Often, during the course of your campaign, it may become neccesary to capture, rather than destroy, an enemy vessel. Missions involving this tactic can be referred to as capture missions. Examples of this type of mission would be Enter the Dragon and First Strike in FreeSpace 1, with First Strike more typical of the way this mission type is often encountered in user-made campaigns.
FREDding a Capture Mission
Capture missions can be quite difficult to make and fully test, largely because of the design of the FreeSpace AI, which is geared towards destroying things, rather than simply damaging them enough to capture. Moreover, making a coherent and realistic plot for these missions is also potentially difficult. When FREDding, bear the following suggestions in mind:
- Decide early on exactly how much resistance the vessel you are capturing will put up, and how much you want the player to do to make the area safe for any capturing vessels. Shivan ships, for example, will need to be entirely disabled and disarmed before they can be captured, whereas civilian ships may give up after simply losing their engines. Read this article for additional hints.
- The next major problem you will face is the FreeSpace AI. Just ordering them to disable and/or disarm a ship is not enough. You must then remind them that the vessel is now off limits as far as attacking is concerned. There are several ways to accomplish this:
- Adding Ignore Ship AI to friendly fighters - This will work, but must be added to all ships in the field of battle to be effective.
- Protecting the disabled Ship - This has the same effect as the ignore AI directives, with much less intensive SEXPing.
- Changing the IFF of the disabled ship - This will work, but is not recommended, as it implies that the ship has become friendly, rather than simply having been subdued. Moreover, this will cause any hostile fighters that may warp in to protect it to regard it as an enemy (though this may be beneficial if, for example, they would rather destroy the ship than see its crew fall into enemy hands). Volition used this method.
- Just as your wingmen will continue attacking a disabled ship, so will that ship keep attacking your wingmen if you do not order it not to. If you're not changing its AI to friendly, remember to lock all the turrets and beams of a surrendering ship.
- Use the escort list wisely, and remember that any vessels doing the capturing should be placed on this list. Lack of escorted vessels is a classic sign of less than stellar mission, and should be avoided.
- Weapons and engines are not the only subsystems of relevance to a captured ship. An intact communications subsystem may allow a vessel to call for reinforcements, while a destroyed navigation subsytem may prevent a ship from jumping to subspace even when its engines are still intact. Use these non-core subsystems in your missions, but be aware of the amount of damage you're doing to a ship. Smaller vessels may take considerable damage if you destroy multiple subsystems and turrets, potentially risking their unintentional destruction by the player.
- Ensure the capture transport sends messages often, keeping the pilots updated about the status of the capture operation.
- The capture transport will make a tempting target for hostile fighters, and its protection should be a goal for the player. Make sure that you have contingencies in place should this first attempt at capturing fail, whether that be sending more transports, or declaring the mission a failure. This may be grounds to trigger an order to destroy the disabled vessel, rather than allow the enemy to reclaim and repair it.
- Be sensible in your choice of capture vessel. While a GTS Hygeia is perfectly appropriate for capturing a disabled enemy fighter, it almost certainly will not be able to deploy enough troops to subdue the crew of a destroyer.
- Keep in mind the potential for multiple points of entry on disabled vessels. Many ships have multiple dockpoints which can now be accessed thanks to the Source Code Project's multidocking code, and larger vessels may be able to be infiltrated through their fighterbays.
- Keep in mind that a disabled vessel should not warp under its own power unless its engines are repaired, and while a docked vessel can warp out and take the captured vessel with it, this should, ideally, only occur between vessels of comparable size.
- Note that non-friendly fighters that are part of a wing and that have been disabled or disarmed will self-destruct after a short period of time. This is intentional behavior but can be surprising and frustrating for FREDders trying to create a capture mission for an enemy wingman. To avoid this behavior, set the ship to friendly after it is disabled, or remove it from the wing. Note that Arjuna 1 in Enter the Dragon was not part of a wing.