Laser/particle diffusion

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Derakon
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Mon Mar 13, 2017 4:16 pm

At the moment, lasers and particles have a "cliff-like" maximum range -- they deal full damage up until they hit their range limit, at which point the projectile disappears. As a fun way to differentiate them from other projectile types, we could replace that with a diffusion system, where their projectiles get less coherent with distance. The simplest way to implement this would be to make them fire a very tight spread of projectiles (e.g. an x5 with .1-degree separation between the projectiles). At close range you'd deal damage as normal, but at extreme range you'd be less likely to hit with all the projectiles, so you'd deal less damage. Sort of like the "cloud"-type weapons, come to think of it.

Of course the projectiles should still have some range at which they disappear, or else we'd end up in lag city. :)

As a bonus, if the projectile graphics use the right blend mode for rendering, they'd appear really bright when first fired, and would get dimmer as the projectiles spread out. :D Additionally you could make it so that the laser collimator reduces the spread on the projectiles, giving the weapons a higher effective maximum range.

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Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:32 pm

While not too difficult to implement now while lasers are bullets, it may be impractical (not necessarily impossible) after they become hitscan-like continuousBeams.
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Derakon
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Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:27 pm

PM wrote:
Mon Mar 13, 2017 6:32 pm
While not too difficult to implement now while lasers are bullets, it may be impractical (not necessarily impossible) after they become hitscan-like continuousBeams.
How do you figure? We don't need to draw a beam that gradually gets wider as its distance from the origination point increases, nor do we need to do anything like trying to figure out what percentage of the beam collided with the target. We can use the same "fire a spread of beams" hack that I proposed for bullet-type lasers. I suppose getting it to look right might involve a certain amount of fiddling, but I don't see anything that would keep it from working.

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Mon Mar 13, 2017 10:36 pm

I suppose the simplest way to do it is cloud weapon as you say or an ion flame cannon like spread for non-clouds. Come to think of it, most plasma weapons are clouds and feature your diffusion idea. Once George changes lasers to hitscan, I guess he could make hitscan cloud weapons.
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Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:04 pm

Ok, setting aside that instantaneous beams don't work well without a change to engine scaling (which is a whole different thing for me to make a dramatic last stand on)....using clouds is a bad idea.

Clouds don't do damage as a single projectile. So yes, they'd work for damage attentuation over time. The problems are significant however:


-They're difficult to calibrate, which imposes a higher difficulty level on basic modding
-They're extremely vulnerable to resistance. Because the damage/hit is so low, armor can ignore shots that with a single projectile would do significant damage.
-The visual effects are worse (this also goes for relativistic beams)
-Balance gets far, far harder.
-Lasers lose their gimmick: high per-shot damage (compared with other energy damage types at an identical level)
-New players won't understand it and just won't use the guns if they don't perform as expected.


Ultimately the game doesn't need to be realistic to this level. Rather than killing off fancy laser effects in favor of shot speed and making attenuation effects...we need features that help players learn to actually aim the damned things. Convenience and training over gimmicks and un-needed rewrites of entire systems.
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Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:08 pm

In order to reduce the steepness of the "range cliff," one could implement a "damage falloff" mechanic, in which projectiles gradually lose their damage potential, via TLisp and (objGetProperty obj 'lifeLeft). I noticed that the vanilla weapons in Transcendence seem to lack something like this mechanic.

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<OnFireWeapon>
	(gamEnd Nil "encountered an unexpected error")
</OnFireWeapon>
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Derakon
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:20 am

Shrike wrote:
Mon Mar 13, 2017 11:04 pm
Ultimately the game doesn't need to be realistic to this level. Rather than killing off fancy laser effects in favor of shot speed and making attenuation effects...we need features that help players learn to actually aim the damned things. Convenience and training over gimmicks and un-needed rewrites of entire systems.
This is a fair point, and I definitely agree that we should sacrifice realism wherever it is in direct conflict with good gameplay. The suggestion was borne more out of a "hey, we could actually model this real-life thing pretty easily" mindset rather than considering the gameplay ramifications. :)

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JohnBWatson
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:56 pm

I'm for this mechanic. It'd be a good balance feature - Kinetic weapons have slower speed but consistent damage at range, while laser weapons would be less powerful at range but easier to aim.

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Tue Mar 14, 2017 4:44 pm

No engine support for damage fallout for projectiles means clouds or simple multishot weapons would be the way to implement diffusion for lasers or other. Clouds can blend alright, but they probably would not look like a laser. Multishot bullets would simply be your classic multishot weapon like your generic spread gun seen in many games.

The classic diffusion weapon is a 3-way laser cannon array. Until recently, that weapon had a wide spread with wide gaps, and it seemed everyone hated it. Multishot weapons generally need a tight spread for most or all of the shots to hit from about range 20-30. Otherwise, they tend to get passed for basic or dual weapons that can easily focus all power on target.

Damage fallout for regular bullets (i.e., one bullet whose damage varies by time or distance) can only be done with a messy script during events, and if it relies on ticks, then that will not work for hitscan due to duration of one to three ticks. There may be another way to implement diffusion for hitscan attacks, but I do not know of them off of my head. Also, item stats on screen can be misleading; who wants to see laser do 15 damage, but it only does that much point-blank?

Lasers are kind of weak already. Lasers that have high damage need that damage to overcome resistance, which is intrinsic to all armor and shields higher than level 1.
Shrike wrote:-They're extremely vulnerable to resistance. Because the damage/hit is so low, armor can ignore shots that with a single projectile would do significant damage.
That should not be the case anymore with stochastic damage resolution. That said, mod armor or shields that feature flat or integer damage reduction are extremely effective against particles or other similar low-damage, multi-hit weapons like lancers.

Arco used to completely shrug off the likes of light recoilless cannon. Today, he can be killed by it.
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:48 pm

Lasers are kind of weak already.
Is that really the case? Aside from a token WMD provider in games where I find one before I find a NAMI launcher, I've never had any reason to choose a kinetic weapon over a laser weapon in the New Beyond.

The Flenser and Dual Flenser are exceptions, of course, but that's because they have the speed typical of a laser weapon plus superb range and damage that most kinetic weapons don't have.

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Tue Mar 14, 2017 5:59 pm

Things have low hit points early on, so being weak does not mean so much until later.

The main reason kinetic kind of stinks is Charon Pirates are the most common enemy in New Beyond, with lots of Corsairs and Vikings. Vikings (and probably Drakes and frigates too) resist kinetic (more than laser), and take too long to kill with low-level kinetics. Vikings and other pirates that just will not die from repeated hits from kinetics spell doom for Korolov escorts. Player wanting to do Korolov missions should not use kinetic as their primary weapon (unless the choice is something between RK15 or Flenser vs. low level laser cannon). Combined with slow shot speed of most kinetics, makes most kinetics a pain to use.
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Tue Mar 14, 2017 8:43 pm

JohnBWatson wrote:
Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:56 pm
I'm for this mechanic. It'd be a good balance feature - Kinetic weapons have slower speed but consistent damage at range, while laser weapons would be less powerful at range but easier to aim.
In theory this is already the case: kinetic (and other matter) weapons have a damage bonus over lasers. The problem, as PM says, is an overabundance of kinetic resistance. This combines with poor armor balance ( kinetic-resistant armor is flat out better than the ceramic armor range, although this may be balanced out given this makes kinetics stronger against those few foes with ceramic armors) and a lack of aiming assistance to make them difficult to use effectively.


Personally I use kinetic and laser interchangeably (based on whether I find an accelerator or collimator first)..and laser weapons are far more convenient..but not quite as powerful. The lack of WMD on lasers also limits them heavily until you start seeing things like X-ray lasers: quite a few early stations don't reliably take damage from basic laser weapons. But that's intentional (although personally I think the structural HP is a bit overkill on some things).

That's why I think we need features that help with aiming rather than altering weapons to fit the current lack of such feature: right now there's an assumption in balancing that doesn't quite work out...but fixing it shouldn't be that awful (a target-lead indicator is entirely do-able, albeit with a few limitations) and will have positive effects on a lot more of the game.
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Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:15 am

I think we've got enough help with aiming - I can't really see a target - leading indicator improving the situation as much as some think it would.

A small damage bonus just isn't worth the massive fire - hit delay increase and potential decrease in accuracy. If the damage bonus were higher and there were more enemies in the gap between "It dies so quickly that raw damage doesn't really matter" and "my dedicated WMD - dealer is the only thing worth using on this", the situation might be different, but right now I can't see anyone being good enough that a minor damage increase is worth a huge ease of use drop. I'm a pretty experienced player at this point, but the effective DPS of an Arbalest in my hands is always going to be less than that of a turbolaser against anything light enough to be worth using either of those weapons on.

It's the same issue as with omni vs. fixed dogfighting weapons. The 'easy but weak' weapons aren't all that weak, and the 'hard but powerful' weapons aren't all that powerful.

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Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:52 am

JohnBWatson wrote:
Wed Mar 15, 2017 12:15 am
I think we've got enough help with aiming - I can't really see a target - leading indicator improving the situation as much as some think it would.
We don't have much help right now. We have targeting, which only helps for automated weapons.....and the visual enhancer, which gives some help at longer range. An extra tool that acts as an intermediary so you can put your mouse cursor on a marker, fire your gun and have a pretty reasonable chance of hitting....that would be a nice ROM to add in.

And given that the most popular weapons in the game tend to be howitzers, I don't think there's that much of an issue anyway. Beams do reliable but not-that-fantastic damage at long range. Matter weapons do improved damage, WMD, and have options for tracking and fragmentation that (most) energy weapons do not...but require more care to use. The trick is to find a way to ease people into aiming them correctly, rather than just giving up on weapons with slower projectiles.

...The other issue is that a lot of people like kiting. And kiting exacerbates the issue massively.
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Wed Mar 15, 2017 4:39 pm

Shrike wrote:
Wed Mar 15, 2017 3:52 am
...The other issue is that a lot of people like kiting. And kiting exacerbates the issue massively.
When the game throws supercaps at you that are nonetheless quite agile and able to bring their incredibly punishing main weapons to bear on your puny little ship...

As far as I can tell the only realistic ways to kill Phoboses are kiting and Domina powers (specifically, Defend). In a straight-up fight you'll lose: you either spend all your time dodging the archcannon, and thus aren't able to attack (and you'll get whittled down by the ion turrets), or you get hit by the archcannon and are killed in 2-4 shots. You can kill Phoboses pretty quickly with the right weapons (and especially with the right launchers), but they'll kill you even quicker.

Kiting isn't necessary for most ships if you've been attentive about keeping your weapons and armor up to date, but there are notable exceptions. And if you haven't been keeping your weapons/armor up to date, say because you don't understand the damage system, then kiting is your only realistic option for winning fights.

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