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Author Topic: Vacuum - Build a Stellar Empire. (0.62a ALPHA build 34) (TC Mod)  (Read 369740 times)

xenoargh

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Vacuum - Build a Stellar Empire. (0.62a ALPHA build 34) (TC Mod)
« on: September 06, 2012, 01:21:04 PM »

Download Link
Installation Instructions:
Spoiler
Simply open the zip file with your choice of programs and drop the folder into StarSector/mods/

Please disable all other mods, including "utility" and "helper" mods such as LazyLib before playing; the mod already has a custom version of Combat Radar and ShaderLib installed, and isn't generally compatible with "utility" mods.
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Some eyecandy: these are some of the ships you'll encounter:
Spoiler
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You are a young mercenary captain who's recently left the service of the major powers.  Your goal:  to build a shining empire across the Sector, and perhaps someday beyond.  All you have is your skill and imagination, a frigate armed and armored with the most powerful technology you can afford, and a loyal crew.

What will be your fate be?  Enter the Vacuum and find out.


1.  New mechanics galore.  

Mine asteroids, Tech-Mine planets, build Stations, help other factions to take over the Sector... or take it over yourself.  Detailed, dynamic Faction interactions give life to the Starsector universe.

AIs that are completely original and will give you a run for your money at all skill levels.

Powerful, unique and fairly balanced factions who are each different and fun to play.

2.  7 complete factions.

3. Much-improved core Vacuum gameplay.  A unique balance and special tools, such as the Freeze Ray, Plasma burns, critical-hit system and many other features and toys.

4.  Huge battles that can make or break you.  Enemy Assault Fleets come to destroy your precious Stations; will you resist, or go under?

5.  Huge changes to Vanilla's gameplay.  This is a Total Conversion; gameplay is vastly different than Vanilla.  Here are a few examples of the changes:

  • All Energy weapons are now classified as Ballistic; all Energy slots are reserved for fixed-fire weapons.
  • Beam weapons can do Hard Flux damage to shields.
  • Hull Mods can take ships in dramatically different directions.  Do you want range, firepower, armor, fabulous shielding?  You can have some of these things, but not all.
  • The AIs can and will capture, destroy and re-arrange the universe.
  • Players can permanently destroy certain objects and build new Stations to build their Empire.
  • Players can interact with objects in new ways.  Explore planets, searching for Blueprints, mine Asteroids.
  • Systems have generally been re-designed to make them easier for the AI to use well, and the mod features many custom System AIs.
  • Difficulty ranges from fairly easy to Really Hard at the high end.
  • Gameplay encourages twitch skills for smaller ships, with unique, powerful Frigates that have a fighter-plane like feel.
  • Much stronger fighters; play out fleet-carrier actions and use fighters to achieve tactical goals.
  • Giant battles require tactical skill and forethought to win; find the combination of fighters and ships that suits your play-style.
  • Dead enemy vessels may suddenly explode with great force as their Infernium implodes.
  • Many more features, changes and improvements to Vanilla's gameplay.

Weapons are really special in the mod.  No boring ol' pew-pew here!  Here are a few of the special mechanics:
Spoiler
Plasma / Hellbore types of heat / napalm weapons automatically hit in random places on the ship at a fraction of base damage.  The more damage they do, the more sub-hits are generated, which is why a Heavy Plasma Cannon is so devastating.  This mechanic may result in hits that hit behind the shield.

The Devourer passes through shields, but has a random failure rate.  It may pass entirely through a shield, doing damage to the shield and then to the hull, or it may stop immediately.  It's definitely meant to be flukey, not 100% reliable, but it's worth 50 OPs.  Try a pair of them on a Conquest with full buffs for lulz.

The Needler class does extra damage to missiles.

All Beams do extra damage to missiles.

Heavy weapons, like the Mark 9's shells, pass through missiles, damaging them as they move.

The Antimatter Blaster, Heavy Mauler and Mjolnir generate several lightning arcs that cause damage; these can be generated at angles that bypass shields.

The Ion Cannon generates a bunch of EMP-causing lightning arcs.

Most High Explosive weapons have an AOE.

The Megabeam and Tachyon Lance both generate lightning-like strikes that do a bit of extra damage, and in the Tachyon Lance's case, a bit of EMP.

The Repulsor Beam pushes things away.

The Freeze Ray slows things down.

The Ball Lightning Gun can cause lightning to strike multiple nearby targets.  It's extremely handy against missile swarms and Drone packs.

The Spore Gun / Cannon, if they hit an unshielded ship, can randomly strip out multiple Armor blocks.

The Neutron Cannon / Blaster, if they hit an unshielded ship, do damage directly to Hull, ignoring armor.  They also instantly kill all Fighters and Missiles in a fairly large radius.

The Pilum, Hephaestus, Light Mortar, and both Flak guns have triggered AOEs that can damage fighters and missiles; they're all especially good vs. fighters, because they often detonate behind the them, going around the shields.

Swift Launchers launch Swift fighters, which are very tough little fighters with HMGs.

The Proximity Charge launches a bunch of homing missiles when enemies get close.

The Sweeper is a shotgun, with spreading pellets.

The Nanobot Repair Gun repairs friendly ships it hits.

Reapers have a big AOE.

Last but not least, most weapons have a chance to do a Critical Hit, which gives them 3X damage.
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Meet the Factions

The Hegemony of Man
The Hegemony believes it is the last remaining bastion of the Domain of Man.  It is a huge, bureaucratic, aggressive empire, located somewhere to the Galactic East of Draconis V.  If you are friendly with this faction, you can expect to pilot some of the most well-protected ships in the galaxy.

The Tri-Tachyon Corporation
Tri-Tachyon is a remnant of an ancient corporation, lately acting as independent kingdom of its own.  Its people are extremely covetous of technical knowledge, and they believe that only through efficient capitalism can the Sector regain its lost glory and re-join the Domain.  Its capital is somewhere to the Galactic South of Draconis V.  

The Independent Systems
Originally founded by a guild of merchants, the Independent Systems is not a nation as such; it is a very powerful trading consortium that owns whole star systems.  Without the "Indies", most trade in the Sector would dry up, impoverishing all but the largest empires.  However, the Indies do not have the military strength to hold vast empires; instead, they wisely invest their money in the best mercenaries money will buy, and the best variety of arms around.

The Pirate Kings
Pirates and freebooters have been attracted to the vast treasures of Draconis V in huge numbers.  More worrying yet (if you're their foe) they've become alarmingly well-organized, under the steel-toed boot of Grimbeard the One-Eyed King.  The Pirates may not have the highest-tech ships, but they come in terrifying numbers and they're wily foes.

The Glaug Swarm
Nobody knows much about the Glaug.  They come from somewhere to the Galactic North.  But they're mysterious.  In fact, nobody can even agree whether they're Humans, Meta-Humans or True Aliens.  What is known is that the Glaug have voracious appetites, consider human flesh a tasty treat, and are incredibly difficult to communicate with.  They also have some of the most confounding technology in the Sector.

The Punk Junkers Collective
In the Iridani Cluster, to the Galactic South, there are multiple Systems hidden in veils of dangerous radioactivity.  The radioactive clouds attract all sorts of radicals, revolutionaries, criminals and pirates.  The Punk Junkers are none of these things, and all of them; they're a colony of fiercely independent half-mad artists who have decided that a place where they can make Art for Art's Sake is a splendid idea.  In such a lawless area, they're vulnerable to predation, so they've put their skills as mechanics and designers to work, and have built a jury-rigged Autofactory run by what can best be described as a "whimsical" Lethetic Intellect.  This device constructs ships that can best be described as "unusual but very effective"; any captain who thinks that a Punk Junker ship is easy prey will probably not get a second chance.

The Gaian Ecotocracy
The Gaian Ecotocracy is a mysterious group that originally hails from somewhere to the galactic southeast of Corvus and is an increasingly-important player in the endless wars between the Factions.  

Gaians are almost entirely female; they reproduce using cloning technologies that were banned during the Domain to force-grow legions of perfect, female babies, who are then indoctrinated into the Gaian cult via sophisticated nerve probe techniques and constant devotional work.  The Gaians believe that male humans are less connected to Nature and are superfluous to the species; the few men in Gaian service are clones of a mercenary named Jad, whose reliability, ruthlessness and loyalty were such that the Gaians have made many copies of him to serve their cause, when their cause requires violence.  

The Gaians were a small techno-cult at the time of the Collapse; they had transferred to the Corvus System in an effort to get as far away from the Core as possible and escape to a relatively-free area of the Domain.  Since the Collapse, the Gaians have been steadily increasing in numbers and power.  

If the Gaians sound like an introspective cult, however, this is not the case; Gaians believe that their clone selves are expendable ammunition, to be used without mercy to advance the the Gaian causes.  The Gaians believe that the Domain was inherently evil; that it represented the worst-possible combination of Man's technological ambitions with soulless automation, divorcing humanity from the boundless love of Gaia, the natural spirit that inhabits the ecosystems of all healthy, life-producing worlds.  They wish to free all of the ecosystems from the grasp of Man and return them to a natural, pure state.  

The Green Book, the Gaians' chief source of religious lore, prophesy that one day Gaia will be able to, "sing with a trillion voices, and none of them will be Man's", and in practice, the Gaians seek to bring this about, literally.  The Gaian ethos is that all planets currently inhabited by other Factions are to be cleansed, by force if necessary, by using the most forceful geotech and nanotech solutions available.  When all of Gaia is free of Man's influence, the Gaians' long-term plan is to bring life to all of the lifeless worlds, free of Man, and then, with the economic, technological and military strength of an entire System at their disposal, re-open the Gates and bring their cult to the Domain, if it still exists.



Last little notes, before you click Download:

1.  This mod's a Total Conversion; compatibility with other mods is probably going to be pretty poor and it's marked with the Total Conversion flag for that reason.  

Sorry if you were hoping to run around with Blackrock ships or whatever, it changes some pretty major stuff, and other mods will generally be badly broken or become incredibly unbalanced if running with it, so it's not allowed to operate with them.

I can't really fix these issues at this time; some of the changes were workarounds to deal with some engine limitations.  However, if in the future the engine better-supports the main such change (i.e., having a specific category for fixed emplacement weapons) I can probably restore most compatibility with other mods, although balance with them will generally be poor, due to the balance changes involved here.

2.  Running this mod with any mods that attempt to significantly utilize Java code to do big gamecode stuff, such as with the Fleet Control Mod, is not recommended, due to the large under-the-hood changes that were made to make this mod functional.  You can try it... but it almost certainly won't work right.

3.  If you have a fairly low-end system that can just barely run Vanilla, this may not be not a mod that you'll enjoy; it greatly increases CPU use during the bigger battles.  I've worked very hard to make it run as fast as possible, but there's just so much I can do when thousands of missiles are flying around with hundreds of ships.  Just warning you now :)


Thanks and Kudos
LazyWizard - LazyLib has saved me many an hour doing trig problems :)
Zaphide- without his assistance, helpful guidance and good-will, this mod would have died out long ago.  This mod uses some of Exerelin's code-base, used with kind permission, to help enhance the experience.
Carabas
All of the cool people who've given us art to use in the Spiral Arms thread.  Wish I had time to use every last thing there sometimes :)
All of the cool people who've been nice enough to help out with various mod / code related problems along the way.
Alex, David, and the rest of the Starsector crew.
Alancin :)

Changelogs for the 0.61a-0.62a ALPHA series:

Build 34:
Spoiler
Fixes:
1.  Big bug with Boarding Teleporters.
2.  Big (very old) bug with Hardened Electronics; it actually does what it says on the tin now.

Changes:
1.  Armor Regeneration eventually "wears out" after taking a lot of damage, instead of being permanent invulnerability under some circumstances.
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Build 33:
Spoiler
Adds:
1. Upgraded to ShaderLib 1.52a, which should resolve some slowdown issues for a few folks.
2. Accelerated Ammo Feed has an AI that is specific to it.

Fixes:

1.  Several missing / incorrect descriptions.
2.  Brawler AI works correctly on Frigates.
3.  Thor and Odin actually work correctly now.  Warning: this makes the Gaians pretty hard to beat with shield-tanks.
4.  Boarding Teleporters will no longer magically give you two captures sometimes, and the captured ships are automatically marked as Mothballed to prevent CR disruption.
5.  Wages work correctly again.
6.  Various other little stuff I can't be bothered to document.

Changes:
1.  Repair Gantries now stacks.
2.  Rebal on Slugger, Slugthrower; Slugger is now better than Thumper, but costs more OPs, Slugthrower is slightly more useful for OP cost vs. Thumper, but I'll probably re-visit the OP cost on it again later.
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Build 32:
Spoiler
New Features:
1.  Forget where your Bounties are?  Get a list of current Bounty Missions at all times from Stations.
2.  Tired of having to use that Germanium slider?  Just hit "get all".
3.  Don't want to fight that weak fleet you just encountered?  Hit Leave.

Improvements:
1.  Stations will no longer get destroyed / change owners until players have reached level 3, to make things more stable for newbies.
2.  The initial "payday" has been delayed a little more at the start of play.
3.  Heavy Armor, Neutronium Plating and Core Removal give a small buff to base Armor values, not just a multiplier.

Fixes:
1.  Escape scenario actually works right, finally, for both sides.
2.  Fixes for a bunch of missing / unhelpful descriptions.
3.  Fix for the Sniper and Brawler AIs' collision-avoidance sub-AIs.
4.  Various other fixes for AIs related to retreating.
5.  Fixed some smallish issues relating to damage code in certain edge-case scenarios.  In general, AOE-type and Plasma-type weapons should work quite reliably now.
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Build 31:
Spoiler
Fixes:
A couple of minor dialog issues with the Bounty missions.

Changes:
Vampyr weapons are considerably less OP.
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Build 30:
Spoiler
Adds:
1.  A bunch of new planetary types, and some code to support some future features in regards to planets.

Fixes:
1.  Various bugs concerning hits from certain types of weapons (AOE, Plasma, etc.).
2.  Improved performance in huge fleet battles with lots of fighters.

Changes:
1.  Vampyr weapons now give half as much Flux back as they did.  Please let me know if they still need more nerf.
2.  AI fleets won't chase the player until you've reached level 3, for a bit more newbie-friendliness.
3.  Bounty difficulties adjusted a bit.
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Build 29:
Spoiler
New Features:
Gaian faction is something like 70% complete, with lore and all that.
New weapons and other things have been added, including (finally!) the Boarding Teleporter.
Diplomatic relations, Faction lore, and more can be found by visiting Stations.
Players can now pick up bounty-hunting missions and improve their standing with Factions, even Factions who don't like them.
Various other polish things done with dialogs.

Bug-fixes:
Fixed bug in Station Wars routine that was allowing for Station capture bugs to occur.  In general, that part of the game (AI wars outside of the player's view) should be working a lot more smoothly and nicely now.

Balance:
Omni shields are no longer so horribly penalized vs. Forward Shields.  Forward Shields get a much smaller advantage now and the shield balance ramp has been changed again.  In general, this means that a lot of ships with smaller Omni shields have become considerably more able to tank, without removing the strengths of most of the Forward Shield ships.
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Build 28:
Spoiler
Removes Exigency.  

Adds very first build of the Gaians.  They're very basic / rough atm, and only have four ships implemented; they'll get a lot more interesting as the content gets done and their special weapons / System code is completed.

Fixes:

Various bugs pertaining to end-of-battle states.
Minor buggy behavior of Laser Saw.
"Not Enough Crew!" bug.

Improves:

Performance improvement for battles overall, due to changes in particle system calls.
Consolidates a few functions that were getting replicated in too many places, for a little less spaghetti-code.
Confirmation before attacking an enemy Station.
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Build 27:
Spoiler
Fixes / Changes:
1. Refactored the "immortal fleet" code to be a bit less spaghetti-code and easier to maintain, match the Newbie Guide description and I fixed a couple of bugs found with edge-case stuff.
2. Fixed some text descriptions.
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Build 26:
Spoiler
1. Combat Aptitude skill corrected.
2. Field Repairs is actually useful now (repairs ships 0.01% / second * level while in combat, or 1%/second at level 10).
3. ECCM Hull Mod is buffed / fixed (missile maneuverability + 50%, damage + 25%).
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Build 25:
Spoiler
Updated ShaderLib to 1.23; updated the Newbie Guide.
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Build 24:
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Updates ShaderLib to 1.22.
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Build 23:
Spoiler
Fixes:
1. Admiral AI will now work properly in Escape scenarios.
2. Random dead spacecraft do not show up unless battles are big enough (I got a free Paragon while flying my first Frigate, pretty sure that's not a feature, lol).
3.  Asteroids show up in battles again, like they should.
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Build 22:
Spoiler
Features:
1.  Full integration with lights and other shader effects from Dark.Revenant's ShaderLib and a bunch of SFX tweaks.
2.  Players may now access a storage facility from any friendly / neutral location.
3.  Crew leveling mechanic has been replaced with a Crew competency mechanic.  Different types of Crew give different bonuses to player fleets.
4.  Crew must now be paid, every week.  It's set to be pretty easy at the moment; expect it to get harder later.
5.  Some new weapons have been added, such as the Laser Saw, which is awesome.
6.  A bunch of other little stuff I can't be bothered to mention :)

Fixes:
1.  All reported bugs are fixed.
2.  Some underlying bugs having to do with projectile detection have been fixed.
3.  Speedups for a few things.
2.  Several underlying bugs having to do with projectile detection have been fixed.
[close]

Build 21:
Spoiler
Fixes crash when player has lost all ships in their fleet.
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Build 20:
Spoiler
Improved auto-aim accuracy for slow-firing weapons; fixed a bug where weapons would register targets but never complete aiming.
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Build 19:
Spoiler
Caught the issue with collision avoidance, which effected all big ships; fixed it.
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Build 18:
Spoiler
All reported bugs fixed.  The weird issue with ships starting off the border should not happen in the campaign.
Flux Drain system is now more visually obvious.
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Build 17:
Spoiler
Features, in no particular order:

1.  Big speedups in core AIs, from turrets to capships.
2.  Repair ships are now a Thing.
3.  Rebalanced fighters, bombers, etc.
4.  Rebalance to various weaponry to give it a better mix, especially Energy weapons that weren't quite efficient enough.
5.  A working, if simple, Admiral AI.
6.  Custom battlefields that adjust according to circumstances.
7.  Capturable ships can sometimes spawn on battlefields; this is an early version of a more generalized "junk" system.
8.  All AI factions will be present in any game size.
9.  Fixes for various dialogs.
10. Slightly better balance for in-game captures; Boarding Shuttles use 2 Marines per attempt, whether or not it succeeds.
11. All Vanilla ships are in- the Pirates get the Bulldog (Warhound), the Punk Junkers get the Bishop (Heron) the Hegemony gets the Monitor.
12.  Most of the ships that were in earlier builds but "went missing" during transition away from Exerelin are back in.  Stuff like Packers, the Hyperion, and more.
13.  Easy, normal and hard starting modes give players different resources and ships.
14.  Several new weapon systems, including the Devourer, the Nanobot Repair Gun, and others.
15.  A new System, Flux Drain.
16.  Adjustments to the RPG Character skills.
17.  Leveled AI Admirals with skills.
18.  Much more difficult late-game battles.
19.  Overhaul of the Factions, to give them a more visually-consistent look (where appropriate).
20.  A whole bunch of other stuff I can't be arsed to write down.  
[close]

Build 16:
Spoiler
Fixed bug with the CR of captured ships.
[close]

Build 15:
Spoiler
Gives a minimum of 500 XP for a victorious battle (rather than zero).  Covers a few weird cases, like capturing all the enemies, etc., where you'd get zero for all the hard work.
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Build 14:
Spoiler
Fixes:
1.  Experience bug during Asteroid and Planet encounters.  Forgot to set a boolean there, oops.
2.  Bugged text explanation of Station costs.
3.  More speedups for ship AIs and missile AIs.
4.  Another attempt to make the AIs use Drones properly without endless clicking if out of Drones.

Changes:
1.  Boarding Shuttles are now destroyed when attempting to board, but have a better success rate.
2.  Ships are destroyed a lot more often after becoming Hulks, and detonations are more powerful (being in a Frigate when a capship dies nearby is a bad idea).
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Build 13:
Spoiler
Auto-aim code and structural improvements.  Large battles (200+ actors) run at playable framerates on most hardware.
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Build 12:
Spoiler
Fix for AI ships that should be using their Drones, but weren't.
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Build 11:
Spoiler
Fixes:
1.  Armor Regeneration, Automated Repair Unit and Exigency's Biological Hull have all been nerfed considerably; I'm not sure if Glaug are now UP or not, but it doesn't feel massively OP now.
2.  Boarding shuttle bugs have largely been fixed.
3.  Endless-battle bug has been fixed (I think).
4.  AI Factions will no longer auto-win a game for the player.

Changes:
1.  Rewards for battles have been tweaked for better cash / xp rewards per kill.
2.  Early-game fleets have been nerfed to make the start a lot less rough.
3.  Relationships between the player and the Factions made a bit clearer; if attacking a Faction, the Faction's Ally will be shown, so that players know who's going to also get bent out of shape if they start a fight ;)
4.  Buying a Station now costs only 200,000 credits!  Enjoy an earlier start to the strategic game.  Each Station also pays the player 1000 credits per week.
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Build 10:
Spoiler
1. Nerfs both Armor Regeneration and Automated Repair Unit.
2. Buffs Biomechanical Hull to compensate for Exigency somewhat.
3. Adds Flux Shunt.
4. Small fix for a shot graphic, a few other little things.
[close]

Build 9:
Spoiler
1.  New AIs for auto-aimed turrets, missiles, and ships, with many fairly-well-documented bits of code of interest to modders.  Many improvements over various areas of Vanilla in regards to Vacuum's special rules and balance.
2.  Substantial improvements to the performance of fighters and drones; various small speedups to combat performance.
3.  Major memory improvements for all scales of play.
4.  Rewrite of Fleet Encounters, incorporating diplomatic results, standardized capture mechanics and a shorter playthrough.
5.  Many new Systems or special effects for ships, including the Glaug's new Armor Regeneration power, Neutron weapons, Spore Cannons, the Millenium AA gun, the Acanthus's new type of shield... and more.
6.  Big improvements in the strategic level of play.  Diplomatic repercussions to attacking a Faction's ships may change who likes or hates you; building Stations changes relationships with local groups, new strategic-level AI play constantly influences the gameworld.  It's considerably more difficult to win the game now.
7.  Incorporation of LazyWizard's latest version of Combat Radar as standard.
8.  Many other small changes, improvements and rebalance of various things too numerous to explain in detail :)
[close]

Build 8:
Spoiler
Adds Newbie Guide- a really basic explanation of "how 2 play".
Adds You R Winnar- a win-condition that informs the player when they've won.
Fixes a smallish bug in the missile guidance code.
[close]

Build 7:
Spoiler
Players can now take over enemy Stations after fighting an Epic Boss Battle.
Much more variety in random encounters while mining.
Lower reward for Germanium mining.
Big improvements in missile AI.  Missiles won't waste shots on Drones, and play is generally smoother.
Improvements in memory usage and game load / save times; Windows XP users should be able to play the game with 8 Systems now without running into problems loading saves, provided they've assigned at least 1GB to StarSector.
Players no longer get to see fleet compositions before engaging all the time; fleet ECM prevents the player from knowing the exact compositions at a distance.
Various tweaks and rebalance on missiles.  The Hurricane no longer sucks, Harpoons are downright nasty, but the Reaper is a bit easier to kill with PD.
Lots and lots of other fixes and little things under the hood.
[close]

Build 6:
Spoiler
Fixed bug in System generation code.
[close]

Build 5:
Spoiler
Player start choices effect starting faction relationships.
Fixed a buggy weapon setting.
[close]

Build 4:
Spoiler
Various weapon balance / minor issues fixed.
New start system, includes performance-enhancing systems.
Various other minor fixes and tuneups.
[close]

Build 3:
Spoiler
All Factions now spawn their own ships in shops, including the ones that were previously not being sold, using a new method that's Faction-agnostic.  A few other minor fixes and improvements.
[close]

Build 2:
Spoiler
Minor bug-fix tweak, addressing missing strings and various things that weren't explained very well.  I've also finally fixed the Frontal Shield code to reflect the actual balance points for shields throughout the mod, resulting in a slight change in Shield balance for ships going from Omni to Frontal shields that makes them even in terms of Hard Flux damage.
[close]
Build 1:
Spoiler
1st official Alpha of the 0.61a+ mod build.  Much framework to go, but it's at a state where I think it's Fun.

After much thought, I've very reluctantly dropped "Exerelin" from the official title, largely because it's gone far enough in a new direction (and the codebase is now so different) that it'd probably cause confusion with new players.  It's still using some Exerelin code, but not a lot.
[close]
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 07:23:31 PM by xenoargh »
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Xeno's Mod Pack

xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2012, 01:22:53 PM »

Thanks
First off, I want to thank a bunch of people:

Alex, for making a game worth modding and answering my stupid questions;
David, for making art worth defacing;
The rest of the Fractal crew, for all of the silent help that makes things go;
medikohl, for pouring so much time and talent into providing people like me with content we can use;
Trylobot and Redbull, for putting a lot of work into building and polishing solid tools to help the modders out;
Lazywizard, Verrius and all the other kind folks who've helped me get from ground zero to vaguely functional with Java so quickly;
Dark.Revenant for the release of ShaderLib;

Additional Artists:
Archibalde, Mr. Magpie, Psion, FlashFrozen, sirboomalot, Sr. Coronado, Mendonica, Thule, MesoTronik, Skorpio, HELMUT

Anyhow, thanks, folks, I really appreciate the community here and I've just arrived :)

The Whys and Hows
This is basically the TL:DNR wall-of-text, explaining the basic philosophy behind the mod.  If you're interested in the nuts and bolts or want to understand what I'm trying to do, this is a good place to start :)

Spoiler
Starfarer's a work in progress and is pretty fun to just watch get built.  

It's a game built around combat mechanics, smart AI and twitch action.  This mod basically attempts to enhance certain areas, add more dynamics and options than are present in Vanilla, and with some work, will hopefully offer a dedicated and skillful player a richer experience.

Goals
The main goals of the mod are to:

1.  Enhance the action side of the gameplay wherever practical, rewarding twitch over number stacking.
2.  Strongly differentiate ships, weapons, systems and hullmods in ways that give the player deeper choices and harder decisions.
3.  Add more dynamism and life to the small world of the single System we're allowed to construct right now.  When Starfarer's engine is capable of going further, I'd like to push this philosophy even further.
4.  Don't lose the core of the game, which should always be the player's direct interaction with the ships of the fleet and direct control of his/her ship in battles.

Long-term plans:
1.  When possible, make each location be dynamically generated, yet feel somewhat unique and interesting.
2.  Add additional code to cause game events to occur that change the game at a strategic level in meaningful ways.  A great deal of this isn't possible yet, but right now I can code the core things that will be needed later.
3.  Build some additional factions that have strongly-differentiated themes and strengths.
4.  Flesh out the default content in places where I feel it would enhance the player's experience, not just be content for the sake of content.

How Things Work (right now)
Without going line by line through all of the CSV changes, code changes and everything else, I cannot possibly give a really detail-conscious person a good enough overview.  With a mod like this, we're basically talking about a variant game design; it's a variant universe where some of the choices Alex and others have made got changed in significant ways.  So I'm going to have to summarize here; if you want details or have questions or balance concerns, let me know in the thread, preferably politely :)

The Ships
Fighters, Frigates, Destroyers, Cruisers and Battleships are more strongly differentiated.

Fighters in the mod are cheap and expendable.  Building carrier groups is both allowed and encouraged.

While this area of design and balance is still definitely a work in progress, my goal is to make sure that all of the Fighters are useful and can be used to project power during an entire battle, not just the early stages.  That said, Fighters are very fragile compared to even a single Frigate, and enemies equipped to handle them can defeat far more than their cost, even as cheap as they now are.  So they're not a tool that can solve every problem, but are a way to gain leverage or pass a tipping-point.

Frigates tend to have a great deal of raw firepower and speed compared to other classes.  Some Frigates can, by using their Burn Drives, outrun missiles; some can, by activating High Energy Focus, provide significant long-range fire-support, and a few have enough burst damage capability to be a very serious threat to larger vessels if piloted skillfully.  Frigates also tend to be able to mount a plethora of Hull Mods, giving them a huge amount of customization and mission flexibility.

Frigates pay for all of these benefits by being pretty fragile or not having a lot of choices about their weapon systems or, in a few cases, both.  

Some Frigates are practically useless in AI hands; some are built purely for skilled twitch players, some are just so special in terms of weapon and Ship System layout that you'll find the AI uses them poorly at this time.  You'll really need to experiment to find what you like.  But the core goal was to make sure that all of the Frigates are worth buying, period; at their cost level, there shouldn't be any useless ships at all, just ships that are useless if used poorly.

Destroyers have significantly more armor, flux and capacity than Frigates, generally have higher potential DPS and are still fast enough to be significant players on a fast-moving battlefield.

While Frigates in this mod can be compared to very heavy fighters, Destroyers are more like light tanks, with the ability to take some punishment, kill a lot of fighters, and gang up on Cruisers with a fair chance of victory at 2:1 odds, sometimes even better, depending on the battlefield conditions.

Destroyers pay for their power with a slower speed and larger size, and most of them lack the really long-range weapons that allow them to stay outside Frigates' effective DPS.  A Destroyer versus a couple of Frigates may or may not be in trouble, depending on the Destroyer and the situation; practically any Destroyer versus four Frigates is dead.

However, that said, Destroyers are generally set up to be very potent assets, especially during early gameplay, and they're also set up to be useful if given to the AI to pilot.

Cruisers are, in my opinion at least, the hardest class of ships to differentiate and balance, because they generally encroach upon both the sheer firepower of Battleships and the versatility of Destroyers.  Currently, they're mainly skewed towards having better overall protection, special builds or skillsets that make them very valuable team players or having special capabilities.  In short, the eventual goal for Cruisers is to make each of them feel like an important choice about how you're stacking your fleet's combat power, whether you're going fighter-heavy, frigate-heavy or are aiming for a rock-solid battle line.

Battleships can stand alone, carry the heaviest weapons and can take terrific punishment.  

A single Battleship, if equipped to deal with lighter vessels, can easily dominate its battle space and is a threat to anything nearby short of another Battleship.

That said, they're vulnerable to certain Cruiser builds and massed assault by mixed-arms forces.  A good tactic against Battleships is to utilize the mod's different take on missiles to achieve PD saturation and keep their shields down at a distance until it's finally profitable to enter their killing ranges.  That said, a single Onslaught, if set up correctly, can be expected to defeat whole fleets of fighters and frigates without taking any serious damage, and will demolish anything lighter sent in piecemeal.  

If you're really having trouble defeating Battleships, a smallish hint:  there are ships with High Energy Focus for a reason ;)

The Guns
This is probably the part of the mod that will upset the easily-upset-able people the most.  The guns have been radically changed in terms of how they operate.

The basic philosophy behind the changes can be summarized thusly:

1.  Everything that isn't a Missile and can be equipped on a Turret is Ballistic.  This is one of the few areas where the engine just would not let me do what I really wanted to do, which was to add a whole new category of weapons, called Fixed Emplacements, that would do a very special job.  I know I'm going to get a lot of complaints and gripes about it, but there weren't any choices that worked other than this one, because missile-slot weapons get treated very differently by the game's AI and adding a new type isn't possible at this time.  

2.  Everything that's Energy is meant for fixed positions, usually facing forwards.  In the future, I'll be adding ships specifically set up for big fixed-gun broadsides, but due to time restrictions this hasn't happened yet.

3.  A lot of ships have Built-In weapons that give them special capabilities.  In the future, I'll be expanding on this idea a lot, because it's one of the neat ways to completely differentiate ships.

Balance Stuff

I really can't get into super detailed descriptions of everything; Vanilla had enough weapons that, after changing practically all of them in one way or another, it'd take pages to explain why this or that was changed.  The important basics behind the way it was done can be summarized, though:

1.  In general, fixed weapons are a lot more effective than their turreted equivalents, trading flexibility for power.

2.  In general, energy-based weapons are geared either for assault or for long-term grinding DPS.  They do not have ammunition problems, but cost Flux.

3.  Ammunition-using weapons do not use Flux at all, and are very powerful, long-ranged and flexible, but ammunition is not limitless and with the longer ranges and higher speeds in the mod, you're going to miss more.

4.  Missiles are still very much a work in progress; basically my goal is to make most of them be able to be used and useful if put on Autofire and to strongly differentiate them and to keep them as the kings of the range band.  

Missiles can be defeated by strong PD setups, but short of massed Flax guns, practically nothing will stop certain Missiles from delivering significant DPS over very long ranges.

Hull Mods
At this time, they've mainly been left alone.  Expect this to change in the future.

Ship Systems
Most of them have been left alone, but there are some really important exceptions:

1.  Burn Drive is a toggle, not on a timer.  Yes, you can use it all battle long, and the AI usually does; unfortunately, it's not terribly good at steering at high speeds, so it often rams things while using it.  Hopefully Alex will make it a little better at avoidance in the future or let Frigates not collide with other ships, like fighters do; either thing would offer a fix.

2.  Flares do not have any ammunition limits.

3.  Drones have generally been beefed up and are quite dangerous, and a lot more ships come with Drones.  For example, the Buffalo Mk. 2 in this mod is moderately dangerous to practically any Frigate pilot who isn't on the ball, due to its ability to absorb moderate missile fire and deal a lot of DPS at shorter ranges via its PD Drones.

4.  EMP lowers shields, instead of turning weapons off, and is on a toggle, not a timer.  Yup, you can use it all battle long, while shooting.  Just watch out for all that incoming damage...




That's it... for now.  More when I have time and when / if people start asking questions, etc. :)
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« Last Edit: May 23, 2014, 03:30:25 PM by xenoargh »
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The Soldier

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2012, 01:47:55 PM »

Hmm...interesting?  I'll give it a shot. ;D Reporting back when I can.
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xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2012, 06:35:09 PM »

Great, hope you have a good time once you've figured things out :)

A couple of screens of the random Systems, just showing the basics of how the main code works, giving us a completely different experience every game:





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sirboomalot

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2012, 07:27:47 PM »

Now THIS looks interesting. Downloading.

~Edit~
Now THAT is an awesome mod. Speeds things up, makes things more challenging, re-makes the way weapons work, RANDOM MAPS... I like it. I like it a lot.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 08:05:37 PM by sirboomalot »
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xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2012, 08:53:35 PM »

Yay, so glad you're enjoying it.  I was afraid I'd get flamed a lot for, well, remaking Vanilla's balance :)

Anyhow, please feel free to tell me what needs buffed / nerfed, I'm sure there are still plenty of things that I should look at and any detailed feedback would be very much appreciated :)
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mendonca

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2012, 10:50:45 PM »

Oh wow ... I ... didn't expect that  ;D

(I just got killed by a Buffalo in my nice shiny new speeder)

I'll definitely have to spend a bit of time getting use to this, I can see you have changed things markedly!

The Random map element is a great touch, and I can immediately tell a lot of work has gone in elsewhere. Nice work!

(promoted thread to 'mods' section)
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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #7 on: September 07, 2012, 04:17:49 AM »

I...... am impressed!

talented spriter, skilled coder and creative mind,
still bold enough to change vanilla basics.

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2012, 05:39:06 AM »

Wow... I've never seen a better use of the words "Total Conversion"!  ;D

Btw, if you find it a little too much challenging... just equip sabot racks. A lot of them. Then spam the left mouse button and watch the world sector burn.  ;D
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 05:44:02 AM by Gabrybbo »
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xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2012, 06:08:53 AM »

Yeah, they're one of the better PD soakers, for certain, although they need line-of-sight. I'm not yet sure whether they're truly OP, considering their burn-through rate in larger battles or vs. really big stuff; any opinions about that are welcome :)

I did find one really really OP combo last night that I'm definitely going to have to fix: Enforcers mounting 4 Phase Lances and 5 Hephaestus Assault Guns are pretty ridiculous, and can be expected to do Cruiser kill on a regular basis.  I think I'm going to have to change the turret layout a bit, so enjoy it while it lasts ;)

Also, Verrius has kindly allowed me to make use of the Fleet Control Mod's source, so I'll be trying to get it integrated and add some deeper strategic gameplay elements to the mod; until Alex gets done with a lot of Deep Game Stuff, it's going to remain pretty crude, but crude's better 'n nothing :)
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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2012, 06:54:38 AM »

An Aurora bearing Phase Lances is extremely overpowered. I've just destroyed a Hegemony System Defense Fleet using three Aurora and one fighter squad without taking any damage.
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xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2012, 07:20:30 AM »

Part of that is that you'd crossed the line to have the enemy meet you piecemeal; it's one of the things about the current game that I really don't think works, but that's up to Alex.

That said, it clearly needs to get fixed. 

I need to go look at the High Energy Focus code; I think it'd quit being so ridiculously OP if it didn't boost beam ranges, but it looks like I really need to look at that issue and ruthlessly nerf where it's necessary.  It may also be that the Phase Lance is simply too much DPS at this point; I basically raised it enough to be a real threat when getting the Chiron set up, and I may have overdone it.  Thanks much for the report :)
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sirboomalot

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2012, 01:45:27 PM »

I think that you should keep the long range and just nerf the damage when it comes to the lance, or better yet, make the damage more specialized on either shields or armor instead of doing lots of damage to both.
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xenoargh

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #13 on: September 07, 2012, 02:01:29 PM »

I just tried out dropping the range, and that certainly makes it a lot weaker; if you can't snipe with Phase Lances / Tachyon Lances across the map, it's not nearly so OP.

With a damage nerf instead of a buff, it might also work to give beams their range back (but only the beams). 

So you'd get, say, 50% damage, 100% more beam distance, +25% damage taken; it'd make beam-heavy builds on HEF ships really ruthless as PD and anti-fighter, but deliberately making them weaker vs. capships unless they were an Aurora and were kiting really effectively.  IIRC, even at double range, that would still put them into trouble vs. MkIVs and Gauss except with Tachyon Lances.

In terms of shield / armor damage, I think that, for now at least, I'm torn on this; my inclination with the true beams is to move them to High Explosive or Kinetic depending on their intended role and then buff / nerf to get them right, but I'm hoping Alex will just let us flat-mod that stuff in the future so that we can have things that do, say 100% / 50% / 25% vs. shields, armor and hull.  I really want more differentiation to play with, especially on the armor vs. hull thing; time for another feature request before I forget it, lol :)
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Ghoti

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Re: Vacuum 0.1 Alpha Release
« Reply #14 on: September 07, 2012, 02:16:44 PM »

Some strange things in this mod. Most of all is the energy slot decision. Energy slot weapons get the flux bonus. It's not weapons that do energy damage, it's guns in energy slots. So a thumper gets high energy focus +50%

I haven't found a variant yet that uses all the ships OP points. Combat ends a heck of alot faster now, because weapons have being set to be rather extreme on all ends.

Sometimes It's fun to do things like run nyan cat through onslaughts. but I find cranking these values, fire rate, range, up loud is only a temporary high. In the end it dulls itself and vanilla.

not my cup of tea chap. Heck of alot of work here, and the random campaign system is worth looking at regardless of what I think of the balance.
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