Formations, Tactics, Fuel, and Ballistics

This review was posted by Bobamelius on the Steam community and is for HW1R specifically. I never played HW2 and haven’t played HW2R yet.

The good things are obvious; the graphics are pretty, the textures and backgrounds are nice, the new UI is “ok” and scales with your screen resolution. Modern screen resolution options are available without hacking the game.

There are some big problems I have with the way HW1 was ported to the HW2 engine: formations, tactics, fuel, and the ballistics model.

Formations and tactics from the first game are thrown out the window in this remaster. For new players who don’t understand the significance of this or older players who are a little fuzzy on how these worked, please set your sights on the wall of text below.

In old HW1, ships would hold their formation while engaging the enemy (unless you set them to evasive tactics; more on this later). The various formations had intrinsic tactical advantages for different situations.

You could have capitals concentrate into a tight wall to focus fire.

Fighters could form a claw formation to envelop/focus their targets while still remaining mobile and making passes.

Ships in Sphere formation would surround their target, all facing inward pouring maximum shots into the enemy at the tradeoff of being fairly immobile and vulnerable to return fire.

You could also use Sphere to, say, have a squadron of Defenders form a defensive screen around your Heavy Cruiser to protect it from bombers. There were many other formation possibilities, but those are a few examples.

In Remastered, all these formations options are still technically available, however they only affect the basic parade stance of your ships. That is to say, upon contact with the enemy your ships will immediately break formation. Strike craft will split off and fly around the enemy in a disorderly fashion, failing to concentrate fire. Capitals will float around doing their own thing, bumping into each other and getting into each others’ way instead of remaining in an organized wall formation. They still mostly function, but the biggest hit is to strike craft, which are FAR less effective without formation coherency.

Tactics worked in combination with formations when choosing how you want to engage the enemy. Is the enemy coming at you in small groups? Do you have a keen numerical advantage? Use Aggressive tactics. Your fighters will move slower and attempt no evasive maneuvers, but they will close to a tighter formation and put more shots into the enemy, doing more damage.

Are you at a disadvantage and need to bog down the enemy in a protracted dogfight to buy time for reinforcements to arrive? Evasive tactics will cause your strike craft to break formation, split off into pairs, and make quick passes at the enemy while performing evasive maneuvers, doing less damage but living longer. The default Neutral tactics provide a happy medium between these two: your ships will hold their formation, however they will spread out a little and perform small jinking maneuvers during attack runs to dodge some incoming fire.

In Remastered, you still have three stances available, but they are nothing like what I just described above. They only determine your units’ engagement setting (don’t engage/engage nearby/pursue enemy relentlessly). Basically, HW1 tactics are GONE. They no longer exist. Again, strike craft suffer the most from this change. The combination of formation and tactics you chose for them made strike craft very versatile and useful units to have around. Now they are just cannon fodder to fly around and distract the enemy whilst outputting Evasive level damage all the time.

Now onto the ballistics model. HW1 used an ahead-of-its-time physics-based model for weapons. When a Heavy Cruiser fired a bullet from one of its cannons, that bullet traveled through space as a physical object toward its target. A stray fighter could pass in front of it and be obliterated, or the target could suddenly change vector causing it to miss. It may then travel on past the intended target and hit something else. Maybe a friendly! The bullet would also impart physical force to the target, visibly pushing back a frigate, for example.

In HW2, and thus in HW:R as a whole, this model was replaced by an RNG (random number generation) model that you might expect to see in a cheaply made traditional RTS game. Your Heavy Cruiser will fire a shot, and that shot may have (making up numbers here) an 85% chance of hitting another Heavy Cruiser or Carrier, a 70% chance of hitting a destroyer, a 50% chance of hitting a frigate and a 5% chance of hitting a fighter. This system was likely instituted to save CPU for HW2’s ambitious number of ships on screen at once, but ported to the original game in Remastered it removes a lot of battle-changing moments from HW1.

Also because of this simple RNG model, tactics (discussed above) were apparently seen as no longer relevant since fighters physically taking evasive actions no longer factors in to whether something hits them or not. The most common defense of this system is “engine limitations” but I can’t accept that argument seeing as how the source code and engine were heavily modified to begin with.

Oh, strike craft also no longer have fuel in HW1. Fuel had a nice side-effect - strike craft low on fuel would auto-dock and get repaired at the same time. Now they just stay in battle and get wiped out. So another layer of strategy is arbitrarily deleted.

Oh and no borderless window. What the hell?

In short what I’m saying is this: Homeworld 1 Remastered is essentially a lazy port into another game’s engine and much of the magic is lost. Can it still be played and enjoyed? Sure. Will the game have the same strategic and tactical depth as you remember? Not even close.


Here’s a good first impression video

I really was hoping that the technical strides in computer power since HW2’s first release would allow HW:R a more realistic physics-based system over the RNG model.


The physics based system was implemented in 1999, and while HW1 was good visually in that time it had seriously low graphic hard code limits. Even for 1999. Relic went with the RNG system in HW2 to save CPU resources for the games rendering engine. This was in 2003.

Granted hardware has improved greatly since 2003, and RE is essentially “still” the HW2 engine. Modified to use modern shaders.

The question would be then, If physics based damaged was implemented. Could the HW2 engine still run smooth with the updated graphics, or would it take up too much of your system resources, and create a laggy, unplayable game? Its possible it could be done, but there is no guarantee that it would work well on a wide range of systems.

You still need some CPU to render the game. It doesnt matter how good your GPU is, or how much video ram you got. I am not disagreeing with you. I think physics based could have been done. I am just looking at the broader picture. Can physics even be put into the HW2 engine? If so then how much of a resource hit will it create? How much do we need to sacrifice in the rendering engine to make the physics work smooth?

I for one would love to see the physics engine restored.


I pretty much despise random effects in RTS games. Takes away from the skill factor. Would definitely prefer a physics system. Only justifiable random generator is for heavy weapons against strike craft without a physics system, but a physics system would still be better.

What I am more disappointed with is the stuff about formations and tactics, particularly for strike craft. I do believe the “pursue, defend, quiet” thing is good, but I don’t see why (for at least strike craft) “aggressive, neutral, evasive” couldn’t also be implemented.


From a Snippet I read in the discussion’s over on the steam forum it seems the game is self limiting to a single CPU core* which is understandable for the age of the engine and frankly still not unusual with more modern games. But still perhaps a missed opportunity. especially if the same game engine gets used for any future sequel’s

*Haven’t checked this out myself yet but sounds reasonable.

Yup using a single core of the CPU would be the big bottleneck. If HW-RE uses a single core then i can see why what was done is done. Sins of a Solar Empire suffers from the same problem of using only a single core as well. Sins also uses RNG mechanics. So much more “could” have been done with Sins, but it wasn’t.

I am gathering that if we wanted physics (and the ability to use multi core cpu’s) the game engine would have to be totally re-written.

One thing i would like to mention is that if we stop playing HW-RE like Classic HW then things get much easier, and much more enjoyable. I started a second play though of the campaign (fully aware of the major glitches this time). I decided to play it like i would play HW2. Using the HW2 strike groups, and using HW2 tactics. So far my ass is not being handed to me nearly as badly as before.

I am satisfied with how things are for now. In the hopes that future patching will bring things just a little closer to classic.


If this was a new engine or for that matter a new game all together this discussion might have some merit. However since this is a remastering this argument doesn’t really apply. However this would be a great discussion to have for HW: Shipbreakers and potentially maybe (hopefully) Homeworld 3. IF HW3 is on the radar somewhere at GBX then hopefully the amount of threads and discussions around physics vs RNG will persuade them to look into doing a physics based engine for a potential HW3.

It might already be too late for shipbreakers if they went with a more RNG based engine since this is a ‘from the ground up rebuild’ type of discussion. Physics is not something you just ‘implement’. It is a design decision you make before the engine is built. You can not do true physics based game play within a RNG engine if the engine is not designed to do it. With enough time and resources you could however potentially emulate it but that would have meant maybe another year before the game came out and the extra cost would not have been justified and would harm future potential enterprises like HW3 or a cata remake.

That said an RNG based engine is LEAGUES easier and faster to balance and modify so i expect to see great things from their multiplayer balancing and the modding community. I would put my hopes in the modding community not so much patches as that is where GBX has put a lot of their resources to make madding better and easier.

Apparently, though I doubted this would ever be possible, some people of the modding community once manage to make HW2 mods with physic-modelled projectiles.

Though a con of things was that at the HW2 scale of things this was apparently very taxing on HW2’s engine due to it’s lack of multi-core support(at the time. I don’t know if that still is the case with HW:R. Though it remains to be seen whether it could pull it off even with multi-core with all the updated graphics). Apparently Sins of a Solar Empire went with RNG weapons due to similar reasons.

When i think about it. There are not many RTS games that do use physics based weapons. HW was one of them, but i find it hard to believe that it got “lucky” that it worked. Total Annihilation uses physics too. As does Supreme Commander. Though that game is a bad example, because it lagged on the best of systems at the time when it was released. It runs great on today’s hardware. I cant think of any other games that use physics based weapons except for FPS’s.

I myself am waiting for the mod tools, because i got plans for HW-RE.

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It’s not a matter of computing power, HW1 had a physics system for ballistics and movement, and it was never really a demanding game. I used to play it on my ■■■■■■ Dell Inspiron 1100.

Homeworld 2 didn’t have a physics engine because the developers were working under time constraints and decided it would be easier to just implement an RNG based hit detection system, and thus skipped physics entirely.
The homeworld 2 engine was chosen for remastered for similar reasons, it was cheaper than buying or making a new engine. This means all of homeworld 2’s flaws were backported to 1.


The TA/Supcom series has lots of hardcore fans because of it’s physics based projectile system, and like homeworld it was revived (as Planetary Annihilation) due to overwhelming fan support. I think HW:R would be a much better game if it had physics, the question is are the developers willing to work hard enough to re-implement it in a 10 year old engine.

TBH i don’t think it can be done retroactively to the HW2 engine. Not without completely rebuilding it… again.

I can live with RNG if what uses RNG makes sense, and projectiles don’t veer in 90 degree angles to hit.

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If it can’t be added, then they would be better off buying a unity 3d license or something. It’s not like physics is a big deal for modern CPUs. Pretty much any modern engine can handle it, and some can even use GPU acceleration.

Gameplay is more important than graphics, and with a good physics engine, gameplay becomes an emergent property rather than an arbitrary one. In HW Cap-ships can’t hit strike craft not because they had a -20 accuracy, but because their turrets actually turned slower than the craft’s radial velocity. It was still possible for them to get a lucky hit if the fighters were swarming too densely, or traveling straight towards or away from the larger ship. A RNG just doesn’t capture that subtlety.

Also, the movement in HW1 was also physics based. Ships had inertia and acceleration, and ramming damage was calculated based on mass and relative velocity. In HW2 movement is just scripted.


“If it can’t be added, then they would be better off buying a unity 3d license or something.”

You do realize this is a re master right? Not a remake or sequel right? You do know what the difference is right? Especially in man hours and cash?

Just asking.

The physics based system certainly defined the game and I would argue is the biggest reason why HW2 was never as popular as the first by switching to RNG.

The biggest disappointment of this remaster was forcing the RNG system on to HW1 by porting all assets over to the HW2 engine for (what seems like to me) the sake of having cross-race multiplay.

I would argue that most consumers would’ve been just as content, if not more, by keeping the game engines separate and remastering them individually which would’ve preserved each game’s respective gameplay and mechanics - assuming that this course of action would’ve taken roughly the same level of time and work.

Bear in mind that using HW2’s engine for both games doesn’t necessarily mean it was a far smaller workload since devs were faced with the burdens of balancing cross-race multiplay, porting all of HW1’s missions to HW2, implementing HW1 mechanics that did not exist in HW2 etc.

Sad to say that I actually don’t want to see Cataclysm get remade anymore because I dread to think that the only remaster we’d ever get in our lifetimes will be gutted and shoehorned into the shortcomings and gameplay of HW2’s engine.


Making a physics based simulation work and perform well is not easy and HW1 was remarkable for making it FUN. ‘Physics’ based simulations still need to do a lot of tricks to work inside the game tick time window and tend to be simpler than most people expect. Having recompiled the HW1 source when it was originally open sourced and used it as reference for some other coding projects it really would need to be written from the ground up with a few sections of logic preserved for gameplay behaviors. The vast majority of it would be gutted purely from a standpoint of eliminating hardcoded sections and archaic implementations and I think for performance we would still wind up with hybrid RNG for many of the weapons.

The Formations on the other hand are broken and were broken in HW2, that is the piece that probably has the most impact on gameplay in terms of player control. I was frustrated when HW2 originally came out that formations were dropped and ships went all different directions. If there is any game system that needed to be fixed in the HW2 engine, formations and their control is probably the biggest one. Currently you cannot expect a frigate line to screen a capital ship or a sphere formation to hold, battles end up being random melees due to not being able to position ships properly in relation to each other and have them keep that relationship.

fuel I can forgive since it hosestly was annoying in the original game, though it should have been at least scripted into the Gardens of Kadesh or at least make it a function for modders.

Another one you forgot is the Support frigate really just needs to be a heal weapon that auto targets friendlies, latching doesn’t work

I call BS on the fact that people think the main reason that HW2 is used is cross race multi-play, we had mods that did the same thing in 2004. I bet it has a lot more to do with the fact that HW2 was much much easier to work with despite its missing features


I still haven’t bought it because the reviews told me that it uses the HW2 engine with no physical hit detection, is filled with bugs, and you can’t play as the Taiidan.

The decision to port HW1 was a bad one, they could have done much more buying a more modern engine like Unreal or Unity 3d which includes it’s own PhysX implementation, and then porting both games to it. Seeing as how spacecraft are just ridged bodies and do not require any sort of fancy animations, it would have probably been less work than patching a 10 year old engine to handle newer graphics, and the end result would have been richer gameplay.

Fuel has been scripted into the garden of Kadesh missions. There is no fuel bar visible so I am not sure what they did but after a while the swarmers move slowly and head back to the fuel pods and ‘reset’ back to their original speed. This might purely be time based scripted event for each ship or even wave or a specific trigger (like when a new wave spawns the stats of the ships change I am not sure) but they most certainly DID implement a ‘fuel system’ for Kadesh.

That said, do you think physics physics/RNG hybrid or more pure RNG would be easiest to mod/balance? You sound like you know (mostly :stuck_out_tongue: ) what you’re talking about.

I’s hard to expect a remake when it’s called Homeworld: Remastered on every single video, review and piece of art published including the steam store page and the CE order page…

Also obligatory ‘classic HW1 and HW2 is included in the package’ bit here.

Also in this day and age if you don’t do even the most basic of checks by reading a SINGLE preview or watching a single preview video then the level of sympathy you’d get, especially when pre-ordering, probably flips over into the negative. I watched and read probably around 30 or so previews/reviews and I got exactly what was promised. More in fact but for the purposes of this discussion we’ll go with exactly :stuck_out_tongue:

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