Visual: Imagine a gun-turret or a laser-turret, but with some extra robotic legs welded underneath it. So it can walk and traverse belts. And perhaps some batteries on the exterior, a small antenna and some blinking lights. It's not very fast, it has about the speed of normal conveyor belt, and surely slower than a player. It has some small armor plates to protect the electronics inside, but it's not fully plated like a tank.
Research: It would probably be something close to the flying construction/logistic robots as we already know them. But without the 'flight' research steps and with some new research steps like 'robotic legs'. Those robotic legs would also be a new manufacturable item.
Materials: To make such a robot, you would need this: robotic legs, batteries, various electronic circuits, some steel or iron to give it armor, and ofcourse a gun/laser turret.
Control: There would be a building that is the ground equivalent of a roboport. Let's call it a Autonomous Ground Combat Center. Each AGC center has a limited amount of slots to hold the robots, which can be added by the player or through inserters. This AGC center is the brain for those robots, and the slots represents how many robots are connected to this brain. Let's say there are 10 slots in this center: each robot that is added is taking one slot, they are not stacked. When there are 10 robots added, this building is full and inserters with new robots will just wait. Even when the robots are out on a mission, they are still connected and taking up the slots. Only when they are destroyed or removed by the player, will a slot free up. The energy usage of this building would be similar to that of a roboport, perhaps a bit lower since it is not that high-tech.
Ammo: Autonomous Ground Combat Centers also have regular inventory slots to hold all kind of ammo types and batteries for the laser guns. This would be about 20 slots where all this ammo can be placed and stacked, much like a normal chest. Perhaps it's better to not allow every kind of item in here, or else players would try to place robots in the wrong slots and become confused.
Range: The Autonomous Ground Combat Center has a range of 3 times the green construction range of a Roboport. The ground robots are slower, but they don't have to be so lightweight as the flying robots. So they can take stronger radio equipment with them.
Missions: The behaviour of each Ground Combat Robot is controlled only by the Autonomous Ground Combat Center it belongs to, and only that center can be adjusted by the player. So all robots of the same center will follow the same set of mission commands and will essentially form a pack. If you want more variation, you have to build multiple Autonomous Ground Combat Centers. Some mission options are simple on/off buttons. Others are more complex and allow you to add multiple copies of a movement rule which you can then adjust separately. A mission list can be saved and would then have an activate button.
Example of simple mission rules:
- Follow and attack aliens when encountered yes/no?
- Wait for other robots in the pack? yes/no
- Retreat to base if HP strength of pack is reduced to: 80% / 60% / 40% / 20% / 0%
- Retreat to reload ammo if ammo storage is reduced to: 80% / 60% / 40% / 20% / 0%
- Step 1: Move (200) tiles to the (West), then wait (10) seconds, then load step (2)
- Step 2: Move (50) tiles to the (North), then wait (60) seconds, then load step (3)
- Step 3: Move (50) tiles to the (South), then wait (60) seconds, then load step (2)
- robots with every kind of weapon, including those from mods.
- robots that can lay mines.
- robots with no weapons, but a small radar on their back.
- robots with additional lights on them.
- robots with a mini roboport on them? Just enough to let a few flying construction robots recharge and carry some repair packs. Might require a mission option to make them halt their movements when the flying construction robot is active.
- robots with a provider and/or requester chest.
- robots with no weapons, but a small steel chest and an inserter arm. With some extra mission options they would be able to reload every ground robot or static gun within their range.
- robots with a small radio pylon on them, to extend the range of its control center.
- A way to save a mission setup, so that you can load it on other Control centers without having to set everything up from scratch again. A bit like blueprints ? Or perhaps control centers that are within eachothers range can share a list of saved missions ?
- Bigger and better robots would take up multiple control slots, to balance everthing a bit. Adding such a robot would take up one control slot and grey out a second one, allowing you to only place 5 robots where you could otherwise place 10 normal robots.
- Modular setups with extra armor plates, extra ammo storage, increased speed, increased battery size. Each of them coming at a cost regarding the speed and manoeuvrability of the robot.
- Various research options to improve the robots.
- Diagonial movement, without requiring Pythagorean calculations from the player.
- Setup movement by clicking on points on the minimap, instead of setting up relative moves?
Origin: I recently came back after a small break, loaded up Dytech and a map of 10.000 x 10.000 tiles with the goal of exterminating every single alien and conquering the whole map. I got my base setup nicely, researched all the heavy dytech weapons, took control of a continent with enough resources and arranged a good defensive layout. After 87 hours playtime, I started to wonder about the actual size of a map of 10.000 x 10.000 tiles and used a command code to reveal everything. I noticed that I had barely seen a very very small part of the map, and gave up on this project. It was just to big to do it manually. It would become very boring, especially since large alien bases proved no problem anymore. So I wanted a way to automate combat, much in the same way like I could automate the construction of about every item and building. So please, let me have my army of ground attack robots so that I can clear that gigantic map