[Discussion] Point defense, missile HP and Aegis.

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Fri Jun 09, 2017 5:42 am

First things first: This is not a proposal. It is a discussion thread. That being said, please keep on topic.


I've been doing some brainstorming on the problem of point defense, and I think I've worked out most of the issues that need to be discussed and worked out. I don't have solutions to everything, but I think I can categorise the issues well enough to start a thread off.


There are a number of questions that need to be answered. First off is "What role do we want point defense to play?". Is it a substitute for a shield (AP has such a unit in TBR already..should this be universal?) Is it a hard counter to certain weapons? Or does it simply work to reduce the number of hits you take? I am curious as to what others feel the role of PD should be (not necessarily what it is now).

Personally I see it as a system that can be extremely flexible...but not with the current implementation. With a few changes though, we can make PD fit almost any conceivable role.


Secondly, there are a number of known issues that need to have solutions worked out before point defense can be overhauled properly. These are, in order:

1. Antiquated target selection criteria on existing point defense units.
2. Lack of target selection criteria appropriate to differentiating PD units
3. Lack of missile hitpoint balance
4. Lack of diversity in point defense options
5. The role, diversity and setup of PD-equipped autons


I'll go through these in order.

Antiquated target selection criteria on existing point defense units.

Put simply, the target selection on existing PD units is out of date. The system was updated years and years ago to be able to take far more exhaustive criteria. However, the units ingame were never updated to use this system. This has to be done to deal with the "phantom missile" bug that currently cripples vanilla point defense. However, fixing this introduces issues 2 and 3:

Lack of target selection criteria appropriate to differentiating PD units

Even after updating to the more modern criteria, there are certain things a PD unit cannot do. For example, it cannot prioritise the incoming missile with the highest potential damage, or the lowest hitpoint count. It cannot ignore low-damage fragments or missiles that have such high HP that it cannot possibly deal with them. I do not know (as I'm no coder) how one might set up variables of this type, but they are important for dealing with the lack of diverse PD solutions.

More importantly, we need to think of these nice and early so they can get into the engine to allow for work further down this list.

Lack of missile hitpoint balance

This is the big one. We cannot balance PD units until missiles themselves have balanced hitpoint counts. Automatic HP totals should reflect value, mass, damage, stealth, and rate of fire. Some missiles should use ability to slip past PD as a balancing point. Others should be fragile. Either way, we currently have no balance in this area: it quite simply has not been done. It is an extremely complicated matter ideally suited for the insanely complicated and opaque algorithms that George so loves using for balancing a lot of things at once.

Once missile hitpoints have been balanced across levels, it becomes possible to make PD work because it actually matters what PD unit you use....once the last problem has been looked at.

Lack of diversity in point defense options

Once the system itself has been made workable, there is one massive issue remaining to make it work ingame: There are two point defense units in the game. They are almost entirely interchangable, except for the use of the Longreach as fitted to the Aegis auton as a swarm-busting superweapon thanks to the "phantom missile" bug. There needs to be multiple chains of PD units, with each line specialised in something specific. The units can then be specc'd appropriately. We have different types of weapons we can use, ammunition, intercept range, multi-targeting, autoacquiretarget functionality......we can go wild with PD, as long as we plan it properly and find a niche so as to spread them across the game (while obviously not saturating every store with dozens of different PD units).

As part of this, we need a way to balance point-defense effectively as a function of what it's attacking, how long it has to do damage, and how much damage it actually does. I do not for a minute pretend to have the maths needed to do this (and we would first need missile HP to be balanced before working on these numbers). However it would be negligent not to at least acknowledge that this is going to be a challenging part of the process.


Example of possible PD lines:

ICX family: Short-to-medium range and detection range, rapid fire red-laser weapons using the relativistic beam effect. No fancy targeting logic: will shoot the nearest projectile until it dies or hits, then moves to the next one. General purpose PD unit. Upgraded models have increased rate-of-fire and/or detection range. Could go up to level 5-6. Speciality versions (Eg. Tinker recipes) could use multiple cannons in close-packed custom config with multitargeting.

Longreach family: Long detection range, medium ROF but reduced-velocity kinetic rounds. Prioritises the incoming projectile with the highest HP and damage (IE: Missiles). Does not engage smaller projectiles at all. Smaller line than ICX, with one or two models (straight damage upgrade).


Pest-control family: Ok, I'm not good at naming things. move along. Later-game line that comes in in military space. Uses low-damage relativistic particle beams to provide short range (10-15ls) protection against missiles and small craft. Prioritises missiles over a certain size (or with special effect, eg: pteravores), then enemy small craft (focusing on the ship with the lowest HP), then other missiles, then other enemy craft.

Auton-PD family: Point defense units designed with a long range, prioritising missiles aimed at the "parent" ship over the unit itself. Fitted to autons like the 310A Aegis.

Armor-family PD: Armor segments that employ a short-range PD with limited arc (currently impossible) when something's about to hit that specific segment. Like a sort of pre-emptive reactive armor. Might use power, deplete charges or reduce armor HP by a little (rather than a lot if the missile hit it).


These are purely examples of what might be possible to increase PD utility and diversity, not concrete suggestions (this is a discussion thread, after all). There is, of course, also the matter of mining devices and specialised anti-ship point-defense systems. I haven't really considered them, but they are there as options and should be given attention. They also illustrate the sheer number of types and purposes we will need to have balanced.


The role, diversity and setup of PD-equipped autons

Finally as a lesser but still important issue, I'd like to note that the 310A Aegis auton is currently in need of a complete overhaul. The Longreach I is ludicrously valuable for the early-game, does not improve its anti-missile performance over an ICX, and with the current targeting behaviour and bugs results in what is effectively a glorified fragmentation grenade following the player around: a 310A sent into a swarm of kinetic-armed ships or stations will destroy almost everything around it with stray gunfire.

Beyond that, overhauling PD allows for the creation of more nuanced and specialised autons. Using the above criteria (which are, again, examples) one could have two lines of autons with PD fitted quite easily: one with general purpose PD like the current 310A, and another using the "auton-family" or support-style point-defense to protect other vessels. These could, to prevent exploits, even be set up so they cannot be removed with the auton bay (hardwired in or structurally integral). They might not even have regular weapons. Imagine an upgraded mule varient with an automatic cannon to keep things away from it...but not for "combat" use as such? Many things are possible here as part of a properly updated and integrated point-defense implementation.

(This also incidentally assists with the fleshing-out of the auton system, which is in dire need of more models to fill in gaps in the current implementation.)


-----------------------------------------------------------------------

These issues and possibilities are what I've currently given thought to. I'm certain there are other things that need to be considered. Point defense is too complicated for any one part to be updated to "fix" it. We need to work out everything that needs changing, come up with solutions that are workable enough to at least spark something in George's head...and basically come up with the whole picture before anyone starts putting it into the engine or XML. Any issues, suggestions or existing solutions to issues that haven't been implemented (eg: the target criteria issue mentioned in this post) are welcome. I will, however, be moderating this thread rather strictly so do keep on-topic. :)
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Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:04 am

As I said on the IRC, one of the most flagrant problems with current PD is that the Longreach is basically an omnidirectional Flenser relativistic cannon that costs almost 6x as much but isn't even as good as the Flenser. It doesn't have that good of a range bonus even though it's called Longreach and its overpricing means that the Aegis is also underpriced. It would be easy to just type in more logical-looking stats, but that could disrupt the game balance.

As for the target criteria, there is an attribute called targetCriteria that accepts regular SpaceObject criteria. Adding the 'A' criteria could fix phantom missiles (missiles are not dead until their effects completely expire)

Edit: Perhaps we could add an event called GetTargetPriority that takes in all the important stats of a particular object and calculates a priority ranking for it. The highest priority object would become the new target as long as its priority is not negative. This event could fire whenever a criteria-matching object enters.

Edit: To add more PD choices, I could also suggest an anti-beam family of PD devices, but that could be ridiculous in most cases (because beams usually travel at the speed of light and you're not supposed to see them when they're that fast)

Compare:

Code: Select all

	<ItemType UNID="&itMissileDefense;"
			name=				"ICX missile defense turret"
			attributes=			"autoDefense, commonwealth, majorItem"
			  
			level=				"4"
			frequency=			"uncommon"

			value=				"5000"
			mass=				"1000"
			  
			description=		"This device combines a fast-Doppler sensor with a targeting computer. Hostile missiles in its range are blasted into dust by a laser cannon."
			>

		<Image imageID="&rsItems1;" imageX="0" imageY="192" imageWidth="96" imageHeight="96"/>

		<AutoDefenseDevice
				target=			"missiles"
				weapon=			"&vtICXLaserCannon;"
				fireRate=		"15"
				/>
	</ItemType>
	
	<!-- ICX laser cannon -->
	
	<ItemType UNID="&vtICXLaserCannon;"
			name=				"laser cannon"
			level=				"1"
			virtual=			"true" 
			>

		<Weapon
				type=				"beam"

				damage=				"laser:1d8+4"
				fireRate=			"15"
				lifetime=			"30"
				powerUse=			"10"

				effect=				"&efLaserBeamDefault;"
				sound=				"&snLaserCannon;"
				>
		</Weapon>
	</ItemType>

Code: Select all

	<!-- Longreach I autocannon -->

	<ItemType UNID="&itLongreachIAutocannon;"
			name=				"Longreach I autocannon"
			attributes=			"autoDefense, commonwealth, majorItem"
			  
			level=				"7"
			frequency=			"rare"

			value=				"30000"
			mass=				"1000"
			  
			description=		"The Longreach is a missile-defense autocannon that fires high-velocity rounds."
			>

		<Image imageID="&rsItems1;" imageX="0" imageY="192" imageWidth="96" imageHeight="96"/>

		<AutoDefenseDevice
				target=			"missiles"
				weapon=			"&vtLongreachI;"
				interceptRange=	"15"
				fireRate=		"15"
				/>

	</ItemType>
	
	<!-- Longreach I autocannon weapon -->

	<ItemType UNID="&vtLongreachI;"
			name=				"Longreach I autocannon"
			level=				"4"
			virtual=			"true" 
			>

		<Weapon
				type=				"missile"

				damage=				"kinetic:3d8+8; momentum2"
				fireRate=			"15"
				missileSpeed=		"90"
				lifetime=			"27"
				interaction=		"20"
				powerUse=			"100"

				effect=				"&efKineticBoltDefault;"
				sound=				"&snRecoillessCannon;"
				>
		</Weapon>
	</ItemType>

Code: Select all

	<!-- Flenser Relativistic Cannon -->

	<ItemType UNID="&itFlenserCannon;"
			name=				"Flenser relativistic cannon"
			attributes=			"commonwealth, majorItem, rasiermesser"
			  
			level=				"4"
			frequency=			"rare"

			value=				"5500"
			mass=				"3000"
			  
			description=		"The Flenser relativistic cannon fires small masses at nearly the speed of light."
			>

		<Image imageID="&rsItemsRasiermesser3;" imageX="288" imageY="0" imageWidth="96" imageHeight="96"/>

		<Weapon
				type=				"missile"

				damage=				"kinetic:4d8; momentum:2; WMD:3"
				fireRate=			"15"
				missileSpeed=		"90"
				lifetime=			"50"
				interaction=		"20"
				powerUse=			"130"

				effect=				"&efKineticBoltDefault;"
				sound=				"&snRecoillessCannon;"
				>
		</Weapon>
	</ItemType>
Last edited by 0xABCDEF on Fri Jun 09, 2017 2:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Code: Select all

<OnFireWeapon>
	(gamEnd Nil "encountered an unexpected error")
</OnFireWeapon>
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Fri Jun 09, 2017 6:25 am

The longreach was intended as an "ICX but better" weapon to get around the lack of power of the ICX in the endgame. It totally missed the major problem of targeting. It was later introduced into the 310A Aegis to, again, try to solve the targeting issues with brute force.


The comparison with the flenser is inappropriate: the Longreach and Flenser are different types of equipment. It's like comparing blast plate to the superconducting shield generator. The similarity is down to copy-paste. The longreach is a high-level point defense unit, and is priced accordingly for one. Whether it should be, or if kinetic PD should be less capable and thus less expensive.....that's the question for this thread. I again invite concentrating on the actual questions posed by this thread, rather than individual slap-dash 'fixes' that do not address the actual problems.
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 12:16 am

Relevant ticket to this: Ministry
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 1:47 am

ok, as you know I am not exactly close to being technical, but let me try this :
( Background )
I only use the Longreach for the Pteravores, in the past it has gotten me booted from stations, caused all kinds of havoc due the fact that everything from weapons, ejecta and fragments are described as 'missiles' so the Longreach goes after them.

I too first thought the Longreach to be very much like the Flenser : until I got inside the .xml and watched the evolution of weapon systems over the years (like the Wor-QuenVoidWeapon; GravitonLaserCannon; BlasterBattery; etc ...)

In the end it was obvious : every weapon system has it's own personality in the hands of different players (I still can't get the Star Cannon to be an effective weapon for my games).
The Only weapon it seemed anyone agrees on the performance of is the Lamplighter : which is trash against the Ares, nearly gets pilots killed....can only hope the finished product is better.
(Main )
taking the suggestions I read so far :

I think the defense system could use an upgrade for a "&dsUseDevice" so the Player can set the parameters of NoFriendlyFire (yes / No) and Multi-Target (yes / No ).
Being a Multi-Target device might also help the player with some situations outside of the Stars of the Pilgrims ( or non stock ones while they are in..)

I think the projectile types could use an upgrade to describe them for exactly what they are.
( Ejecta / Fragments = "Debris" )

** we all understand that a paint chip orbiting a planet at speeds up to 17,500 mph can strike with the force of a 400lb safe. so I'll include a piece from NASA :
Collision risks are divided into three categories depending upon size of threat.
For objects 4 inches (10 centimeters) and larger, conjunction assessments and collision avoidance maneuvers are effective in countering objects which can be tracked by the Space Surveillance Network.
Objects smaller than this usually are too small to track and too large to shield against.
Debris shields can be effective in withstanding impacts of particles smaller than half an inch (1 centimeter).
( NASA : Space Debris and Human Spacecraft)


So, the Player should be able to rely on their Shields and Armor Upgrades as opposed to
putting the ship's entire destiny at the mercy of a device that is only a device -
it has no mystical powers.

0xabcdef on 6/9/2017 10:24 PM:
Ideas
-PD that takes control of enemy missiles and sends them back to whatever fired them.
-PD that pushes missiles away rather than damaging them
-PD that forces missiles to detonate immediately without damage
What our creative pilot is suggesting here is more of a CPU device then a PoD. However, IF such a CPU existed, it could work with the Longreach under a projectile spam situation..( just off the cap idea for use ) But it is definitely more a CPU.
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 5:20 am

Target selection:

Option 1:

Just target the viable projectile that will hit us soonest. A viable projectile:

(a) - is either locked onto us with tracking capability or on course to hit us(for most cases, we can cheat here and add the 'target' of a projectile, the thing the ship that fired it was locked onto, to its attributes. This would also kill the issue with PD systems targeting debris and asteroid ejecta, as they have no target.).

and

(b) - can be destroyed before it hits us(calculate the damage all PD systems on board can do before it reaches us. If the weapon has tracking, give the player's evasion skills the benefit of the doubt and assume he'll keep away from it long enough for the PD to kill it.)

This option is simple, versatile and more rugged.

Option 2:

Target only things we would logically expect a PD system to target. All viable projectiles from ammo - using weapons are targeted, prioritizing ones that have higher credit value(a modder or developer can judge how dangerous/useful a projectile is more accurately than any algorithm we can design), do more damage(explosion included), or possess tracking capabilities. Thus, cannon rounds, howitzer slugs, and generic projectile weapons are excluded. Anything that applies an overlay is also automatically targeted and prioritized over everything else.

This option is more intuitive, and solidifies some balance issues that would otherwise be vague.

Role:

ICX and Longreach

The PD we've got now is a cheap, not quite common 1 - slot item that, in theory, helps against a certain subset of enemies- namely the Corsair II, Drake, Tripoli, Revelations, Dwarg Master, Kobol[missile], Tundra, and Petravore. They also make the final boss even more trivial, but any issues there are entirely on the end of the Iocrym(my signature contains a fix for them that can be used to demonstrate this).

In my opinion, solidifying and polishing this role for the currently implemented PD devices is the best course of action. Fixing the various glitches associated with the device type, as discussed in the above posts, should accomplish this. The role can further be defined by increasing the shot HP of cannon - type weapons like the Slam Cannon, Ballista, and Tritium Cannon, which would have the added benefit of giving early non - WMD kinetic weapons a niche, allowing their increased durability to compensate for their low speed, and making PD's usefulness more intuitive - we wouldn't expect a point defense system to be useful against solid slugs.

This would result in a device that helps with some tricky/dangerous enemies, many of which are particularly threatening to large, slow ships with many device slots. It would give the ICX and Longreach a more strictly defined role, simplifying things for new players and making games in which they are used feel more distinct from games in which they aren't.

Attempting to specialize the ICX and Longreach into two separate roles, as discussed in earlier posts, may not be as impactful as expected - there are few enough enemies that PD would feasibly be viable against that their roles pretty much have to be similar. It's always good to add more usable devices to the game, but I'm seeing a bit of overthinking here.

Other possible devices:

Additional PD systems with different roles are a good idea. Right now, there aren't that many particularly useful devices out there, especially on the defensive front, so it's hard for larger, slower ships to compensate for their difficulties with avoiding damage. In addition, devices with an impressiveness factor would make these ships more appealing to players.

A hybrid PD/defensive turret, potentially taking more than one slot or being less effective PD, could be an interesting device option, and serve as something that hasn't been implemented yet.

An external PD system, potentially with high ROF but a limited number of rounds, useful for challenging enemies.

A superheavy PD, potentially consisting of multiple thermo turrets, could remedy the apparent puniness of the ICX systems protecting Xeno arks and CSCs, and help out some capital ships that are particularly vulnerable at close range. It could take many device slots, serving as a cool but potentially impractical option for freighters. It could even, if set up properly, protect against howitzer rounds and long range missiles, allowing for enemies that require bombardment with rapidly firing heavy weapons.

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Sat Jun 10, 2017 6:03 am

Regarding other PD ideas: how about a linked-fire weapon that throws out a huge weight of short-ranged fire (call it chaff) alongside the player's primary weapon? One has only to look at Shrike's LOTOR to realize how valuable just putting out a lot of projectiles is for protecting a ship from incoming non-energy damage. Such weapons should not really be practical for actually hurting other ships, which might necessitate an extra flag or maybe just them using kinetic damage. But it would be highly likely to score hits against HP-having projectiles and should be able to easily defeat any light- to mid-weight projectile. Something like a short-ranged (a few light-seconds at most) 3x spreadfire kinetic cloud would probably do the job. The player would still have to aim broadly at the incoming projectiles, but they would have a much easier time of actively protecting themselves than if they were trying to shoot the projectiles down with laser, particle, ion, etc. Let alone a howitzer!

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Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:18 am

Actually, a PD device that deflects kinetic rounds is (in the real world) the only possibility to not let them hit you.
If you put a laserbeam or other high energy beam on a piece of metal, rock or whatever heavy item that is coming at you with great speed, it will not stop that item or blow it to dust. Given enough time and power it will convert it into a blob of molten material (still with the same mass) or maybe worse, superheated plasma that will still be moving towards you and doing lots of damage when it hits.

But Transcendence has alternate physics (sometimes) and kinetic rounds can be obliterated to nothing at the moment (which is convenient).

Some weapons could easily be used as a PD weapon if they were omnidirectional, e.g the Morning star cannon. Might be nice as a Tinker recipe. (together with a longreach for example) The kinetic cloud would make it very effective against missiles and aiming in the general direction of the missile would be sufficient. But it would also be very dangerous for other ships and stations around you.

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Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:25 am

Ferdinand wrote:
Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:18 am
Some weapons could easily be used as a PD weapon if they were omnidirectional, e.g the Morning star cannon. Might be nice as a Tinker recipe. (together with a longreach for example) The kinetic cloud would make it very effective against missiles and aiming in the general direction of the missile would be sufficient. But it would also be very dangerous for other ships and stations around you.
This is another consideration: do we need a shortcut command to toggle point defense units and/or secondary weaponry?

Derakon wrote: Regarding other PD ideas: how about a linked-fire weapon that throws out a huge weight of short-ranged fire (call it chaff) alongside the player's primary weapon? One has only to look at Shrike's LOTOR to realize how valuable just putting out a lot of projectiles is for protecting a ship from incoming non-energy damage. Such weapons should not really be practical for actually hurting other ships, which might necessitate an extra flag or maybe just them using kinetic damage. But it would be highly likely to score hits against HP-having projectiles and should be able to easily defeat any light- to mid-weight projectile. Something like a short-ranged (a few light-seconds at most) 3x spreadfire kinetic cloud would probably do the job. The player would still have to aim broadly at the incoming projectiles, but they would have a much easier time of actively protecting themselves than if they were trying to shoot the projectiles down with laser, particle, ion, etc. Let alone a howitzer!
Heh. I did eventually remove the beam spam to reduce the triggering of bugs around the red-flash damage indicators. But that does give another thing that needs to be balanced: interaction (Ie: Chance for two projectiles to hit each other when occupying the same screen space). Currently it....also isn't.
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Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:45 pm

Ferdinand wrote:
Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:18 am
Actually, a PD device that deflects kinetic rounds is (in the real world) the only possibility to not let them hit you.
If you put a laserbeam or other high energy beam on a piece of metal, rock or whatever heavy item that is coming at you with great speed, it will not stop that item or blow it to dust. Given enough time and power it will convert it into a blob of molten material (still with the same mass) or maybe worse, superheated plasma that will still be moving towards you and doing lots of damage when it hits.
This isn't necessarily true. By superheating part of the projectile, you can vaporize it, causing it to jet away from the rest of the projectile. This imparts thrust to it and deflects it away from its original course. The brilliant XKCD "What If?" series explores what happens if you shine too much laser light at the moon.

This is also, incidentally, one of our more plausible options for deflecting an asteroid that's on a collision course with the Earth.

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Sat Jun 10, 2017 9:02 pm

Derakon wrote:
Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:45 pm
Ferdinand wrote:
Sat Jun 10, 2017 8:18 am
Actually, a PD device that deflects kinetic rounds is (in the real world) the only possibility to not let them hit you.
If you put a laserbeam or other high energy beam on a piece of metal, rock or whatever heavy item that is coming at you with great speed, it will not stop that item or blow it to dust. Given enough time and power it will convert it into a blob of molten material (still with the same mass) or maybe worse, superheated plasma that will still be moving towards you and doing lots of damage when it hits.
This isn't necessarily true. By superheating part of the projectile, you can vaporize it, causing it to jet away from the rest of the projectile. This imparts thrust to it and deflects it away from its original course. The brilliant XKCD "What If?" series explores what happens if you shine too much laser light at the moon.

This is also, incidentally, one of our more plausible options for deflecting an asteroid that's on a collision course with the Earth.
Speaking of deflecting projectiles, Transcendence does not track momentum on projectiles. Until George implements projectile collision physics, it is impossible to change the course of a projectile by damaging it with kinetic. If it was possible, though, then that would open up many possibilities for PD devices that aim to push rather than destroy missiles.

Another possible way to increase variety would be to make devices specialize against specific kinds of projectiles. For instance, an anti-explosive defense could neutralize electronic, explosive missiles (such as the ones made by NAMI, Makayev, Rasiermesser, Burak, etc) and prevent them from detonating, or fire lasers to force the missiles to detonate immediately. An anti-bolt defense could fire kinetic/explosive shells to shatter bolts or fire energy beams to melt them.

Edit: On the subject of target selection criteria, one solution that could address the issue and allow modders more control is to add an item-side event called GetObjectPriority. Every time the device is ready to fire and has some criteria-matching objects, it would fire this event on each object to see the "priority number" that it has. The built-in variables would provide the stats for the device and the stats for the object, including the object reference itself, damage type, weapon type, attacker, etc. The object with the highest non-negative priority number would become the device's target. If no objects have positive priority, then the device would not fire.

Code: Select all

<OnFireWeapon>
	(gamEnd Nil "encountered an unexpected error")
</OnFireWeapon>
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