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Starsector 0.95a is out! (03/26/21); Blog post: Of Slipstreams and Sensor Ghosts (09/24/21)

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Topics - senor

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This is partially related to and inspired by this thread by Mystic:

I had an idea recently about sensor detection in the navigation/"over-world" mode that I think could be a good addition to the game.  Basically it has to do with a balance of "Ship Signature" (how easy a ship is to detect in space), "Environmental Effects" (navigation map objects like asteroid belts, the local star, planets, wormholes, etc), and "Sensor Strength" (power of and skill at using your long range sensors).  The end result would not simply be "you see them completely or "you dont see anything", but instead be a range of different amounts and types of information, but more on this farther down.

Your base Ship Signature would primarily have to do with the physical size class of the ship (frigate through capital) and the equipment of the ship like a phase system, shield system, or lack there-of.  Ideally Ship Signature would be increased and decreased by character skills / hull mods that you have learned / equipped.  Skills might be advanced jamming techniques or fleet formations that help hide your fleet.  Hull mods could increase Ship Signature by increasing engine power or adding a shield generator, and decrease Ship Signature with sensor jamming and stealth/low-observable systems (or removing a shield generator).

Environmental Effects could also factor in by blocking line of sight between ships either completely or partially.  Your distance from another ship/fleet is certainly a factor, but also being very close to a planet or within an asteroid belt should provide some amount of coverage from sensors.  A planet or local star that blocks line of sight between two ships might completely block detection between them, or might just very heavily obscure it, because in reality communication and detection signals are often used without line of sight by signals bouncing off things like the atmosphere, or light bending around stars and planets.  Being inside a nebula could also affect sensors, perhaps having a larger effect on Sensor Strength, than it does on Ship Signature, or maybe making ships inside a nebula easier to detect.  There could be different types of nebulas that each hinder or enhance Signal Strength or Ship Signature.  I'd rather have entire star systems be either in or out of a nebula, because in reality they are extremely large.

As Ship Signature may be determined by several things, Sensor Strength is determined by several as well.  Obviously, first is the power of your equipped sensors as different ship hulls could have different sensor strength stats (ie the Apogee might have strong sensors).  Next would be modifications to those sensors via hullmods and character skills, described as increased power or special sensor types (would be cool to have a mod/skill that increased "range" of your sensors but necessarily the strength, to see how that would factor into the math mechanics of all this).  Finally, your skill at using those sensors would be affected by character skills and crew experience (just as other ship stats are increased by crew level).

Sensor/detection results as mentioned eariier would ideally be given as different amounts of different kinds of information, probably given as mouse-over tool-tip text and icons.  If you're able to detect the target fairly well, you could see some of the ship hull icons just as in vanilla with text like "We are detecting one capital ship, two cruisers, several frigates and multiple fighter or bomber wings".  For simplicity this could be boiled down a bit, showing the hull icons for whatever size classes of ships that are detected well enough, with a list of the number or approximation.  For instance the icons for the Onslaught capital ship and Dominator cruiser would show, with a fuzzy static icon with "Cr." on it for the second cruiser, a wide blob of fuzzy static with "Frigates" for the frigates, and another blob with "Wing" or "W." or "F/B" or something for the fighters.  The list next to the icons could read like "Capitals: 1, Cruisers: 2, Destroyers: None, Frigates: Several, Fighter Wings: Multiple" to help clarify and organize.  When you can barely detect something no ship icons are shown and the text gives a description like "One or more unidentified ships (if your sensors officer didn't think they were ships he probably wouldn't point it out).  As you get closer/better detection of the target the tooltip would still have no icons, but the text would read something like "Several large ships, approximately of cruiser class size, and many smaller size ships".  Finally when you're able to completely detect the target you can see every ship and fighter wing icon with text like "We are detecting one capital ship, two cruisers, two destroyers, four frigates and six fighter or bomber wings" (in this example, the destroyers were hardest to detect, and were not seen earlier) or, again, the text description may simply be a list of each number of size class.

In a nut shell detecting a ship through these mechanics is done like so: your ship's Sensor Strength value (modified by skills, hull mods, and crew) is influenced by Environmental Effects (distance and if you're in a nebula), and then compared to the target's Ship Signature value (as modified by skills and hull mods) which is also modified by Evironmental Effects (amongst asteroids, near or behind a planet or star).

A relatively more complicated issue is detecting fleets. A simple and practical way to determine a fleet's Sensor Strength is just to use the best you have, and if you have two that are good, but one is better in nebulas (and you're in one) then the game just uses that ship's Sensor Strength.  Ship Signature for fleets should be on a per-ship basis, to work with the detection results described previously.  This might be complicated by a possible character skill relating to fleet formations allowing small ships to hide amongst larger ships in your fleet, thus lowering the smaller ships' Ship Signature stats, but that's more of a complication with having a skill like that.

Congrats if you made it through all that, what do you think?

TL;DR Ship detection in the overworld / navigation mode based on Sensor Strength versus Ship Signature stats affected by base ship hull size and Sensor Strength stat, hull mods, character skills and environment.

Suggestions / Pilot Crew
« on: February 12, 2015, 02:28:45 PM »
Quick suggestion for a separate crew type for fighter and bomber wings, obviously called "Pilots".  Thematically i think it makes more sense rather than pulling Joe Schmoe from capital ship engine maintenance to go fly a Talon and dogfight against enemy craft.  I would also prefer it to having to choose what crew experience i want them taking away from my larger ships.  Obviously it would be great if Pilot crew gained XP like ship crew, but maybe only while piloting fighter and bomber craft?  or perhaps they have some simulators or training sorties they do behind the scenes?

Bug Reports & Support / Phaeton ship sprite
« on: February 09, 2015, 08:43:24 PM »
The red fuel tank section of the hull is not centered on the engine, and does not appear to be intentional.  And it bugs me.

Suggestions / Carrier Hanger Space
« on: February 05, 2015, 05:39:05 PM »
I forget precisely how the old hanger space/capacity system worked, but I really wish it was back.  Id rather fighters had to dock in carriers to travel in hyperspace.  Admittedly, i guess that means they would also not be able to fight in hyperspace-zone battles...

i guess i like the idea of fighters being in hangars not flying around solo constantly.  maybe it's just me.  I miss it.

Suggestions / Shield subsystem idea
« on: February 05, 2015, 04:05:34 AM »
I've got an idea for Starsector!

I'd like to propose a shield generator/projector subsystem on ships, almost exactly like engines and weapon hardpoints.  The shield generator would be disruptable just the same as engines and hardpoints are when taking damage/EMP.  Maybe it's possible with direct damage from weapons fire as engines and hardpoints are, but maybe the shield generator is only disruptable with EMP damage, EMP arcs, and/or large radius, heavy damage explosions (the idea being that it is tucked away safely inside/away from the edges of the ship).  Perhaps beam and kinetic weapons are not able to penetrate through the armor/hull to hit the shield generator at all, or maybe most or all weapons can disable once there is no armor left between the point/angle of weapon impact and the shield generator within the hull.  I'm not sure how vanilla does it for turret hardpoints, in terms of being disabled by weapons fire as it eats through the hull.  Maybe this is all set in the combat/damage system perfectly already and the shield generator can work the same way, though perhaps less or more fragile.

Next, and perhaps separately, I propose flux overload from shield damage only deactivate the shield and ship special (high energy focus, burn drive, etc).  While flux overload is in effect weapons can be used, however they have a chance of malfunctioning in a similar fashion to low CR malfunctions.  In this case malfunction chance would depend on the flux generation of the firing weapon and/or the total flux of the ship.  Higher flux-per-shot weapons (gauss cannon, plasma cannon, antimatter blaster, etc) will have a higher chance of malfunctioning as they fire, the idea being that it is a larger strain on the flux system of the ship.  Weapons with lower and more steady flux generation (beam weapons, for instance) will have a lower chance and/or take longer to malfunction.  This weapon malfunction might be calculated as if the weapon was causing "flux damage" to itself.  For example, a ballistic weapon that generates 500 flux for each shot might cause 250 "flux damage" to  itself for each shot (damage number not shown in game).  For simplicity this "flux damage" might simply be calculated as if it were actual EMP damage for the purposes of causing the weapon malfunction.  The total flux of the ship may function as a threshold or multiplier of sorts when determining if a weapon will malfunction due to "flux damage".  Or, simply taking the flux generation of a weapon as a percentage of the total flux cap of the ship would be a good route for determining weapon malfunction chances.  As for beams, I'm thinking a build of "flux damage" will accumulate as long as the weapon is firing, eventually malfunctioning for certain.  Probably faster/easier with higher current flux, just as non-beam weapons.

Like weapons, during a flux overload engines may be used almost as normal.  Risks could be an automatic percentage(?) decrease in thrust, a chance for part or all of the engine to malfunction when thrust is activated (similar to current vanilla behavior when engines are partially damaged but not fully disabled), and/or being more sensitive to damage/disablement from weapons fire.

Hull mods like Resistant Flux Conduits and Insulated Engine Assembly (or new ones, like "Surge Protectors") could increase the resistance of weapons and engines against these malfunctions.

Other than the details regarding weapons and engines talked about above, flux overloads caused by shields receiving too much damage would function just as in vanilla, eventually dissipating and returning to normal.  A shield generator disabled by EMP arc/damage or weapons fire would eventually be repaired just as engines and weapon hardpoints are disabled and then repaired in vanilla.

The flux overload animation could be changed so that the light purple electricity crawl originates from the shield generator/projector, in a simialar fashion to how EMP arcs originate from the EMP weapon impact spot when jumping across to other parts of the affected ship.  The purpose of this is mostly to highlight the location of the shield generator, both for fun and combat tactics, like highlighting a weak spot.  It would also be pretty cool if, when a weapon or the engines malfunction due to use during flux overload, a larger purple arc shot off from the shield generator and into malfunctioining weapon/engine.  The same as EMP arcs really, but not coming from an EMP weapon impact and a different color so it is distinguisable to the player.

I think this would add some fun depth to both the gameplay and the immersion in combat.  I already see where the shield generators (yes, sometimes multiple!) could be on the Paragon.  Those two semi-circle blue doo-dads down by the engines, nestled up next to the turret hardpoints.  Though, maybe they'd need to be moved up just a bit to be easier to hit through the armor on their respective sides.  Also, probably for simplicity, disabling one would disbale both.


TL;DR - Shield subsystem that can be damaged (like engines/weapon hardpoints).  Flux overload doesnt disable weapons, but risk of malfunction when firing during flux overload.  Hull mods could reduce malfunction chance.  Don't be lazy, read the whole thing.

Bug Reports & Support / Repeated crash, running Uomoz' Corvus 17.1
« on: April 19, 2013, 09:20:15 PM »
Hey, on one of my save files (the one running the mod) i get a 100% repeated crash about 20 seconds after i load the save file.  the game ran the mod and this save file (iron mode) completely normally, through many play sessions, til one day it crashed to desktop and pointed to the "starfarer" log file (i have a starfarer.log file, is it supposed to be "starsector"?).

I had old video drivers for my ati card, and an old Java version.  i just now updated both of those and it still crashes just the same.

My other save file is vanilla non-iron mode and it seems to have no problems.

One common problem between the two save files, however, is actually that none of the faction stations seem to update their inventories even when supply fleets come in and dock.  Inventories did seem to change enough in the beginning of the game, but soon they just sit static and not change that i can see.  Im assuming this is not related to the crash, but i wonder if that's common for other people as well?  Perhaps it's being looked at in 0.6?  :D

should i email the last chunk my log file to fractalsoftworks [at] gmail?  should i send my save file as well?

A huge thank you to Alex, the forum moderators, and mod creators, for all your hard work.  Keep it up, the game's fantastic. :D

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