Z Datagroup Sizes

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Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Cralis on Sat 03 Jun 2017 14:33

One of the carry-overs that we brought to Solar Starfire (from Ultra) is the way datalink and datagroups are handled. One of the things that is different is that a datagroup can either be:

A> X number of ships
-or-
B> Y total HS worth of ships

For example, Za can link 2 large units OR 60 HS worth of ships.

Ok. I understand the reasoning: Y HS worth of smaller ships should roughly equal 2 of the largest ship size at that SL.

But I have several issues with this.

<1> First, this isn't how communications works. Bandwidth does not change with the size of the unit. Yes you can mount more transmitters and receivers, but datalink is a sub-system that processes information and probably not an actual communications system. How can I say that? Because it doesn't have any size.

Note that I am talking about Z, not Zc. This argument might be less valid for Zc because it does have a size, and it could be argued that part of that size is an independent communications system. However, it doesn't change with the size of ship, so I think the same argument basically applies in both cases.

<2> Second, this does make swarms more viable over the long run. While I don't necessarily have a problem with swarms, I do like to have hull sizes depreciate as the maximum hull sizes get larger. The allowance of Z to combine large quantities of small ships into a single datagroup makes the swarms more powerful as they can fire together, and faster than if they were required to fire separately.

What I'm curious about, is what all of YOU think. What is YOUR opinion on this? Do you prefer swarms to be able to group up like this and last longer against larger hulls in datagroups?
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby nukesnipe on Sat 03 Jun 2017 18:58

Admittedly, I don't have a lot of run time with the higher generations of Zc, but I never really liked the "y HS" mechanism as it disregards the bandwidth concerns.

I've always envisioned Z to be related to the capability of "standard" ship systems to coordinate attacks, while Zc represented dedicated equipment to boost capability. I think of Zc as similar to a video graphics processor in your computer: instead of requiring the "standard" system to process the specialized data, we strap on a separate processor to do that work, freeing up the "standard" system to tend to everything else.

Any system is going to be limited by bandwidth, which I think of as channels. One could argue that the computers installed in an ES would be no different than those installed in an SD. The SD may have more of them, but the processing capability of the systems should be the same. Improvements in the systems should result in increased processing speed and the number of channels available. Improvements in processing speed/capability could be realized as increased number of channels. Perhaps sufficiently advanced generations of Z and Zc could result in increased range of the link, with the Zc systems providing that increase earlier than Z systems?

So, I would argue that increased levels of Z/Zc should increase the number of channels (ships) that can participate in the link regardless of hull size.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Cralis on Wed 07 Jun 2017 00:12

nukesnipe wrote:Admittedly, I don't have a lot of run time with the higher generations of Zc, but I never really liked the "y HS" mechanism as it disregards the bandwidth concerns.


That's a pretty big one for the realism side for me too.

I've always envisioned Z to be related to the capability of "standard" ship systems to coordinate attacks, while Zc represented dedicated equipment to boost capability. I think of Zc as similar to a video graphics processor in your computer: instead of requiring the "standard" system to process the specialized data, we strap on a separate processor to do that work, freeing up the "standard" system to tend to everything else.


I think Z is supposed to be more like a peer-to-peer system where there isn't a dedicated control unit, thus the inherent limitations. But I agree with your analysis on Zc - it's has a dedicated control system and that's why it's so much more capable.

And honestly, I could see the "up to y HS" for certain races like Machine/AI races. But not for standard races. I'm just not enamored with trying to make a datagroup of ES to be roughly capable to a datagroup of battleships in any fashion.

Any system is going to be limited by bandwidth, which I think of as channels.


In multiplex communications, that's exactly what we call it. 8-)

One could argue that the computers installed in an ES would be no different than those installed in an SD. The SD may have more of them, but the processing capability of the systems should be the same.


That's not going to be a valid argument. For one, the SD will have larger computers with more processors, more memory and storage, and more peripherals. But it's also about the associated communications capabilities. The simple fact that a larger antenna can be placed on the SD means that it will have a better ability to transmit and receive than an ES. Not to mention that it will have MORE communications equipment than an ES.

And that's quite often reflected by the fact that a (CC) is a drop in the hull bucket for an SD, but a huge chunk of an ES.

Improvements in the systems should result in increased processing speed and the number of channels available. Improvements in processing speed/capability could be realized as increased number of channels.


Agreed. And despite the "0 HS" size of Z, this is exactly what is assumed. It's like the internal maintenance storage space -- there is automatically more in an ES than an SD because of their size difference.

Perhaps sufficiently advanced generations of Z and Zc could result in increased range of the link, with the Zc systems providing that increase earlier than Z systems?


That's a different question, and arguably could be based on ship size and/or the presence of a dedicated comm center (CC). That's something else to think about...

So, I would argue that increased levels of Z/Zc should increase the number of channels (ships) that can participate in the link regardless of hull size.


And that's the way it already is. Later versions have increased numbers of ships that can participate in the datagroup. The question was whether we should keep the "or y HS" datagroup sizes.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Whitecold on Wed 07 Jun 2017 12:24

For the TPoD campaign I didn't bother with Z on small ships at all. Given that it was 20% of their cost this seemed like a too much of a markup, and for SRW it is only a benefit, not essential as there is no PD (unless you have G).
On top of that, it is likely that SRW ships have to take at least some fire before they can close in, and thus some DG may already be weakened or broken up before they are in range.

I think Z is supposed to be more like a peer-to-peer system where there isn't a dedicated control unit, thus the inherent limitations. But I agree with your analysis on Zc - it's has a dedicated control system and that's why it's so much more capable.

However same EL Zc is less capable than the bare Z version, but better protected, while CNC however provides full Z benefits while being simultaneously well protected in the ship. My personal choice currently is going for CNCs, and not bother with Zc

Back on topic however, for consistency reasons removing the HS option would make it more clear.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Cralis on Wed 07 Jun 2017 17:30

Whitecold wrote:For the TPoD campaign I didn't bother with Z on small ships at all. Given that it was 20% of their cost this seemed like a too much of a markup, and for SRW it is only a benefit, not essential as there is no PD (unless you have G).


There is the additional benefit of firing at the same time. Not only does this mean you can do damage in large chunkc comparable to datagroups of larger ships, and you can combine BASV, but you can fire more units before they take damage.

While ultimately a swarm lacks the defenses of larger hulls, being able to combine a bunch of small hulls into a large datagroup can be used in some situations to deadly affect, such as WP defenses where they don't have to close with the enemy.

On top of that, it is likely that SRW ships have to take at least some fire before they can close in, and thus some DG may already be weakened or broken up before they are in range.


This is true of all datagroups. Swarms have the advantage of speed and numerical superiority - they can reach you quickly and the increased number of targets means you cannot use your weapons efficiently as against larger targets. And as I mentioned above, this is irrelevant in a situation like a WP defense.

I think Z is supposed to be more like a peer-to-peer system where there isn't a dedicated control unit, thus the inherent limitations. But I agree with your analysis on Zc - it's has a dedicated control system and that's why it's so much more capable.


However same EL Zc is less capable than the bare Z version, but better protected, while CNC however provides full Z benefits while being simultaneously well protected in the ship. My personal choice currently is going for CNCs, and not bother with Zc


That is the tradeoff between Z and Zc. And that criticism of CNC has not been unheard... what we've considered doing was allow CNC to give +1 units to Zc, which would both require Zc and give an incentive for both. But that hasn't been finalized. We've really been trying to move towards CNC and CIC giving bonuses to sustems rather than replace them.

Back on topic however, for consistency reasons removing the HS option would make it more clear.


Making Z only handle "X ships" worth of bandwidth means that larger hulls are more valuable in a datagroup. The or "y HS" method means that larger hulls are not always more valuable in that datagroup, which I believe was never the intention of datalink technology.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Moonsword on Tue 04 Jul 2017 09:42

I'm not really that concerned about the network of smaller ships from a balance perspective, although I see your point on realism. On the other hand, the only aspect of this modern communication systems don't already handle is the long distance between ships in a datagroup, so I view Z's limitations as imposed more by game balance and just move on.

Personally, I like giving the smaller ships a fighting chance by letting them build larger squadrons. It offers some creativity and flexibility to someone putting together light LRW squadrons but larger datagroups of LRW ships at the same SL still have a major edge in firepower and defenses. For small SRW ships, I'm still not sold on putting Z on because of the cost.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby SCC on Wed 19 Jul 2017 03:33

No, the HS limitation makes sense as Data Group size is more going to be limited by systems on ships that a linked. Realistically a FT[4] mounting only a single Dz put into a group for better protection is not going to tie up as much bandwidth and computational resources as a proper missile destroyer, but that would be too hard to simulate.

Think of it this way, whether your using a few big ships or many smaller ships you should have the same number of guns shooting.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Cralis on Thu 20 Jul 2017 16:28

SCC wrote:No, the HS limitation makes sense as Data Group size is more going to be limited by systems on ships that a linked. Realistically a FT[4] mounting only a single Dz put into a group for better protection is not going to tie up as much bandwidth and computational resources as a proper missile destroyer, but that would be too hard to simulate.

Think of it this way, whether your using a few big ships or many smaller ships you should have the same number of guns shooting.


The reality is that the smaller the ships are in the HS-based datagroups:

* the higher possibility of the swarm having more guns and active defenses than an equal HS group of larger ships

* the more moving points of reference, logarithmically increasing the difficulty of the calculations

* the more communications traffic from more transmitters and receivers

* the lower the individual power and bandwidth of the communications systems on the ship, which would make this datagroup less possible (especially given the increase in traffic and computational complexity)

Also, I don't know that I have ever seen a freighter with Z. That said, realistically it would have even less communications and computational abilities than a warship.

The first factor above (swarms) is the one we want to discourage.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Moonsword on Thu 20 Jul 2017 20:51

Maybe slow the growth in group size after Ze? That would keep the eventual swarms smaller without affected early games, when Dz is unavailable to make the active defenses scale across the group. The cost of Z relative to the rest of the ship is also bigger when the overall ships are cheaper, I would think.
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Re: Z Datagroup Sizes

Postby Whitecold on Sun 23 Jul 2017 01:07

Cralis wrote:That is the tradeoff between Z and Zc. And that criticism of CNC has not been unheard... what we've considered doing was allow CNC to give +1 units to Zc, which would both require Zc and give an incentive for both. But that hasn't been finalized. We've really been trying to move towards CNC and CIC giving bonuses to sustems rather than replace them.


I had a few thoughts about that, and I don't like the idea of just giving +1 to Zc. For one this gives no benefit to Z, and second this requires all ships of a squadron to mount CNC if you want to make use of the bonus. CNC is a system you should only need once per datagroup. The sensor bonus does that, and the included M as well. (Though making the M into a bonus pretty much removes the usefulness of this, since you only ever need +1 or +2 anyway, so the benefit of having M in CNC is the 1HS you save from not having an M system)
The initiative bonus is only useful if the ship also happens to be the flagship.
Could we get instead included datalink capability getting a bonus to the performance of the entire datagroup, instead of increasing size? I though of having some PD fire coordination, a CNC allowing X Dz shots being fired without the -1 z penalty.
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