Before Alpha Features Review – part 4
Features Review – Part 4
In this review, we will discuss more of the future features that we have planned that will be introduced further down the line in production that will link back to core features within the Alpha and how you the backers will get the first taste for what’s to come. These ideas include Different Asteroid Types, Capturing Asteroids, Asteroid Bases, Disabling and capturing enemy vessels, Drones and other non-telepresence vessels (Cargo vessels, etc.).
Different Asteroid Types
After refactoring the workflow to quickly make these new asteroids, we discovered that we can also take this time to create some of the new types of asteroids we wanted to make. Using the current “Spectral Classification” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asteroid_spectral_types), we’ve gone ahead and created the following types of Asteroids….
These different types of Asteroids will have different strengths and weaknesses to different weapons. Some like the M-Type asteroids will also be harder to destroy as well as contain a vast amount of valuable metals and other minerals useful during your campaign. Capturing and extracting their ore might be more beneficial than just straight destruction.
Beyond these Asteroid types are going to include others like Crystalline style asteroids which are going to resemble Geodes where you would see crystal cavern like formations inside of them. Likely alot of these would be more so in the form of Mega Meteors in order to really appreciate their internal structure, but you will still see more Crystalline aliens inside instead of Silicoid.
M-types though will be the ones you will wish to capture and mine, as they will have the majority of metals used in manufacturing of new ships as well as for research costs for new technologies.
The majority of M-Type asteroids currently found are mainly composed of Iron (Fe) with trace amounts of other metals such as Nickel (Ni), and Cobalt (Co). However other M-Type Asteroids have also been spotted such as Silver (Ag), Gold (Au) and Platinum (Pt).
Ideas for each element use:
– Iron = Generic Steel and other alloy base material for hull/armor
– Nickel = armor, power units (power plant batteries) and weapons
– Cobalt = Engine improvements, hard alloys
– Silver/Gold/Platinum = Usually selling into Earth market, but also electronics and other late game tech
These highly valuable Asteroids will go for a great price if sold to patron countries. Capture of these M-Type Asteroids should be a high priority.
Other types that are planned our are Ice/Comets which we though would be used for a hydrogen fuel source, but found that dealing with fuel management for all your vessels would be too much of a burden to gameplay. Because of this, Ice comets will likely be just for visual flare (or even just pre-cursors to the Crystalline asteroids).
Realistically, companies in the future (Space X, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, etc.) will likely try multiple approaches to “capturing” a Near Earth Orbit (NEO) asteroid. First by “Gravity tractor” (having a large mass like a space craft) just fly within range of said Asteroid and have its own gravity pull on the asteroid in order to bring the asteroid within either a Lagrange point or within orbit around the planet. OR it’ll use its gravity pull just to get the asteroid to slow down to within a reasonable speed/orbit in order to perform the next stage of having a large asteroid “net” wrap around the asteroid while setup with a tether so that it can then be physically pulled.
As much as I would like to spend the time for a physically accurate depiction of asteroid capture, a more dynamic and faster method that would take seconds/minutes instead of hours/days/years would be preferable for gameplay. So instead, the idea will be grapple+tether cables, inertia rockets, and later – tractor beams.
The idea here is that the Asteroids will have their mass determined by their material compositions (randomly generated but also weighted by their type – C-Type, M-Type, etc.). Since the we’ve now moved over to Angular Velocity, your ship’s inertia will really matter here. If you attempt to latch on and slow down a massive Asteroid with just a small Icarus, it’s likely you will be yanked hard and tossed around and even break your tether. You will need more massive ships to help grapple onto these. However, even if you do latch on with an Icarus and slowly make your tether taut, you will be dragged along, however you can apply force in the opposite direction in order to slow down the asteroid as well as attempt to “de-spin” the asteroid. It will likely take more time than with a more massive ship with more powerful engines that can apply for force, but that’s all relative to the physics of this part of the gameplay.
A less risky way (but will likely take longer and could even fail) is the idea of “inertia rockets”. This is the idea to shoot specific rockets into the asteroid at different cardinal locations which will activate side thrusters which will attempt to counter both the velocity and spin of the Asteroid. However, these rockets will have limited fuel to provide thrust and you will also only be able to house a limited ammo count for these as well.
Another weapon idea that came to mind with this are buoy/drone tethers. Instead of risking your ships for the tether purpose, the idea is to first land a tether shot and then deploy a “space buoy” that has the tether attached, and the buoy attempts to thrust in the opposite direction in order to remain stationary. Drones could also be used in the same way, but more AI programming would need to be done to achieve this setup.
Last, but not least is a “tractor beam”. Once researched, this will likely be the easiest method to control as the tractor beam will just attempt to slow down what ever it is trying to beam against and hold it at what ever length you choose. Definitely the most energy expensive method, but it’s likely you will achieve greater success as capturing an asteroid with less effort with this method.
If all else fails though, you could just ram into the thing…
At first with Mining, I wanted to avoid having the Player directly have access to “drilling” into an asteroid and directly digging out veins of metal or other material since that makes more sense for an AI to do this rather than having a Player waste their time on this. However, there is some level of satisfaction I get when I dug out minerals in voxel games (like Minecraft, etc.). With that said, I was thinking of looking into the voxel setup I wanted to do with the asteroids and wanted to examine a setup where you could first detect “deposits” of materials inside of an asteroid through Seismic Imaging on the Asteroid.
This was a cut section of the longer Kickstarter video showing “Prospect 1” from the Argo survey team doing a scan for mineral (gold) deposits within the Mega Meteor.
After detecting said deposit(s), using some voxel tech for destruction, you could blast away the stone/rock around the deposit and then cut via laser (or just blast the minerals with weapons for a smaller yield) to free chunks of the deposit. I haven’t quite yet decided if those mined chunks would be automatically be pulled into your cargo bay or if you have to do something else to retrieve said mined chunks (likely the former just for simplicity of gameplay sake).
This then leads to a bigger question of “Cargo Bays” on vessels. It’s likely that each ship will have some “Cargo” for itself where you can store free ammunition or space debris, or salvaged weaponry and the like, but this design hasn’t been flushed out yet and needs more time to experiment with to see what will work best for gameplay.
AI to do this?
All these questions initially lead me to the idea of “just have AI deal with this automatically”. With that said, the thought with this is to just send AI with some sort of platform that attaches to the Asteroid and automatically drills out the minerals inside of the Asteroid. Over time this will collect different materials (based on the weighted average of what was actually inside the asteroid) and will fill its own inventory. From there, the thought was to have a “Cargo Vessel” (AI assigned vessel) to ferry the materials to a “Refinery station” or main Space Station of some kind in order to count this material toward your available inventory of materials. From there you can assign it to whatever – research, ship building, etc.
I am debating on whether each station will house its own material inventory (a shipyard having X amount of steel needed to build a vessel for example), which will add some complexity in mid-late game for inventory management, but this will also give reason to have Cargo Vessels moving back and forth between locations around the planet and will over time provide an automatic network of moving materials around in orbit around the planet.
WIP Hermes cargo vessel for transporting goods
Dynamically, this will also allow for you to provide escort vessels for these Cargo ships and of course you can Telepresence at anytime to take control and dog fight any enemies that are trying to disrupt your supply lines.
Having the AI do the mining via a mining platform that is deployed on the surface of the asteroid begs the question of having more facilities on the Asteroid itself. The answer is – Why not? Some small gimmes would be to allow installation of Turrets (just like vessels) on these same platforms as well as other Ship Components like Power Plants (or Solar Panels) and Shield Generators. This would provide some minimal automated defenses on these platforms and pretty much already turn the Asteroid into a pseudo base.
Depending how we also setup Space Stations and their modularity, we might also include those as additions to the Asteroid Bases. However these are far in the future features we might not even get to. For the time being, we will likely make the platforms a minimalistic setup to be able to mine and place components on them.
Disabling and Capturing Enemy Vessels
So one gameplay element that hasn’t been fully implemented yet was “Power”. To some extent we already have this displayed on your HUD as “Energy”, but besides a basic pool for “ammo” (later to be used for just energy weapons), we wanted to extend its use across your entire ship.
The idea here is that if you exceed your Power (Energy) reserves on your ship and you reach zero, then your ship will be forced to shut down and will take some time to recover from this energy loss (~5 seconds). All the while, all control is lost on the vessel and you will drift for that time maintaining your current trajectory. This means you will need to keep an eye on your energy levels and make certain you do not hit zero on your battery reserves otherwise you will shut down.
With that said, new weapons were conceived to attack specifically the Energy levels of vessels (As well deal extra damage to shields) to wreak havoc on human vessels without destroying them. Both the EMP Cannon and Ion Cannons are these direct fire weapons which are designed to disrupt energy levels and force those energy levels lower on impacted ships.
EMP Cannon will fire a slowish ball of charged particles that will explode on contact or detonate at max range and have an area of effect and deal massive “EM” (Electro Magnetic) damage to ships. The Ion cannon will fire bolts of charged Ions at a target at faster velocity, but deal less EM damage on hit versus the EMP Cannon.
To Capture a Vessel
To capture a vessel, one must first disable the vessel which can be done by first either damaging the vessels engines and weapon systems, or using EM damage to drain the power from the ship. Drained power from EM weapons will disable the vessel temporarily, but longer than just an overdraw from power consumption. After the vessel has some how been incapacitated, you can then use the same grapple + tether mechanics from asteroid capture to latch onto the vessel and then proceed bring that vessel back to an appropriate sized shipyard for it to be examined by the research team (and the pilot interrogated by Solar Warden agents).
Potentially we might make the change to allow you to bring the vessel to any shipyard/port just for simplicity and streamline the process
Assault Shuttles – Another thought with this is for “capturing” larger vessels, instead of towing them, you would need to build shuttles or “assault” craft to board onto that vessel and allow the marines who boarded said vessel to make their way to the bridge and take command of the vessel. Once done, you could then Telepresence into it if you wish and fly it back to a shipyard.
Drones and other non-controlled vessels
It’s likely we might restrict the piloting of vessels that aren’t really of use being piloted like Cargo vessels. But that decision isn’t final yet (for instance, you might want to pilot the Cargo vessel to avoid getting shot at, or just fill the vessel with highly explosive raw materials and crash it into a Mega Meteor?). Other vessels that were considered not to be piloted was utility vessels like the Hephaestus since their design revolves around building shipyards, repairing vessels and other utility work. But taking control of them for specific purposes might come into play later on.
Drones on the other hand are specific non-controlled attack craft that are somewhere between light fighter and missile where they fly out of the mother ship and attack in a small swarm with light weaponry against their target. For purposes of providing fighter support where needed for larger vessels, or to overwhelm an enemy target, several drones are in the works to be used from the larger Cruiser sized vessels and above. Once created, we will demonstrate their use in a future update.
This should about do it for the future features that I want to get in for the game (besides all the story elements). Either for Alpha or for the full game release, I feel this was a good time to review everything that has been achieved and what’s to come down the pipe. Relative to the Alpha release, and what’s left to get up and running, I think I will push that to Part 5 since I want to get some more work done on the New Ship Pawn before opening things up for play.
Thanks again for your continued support, and I will see you in the next update.
God Speed, Warden
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