Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

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Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Redspear » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:10 pm

ECM is a common defence meaning that standard missiles are often not very effective. Hardened missiles remain very useful but fairly expensive. Later game hardhead expense is not really a problem but early game they are not very affordable.

Some possibilities with regards to ECM and Missiles.

1 - ECM that discriminates based on target. In elite ECM was highly effective against all missiles and so its one real drawback was that it could also disable any missiles that you had fired. If it were to become specific to missiles targeted at your own ship's 'signature' then standard missiles are more often a useful form of attack. The drawback of this approach is that you can't attempt to make an enemy employ their ECM to save your own hide.

2 - Missile vs missile (i.e. missile as a missile target) could be viable if there were a special targeting mode (shift M perhaps). Evasive maneuvers would likely still be advisable most of the time. Drawback here is likely to be that often the missile fired in defence may not reach its target in sufficient time, if at all.

3 - ECM that is more expensive in terms of energy use. Being hit by a missile costs energy and so activating an ECM should cost significantly less but if it cost half as much (for example) then even getting an opponent to activate it could constitute a successful attack. Problem could be ships with many missiles simply wearing down a single opponent (option 2 could help to balance this however).

Presently, I think option 3 has potential. If an ECM burst can take out more than one missile then energy wise it can still be a bargain to use it occasionally. If a missile hit can range in severity from serious to devastating then it seems reasonable that an ECM burst could be significant in energy cost whilst remaining an important defence. I haven't investigated the facts and figures yet but from experience I know that the ECM can be activated almost indiscriminately in many encounters - the cost to do so is seldom worth considering.
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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Astrobe » Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:45 pm

I think 2) already exists ('T' key)?

More options:

- ECM could just disable a missile for X seconds, or induce other funny malfunctions like changing its target.

- Standard missiles could have much lower damage but much larger area of effect, with the idea to use them to weaken multiple targets at once at the expense of potentially taking this damage yourself. Perhaps add 50% ECM resistance in order to make them a bit more reliable. ECM could then be used as an unreliable forced remote detonation.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by phkb » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:14 am

Redspear wrote: I know that the ECM can be activated almost indiscriminately in many encounters - the cost to do so is seldom worth considering.
I find that in smaller ships with a lower amount of energy available, hitting the ECM is pretty serious in terms of energy use. 2 hits right after one another could almost drain your available entry. Larger ships, or any ship post-installing the naval energy unit (or anything that improves your recharge rate), tend not to notice so much.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Cody » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:35 am

Redspear wrote:
Sun Mar 19, 2017 9:10 pm
In elite ECM was highly effective against all missiles...
Elite Plus had an anti-ECM (specially awarded kit) - used plenty of energy, but stopped NPCs zapping your missiles. Tricky thing to use!

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Disembodied » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:01 am

How about reducing the effective range of an ECM? This would need an AI upgrade, of course, for the NPCs.

<opens can of worms>Any alterations to ECM and/or missiles will probably mean that the NPCs need new tactics. At the top end of the difficulty table, there's a whole lot of ways that new missile types could be added, from big, anti-capital-ship torpedoes (low rate of turn, lots of damage, hard to destroy, can only be carried by big ships or possibly specially adapted small ships where it's their only weapon, a bit like the Fairey Swordfish) to small, fast, cheap, low-damage harassment munitions common to small ships - and a variety of ECM systems to cope.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by spara » Mon Mar 20, 2017 1:15 pm

Prabably stating the obvious here, but I find that with the introduction of big ship groups the probability that at least one of the ships has an ECM is quite high. One can of course see those ships as specialized group members, but I find it a bit boring that the basic missiles are very often useless. Just bringing down the individual probabilities for NPC ships to have ECM would be worth trying.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Astrobe » Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:41 pm

Probabilities for NPCs to carry an ECM equipment is one side of the problem. The other side is that their standard missiles are not a threat for the player either (except when shot point-blank...).

Against ECM spamming by the player I would suggest locking down commands for a short duration (enough to make you think twice before hitting the 'E' key - maybe the same as the scanner jamming effect?). Then combine with a moderate ECM resistance for standard missiles.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by spara » Mon Mar 20, 2017 8:34 pm

What Astrobe says, coils need time to charge.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Redspear » Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:10 am

Thanks for your thoughts everyone.

Astrobe wrote: I think 2) already exists ('T' key)?
Really? :oops:

Astrobe wrote: ECM could just disable a missile for X seconds, or induce other funny malfunctions like changing its target.
Doesn't Erectile Dangerous do something similar vs missiles?
Missile tennnis could be fun for a while but not for much longer I suspect.

phkb wrote: I find that in smaller ships with a lower amount of energy available, hitting the ECM is pretty serious in terms of energy use.
True but when using an adder I'd still hit the ECM nine times out of ten; plus I suspect players in smaller ships tend to move on to larger ones, at least in terms of energy (IIRC most fighters have three energy banks to the adder's one).

Disembodied wrote:<opens can of worms>
Yes indeed...
It would be nice to get the basic missiles working in a more interesting fashion before adding more variety I think; by the same token there is an argument to be made for discarding hardhead missiles - they just create a situation of extemes.
I quite like some of your suggestions though.

spara wrote: Prabably stating the obvious here, but I find that with the introduction of big ship groups the probability that at least one of the ships has an ECM is quite high. One can of course see those ships as specialized group members, but I find it a bit boring that the basic missiles are very often useless.
Worth stating/re-stating as it is the crux of the problem (at least as I see it).

On Thargoids from the elite manual:
  • These ships are extremely fast for their size and invariably have ECM Systems (this was originally a Thargoid invention to counter Navy missiles, subsequently copied by the Navy from captured Thargoid ships).
So Thargoids had ECM but other ships very rarely. Worked quite nicely from a player-centric point of view in that you had your bank of missiles to help you out of tricky spots (the player is often outnumbered but never outnumbers his opponents) but there was a tougher class of enemy where that strategy would no longer work (thargoids).

And yet:
An ECM System (literally Electronic Counter Measures System) is offered for sale at Tech level 2*
So they are relatively cheap and highly abundant.

*3 in Oolite.

Astrobe wrote: Probabilities for NPCs to carry an ECM equipment is one side of the problem. The other side is that their standard missiles are not a threat for the player either (except when shot point-blank...).
So, for ECM to be less common suggests higher tech level and expensive operation whether energetically or financially.

I'm not so sure about missiles not being a threat but they seem to be less deadly than in elite, besides, if we can justify them being harder to come by (for the player too) then low damage could prevent them being utterly deadly in the early game (especially to pilots who trade down frrom the mk III).

If ECM were very high-tech then not only purchase but repairs would often not be possible.
Another option might be to give ECM a higher probability of being damaged - perhaps it is particularly sensitive equipment and so often fails (another reason to make it rarer for non player ships).


A few simple changes that I think would be complementary:

  • Higher Tech Level (much higher) for the ECM
  • Standard Missiles more expensive (perhaps x3)
  • Hardheads redefined as a heavy damage missile with limited ECM resistance

What does this solve?

  • Standard missiles are now more effective (but not cheap enough to stock up indiscriminately)
  • Player ECM is both harder to aquire and more difficult to maintain (making it less reliable as a defence)
  • Reason for non-player ECM to be rarer now present (and is non-player-centric)
  • A genuinely dangerous missile now exists (but ECM is still fairly effective against it, stopping it from becoming all powerful)

Perhaps apart from the changes to the hardhead, I think it's all just simple plist editing too.
Have I just given myself another oxp to make? :P
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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by phkb » Tue Mar 21, 2017 1:13 am

Redspear wrote: Reason for non-player ECM to be rarer now present (and is non-player-centric)
For this element, I don't think a plist will be enough. Some ship roles are awarded an ECM during system population. So I think the easiest way to achieve rarity is to right a simple world script for shipSpawned that randomly removes the ECM, with perhaps some weighting based on role. It might also be worth checking the ship autoWeapons property, and only do the removal if it's set to true.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Astrobe » Tue Mar 21, 2017 6:44 am

Redspear wrote:
Tue Mar 21, 2017 12:10 am
Astrobe wrote: ECM could just disable a missile for X seconds, or induce other funny malfunctions like changing its target.
Doesn't Erectile Dangerous do something similar vs missiles?
Missile tennnis could be fun for a while but not for much longer I suspect.
I never played E:D, so any similarities are pure coincidence. You may "accuse" me of copying Mass Effect, Vega Strike, Diaspora:Shattered Armistice, Pioneer, or Limit Theory (didn't play it but watched it closely)... But not E:D :-D.
Standard Missiles more expensive (perhaps x3)
[...]
What does this solve?

Standard missiles are now more effective (but not cheap enough to stock up indiscriminately)
[...]
This affects the player only, because AFAIK NPCs have no "budget". It's more an observation than an argument, though. The AI mostly uses missiles when it is about to die anyway. To be fair, there's few computationally cheap criteria, except perhaps for group leaders who could hit the button when they see their escorts/wingmen die (i.e. consider the health of the group, not just their own). But that's perhaps more a suggestion to the core developers, cause IIRC that logic is embedded in the core game.

The "NPC budget" thing gives me the idea that introducing it could be an other way to increase the difficulty level in my grand scheme (yeah, I'm actually working on it). Doing something about missiles is an item on my todo list, so I'm very interested in ready-made solutions.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Redspear » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:02 am

phkb wrote:I don't think a plist will be enough. Some ship roles are awarded an ECM during system population. So I think the easiest way to achieve rarity is to right a simple world script for shipSpawned that randomly removes the ECM, with perhaps some weighting based on role. It might also be worth checking the ship autoWeapons property, and only do the removal if it's set to true.
Good point but it needn't be a problem.

Assuming that ECM is added to ships via 2 methods (shipdata.plist chance and script) then the script method is likely only necessary when a ship really should have an ECM on account of its role or some other factor. If I'm correct about that (haven't checked yet) then it would conveniently be the method that I would want to interfere with the least.

Astrobe wrote:I never played E:D, so any similarities are pure coincidence. You may "accuse" me of copying Mass Effect, Vega Strike, Diaspora:Shattered Armistice, Pioneer, or Limit Theory (didn't play it but watched it closely)... But not E:D :D
Fair enough :D
Astrobe wrote:
Redspear wrote:Standard Missiles more expensive (perhaps x3)
[...]
What does this solve?

Standard missiles are now more effective (but not cheap enough to stock up indiscriminately)
[...]
This affects the player only, because AFAIK NPCs have no "budget". It's more an observation than an argument, though. The AI mostly uses missiles when it is about to die anyway.
AFAIK the AI is not sufficiently sophisticated to recognise the proposed increase in value of the missiles wheras the player is. Therefore it need only affect the player as they are piloting the only ship that would likely fire missiles more often in response to the changes I have proposed.

Likewise, no budget for non players means they wouldn't use missiles any less than before either; they would appear exactly as often as before. Given that most ships only fire missiles occasionally anyway (as you point out) this is probably about right if the player is not to have it too tough early game. For the player it would simply be a case of recognising their increased value with an increase in price.

I'm thinking of giving the ECM a damage probability of 3 or perhaps even 5, making it a rather fragile piece of kit...
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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by phkb » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:15 am

Redspear wrote:I'm thinking of giving the ECM a damage probability of 3 or perhaps even 5, making it a rather fragile piece of kit...
That would hopefully mean my cloaking device and military shield enhancement would stop being the first items to go each time...

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Disembodied » Tue Mar 21, 2017 9:49 am

One (rather player-centric) problem with missiles is the NPC close-quarters launch. NPCs have a tendency to launch missiles as a last resort, and when dogfights get up-close and personal, the NPC is usually getting hammered by the player. I am sure we've all been caught that way: taking a missile full in the face, just as we kill the NPC that launched it (in fact, I often trigger my ECM as I close for a kill, just in case).

There are two issues: one is, launching a missile this late doesn't really do the NPC any good; the other is, it can result in a "WTF!?" player death, which is never very satisfying. Is it possible to solve this? Maybe a missile needs to travel a certain distance before its warhead arms? A close-proximity launch might still hit, but it would produce minor collision damage only. This would mean that NPCs need to launch earlier in combat, and from further away.

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Re: Some thoughts on Missiles & ECM

Post by Smivs » Tue Mar 21, 2017 10:18 am

A couple of thoughts/points based on tactics I use.
I normally carry more regular missiles than hardheads. The hardheads are useful for scaring away ships when you are getting pounded, particularly the likes of Kraits who won't normally have ECM. They can make a dire situation manageable by reducing the number of attacking ships. The regular ones are for when you are basically dead and have no injectors or ECM working, and some sod lobs a missile at you. Target it and use a regular missile to 'remove' it. Cr30 to save your butt is a good deal.
I also use close-quarters launches as a tactic, so wouldn't be keen on an 'arming period'. If you get it right the blast won't affect you (too much :D ), and I have even taken out Thargoid warships this way despite the superior ECM - a couple of missiles close in in quick succession (about 0.5 seconds apart) can be effective.
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