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privateerremake

Wing Commander: Privateer remake

Overview

Ideas for improving Wing Commander Privateer. See also ThreeDimensionalStarfighterEngine for additional feature ideas.

I have also mixed in some more general ideas for games of this type.

Summary

Inspirations

  • Wing Commander: Privateer
  • Naev
  • Trade Wars 2002
  • Taipan
  • The entire real-time strategy genre

Objective

The objectives of developing additional features are to shore up shortcomings in the existing game, add variety to the game universe, and leave worthwhile tasks for the player to complete after completing the scripted game content.

The objective of the player is to explore the universe, learn the basic game rules, and complete the scripted missions to finish the storyline.

Minor Game Tweaks

Releasing captured pilots

There should be an option to release captured pilots rather than sell them as slaves. Releasing them should regain you some lost favor with their faction, while selling them into slavery should cost you some favour.

Rebalanced weapons

Costs

Guns in WC:Priv should be more expensive.

  • Laser: 5000
  • Advanced guns: twice as much as now.

Effectiveness

Some of the guns are so clearly better than others that I recall skipping most of them and only buying a few weapons during the course of the game. Damage, price, and bullet speed should be rebalanced.

The mass driver was next to worthless. Are its bullets simply too slow?

Autopilot camera control

The autopilot camera should sweep from the combination of where you have been + most action, to where you are going + more action.

Launch Bases

If an extended battle occurs near a planet or base, the base should launch militia fightercraft. Confed bases should launch confed craft. Pirate bases should launch pirates, etc. More fighters should be launched by a base with a larger population.

Respect for jump limitations

Factions should use capships more often than fighters unless a carrier or base is in the area. Kilrathi fighters in Troy just should not exist. The chance of running into Kilrathi should be reduced relative to the number of jumps to the nearest Kilrathi-controlled sector.

Difficulty level

Enemy difficulty should be increased by your investment in your ship, whether you have beaten the main game thread, and the number of hours played. Increase difficulty by 1.0 per has beaten game, $million invested, and 16 hours played. Difficulty affects enemy ship choice and layouts and the number of enemy ships per encounter. Meanwhile your missions return the same amount of cash.

Modified physics

Gunshots should be slightly faster.

Missiles should be easier to hit with. It is nearly impossible to land a Dumbfire hit on anything in Privateer while the cheaper protons are easy to hit with.

Cargo should reduce your maximum speed by 0.5 to 1.0 mps per unit of cargo carried. This will provide an additional incentive to dump cargo.

You might be able to buy Afterburner Fuel which doubles the effectiveness of afterburners but can run out. You might also need to buy fuel to jump with.

Your ship should have more inertia, especially when there is more cargo on board.

Multiplayer

Allow multiplayer connections. Each player can individually go through the main mission. Mission-dependant stuff is duplicated for each player; if two players attack the Steltec drone at the same time, there will be two drones and two groups of allied Broadswords.

A server with enough connections becomes an MMORPG.

User accounts

(todo: rethink/rewrite) User accounts may be tied to a POSIX user account name and/or a hashed password. User accounts can be traded between computers so that you can have your character on someone else's server with their permission.

Autopilot tweaks

Autopilot in WC:Priv allows players to skip a long period of waiting for their ship to arrive at the next location. Naev solves the same problem by speeding up the game clock. Neither solution works in multiplayer.

Autopilot speedup

Autopilot accelerates the ship to ten times the maximum speed of the slowest ship in the group. Most of the movement should occur while the autopilot animation is going. Maybe: the autopilot camera will show your ship moving at a normal rate without this acceleration.

Autopilot will be broken when:

  • A hostile ship is encountered
  • Any weapons fire is visible
  • Obstacles are encountered (minefields, asteroid fields)
  • The ship is hailed

The maximum speedup must be slow enough for a human player to be able to see an autopiloting ship passing by and react to it.

Cooperative Autopilot

Autopilot now has a wait state before enacting. If any other human player is in the area, it will wait 15 seconds before firing to allow multiple human players to autopilot toward the same target together. The wait can be interrupted by receiving fire or by any player command.

If autopilot is broken for any ship in a group, it is broken for the entire group.

State-based missions

Instead of all missions generating new hostiles, the mission computer should be able to create missions from existing activity in the game.

Example mission types:

  • Bounty hunting on known players or NPCs. Anyone who kills friendlies gets put on a list. Pull from the list those that are in the area.
  • Operate against known patrols of hostiles. Let the mission generator know the location of hostile NPC movements in the same system with over five game-minutes remaining before they reach their destination. Let the mission computer tell the player where to go and at what time.
  • Accompany a planned Confed/militia patrol or operation.

Ships

More Ships

More Fighters

The Hornet and the Scimitar should be available as weaker fighters than the Talon. Confed should have access to a couple more fighters, perhaps WC2 Rapier and Epee. Militia should have access to Raptor. The Kiltrathi should have more ships. A few pre-war fighters might also be around.

More Capships

Several variants of corvette should be available to all human factions. Pirates should use corvettes with tractor beams as part of their attack groups because they are supposed to be seizing cargo. Pirates should have fighters available when a friendly base is nearby. More hunters should be in simple but powerful fighters.

It should be very rare but possible to run across a Kilrathi warship such as a Ralari or a Fralthi in Kilrathi space. Taking one down should be next to impossible but doing so should be worth a bonus from Confed.

Fixed weaponry on certain fighters

Certain AI-controlled ships are built around a weapon and cannot simply switch out a gun like you can.

The Talon

The Talon's central gun should always be a particle cannon, though we can say the civvie model has it disabled or removed. We could say that the Talon has two sets of weapon mount points, the one main gun always being a particle cannon or disabled while the second set of mount points, for the two guns on the wings, can be laser or mass driver.

Proposed remodeling of the Talon:

Military models

After the Talon fell out of favor due to high combat losses, Confed began selling its military models to the general public. These are more powerful and more expensive than the civilian models, but are relatively rare.

= Talon-A =

Particle cannon plus mass drivers. The extra mass of the ammunition in the wings can slow its turn radius, which is probably one of the reasons why so many of them were shot down. This is the stock military model; perhaps 80%+ of military Talons are this model.

= Talon-E =

Particle cannon plus lasers. E is for energy. In exchange for a slightly improved turn radius and guns with a longer range, the ship's guns will deplete its energy reserves more quickly.

Civilian models

Civilian models of the Talon have been on the market for at least two years. The manufacturer produced large numbers of them to meet the expected demand for, as they promoted it, Confed's latest superfighter. Their price has plummeted since the ship became known as a front-line failure and the superior military-grade Talons have been dumped on the market. This has, ironically, made the civilian Talon an attractive low-cost ship for insys pilots on a budget. Most civilian-owned Talons are one of the civilian models.

= Talon-C =

2 mass drivers. No particle cannon, though some of the subsystems to support it are still in the ship. Without the need to power the particle cannon, the ship's energy systems produce and supply far more power than it needs. This is the stock unmodified civilian model; at least 70% of non-military Talons are this model, including almost all civilian-model militia craft.

= Talon-C0 (smuggler) =

Smugglers will rip out the unnecessary particle cannon subsystems to make room to carry contraband. This requires some replacing and rewiring of components, leaving the ship less capable of storing power. The “zero” appellation was applied by police as a joke in reference to the hole where the particle cannon used to be; you open it up and see a hole, you see zero. This ship is is indistinguishable from the Talon-C until you open it up to take a look.

= Talon-CE =

2 lasers. A heavily modified version of the Talon that became common in independents after a newsfeed advertised it as a way to make your Talon faster. This provides similar costs and benefits to the military's Talon-E. The expensive modifications require tearing apart the Talon's wings to make way for the laser support system, so not many people do it unless they can afford the cost.

The Gladius

The Gladius has four gun mounts. It should have four guns, not three.

In General

“Fixed Weaponry” relies on “More Fighters” to replace the diversity lost in this design decision. The addition of a variety of new fighters allows for there to be less variation in fighter strength for the same type of fighter.

Fighter comparison

Old civvie fighter list
  • Weak Talon: 2 lasers and 1 mass driver
  • Gladius: 2 lasers, 1 particle cannon, and 1 meson
  • Strong Talon: 2 mass drivers and 1 particle cannon
New civvie fighter list
  • [Weak Sauce]
    • Hornet: 2 lasers, fast, nimble, minimal defenses
    • Scimitar: 2 mass drivers (pretty weak), slow, extra armor
    • Civilian Talon: 2 lasers or 2 mass drivers
    • Various pre-war fighters: similar firepower, weaker stats
  • [Medium-Light]
    • Military Talon: 2 mass drivers and 1 particle cannon
    • Epee: 2 particle cannons, fast, thin armor
  • [Medium-Strong]
    • Gladius: 2 lasers and 2 mesons
    • Rapier: 2 neutron guns and 2 lasers, fast, strong shields
  • [Strong]
    • Raptor: 2 mass drivers and 2 neutron guns

Reactive Economics

Buying stuff will raise prices for the next person to land until prices are rebalanced. Selling stuff will lower demand and prices for the next person to land until prices are rebalanced. Prices are limited to 50%-200% of normal.

Bases have production and demand levels for all products. Items are slowly produced and consumed by these equations, which will eventually rebalance the economy to the original state. If the economy is left alone, items will be replenished and rebalanced every six hours. Maybe: include time since last play in rebalancing.

The computer will automatically tweak the economy by having NPC ships run cargo back and forth between bases.

Special events may suddenly change the supply or demand of a product.

Maybe: If excess consumables are available, create excess producables.

Maybe: When a player lands, pull a number of items out of the pool of items on the base and offer only these items to the player. This will prevent race conditions, but will also lock items from being used until a player leaves the base or quits the game. If a player sits on a base to prevent their pulled stuff from being sold, {Something needs to be done}

Economic model A

For each item type, each base type has a Consumption Rate from -100% to +100%.

  • Items with positive consumption rates are Consumables.
  • Items with negative consumption rates are Producables.
  • Items with a zero consumption rate cannot be bought or sold on this base.

Consumables are consumed over time depending on the Consumption Rate. Producables are produced over time depending on the negative Consumption Rate and an extra productivity rating which depends on the availability of consumables.

Each tradable item has its own universal productivity rating ranging from -100% (for Ultimate) through 0% (gems, luxuries) and to 100% (wood, food, etc.) The maximum productivity is the sum of all positive productivities.

Economic model B

There are production / consumption functions for every tradeable object in the game. These functions will take a set of inputs and produce a set of outputs after a given length of time.

The production functions are different depending on the attributes of different worlds (or space stations or whatever). There are generalized such functions for an average world, and this is then modified by a world's attributes or some hard coding to create the production function for a specific world.

Incidentally, the set of these functions will produce a crafting model.

Key untradeable sinks may include:

  • Survival - food, water, air, medicine, availability of escape vessels
  • Security - ships and weapons
  • Happiness - luxury goods
  • Industrial Efficiency - modifies output of some/all production factors

Key untradeable sources may include:

  • Labour - effort directed toward work, produced by colonists and must be spent immediately.
  • Time - Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
  • Material generators (various) - farms, mines, etc, that act as inputs to production functions along with labour, time, and materials.

Special events may increase certain needs.

The benefit to the trader of trade from one location to another can be estimated as the sum of: (Net profit of transaction - Value of fuel - Value of travel time) * (1 - estimated risk of running into hostiles)

A trader can cut the value of his time out of his equation by subcontracting another trader to do the job. Businessmen are thus able to sit on planets and hand out assignments.

The benefit to the consumer for running any production function is the value of products produced (* the need for each product) minus the production and acquisition costs. The benefit to the producer is the price that they can get to take the product offworld - the production cost. These are the same calculation. Producers are consumers and vice versa.

Naev couriers

Assume that there is no instant communication. A key job of Naev-style couriers will be to send commercially valuable information between worlds. This can include:

  • Current prices
  • Price history trends
  • Current amounts in storage
  • Storage history trends
  • News about activity that affects commerce
    • Pirates and other hostiles
    • Changes in diplomatic status
    • Changes in taxes
    • New construction and other new sinks

Receipt of new information may spawn an independent trader at the destination planet, or go to an existing independent.

Perception networks

Buyers and sellers on each planet may work from their perceived net profit rather than the actual profit that they will make. Such perceptions leading to individual judgement are informed by:

  • Knowledge of the average price or the last price they were able to get, which is different from the actual current price.
  • Personal judgement of risk in travel to a location, which is different depending upon a ship speed and firepower and the owner's bravery
  • Personal knowledge of trade routes not commonly known.

Each planet has an knowledge base that represents the perceptions held by everybody, the set of individual judgements held by the average merchants that the player will interact with in the major commercial areas.

Product classes

Different trade products may be the same type of product as far as a consumption function is concerned. Examples:

  • Let them eat cake: both Food and Luxury Food could fill the need for food. Liquour can fill the need for drinking water.
  • A ship is a ship, but not all ships are equal: The need for a ship can be met by any ship, but the relative value of ships depends on the ships' attributes.

Meaningful ship traffic spawns

Ship traffic is spawned from the need to trade. If a world has goods to trade, in a simple system, a ship is spawned to carry the goods. In a more complex system, a record is made that the planet is in need of a cargo carrier. This will draw cargo ships to the world increase the likelihood of someone on the planet deciding to build a shipyard.

If every planet were self-sufficient, there would be little need for interstellar travel.

Most traffic will probably be from agricultural colonies to non-ag colonies for the obvious reason.

Ships in the middle of nowhere

It should be rare to find ships off the beaten path since leaving the trade routes is a waste of fuel and time. They will tend to be:

  • Police and government patrol craft
  • Pirates
  • Explorers / Pleasure cruisers
  • Merchants intentionally avoiding the trade routes in high-risk areas.

Favours

If an NPC owes you a favour, they will be willing to escort you for free through the sector where you call in the favour. They will fight your enemies (although they might run away easily since they are doing it for free) and any hostiles of the same faction will become neutral while you are being escorted. NPCs who owe you favours might also appear when you are under attack by a faction hostile to the NPC's faction.

Sources of favours

Favours can be collected by:

  • Defending a ship from attack. The requirement to qualify is that the ship is neutral or friendly, the general power of the attackers is more than the general power of the defenders, and you engaged the enemy within one minute of approaching the battle.
  • Towing a disabled ship that was disabled outside 20,000m of a base (the requirement for the ship to qualify) to within 7500m of a base. Since most tractor beams are forward-mounted, this will be a boring and difficult process unless you have a rear-mounted or side-mounted tractor beam.
  • Releasing an ejected pilot instead of selling them into slavery. Whether they accept that they owe you a favour depends on their relationship to you.

Calling in a favour

Favours can be called in by finding the NPC who owes you a favour. They are most likely to be found nearest the point where you earned the favour so an important factor is Distance, the number of jumps to the system where the favour was earned.

  • Chance to find in a bar: 1/(4 * distance) for everyone within 3 jumps
  • Chance to find in space: 1/(16 * distance) for everyone within 3 jumps
  • Chance to have rescue you in space: 1/(4 * distance) for a qualifying battle

Faction notes for favours:

  • Confed do not like to offer favours. They tell you that they will have to clear it with their commanding officer, and then they will not escort you but they have a 1/(2 + distance) chance of rescuing you in any battle until the favour is called in.
  • Confed, Militia, and Pirates have a chance of bringing along extra fighters. In-universe, your favour is with an officer who brings along a wing. The death of the leader may cause the others to withdraw since it's not their fight.
  • Favours might clear a grievance. If you owe a fine for getting caught running contraband, a militia or confed might clear a portion of the fine to repay the favour.
  • If you owe a fine, Confed and Militia might repay a favour by giving you a patrol mission and escorting you through it.

Advanced Communications

The 1994 model is a little too simple:

Friendly <--> Neutral <--> Hostile   (ultra hostile) 
     Insult -->   Insult --> 

Refocusing on desires and demands.

AI states

Potential AI states:

  • Allied – Will fight anybody who you are battling of any faction unless they are also Allied to the other faction. Everyone who owes you a favour is Allied.
  • Friendly – Will team up against mutual hostiles and neutrals.
  • Neutral – Will team up agaist mutual hostiles.
  • Unfriendly – Ignoring you and will not help you, but not hostile.
  • Hostile 1 – Will demand something from you depending on the faction, but can be bribed. Most pirates begin in this state. They will turn to Hostile 2 if you do not cooperate within a set time period. The time period shortens if you use afterburner.
  • Hostile 2 – Will fire on sight, but can be talked out of a fight or bribed.
  • Hostile 3 – Cannot be bribed or talked out of a fight.

Desires

What Do People Want?

  • Survival – Everyone has a Bravery level, the AI to ascertain enemy strength, and AI to ascertain both side's losses since the starting point. Those with 100% bravery will never run away.
  • Money, Goods – Profitable stuff.
  • Respect – Insulting works like before, although some people will ignore you if you insult them.
  • Vengeance – The desire to kill you in particular. If vengeance is activated, the NPC's bravery goes to 100%.
  • Duty – It is the duty of all pilots to follow their wing leader. Beyond that, duty differs depending on faction.
    • Confed: It is the duty of Confeds and Militia to defend you against Pirates, Retros, and Kilrathi, even if they don't like you, and it is their duty to stop the trade in contraband even if they do like you.
    • Pirates, Hunters, and Merchants are out to make money.
    • Retros and Kilrathi are after power.

These factors should affect their interactions, although the specifics are left to be defined.

Demands

Meeting a hostile's demands will turn them non-hostile.

  • Cargo. The other faction marks cargo as desired and will turn hostile if you are carrying it or tractoring it. Militia and Confed will mark your Contraband if they detect it. Pirates will mark everything you are carrying. Pirates and Hunters will mark everything dropped by a ship that they destroy. You can meet a Cargo demand by dumping your cargo and not tractoring anything they have marked as theirs.
  • Pay a bribe. Demanded by Pirates if you don't have any cargo. Demanded by Militia and Confed if you have an open fine.
  • Power down your weapons. Sometimes demanded by militia and confed if they do not trust you.
  • Retreat from the area. “Get out of here before I change my mind!” This one's timer is not affected by afterburner.
  • Retreat from the system the way you came in. Often a demand of Militia if you were caught carrying contraband. Is met if you set the next nav point to that jump and are going in that general direction. It only applies if you jumped into the system.
  • Apologize. Simply send a friendly message to a hostile. May not need to be implemented here.
  • Die. Nothing you can do about this one, but we can implement vengeance as a demand. Killing someone in a wing will usually add this to the other side's demand list.

Some of your taunts will have the effect of sending the other side a demand to retreat from the area.

Fluid zones of control

Kilrathi conquest

The Kilrathi are constantly attempting to expand into the sector. They are stopped by the strength of the Confed and militia forces. If the Confed are drawn away to perform police actions due to the weakness of the militia in back areas, the Kilrathi have an opportunity to advance.

The game may fire a Kilrathi expansion event which will give them extra capships and send them towards Confed space, which will also spawn missions as the Confed hires private guns to bolster their forces.

If the Kilrathi gain influence in a system, you will see more of their hostile ships shooting down everything that is not actively helping them fight Confeds. They can send bombers to damage or destroy starbases and troopships to conquer planets. You can take missions transporting people offworld in expectation of this happening.

Similarly, destruction of militia ships can weaken a militia's zone of control, allowing more pirate and retro behaviour.

Dominance behaviour

On complete dominance of a system, different factions will exhibit different behaviour.

  • Confed – Militia strength increases. Confed withdraws towards Perry/Kilrathi space.
  • Militia – Militia slowly disbands until system is no longer dominated.
  • Kilrathi – All other space traffic halted. Colonies soon to be destroyed.
  • Pirates – Merchant activity ceases. Pirates intrude on bordering systems.
  • Retros – All space traffic ceases.

Merchants and hunters are individual actors and do not dominate.

Factors in determining dominance

Factors:

  • Total strength of the faction. Affects type of ships and how likely you are to see them.
  • Relative strength of the faction. Calculated from all factions' total strength.

Gaining strength

Everyone loses strength by losing ships. How is strength gained?

  • Confed: Slowly regains strength to a sector-wide limit, so long as the colonies and stations are active. If a great deal of strength has been lost, a carrier may arrive in Junction. The chance of friendly reinforcements appearing is reduced by the loss of colonies and stations. Confed may raise strength in a system; this strength is drawn from the forward forces at Perry. Confed strength is also related to the number of active refineries and minng stations.
  • Kilrathi: Slowly regains strength to a sector-wide limit. Reinforcements arrive randomly.
  • Militia: Strength is gained by successful merchant convoys, since the militia is funded by the population, and by the lack of militia dominance, since the population will not allow greater taxes than necessary for the militia.
  • Pirates: Strength is gained by successful contraband runs and hits on merchant convoys. Pirates will be spawned in the presence of merchants and the absence of defense forces.
  • Merchants: Are automatically generated when there is a need to be met and there is low pirate activity and/or police protection along the route.
  • Hunters: Strength is gained through the loss of confed, militia, and merchants.
  • Retros: Strength is slowly gained on agricultural worlds and colonies.

Movement patterns

All factions will intermittently bleed over into neighbouring systems.

  • Bleeding is lower if hostile factions have a strong presence in the current system. The blockade points stop the Kilrathi from bleeding very far.
  • Bleeding is higher if strength is enough to afford jumping ships. Jumping ships will bleed before non-jumping fighters will.
  • Bleeding is higher if the neighbouring system has a friendly base. All bases are friendly except pirates are not friendly to anyone else.
  • All factions will bleed if strength exceeds need in the system.
    • Exception: the Confed need at the blockade points is static unless a superior threat is behind the points. Different AIs:
      • 1) defend blockade points,
      • 2) spread forces to bases if blockades are pierced and attempt to eliminate internal threats
      • 3) default faction AI if Perry, New Constantinople, and New Detroit are all lost.
  • Pirates will bleed into systems with a strong merchant presence.

Detailed colonies

Population

Population affects production and demand. Acts as a multiplier for production of ships.

The multiplier should be logarithmic such that 10*higher population produces 2* higher demand and production, assuming that most of the population increase is self-sustaining. Mining colonies may be more linear.

All colonies have a set maximum Population based on their type, size, and the proportion of the world that is developable. Population increases should be slow and may also be affected by an additional factor of suitability for habitation.

Trade ship production statistics

Optimal Trade Rate:

The optimal trade rate is the amount of Merchant carrying capacity sufficient to satisfy all import and export needs for the system. Based solely on production. Merchants will increase until the Optimal Trade Rate is reached.

Actual Trade Rate

The actual trade rate relates to the amount of trade taking place. If this rate is above the Optimal Trade Rate, no new Merchants will be generated. If the rate is below, the deficit is merchant generation potential.

Merchant generation rate

Merchant generation rate = merchant generation potential - effect from hostiles.

Faster and better armed ships will be generated if the effect of hostiles is high, as ships will need to either run by threats or shoot through them.

Hostility factor

Hostility factor is the value of hostiles in a system divided by the effectiveness value of friendlies in the system. If the value of friendlies is too low, no merchants will be produced. This value should be related to combat effectiveness, but the market price of ships can be used as a temporary standin.

Hostility factor is taken into account in two places:

  • The value of merchant ships produced
  • The type of merchant ships produced
    • More hostility leads to faster and more combat-ready ships
    • Less hostility leads to slower ships with more cargo space

Criminal factor

Criminal factor is increased by random destruction and trade in contraband. Criminal factor will contribute to the creation of pirates, smugglers, and bounty hunters. Criminal factor is suppressed by the presence of confed and militia.

Retro factor

Retro factor automatically appears on agricultural worlds and raises like population.

Interfaction relationships

Treaties

In extreme cases, Confed may rely on Pirates and Retros to fight the Kilrathi for them. The hostile faction is temporarily treated as Militia until the emergency is over. In exchange, Confed will not reinforce the local militia for a long time in game time.

Trade Connections

Connections are special people you know on a planet who can make you special deals, but only on that planet.

You may need Connections in order to trade contraband and slaves on a base. Connections may also provide a higher price for a good than the market value.

The presence of Connections explains how NPCs can offer you more to run material than you can earn by selling the same stuff for if you got it for free. They have Connections and you don't.

Connections will affect your trade abilities on a base:

  • Whether you can buy or sell a specific set of items that you could not before. Your first Connection is often the ability to sell slaves and contraband.
  • The price at which you can buy or sell a specific set of items, usually one. A single Connection will only give you buying power or selling power but not both.
  • Random Connections will apply a bonus to a random item every time you land, whether that's what you wanted to sell or not. These are independent businessmen.

Connections may take a cut of the difference between their price and market price, demand payments to stay open , or quit talking to you if you don't trade through them enough.

Obtaining Connections

Connections can be acquired by sitting on a base for a while, after which there is a chance that a person may appear in the bar and offer you a Connection. They will sometimes require a fee of $1000-$10000.

Game play example: You log off at the agricultural world Helen and return to the game a few days later. The bar now has a middle-aged man in a white suit. Talk to him and get an exchange like this:

Him: “Hello. You look like a well-traveled fellow.” You: “That might be the case. What do you want?” Him: “My plantation is in need of agricultural workers, and I was thinking–” You: “You're talking to the wrong guy. I'm a pilot.” Him: “Right. We need a pilot to import people from offworld. There is insufficient quality of labour on this planet. The people simply don't have the perspective to do the job the way it needs to be done.” You: “Have you considered taking out an ad with the Merchant's Guild?” Him: “Yes, but they have their silly standards and regulations. I'm sure you know how it is.” You: “So you're growing something you don't want them to find out about, and the type of labour you're looking for is?” Him: “The best workers are those in good health who have no future other than their work. Perhaps they never had anything to live for. Perhaps they got on the wrong side of a person like you and lost everything they had. Plantation work provides a direction for these people and becomes a source of pride and accomplishment as they see their work literally bearing fruit. If you bring me people like that, we can handle their training ourselves and in return we can give you low-cost access to the products of our work.” (Accept/Reject?)

You can then sell slaves and buy tobacco at Helen. If possible, you should have to sell a small number of slaves before being able to buy tobacco.

Guns

WC1 Guns

I've grown emotionally attached to the three standard guns from WC1. They complement each other.

  • Laser: Weak, long range.
  • Mass Driver: Medium, fast firing rate, short range
  • Neutron: Powerful, slow firing rate, short range

Come to think of it, each new Confed ship had a different gun except for the newest ship, the Rapier. There were four ships and three types of gun.

More guns may be better as long as they are fairly balanced. The problem with Too Many Guns is that there is no distinct use for most of them. Most of the guns in Privateer were not worth buying in any case.

Non-combat factors

  • Profile - In short, the visual design of the ship should restrict the type of guns that can be used at any mount point.
    • Laser - The Hornet's laser is very long. Lasers should be long and should require a long area of the ship.
    • Particle guns should be even longer than lasers and require more bulk inside the ship. Imagine that most of the Jalkehi bomber goes to the central particle gun.
    • Mass drivers should require an area where the ammunition mass can be stored.
    • Neutron guns can be stubby and fat.
  • Support Structure: The higher-powered guns should require a fatter support structure dedicated to the power capacity and tranformation systems. This requirement will generally affect fighters since capships can have that support structure.
  • Materials: Some guns may require special rare stuff to build that is not found in a high quantity. In game this is reflected by a high cost and the gun's rarity.
  • Legal: Some guns may be restricted to Confed and can only be mounted with a license and Confed approval, perhaps only at Perry.

Combat factors

Factors that can be gamed:

  • Firing time – Time between beginning a shot and it leaving the cannon.
  • Energy use – How much energy each shot takes.
  • Energy capacity – How much energy it takes to recharge the gun before firing.
  • Capacitor draw – How much energy can be converted from base energy to the gun's capacitor in an amount of time.
  • Cooldown time – Minimum time between shots, even if capacity exists.
  • Priming time – How long it takes before firing the first shot. This is in addition to “Firing time” since the gun does not begin to fire until the priming is complete.
  • Priming energy use – Energy required to prime the gun, if it needs to be primed.
  • System volatility – Will the gun explode when hit, doing extra damage?
  • Fragility – How well will the gun work when damaged?
  • Ammunition capacity – Does the gun require ammunition? How many shots can it hold?
  • Ammunition type – A pointer to an object with ammo types.
  • Ammunition factor mask – An “ammo type” of adjustments to the ammo factors.

Ammunition

Ammo factors:

  • Range – How far the projectile will go before disappearing.
  • Projectile speed – Some guns' projectiles go faster.
  • Inertial influence – Affects how greatly the projectile's speed is affected by the ship's speed. Some projectiles may have velocity added to their initial speed while others may have a set speed at all times.
  • Basic damage – 18 for laser, 20 for mass driver, 30 for ion cannon.
  • Shield bonus – Does it do extra damage to shields? Less damage to shields? Almost all guns will have no shield bonus. This should belong to ammo/shot.
  • Shield passthrough chance – Does it skip shields completely? Only locked-on torpedoes should have this benefit.
  • Armor piercing bonus – Is it more likely to damage ship components on a hit? Almost all guns will have no pierce bonus.
  • Ammunition type – What kind of mass does the mass driver drive? Can you get a type that does extra damage to shields?
  • Ammunition mass – Will the weight of the ammunition slow your acceleration? This should be about the same for all ammo types.
  • Ammunition volatility – Will the ammo explode on contact, doing extra damage?

Autogenerated content

The game should randomly place planets and jump points to new systems in those empty, unpopulated systems.

Exploring the outsides of mapped sectors might also find you random content such as radar arrays, asteroid fields, a patrolling capship, a hidden base, etc.

The chance of finding anything as you keep going should be reduced but there should always be more stuff out there.

As a player leaves the inner solar system and heads into unknown space, there is a chance of discovering Novelties. These automatically generated novelties may include:

  • Gravity source: almost always a planet or comet.
  • Mineral source: a small asteroid, comet, disabled ship, abandoned base.
  • Heat source: could be a ship, a hidden base, or a radioactive comet. Any outer planets that could be heat sources would be detected by their gravity first.
  • Radio source: a patrol ship, a signal beacon, a radar array. Almost always manmade.
  • Technobabble anomaly: potentially a jump point.

Given space's infiniteness, the objects will have to be generated by an algorithm when the player explores previously unexplored space. Depending on the quality of the scanners on the player's ship, the player may or may not actually find the objects. The objects will still be created in universe for someone else to find.

General pattern:

  • When a player enters a region of unknown space for the first time, an algorithm runs to determine if there is anything in the area for

the player to discover.

  • The chance of finding anything in any cubic region of space decreases 1/geometrically with distance from the sun.
    • Each cube is less likely to have anything out there at 1 solar-system distance than at 0.5. Given that there are more cubes to search at that distance, there are more things out there but they are further apart. They will also tend to be less valuable.
    • The algorithm treats the oort cloud / extrasolar space as being of uniform average density, so the chance of finding someting in any cube at 2 solar system distances is not much different from at 1 distance.

Memory structure:

  • Allow for:
    • Infinite expansion in any direction
    • Ability to hit or miss on a region of space
  • Idea 1: Divide space into cubes. Run the generator algorithm whenever a player enters a cube that no player has entered before.
  • Idea 2: Record the edge of known space as the greatest distance from the sun that the generator has gone over. Rerun the generator for the entire edge of known space whenever a player breaches the edge of known space, then expand known space by a set distance.

Even if Idea #2 is used for the generator, Idea #1 should be used for the in-game mapping survey corporation to record what is known to the local faction.

If the generator places an object close to a player, its origin point should be pushed away to the edge of the player's ability to detect such an object. This way the generator does not plant an object on top of a player.

Generator constraints

The same algorithm can create both the inner solar system objects for newly discovered systems and the outer solar system objects for existing systems. It will need:

  • Solar system pattern: a pre-seeded likelihood of finding large planets in certain locations.
  • Knowledge that a certain amount of solar power is needed to create planets of different types.
  • Knowledge that large centers of gravity will affect the orbits of other planets and may not be permitted in certain areas, they may clear their orbits of smaller objects, and they are more likely to have moons and trailing asteroids
  • A jump point prediction pattern to make jump points more likely to appear at certain locations relative to gravity sources. Jump points are otherwise randomly placed.

Generally, the algorithm will create objects based on:

  • Pre-coded patterns of object location likelihoods
  • Net gravity of nearby objects
  • Solar power at this point

A solar system may be seeded with handwritten objects. The algorithm will take these objects and continue running as if it had created those objects itself.

Objects may have orbits and move around the system. The generator must confirm that the objects do not collide for a long time.

Solar system pattern generator

Description of a generator for the solar system pattern.

Inputs:

  • star type
  • star age
  • star brightness
  • size of star system relative to Sol system
  • density of dust disk at solar system birth
  • mineral composition of dust disk
  • hardcoded objects (known planets?)

Outputs:

  • Likelihoods of planet types relative to distance
  • Alternately, a 2d polynomial function describing maximum mass versus distance. The creation of a planet will create a new low point in the graph by subtracting its mass from the maximum and recalculating the best line of fit. Imagine a set of data points in Excel and a line of best fit through them. The new planet would create a new data point at f(x) - mass of planet, then the function of best fit f() will be recalculated for the new data.

TODO: Describe how the generator would work. Get an astronomer in on this.

Better Pirates

Pirates in Privateeer are mindless killing machines. Naev at least gives you the option to bribe them if you are swift enough.

Smarter pirate AI

The pirate's goal is to make money. This can lead them to patterns of action.

  • Acting as highwaymen. This can take the blunt form of threatening to disable or destroy a ship, or the more diplomatic form of offering their service as an escort through dangerous space. They will often contact you first before becoming hostile, and only become hostile if you ignore them. Bribing one will give the peace of the group.
  • Acting as goods thieves. They will seek to disable ships, not destroy them. Their weapons loadouts will be prepared accordingly, and they will have ships capable of hauling away enough cargo to make their piracy profitable. They will stop firing if you surrender.
  • Acting as ship thieves. They want your ship in one piece but surrendering is not an option since they will probably kill you.
  • Destroying threats to their future well-being. This will involve shooting down known pirate-hunters, primarily those who are independent actors and won't have anyone coming to seek vengeance for them.
  • Avoiding threats to their current well-being. Pirates should not charge headfirst into the guns of an empire dreadnought. They may also run away if anyone shows the ability to put up a fight.
  • Avoiding spending money until they have it. Unsuccessful pirates will tend to outfit themselves with cheap equipment and avoid firing missiles unless they need to. More successful pirates will buy powerful guns and bling out their ships. If going at full speed costs fuel, they might let you run away.
  • Cultivating easy marks. Pirates won't blow you up if you are a source of funding for their operations. They may remember that you have bribed them recently and decide to let you go for now. They will become hostile if you decide to try fighting them.
  • Begging. You might run across a ship that is stranded, needs fuel, and can't afford to pay. Help them out and you just gave the pirates 100 units of fuel. You might run across charity workers in the spaceport bars asking for credits for food and medicine for an impoverished colony. Help them out and the pirate presence becomes a bit stronger in a nearby sector.
  • Scrap thievery. Pirates will seize beacons etc and attempt to sell them for components on the black market.
  • Smuggling. Finding ways around taxation to obtain a greater profit. Smugglers will generally avoid conflict that might cause them to lose their cargo.

Smarter spawning of pirates

Rule #1: pirates need a base of operations. Most core worlds and starports have a police presence that makes significant pirate activity impossible. Spaceports with low police control will let a pirate land, perhaps with a bribe. Some ports may make an arrangement with pirates to let them operate for a fee as long as they cause no trouble for that port's traffic.

Pirates may have their own outposts and carriers. Pirate outposts are generally abandoned mining bases or cheaply organized refueling stations on asteroids. Pirate carriers are repurposed merchant ships with fighters tethered to them. Base construction is done on the cheap because the pirates can't afford better.

If there is no potential base of operations for pirate activity within the range of the average pirate ship, then there is no pirate presence in that sector.

  • Corollary: Identifying and shutting down pirate bases will eliminate pirate activity. When these bases are on colony worlds, increasing police presence on the colony will increase the likelihood of finding and closing the base.
  • Corollary: Creating bases of operations for pirates increases nearby pirate activity.

Pirates also need a place to sell their goods, but it can be assumed that they can find a buyer anywhere in space that independent traders exist.

Pirates as an outgrowth of commercial activity

This should be a common pattern: a colony is established and fails. All or most of the colonists leave. Either the survivors take to piracy to survive, or pirates from outside seize the colony and use it as a base of operations. Even before that happens, a base that is financially on the ropes may allow criminal activity for the profit.

  • Corollary: Leaving abandoned bases lying around increases the likelihood of them becoming pirate bases.

Pirate activity is commercial activity. Pirate presence will continue as long as pirate activity is at least as profitable as law-abiding commercial activity.

Pirates as independent factions

Each pirate base of operations can be seen as its own independent faction having its own ability to establish diplomatic relations with other factions. Established governments generally won't bother to do more than make war on them, but pirates may gain relationships of note with corporations and independent captains.

Interfaction relationships may be a factor of trust, fear, and the expected profit of any interaction. Since empires do not trust pirates, do not fear them, and will only lose authority in any deal with them, they will make war on pirates unless the pirates become strong enough to make the empire fear them. Businesses and independents are more likely to find ways of making deals with the pirates that reduce their fear and provide a mutual profit.

Provide a better "acceptable target" than pirates

With pirates now being smarter and there now being stronger incentives against shooting them, chiefly that they are less incompetent and will avoid combat with anyone capable of shooting, a game will need an acceptable hostile target to take their place.

General components of the threat:

  • semi-random appearance, generally unexpected
  • a greater threat in unexplored / uncontrolled sectors
  • no one cares if you kill them

For comparison:

  • sc2 provides slylandro probes, ai-controlled hostiles
  • naev provides “the collective”
  • Privateer provides religious fanatics and an ongoing war with the Kilrathi

Possibilities:

  • a canonically hostile race/faction (the cats, retros, Naev's “collective”)
  • lost ai drones from a previous war
  • aliens that live in the interstellar medium and cannot survive insys for some reason

Colonization

It should be possible to build colonies and spaceports given enough resources.

The crafting network in “Economic model B” above should provide the ability to build a colony given a suitable location, a population, materials, money, and time.

Colonies can be taxed for money, directed to produce certain materials, etc.

Natural generation of independent factions

A faction is most simply a collection of individuals and sub-factions that tend to have similar goals and attitudes.

Factions require:

  • An identity.
  • A presence. When the faction runs out of power (ships and money), it no longer exists.

Factions will have:

  • An ideology. This is usually set by a faction leader. Ideologies describe the goals of the faction and their relative importance, which influences decisions as to how to allocate resources and how to relate to other factions.
  • Relationships with other factions.
  • Members with their own ideologies and varying loyalty.

Faction ideology

  • Cooperation (versus independence) – affects the desire to work with other factions.
  • Industry (versus satisfaction) – affects the desire to allocate resources toward productive ends or entertainment.
  • Belligerence (versus passivity) – affects the willingness to use force
  • Dominance (versus subserviance) – affects the desire to control everything. Unlike the other statistics, factions with high Dominance have trouble getting along.
  • (maybe) Security (versus letting someone else handle it)
  • (maybe) Wealth (versus… not caring so much about wealth?)
  • (maybe) Activity-dependant goals like “producing ore” or “trading” or “protecting the weak”.
  • TODO: think this out

Each ideology index may have two values:

  • Weight: for internal decision making.
  • Importance: for matching against other ideologies, and also the resistance to change over time with new leadership.

Interfaction relationships

Before deciding whether to take any action that might benefit or damage another party, factions should:

  • Compare ideologies
  • Consider any past greivances against the other party
  • Consider the general reputation of the other party
  • Consider the possibility of the action backfiring (todo: how?)

Ideology matching function

Factions compare their ideologies before deciding whether to partner with the other party in any way. The general rule is to count the differences and see if the number is too high. Exceptions include:

  • A high Dominance in the other party is a negative to a party with a high Dominance.
  • Certain goals don't count if the other party has no interest in the goal. For example, a mining company won't care that an agro company's goal is to grow food.
    • However, everybody should care that the Kilrathi want to kill them all.

D&D stats

In a universe where computers and robots handle most of your physical and mental tasks, is there a place for D&D-style character stats? Possibly.

  • Strength: Reduces cargo unloading time as the player helps unload the ship.
  • Endurance: Allows player to spend more time in the bar, increasing the number of people available for them to talk to, thus increasing the chances of random special encounters.
  • Agility / Dexterity: Affects the time between when your sensors would pick something up and the time the server informs the player's client. (If this were done client-side, players would hack around it.)
  • Intelligence: Affects the amount of information that may be stored in an character's knowledge base. If you fill it up, minor things start falling out like old information about prices on bases you never visit. Alternately, high intelligence reduces the likelihood of any information being culled during a routine pruning maintenance cycle.
  • Willpower: Affects the willingness for AIs to take risky missions. The game may forbid players from entering dangerous regions without an escort, or it may force player characters to take a high willpower and dump their other stats.
  • Charisma: Affects price by up to 10% when trading with NPCs. Increases chances of success when threatening, begging, etc, with NPCs. For multiplayer interaction, high charisma might cause a player's mission requests to be highlighted in other players' mission selection screens.

Every one of these ideas is a stretch, so this is probably a bad idea unless there were a game that mixed Privateer-style trading with RPG-style planetside battles. Imagine something with a touch of Star Trek in which your crew beams down to planets to solve puzzles, with a touch of Star Wars in which planets have monsters that can eat your crew unless you can fight them off. As follows, this idea belongs in a separate game.

privateerremake.txt · Last modified: 2013/11/29 21:55 by deltatango