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TheJezna

Damage, repairs, DD's and ramblings

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1,808 battles

Hi all. Have been reading a large number of articles, books and web sites lately about actual performance and capabilities of Destroyers during WW2 and was a bit inspired. I think the wikipedia page on the Battle of Samar sums some parts up quite nicely:

 

First a bit about a number of "Destroyer Escorts" involved. Destroyer Escorts was smaller, slower (usually just about 20 knots), less armed etc ships normally used to escort freight convoys, that is, far weaker and less capable than a full Destroyer

 

 Their lack of armor tended to aid clean penetration of armor piercing rounds before Japanese gunners switched to high-explosive shells, which caused much more extensive damage. Their speed and agility enabled some ships to dodge shellfire completely before launching torpedoes. Effective damage control and redundancy in propulsion and power systems kept them running and fighting even after absorbing dozens of hits before sinking, although the decks would be littered with the dead and seriously wounded.

 

This was after coming under fire from Heavy Cruisers of the Japanese side.

 

Then the legendary actions of Commander Ernest E. Evans in the USS Johnston, a Fletcher. 

 

 At 0700, Commander Ernest E. Evans of the destroyer Johnston, in response to incoming shell fire bracketing carriers of the group he was escorting, began laying down a protective smokescreen and zigzagging. At about 0710, Gunnery Officer Robert Hagen began firing at the closest attackers, then at a range of 18,000 yards (16,000 m) and registered several hits on the leading heavy cruisers.

[..]

Johnston, still making smoke and zigzagging, accelerated to flank speed towards the Japanese. Its crew looked on in disbelief - equally shocked at the appearance of the Japanese fleet and the fact that they were attacking it.

[..]

At 0715, Hagen concentrated his fire on the leading cruiser squadron's flagship, the heavy cruiser Kumano.At the 5-inch gun's maximum range of 10 nmi (12 mi; 19 km), Johnston fired, scoring several hits on the Kumano's superstructure, which erupted into flame and smoke.

[..]

The Johnston pressed its attack, firing more than two hundred shells as it followed an evasive course through moderate swells, making it a difficult target.[9] The Johnston closed to within maximum torpedo range, and at 9,000 yards (8,200 m) she fired a full salvo of ten torpedoes.[11] At 0724, two or three struck, blowing the bow off the Kumano.[10] Minutes later, 0733, the Kongowas forced to turn away north to avoid four torpedoes.[12] The heavy cruiser Suzuya, suffering damage from air attacks, was also taken out of the fight, as she stopped to assist the Kumano.

[..]

At 0730, three 14 in (360 mm) shells from the battleship Kongo, at a range of 7 nmi (8.1 mi; 13 km), passed through the deck of the Johnston and into her portside engine room, cutting the destroyer's speed in half to 17 kn (20 mph; 31 km/h) and disrupting electric power to her aft gun turrets. Moments later three 6 in (150 mm) shells — possibly from the Yamato — struck Johnston's bridge, causing numerous casualties and severing the fingers of Commander Evans's left hand. The ship was mangled badly, with dead and dying sailors strewn across her bloody decks—but the Johnston did not sink.

[..]

Only a few minutes were required to bring theJohnston's main battery and radar online, and from its hidden position in the rain, Johnston fired several dozen rounds at a destroyer leader at 10,000 yards (9,100 m) (beginning approximately at 0735). Fire was then shifted to the cruisers approaching from the east. Several dozen more rounds were fired at the closest target at 11,000 yards (10,000 m).

[..]

During the battle, Evans engaged in several duels with much larger Japanese opponents. At 0820, emerging through smoke and rain squalls, theJohnston was confronted by the Kongo, a 36,600-ton battleship. The Johnston fired at least 40 rounds, and more than 15 hits on the battleship's superstructure were observed. The Johnston reversed course and disappeared in the smoke, avoiding the Kongo's 14-inch return fire.

[..]

The Johnston continued to take hits from the Japanese, which knocked out the number one gun turret, killing many men. By 0920, forced from the bridge by exploding ammunition, Evans was commanding the ship from the stern by shouting orders down to men manually operating the rudder. Shell fire knocked out the remaining engine, leaving the Johnston dead in the water at 0940. As her attackers gathered around the vulnerable ship, they concentrated fire on her rather than the fleeing carriers. The Johnston was hit so many times that one survivor recalled "they couldn't patch holes fast enough to keep her afloat."

At 0945, Evans finally gave the order to abandon ship. The Johnston sank 25 minutes later with 186 of her crew. Evans abandoned ship with his crew, but was never seen again. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. However, it was the Japanese themselves that first recognized theJohnston‍ '​s incredible actions that day: As a destroyer from the opposing fleet cruised slowly by, Robert Billie and several other crewmen watched as the Japanese captain saluted the sinking Johnston.[25]

 

There are many more stories like this, this one is found here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_off_Samar

 

An interesting article in full.

 

Now, I know the game is what it is, and it's to late for any real changes of game mechanics at this point, but it might not be needed either. From what I've learned, Destroyers where indeed a very real threat to capital ships, and in reality they didn't have the "cloaking device" from the game. Rather, a small ship like a destroyer, with the amount of agility and speed they had was an extremely hard target to hit using the targeting technology of the time. They where also, despite lacking in armor, generally very durable and notoriously hard to finish off. Yes, they often suffered damage which decreased their performance, but outright sinking them wasn't all that easy. This, by the way, goes for many other ships as well: far more ships where put out of action, not being able to fight anymore and needing repairs than outright sunk.

 

Now, what I would like to see is a more detailed system for managing damage. A real ship (or vehicle, or person) doesn't have hit points. Focusing on ships, when they take damage, a couple of things can happen. They can start leaking, and if the leak is greater than the pumping capacity or the pumps are disabled it will start sinking, how fast depending of course of the size and numbers of holes. Systems on the ship may be hit and damaged or destroyed, which seems to be the most common effect of getting hit. It may also, on rare occasions, be penetrated in a sensitive are, a magazine or boiler, which will cause catastrophic damage, generally sinking the ship quickly. The ship may also catch fire, and finally, crew may get killed. A torpedo hit is special, since it does work by sinking the ship, but generally, the hole created is so big that there is no time to react to this, and in the case of smaller ships it may well break the entire structure of the ship.

 

Now, none of these kinds of damage are taking a toll on some ship-wide pool of hit points which, when expended, causes the ship to explode. I believe a mechanic more akin to reality would actually be an improvement for gameplay.

AP: AP shells should have a couple of effects. On a penetration it will cause immense damage to the systems located where the shell ended up, the radius of damage correlating to the shell size, which may also cause fires. This will generally knock the system out for the rest of the game, also killing most of the crew manning said system. If a sensitive system like a magazine or boiler room is penetrated this should generally cause catastrophic damage, sinking the ship. This needs to be very difficult to achieve, since these areas are always extremely well protected and also not trivial to hit. An AP shell might also overpenetrate just as today. This should have a small chance of damaging any system in the shells path and also to kill some crew. Damage would not be as catastrophic, and be fixable by the crew. An underwater overpen will cause a small leak.

HE: HE Shells exploding on deck will cause damage to nearby systems: the larger the shell, the radius again depending on shell size. It will also kill crew and have a chance to cause fires. Against very light armor, or plunging shells on the deck of light ships a HE shell may penetrate into the hull, causing even more damage then a penetrating AP shell, and risking causing leaks.

Torpedos: A torpedo hit is always serious. Some ships, battleships foremost, have torpedo bulges which may save them from catastrophic damage, only causing the ship to need to slow down for the remainder of the battle. In all other cases, if the torpedo isn't a dud, it will cause a very serious leak, which will generally be impossible to fix, or break the structure of the ship, instantly sinking it. Now, this needs to be balanced of course, things to consider are introducing "duds", which was a quite common problem, limiting torpedo supplies, making torpedo bombers dropping much more difficult where the planes need a fairly long straight approach where they are very vulnerable to AA fire and fighters, introducing a risk that a TB under enough fire might botch their drop, causing the torpedo to destruct on water impact, missing widely etc. Torpedo hits needs to be fairly uncommon but extremely dangerous.

Bombs from DB's work exactly like HE shells, damage, fire potential and radius based on bomb size.

 

Leaks are tracked on a numerical scale where 0 is no leaks and 100 is sinking rapidly. Pumps at full capacity can stop leaks up to 20-40 on the scale depending on ship, and reduces leaks over that by the same amount: A ship with 25 pump efficiency and 40 leakage has an effective leakage of 15. Water taken on is also tracked, and once it reaches 100 the ship will sink. Water in the ship will slow it down and make it harder to turn. At over 50 water, crew actions will become slower and at 70 crew will start to die.

 

Fires work in a similar way, the amount of fires are tracked from 0-100, where 100 is a raging inferno. A ship has a fire fighting efficiency of 5-20, which is the amount of fires put out in one minute. Fires over 30 slows crew down, over 50 starts to kill crew. Each minute, there is a percentage risk, of modules being damaged or destroyed based on the amount of fires still burning.

 

Modules that are damaged are individually repaired. A ship has a number of repair points which are automatically distributed between all damages. The player can prioritize areas of repair: Weapons, Propulsion and Steering, Sensors etc, haven't thought out all possibilities. While working, the repair efficiency decreases from exhaustion, which is regained if the repair crews gets to rest without fixing anything.

 

Crew number is tracked. Individual crew functions are not however. Instead, every action the ship takes are slowed down by a lack of crew proportionally, including fixing leaks, fighting fires and repairing systems, but also responding to commands (increase or decrease speed, rudder shift), top speed, reloading guns, training guns, AA efficiency, spotting range, the works. Stopping the ship in a hidden location, not doing anything else would let more crew focus on repairs, speeding them up, as long as the ship does nothing.

 

If to many systems are damaged or to many crew are killed the ship is out of action, effectively dead. It will still float in game and can be shot by shells or torpedoes, this has no further impact on the game though, other than that the ship might be used as a shield. If there are to many leaks or fires in relation to the fixing capabilities of the remaining crew the captain will automatically issue an abandon ship, also effectively taking the ship out of action.

 

Now, this is all rough ideas, actual numbers etc would need a lot of tweaking. I think a damage model like this would allow for a much more interesting game though, removing the rather silly concept of hitpoints and instead tracking actual damage to the ships capabilities. It would also fix things like fires from HE shells sinking Battleships: yes, setting fires would cause the Battleship to perform worse, but wouldn't sink it, and it would be unlikely that it caused so many casualties as to putting it out of action in a hurry. It would also allow modelling of things like I talked about earlier, how some ships can be very resilient and hard to sink without any magical cloaks or invulnerabilities. I think it would make the game much more dynamic and interesting.

 

I think generally, the hitpoints paradigm in games is a pretty bad way of managing damage. Same thing goes for tanks for example, maybe even more obviously so: A MBT that is hit is either penetrated, which generally causes damage severe enough to take it out of action or destroy it spectacularly, or it is not penetrated, which will cause very little problems at all, maybe knocking a gyro out of balance disabling the main sight temporarily, knocking out some mirrors, lamps etc. A 25 mm autocannon can shoot at the front of a modern MBT from 1500 meters for as long as it pleases, it won't kill the tank.

 

About the Destroyers in particular, apart from the revamped damage system, they would need to be able to rely even more on maneuverability and smoke to avoid getting hit. I feel that this is what was intended for the US destroyer line, since they can't rely on concealment while firing their guns or using torps, but the game fails to model it correctly, which makes the entire line sub par. Hitting a destroyer needs to be really really hard, and they need to not be knocked out by a few hits, but be able to go on fighting, albeit with reduced capabilities until able to repair. This would be compensated by increasing the detection ranges considerably, removing the feel of a magic aura, making them both more exciting and enjoyable to play, and likely less irritating and frustrating (while at least as dangerous) when facing them.

 

Sorry for the mega-long post, had to much time on my hands I guess. And yea, I know, it's probably to late for major changes like this, one could always hope though, like I said, I think it could potentially settle quite a few problems in the game.

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