Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
An Introduction


As the title suggests, Derelict ships, Ship Debris and Better Damage Effects are my three requests for additions to the game in order to increase immersion and fun while playing. Below I will provide detailed reasoning for why each should be added and an explanation as to how each of these are both possible and easy to implement - so please, if you intend to respond please read the entire post before doing so.

Let me truly begin by stating I'm a beta tester, Lifetime subscriber, Collectors Edition owner, Vice Admiral, modder, and a lover of all space games. Not only would I hope that the voice of someone who shelled out hundreds for this game would carry some weight, but due to my intense enthusiasm for all space games - I know what makes them truly iconic, memorable, immersive and most importantly - replayable. I'm also a modder and have worked on multiple games including my favorite: Freelancer, of which I was part of the teams that created FL:CE and Discovery Mod - I know my way around implementing new features, especially to games which weren't made to support them. Yet we (the modding community) do it all the time.

So, with my background out of the way, you can get an understanding (hopefully) of my perspective and we can begin!

Derelict Ships


Recent missions have seen a rise in the number of ships you can turn into floating coffins rather than boring fireworks, one in particular "Everything Old Is New" allows the player to disable at least a dozen enemy vessels, leaving the ship floating around helplessly venting smoke and plasma. This mission was a blast for me and reminded me of what space battles should feel like. As it is now, every single ship you face enters the same states of damage and blow up in exactly the same way with the ship magically disappearing (rather sloppily, I might add) within the pretty orange glow. Now, I'll admit - seeing that explosion for the first time is pretty epic considering you just witnessed an entire ship go critical and get blown into oblivion with no trace of it left - that truly is an empowering feeling however, after the 5th time or so you realize - that's all there is to enjoy. We're in space, to destroy a vessel all you need to do is incapacitate it NOT blow up its warp core! Save that huge explosion and make it a rare occurrence, doing so will make that huge explosion (especially if debris gets strewn about everywhere) extremely satisfying again, as it was the first time the player saw it. Variations of derelict ships would need to be made to ensure this effect doesn't get old like the generic "pop, pop" did. Sometimes a ship can simply go derelict in a manner identical to how the ships in "Everything Old Is New" do, while other times, small explosions can occur in various (or random) areas of the ship as it breaks apart into chunks (nacelles breaking off, saucer sections, hull cracking in two, etc). These chunks and derelicts will then remain until either the player leaves the instance, or the instance is "cleared" (in the manner of Fleet Engagements and Enemy Contacts), leaving behind a battlefield as a momentary trophy of what you accomplished during the battle. Making heavy weapons such as the Spinal Lance, Heavy Torpedoes or an Overloaded Beam could increase the likelihood of (or guarantee) a more drastic ship death - adding a layer of strategy AND depth to space combat (which visually, is very lacking). Imagine firing your Spinal Lance or a Heavy Torpedo at your nearly defeated foe, then witnessing the devastating explosive fruits of your labor flash like fireworks before your eyes! Increase the explosive range and damaging effect of ships that *do* go critical and you have an immersive, visually pleasing and potentially strategic effect that improves how space combat looks, feels, and potentially plays out. The way it is now, crew dies way too fast due to the number of explosions during an engagement - how many times in Star Trek shows do you see hundreds of crew becoming injured while shields are still up even if the ship is taking a beating? The answer: Rarely - the words "shields are holding" are almost always accompanied by very low crew injuries or fatalities.

How This Can Be Done


While it *is* an instance, framerate and stability remain unchanged during "Everything Old Is New" as well as when fighting against the Borg, when ship chunks are plentiful. Framerate is also relatively unhindered by the MANY chunks that appear during ground battles (turret debris, chunks of rock, grenade debris - just to name a few) and there is never a shortage of debris in ground battles! Physics objects or "chunks" are already a scalable option within each players settings since these objects are rendered client-side rather than server-side which means the server doesn't take a hit, since it is your own computer rendering these objects. I'm unsure of how the derelicts are handled, though even if rendering these derelicts is server-side, it simply means that even if every ship in the instance was made a derelict, the number of rendered objects would simply not decrease rather than increase, as some people believe. We see wrecks all the time: Wolf 359, Starbase 24, *every* Enemy Signal Contact - imagine creating those wrecks and ask yourself "If there are systems devoted to including them, why aren't they added to combat?". Keep in mind that chunks (which would make up a sizable portion of battle clutter) are rendered client-side - making them scalable for each player's tastes, the occasional critical explosion removes the rendering completely and all ships are removed and replaced when an instance "re-sets" or "clears", making the performance hit for the server or player non-existent or so negligible as to go without notice during gameplay.

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Ship Debris


This was touched on briefly along with derelict ships in the explanation above since they go hand-in-hand, however, much more can be done than simply adding broken ship parts. Such as: floating corpses in space, botched escape pods, internal components, corridor parts, torpedo casings, storage crates, shuttles, fighters (for carriers), the wrecked warp core (after a ship has gone critical and entirely detonated) - these are just off the top of my head, the possibilities are limited only by imagination. These small chunks would play an important role in making the generic "pop" explosion (which would become the "going critical" explosion) truly exciting to witness. Seeing all manner of debris thrown every direction along with a huge explosion is intensely satisfying in any space game regardless of sub-genre.

How This Can Be Done


This is already done on Borg ships and the only reason it has not been done on all ships is that it would take development time. Currently the team is working on more missions, more missions, more missions all while players are leaving in droves. Adding MORE unsatisfying, repetitive, boring content will NOT encourage players to stay or new players to join. Improving and polishing what already exists will. That fact is supported by the feedback on the new Sector Space change! There will never be a shortage of bickering children wanting things their way, don't listen to them; Listen to your devoted fans who simply want things to be better and to see you succeed as a company. Hell, offer the community the chance aid you in developing these improvements (and I mean develop, not provide feedback)! Many of them will do it freely simply because they adore what you have created and want to see it blossom further. You might find new employees within your fan-base - don't limit consumers as mere consumers.

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Better Damage Effects


While being slightly less important, since battles tend to take place at a distance, and damage tends to be overshadowed by the light-show happening before your eyes, an improvement to visible damage is absolutely necessary. The current 3-stage system is boring, ugly and very poorly implemented - there's just no way to say it kindly; The implementation of the current system was negligent at its worst and lazy at its best.

How This Can Be Done


In Freelancer, the 88 Flak mod team (which I was a member of quite briefly) managed to implement dynamic ship damage in an 8 year old game that wasn't designed to ever be modified, with a skeleton crew of modding enthusiasts. Creating dynamic damage based on areas of damage received is a lengthy process to be sure but not a difficult one. Currently in STO, damage is not actually applied on-site, meaning where the attack seems to land is irrelevant to the damage done. This, while true, is irrelevant to adding dynamic damage scaling since all that is necessary is plotting particular points on each ship (which already exist, since the game needs to have points coded for where the attack effect lands) where visual damage can be scaled. Add secondary effects on top of this scaling such as cargo or crew spilling out of the damage zone and you have a simple, yet reliable and visually pleasing damage effect!

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In Conclusion


New missions, such as "Everything Old Is New" and favorite baddies such as the Borg are a favorite among players for a reason and while the initial reason might be that these characters or settings are already a favorite to the player, the reason they enjoy them in-game and continue to play them and talk about them is because there are things they greatly enjoyed about those moments. Rather than attempting to re-create these memorable moments, Cryptic; You need to recognize the simple reasons why these things are so iconic to your fanbase, the little things that even *they* might not have realized! The things listed here are just a handful of those little things and hopefully this thread will open the eyes of some and make a difference within your company - enough to make this fading game shine as it was always capable of.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 2
01-07-2011, 06:48 PM
Firstly, please remove the italics. It makes the text very hard to read.

I would really like more realistic damage. For one, I would like it if the damage on my ship wasn't symmetrical down the middle. However, anything more than texture changes is very difficult to do in computer games. It would be quite time consuming to make physical changes happen to your ship that were random. If the physical damage wasn't random it would quickly become more distracting than immersive. Battle damage has to be done right.

I would like more realistic damage if it could be done easily, but I've gotten used to the jarring damage texture changes over time.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 3
01-09-2011, 08:53 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quetzaal
Firstly, please remove the italics. It makes the text very hard to read.

I would really like more realistic damage. For one, I would like it if the damage on my ship wasn't symmetrical down the middle. However, anything more than texture changes is very difficult to do in computer games. It would be quite time consuming to make physical changes happen to your ship that were random. If the physical damage wasn't random it would quickly become more distracting than immersive. Battle damage has to be done right.

I would like more realistic damage if it could be done easily, but I've gotten used to the jarring damage texture changes over time.
On a development level, damage as stated would (and should) be the last concerned improvement since when you stop to think about how much you actually pay attention to the ship damage you find that you spend very little time noticing it. That said, when you do stop to notice the damage, depending on your level of scrutiny you really notice how lacking it is. I don't know if you've worked on any games before Quetzaal but making more than texture changes isn't difficult; It is merely time consuming and requires creative thinking.

On the note of claiming anything but random damage would become distracting - while that may be true for you as an individual, it is not the case within a game. If you would like, I could provide you with links to the work me and my former teams did on Freelancer and the ships in that game. The game features massive capital ships, each of which we implemented dynamic damage on. This was done by marking specific areas in which damage would accumulate over time - we then added chunks from the ship (which were modeled by hand by taking apart the existing model and separating it into pieces, a feat which is actually rather quick in the hands of a skilled modeler) and upon adding physics to them, these bits of the ship would cascade off once sufficient damage had been accumulated. This made each capital ship "fall apart" in such a manner as you would expect to see in a movie. I reiterate this was done on a game 8 years old and that was never designed to be changed in any manner.

All done by target areas taking damage, visual trickery and objects falling off the ship. This never became distracting to anyone playing our mod and the community there is far more likely to raise a voice due to knowing that what they ask for can be immediately changed and implemented. The opposite was true - both our entire team and the community recognized how different the game felt with our small improvement and how satisfying taking down a vessel felt after the change was implemented compared to what the game had before (which was the identical effect STO uses) - a simple explosion animation and model-removal where the ship simply disappears.

Did our team get lucky with players who weren't easily distracted? Perhaps, but note that distraction is both controllable and often only present when there is lack of attention.

To sum up - what you claim will occur doesn't occur in practice, to which I can provide both insight on (having worked on games) and visual proof for, if you would like. I agree with the most important message in your post - battle damage has to be done right.

It can be - using very simple mechanics, in fact.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 4
01-11-2011, 09:20 AM
This all sounds good in principle, but it seems to me like it would be an awful lot of work if it's just for eyecandy...

I figure if we're ever going to have debris and derelict hulks floating around, it'd be nice if we could have some form of collision damage along side it as well. Fly into a piece of debris, your shields take a bit of a hit, and it bounces off into another direction. The tech for that is already there on the groundmaps, piles of tribbles do it and the remains of your destroyed generators as well. And I know it'd make flying my Defiant a lot more fun for me in PvP, darting around debris in Capture and Hold scenarios while the cruisers are left wading through the remains of their fallen comrades. Though I suppose they might use photonic shockwave to pelt the onlookers with their dead friends' carcasses...

Of course, even if debris is put in without really affecting the battlefield, PvP is exactly the reason why they'd likely exclude playerships from leaving wrecks. (In an Arena map you might have fourteen wrecks before the game ends, but in Capture and Hold they can and will accumulate, if there isn't a despawn timer of some kind... to the point where I'm afraid it'll create graphics issues for some if not, eventually, all.) Likewise maybe for some of the spacebased Fleet Actions.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 5
01-11-2011, 09:49 AM
Starfleet Academy.
Klingon Academy.

++Damage textures++Detachable Parts (nacelles)++Saucer Holes++Plasma(Phaser) Burn on the Hull++Debris++

http://pcmedia.ign.com/media/preview...on001_640w.jpg
http://image.gamespotcdn.net/gamespo...0screen001.jpg

Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 6
01-11-2011, 11:00 AM
Always up for better damage graphics and debris fields.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 7
01-11-2011, 03:15 PM
SIGN X > 9000


I WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGREE WITH THIS!!!! One reason I love Bridge COmmander is that you get to see debris of the ships floating around (and you can crash into it too). I love just looking at the chaos after a long fight, just to sit back and admire how badass I am. I think that this could be a way to be able to bring the "revival" system from ground missions to space. If your friend is down you can go and beam engineers onto their ships and revive it (after a short recharge, not instantly of course). I really mean it, I want to go to Spacedock looking like Voyager from the Year of Hell Episode.
Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 8
01-11-2011, 11:08 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Reave View Post
This all sounds good in principle, but it seems to me like it would be an awful lot of work if it's just for eyecandy...

I figure if we're ever going to have debris and derelict hulks floating around, it'd be nice if we could have some form of collision damage along side it as well. Fly into a piece of debris, your shields take a bit of a hit, and it bounces off into another direction. The tech for that is already there on the groundmaps, piles of tribbles do it and the remains of your destroyed generators as well. And I know it'd make flying my Defiant a lot more fun for me in PvP, darting around debris in Capture and Hold scenarios while the cruisers are left wading through the remains of their fallen comrades. Though I suppose they might use photonic shockwave to pelt the onlookers with their dead friends' carcasses...

Of course, even if debris is put in without really affecting the battlefield, PvP is exactly the reason why they'd likely exclude playerships from leaving wrecks. (In an Arena map you might have fourteen wrecks before the game ends, but in Capture and Hold they can and will accumulate, if there isn't a despawn timer of some kind... to the point where I'm afraid it'll create graphics issues for some if not, eventually, all.) Likewise maybe for some of the spacebased Fleet Actions.
While collision damage would be a boon as well, I specifically avoided that topic because of how many other changes it would require (dynamic moving asteroids, skill reworks such as "Ramming Speed" due to becoming redundant, a way to discourage the game becoming a bump-fest, etc.) added to that is the deflector field, which canonically automatically deflects harmful particles and debris. Outside of rare, scripted, story-oriented occurrences - the deflector field is what explains away why these huge vessels aren't plagued by miniature particles or asteroids fracturing the hull.

Collision damage would require a lot of changes and so, while I too would enjoy the addition - it's far too "out there" to truly be on the horizon.

As to the mention of player ships leaving wrecks - why would player ships leave wrecks?

The mindset behind playing this game for most of the players who are familiar with the TV show(s) is that you become the captain - you become the star of the show in your own way and in your own world.

Most often when the Enterprise is seen taking a beating and eventually beaten, not much is left afterwards; Not enough to comprise a wreck in any case.

Player ships can easily be left with the generic explosion (which would be slightly re-worked to be more impressive - as described above), making PvP a non-issue. Not to mention, the vast majority of the changes would be scalable for each player, adding another layer to why it would be a non-issue.

Either way - if you can enter a fleet action and not experience performance issues, you will not experience performance issues when less ships are present on a map - and if you do experience performance issues already you cannot blame them on an addition such as the one proposed.

Well, you can.. but it's fruitless and plainly incorrect.

Fleet actions are routinely reset, remember? And recall that even if every ship in a fleet action were to be made a derelict (meaning if every ship in the fleet action were to "stay" on the battlefield) the performance hit would simply not decrease rather than increase. This is because the ships already exist on the map, after "destruction" they'd simply exist in an altered form - causing no performance hit.

The only people who would experience a performance hit during space battles are those who already do; And they might find space battle more interesting despite their dilemma if there was some more eye-candy to justify the performance issues they may be experiencing.
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