmish), it becomes increasingly important to drop ships in the most efficient manner possible in order to gain the upper hand. So that's why bombers (which are usually warhead-heavy) are useful
1. Torpedoes and concussion missiles bypass shields
2. Bigger ships (especially those with mostly turbolaser armament) have a hard time hitting the bombers so they get multiple attack runs on the big ship.
My own experience is that you need to make sure you send bombers that are sturdy and/or numerous. (Skiprays a personal favorite)
Which posts can I read for more information?
Well, from my own search (there might be more)
Major HP posts for future reference (will update as more found and possibly make a summary post so other n00bs have an easier time finding it):
May 2 cents - hardpoints May 08
Suggestion for hardpoints
Note on Hardpoint (short discussion on how to enable them)
No Hardpoints balance issue, Inquiry (6 Aug 2007) (some early PR thoughts on HP issue)
Maybe have hardpoints but... different (29 May 2008) (a little more discussion on the canon of targeting cannon ... or hyperdrives as it were)
Battleship of the Republic (13 Mar 2007) (First mention from PR that I can find of making hardpoints indestructable)
Edited by feld, 29 December 2008 - 06:03 PM.