AskGaming: What would a genuinely realistic space combat sim look like?

A poster on Reddit named Nodisc asked:

Let’s assume our technology continues along a predictable path and let’s assume that simply existing in space is still the ridiculously dangerous affront to god it is today. Would it be single fighters swirling in pew-pew dogfights? Railgun platforms sniping things from unimaginable distances away? Would there be any weapons at all, or would it be more like trying to fry the enemy in your thruster wake? I really don’t know much about space, and I’ve been wondering for a while, so I turn to you.

Oh, and please feel free nitpick the tiny technical details, as those are what I’m most interested in.

 

The discussion he got was many pages of interesting discussion, the first being the best:

The most “realistic” space combat I’ve ever seen was in a long space opera series by Peter F. Hamilton. He makes some convincing arguments as to why pretty much everything you see in modern sci-fi wouldn’t work.

The basic argument goes something like this: Humans are limited to accelerating at only a few g’s, while your weapons can tolerate accelerations of many times that. In the book, I seem to recall antimatter drones accelerating at 40 g’s or so, which isn’t as sci-fi as it seems since we have already created antimatter in the lab, just not in very large quantities.

Now, by analogy with modern warfare, why don’t we use swords anymore? Because rifles have longer range, and a sword-toting army would be decimated by a basic infantry long before they ever got in range. Well, lasers and railguns are the swords in outer space. Once your target is even so much as a light-second away, it’s pretty much impossible to hit them (assuming they are maneuvering, which they should be). Let alone light-minutes or light-hours.

Basically, future space combat will take place between ships that are incredibly far apart, exchanging salvos of self-guided missiles at extreme ranges. Because anyone not adopting this strategy will be destroyed long before they get into range.

You can see this trend with modern naval combat already. All naval guns are pretty much obsolete, having been replaced with missiles. We don’t operate any battleships anymore, and destroyers operate more than anything else as screens for our aircraft carriers, which use planes to strike targets thousands of miles out. There’s no reason space won’t be any different.

But the rest also makes for interesting reading, if like me you’re into such things. 🙂

AskGaming: What would a genuinely realistic space combat sim look like? : gaming.

This forum thread has some interesting stuff too:

http://forums.applenova.com/showthread.php?t=32517

 

3 thoughts on “AskGaming: What would a genuinely realistic space combat sim look like?

  1. Nerds are funny; and I might miss some stuff ‘cos there’s a ZILLION posts there, but some ideas:

    >The most “realistic” space combat I’ve ever seen was in a long space opera series by Peter F. Hamilton. He makes some convincing arguments as to why pretty much everything you see in modern sci-fi wouldn’t work.

    PRETENTION ALERT! PRETENTION ALERT!

    First point: ANYTHING can make sense in a sci-fi setting. All the guesses that follow are based on our current level of technological understanding (which could be entirely wrong) with our current technological standards (tapioca pudding crystalizes in space and blocks lasers? Who knew?) and COMPLETELY IGNORES SOCIAL CONVENTION. A socitety that travells space as part of their religion will have a completely different technique than one who’s completely practical…. or achieved space as part of a corporate undertaking, or has already encountered weird aliens….

    >Humans are limited to accelerating at only a few g’s, while your weapons can tolerate accelerations of many times that.

    ….and an unmanned drone even more! One of the best versions of space combat I’ve seen was in “Perry Rhodan.” It’s all automated, ‘cos computers can run things a LOT faster than a human. (Or Arkonide, or other….) The gunner tells the ship what to hate, and the ship does the rest. Fights are over in seconds.

    >why don’t we use swords anymore?

    See? That’s my point. Some places STILL USE swords! We lost a soldier in Afghanistan ‘cos some clown whacked him with an axe. What you use is based on ALL SORTS of factors.

    >lasers and railguns are the swords in outer space.

    Maybe. Depends on your tech and philosophy. IN the Albedo setting, ships are warp-speed capable and before assaulting a target they fire off a bunch of drones. Half of ’em decelerate at the objective and establish a communication/observation net. The other half don’t decelerate and smack into the target (usually a planet) at warp speed. Catastrophic damage that doesn’t even need a warhead.

    >space combat will take place between ships that are incredibly far apart, exchanging salvos of self-guided missiles at extreme ranges.

    Maybe. Depends on how the ship/projectile drives work, sensors, materials….

    >anyone not adopting this strategy will be destroyed long before they get into range.

    Unless they adopt a guerilla war strategem. “He’s hiding behind the moon? Damn him! Launch the fighters!”

    >All naval guns are pretty much obsolete,

    Tell that to the crews….

    >having been replaced with missiles.

    Missiles are expensive, so they like to still use guns. Economics is another limiting factor.

    >In space there are no civilians

    Moron.

    >You’d have a hell of a time hitting and destroying a small missile that is taking anything like active avoidance maneuvers. Add in ECM and the missile would be nearly impossible for a computer to identify and track anyway.

    Asshat.

    >Fighters are right out, its all big ships unless we invent some sort of superscience reactionless drive or inertia canceler or something equally laws-of-physics-breaking.

    ….depending on your objective. It’s not all “get ’em!” and it’s not always gonna be a textbook “he’s over there, in that big empty space.”

    >Risk vs reward will eliminate any space combat.

    THANK-You! Except this guy is completely ignoring human nature….

    It’s interersting that this discussion ties in with some of my other letters. A LOT of these guys have already made up their minds, and I suspect would NEVER accept a story that presented something different. (Like the “they’re RAPING MY CHILDHOOD!!!!” comic nerds.) And thus sci-fi gets a little less inventive. Look at how popular the “fighters would NEVER be used in space!” idea is. So…. any story that has ’em gets relegated to inferior sci-fi right off the bat? Regardless of why they exist within the story?

    Don C.

  2. I’m attempting to answer the question ‘what could real space combat be like’.

    I’m John Gillespie – developer and lead designer for a new indie space combat game called TorchShips.

    TorchShips is a 3-D tactical space combat game based on real physics with procedurally generated single and multi-player missions. It will be released for Windows & Mac first, and then later for the iPad.

    We’ve launched a Kickstarter project at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/product7/torchships-real-3-d-space-combat to raise funds to complete development.

    More information available is at our site http://torchships.com/ and please contact me directly if you have any additional questions.

    Thanks,

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