More powerful and more realistic Solar Panel Arrays

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Yama
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Mon Aug 01, 2011 3:07 pm

I'm working on some new devices to go with my improved Tinker station mod. One of those devices, which I'd like to get your thoughts on, will be a solar panel array that's powerful enough to be useful well beyond the earliest stages of the game, while still being balanced and more realistic than the standard solar panel array available in the vanilla game.

The power issue really needs no explaining. Prophet included an "Advanced Solar Panel Array" in his "Tinker Master V2" mod which nicely addressed that shortcoming, but to me suffers from the same lack of realism as the standard article.

The Realism Problem as I see it:

The feasibility of Solar panel arrays in the vacuum of space has been a proven reality for over half a century. They actually perform far better than they do on earth because the sunlight isn't being filtered through the atmosphere. The issue I have with both the standard article and Prophet's Advanced array boils down to two questions:
  • 1) How can a solar array be protected by the ship's armor (which would prevent the sunlight from reaching the panels) and still function?
  • 2) Even if you had transparent armor (which sure wouldn't provide much protection against laser damage :P), how could an array large enough to produce the desired power, possibly fit under the armor on a small to medium sized ship?
More powerful and more realistic Solar Panel Arrays

The obvious way around this is external solar panel arrays, which could be made as large as necessary. Of course they wouldn't be protected by the ship's armor (and maybe not even by it's shields). Therefore they'd be very vulnerable to damage due to their large size (an even bigger target than the ship) and fragility.

Strange as it may sound at first, to me as a modder this vulnerability is actually an advantage. It allows for the possibility of arrays large enough to refuel a big reactor in a reasonable period of time, without unbalancing the game. As long as the of acquisition costs (purchase price and difficulty) are appropriately high, the big advantage in fuel savings can be balanced by the limitations on when & where it could be safely installed and the risk that it would be damaged or destroyed if the player made a mistake.

I see two different ways that such arrays might reasonably be implemented in Transcendence and would really appreciate your feedback and suggestions regarding the merits and difficulties of these proposals.

Option # 1
  • External Solar Panel Array

    A no-slot, external device that would be carried in the cargo hold like a patch spider, to be installed (deployed) when needed. Like a patch spider, the player would "use" the ESPA to install or uninstall it. Also like a patch spider (and other external devices), there would be a chance that the ESPA would be damaged if it happens to be installed when the ship is struck by weapons-fire with it's shields down. But installed patch spiders (due to their small size) are only occasionally damaged when the unshielded ship takes a hit. In contrast an installed ESPA (being considerably larger than the ship itself) should be damaged when the unshielded ship takes a hit, far more often than not.

    This is a point I particularly need help with. I know that I can make the ESPA subject to being damaged simply by declaring it to be an external device (external= "true"). But is there a way to dramatically increase the likelihood that the installed ESPA will be damaged (compared to other external devices) when the unshielded ship takes a hit? I'm pretty sure I know how to code the necessary aspects this device, except for this one adjustment (which may or may not be doable).

    If I can't make it such that the installed ESPA is damaged more than half of the time when a shot gets past the ship's shields, I'm going to drop this one from consideration. A low chance of being damaged when the player screws-up would neither my meet goal of realism, nor significantly aid in preventing this device (which drastically reduces the need to buy and carry fuel), from unbalancing the game. A sort of balance can be achieved at a point in the game by manipulating acquisition costs alone, but beyond that point (when the array has paid for itself), without the added risk of loss (which is an ongoing cost of use, as opposed to a one-time cost of acquisition), it's all gravy and eventually becomes unbalancing. Jacking-up the cost of acquisition only pushes that point farther down the road, it doesn't eliminate it, and if the break-even point is pushed too close to (or past) the end of the game, it makes the device practically useless.

    PM achieves a measure of game-long balance in his "Solar Reactors" (part of his comprehensive "Reactors Pack 912" mod) by combining acquisition costs with a different sort of risk; the risk of death. PM's Solar Reactors can only be refueled by solar recharging (they can't accept fuel rods or any other sort of fuel), so the player has to watch his fuel level very carefully. If the fuel level gets low too far from a sun, there's nothing the player can do. This risk constitutes a very real and significant, ongoing "cost of use".

    There are two additional properties that I'd like to incorporate in the ESPA, if I can get some pointers on how to code them. The first would prevent the array from being installed when the ship is moving. The second would either prevent the ship from moving or turning while the ESPA is installed, or automatically uninstall it when the player presses a thrust or rotation key. These are just features that I'd like to add. if it turns out that they're not practicable, I can live without them 'cause, at my current skill level, this option will be considerably less difficult for me to implement than the one which follows.
Option # 2
  • Portable Solar Charging station

    A usable item that would be carried in the player's cargo hold to be used when needed. When the item is used it creates a PSC station, the way a "Beacon" station is created by Bobby's "Beacons" mod (http://xelerus.de/index.php?s=mod&id=75). Like Bobby's Beacon station, the PSC station will have very low hit points and can be retrieved and stowed (converted back to a usable item) in the players cargo hold. But unlike Bobby's Beacons which are an inexpensive item that creates a very small station (a small target) when deployed, the PSC would be a rather expensive item that creates a station larger than most freighters (a BIG target). Being a large, fragile target it would likely be destroyed if any sort of engagement occurred near the station. This chance of destruction is the risk that I want for game balance (discussed at length in Option #1, above).

    I envision PSC operation as follows:
    • The player "uses" the PSC usable item to deploy the PSC station (This removes the PSC usable item from the player's cargo hold and a PSC station is created next to the player's ship).
    • The player types "D" to dock at the PSC station, then from the dock screen menu selects "Connect PSC charging cable". ( This installs a no-slot device labeled "PSC charging cable" in the player's ship)
    • The player is then returned to the normal space view (or whatever you call it), where he'll see his ship docked to the PSC station. The ships thrust and rotation controls should be locked, so the ship must remain docked while charging cable is connected.
    • The player keeps an eye out for hostile ships, while watching the reactor fuel bar climb as the reactor charges-up.
    • When charging is complete, the player types "D" to dock, then from the dock screen menu selects "Disconnect PSC charging cable". (This uninstalls the no-slot device labeled "PSC charging cable" device and removes it from the player's ship)
    At this point the player has a couple choices from the dock screen menu:
    • The player selects "Undock" (This simply returns the player to the normal space view)
    • The player selects "Disassemble and stow PSC" (This removes the PSC station from the game, places a PSC usable item in the player's cargo hold, and returns the player to the normal space view.)
I'll have to learn a lot about scripting (the modding I've done to date has been 99% XML), plus come up with a suitable PSC station graphic to pull this one off, so I'm really leaning hard towards Option #1.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. :)
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RPC
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Mon Aug 01, 2011 7:16 pm

You could have a huge overlay that could refuel the ship and give the HP for the External Solar Array. Then, it could be shot off, like pteravores :twisted:
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shanejfilomena
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Mon Aug 01, 2011 8:10 pm

three is a difference between solar panels and Photon Panels: Photon panels convert directly to electricity, are thinner and lighter and less used because they are more effective and less profit by the industries that banked on the original technology.

a super charged array would be justified by the design of a photon panel and the science could put the photon panels into the armor ( like solar armor does, I am huge on solar armor :) all my personal selection ships carry them or I get it on them as fast as I can.

however: the problem with photon panels as opposed to solar panels, which could explain why George did not use Photon Panels is that in an attack the radiation of blast / thermal weapons ( radiation comes in three forms: light, heat, magnetic ) could over power the photon panels which convert the photon energy directly without the extra monkey business and cause the ship to be destroyed by over charging ( warp core breach in five minutes , captain)
++++++++++
what you describe is very much like the construction kits for player stations: they have a fuel factory, etc :

Code: Select all

<!ENTITY unidExtension "0xD5120400">
to transfigure: pull the object back into the cargo : you have to destroy the station and add it to the ship's cargo on destroy :

Code: Select all

 <Action name="Transfigure" key="T">		
				                                                                        (block Nil         
                                                                                                                                                (objAddItem gPlayerShip (itmCreate &itFuelFactory; 1))
				                                                                        (objDestroy gSource)
                                                                                                            )
					                  </Action>
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Yama
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Tue Aug 02, 2011 2:12 am

RPC wrote:You could have a huge overlay that could refuel the ship and give the HP for the External Solar Array. Then, it could be shot off, like pteravores :twisted:
Thanks RPC, but that's more than a little beyond my ability at the moment.... :oops:

I probably should learn to walk a little better before trying to breakdance. :)
shanejfilomena wrote: to transfigure: pull the object back into the cargo : you have to destroy the station and add it to the ship's cargo on destroy :

Code: Select all

 <Action name="Transfigure" key="T">		
				                                                                        (block Nil         
                                                                                                                                                (objAddItem gPlayerShip (itmCreate &itFuelFactory; 1))
				                                                                        (objDestroy gSource)
                                                                                                            )
					                  </Action>
Thanks shane. :) That's the same way Bobby retrieves his Beacons. I'll do that if I end up having to go with Option #2.

I'm really hoping I can make Option #1 work, though. I'm sure I can get that done much quicker.
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Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:58 am

I made some code.
As to what I was talking about earlier, you can make an overlay that is a huge solar panel and it could be (theoretically) shot off.
Solar Panel POC
Just try the &itExternalSolarArray; and see it the (albeit badly drawn) solar panel refuel your ship.
Took some inspiration from Bussard Reactors, I didn't know ShpconsumeFuel could be turned around and be made to refuel the ship :D
I haven't included a way to retract the panels, nor did I make them have 40 facings, but I'm sure you can do that :D
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Yama
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Tue Aug 02, 2011 4:23 pm

RPC wrote:I made some code.
As to what I was talking about earlier, you can make an overlay that is a huge solar panel and it could be (theoretically) shot off.
Solar Panel POC
Just try the &itExternalSolarArray; and see it the (albeit badly drawn) solar panel refuel your ship.
Took some inspiration from Bussard Reactors, I didn't know ShpconsumeFuel could be turned around and be made to refuel the ship :D
I haven't included a way to retract the panels, nor did I make them have 40 facings, but I'm sure you can do that :D
I just had a minute to glance at the code. It's not immediately clear to me how all of it works. Later when I have more time I'll install and give it a try.

After that I'll probably have some questions about how it manages to do what it does. Hope you don't mind.

Many thanks. :D
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Bobby
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Tue Aug 02, 2011 9:28 pm

I've got something in the works too, the concept is basically the same as RPC's.

At the moment when used it adds a solar panel looking overlay (rendered in doga), which falls off when shot 25 times and refuels the reactor until then (even in complete darkness...), but eventually my vision is:

1. install it at a station.
2. se it to deploy/unfold the panels, it is now vulnerable, and refueling the reactor when near a star.
3. virtual mass items are added to the ship to hamper maneuverability (they are removed when the overlay is removed).
4. as it (the overlay) takes damage the power output is reduced as panels are destroyed. If it is damaged too much it stops working entirely. I would like damage to make it fail to retract randomly and require the player to try again, depending on damage, and damage to be shown visually (perhaps in a few "steps").
5. se it again to retract/fold the panels when done, damaged is preserved, probably as a charge on the device.


It needs a lot more work.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10879324/Transc ... 0panel.zip
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shanejfilomena
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Tue Aug 02, 2011 11:12 pm

Bobby wrote:I've got something in the works too, the concept is basically the same as RPC's.

At the moment when used it adds a solar panel looking overlay (rendered in doga), which falls off when shot 25 times and refuels the reactor until then (even in complete darkness...), but eventually my vision is:

1. install it at a station.
2. se it to deploy/unfold the panels, it is now vulnerable, and refueling the reactor when near a star.
3. virtual mass items are added to the ship to hamper maneuverability (they are removed when the overlay is removed).
4. as it (the overlay) takes damage the power output is reduced as panels are destroyed. If it is damaged too much it stops working entirely. I would like damage to make it fail to retract randomly and require the player to try again, depending on damage, and damage to be shown visually (perhaps in a few "steps").
5. se it again to retract/fold the panels when done, damaged is preserved, probably as a charge on the device.


It needs a lot more work.


wonderful; but you sure your not making the Hubble telescope :) LOL wow: I envy the complexity of great mod makers but in a moment like this I am happy I do not think that hard :)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10879324/Transc ... 0panel.zip
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Bobby
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Wed Aug 03, 2011 5:24 pm

I've made some progress and now everything works except the add mass to hamper maneuverability part. The link in the above post goes to the updated version.
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Yama
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Wed Aug 03, 2011 8:25 pm

Yama wrote:
RPC wrote:I made some code.
As to what I was talking about earlier, you can make an overlay that is a huge solar panel and it could be (theoretically) shot off.
Solar Panel POC
Just try the &itExternalSolarArray; and see it the (albeit badly drawn) solar panel refuel your ship.
Took some inspiration from Bussard Reactors, I didn't know ShpconsumeFuel could be turned around and be made to refuel the ship :D
I haven't included a way to retract the panels, nor did I make them have 40 facings, but I'm sure you can do that :D
I just had a minute to glance at the code. It's not immediately clear to me how all of it works. Later when I have more time I'll install and give it a try.

After that I'll probably have some questions about how it manages to do what it does. Hope you don't mind.

Many thanks. :D
Hi RPC,

I finally had a chance to try out your proof of concept. Thanks again for posting it.

There was one thing that really surprised me; the solar panel overlay acts kind of like an outer layer of armor. The ship's shields never tale a hit until the panels are shot away. It also seems to keep charging after the panels are gone.

One thing I'm curious about is why you simulate charging by creating fuel rods, rather than designate it as a SolarDevice, something like this?

Code: Select all

    <SolarDevice
            refuel=			"500"
			deviceSlots=	"0"
			external=		"true"			
                />
	<Invoke>
		(intAutoInstall gSource gItem)
	</Invoke>
That way the charge rate drops as the ship moves away from the sun, and stops charging when it gets too far out.
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Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:27 pm

the solar panel overlay acts kind of like an outer layer of armor.
That's why I like overlays :D
I forgot about <SolarDevice> :lol:
I basically took the pteravore fuel drain and turned it into refuel. I think SolarDevice is better though.
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Wed Aug 03, 2011 9:44 pm

the solar panel overlay acts kind of like an outer layer of armor
That's because onDamage returns 0, no damage, when it should return aDamageHP.
That way the charge rate drops as the ship moves away from the sun, and stops charging when it gets too far out
You can do that with an overlay too, it just requires more tscript than xml, and some math.

I suppose you could have a solardevice which oninstall adds an overlay. when the overlay is shot it damages the device. it could then be removed in whatever the inverse of onInstall is. I may have over-complicated my design.
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Yama
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Thu Aug 04, 2011 1:53 pm

on Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:28 pm, Bobby wrote:I've got something in the works too, the concept is basically the same as RPC's.

At the moment when used it adds a solar panel looking overlay (rendered in doga), which falls off when shot 25 times and refuels the reactor until then (even in complete darkness...), but eventually my vision is:

1. install it at a station.
2. se it to deploy/unfold the panels, it is now vulnerable, and refueling the reactor when near a star.
3. virtual mass items are added to the ship to hamper maneuverability (they are removed when the overlay is removed).
4. as it (the overlay) takes damage the power output is reduced as panels are destroyed. If it is damaged too much it stops working entirely. I would like damage to make it fail to retract randomly and require the player to try again, depending on damage, and damage to be shown visually (perhaps in a few "steps").
5. se it again to retract/fold the panels when done, damaged is preserved, probably as a charge on the device.


It needs a lot more work.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/10879324/Transc ... 0panel.zip

on Wed Aug 03, 2011 1:24 pm, Bobby wrote:I've made some progress and now everything works except the add mass to hamper maneuverability part. The link in the above post goes to the updated version.

Hi Bobby

I installed and tested your "large solar panel array" last night. Pretty slick! :D Many thanks for posting that.

I'm leaving town this afternoon and won't be back online 'til I return Sunday evening. After studying your code I've got some questions (my grasp of tscript is extremely limited), but think I should save them 'til I get back.

Thanks again.
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