Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

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cim
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Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by cim »

A separate thread to let "scripting requests" get back to its original topic.

In 1.76 and earlier the main station effectively has two beacons - a short-range square one which only shows up within 3x planetary radius and/or 2x scanner radius of the main station, appearing between the planet and the sun when cycling, and a long-range triangular one coded N attached to the docking corridor nav buoy which can be cycled to from anywhere in the system, and which is usually but not always {1} the first triangular beacon.

A potential simplification would be to remove the beacon on the nav buoy from the default shipdata and make the square main station beacon visible with an ASC throughout the system. (Without an ASC fitted, the compass behaviour of "planet from a distance, station up close" would be unaffected)

Advantages:
- ASC has one beacon for main station, potentially simplifying use for new users.
- ASC station beacon is consistently positioned in the ASC cycle.
- ASC beacon for main station is consistent and special.
- In the rare event that the main station is destroyed, the square beacon will update to the new main station and again be displayed. {2}
- N is freed up for use by OXP beacons.

Disadvantages:
- Some OXPs may rely on there being two separate beacons.
- Some OXPs may expect two separate beacons leading to differences in behaviour between 1.76 and future releases that can't easily be worked around.
- Some OXPs may expect two separate beacons leading to differences in behaviour between 1.76 and future releases that could in theory be worked around, but the OXP is no longer maintained and does not have a license allowing a third-party fix.
- Some OXPs add the N beacon back anyway as they replace the stock nav buoy, which could be confusing. Could be worked around using like_ship definitions, if none of the previous disadvantages also applied, but that does create an extra bit of work for OXP writers.
- Change in behaviour may confuse existing users on upgrade.

Less clear:
- main station beacon is not editable

This change is currently possible to test, for now, with the nightly builds. Depending on responses here that may not be the case for very long, of course.

Is this a good idea in general? Are you aware of (or planning) any OXPs that expect separate beacons (other than ones like "Your Ad Here!" which replace the beacon object)? If it's a good idea, is the cycle position (planet-station-sun-etc.) correct, or should it be moved to be something else (e.g. planet-sun-target-station)?

{1} e.g. with Commies OXP installed, there may sometimes be an astromine (beacon A) in a rock hermit role that comes before the N beacon, due to the order that objects are generated by the system populator. Or if the buoy is destroyed and then replaced, the replacement will go to the end of the list.

{2} If the new main station ends up being a rock hermit a long way from the planet, it seems a bit strange that with an ASC in 1.76 you get the station beacon only within 3x planet radius and 2x hermit scanner radius, which don't overlap; that's to an extent a separate issue. If you don't like the idea of having a universally-visible station beacon for the ASC, do you have any opinions on how this bug should be dealt with?

- - -

A further possibility, with similar advantages and disadvantages (but probably different OXPs affected), would be to create a new ASC mode for the witchpoint (perhaps with a spiral icon, or two concentric circles?) to replace the W triangle beacon.

This would be consistent with the previous idea, but has more implementation details and potential disadvantages from that - does the new witchpoint beacon require the buoy to continue to exist, and if so, how should it check that in such a way that destroyed witchbuoys can be replaced to restore the beacon?

Doing this as well would have the extra advantage that the triangle beacons were reserved for "interesting" objects in the system rather than for things every system had, but it would be a more disruptive change than the station one to the way that beacons currently work.

- - -

While I'm talking about the ASC, does anyone else find it really difficult to get proper pitch alignment with the triangle beacons? The point at which I think the triangle is centred on the compass usually leads to me pointing some way above the actual object. What do people think about changing it to a diamond, or some other object with both vertical and horizontal symmetry?

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Gimi »

Given that this behavior is closer to Elite canon, and that it now points to the main entity, rather than an optional navigation aid, I would prefer for cim's change/fix to stay in. No idea whether it causes problems for any OXP's though.
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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Wildeblood »

cim wrote:If it's a good idea, is the cycle position (planet-station-sun-etc.) correct, or should it be moved to be something else (e.g. planet-sun-target-station)?
Forget that idea, right now! The compass modes are in alphabetical order:-

0. Beacons
1. Planet
2. Station
3. Sun*
4. Target

* Depends on the commoonity's habit of referring to the stars as suns. Star would indeed come before station (in English). Target mode should stay last in the list because it doesn't usually exist.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by maik »

cim wrote:While I'm talking about the ASC, does anyone else find it really difficult to get proper pitch alignment with the triangle beacons? The point at which I think the triangle is centred on the compass usually leads to me pointing some way above the actual object. What do people think about changing it to a diamond, or some other object with both vertical and horizontal symmetry?
Yes, same problem here. I'd be all for this change!

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by cim »

Wildeblood wrote:* Depends on the commoonity's habit of referring to the stars as suns. Star would indeed come before station (in English). Target mode should stay last in the list because it doesn't usually exist.
Or "2. Main Station" for the same effect. I prefer the current order, but moving station after sun and target would keep it in the same place (ish) as the current N beacon, which might be considered an advantage.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Eric Walch »

For me it always had a logic that the becon character was on the buoy. It is an navigation instrument after all. You just use your compass to fly to the beacon, and at the same time you are aligned correctly for docking. Changing that removes some logic. Specially because the witchpoint beacon is still used as a transmitter.

And currently in game I just see more entries on the compass. One circle for the planet, a square for the station and an N for the buoy. That N won't easy go away as a lot of oxp's are adding them. e.g all replacement sets, commies and some others. But my main concern would be that the logic is removed. The buoys are beacons that transmit a navigation signal. Without a signal on the compass, the whole station buoy becomes rather useless.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Wildeblood »

cim wrote:
Wildeblood wrote:* Depends on the commoonity's habit of referring to the stars as suns. Star would indeed come before station (in English). Target mode should stay last in the list because it doesn't usually exist.
Or "2. Main Station" for the same effect.
I've never seen anyone use COMPASS_MODE_MAIN_STATION in a script, I doubt it would do anything (good) if they did. The compass modes do indeed cycle in alphabetical order, with beacons replacing basic at the top of the list when the player has the ASC. There's a complex interplay between compass targets, modes, beacons and the compassTargetChanged event. You're couching your changes in terms of beacons, but it's actually compass targets you're messing about with.
cim wrote:I prefer the current order, but moving station after sun and target would keep it in the same place (ish) as the current N beacon, which might be considered an advantage.
In basic mode, the compass only has two possible targets: planet and station. That's why they are the first two items in the target list.

I don't dislike the changes you've made so far, but I agree with Commander McLane about the way you went about it. You've got an acceptable result by good luck, not good process.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by cim »

Wildeblood wrote:
cim wrote:
Wildeblood wrote:* Depends on the commoonity's habit of referring to the stars as suns. Star would indeed come before station (in English). Target mode should stay last in the list because it doesn't usually exist.
Or "2. Main Station" for the same effect.
I've never seen anyone use COMPASS_MODE_MAIN_STATION in a script
No, of course. I just mean as a justification for the station being alphabetically before the star/sun. As I said, I have no problem with the current ordering of the compass targets, but they could be changed if it was going to be more usable another way for pilots (e.g. by moving the station target to where the N beacon target usually appears now). Losing the implementation detail that they're currently alphabetically ordered in the code seems a relatively small disadvantage.
Wildeblood wrote:I don't dislike the changes you've made so far, but I agree with Commander McLane about the way you went about it. You've got an acceptable result by good luck, not good process.
Agreed. I misjudged how controversial it was going to be, and wouldn't have made the change in the first place if I'd realised that in advance.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Cody »

My opinion: do away with the station nav buoy completely.
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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Disembodied »

El Viejo wrote:My opinion: do away with the station nav buoy completely.
I can't agree with that. The station navigation buoy is a very useful resource for manual docking, for veterans and newbies alike. That, I think, is its primary purpose, no? To give the player something that's situated precisely on the docking line? It's the advice given to people struggling to dock: take the ship out to the station buoy, stop, then rotate to face the dock: that's you on line.

I don't see any particular disadvantage not having the buoy register on the ASC, but the buoy itself can be hugely valuable.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Cody »

Disembodied wrote:The station navigation buoy is a very useful resource for manual docking, for veterans...
For veterans? Really? Hey-ho!
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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Disembodied »

El Viejo wrote:For veterans? Really? Hey-ho!
I use it: seems silly not to, when it's there. Plus it's somewhere else to hang a YAH banner ...

Manual docking is, I think, by far and away the biggest bar to new players' enjoyment of the game. It's part of the Elite legacy, right enough, but to be honest in this day and age it's more bad game design than endearing quirk. At the end of a long run – where you might have had half-a-dozen epic battles and scraped through with your cargo by the skin of your teeth – the last thing anyone wants is the chance to lose it all by crashing when trying to park. Granted, it's easier than it was back in the day now the dock is more than just a rectangle drawn on the station's surface, and it's a skill you can acquire, but lots of people are probably going to give up in frustration before they get the chance to acquire it. My 2Cr worth is, even if it's only useful for newbies, the game's hard enough to start with as it is – keep the station navigation buoy. And slow down the station rotation in the core game too, for that matter – it makes the stations seem larger and makes docking less fatal for those who are still getting the hang of it.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Commander McLane »

@ cim: First of all, thanks for the opportunity for debate. :D I want to assure you that despite the harshness of my initial post I have no hard feelings. I was just taken aback by a change that came totally out of the blue for me. I hope you have no hard feelings as well.

-------------

I'm with Eric and the in-game logic: The buoy in front of the station is a navigation buoy. In other words: its primary purpose is to be a pilot's navigation target on his way from the witchpoint. Analogous to this there is the witchpoint buoy whose primary purpose it is to be a pilot's navigation target on his way to the witchpoint. (I am aware that in the backstory the witchpoint beacon has another primary purpose, namely providing and communicating the exit point of a wormhole through witchspace, but this is not what you're actually using it for in the game.)

So we have two complementary buoys (also looking identical, except for the flashers on the witchpoint buoy) serving as navigational points. Thus it seems logical that beacon codes are assigned to these two buoys. I find it hard to disagree with the sentiment that a station buoy deprived of its beacon code becomes somewhat superfluous. (I am also aware that the station buoy is meant as a way to optically align your ship with the station before docking. However, you can also align with the planet itself, keeping it centred in your rear view while having the docking bay centred in your front view, thus the buoy is not a necessity. At least that is how I have aligned and docked ever since I first played Elite in 1985.)

For me this is a reason to leave things as they are.
cim wrote:is the cycle position (planet-station-sun-etc.) correct, or should it be moved to be something else (e.g. planet-sun-target-station)?
I am not opposed to replacing the triangle+'N' and triangle+'W' characters with something else. I can easily imagine custom characters instead, without the triangle. My favourite order would be planet-(station)-sun-station buoy-witchpoint buoy-everything else. In other word: keep it as it is now, except that no additional beacons can get in-between the sun and the buoys. This would eliminate the odd situation with Commies.
cim wrote:If the new main station ends up being a rock hermit a long way from the planet, it seems a bit strange that with an ASC in 1.76 you get the station beacon only within 3x planet radius and 2x hermit scanner radius, which don't overlap; that's to an extent a separate issue. If you don't like the idea of having a universally-visible station beacon for the ASC, do you have any opinions on how this bug should be dealt with?
If possible, I would prefer to suppress the station beacon altogether if the original main station has been destroyed. Thus, if through the explosion/removal of the main station another entity has become the main station, its position wouldn't appear on the compass at all. Or alternatively, could the station beacon be tied to the main station position rather than the main station entity? In that case, even after the destruction/removal of the main station, the compass would still point to the position where it once was. This would effectively remove the buggy behaviour.

I concede that it would make it harder for the player to find the alternative main station. However, it would make it clearer that something terrible happened in the system. And for me, the whole if-the-main-station-is-destroyed-the-closest-other-carrier-(even-a-moving-ship)-becomes-the-main-station thing has always been an awkward hack. After all, even if you make it to the alternative main station and save your game; once you reload it, you find yourself in a miraculously restored main station, not in the entity where you saved the game, which is a little silly. This may be a minority position, though.
cim wrote:While I'm talking about the ASC, does anyone else find it really difficult to get proper pitch alignment with the triangle beacons? The point at which I think the triangle is centred on the compass usually leads to me pointing some way above the actual object. What do people think about changing it to a diamond, or some other object with both vertical and horizontal symmetry?
Speaking of that, I find it difficult to get proper alignment with any beacon. On my compass it seems (and has always seemed since C64-Elite) that all beacon symbols have to be aligned with a point slightly above and slightly left to the crosshairs in the compass. That's the point where the beacon symbol doesn't move when rolling the ship. Otherwise the symbol rotates around this point, not around the centre of the crosshairs. Having a triangle to align instead of something square only adds a little to the confusion.
Last edited by Commander McLane on Tue Apr 17, 2012 1:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Cody »

I must admit that I've never understood the difficulty some players have with docking, so tend not to consider it.
Disembodied wrote:slow down the station rotation in the core game too, for that matter – it makes the stations seem larger and makes docking less fatal for those who are still getting the hang of it.
I'd definitely agree with this!
As for the ASC, my order of beacon preference would be planet/sun/station... then whatever.
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Re: Beacons on the Advanced Space Compass

Post by Smivs »

As someone who has only recently re-discovered the delights of manual docking I agree that the Navigation Beacon is a useful tool for all sorts of reasons, and would not want to see it diminished in any way or removed.
As has been pointed out the 'Fly to the beacon, then align with the docking port' method is really the only way a novice can begin to master the art of docking, but speaking as this 'born-again' manual docker, I still find it useful, even when approaching the station/dock at a weird angle and a high-ish speed. Seeing the beacon in relation to the station helps to assess the approach angle, and gives a good idea as to the orientation of the station in relation to both the planet and the player.
I like the current arrangement re the ASC (probably just because it is what I'm used to), and personally see no compelling reason to change it, but am open to persuasion if real benefits would flow from re-arranging things.
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