My initial impetus for wanting to post on these boards was due to having a hard time with combat. I never got around to writing that post back then, but here are my thoughts now. I don't know what the future holds, of course, but throwing some ideas to the breeze can't hurt, right?
PROPOSALS FOR WEAPONS AND FIRE CONTROL SYSTEMS
Part #1: The General State of Arms
Pioneer currently uses projectile weapons as a default. I actually don't think there's anything wrong with that. A lot of games I've played and enjoyed use such weapons. The trick is how to make them usable. Furthermore, you might want more than one type of projectile - after all, different bullets are best for different applications. So, as far as projectiles go, the first thing that might be implied is that more variety in arms, especially projectiles, is needed. And then, how does one make them usable in general? More on that shortly...
Last time I played with missiles in Pioneer, I was told they were not guided. Aside from coding issues with missile guidance (kind of a horrifying thing to contemplate for sure!), missiles themselves can be thought of as projectiles as well. In which, you have a projectile with an initial velocity state which is the same as the launch platform. Next, you have a fixed mass (casing and warhead), a variable mass (propellant)... if the coders care to go that route at any point, and a variable velocity or accelerative state which may be dependent on several factors all by itself. Depending on the missile, a lot of work would undoubtedly be needed to bring these projectiles up to standards.
Also, it seems beamz(tm) are making a comeback. A beam is kind of simple to deal with compared to a projectile in many ways, though there are other things to consider with them as well. Frontier had beams which would nutate around the source of the beam, though this is a different matter at large which could be applied to many different weapons. The main thing to contemplate with a beam is how quickly it diffracts, loses focus and intensity, etc. The greatest threat to a beam would be an atmosphere, of course. but the beam imaginably must still lose focus (and therefore destructive energy) at range, right? One could add other complications for beams, as well as other weapons, including a charge stage (hit the trigger to charge, hit the trigger again to discharge), being a pulse-weapon (instantaneous discharge of a rated blast, a solid-state weapon (continuous discharge of a rated blast), or something in between. And again, some of those characteristics need not be limited to "beams."
Last, I'm not sure if Pioneer has these - I think Frontier kind of did, though. The implements in question here are "emitters." An emitter could be much more than a weapon, it could also be your sensors at large. Regardless, an emitter is a bit like a beam, but it lacks the focus of said beam. It is an ECM system or a jammer. It is an EMP discharge system. And, it is also potentially a shielding system. Frequency stuff is outside of my knowledge at large, but this is where it fits in.
...And so, I'm going to wager that there will eventually be three general weapon types in Pioneer. You will have (1.) projectiles, (2.) beams, and (3.) emitters. In a way, (2.) and (3.) could be lumped into one IF you define some sort of focus mechanic, which would also impact the range of said "weapon." The last item that could potentially be added to a list like this would be "armor," though that item probably has more to do with damage models and the like. Future stuff, you know?
Part #2: Fire Control Systems
Hitting a fast-moving target with a projectile is NOT easy. In fact, the aircraft weapons of the 20th century were produced to have increasingly high rates of fire for the purposes of engaging such targets with some degree of success. An M61 Vulcan is rated to fire at 6,000 rounds per minute when it has fully spun up. And, some of these gatling-type weapons can be further be adjusted for various rates of fire depending on the target. For ground targets or other relatively stationary targets, it is possible to select a lower rate of fire to conserve ammunition while also getting a similar amount of "lead on target," as such stationary targets tend not to be able to get out of the way. In a similar vein, you should be able to get the current projectile weapons in Pioneer to be effective, as well as future projectile weapons as well. Fire control systems will add a small amount of extra depth to the systems management of a ship, and can either be treated as built-in features of a weapon or as add-ons the player can install at their discretion. Such add-ons and their mechanics are definitely a subject for a separate thread!
With my limited combat experience in Pioneer - none of it successful - there are three current weapon mechanics I am aware of. These are (1.) the specified rate of fire (ROF) for the weapon, (2.) the specified "damage" the weapon deals, and (3.) the amount of heat the weapon generates per discharge. Adding a fire control system does not have to drastically overhaul everything about the existing weapons for the first general proposal, which you see below:
2.1: Variable Rates of Fire
Consider that there should be at least two, and up to three general fire rates for a weapon. When I say "general," I imply a concept. You could simply have a "HI" and "LO" switch for the gun for the first case. Then, you could also have a "HI," "NORM" (normal), and "LO" switch for the gun with three options. Or, you could have a slider for a completely custom input depending on the situation. So many possible options for this does imply that having an upgradable, independent fire control system should in fact be considered in the future. But for now, choosing one option as standard would do the following:
(a.) A "high" (HI) ROF would multiply the standard ROF by a given factor. So, if a default plasma cannon discharges at 1000rpm, and a HI doubles that by a factor of 2 (2000rpm, obviously), you will get more projectiles out along a given vector, and if your target vector is good, you will have a greater chance of hitting something moving between your projectile stream. If your aim is very good, you also might hit your target multiple times in one pass. Changing the ROF to high will not change the individual damage of the projectile, but you will potentially improve the weapon's "damage per second." You will also cause the weapon to heat up very quickly, as a high ROF does not let the gun cool down in between shots as much as a lower ROF does.
(b.) A "normal" (NORM) ROF would just use the default weapon's built-in settings. Nothing would change. If you use a basic two-setting ROF mode, then NORM would be listed as "LO." If you want a three-setting ROF selector, then "LO" becomes thus:
(c.) A "low" (LO) ROF would divide the standard ROF by a given factor. So, the example gun from before which fires at 1000rpm would now fire at 500rpm. Cooling now keeps the gun firing longer continuously, though the "gamey" damage-per-second metric drops by quite a bit, especially when compared to a HI setting.
2.2: Variable Rates of Discharge
If it is possible to adjust the ROF, why not also the damage output of certain projectiles? Consider that perhaps the rate at which a gun heats is proportional not only to the ROF, but also due to the magnitude of the discharge, or rate of discharge (ROD). Therefore, if we are just trying to whittle away at a small, agile target, perhaps dropping the power of that "1MW" blast to 500KW will let us shoot longer in HI without overheating. Furthermore, perhaps we can overcharge the gun for accurate, surprise blasts if we need to.
...So, a fire control system at its most basic level for the existing systems in Pioneer could potentially alter two of the three core gun mechanics (ROF and ROD), and perhaps make the existing weapons far more viable with some interesting trade-offs in return. The cooling, perhaps suitably titled as "rate of cooling" (ROC) is dependent on the other two settings and the player's trigger finger, as well as any installed laser coolers on the ship.
That is a lot of word salad, so perhaps that should be it for now. There is indeed more to muse on, but that is also "future stuff." Hopefully these are useful ideas that can make Pioneer really stand out on its own - I have seen some of this stuff in contemporary flight simulators, but I've not quite seen it in space sims. :)
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