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Author Topic: Beam Stuff  (Read 22534 times)

Megas

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #15 on: March 17, 2018, 05:05:07 PM »

For Eagle, the only other viable choice in the medium mounts are Tactical Lasers, Ion Beams, or some form of PD laser.  One Ion Beam is enough.  Two would be better except flux costs are too high.  With three Gravitons, Eagle can overload frigates and Enforcers.  If not for that, I probably would put one Ion Beam and the rest Tactical Lasers or some form of PD laser.  Using Pulse Lasers is too short ranged and too flux intensive (let alone blasters), not to mention Aurora does that job of close-ranged energy brawling better.

I would like if there was an assault medium beam as a midway between Tactical Laser and HIL.  So far, the only options are either Graviton Beam or Ion Beam.  Graviton Beam is weak enough that if you cannot get enough to overcome dissipation, then use Tactical Laser instead to save some OP that can be spent elsewhere.

Graviton would be okay on Paragon except it can mount blasters instead and kill everything much faster.
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Linnis

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2018, 06:02:19 PM »

Overall beams feel forgotten, the damage and drawbacks match projectiles, except not putting on had flux is such a drawback, that I would not mind if all beams did 125-150% more damage on shields.

Graviton beams work on Eagle because it can put on 3 of them, the power output is too low for a mid slot.

Also all the steady beam PD are all horrible.

Tac laser on paper does good DPS for a small slot. But the bad tracking, and slow beam travel time means that it won't be firing as much as ballistics. So in practice the Tac laser's dps is much worse.
« Last Edit: March 17, 2018, 06:05:49 PM by Linnis »
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Tartiflette

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #17 on: March 18, 2018, 12:47:55 AM »

Explosive damage beams are also counter intuitive given how weak they are irl at penetrating things. To quote Children of a Dead Earth's dev:
"In terms of actually destroying enemy capital ships, however, lasers can cut into the enemy bulkhead all day with basically zero effect (I measured the ablation of a monolithic armor plate at one point, and found that the ablation was happening at micrometers per second)."

If they were to change mechanically, I'd say that they should keep their half damage against armor and double their damage against weapons and engines, maybe through armor (kind of like localized EMP), and make them target those instead of the center of the ship. Then you get a weapon that has a different role as long range EMP+damage.

(But I also like the idea of extra damage at low range, since laser diffraction is also a very real thing) 
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MesoTroniK

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #18 on: March 18, 2018, 12:56:54 AM »

Beams having extra damage at close range I am fine with but it would need to be balanced *very* carefully and also visualized somehow. Via fading the transparency the farther the beam travels, or a subtly triangular beam where the core (but not the fringe) is pinched a bit. If not visualized, I am very much against the idea entirely.

intrinsic_parity

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #19 on: March 18, 2018, 11:51:16 AM »

Explosive damage beams are also counter intuitive given how weak they are irl at penetrating things. To quote Children of a Dead Earth's dev:
"In terms of actually destroying enemy capital ships, however, lasers can cut into the enemy bulkhead all day with basically zero effect (I measured the ablation of a monolithic armor plate at one point, and found that the ablation was happening at micrometers per second)."

Lasers are definitely not bad at 'cutting' things, they are commonly used in industrial cutting processes. Sure the mechanism of ablation might happen slowly, but a high enough powered laser focused properly can easily melt metal very quickly. For a brittle i.e. stress hardened metal, thermal stress could also cause cracking. For something like a bulkhead, the internal pressure from the air inside the ship would likely be enough to push any melted or weakened material outwards. The laser itself won't blast a hole in the metal, it will melt and weaken it until the structure fails under other loading. The dev you referred to may have been looking at certain laser cutting techniques that focus on ablation as the mechanism of removing material to create a cut, however these techniques are usually designed to not heat the material too much to avoid damaging it which would not be a concern in combat.

In terms of actual gameplay, they should be balanced to be interesting and not to try and match reality. It could be really interesting to have beams act as a sort of damage buff/multiplier rather than directly doing damage. On the other hand, that might be way too complicated to bother implementing.
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xenoargh

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #20 on: March 18, 2018, 02:41:14 PM »

In a much earlier period of my life, I operated and programmed an industrial laser that was the size of a giant dump truck.  That was my first "real job".  So I know a few things about cutting metals with beams. 

"Micrometers a second" is just pure pseudo-scientific garbage by somebody who knows nothing at all about lasers.  Put enough power behind a laser and it's able to cut just about anything up close.

In the real world, there are complications to making them effective weapons, especially when using them in atmospheres over relatively long distances.  Scattering, thermal bloom and ionization along the beam path, etc., along with putting a long-duration beam on a target for any length of time present a lot of problems.  This is why, despite lasers being a thing for almost 70 years now, we're just now figuring out how to use them to intercept anti-ship missiles and other targets, and the current weapons still aren't as effective as their old-fashioned alternatives.  It turned out to be pretty tricky to get energy from A to B any more efficiently than a bullet does; but bullets have been through centuries of design and lasers are still pretty new; it'll happen eventually.

In space, when we're talking about short-duration, high-energy beams, they're actually better weapons than you'd think, because most of these problems no longer pertain and the weird conditions of space warfare come into play. 

What happens is that the surface gets converted into a plasma, which expands rapidly, causing shockwaves. 

Here on Earth, when using industrial lasers to cut metals, we avoided this effect (which we called a "blowout", because it was like a miniature volcano of molten steel flying everywhere, heh) by blowing compressed, near-liquid oxygen or nitrogen onto the area being cut- partially to blow out the melted bits, partially to cool the edges of the cut to prevent it being overly ragged, and, in the case of oxygen-cutting, we were deliberately assisting the laser's combustion of the iron.

Also, bear in mind that in space, a lot of severe temperature differentials will be present; a beam weapon hitting a part of a ship that's super-cold will cause quite a lot of damage from bits splitting off due to thermal shearing forces. 

If that seems odd... try this experiment at home.  Take a hot lightbulb out of a socket and throw it into a cold bucket of water; it'll crack and probably implode quite energetically (er, maybe don't try this at home, unless you like cleaning up glass).  Now imagine it's some hard armor plate that's currently -300 Celcius and the surface just got heated to 10K C.  The result will be more like "bang" than "micrometers per second", lol.

So the idea that Beams "ablate" armor is largely incorrect; at the energy levels we'd expect in futuristic combat, it'd be more like little explosions happening everywhere the beam touches, with some areas taking more damage than others. 

The mechanic of making beams more powerful up close is firmly based on science (well, provided that we presume scales in SS are purely nominal); even in a vacuum, lasers spread out- a beam that's a pin-point at point blank will be quite a lot larger at one light-second, and the energy-per-square-inch goes down even faster than that, because even "empty space" has some dust and things floating in it, although far less than an atmosphere.  So that's a very real thing; a beam that would be devastating at one light-second will probably just be good for toasting bread at one light-minute, and will make a nice safe spot-light at one light-hour.

Anyhow, that's the layman's version of the science, so far as I know anything. 

This game isn't a truly scientific simulation of anything, though, so I really care a lot less about realism than I care about whether beams have good roles to play and are worth installing.   These suggestions were part of some explorations I'm still doing over here, but they looked promising.
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Linnis

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #21 on: March 18, 2018, 03:47:37 PM »

Well atleast there is a "volcano" like continuous "explosion" of stuff coming out of impact point of lasers.
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Tartiflette

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #22 on: March 18, 2018, 06:09:36 PM »

 You can read a lot about lasers in the context of space warfare on Atomic Rockets:
http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacegunconvent.php
The part about their energy efficiency is particularly telling, compared to pretty much any other type of weapon.
(Also cold? An actual spaceship? Have you heard how difficult it is to cool these things off?)
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xenoargh

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2018, 07:53:35 PM »

Quote
(Also cold? An actual spaceship? Have you heard how difficult it is to cool these things off?)
Given that I wrote a giant post here once talking about how Flux was basically heat-by-another-name... yes?

As for practical effects... in the real world, it depends on what part of the ship and a bunch of other factors.  Spacecraft are not exactly radiating evenly; some parts will be quite cold and some are quite hot.  Depends on a bunch of things.  It's more accurate to say that "space is really cold, but parts inside a spacecraft may have major problems with heat distribution and buildup because of the problems with heat transfer in zero G".

The Atomic Spaceship guys are down on lasers, and that's a consistent theme.  

But... their assumptions are weird.  

They throw out the word "diffraction" and don't really explore what's possible in regards to collimated beams.  Essentially, a laser weapon could, in theory, adjust the point of least diffraction dynamically, based on the target's current distance from the target; this is much of the theory behind current laser weapons research using LED arrays- not just pushing out sheer power, but making the power arrive really efficiently at the target point, so that you aren't wasting energy defeating thermal bloom, etc., quite as much.

Their other big assumption has to do with effects of rapid vaporization on structures due to lasers or other high-energy beams.  

There isn't lots of research available to the general public on this, but, based on my practical experience, I can tell you that a beam that doesn't blow through an armor plate will do pretty unexpected (and violent) things to it, at least in an atmosphere.  

The most dangerous part of cutting thick steels (we cut up to 1 1/2" Hot-Rolled P&O steel, which is a pretty mild steel with relatively low reflectivity) was the initial piercing of the steel, where chunks of steel might shatter out and blow all over the place, leaving a dent in the plate that looked like somebody had shot it with a bullet; heat stress shearing was real problem.  

We had to compensate by programming in a slow pierce cycle, where we basically cycled the laser on and off about every tenth of a second and blew oxygen out, resulting in a pierce time of about 15 seconds, if we wanted to minimize blowouts.  When we were first doing test-cuts on that material, we blew out chunks of red-hot steel with quite-audible "bangs", fountains of sparks, and you could feel the vibrations through the enormous mass of the plate.

And this was a late-1980's tech, giant inefficient laser that was relatively low-wattage and wasn't designed for a military use at all, that was being used on a material that wasn't even officially within spec (official spec, IIRC, was 3/4" HR P&O; we were cutting double that).

So, while I certainly haven't worked for any military designing laser weapons, I feel pretty confident in saying that, while there are problems, they aren't what the Atomic Rocket guys think they are.  But hey, just view this and tell me laser weapons don't work... does that look like gentle, "micrometers/second" or more like what I'm talking about?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyUh_xSjvXQ
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 08:04:57 PM by xenoargh »
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Goumindong

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #24 on: March 18, 2018, 08:13:03 PM »

Only with respect to a game that has since made lasers effective. (At least theirnforums think so)

And well it’s also only relevant to a system where Delta-V is important. As ship velocities get higher (and the idea that these ships have hilarious lasers but low thrust engines is kinda funny) laser range issues dissolve and the advantages skyrocket.

Edit: and of course beams do not need to be lasers. As an example we can look at pulsars.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2018, 08:18:24 PM by Goumindong »
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #25 on: March 19, 2018, 12:26:35 AM »

The article suggests that diffraction would be a huge issue, but diffraction only occurs when waves interact with physical objects. It's certainly an issue in the atmosphere since the light will diffract around gas particles, but there is virtually no matter in space. It might be an issue over very extreme distances where the number of dust particles might become enough to cause issues. However, they were likely getting confused with divergence, but that is an issue of focusing which can be adjusted. You just need a big mirror to focus at very long distances.

In terms of heat issues with spacecraft, I've done some thermal analysis for a cubesat and it is very dependent on specific circumstances. In the light part of the orbit (when the sun is up) temperatures would get quite hot but in the dark orbit, things get colder. It also depends on what components are running, certain parts of the satellite would generate a lot more heat than others so there would be hot spots on the satellite. I remember the temperature ranges being like 0 to 70 degrees C or something like that. It's actually not very hard to keep a satellite cold or hot, it's hard to design it so that it will be warm enough in dark orbit and cold enough in light orbit. In the starsector universe though, technology exists to let ships fly very close to a star so I think they must have very advanced thermal management technology. Still, the temperature that a laser would heat something to would much higher than any temperature you would design the craft for, so thermal stress would definitely be a factor.
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Thaago

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #26 on: March 19, 2018, 09:22:31 AM »

Atomic Rockets tends to have very strongly worded opinion pieces - sometimes accurate, sometimes not. The piece on lasers is correct in that divergence angle is limited by aperture size for a Gaussian beam by diffraction - solutions to the wave equation, given the initial conditions of an aperture, just don't support a perfectly straight beam. Thats of course the math for a single emitter - with multiple emitters things get more complicated, but essentially the aperture size becomes the distance between the farthest emitters in terms of the diffraction limit - the idea that you need to have a giant mirror or giant solid optic is wrong. And thats before taking into account the recent advances in meta-material optics that ignore diffraction limited focusing altogether by being weird.

Basically, the Atomic Rockets/Children of a Dead Earth reasoning is sound, but based on the very basics of optics; its current to knowledge from about 40 years ago. Optics have advanced.

The next piece where it mentions lasers and slanted armor is pure *** - as if you can get total internal reflection on a piece of aluminum *eyeroll*.
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xenoargh

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #27 on: March 19, 2018, 10:14:17 PM »

Quote
The next piece where it mentions lasers and slanted armor is pure *** - as if you can get total internal reflection on a piece of aluminum *eyeroll*
Yeah, indeed, lol. 

We had a job once where we bored holes through a giant piece of 1/2" aluminum that had been pressed into a shape of almost precisely the angle described, in fact (it was a giant cone for some industrialized food process at Gerber).  Guess what?  It worked just fine; we weren't having to frantically dodge laser radiation bouncing around the shop, lol.  Our difficulty was getting the work piece below the usual bed our machine used because we couldn't traverse the laser head high enough otherwise, not punching holes in the aluminium... ::)

In fact, beams interacting with slanted armor in general is a bit different than that author described, at least based on what I learned at that job.  Unlike a single projectile, a beam's going rapidly to carve a step into practically anything it comes into contact with, at any angle (helped by thermal shearing) and then, if it's (magically) staying on the same spot, it'll be no different than anything else.  This is not to say that angle and reflectivity "don't matter", but they don't matter as much as one would think, because it only effects the beam very briefly.  Now, in space, at high velocities (and more importantly, high delta-V being used copiously) it would make a real difference, but it certainly wouldn't provide invulnerability.
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Cyan Leader

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2018, 08:38:51 AM »

Explosive damage beams are also counter intuitive given how weak they are irl at penetrating things.

I don't know man. I mean, beams are used all around in fiction as very destructive things.
See http://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/244160/ss_00c4865153238dfa69fa88e135d23577e152bc79.1920x1080.jpg

I kinda wish there was a slow charging beam with a lot of firepower in the game.
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c plus one

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Re: Beam Stuff
« Reply #29 on: March 21, 2018, 02:38:14 PM »

I kinda wish there was a slow charging beam with a lot of firepower in the game.

IIRC, all energy weapons used to do that at player command (beams included), along a curve where extra damage output scaled up according to firing ship's hard-flux level.

That feature was - imho, unwisely - removed from the game.
I would personally enjoy having it return.

Regarding your own wish, I would like to see at least three beams that work as you described. One each in small-, medium- and large-mount sizes. Let's call the large one the "Wave Motion Gun". ;)
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