<intruder>
project home page

<INTRUDER DESIGN DOCUMENT>

<[2.0] The Vision>

The story behind Intruder takes strategy and tactics to deep space. The Intruder, a menacing, powerful machine intelligence, is compelled to seek out and eradicate worlds that bear life. It is not particularly maneuverable, but has numerous weapons and is heavily armored. All it needs to do is orbit a life-bearing world, where it can use its weapons to scorch the planet surface, or, assuming it is heavily damaged, it can detonate itself and spread radioactive particles throughout the planetary atmosphere.

On the other side of the fence are the Colonial Fleets, a mixed group of warships left over from the Interregnum. Each colony system has its own fleet, and these ships, made up of gun cruisers, missile cruisers, railships, fighters, carriers and others must stop the Intruder from getting to their home planet. The Fleet must make several difficult tactical decisions that will dictate the way they attack the Intruder. If they make the wrong choices, their colony will pay the price.

A typical game of Intruder involves one player playing the alien menace he designs. He determines the type of hull, the amount of armor, power plant, propulsion, weapons and weapon placement, and operating programs that his Intruder will consist of. This design will be assigned a point value, and with the same number of points the Fleet player will purchase the ships that make up the defending forces.

The game really comes into its own with several players over a network. One player plays the Intruder, while numerous other players play the ships of the Fleet. When there are more ships than there are players, the extra ships will be assigned in groups to specific Fleet players.

There is also a grand strategic version of the game. A server can run a campaign where both a Fleet Admiral and the Intruder leader will determine production and logistics for a number of star systems. The Intruder's goal is to destroy all of the colonies in all of the star systems. The Fleet's goal is to reduce the effectiveness of the Intruders in the galaxy.

<[2.1] Description of Play>

Intruder will be utilizing principles of real-world physics in the game, so ships that create a vector must add an opposing vector to come to a "stop." This is a departure from most space games, where spacecraft have "throttles" that indicate the amount of absolute motion the craft will be travelling at.

Constant acceleration will cause a spacecraft to attain higher and higher velocities. Although travelling at very high speeds may seem cool, in combat you're nearly useless. A wise enemy will simply track your vector and arrange to have a missile or other object meet you further down your vector. At very high velocities, it won't matter if your ship was struck with a nuclear warhead or a prune. You'll disintegrate.

Much of the game will therefore be about maneuvering, conserving resources, and outguessing your opponent. Should the Fleet go after the weapons on the Intruder? But that won't slow the Intruder down, and all it has to do is orbit the colony to win, weaponless or not. What about attacking the propulsion systems? That's a good idea, but the problem lies in the leaving the Intruder's weapons free to carve up the Fleet. Additionally, once the Intruder's propulsion system is wiped out, the Fleet must make sure that the Intruder isn't headed straight for the colony, based on its last vector. Deflecting a mass as big as an Intruder is difficult. Railships and high-yield warheads from the missile cruisers can certainly do it, but do they have enough time?

A typical moment in the game would go something like this: a Fleet player, commanding a Railship, is watching his CTD. All of his passive sensors are cranked open; his ship is not maneuvering and is essentially running silent. After a minute or two, a contact flickers into existence. Almost immediately after, two more unidentified contacts in other locations appear. Which one is the Intruder?

A brief discussion between the Fleet players concludes with a decision to have the ELINT cruiser perform an active scan to begin prosecution of the contacts and reveal the location of the real Intruder. The ELINT cruiser will tight-beam the contact information to the other vessels.

The ELINT cruiser begins pinging and lights up. Two of the three contacts eventually resolve as decoy drones. The third contact returns information that tag it as the Intruder.

By this time, five more contacts appear, vectoring away from the Intruder. Active sensing reveals them to be missiles of some kind. The closest Fleet vessels acquire the Intruder as a target and plot firing solutions. Other Fleet vessels begin delta vee to position themselves for an attack.

Two missile cruisers and a frigate engage the Intruder by releasing ordnance, and one by one they're vaporized by counterattacks. The commander of the railship has already run the "align on target" program and has established a lock and firing solution. The railship is built around an enormously powerful weapon, but handles like a pig. The railship commander's pulse quickens as he sees the ELINT cruiser get vaporized by an Intruder weapon, and sees a contact hurtling towards his own vessel at a horrifying rate. It's a race between his ship aligning on target and the incoming contact.

<[2.11] Space Combat Realities>

Intruder is a major departure from your typical "space game" found on retail shelves. X-Wing, Wing Commander, Freespace, are all fine games, but they hardly attempt to be realistic simulations of combat in space. That's where this project comes in: when you kill your throttle, your vessel will continue on its last vector. Fuel becomes a consideration in the form of delta vee. Combat doesn't take place visually, most of the time. You'll be busy listening and watching for your enemy to give away their position while trying to stay undetected yourself. Information, the gathering of it for your side and denial of it to the enemy, will be the greatest key to success.

What this means is, if you're expecting to create another X-Wing where players are hot dogging it as fighter jockeys, this project isn't for you. "Twitch" will play little part in this game. We already have Quake, X-Wing, and the like available on the market. The goal here is to create a planner's game, as opposed to a reflex game. Not to say that there won't be plenty of moments in Intruder when your adrenal gland will be overworked. The method of playing will be vastly different, however, than what you may have experienced in space games to date.

The following is a series of "reality checks" that all of the developers should be aware of while working on the game, from artists to coders. Although the vision mandates a game that reflects the realities of space combat, please understand that some compromises will have to be made in the name of playability and game balance. This is, after all, a game we're developing.

Fleet ships are relatively easy to kill in Intruder. Standard military procedure would dictate that vessels are depressurized for combat so that explosive decompression won't disable a crew if hull integrity was compromised by an attack, but this only accounts for minor or incidental damage. Ships struck by weapons bearing a great deal of energy (a fairly easy thing to deliver given the circumstances of space) generally vaporize or are rendered useless in combat. The best defense is always remaining undetected. If the enemy can't see you, they can't attack you.

<[2.2] Assumptions>

This section has been added specifically to address many of the questions being asked on the mailing list. It'll be posted and updated on a regular basis on the Intruder site.

<[2.21] Jump Drives>

Jump drives allow a vessel to jump into a system given certain criteria.

<[2.22] Reaction Drives>

Tactical scenarios require the use of reaction drives, where mass is ejected through a nozzle to accelerate the vessel in the opposite direction.

<[2.23] Communication>

Communication in system is FTL. This effectively means communication is instantaneous, even in situations where light speed communications should take a few seconds to arrive. This avoids the issue of players simply opening up ICQ or another chat program to cheat the communications delays that would be necessary in a sublight communications system.

<[2.24] Battlegrounds>

Fleets will start most scenarios in orbit around a planetary body.

<[2.25] The Intruder>

Intruders will be equipped with either an atrocity weapon or a seeding module in pursuit of their objectives.

<[2.26] Detection>

Detection of Enemy Vessels is considered difficult.