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 Post subject: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 2:26 pm 
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Deriving in part from this story about E:D, is there a role for a general scanning device in Oolite, which can draw out more information about an object? This would seem to me to be a good hook for missions/stories … obviously, secret codes etc. would have to be rare, special events, but of the objects out there to be scanned, what sort of day-to-day information could a scanner reveal?

At the moment, we have the [wiki]Scanner Targeting Enhancement[/wiki] and the [wiki]Wormhole Scanner[/wiki] in the core game. For OXPs, there's also the [wiki]Cargo Scanner OXP[/wiki] and the [wiki]Bounty Scanner[/wiki]. If we had a general "scanner" functionality in the game (built around the ship ident system on the "r" key), these could all be add-ons to that system, and all their capabilities rolled into the core game.

There are four basic classes of objects in the game (I think):
  1. Ships and ship-like objects (i.e. ones that move on their own). This would include Escape Pods and, conceivably, things such as Star Jellies.
  2. Inert objects: cargo canisters, rocks, boulders and splinters.
  3. Stations.
  4. Planets and suns.
There is one possible oddity: derelict ships/deactivated Tharglets. These might need a category of their own.

So what extra information could be drawn out of these different objects, when scanned? And how long should that scanning take? Personally, I'd be in favour of a delay, as with the wormhole scanner, for a lot of the extra information: scanning should require some care and attention, so a delay would seem to be appropriate. Perhaps some information could be immediate, and some would require a scanner enhancement and/or a longer period of "digging". Some might not be available for every object, either.

1) Ships: information could include ship name; Commander name; legal status; armaments; extra equipment; outbound from; inbound to; declared cargo manifest

2) Cargo contents; name of ship registered to (for canisters); mineral/alloy/precious metal content (for rocks/boulders/splinters)

3) Stations: station name; allegiance; restrictions on trade (e.g. if certain goods are illegal to import and/or export)

4) Planets and suns: name; allegiance; atmosphere/habitability (for planets); spectral classification; coronal instability (for stars)

Are there other types of objects, and/or other kinds of information which a scanner could, in time, reveal? And would this information provide potential jumping-off points for player fun?

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 2:41 pm 
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Use of active scanners could be considered an act of aggression - I'd probably treat it as such.

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 3:02 pm 
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Use of active scanners could be considered an act of aggression - I'd probably treat it as such.
Very true - using active scanners on a ship under its own power (as opposed to a derelict) would be an aggressive act. Perhaps police ships would be allowed to do it without provoking a reaction (from most NPCs, at least), although even the police might have limits on what they can scan for, depending on the system … what might constitute grounds for "reasonable suspicion"? A (minor) Offender rating, maybe? Entering the aegis on an unusual vector? Certain types of reputation - including, in some systems anyway, "You ain't from round here"? Player species, if such a thing were to be open to definition?

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:29 pm 
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Quote:
declared cargo manifest
Don't forget the manifest scanner.

I've been thinking of an archeology oxp that would require the player to scan for possible undiscovered archaeological sites. It could be a long range type scanner that would require the player to explore the system a little bit to discover such sites, although this might tend to lead the player away from the lane. Another approach might be to make the player wait until docking with the station to get a list of possible objects in the system that need to be scanned at close range to determine if they have archaeological value.
Quote:
Very true - using active scanners on a ship under its own power (as opposed to a derelict) would be an aggressive act. Perhaps police ships would be allowed to do it without provoking a reaction (from most NPCs, at least), although even the police might have limits on what they can scan for, depending on the system
I believe the bounty system oxp is like this.

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 4:32 pm 
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There's some interesting scanner stuff going on in SotL - perhaps some of that could be adapted?

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:03 pm 
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I don't quite understand why the bounty scanner of Smugglers OXZ triggers hostility when the cargo scanner won't (I didn't try any of them, though, it's just from what I read from the descriptions).

I like the idea of the delay -- it should take time for systems to get the info and to cross-check it with the databases. And possibly one could have equipments that jam some sensors (or deliver a fake information). It would be add a new "cyber warfare" aspect.

3) and 4) already exist and/or are not really useful, unless you are prospecting. Maybe it could work if one pretends that some galactic sector was newly discovered. That would be an activity between exploring and spying. Or perhaps we can have distant dwarf planets that'd be suited for mining activities. In the list of things to scan one could maybe add "ancient (and extinct (perhaps)) Alien civilisations".

1) could be interesting with some of the ship mods like Ship configuration, to see the exact equipment of other ships.

For 2) I can think of a "gravity scan" that would let miners find asteroid fields in the system.

edit: others posted similar ideas while I was writing.


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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:30 pm 
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Quote:
Don't forget the manifest scanner.

I've been thinking of an archeology oxp that would require the player to scan for possible undiscovered archaeological sites. It could be a long range type scanner that would require the player to explore the system a little bit to discover such sites, although this might tend to lead the player away from the lane. Another approach might be to make the player wait until docking with the station to get a list of possible objects in the system that need to be scanned at close range to determine if they have archaeological value.
Yes, good point. And I like the archaeology idea! Maybe scannable objects could have one (or more) "special" categories, open to definition, for missions - an asteroid could for example contain anything from archaeological remains to ship fragments (for a search/rescue mission) to biological traces/life signs (searching for a secret base/conducting a scientific survey/search and rescue, again).

A process for hunting down objects in space would be good. A compass heading to a "last known location", followed by … what? Waypoints/compass headings set to "probable direction of travel"? Would it be possible to create a compass bearing that was vague? Or some sort of "ping" that the player could follow? I think it would be better to have something that required a bit of skill and judgement from the player, rather than just "go to A, get co-ordinates for B; go to B, get co-ordinates for C", etc. And the final discovery should be down to Mark I eyeball.
Quote:
3) and 4) already exist and/or are not really useful, unless you are prospecting. Maybe it could work if one pretends that some galactic sector was newly discovered. That would be an activity between exploring and spying. Or perhaps we can have distant dwarf planets that'd be suited for mining activities. In the list of things to scan one could maybe add "ancient (and extinct (perhaps)) Alien civilisations".
Yes, they wouldn't be tremendously useful, unless there was an element of exploration involved (as in SotL, or even just moons and dwarf planets). Although maybe a stellar scan could let the player know about levels of solar activity, if that was something that might need consideration - maybe high levels of activity makes sunskimming more dangerous. Or the scan could help pick out areas on the star that are "rich in quirium" for better/quicker sunskimming.
Quote:
There's some interesting scanner stuff going on in SotL - perhaps some of that could be adapted?
Definitely worth looking at!

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 5:58 pm 
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[wiki]CombatMFD[/wiki] also show info about the current target: distance, speed, radius, facing shield is front or aft, laser weapon type and range (after a shot landed on you), legal status, damaged-weak-derelict status and fired missiles type and counter.

[wiki]Detectors[/wiki] show the armor, shield and energy of target in some HUDs (Numeric and built-in ones in [wiki]HUDSelector[/wiki]) if somebody want it and not consider it as cheating - this is why still no OXZ version of this package but maybe can help to somebody to make an acceptable scanner.

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:22 pm 
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Quote:
I think it would be better to have something that required a bit of skill and judgement from the player, rather than just "go to A, get co-ordinates for B; go to B, get co-ordinates for C", etc. And the final discovery should be down to Mark I eyeball.
IMO the standard compass is sufficiently low-res to fit the job.
Quote:
Yes, they wouldn't be tremendously useful, unless there was an element of exploration involved (as in SotL, or even just moons and dwarf planets). Although maybe a stellar scan could let the player know about levels of solar activity, if that was something that might need consideration - maybe high levels of activity makes sunskimming more dangerous. Or the scan could help pick out areas on the star that are "rich in quirium" for better/quicker sunskimming.
I can be made really dangerous if one can make the solar heating vary over time. If we imagine that it cannot be measured/forecast when you're close to it, then that could be turned into a mission in which the player monitors the solar activity for skimmers (and occasionally repel pirates). And/or the core of the mission could consist in using your ship as an extra heat shield by placing yourself between the sun and a skimming tanker when it's getting to hot. You shield it, get away when you're too hot, etc.

Back on the subject of scanners: one problem I see is that, if one wants to use them tactically, the scanned ships may turn orange on the scanner, thus defeating the purpose (I'm thinking here about the poor that Jameson that has no injectors, no ECM, etc.)
Those extra scanning devices could take the form of single-use probes to be launched from pylons. The probe would just go straight forward while scanning and its range should be the one of the usual scanner (hence providing sort of a temporary 1.5X scanner range in a specific direction, assuming one has to keep it on the scanner for it to work). This way, the advantage one gets from the extra info is compensated by the pylon cost and the probe cost (maybe something below the price of a standard missile). Conversely, pirates could send them in the direction of the lane and a mini-game could consist in shooting them down. And we could have longer-lived static probes as well.


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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 6:33 pm 
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Scanner probes, hmm … I still like the idea of having an active scanner on the ship, which might require time (and proximity) to pull results out of e.g. rocks, cargo pods, NPC ships, etc. But launching probes might be one way of hunting things down in deep space: shooting off low-cost probes in various directions, in the hope that one might signal back an "item of interest" marker on the compass which could then be followed.

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 Post subject: Re: Active scanners
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2016 10:49 pm 
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The Warrant Scanner, which is part of the [EliteWiki] Bounty System will display the pilot's name, and if their role is one of the standard core roles, additionally say something like "Known pirate". It takes a few seconds to run, and ships will consider it hostile, particularly if that ship knows it has an undiscovered bounty in the current system.

As part of the mission pack I'm working on I've developed something I'm currently calling a "Range Finder". You can set it to scan for ships, asteroids, escape capsules and a couple of other things. When you activate it, it scans all items within 100km (or 250km if an "Extender" is purchased), and reports back purely on the distance to all objects found that fit the scan mode. If [EliteWiki] Ship Config is also installed, operating the scanner will generate cabin heat, so you can't run it endlessly.

Anyway, just more grist for the mill!

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