So, potential approach (almost all on the areas where Oolite already differs from Elite) - the general aim would be to make combat easier for new players (by reducing the number of enemies in safe systems significantly) but harder for experienced players (by reducing the power of high-end equipment, making the AI more dangerous in packs, and taking away some auto-win tactics that a new player wouldn't think of or have the equipment for):
1) Remove the range differences between lasers - set them all to 12.5km (Thargoid turret laser could stay at 17.5km)
2) Reduce the Cobra III back to 300m/s top speed
3) Add 5 to all NPC skill levels
4) Make beam lasers much rarer on NPCs except in the most dangerous systems
5) Reduce pack sizes for all types significantly - generally 1 or 2 ships only, with 4 or 5 as a pack size for the most dangerous systems. (Under half the current sizes). Similarly reduce escort counts for traders.
6) Remove packs from the 'foreign raider' generation for both hunters and pirates - use individual (but tough) ships
7) Make shield boosters improve recharge rate, not shield size - paired with EEU and especially NEU you'll still get a lot of extra effective shielding, but only if you're not constantly being hit.
8. Possibly also reduce the number of ships generated in total.
9) Make injectors much more fuel-efficient, but only give a small (50%?) speed boost, and generate heat to prevent constant use. Reduce the masslock radius for stars significantly to compensate.
10) Remove 'player-unknown' from the list of roles pirates attack, so that new players get attacked much less (especially if they don't get into an A-B loop)
I'm working on it. I basically slapped together Skilled NPC and Deep Space Pirates, and modified so they scale with the player's score (aka number of kills). From Harmless to Dangerous, Skilled NPC will apply a "baseline" from -5 to +5 and DSP will spawn from 1 to 10 ships. That's +1 accuracy every 32 kills and +1 ship every 50 kills or so. I chose the dangerous rating as an upper limit because higher ranks require so many kills that you have to make hundreds of kills to see a slight difficulty increase.
I modified DSP to make it "active" everywhere (except near stations) and as soon as one uses the Torus drive, with probabilities adjusted so that it spawns something about every minute of Torus use. So that should result in 2 or 3 encounters for a trip to the sun (I'm assuming a "distant sun" here).
So DSP focuses less on "pirate coating" the lane(s) and more on acting as an ad hoc
populator (with the idea that the main station shouldn't be the only destination any more), and Skilled NPC rather acts as an "unskilled NPC" at the beginning of a game. Spawning unskilled ships is not only for "noobs". Being more fair in the early phase makes it less of a hassle, doesn't call for ugly player-centric features (350 PC/300 NPC Cobra etc.) and doesn't prevent from fixing ridiculous exploits (off-lane travel, injector+torus escape etc.).
Numbers certainly need to be adjusted, and for now the difficulty level is global to all systems. When I make it local to each system (with effective local difficulty= average difficulty of the neighbour systems), I'll consider increasing the local difficulty each time the player enters a system, so that easy-money-milk-run won't last forever.
This is slightly different from the suggested plan, which might be effective but certain points are just un-sexy.
- Point 1) kills the tactical advantage of the mil laser. Killing variety is bad - we actually need more of it. Why not nerf its damage instead, and make the AI more clever about it (like inject and dodge to get in range, or otherwise abandon pursuit when the base speed difference makes it obvious they won't be able to do that)? There's in particular one AI behaviour that needs to be fixed: the one that gets just in range, then goes right and fires a few shots and then goes left and fires a few shots, etc. It becomes really ridiculous when you realise that it matches your speed to stay exactly in range, so if you stop it will do its little dance in the distance and occasionally hit you.
- Point 5), 6) and 8) is I believe the opposite of what people want. I believe they'd prefer to fight huge packs of low accuracy bots rather than 1 or 2 aimbots. Aimbots are just frustrating, and reducing shield regen and/or size as suggested further down make them even more frustrating.
- Point 7) has a problem with multiple lasers. Especially with the "multiply" option. This configuration trades sustained damage for burst damage. So 1 or 2 ships with multiple mounts and good accuracy can bring down your shields very fast. The counter to burst damage is increased HP, errr, I mean shield size, not better regen. if multiply and split mounts option are real alternatives, then the player should have a choice between shield size and shield regen.
- Point 9) is a problem for in-lane masslocks. Fixes are being worked on, though. BTW is there something like equipment-overrides.plist?
I'm also considering a different start: a Medical Moray converted for mining, with cargo bay extension, mining laser, fuel scoops, injectors, and 0 credits. It's approximately the same value as the default start. It's interesting to note that many alternative starts feature mining. A miner start in this configuration has a number of advantages in my eyes:
- you go from place to place, shoot asteroids, catch splinters. It is a relatively fun activity that not worth the time later on in the game (computer/fur milk runs etc.).
- your fuel tank stays full nearly all the time, so it is relatively safe with injectors.
- the Moray is less of a potential über-ship than the Cobra 3, so players can set themselves goals: e.g. pax/parcel Cobra I or trader Cobra III
- it uses only core game elements and requires 0 scripting.