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Starsector 0.9.1a is out! (05/10/19); Blog post: Raiding for Fun and Profit (11/27/19)

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Topics - xenoargh

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Modding / Please switch Bomb to MISSILE
« on: September 24, 2019, 08:37:19 AM »
...for the internal consistency children, things that have .PROJ w/ BOMB/ROCKET/MISSILE missileTypes should use MISSILE as their WeaponType in their .WPN, please.

Yes, that's incredibly nit-picky.  But it took me 15 minutes to hunt down why a Bomber AI could sense "ammo empty" for torpedoes, but not bombs (they're BALLISTIC; leftovers from Ye Olden Days, when you could strap bombs on a Lasher)... and it means an extra boolean check per Bomber, lol.

Suggestions / Colonists / Crew / Ransoms / Captures
« on: September 08, 2019, 09:44:51 AM »
Colonists / Crew

Simply put, I think these two resources should be separated.


1.  It'd streamline the economy a bit.  Some things should produce / need Crew, but not Colonists, and vice-versa.  It's a bit silly to need the economy to produce huge amounts of Crew all the time to make sure players can build Colonies.
2.  It's 'realistic'; Colonists aren't ship specialists, they're "just cargo". 
3.  It'd provide a fun resource to capture for pirate / privateer players.  Raids could collect Colonists to be "ransomed off".

Ransoms / Captures

I think it'd be cool if we captured enemy Officers and could ransom them back to their Factions or return them for free after capturing their escape pods.  Or just free them, Mount and Blade style, with a little, "thanks for freeing me" dialog and a +Rep for that individual.

It'd provide a little opening for reaching -100 and it'd provide a more-reasonable buffer for that whole, "this invasion fleet isn't authorized so engaging them won't hurt your Rep much" mechanic.

I also still think we should be getting escape-pods full of enemy Crew at the end of battles, for flavor, if nothing else.

Bug Reports & Support (modded) / Crash on Save w/ Falcon (P)
« on: August 13, 2019, 10:03:31 PM »
Relevant portion of the Log.  Weird issue; I can confirm that WS 003 is present in the base .ship.

2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Finished saving
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 9 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 10 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 11 (exception)
2076630 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 12 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 13 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 14 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 15 (exception)
2076631 [Thread-4] INFO  - Loading stage 16 (exception)
2076833 [Thread-4] ERROR com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain  - java.lang.RuntimeException: Slot id [WS 003] not found on hull [falcon_p]
java.lang.RuntimeException: Slot id [WS 003] not found on hull [falcon_p]
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.renderWeapons(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.renderSingle(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetMemberView.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleetView.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.fleet.CampaignFleet.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.BaseCampaignEntity.render(Unknown Source)
at Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.BaseLocation.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignEngine.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.CampaignState.render(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.BaseGameState.traverse(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.state.AppDriver.begin(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain.main(Unknown Source)
at com.fs.starfarer.StarfarerLauncher$ Source)
at Source)

Basically, three things:

1.  I think that MISSILE / ROCKET / BALLISTIC / BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM / MIRV should all be combined into one group that satisfies the same requirements. 

It's just adding complexity, that we can have AoE on BALLISTIC, but not necessarily on ROCKET; it'd be better and easier to maintain, long-term, to just have one behavior-set. 

For example, a MISSILE is just a guided form of ROCKET; all that differs is inclusion of an AI (could just be a boolean "hasAI" and a pass-through). 

Performance-wise, these sorts of switches in basic behaviors are almost zero-cost.

2.  The visual behaviors need work, too.  BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM has its origin at the WeaponAPI's barrel point; BALLISTIC is offset, backwards no less, by the value of length.  This is non-intuitive stuff; for anything using the core functionality of DamagingProjectileAPI, you'd think that, unless the WeaponAPI specifies RENDER_LOADED_MISSILES, they'd all use the same basic behaviors. 

What I'd like to suggest here, for simplicity, is that new projectiles do a 2-5 frame "accordion", where they start at barrel-origin at nearly zero-length for their quad and then stretch to full size.  This (combined with muzzle-flash) should work well, visually.

I don't think that the additional "glow" features should be mandatory, either.  Most of the time, just one additive quad with a quality texture is all you need to convey a little pew-pew bolt flying around.  There really aren't many situations where using more CPU per frame on the additional stuff is warranted and the savings on VRAM are zero-to-minimal; even if every shot in the game had a unique graphic, we're talking about a teeny amount of memory compared to ships (and this is a priiiiiime area for atlasing, imho).

MISSILE / ROCKET / MIRV get a bunch of custom SFX applied when damaged / dying; these sorts of systems should (imo) be generic and either flag-based (or, better, but more work) directly exposed.

3.  Last, but not least, they're not acting the same in code on the modding end. 

BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM doesn't appear to operate correctly with setDamage(); when read back via getDamage(), the values are really high.  MIRV'd projectiles seem to have similar issues.  If they hit in a normal scenario, they're fine; if they're queried by code, they aren't.

BALLISTIC and BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM operate differently, when it comes to visuals; the way they're "wiped" when they've recorded a hit is different (personally, I think they should all get wiped immediately upon impact; covering that up with fx is better than continuing to let the projectile exist, however tenuously). 

Lastly, BALLISTIC_AS_BEAM implies a two-check-per-frame collision process, but it doesn't appear to be much different in practical outcome from BALLISTIC (and it'd be fairly easy/cheap to use a square-check to find out whether either "where I am this frame" or "where I'll be next frame" will have any intersections with the target's collision circle).

I'm 100% aware these are tiny, nit-picking things compared to the overall design, lol.  That, and I've probably stared at the visuals closely a lot more than most people, while building the stuff in my FX "example" project.

General Discussion / Which ships need more OPs?
« on: July 08, 2019, 03:57:59 PM »
Per this:
Im using good as a measure of how much I want them in my fleet not some objective measure of combat power. The 10% OP bonus takes some ships from unusable/bad to maybe good and it takes other ships from good to good+. Thats more the issue. I would not use a shrike without the OP bonus but I would think about it with one. I would happily take a paragon either way. The point is more that these extra OP have a very different effect on different ships, and some ships are really getting hurt by this change because there are OP thresholds that allow good load outs to work.

Thank you for clarifying, that makes a lot of sense!

I'd love to have some more detailed feedback about the various ships that might be in this position - just increasing the OP across the board doesn't make sense to me (because at that point, we're just moving what "normal" is), but if this is an issue for specific ships, then that's totally different. This probably isn't the thread for it, but if someone wanted to take a stab at it, I would greatly appreciate it.

(And, ahem, to discourage buffing everything: if the majority of ships were in the "needs more OP" category, that would probably be an argument for reining in the other ships...)
Let's go.

I'm going to start by saying, if you take the 10% OPs away... you may as well compute them back in for every ship, or lower Hull Mod prices.  It's going to break pretty much every mod's balance, ever, until they're also raised by 10%.

I also think that OPs could be raised a bit overall without detriment; Hull Mod diversity's pretty lacking, when just a few hit that sweet-spot between Cost and Utility, for the vast majority of ships.  But that's just me.

My personal list:

Lasher, Shrike, Omen, Heron, Enforcer, Medusa, Hound, Brawler, Buffalo Mk. II, Centurion, Cerebus, Gremlin, Gryphon, Kite, Mule, Wayfarer, Venture, Falcon

Lasher: base should be at 60 baseline; it feels starved vs. Wolf.  I always think of these two as the baseline Frigates.
Shrike: needs about 20 OPs to be truly functional for its job.  As it is, it's nearly starving at 88 OPs after the 10%.
Omen: needs at least 10 OPs to be in a good spot; it's surprisingly starved for a specialist ship.
Heron: needs maybe 15 OPs; as it is, even with the 10% bonus, it feels starved to be armed, have fighters and anything else.
Enforcer: really should be above the Hammerhead in terms of OPs; it's worse in almost every other way that matters right now.
Medusa: ditto; personally, I think it needs 10-15 more than the Hammerhead.
Hound: still a joke ship, unless we can mount shields, past early game.  Shame, it was a neat sniper back in the day.
Brawler: still feels curiously underpowered for anything, unless we're talking the free-SO Pather version, which is actually useful.
Buffalo Mk. II:  see Hound.
Centurion: looks good on paper, but is actually OP-starved; it needs more efficiency to make up for its crazy-bad turrets.
Cerebus:  see Hound.
Gremlin:  not quite enough OPs to get it done.  Needs about 10, would be actually attractive at 15.
Gryphon:  used to be cool.  Needs 15-20 so that it can do something once it's out of ammo.
Kite:  10 more OPs would make it less of a one-trick pony.
Mule:  one of those "fighting freighters", but it just can't.  Needs 20 OPs.
Wayfarer:  see Mule; maybe needs 10, but 15 wouldn't be ridiculous.
Venture:  make it great again.  Needs 25-30 to get there; has to be able to do something with the shields and Heavy Armor.
Falcon:  veeeeeeeery cuspy ship.  Thaago will probably disagree, but I think it needs 15.

Suggestions / Travel, part II
« on: July 04, 2019, 01:56:10 AM »
So, I've just written a "warp drive" Ability that throws players across the Sector in no time flat. 

It took a little doing.  SectorEntityToken setContainingLocation() doesn't actually appear to function correctly in the sense of, if I give it a new LocationAPI, the fleet isn't teleported there, at least when applied to player fleets) etc.  It also took a while to unravel how to feed it the correct parameters for tooltips and all that.

But hey, it works now.  Uses Fuel and everything.  If anybody's interested in that, let me know; you'll need to start a new game and change a line in abilities.csv as well as compiling the code, so it's a little non-trivial to add in, but it's interesting.

Anyhow, my initial reaction was gosh, it's nice to not have to travel through Hyperspace for the long hauls.  Not in terms of "oh, hey, a working cheat", but more "oh, hey, a mechanic that improves my Fun".

It's not as nice, polished or bug-free (lol) as Fast Travel in a Bethesda title, but it's doing something similar, in that it removes the sheer tedium of walking from A to B.

Hyperspace travel's a lot like the early economies.  It's surface-functional, but it's not doing what it should be doing, which is adding Fun.  Internal travel within Systems is inherently pretty Fun; I like traveling around, looking for things after I've killed a Bounty or wrecked a Station.  It feels eminently polished, and it should; for waaaaay too long, it was all we had, and the sheer amount of playtesting shows.

I've raised the effective speed of Burn a bit, and that made it even more fun; waiting for your fleet to arrive at a planet is a little dull after a while, but a little speedup made a big difference, at least for me; saving a few minutes of tedium to get to the parts that are neat (What's in that floating box?  Who's hiding out here?) is fun, and rarely feels like a grind to get <stuff>, at least in my current game.

But Hyperspace travel is pretty dull. 

At best, it's time spent watching a fleet move; at worst, it's watching the fleet do crazy pinball antics because you got unlucky with Storms.  The minute I tried pushing up Burn speed was when I actually had some vague urge to actually play beyond feature-testing and bug-hunting again.

So... thoughts on how to fix:

1.  Travel from star to star needs to either be a lot faster, or have a lot more in the way of meaningful choices happening. 

In the Core Systems, at least in early-game Vanilla, I'd imagine things look vaguely scary, at least until you build a fleet of Drovers.  I get that it's probably still feeling all right, and any harder and newbies will just run away screaming.  That's fine, but that's not where the problems are.  Outside the Core Systems, instead of feeling riskier... things feel much safer. 

Seriously, unless I accidentally land on a Pirate / Pather base, there's nothing out there that's going to kill me, other than totally-avoidable [REDACTED] infestations.  There's nothing flying around in Hyperspace that's dangerous; at worst, maybe I'll run into some Scavenger that wants to fight.  Usually, that doesn't end well for them.

This seems like the inverse of how things should feel.  In most games like this, the risk / reward of pushing outside the Newbie Zone is clear; you take more risks (and may meet things you just cannot defeat at all) but you get bigger rewards.  Here, the "risk" is that I'll run out of Fuel or Supplies; I rarely encounter existential threats or battles I need to save-scum.

The rewards are also a bit goofy.  Hull Mods that I cannot get any other way other than taking Commissions are very big, although the impact's pretty muted in Vanilla, where we simply can't mount that many, so it's mainly a matter of finding that one thing you need (but most of those One Things are in the Skill tree unlocks, so it's cool).  So it's largely about getting Blueprints and rare weapons / ships.  There aren't many of those, in a long game where we're doing a lot of Bounty-clearing, except for the goofy stuff like Auroras where they aren't showing up much in Deserter fleets.  The real prize is farming [REDACTED], of course, but it takes time to work up to it. 

Meanwhile, exploration for anything other than Class V worlds is pretty pointless past the midgame; if you're playing well, you should have most of the Hull Mods by then and weapons and money a-plenty.  I really think there should be dragons out there, waiting on hoards worth the fight.

So, mainly... I end up just wanting things to go faster.  Especially once we hit "interstellar whack-a-mole" time, where taking out Pirate bases becomes increasingly important.

2.  I'm not in favor of a system of "hyperspace lanes" to get this done unless it's in the context of late-game empire management.  In early and midgame, what's really needed is real speedups that affect time spent waiting for the next choice to come up.  Sure, in early game, it can be tense, hoping you don't hit <something you can't fight>, but frankly, that's a savescum re-roll; it's annoying RNG, not an opportunity to tell a good story.

Freelancer handled this fairly well; they had lanes that offered the best travel times, but they were inherently risky, because you could get jumped at any moment.  This somewhat mitigated the boring of Travel.

It got a bit silly in late-game play, when your ship massively out-classed the low-threat enemies in the safer systems; unfortunately, this area was hard-coded and the lanes couldn't scale their threat to the player's power.  Something like that, where it's a bit of a dice-roll, might be satisfying.

3.  I feel Hyperspace is far too empty.  It doesn't have meaningful places; other than the occasional random floating wreck, there's nothing to see.  Honestly, I think that's the biggest thing; when you've seen one bunch of auto-generated clouds, you've seen 'em all.  There just isn't that feeling of "over there, we'll run into something Totally Else". 

The proc-gen Systems are actually varied enough, both contextually and visually, that I rarely feel this way; other than a few too many one-sun, one-planet Systems, they're fine, in the sense of feeling like places.  But Hyperspace doesn't.

How to fix? 

Maybe Hyperspace is littered with wormholes that take us somewhere wonderful and weird.  Maybe we'll occasionally encounter lost objects from the Domain that teach us some of the lore and embed us into the experience more.  Maybe there should be Pirate bases there, so that there are sometimes parts where you can expect regular patrols and serious danger.  Or ghost battlefields of wrecked mysterious vessels that clearly predate the arrival of the Domain.  There should be dragons, hanging around in the mysterious edges of the map, waiting for the unwary.  I think that's the biggest issue; after driving out to the edges a few times, I kept expecting... something dangerous, interesting or inherently weird.  Something to make pushing outwards feel worthwhile, vs. optimaxing my Colonies and quitting when I was pointlessly rich. 

Bug Reports & Support (modded) / Weapon Oddness
« on: July 02, 2019, 08:06:29 PM »
A Weapon with a cost-to-fire of zero, when installed, sets the cost of all Weapons on the ship to display a cost of zero in the Refit display. 

I.E., instead of, say, 400 Flux / Second, it now says zero. 

I'm doing something weird here (using up a Weapon slot on a "weapon" that isn't really a weapon in any meaningful sense).

[EDIT]Aha!  What's doing this is some variables that need non-zero definitions.  Apparently, weapons must have a Range and Damage value >= 1f, or this happens, lol.[/EDIT]

Suggestions / Diplomacy, Plot Movers, Imperial Behaviors (long)
« on: June 09, 2019, 08:46:19 PM »
TL:DNR version:  Players should be able to talk to empires.  Players should have to confront major Plot Events that force them to adjust their resources.  The Space Empires need personality, goals and behaviors at Fleet, Colony and Empire levels.


So, we're getting close to 1.0!  This is super-exciting stuff, honestly; I've been writing critiques, game-design ideas, etc., for this game for quite some time now; it's great watching it reach a final form.

Starsector has evolved, over the years, into a game with:

1.  Perhaps the most detailed take on "2D tactical 'smup" ever built, in terms of systems.  I have various quibbles with balance, etc., but those are addressable through mods or changes, and none of them are truly game-wrecking.

2.  Broad and deep modding support, so there's potentially endless variety of Content available, for players who are bored with Vanilla, and (potentially) a huge sales tail once the game's available to a wider audience through Steam / GoG / etc., rather than word-of-mouth. 

I can see a modernized Ironclads, various forms of specific game (for example, a mod set entirely in one solar system, say a super-detailed version of Sol set in The Expanse's universe, for example) and other things working really nicely to boost visibility over time.  I definitely think that we'll see some pretty amazing stuff happen as the game's core gets finalized and the API's stable.

3.  Various structures that create endless missions; while most of these missions are still a little shallower than I'd prefer, as they're generally, "go here, kill this / click on this" at least they feel solid and there's enough variety.  I particularly like how the current Named Bounties don't give us the direct location of our quarries; this encourages exploration in a fun way.

4.  A potentially deep secondary game level, where players go from, "I'm an individual pilot" to "I'm a Space Admiral with my hearties roaming the black" to "I'm a Space Lord, here are my Space Fiefs".

It's that last part, where the game transitions to a Mount-And-Blade-like meta, that I largely want to talk about here, in part to avoid its problems (it'll be interesting to see if Bannerlord fixes them, but after seeing Taleworld's blog posts about their economy design... I'm afraid they've largely screwed it up, again).

OK, so, in my analysis, the skeleton's reasonably solid; the economy, after a few dead ends, feels like it works, the UI for installing things into our Space Fiefs works well, etc.

When we get past that first layer, i.e. "Is setting up Space Fiefs working", I think the answer's also largely yes.  I'm not entirely sold on having limited slots available to choose from, so that Colonies' economies are pigeon-holed; if I want to set up Mining on an inefficient rock, just to mess with local supplies, and am content with taking a loss, it seems reasonable I could do that.  But let's presume that that feature's staying, because adding complexity to that UI would be annoying, and move on to what to do with those limited resources.

So, what would make this game feel feature-complete?  Essentially... it's time to get past what the Exerelin / Vacuum projects did six years ago.  But better!

We need empires that behave dynamically, have character, and whose evolving story becomes a vital part of the player's experience- their behaviors should become the canvas the player paints their experience upon.

OK, enough rambling at the edges.  How should this actually work?


Diplomacy is "war by other means", in the context of the Starsector universe.  With limited resources, constant problems with Pirates and Pathers and [REDACTED] and so forth, the empires need to deal with one another constructively whenever possible, if they're going to survive.  Of course, that depends on rational leaders who want the Sector to thrive, not just their own States, and States that set goals that ensure the survival of the Sector.  Given that this is Starsector's dystopian universe... well, it might not work out in practice, lol.

How would Diplomacy work?

1.  There's already a basic skeleton for AI-to-AI diplomacy.  It could get fleshed out more, with the suggestions below, but essentially, it's already there, it just needs some tuning.

Where I'd tune it, to be frank, is in terms of dealing with time-scales and behaviors.  First off, Faction wars ought to be Really Serious Events; for the most part Factions shouldn't actually be "at war" with one another, but instead are going to "be hostile".  "Be hostile" should be a sliding slope; everything from, "we put Tariff barriers onto your commerce" to "if we encounter your fleets in our areas, we'll engage". 

The current systems, where it feels like hostilities are binary on-off systems, should be refined, so that players get a sense of rising tensions, diplomatic incidents and minor hostilities, rather than constant warfare.

Actual all-out warfare between States should, imho, be a Plot Mover, forcing players to decide whose side (if any) they want to be on.  If a player owns one or more Colonies, they should be contacted diplomatically, not just sent a little text blurb in the Intel tab. 

Wars should have levels, as well:  everything from Raids to Saturation Bombardments are all Acts of War.  If two Factions have reached the point where they're actually using AM, that should become another Plot Mover; does the player act to prevent the destruction of the Sector, or sit out the carnage and pick up the carrion?

2.  Player-to-AI diplomacy is the larger design concern here.  Once players have established themselves as Space Lords, they need ways to talk to the other empires as Heads of State.

So, let's revisit the classics, starting with the greatest of them all, Master of Orion II.  Yes, it's a 4X, but stay with me, folks; it's one of Starsector's obvious touchstones, and in this case, it's almost perfect as a model.

I really love MOO II's diplomatic systems and the UI design.  They're simple, easy-to-understand, and pretty well match what I'd like to see in a Starsector context.  I feel like the system was very carefully thought-out and designed; there isn't any extra fluff, clicking or confusing mechanics.  Every action feels meaningful; if you've agreed to something, or have spurned the advances of another empire, or have agreed to join an Ally in their war on another party... it all feels hefty; you actually feel the weight of your responsibilities as Space Emperor.

Like so many things in Master of Orion II, I feel like it was a brilliant bit of polish on what was already a great game design.

Let's look at how not to do it (imho):

I really dislike Stellaris's diplomatic systems.  Note a few things:

1.  It's visually busy, with all of the other elements behind it, drawing through it, etc.  That by itself is a bit Yuck; it takes away from the gravity of "hey, I'm talking to the leadership of an empire here".

2.  It's comparatively simplistic.  This suits Stellaris, where, frankly, sooner or later the answer to all diplomatic problems is, "exterminate" or "devour".  I don't think that's suitable for the Starsector universe's feel, where (personally) I think that if the player's nuked everybody else, they should probably lose to one of the Plot Mover events (but, ah, more on that later).

In general, while I feel that, other than the visual treatment, Stellaris's system is adequate for the game design it serves, it's less "how to do this right". 

If we want to talk about more examples, I'm fine with that; I think these are two examples of UIs that demonstrate some key points:

1.  I'm expecting David's art front-and-center here.
2.  I want to see clarity of design; simplicity rather than busyness; something that says, "hey, this is serious business; we're talking about the fate of the Sector"
3.  I want the actual gameplay mechanics to be pretty straight-forward, in terms of player choices, rather than a muddle of numbers, percentages, RNG or other obvious game mechanics.  If those factors are absolutely necessary (for example, the percentage chance of being rebuffed when asking for lower Tariffs between empires) then it should be shown explicitly, rather than being hidden, as in MOO II; I think that is maybe my only real complaint about its design here- hidden (and in a couple of notable cases, buggy) mechanics aren't usually good mechanics.

OK, so that's it, in terms opening up Diplomacy and talking to the other empires.  I'd suggest, pretty strongly, that Starsector borrow very heavily from MOO's base systems in terms of "when do we see the Diplomatic Window open because of events"- i.e., if you have an Ally and they've just decided to declare war, they're going to initiate contact; when players found their first Colony, they should expect to be contacted by the three nearest Factions and probably one more outlier, a weak Faction perhaps, that wants to become stronger by finding friends.

Suggestions / Fast Time Moddable
« on: April 30, 2019, 10:17:38 PM »
Basically, shouldn't we be able to set the Fast Time speedup speed?  I want it more than 2X unless it's really early game and I am actually worried about getting intercepted.  The rest of the time, I want traveling from A-->B in Hyperspace to go faster, or not be there at all (honestly, I want a Fast Travel system in this game really badly by now).

Modding / Will "Edit Variants" ever work?
« on: April 17, 2019, 05:57:32 PM »
I mean... I like that it's a thing; it just seems so nice and convenient to do balance passes there, save and test.  I just wish it worked over here, where it appears to do nothing.

Modding / Domain Drones?
« on: April 16, 2019, 01:17:46 AM »
Is it just me, or are they totally gone from the game now?  Haven't seen any of them at all.

That's a bummer; they were interesting, if underpowered.  I feel like they should return as some sort of locust-like plague of Von Neumann devices that plant themselves in edge systems, build replicators, and eventually become a real problem for the Sector through sheer numbers, if not destroyed; they were an interesting concept that got wasted on providing players with easy Exploration-fodder.  The Remnants should be their arch-foes, as they've been programmed with diametrically opposed "world views", and facing a Mothership should be a rough experience (think Zerg / Tyrannids here).

Suggestions / The Path / Pirates / Mercs
« on: March 18, 2019, 07:42:33 PM »
Basically, I like what's going on right now.  I just want things to feel a bit more Fallout.

Luddic Path

1.  Luddic Path terrorism, while certainly adding more flavor to the game's setting, seems like it should be a solvable problem, at least at the macro level.  Surely, by putting in place restrictions on population movement, etc., a society can largely avoid serious levels of infiltration.  The current system, whereby it feels like the only way the Sector stays clear is if the Player directly intervenes (i.e., constantly searching out Pather bases and nuking them) feels a bit overdone.  I don't mind the penalties for a successful attack so much as what feels like the constant nature of it, and the Factions' seeming inability to do anything about it.


A.  Free Ports attract more Pather attacks, because they lack adequate import controls and population controls.  Conversely, a Faction should be able to set Restricted Access on their locations; for example, a military base could impose a "lockdown" level of security, where Pathers can't really operate at all, simply because of checkpoints, etc.  

Obviously, this should come with a significant Access penalty, but maybe that's the tradeoff the player or Faction wants there.  There should be tradeoffs, basically; all the way from "Military Base on Lockdown with Planetary Shield" to "Free Port without anything more menacing to infiltrators than a Waystation".

B.  Factions shouldn't just passively take Pather terrorism in stride and merely offer Bounties to players.  I mean, seriously, you'd think that there'd be a lot more Inspections and "papers, please" in locations that have been attacked recently, and they ought to suffer a lot less after the initial impact.  Again, that might impact Access, but it should eventually improve Stability, as the population feels safer and attacks cease.

C.  The impact of an attack should scale downwards with population scale.  A Pather assault on your tiny Size 3 Colony should be quite damaging, but on a Size 7 world?  It's a minor bump in the road, macroeconomically speaking.  Pather attacks aren't on the scale of bombardments and it just doesn't make a lot of sense that they're so devastating; one presumes that, in the Far Future, one can't just walk through Customs bearing micro-nukes and that access to AM on planets is probably quite difficult to achieve.

D.  Pather attacks, and terrorist attacks in general, should scale according to the total resources of that Faction.  It's like real-world terrorism; without significant resources, it's actually quite hard for a terrorist organization to do much damage.  People have to be trained to defeat security, buy black-market weapons, build bombs, understand the weaknesses of the technology they're trying to destroy, buy safe houses, etc., etc.- large-scale attacks require a great deal of planning, logistics support, and above all, money.

E. Pather cells shouldn't be attacking us if we've managed to become Neutral or better with the Luddic Path.  Really; who bites the hand that feeds you?

F.  As a corollary to E and D, it should be possible to "donate" towards Pather activities against your enemies, so long as the Path doesn't like them either.  This is a generalization of what I presume is one of the capstones of 1.0; some sort of grand-scale diplomacy system for the late-game interactions between Factions, but it's an interesting idea; that the Path's around and hasn't been exterminated largely because they're useful tools.


The Pirates still feel alarmingly one-dimensional.  Don't get me wrong; I love the idea that they're kind of "space fungus" that keeps cropping up on the uncivilized fringes to harry the inner Systems; it's their overall lack of depth when interacted with that's still kind of meh.  They need character that goes beyond funny-sounding names; they need mechanics that truly distinguish them from civilized societies.

A.  Making friends with Pirates should mainly require money.  Not doing endless FedEx quests.  No Pirate will trust the Player; they don't trust each other.  But, like semi-organized criminals everywhere else, they trust money.  I don't think that the Pirates should have a traditional like / dislike meter at all; they aren't like other Factions, they have different mechanics and motives.  Pirates should let players buy their (temporary) loyalties or gain access to their markets whenever they want; there shouldn't be any concept of Pirates (as a group, not as individuals) who simply won't talk to players or let them do things.

B.  Pirates should only have one Market.  They should not have a "black" market; by definition, all their markets are black.  They shouldn't have a "military" market; all their markets may include military hardware.  Pirate markets should be like markets in any nearly-lawless area, say, Somalia; if you've got the money, they've got machineguns, human slaves, or whatever else they can get (i.e., anything short of First World high-tech or a few things even China won't sell them, lol).

C.  Pirates should have... character.  How can this be expressed, in game-design terms?

Pirates should offer interesting side-missions that present moral dilemmas:

  • The player's asked to rescue some Pirate's daughter from a Hegemony jail, because she's being held as "insurance".  Turns out she's had her brain removed and is being converted into a walking bomb by Hegemony Black Ops.  Hegemony offers Player minor sum to "stay out of it" (but will sic a fleet on you to ensure Security when you try to leave) or a lot more money to "save" the girl and deliver her to her father.  Or you can take the mission and expose the project to the Sector and risk Hegemony wrath.  What's right here?
  • The Player is offered obscene amounts of money on FedEx quests to collect Tech-Stuff used in sequestration nanonics.  Turns out it's a Pirate project to zombie-fy Pather bases and use them as slaves.  Tri-tach is providing the tech; the Sindrians are providing Security; backing out after hearing the details means probably fighting one or the other's Black Ops fleets, or getting bushwhacked by "pirates" on exiting the System (so tragic, Player, that you were in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time).  Exposing the project to the Knights of Ludd strengthens relationship with Ludd and with the Path, but you'll be helping the Path get stronger.  Doing the mission as planned makes the Pirates stronger, plus you've helped put humans (well, Pathers anyhow) into slavery.  What's right here?
  • A Pirate asks the Player to fly Food to one of their bases.  Turns out that the base has been put under siege by <Faction> and, instead of humanely arresting them or at least nuking them, they've decided to take the non-mediapathic route and simply starve out thousands of men, women and children, most of whom are civilians.  The Player can simply collect the cash for blockade-running, sell out the Pirates to the Faction, gain lots of rep with the Pirates by breaking the siege, or take footage of the siege to the Sector News Service (and get ambushed by a big fleet of Black Ops people on the way) which might gain player rep with all of the (other) "civilized" Factions.  What's right here?
  • Pirates should be more-likely to accept a bribe to Go Away than other Factions, except when they don't feel like it.  Giving them bribes makes them stronger as a Faction.  Non-violence with Pirates should be a choice more often than not.  What's right here?
  • Pirates should challenge the player to duels; their best Frigate vs. the player's best Frigate, for example.  Winner gets $5K and everybody leaves peaceably afterwards... unless the Player gets accused of cheating (and taking one's chances on cheating, or letting the Pirates cheat occasionally might add spice).
  • Pirates should offer illegal goods for sale if the Player isn't intent on incinerating them.  Wanna buy some Organs, donors unknown?

In short... Pirates should be interesting, entertaining, fully human, and not just throw-away redshirts.  They are on the outskirts of the Sector because the Sector's kind of a bad place sometimes and sometimes people got caught in the middle, or made bad choices- not every Pirate should be a stupid kamikaze who just wants to die on your guns.  The Pirate factions of Freelancer are an excellent example of how to do this right.  If you've never picked up Freelancer, Alex, I strongly recommend giving that a whirl and looking at that part of the experience.


Mercs are one of those things that are in the game, but again, feel like they can be fleshed out.  

Players should be able to hire Merc fleets, both to escort their own (think of players going the Trader route here) and at their Colonies.  Merc contracts to guard a Colony should be monthly, and go up steeply with the size of the commitment.  Not paying Mercs on time should result in a serious rep hit with the individual in question and a minor (-5, say) with the Mercs in general, and they'll leave.

Players should be able to form a relationship with the Mercs.  They shouldn't just be "independents" or "neutrals".  But; and this "but" may also apply to Pirates, too- your personal relationship with any given Merc should matter more than your relationship with them as a "Faction"; they really shouldn't behave like any Faction does.  

Players who've formed a good relationship with a Merc or with the Mercs in general should be able to expect aid in return, whether that's a Rescue when they send out a Distress Call or a battle-fleet of high-end ships that shows up when your Capital is about to get steamrollered by a Hegemony... "inspection".

Mercs, unlike Pirates should also not hold grudges, so long as the Player treats them with respect when defeated.  Not that that part of the game's really fleshed out, but it should be; with Pirates, you might capture the Captains and some of the crew; with Mercs, their organization will pay their repatriation bond to get them back, and so long as the player treats them reasonably well, no harm done, the Mercs make war for a living and the Player obeyed the rules.  On the other hand, Players who give Mercs no quarter... should probably suffer their wrath to a degree that they'll remember.

Mercs should offer missions that are interesting:

A.  The Mercs have been hired to A-bomb <planet> by <faction> to damage <industry>.  They'd like you to do the run, anonymously.  Then you find out that the AM canisters have been rigged by <faction> to setting "decivilize".  You report it to the Mercs and they offer you a bonus to do it anyhow, or expose the plotters to higher-ranking members of <faction's> government.  Suddenly, you're knee-deep in intrigue and a simple mission looks like a major Diplomatic Event waiting to happen.  Now what?

B.  Mercs are hiring to do a high-speed run to deliver food to a Pirate base.  Turns out that the food's been deliberately sabotaged, and is infected with Holm's Disease; a hard-to-detect prion that causes high fevers in adults, but brain-damages children.  Now what?

C.  Mercs come to the Player with a desperate plea to defend <place> because they're short on crews right now.  Player shows up and discovers that <place> is under siege by a huge <faction> fleet component.  <Faction> offers Player reasonably-impressive sum to Go Away and break the contract, or fight them.  Mercs will look dimly at Player breaking their contract; <faction> will know who Player is if they accept (darn those Sector bankers; they know everything we do) and might blackmail them.  But Player's fleet will probably get wrecked trying to keep word.  Now what?

D.  Mercs have been asked to take down <fleet> by <faction>.  Player takes job, discovers fleet is civilian food aid for poverty-stricken world of <somewhere>.  Fleet master pleas for mercy; Player can earn <fleet faction> trust by relenting, but will lose rep with Mercs.  Now what?

E.  Mercs have been tasked with guarding a Tech Mining operation on the Far Rim.  Player is asked to get there and help out.  Player gets there, and discovers that the Tech Miners are "resurrecting" a [REDACTED] for <faction> to try and get control over it.  Predictably, this goes Horribly Right, and now <faction> has access to [REDACTED] tech, making it the terror of the Sector... unless, say, the Player finds an excuse to wreck it and leave no survivors.  Now what?

Modding / CTD (Market / Industry Related)
« on: February 23, 2019, 08:16:28 PM »
6244142 [Thread-4] ERROR com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain  - java.lang.NullPointerException
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.public.<init>(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.coreui.public.sizeChanged(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OO0O.set(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.supernew.super(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OoO0.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.donew.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.marketinfo.O0o0.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.donew.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.marketinfo.intsuper.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.donew.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.marketinfo.ooo0.advanceImpl(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.marketinfo.T.showOverview(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.marketinfo.T.sizeChanged(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OO0O.setSize(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.campaign.ui.o0OO.sizeChanged(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OO0O.setSize(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.setSize(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.coreui.O00o.sizeChanged(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OO0O.setSize(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.Q.setSize(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.J$5.actionPerformed(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.J.setCurrentTab(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.J.setCurrentTab(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.U.showCoreInternal(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.U.showCore(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.api.impl.campaign.rulecmd.OpenCoreTab.execute(
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.newui.oOOO.actionPerformed(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.OoO0.buttonPressed(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.ui.V.super(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.BaseGameState.traverse(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.state.AppDriver.begin(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain.main(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.StarfarerLauncher$ Source)
   at Source)

Modding / CTD (wpn / proj related)
« on: February 21, 2019, 10:21:13 PM »
133805 [Thread-4] ERROR com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain  - java.lang.NullPointerException
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.super.J.o00000(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.super.J.fireProjectile(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.trackers.B.??00(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.trackers.B.super(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.trackers.D.o00000(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.trackers.D.o00000(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.trackers.B.String(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.ship.super.J.advance(Unknown Source)
   at Source)
   at Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.entities.Ship.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatEngine.advanceInner(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatEngine.advance(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatState.traverse(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.state.AppDriver.begin(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.combat.CombatMain.main(Unknown Source)
   at com.fs.starfarer.StarfarerLauncher$ Source)
   at Source)

...I just set up replace operations on a bunch of modded stuff.  I'm really hoping you're not about to tell me I'm missing a comma somewhere.

Suggestions / A Raid Should Be Scary
« on: February 21, 2019, 05:32:15 PM »
This is my fleet, in late midgame:

This is what the Perseans have sent to "raid" my pwecious lil colony.

IRL, this is like, say, Ethiopia sending a fleet of dinghies full of dudes with AKs to fight the 5th Fleet. 

It's not even laughable or insulting that they've arrived in my home system, offering battle to my fleet- it's totally nonsensical

If they had any common sense at all, they'd apologize for even dirtying my System's vacuum with their pathetic exhausts and I'd gain diplomatic cred with everybody sensible for kindly escorting them to the nearest Hyperspace portal.

Instead, they're charging straight at me in kamikaze mode, like this will end well, will not be amenable to diplomacy, and I'll have to scatter their radioactive ashes throughout my System after I get done with them, which will involve zero effort on my part, other than clicking on UI elements at the beginning and end.  This won't gain me cred with the more... dictatorial Powers, nor respect from the supposedly-peaceful ones.  Or heck, even a formal apology in the form of please-don't-come-nuke-our-worlds from the Perseans, which would be reasonable, after seeing thousands of their spacers converted into protein-laced ice crystals.

Alex, if the Powers are going to send military... "adventurers" towards us, for specious reasons (disrupting my teeny, tiny Market), without a formal Declaration of War, when I've been nice to them (I had better than 10 standing with them before this)... then they'd really better show up armed commensurate with what the player has, or start behaving more like sensible human cowards and run for it when they see Godzilla's home, angry, and coming right at them. 

This little event just drives home how annoying it is that I can't build my own custom defense fleets by dropping ships I don't want any more into my colony's inventory, so that I don't have to deal with these trashy "raids".  If I could do that, I'd already have enough defense just from fixing up D clunkers to build a Space Wall nobody'd be dumb enough to climb.

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