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Tracking ships using ion contrails

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Sep 11, 2011 bottom_feeder link
I have been trying to think of a way to make chases between pirates and traders more interesting and less about the pirate getting lucky or unlucky about how close they jump into a sector together. One way is to introduce ion contrails produced by a ship turboing through space. These trails could be used to track a ship that isn't in the sector anymore. I feel like this will advance gameplay, role-play, teamwork and make it unnecessary to have spybots floating around in wormhole sectors.

I realize that if every time every ship turbo-ed there would be these ion contrails everywhere, hive skirmishes and border skirmishes would be a mess. So i thought it would make sense that these trails only exist in areas where ions were less abundant and a ship would have to produce its own high energy ions that would end up leaving a trail. Essentially limiting the areas that contrails could be produced to wormhole sectors and station sectors. Not the best science... but... eh. If you think of a better way to make this make sense please share :D

So if it's possible for rats to track a trader, a trader should also be able to hide his or her contrail. I thought an interesting way of doing this would be to tag along with a convoy heading the same direction as the trader and if you are able stay somewhat in formation your ion trail would become too mixed up in the convoys and make you impossible to track.

Two new add-ons would be required:

Contrail Scanner: A pirate add-on that would allow him or her to select a contrail and get information from it, i don't think specific names of pilots would be very realistic, but certainly what kind of ship they were flying.

Contrail Sweeper: An add-on that a pilot escorting a trader could use to lag behind the trader when he or she jumps out so that the escort could sweep the contrail up. This could be done either by charging a cannon that fires into one contrail and deletes it; or use the graphic of a mineral scanner to literally sweep an area in space. ( /me thinks EMS will be much busier :P )

I envision the contrail to be an extremely faint sparkling blue line through space, nearly invisible to the naked eye. Equipping a contrail add-on would highlight them.

Some ideas i had during writing this; contrails should only appear once a ship has reached ~80% of its max speed, this would avoid having lots of little contrails where turbo was used for course correction or pvp. And, perhaps the corvus maurader should be auto-equipped with a Contrail Scanner.

Thanks for reading and i hope you like the idea!
Sep 11, 2011 Dr. Lecter link
Sounds messy and problematic on multiple fronts. Scannable warp signatures that persist for a while (5-10 minutes) at jump-points would make more sense and be less graphics intensive. Equipping a scanner would enable you to target and scan these signatures, which would tell you who and what ship left it, how long ago (call it rate of decay), and where they went.
Sep 11, 2011 meridian link
Inc indicated this was something he was considering in fogged sectors:
http://www.vendetta-online.com/x/msgboard/3/23636#294518
Sep 11, 2011 abortretryfail link
Yeah i think this would be a good idea but only if they're visible with special equipment.

Being able to analyze names the trails might be a bit too specific since it would make it impossible to fly with NPC convoys to hide your signature. Perhaps just ship class like "Atlas" or "Behemoth" ?
Sep 12, 2011 AndySpades link
I said it on 100, i'll say it again: I like the idea.
And I must say that with those replies it sounds even greater.
/me passes Baekma an ice-cold J├Ągermeister.
And Lecter too.
And Choco for remembering.
And... abortretryfail (?) too.
Sep 12, 2011 Lord~spidey link
wouldn't it be relatively easy using the swarm trail effect but a tad bit larger with a whitish yellowish colour?
Sep 13, 2011 Whistler link
I would be concerned about the potential for lag, much like when there are too many swarms.
Sep 13, 2011 abortretryfail link
The trails dont seem to be what causes the lag with swarms so much as the tons of explosions all at once.
Sep 13, 2011 TehRunner link
to derail the thread. some sort of trails for eye candy would be nice. not for tracking as originally proposed. just a short trail like in homeworld that lasts around a second or such.

for tracking I like the idea of persistent jump signatures that need a special detector to be seen.
Sep 13, 2011 Lord~spidey link
the old trails made stuff laggy because of the sheer amount of particles the new ones are smoother and you could have a fuckton of em without any fps lag i bet.
Sep 13, 2011 tarenty link
+1... especially to plainly visible trails that follow a ship's engines for some seconds after it's passed. The speed req for showing the trails is a great idea. Ion storms would be much more useful in that they could confuse trails.
Sep 14, 2011 incarnate link
This is something I've wanted for.. many years. Since we first made ion storms at the very least. But it is not technically trivial, depending on how useful we make it. You're talking about recording the historical positions of every ship in a sector for some period of time, to do it properly. Otherwise, if it were purely client-side, the trail would only "exist" for as long as the given client had been in the specific sector, which would eliminate a lot of the point of being able to jump in and track someone. Basically, all trails would "begin" at the moment you jumped in, for you.

Not that recording ship movements is incredibly complicated, but it does add some client/server complexity, along with bringing up persistency and backing-store questions (if trails persist longer the 5 minute SD shutdown period, then we need to write them out somewhere if the sector goes down? Or do we just not care about purely-NPC trails, which then eliminates some of the value of perhaps tracking special NPCs for bounties or other gameplay. Then that opens up the questions of how we convincingly simulate NPC movement trails in sectors that have been offline for lengthy periods, to re-create something useful when the sector starts up.. etc).

So, yes, I would like this, but it is not as trivial as simply adding a long streaming trail off of the back of ships in fogged sectors. We could do that, but you would only see the trails for as long as you had been in the sector, which I think could be pretty useless unless you stayed there for some time.
Sep 14, 2011 abortretryfail link
Oh that could be cool as hell. A feature like this could be used to enhance that missing trade ship mission by using some ion scanner addon or make new missions where you have to hunt down some fugitive NPC who flies into a dense asteroid sector and hides inside an asteroid with a hole in it or something. :)
Sep 14, 2011 Keller link
Not to mention (as was stated above), there should be the ability to block such a trail with an add-on. 5 minute histories? Can you say no one would ever be able to hide. The rats would get even lazier than they are now.
Sep 14, 2011 incarnate link
There are lots of possibilities for making tradeoffs of concealment addons, or having only "turbo" usage generate trails, and so on. But, the technical caveats of the basic architecture are not trivial (assuming it was intended to be broadly useful across NPCs and PCs). This is up there with "floating pirate station that moves from place to place" and other interesting gameplay addons that would be very cool, but would take some time.
Sep 14, 2011 Dr. Lecter link
What about the fixed point in space warp signatures, would those offer somewhat similar functionality but require significantly less implementation work?
Sep 14, 2011 incarnate link
Basically, anything intended to persist past the 5-minute SD shutdown barrier requires writing something out to a database and restoring the data (or some kind of Kourier persistency), along with having the server relay new information to the client, and the client process this in a meaningful way. The jump-point thing would be a little simpler than recording movements, but not by a lot. If one was going to go through the process of constructing everything needed to do the jump-point signatures, one might as well do the full trail implementation (or whatever construct would be the ideal).

A client-only version of jump-signatures could be achieved, but would only reflect ships that had jumped while you had been present in the particular sector.
Sep 14, 2011 Dr. Lecter link
A client-only version of jump-signatures could be achieved, but would only reflect ships that had jumped while you had been present in the particular sector.

This would still be pretty valuable, as 'just missing' someone is a pretty common occurance in VO.

And yes, I am hankering for a new inherent ability to justify the 'Hound's terrible armor and astronomical repair costs :)
Sep 15, 2011 TehRunner link
Inc, what are your thoughts on short lived cosmetic trails? purely client-side for the sole purpose of making things prettier. basically swarm trails, but for ships..or such.
Sep 16, 2011 incarnate link
This would still be pretty valuable, as 'just missing' someone is a pretty common occurance in VO.

I agree, it would have some value. Still, I'll hold off on things like this until we debug some of the bot problems and other current issues. Ideally, I would really like to do the full-blown thing, and link it in with general gameplay (special-NPC hunting and so on). Adding general pursuit-based gameplay, while still contingent technical considerations of "when you jumped into a sector", would be kind of.. not great.

Inc, what are your thoughts on short lived cosmetic trails? purely client-side for the sole purpose of making things prettier.

That's feasible. It would add some overdraw, which would be a hit on fill-rate-limited chips. I like it best for fog, as that inherently limits the visibility (removing some of the performance-vs-scale problems when you suddenly have a huge battle with tons of trails).

(Of course, as purely an eye-candy feature, it could be disabled for performance like any other effect. But I would rather the feature actually did something).