Continuous beam weapons

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JohnBWatson
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 7:04 am

0xABCDEF wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:25 am

You're confusing the simple replacement of "beam" with "continuousBeam" and George's proposal of overhauling energy weapons.
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks. I still say we ought to try out the continuousBeam modification, and see how it effects gameplay. As others have pointed out, lancer weapons presently look very odd, and, in terms of balance, they're essentially less useful energy counterparts to howitzers due to their lack of WMD without anything that makes up for it.
I must say that hitscan weapons are incredibly unrealistic even considering that this game is already very unrealistic, and adding them to Part 1 would cross the line.
I don't see the reasoning here. We've already taken a great deal of liberties with scaling and the laws of physics. Plenty of sci - fi series feature 'pulse' and 'beam' lasers coexisting, and are more interesting for it IMO.
EDIT: Furthermore, hitscan weapons are also at the very extreme end of the projectile speed scale, given that they move at near-instantaneous speed. It seems difficult to prevent them from frequently being either overpowered (i.e. too long) or underpowered (i.e. too weak) in various situations.
It's hard to say whether that's the case without testing, but given the recent ticket regarding realistic turret rotation, I think that won't be as much of a problem as you fear. That said, there are plenty of cool mechanics that can be explored to improve things in this area if necessary - plenty of games with hitscan beams have a non - damaging 'ghost beam' appear a few seconds before the dangerous one shows up. Requiring a visible charge time that compensates for the instant travel would be one way of balancing hitscan weapons.

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Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:26 pm

I'm definitely swayed by the skeptics. And I particularly agree that there is no point in doing them if they don't add something interesting to the game.

I'm convinced we should NOT blindly convert all beam weapons to relativistic continuous beams. I agree that if enemies fire 100% accurate, undodgeable beams, then the game would be significantly less fun.

Nevertheless, I think there is room for the mechanic in a small number of weapons. A few ideas:

* A lot of the discussion is about enemies wielding relativistic beams; but I think the player would benefit (via increased weapon choices) if they could use well-balanced relativistic beams. We don't care if enemies think it's unfair that they can't dodge. Thus perhaps some relativistic beams can be special weapons that only the player gets.

* For enemies, we could add a mechanic in which it takes a set number of ticks between the time the enemy aims and fires, and the time the beam is emitted (think of it as charging time). Thus the enemy would have to aim at where the player is *going to be* in order to hit them. This would once again allow the player to dodge beams by altering their velocity sufficiently.

* We could also add random aim-error to long-range relativistic beams (to simulate the light-lag to the target). For example, Xenophobe lancers could have a built-in error proportional to the target's (relative) velocity. [Players would NOT have aim-error, since they already have to manually judge intercept, though we could do this for player omni-weapons too, which would encourage the player to match target speeds.]

* Lastly, we could add long cooldown times to these weapons (like Ares lightning turret, but maybe longer). This would allow the player to have windows of opportunity in which to counter-attack.

Let me propose a continuum of changes. Each change in the list assumes previous changes in the list (but not subsequent ones). Thus you could pick a point on the list and say, "that's good compromise." Please let me know where on the continuum you prefer (for now, this only applies to Part I):

1. No relativistic beams in Part I.

2. Relativistic beams for (some) point-defense devices.

3. One or more new, player-only weapons as rewards for certain missions. E.g., Tinker beam weapon; Sung mission arc to steal experimental weapons; Ringer experimental weapon. These weapons may or may not have aim-error, charge-up, etc.

4. Convert Morana archcannon to relativistic beam with aim-error (as above). [Balance damage as appropriate.]

5. Convert chimeric laser to relativistic beam with aim-error.

6. Convert Ringer lancer to relativistic beam with aim-error.

7. Convert Xenophobe lancer to relativistic beam with charge-up mechanic (or long cooldown).

8. Convert lancer cannon to relativistic beam with aim-error.

9. Convert Ares lightning turret to relativistic beam with long(er) cooldown (and maybe aim-error too).

10. Introduce a "laser lancer" (or something) with relativistic beam and either charge-up or aim-error.

11. Convert Ares lightning cannon to relativistic beam with aim-error.

12. Convert Flenser relativistic cannon to use relativistic mechanics with aim-error.

Let me know what you think.

[Edit: A few random comments about terminology, which I've definitely screwed up. I shouldn't have said "continuous beam", since that's just an effect. Instead, I really meant "relativistic beam" (i.e., using the relativisticSpeed= parameter). But I probably shouldn't have said "relativistic" either because none of this uses Special or General Relativity. The apparent faster-than-light speed is due to light-lag, not actual FTL nor any relativistic effect. We would see the same thing in a Newtonian universe with finite speed of light.

Lastly, of course, my goal in all of this is NOT to increase realism. It is only to introduce new mechanics to make game play more interesting. But I'm trying to explain the new mechanics as realistically as possible.]

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Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:08 pm

1. No relativistic beams in Part I.

Hitscan beams are too extreme and unusual for Part I. They are not a very good mechanic for me and improving other mechanics such as AI could enhance gameplay more effectively.

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<OnFireWeapon>
	(gamEnd Nil "encountered an unexpected error")
</OnFireWeapon>
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:36 pm

george moromisato wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:26 pm
I'm definitely swayed by the skeptics. And I particularly agree that there is no point in doing them if they don't add something interesting to the game.
Currently Transcendence only really has two weapon types: (slow) bullets and (homing) missiles. There is even some overlap as not all missiles are guided. So I think it would be fun and interesting to add a third: instant-hit beams.

Each type does need some advantage / disadvantage to make it interesting. For instance you could have beams weak vs. shields (so beams are less useful against small ships)

Or have different ranges for different types (personally I think it would be good to get more combat occurring onscreen rather than at the edge of the LRS) e.g.
Beams: short range (< screen)
Bullets: medium (~screen)
Missiles: long range (> screen)
george moromisato wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:26 pm
* For enemies, we could add a mechanic in which it takes a set number of ticks between the time the enemy aims and fires, and the time the beam is emitted (think of it as charging time). Thus the enemy would have to aim at where the player is *going to be* in order to hit them. This would once again allow the player to dodge beams by altering their velocity sufficiently.
You’d need some indication that the enemy was about to fire and where they were aiming otherwise the player won’t know that they need to dodge. Instead you could vary the damage throughout the firing cycle. i.e. enemy fires and beam is shown without delay, initial damage per tick is low but increases with time (perhaps the beam becomes brighter too). So the player should have time to take evasive action and survive, but large capital ships will likely take full damage.
george moromisato wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:26 pm
* We could also add random aim-error to long-range relativistic beams (to simulate the light-lag to the target). For example, Xenophobe lancers could have a built-in error proportional to the target's (relative) velocity. [Players would NOT have aim-error, since they already have to manually judge intercept, though we could do this for player omni-weapons too, which would encourage the player to match target speeds.]
Or beams (at least turret / omni ones) could sweep through a small arc as if cutting along a ship rather than hitting a single point. At long range a small ship will only take a small fraction of the damage, but more damage is taken at closer range.
george moromisato wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:26 pm
Please let me know where on the continuum you prefer
I’d go for 8 and maybe include some short-range “gunship” beams along with the point-defence so we’ve got a mix of short-range beams and anti-capship weapons to test in the alpha. At the moment beams are only available in mods* so don’t get enough testing, especially if there are engine-level changes required. It’s always possible to revert changes before 1.8 final if the weapons just aren’t working

* or Part II which is still too incomplete unless there’ll be a lot more in 1.8a3

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Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:04 pm

I think charge-up lancer weapons would be acceptable in general.

For ion weapons like the lightning turret, it wouod be really cool if they actually behave and look like lightning, with branching/erratic paths.

Everything else will probably need some experimentation, I think.
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Wed Aug 16, 2017 9:35 pm

2. You can handwave it as PD operating on a different scale, and it will look cool without messing with balance. Obviously I'm opposed to it being on any non-PD weapons in Part I.


(the flenser I'd actually suggest slightly slowing down since the current velocity makes it a bit OP when combined with its other traits)

Edit: Also I literally suggest AI dodging last week on stream. It'd be a pretty neat thing to add, honestly! :P [/nitpicking]
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Thu Aug 17, 2017 4:13 am

 I think #3 and #5 have some potential — #3 as bleeding edge technology that could be turning the heads of the galactic community (especially if it gets referenced in Part II somewhere along the line), and #5 because potentially divinely-inspired technology that’s way outside the norm of humanity being developed by the chimeras seems like it might could be a good place to start showing off in gameplay (as opposed to just storytelling) that you’re dealing with something noticeably different than just basic pirates and warlords. Also, I’d call #2 a definite maybe, depending on how it was handled. Apart from those, though, I’m pretty much against it, full stop.
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Thu Aug 17, 2017 3:47 pm

0xABCDEF wrote:
Wed Aug 16, 2017 6:08 pm
1. No relativistic beams in Part I.

Hitscan beams are too extreme and unusual for Part I. They are not a very good mechanic for me and improving other mechanics such as AI could enhance gameplay more effectively.
Seconded, I feel like dev time would be better spent fixing the AI and the kiting 'meta' rather than addding new toys which modders have already been adding for years.
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Thu Aug 17, 2017 9:51 pm

I did a preliminary conversion and test for low-level beam replacement (due to time constraints). Hitscan does about two-thirds damage of unconverted beam weapons (to compensate for the +54 or something in the balance calculation). Some things I noticed:

* Hitscan beams are unbalanced... for the player. Specifically, they are too weak for player use compared to basic 100 speed energy weapons. Time-to-kill is longer. Player still has to aim manually with fixed fire weapons, and Omni energy weapons were already highly accurate against most things. Normal energy weapons are fast and accurate enough against the dumb AI. Better to get more damage with current weapons. For omni hitscan laser cannon with lower damage and slower fireRate, I thought "I hit it a dozen times - why won't this thing die!"

* Hitscan used by enemies would favor them more. Enemies hit more often (but still not always 100% accurate), but the lowered DPS compensates. They, at least Corsairs and Hornets, are annoying like bats, usually hitting for chip damage (like blocking fireballs in Street Fighter II or other fighting game) but not much more deadly (not demonic spider territory). (I have not overridden higher level stuff yet, so I am not sure about late-game threats.) Enemies with worse accuracy will miss with beams due to bad aim.
Re: George's scale: Probably an 8. Hitscan for lancers (plus special quest weapons).

Looks like I will need to revert my mod laser weapons and sats back to bullets.
@ Shrike: I do not deny that conversation to hitscan would be a major change and would need a major rebalance. I disagree that the beams will make the game much harder and I think you greatly exaggerate the difficulty impact.

That said, after testing with converted laser weapons, I think the change to hitscan would annoy a veteran player by making their favored energy weapons weaker - weak enough, plus combined with no WMD, that he would dump it for a howitzer or something with real stopping power.
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Fri Aug 18, 2017 1:50 am

Update: After converting more weapons and testing them against later game threats (Sung stations and Xenophobe ships), I noticed few more things.

* Attacking ships can miss, especially if they have 20 facings, and can be dodged with a sufficiently small and/or fast ship. Stations are very accurate and very hard or impossible to dodge (if the weapon is a basic pulse weapon and not a lancer).

* Power difference matters more: If you, the defender, are weak or underleveled, relativistic beam weapons will destroy you quickly. Lower DPS matters less if your ship's defenses are too weak. If you have powerful defenses or are overleveled, those same weapons are easier to shrug off despite their accuracy. Relativistic weapons will be unforgiving those who dive systems unprepared, which will likely include newbies, speedrunners, divers, or anyone who failed to upgrade enough for whatever reason.

* Lancers or repeating weapons do not update aim within successive shots of the same burst. While this applies to all repeating weapons, it is especially noticeable on otherwise extremely accurate hitscan weapons. The first hit may likely hit, but a fast or small enough moving target can dodge the rest of the burst because it does not track.

Replacing all energy weapons with relativistic beams will require weeks or months of playtesting to rebalance. Probably too much change and time spent for not enough benefit (and some added problems few or none want to deal with). It may be okay to replace the few lancers with relativistic beams, though. The only problem with that is the damage cut such lancers would inevitably get to make them balanced might make them underpowered for the player to use as long as we have mostly easy-to-hit NPC targets to aim and shoot at.

Some experiences against NPCs with my experiment:
* Attacking a Sung Fortress was not too bad with only Wind Slavers shooting me (because they missed at times). Once the station walls started shooting, my ship was dead fast.

* Xenophobe fighters are kind of fun. With bad aim combined with AIs imperfect handling of repeating weapons, relativistic lancers could be dodged relatively easily. Yes, my ship took hits here and there, but they missed frequently.

* Lancers from larger Xenophobe ships usually scored some hits, but if I kept moving roughly perpendicular to their aim, I often take insignificant chip damage. Only one, maybe two hits, out of several. Of course, if my ship takes several full bursts, it dies kind of fast.

george moromisato wrote:* For enemies, we could add a mechanic in which it takes a set number of ticks between the time the enemy aims and fires, and the time the beam is emitted (think of it as charging time). Thus the enemy would have to aim at where the player is *going to be* in order to hit them. This would once again allow the player to dodge beams by altering their velocity sufficiently.
I would like this supported for weapons themselves. Implementing a firing delay for a weapon is not trivial, and it messes up some of the weapon's stats (because it replaces attacks with custom effects and/or delay in an OnFireWeapon event).
Xephyr wrote:For ion weapons like the lightning turret, it wouod be really cool if they actually behave and look like lightning, with branching/erratic paths.
This could be fun, especially if there was a variant that did chain lightning.
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Fri Aug 18, 2017 3:02 am

There is definitely a place for this in the game IMO.

I would say introduce a weapon or two converted over to the new style and see what happens. A basic laser weapon that is available to buy?
Maybe stick a converted particle weapon in the Ronin/C (or in every third or fourth Ronin/C)? This would allow both friendlies and enemies to use them.

And the point-defence idea is great.

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Tue Aug 22, 2017 5:49 am

I like George's compromise plan. Everything I'd really like to see is there, and it appears to be very balance - conscious.






(the flenser I'd actually suggest slightly slowing down since the current velocity makes it a bit OP when combined with its other traits)
agree
Also I literally suggest AI dodging last week on stream.
Right now, we should be focusing on getting enemies to aim correctly. Dodging is still far off.

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Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:58 am

I'm for 2,3,4,5,6,7,8.9.
For the charge up mechanic, we can copy what many games do, for example Battleships Forever. (Small tracer beam with no damage, followed by larger beam)

I'm not for replacing the ares lighting cannon. Smaller agile ships that come in swarms shouldn't have instabeams.

Also, Iocrym repeller might benefit from the change to relativistic beam.

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Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:56 pm

I'd like to see something like the Particle Vortex Cannon from Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. This was a cannon-type weapon whose projectile emits short-range, short-term (a couple frames at most) continuous beams (rendered as lightning bolts) at nearby targets as the projectile moves past them.

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Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:58 pm

digdug wrote:
Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:58 am
I'm not for replacing the ares lighting cannon. Smaller agile ships that come in swarms shouldn't have instabeams.
Actually, those small ships are the ones that will miss their target because they lack fire arcs and their accuracy is not perfect. The ones that will reliably hit and kill you are those with Omni or wide fire arcs, which are usually stations.

Hitscan Iocrym repeller sounds like a good idea.
Watch TV, Do Nothing wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 1:56 pm
I'd like to see something like the Particle Vortex Cannon from Strange Adventures in Infinite Space. This was a cannon-type weapon whose projectile emits short-range, short-term (a couple frames at most) continuous beams (rendered as lightning bolts) at nearby targets as the projectile moves past them.
One of the weapons in Vault of the Galaxy does something like this, but shoots bullets (instead of beams) that hit for positron damage.
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