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Old 06/09/2013, 11:56 PM
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Default "Hasta la vista, baby" Ship Damage in Elite Dangerous

Hello again, wonderful DDF backers!

After the relatively chunky ship management it’s time for a slightly more focused sub set topic: ship damage. We have a few of goals:

Firstly, we want to minimise the positive feedback loop of decreasing ability. Based on player skill, even the most damaged craft should still pose an effect threat and be able to keep on going.

Secondly, we want damage to be – in general – more than just a decreasing health value. When your ship takes damage, we think it’s an opportunity for drama and choice.

Thirdly, we want to avoid the concept of “kill-re-spawn”. Yes, commanders are going to lose their ships, but we think that this is a pretty big deal, and that much of the time we’d prefer to see commanders flee rather than fight to the bitter end against overwhelming odds.

Also, these ships are cool, they are tough (even the smallest Sidewinder is effectively a mix between a warplane and tank) and they can take a pounding. Of course, it will be possible to face massively more powerful weapons and get obliterated, but most of the time a skilful commander should have fighting chance to at least flee and live to fight another day.

So, here’s our take:

Ship Health
  • Every ship has a health value representing its hull integrity
    • If a ship receives more damage to its hull than its hull integrity health value it breaks apart and is destroyed
  • Larger ships have their hull integrity value split across several hull sections
    • Once a section receives more damage than its total, further damage to it is reduced and spread to adjacent sections
  • All ship modules have a health value representing their state of repair
    • As modules receive damage they increase the probability of malfunctions occurring
    • When a module’s health is reduced to zero it is disabled and cannot be used until repaired at an appropriate dock
      • Some modules cause chain reaction damage on nearby modules when they are disabled
      • Some modules cause catastrophic failure when disabled, destroying the ship in a fiery nova (the power plant, some exotic modules)
    • The commander’s escape system (in normal mode) automatically engages when there is no possibility of ship recovery (power plant detonation, ship and personal life support failure)
Damage
  • There are two types of damage: direct damage and fatigue
    • Direct damage occurs as the result of weapon attacks
    • Fatigue occurs as the result of hazardous environments, ranging from running reactors past safety limits to damaging environments both inside and outside the ship
  • Both types of damage affect the ship’s hull or modules health values
  • There is one significant different between the two types of damage: only direct damage can trigger malfunctions in modules
  • Normally, direct damage from weapons must break a shield before it can attack the hull
  • Both the hull and shields are able to soak an amount of damage before it is applied
  • The hull receives an amount of damage that hits it based on its current health (the less damaged the hull is, the more of the incoming damage is applied to it rather than penetrating)
  • Any remaining damage penetrates through and hits a module in the vicinity of the hull strike
    • If there are no modules in the vicinity of the hull strike, this penetrating damage is wasted
    • Some weapons are penetrators, reducing the amount of damage that the hull receives and pushing more through to modules
  • Targeting systems dramatically increase the likelihood of targeted modules receiving penetrating damage
Maintenance
  • Both ship hull and modules can be repaired at most docks for appropriate fees
  • Repair modules can be fitted in a ship and used to repair modules flagged by the commander in the systems management interface
    • Repair modules are loaded with a finite resource, which can be restocked at most docks
    • Repair modules cannot repair hull integrity
  • Repair drones can be stored in cargo racks and deployed to repair hull damage to a targeted ship within range (including the commander's ship)
    • Repair drones have charges which can be restocked at most docks
Malfunctions
  • As a module’s health is reduced there is an increasing chance that it will suffer a temporary malfunction based off the following triggers
    • The module suffers direct damage
    • The module is powered up
    • The module is activated
  • Malfunctions are temporary debilitating effects
    • The lower the module health the greater the potential severity of malfunction
    • Malfunctions are module specific (e.g. an auto cannon might suffer an ammo feed jam, a sensor unit might display corrupted data, an engine might generate excessive heat
    • Malfunctions can last for a few seconds to several minutes, based on the effect
  • Malfunctions always generate visual/audio feedback so that it is clear abnormal behaviours are active
  • Some malfunctions can be ended early by specific action that commanders can learn (such as switching a module off and back on, refraining from module activation, continuous fire etc.)
  • Some malfunctions can cause additional fatigue or direct damage to other modules
  • A manager oversees malfunctions and weights their occurrences to smooth the pacing of multiple malfunctions (reducing the likelihood of triggering too many malfunctions from minor damage)
  • Most malfunctions can be ended early by repair
  • Some weapons are specifically designed to increase the chance of malfunction when they deal damage directly to modules
This then, is what we are currently heading towards. Again, the watchwords for us are interesting events and drama, along with clear meaningful choices. It should be fairly clear that destroying a ship is not going to be a single shot affair – taking into account shields, hull and modules there’s a fair bit of work to be done (as part of this philosophy you can expect to see NPC aggressors sometimes deciding to break off – victory does not necessarily require a grind until total annihilation). As for malfunctions, well, we like them because:
  • They can be varied and offer interesting challenges to the commander
  • Importantly, a commander can learn what they are and often mitigate their effects or work round them (even choosing different modules in an attempt to control what malfunctions can occur)
  • They always trigger based on a legible event
  • They are debilitating, keeping the advantage to the better combatant
  • Because of their transitory and semi-random nature they keep open the potential for a commander to fight back right to the end
  • They are easy for us, as developers to tweak, add and remove

But now it’s time for you to concentrate and tell us what you think! Perhaps you have a great idea for an alternative/additive system, or maybe you just want to tell us that the whole thing sucks and is unnecessarily complex. Whether you like what you read or have worries, let us know, and remember, weekends always go down smooth!
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Old 07/09/2013, 1:24 AM
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I think making combat take a long time and rarely end in death will have an incredibly positive effect on the game's atmosphere, if you can make people unlearn such an ingrained assumption. I realise we're not supposed to obsess about language, but just the word "flee" might be enough to make people reject the idea as cowardice. Finding a way to present it as a tactical retreat would make it far more palatable - maybe add team options for regrouping after a messy retreat? Maybe give people a way to tag an opponent for a rematch?

To encourage players to retreat, it would be nice to have a major tipping point in combat when the commander is encouraged to start thinking about escape. For example, way back in the discussion leading up to the shield proposal there was talk about having shields be 2/3 the protective power of the whole ship, so commanders felt naked when its protection finally collapsed. Playing that up in the interface could give players the pivot point they need to start thinking about making their retreat.

The proposal mentions modules suffering damage and malfunctions when overused. Another way of giving players an opportunity to retreat would be if just overusing your guns (without taking damage to them) was enough for them to lock up temporarily. If the overheat level was managed so a combatant of average skill would overheat their guns shortly after depleting the shields of a common opponent, it would give the defender a moment to make a choice just as their crisis management display asked them to choose an escape route. And it would minimise the positive feedback loop of decreasing ability to boot.

Last edited by Andrew Sayers; 07/09/2013 at 1:29 AM. Reason: Clarify the point about the shield discussion
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:06 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandro Sammarco View Post
Thirdly, we want to avoid the concept of “kill-re-spawn”. Yes, commanders are going to lose their ships, but we think that this is a pretty big deal, and that much of the time we’d prefer to see commanders flee rather than fight to the bitter end against overwhelming odds.
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Originally Posted by Andrew Sayers View Post
I think making combat take a long time and rarely end in death will have an incredibly positive effect on the game's atmosphere
Respectfully do not agree - There is something satisfying about watching your enemy burn, and stifling this basic concept to the degree that people are forced to flee most of the time will damage the image of ED and harm the atmosphere - this is combat; this is war; this is supposed to be dangerous .. not knitting by the fireside wondering what that red light means as your shields slowly drain at the same pace your tea cools down.

Give us a clue as to how long you think a fight to the death will take - assume evenly matched ships and skill. 1 minute ? 5 minutes ? 20 minutes ? Put into context the time aspect please so I can give a better response.

(Good post Sandro - fairly "boney" - just want a little more meat please)
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Last edited by Liqua; 07/09/2013 at 2:08 AM.
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:08 AM
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I like the suggestions already..

The only thing I am concerned with... collecting bounty.

If Collecting bounty is based on kills, then this idea of long battles will be an utter ball ache.

If collecting a bounty could be reducing the ship till it surrenders.. then awesome... also if your REP can increase the % liklihood of surrender if its high A++ and also if your a noob they will never surrender..

You could also collect bounty by keeping a target busy and calling in the police to apprehend them?

I just think when you want to step away from death and destruction being the 'top' option in combat you need to add surrender.

as well as maybe an evasive escape module... that you can trigger and it can do a random half jump? or something..

It means some people can still fight to the death, others can surrender (giving the winner the chance to cherry pick from the cargo) or Flee using modules designed to automate an escape,
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:15 AM
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Originally Posted by psykokow View Post
If Collecting bounty is based on kills, then this idea of long battles will be an utter ball ache.

If collecting a bounty could be reducing the ship till it surrenders.. then awesome... also if your REP can increase the % liklihood of surrender if its high A++ and also if your a noob they will never surrender..

You could also collect bounty by keeping a target busy and calling in the police to apprehend them?
A valid assessment of the BH role .. they are currently based upon kills to which, if people flee most the time, it's going to be incredibly frustrating and lacking in reward to be one.

Surrendering would be suitable for a pirate going after a trader, but I am not sure how surrender would work for a BH after a pirate. Why would I surrender when I know to do so will cost me money ? Remember pirates are to pay back the bounty they incur (which still makes zero sense) and as such you will have to kill me before I stop shooting back. At least if I am to suffer a penalty I might as well make it costly for you too by damaging your ship as much as possible - ergo smart pirates would never surrender. (Making BH even harder)
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Last edited by Liqua; 07/09/2013 at 2:17 AM.
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Liqua View Post
A valid assessment of the BH role .. they are currently based upon kills to which, if people flee most the time, it's going to be incredibly frustrating and lacking in reward to be one.

Surrendering would be suitable for a pirate going after a trader, but I am not sure how surrender would work for a BH after a pirate. Why would I surrender when I know to do so will cost me money ? Remember pirates are to pay back the bounty they incur (which still makes zero sense) and as such you will have to kill me before I stop shooting back. At least if I am to suffer a penalty I might as well make it costly for you too by damaging your ship as much as possible - ergo smart pirates would never surrender. (Making BH even harder)
Its just hard to see a way to balance the need for death to allow for a bounty target to essentially give up... maybe they pay a half fine?

That way it would be worth while... and they'd keep their ship..
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:41 AM
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Speaking of causing maximum cost, the current proposal seems to encourage traders to maximise cost to their attackers instead of minimising cost to themselves. That might force pirates to go after the big money by chasing a trader to death, to offset their losses for all that combat damage.

Could a pirate cause a trader's cargo hold to malfunction a little bit even with shields up, reducing the value of cargo? For example, irradiating the hold might downgrade the quality of slaves contained in it, costing more than the tithe demanded by a modest pirate. That would let pirates make a living as dandy hypermen without having to treat every trader like a piņata.
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Old 07/09/2013, 2:56 AM
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I like the idea that ship distraction is not the inevitable outcome of combat. Winning or losing shouldn't always involve a ship blowing up.

Sometimes of course you do want to blow the other ship(s) up completely - if you're a bounty hunter it's basically your job.

However, if you're a pirate, getting your target's cargo would be the main objective, and sitting around reducing your target to fragments after that point is probably a waste of time, and possibly dangerous. Although, you may want to go for a dread pirate reputation, and take the time to try and destroy those who dare to defy you and refuse to drop their cargo.

For a lot of military missions, actually destroying enemy ships might be a secondary objective. If you are attacking a structure, convoy, big ship etc, it might be straightforward to first take out the defending ships; but being able to disable, distract or evade them might be preferable or necessary. Similarly, when defending something, it's no good if you destroy all the attackers but lose the thing you're defending. When either attacking or defending, choosing to chase down any remaining ships after it's clear you've won is an option.

I think having a good damage and repair model, and making ships more durable will allow for a wider variety of combat scenarios, and will give more options and gameplay decisions within scenarios.

Being able to escape in a a heavily damaged (or almost-destroyed) ship is also good because because it means that you can have a setback worth most of the value of a ship (exactly how much depends on the details of insurance, I guess), but still leaves you with the same ship. The idea that I can buy, upgrade, decorate, repair, rebuild and have 100s of adventures in a ship before finally losing it with a tear in my eye is vastly more appealing that continually losing ships and just breaking the shrink-wrap off another ship clone, even if the economics is the same.
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Old 07/09/2013, 4:31 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandro Sammarco View Post
  • Repair drones can be stored in cargo racks and deployed to repair hull damage to a targeted ship within range (including the commander's ship)
    • Repair drones have charges which can be restocked at most docks
I'm fine with this in principle, but a few nit-picks:

If I fire a repair drone at a target ship, can I miss? Could an enemy ship intercept it and get a free repair?

Presumably repair drones go through shields, so why hasn't anyone created an evil equivalent that goes through and damages ships? Do players have to let the drones in? I might not even want to be repaired if I'm trying to scuttle my freighter and pirates keep repairing it to get at the cargo inside.

If repair drones can be recharged, presumably they have to get back to their home ship after they're used. That could cause all kinds of weirdness if there was a netsplit. Say you and I were part of a big instance and you'd just sent me a repair drone, then the network split and we ended up in two smaller instances. How would you get your drone back when our clients are no longer in the same instance? You can probably save a bunch of headaches if you just say the drones are one-shot creatures and any fixed costs are associated with the special rack they're fitted to.
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Old 07/09/2013, 6:02 AM
Adam Lusardi Adam Lusardi is offline
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I like the proposal, total ship destruction would be total waste of valuable resources. A commander ejecting leaving a ships hull could lead to some scrapping opportunities.
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