@mel @joe The current fighter mechanics is quite unintuitive.The hangar is basically just a regular kinetic weapon with higher damage and longer charge time that fires an icon that looks like a fightercraft. This also makes it a pita to balance as if it fires too fast these weapons will obliterate fleets, if they fire too slowly, the battle is over before they have an effect.
Id rather see a much different mechanic for fighters. That in itself is also a very simple rock paper scissors kind of system. Make hangars carry one of three types of squadrons or wings. Bombers, Interceptors and Fighters. This can easily be done by creating three types of hangar modules. For simplicity, give the player a fleet toggle with two options for starters, with potential for more preset options for fine-tuning them later in development. Simply, defend or attack. This set at the fleet screen at the starmap like we do other fleet options.
Interceptors counter incoming threats to the fleet and always stay home, the only squadron class that can target torpedoes. Fighters either stay home if set to defend and thus helps the interceptors by targeting incoming fighters or attack to try to shoot down enemy fighters/Intercetors guarding the enemy fleet. Bombers targets capital ships and are very weak vs other squadrons.
Interceptors: Always stays with the fleet defending it against incoming Fighters, Bombers and Torpedoes. Implement a “Behaviour tree” random number generator rolling a dice for every fighter, bomber or torpedo that reaches the fleet to see if they are intercepted. The more Interceptors in each squadron that are alive the higher the chance of inteception. Bombers and fighters fight back, bombers very weakly and fighters strongly so you take losses of Interceptors when there is an intercept here, how much depends on relative strenght of the craft infolved and the current strenght of the wing (how many interceptors, fighters or bombers are alive). Torpedoes intercepted are simply shot down, but they have a health number on how many hits they can take so if theres very few interceptors left in a wing and a very advanced torpedo they may not do enough hits to it in time to shoot it down. Torpedoes is at the very end of the targeting tree so if the opponent wants to prevent their torpedoes from being shot down, they need to send fighters or bombers on attack to keep the interceptors occupied. Gives incentive to add some form of fighter screen to a fleet. Interceptors will not leave the fleet to chase down Fighters so if enemy Fighters are occupied elsewhere the interceptors will go directly to targeting incoming torpedoes until some enemy Fighter squadrons or Bomber squadrons gets to the immediate vicinity of the fleet…
Targeting priority tree: 1. Bombers > 2. Fighters > 3. Torpedoes
Fighters: Fighters are fighter craft that have weapons that are strong vs other strike craft but weak vs capital ships. They are faster than bombers and will thus reach the enemy fleet before the bombers, occupying enemy interceptors. If both sides has fighters the speed of the fighters, the fact that interceptors stick close to the fleet and the targeting priority trees ensures that the fighters will then meet and dogfight between the fleets. Its squadron vs squadron so if one side has more fighter squadrons than the other then the squadrons not engaged, or who wins their engagements, will race on to face the opposing sides interceptors, hopefully in time to cover for the slower bombers or torpedoes. On a defensive setting it works in a similar way but the fighters will not race to attack the enemy interceptors but will be content to meet enemy fighter squadrons halfway and hold the line if they prevail, keeping the friendly interceptors clear to engage bombers and torpedoes.
Targeting priority tree: 1. Fighters > 2. Interceptors
Bombers: Pretty straightforward. Slow moving bomber craft flying in squadrons straight at the enemy capital ships.They do great damage to capital ships but they have to overcome several hurdles before they get there. They are easily countered by enemy Interceptor Squadrons. So to be able to accomplish their mission they need fighter squadron support to deal with enemy interceptors (if any). When on defensive setting they will simply hang back with the friendly fleet or not launch (both are fine).
Targeting priority tree: 1. Capital ships
This system ensures that there is checks and balances in place for a very powerful hangar based weapon (the bomber in this case) that can be allowed to launch without long delays during battles that today already are very short, without creating a balancing issue. This also adds simple mechanics to make small craft gameplay an exiting an intuitive part of fleet combat. It also gives a venue to counter the very destructive area effect torpedoes for factions with smaller and weaker ships like Mankind or Ripchee if they focus on torpedo defence with interceptors and fighters in front of focusing on covering bombers. This can all be controlled by the player by what type of hangar they add to their ships as each hangar contains X squadrons of either Interceptors, Fighters or Bombers. How many they contain can be part of a research progression tree. Then if one wants to add more granular control over this mechanic, the developers can add more controls than the Attack/Defend one much later in development. But it will be a balanced and competent system in itself with just Attack/Defend.