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"Because every successful video game is eventually reduced to an acronym in the popular lexicon."
—Tony Lovell
Demo, August 2016

With the Fleet is to be a massively-multiplayer naval simulation with a first-person perspective set in the period 1890-1925. It is currently in prototype form. 3D artists and programmers who would like to collaborate and encouraged to contact me.

What it Will Be

With the Fleet will be a continuously-running massively multiplayer naval simulation in which players are the officers and men of the navies of the Dreadnought Era.

They will find themselves aboard a ship, able to walk the decks, use fairly literal representations of the weapons, searchlights, helms, etc, and converse with other sailors, whether they are player- or AI-actuated – voice-over-IP and speech recognition will see to it that "the other guy" knows what you are saying.

The pace of the action will be measured and methodical, promoting opportunities for socialization and drill with your crewmates. When they occur, battles will be memorable in a way that the frenetic lather-rinse-repeat pattern of most games could never permit.

Unlike other naval games and sims, your means of controlling the ships and formations will be limited and literal. You are not a ship, or a fleet. You are a sailor or officer. Only those people who can hear your voice (whether directly so, or via a convenient voice-pipe), read your flag hoist, or copy your wireless transmission will be able to act upon the information. Their own communications and actions will spell out the results from there. No control panels, no chat channels, no roving mouselook camera over your formation, and no jumping between ships or acting on information not realistically available to you. While it is impossible to guarantee complete delivery on the vision, that is the gist of what I am striving to achieve.

What it Has Been

In 2002-2006, I created a rough single-player simulation of the entire fire control system of a Royal Navy battlecruiser called Fleet Action Imminent. It was coded in Java, and used a defunct 3D visualization plug-in on Windows. FAI was coarse in appearance, but expansive in its content and rigor. I twice presented videos of its functionality to distinguished Royal Naval audiences in the UK, first at the Joint Services Command and Staff College in 2005 and then at the gunnery training school H.M.S. Excellent in 2006.

What is the Status?

See our Blog for more information, but the quick take is presently that I have modeled one unarmed destroyer coarsely and demonstrated VOIP, speech recognition, and networked play on an architecture that should permit large scale battles. It is coded in C# on Unity3D, which permits solid end-user builds on Windows and MacOS.

My immediate goal is to make the destroyer more richly functional, and to demonstrate the basic gameplay premise more fully so that I can use the app to seek funding to complete a first edition software title.

The Minutiae: Design Principles

These are my general beliefs. Many are flexible, but they guide my decision-making.

  • Ideally, a ship could operate entirely under AI crew control. It is more realistic to expect that a few player officers could command a ship with a largely AI crew.
  • Ideally, formations of ships should be able to steam in proper formation, with AI doing as much as it can to make it work. The game should not become a naval demolition derby.
  • While a game cannot eliminate out-of-band communication, communication between ships will take the form of signal hoists, wireless telegraphy, flashing lamp, semaphore, etc
  • Every essential "sinew" shipboard role will have AI sailors on hand to undertake them, as these skeleton crews enable continuous gameplay. Players will be able to take over such duties.
  • Ships which find they need more players, as when they have sighted the enemy, will be able to sound "Action Stations", which will result in mobile text messages and app notifications to alert suitable players to log in, rolling out of their hammocks to enrich the player density
  • The interface will have little in the way of HUD (neon screen overlays), with some exceptions. Name tags may help identify other sailors. Players should know which ship they are on, what its heading is, and what time of day it is. Other ships that are proximate and well-known to the player might also be tagged. Players may have some indication of their general locale, e.g.: "the North Sea", "Portsmouth"
  • Aboard ship, there will be no visible cursor or pipper. A keypress will reveal it.
  • There should not be GUI busyboxes for things that can be implemented via literal simulation.
  • You will be heard by those who would hear you if you spoke in the simulated context. There will be no magic chat channels.
  • You see from your own eyes. Gameplay should not prominently feature ship-orbiting cameras.
  • You will know only what a person in your place should know. Reasonable constructs will exist to support players who have just logged in: how many players are on board their ship? Is their ship presently in a formation, or in contact with enemy/unknown vessels? Is it at action stations?
  • Your ship should only have the fuel and ammunition it should have. There should be no spam attacks of torpedos.
  • Players will not be equal. They will choose from distinct roles available to them.
  • Players will be incentivized to save their ship rather than to sink enemy ships.
  • Players with seniority in a ship or formation should have controls to prevent other players from squandering their forces. They should be able to delegate their authority to other trusted players.
  • Players will come to generally know their shipmates well. Ship commanders will regard their peers as a "band of brothers".
  • Submarines are not a design priority
  • Aircraft are not a design priority

See Also