Author Topic: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora  (Read 998 times)

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Offline SevenOfCarina

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Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« on: March 09, 2019, 12:25:02 PM »
In their present iteration, tractor beams, for all their potential, are rather .... underwhelming. You have a single 500 ton module that, attached to a ship, let's you drag around exactly one entity of arbitrary mass, with no room for building space!trains, or for using stuff like drop tanks or external launchers.

For such a staple of science-fiction, it's .... boring, to say the least.

Let's spice it up a bit, shall we?


The Proposal :

Rather than have a single tractor module, as in the present, it might be better to have them function more like a combination of box-launcher, magazine and hangar, with a new line of techs dictating how much stuff you can drag around per ton of of tractor, what you can drag around, and how much of it you can drag around. The existing tractor module is bifurcated into two different components : the External Attachment System, which acts a a kind of cross with a hangar, and the Tractor Module.

The existing tractor module now serves as an attachment point between two ships, or a ship and a station, and masses 5000 tons, with the cost now being 100 duranium and 300 mercassium. It serves pretty much the same function as before.

To complement this, it might be prudent to introduce another kind of ship : the external module.
What is this, you might ask?

The External Module

This is, effectively, a new type of ship, distinct from the existing classifications.

An external module is unmanned, meaning it has zero crew requirements. It does not require a bridge, a commander, or any other such components, indeed, it cannot have them, and it cannot accept crew in any form.  It is rather similar to a station in many aspects : it has no mass restrictions, it can only be built by construction factories, and it has a structural shell instead of armour.  There are three important differences, though :

An external module cannot be issued orders, unless and until it is hooked up to a ship. It cannot move, it cannot use its sensors, and it certainly cannot shoot at anything.

An external module has no limitation on the types of components it can have. Anything and everything from beam weapons to high power military engines are allowed, though it is mostly intended to house the various storage modules and box launchers. It cannot house an EAS, however.

An external module is subject to standard maintenance rules : if it has only commercial components, it gets flagged as commercial and requires no maintenance, but if it has military components, it is subject to military maintenance rules and consumes MSP at the standard rate. However, it counts as having only one-fifth of its tonnage. That is, a 10,000 ton external module takes up 2,000 tons of maintenance capacity at a maintenance facility.

This does pose a dilemma, however : an external module requires maintenance, but cannot maintain itself. Hence, maintenance needs to be provided by an external source, the External Attachment System.

The External Attachment System

The EAS serves as a sort of external hangar, allowing for external modules to be attached to ships, and follows some basic rules :

1. There can only be one EAS per ship, like there can only be one Jump Drive per ship.
2. A ship with an external module will register as a single contact.
3. The added tonnage of all the external modules attached to a ship will result in a proportional decrease in ship speed.
4. Engines on the external modules will add to ship speed.
5. External modules will bloat the size of a ship and increase its sensor contact size.
6. If the external module has shields, they will also protect the ship itself from damage.
7. If a ship equipped with an external module takes fire, the chances of the external module taking the damage instead of the ship itself
    is [(external module structural shell width)/(ship armour width)] per weapon hit. This is re-rolled for each weapon hit.

There are three parameters to be kept in mind for an EAS : EAS size, EAS efficiency, and module count.

EAS module size is very straight-forward, it can range from 1 HS to a maximum of 5 HS, with a series of techs to increase the maximum EAS size to 80 HS. This represents the size of the EAS module itself.

EAS efficiency is similar to Jump Drive Efficiency, and starts at 2, increasing with techs to a maximum of 10.

The EAS capacity determines the total tonnage of all external modules that can be attached to a ship.
EAS capacity = EAS size * EAS efficiency.
For instance,  100 ton EAS ton EAS with efficiency 5 can support 500 tons of external module attached to it.

Module Count determines the number of external modules that can be attached to one EAS. The baseline is 1, though it can be increased through techs till 20 modules per EAS. If you have module count 5, and EAS capacity 2000 tons, you can attach five 400 ton external modules, or two 1000 ton modules, et cetera.

An EAS can be commercial or military.

A military EAS can attach both military and commercial external modules, and is a military component. The cost of a military EAS is one-fortieth of its capacity in duranium and thrice that in mercassium. The cost of a military EAS with capacity 2000 tons would be 50 duranium and 150 mercassium. The military EAS takes care of the maintenance needs of military external modules, drawing MSP from the ships stores.

A commercial EAS can only attach commercial external modules, however, it is twice as large and has ten times the capacity of an equivalent military EAS module, while having the same cost.


That's .... pretty much it.

I understand that this might be a lot of work for Steve to code in, but this allows us to finally have drop tanks, external missile racks, use-and-forget engines, etc., which I think is worth the effort.

Thoughts?



« Last Edit: March 09, 2019, 12:33:46 PM by SevenOfCarina »
 

Offline Barkhorn

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #1 on: March 09, 2019, 01:35:04 PM »
The fact that external modules would not require crew is a major advantage that far outweighs the inability to armor the module.  Just cram lots of shield generators on the core ship, or better yet, attach one or more external shield modules.

I do like the idea but I think it needs some work.  Maybe make the modules need crew, but still not able to quarter them, so the core will need extra crew kinda like carriers.  This would reduce the efficiency of the system in some cases.  Modules likely wouldn't all have the same crew requirement, so your core ships would need to be designed with the biggest module in mind.  So when smaller modules are loaded, you have extra crew just twiddling their thumbs and taking up tonnage.
 

Offline Father Tim

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2019, 06:33:10 PM »
While I like the idea of a more robust tractor system, and it makes sense to me that a single Tractor Beam should have a limit on the amount of tonnage it can control, I am strongly opposed to adding a new, 'special' type of unit with its own special rules.  We just got rid of PDCs because of all the problems having a special unit with special rules caused.

To me, the External Attachment System appears to largely be a better version of hangar space & parasite ships.  A significantly better version, which seems bad for game balance.

Likewise, drop tanks sound like a way to avoid -- or at least mitigate -- the new refueling rules.  I wouldn't want to see anything along those lines until we have plenty of experience with C# Aurora.

I think 'external ordnance' is better handled with box launchers, or tugging along a second ship that's nothing but launchers and fire controls.

* * *

Putting a size or tonnage limit on the effectiveness of a single tractor installation makes sense (though it also requires a change to allow more than one tractor per ship).  To me, it sounds like everything else you're asking for is significantly -- game un-balancingly -- better than the current systems.  That seems like a bad idea.
 
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Offline Iranon

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2019, 03:19:19 AM »
Seems a lot of complication for questionable gain, and as with many complicated mechanics it may encourage weird design practices.
Also the usual problem with several tech lines for something nichey - if it's not worth the investment to do it well, it's not worth the investment to do it at all.

The current tractor model would allow many interesting things if it wasn't broken and too annoying to use for non-commercial designs (tractor chains break with any maintenance failure, followed by error spam).
 

Offline Agoelia

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2019, 05:07:53 AM »
Or, more simply, we could have it working like jump engines. Here's my idea: there's a tech line of Max Tonnage Transported per Ton of Tractor Beam, maybe even tech lines for max and min Tractor Beam tonnage (or maybe not, make it as big or small as you want from the beginning), and you design it like other ship modules (but the only variables are tonnage and tech used). A single ship can have more than one tractor beam, and their Max Tonnage Transported is summed. That's it.


But, if Steve wants to make it a little more fledged out, he could:
Make it so a single tug can transport more ships if it has at least one Tractor Beam for each one of them and if none of them are heavier than the single Tractor Beam's Max Tonnage Transported.

Or, say, tug Antares has 4 Migus Tractor Beams with 10000 tons of traction each, and 10 Polus Tractor Beams rated at 600t. This Antares could move either: 2 20000 tons ships and ten small fighters (attaching 2 Migus tractor beams to each of the big ones and each Polus to one fighter), one 46000 tons ship (all TB attached to the same ship), or 14 small fighers (each beam to a fighter, wasting a lot of potential because the 4 Migus would be using a fraction of their power)

Tractor Beams, like standard engines, would have a slight bonus to Max Tonnage the bigger they are, otherwise having 1000 tiny TB would be ALWAYS the best solution.

Tractor Beams can ONLY transport space capable vessels (other ships and stations): no ground installations, ground forces, ship components, wrecks, escape pods, small asteroids, etc, etc.
 

Offline SevenOfCarina

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2019, 11:46:34 AM »
The fact that external modules would not require crew is a major advantage that far outweighs the inability to armor the module.  Just cram lots of shield generators on the core ship, or better yet, attach one or more external shield modules.

I do like the idea but I think it needs some work.  Maybe make the modules need crew, but still not able to quarter them, so the core will need extra crew kinda like carriers.  This would reduce the efficiency of the system in some cases.  Modules likely wouldn't all have the same crew requirement, so your core ships would need to be designed with the biggest module in mind.  So when smaller modules are loaded, you have extra crew just twiddling their thumbs and taking up tonnage.

Yeah, that could work. External modules could simply be banned from having shields, which should also reduce the workload from a coding perspective. I actually wanted an external crew requirement, but I wasn't sure if the added depth was worth the utter pain it would be to code. I'm still not sure just how much work this would be, considering that almost everything here would have to be coded in from scratch, or if it would even be worth the effort.

While I like the idea of a more robust tractor system, and it makes sense to me that a single Tractor Beam should have a limit on the amount of tonnage it can control, I am strongly opposed to adding a new, 'special' type of unit with its own special rules.  We just got rid of PDCs because of all the problems having a special unit with special rules caused.

To me, the External Attachment System appears to largely be a better version of hangar space & parasite ships.  A significantly better version, which seems bad for game balance.

Likewise, drop tanks sound like a way to avoid -- or at least mitigate -- the new refueling rules.  I wouldn't want to see anything along those lines until we have plenty of experience with C# Aurora.

I think 'external ordnance' is better handled with box launchers, or tugging along a second ship that's nothing but launchers and fire controls.

Putting a size or tonnage limit on the effectiveness of a single tractor installation makes sense (though it also requires a change to allow more than one tractor per ship).  To me, it sounds like everything else you're asking for is significantly -- game un-balancingly -- better than the current systems.  That seems like a bad idea.

The EAS is nothing like a hangar. For one, you can't actually attach ships to an EAS. An EAS cannot maintain or repair parasites, it cannot reload box launchers, and the initial versions are also extremely inefficient. External modules are ridiculously vulnerable to fire, and can only be attached at a maintenance facility. A purpose-built ship will always be significantly better than a ship with a couple of external modules tacked on, and will also be much cheaper.

If you're willing to take the cost of ditched drop tanks (which can't exactly be recovered in the middle of a fight), you should be able to have drop tanks. They're expensive, vulnerable, and massively slow ships down. If their reattachment is limited to maintenance facilities, they'll act much like box launchers do now, providing a one-time range boost. Tankers are more cost-effective and reliable, but drop tanks provide flexibility. IMO, the existing thing with a box-launcher-only platform is kinda gamey. If that doesn't break balance, I don't see why this should. The numbers are obviously non-final.

There's also no actual need for special rules. External modules could have crew just like normal ships, and be able to maintain themselves, except they'll have zero deployment time and maintenance life, and when attached to an EAS, their crew will be transferred over to the parent ship. It shouldn't be that different.

The point of n EAS is to add some flexibility to the design process. A small hangar is obviously better for tacking on things like upgraded sensors, but an EAS will allow older designs to be partially refit to perform roles they weren't originally intended for, like adding extra launchers without the sensor burden, or even simply 'padding' contacts to make a frigate look like a battleship. It's more for the civilian side of things, where it can be used to turn cargo ships into impromptu troop transports, or increase the endurance of outdated colony ships, etc. It's there to allow an element of improvisation.

I agree with the tonnage limit on tractor modules, but the problem with that approach, IMO, is that it makes shifting large multi-million ton stations completely unfeasible, which was the intended purpose of the tractor beam. Maybe the limit could be Engine Power based instead of a strict tonnage limit? For example, a base tech Tractor Module could will allow the tug to have 1000 EP per 5000 ton tractor module, and allow it to shift arbitrarily large stations, albeit extremely slowly? Moving ships with engines could also be locked behind a tech.

Even if nothing comes of this, I'd still like it if we could shut-off military engines when a tractor is active, allowing for slow shipping of military ships.

« Last Edit: March 10, 2019, 11:57:59 AM by SevenOfCarina »
 

Offline JustAnotherDude

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2019, 11:37:20 AM »
Just going to say that Drop Tanks could be simulated by having a new "Ordinance" type that adds to fuel reserves of a ship when in its magazines.
 

Offline Xenotrenium

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Re: Revising Tractor Beams in C# Aurora
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2019, 05:01:58 PM »
A tractor beam could work in similar forms in that of a regular Engine (or Jump Engine).  You create a new tractor beam the same way you would a regular engine and specify new, but distinct parameters. 

Max Tonnage Transported per Ton of Tractor Beam (efficiency)
Minimum Tonnage
HS (+250% max and min tonnage at max size)
Max target EP (for combat tractors)

Combat tractors would be short ranged and be very useful for boarding, forcing surrender or pulping a downed target.  Perhaps if a given incapacitated ship is small enough to fit on the tractor beam ship, maybe we could do a little recreation of Star Wars Episode IV, except one would not need Drop Pods, just Marine Detachments. 




 

 

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