Nebulae and asteroids in ship combat

I haven’t posted an update in a while, but rest assured I’ve been making a lot of progress on ship combat system. Ships now have armour, regenerating shields, structure hitpoints and weapons; they can shoot at each other and destroy each other. I’ve also implemented the reactive strike system that lets ships fire when an enemy flies through their firing arcs and players can hit a button to highlight all the squares the enemy’s reactive strikes cover so you can make tactical decisions quickly. There are firing animations for beam weapons and projectile weapons, which I’ll put a video up of once I’ve built the hotbar user interface to show it off properly. Below is what I’ve been working on this week:

Nebulae and asteroids

This week I added asteroids to the ship combat system and built a new system for creating gas nebulae, dust clouds, area-effect weapons, warp effects and explosions. Any fight taking place in an asteroid field will have asteroids moving slowly through the map, disappearing when they reach the edge and new ones periodically entering. The video below shows a few example nebulae using different colours, amounts of luminous gas and amounts of dust.

Nebulae will add some tactical variation to fleet combat, some being dangerous areas to avoid and others providing a tactical benefit. If you live in a system surrounded by a nebula you could even build a specialised defense fleet to take advantage of them.  A few of the things I could use this for are:

  • Sensor disrupting nebula – Attacks on ships inside the nebula have a chance to miss, or all ships inside are cloaked unless you come close. This could be a huge nebula covering most or all of the battlefield.
  • Shield dampening nebula – Shields don’t work at all inside the nebula. This could also be a huge nebula.
  • Ion storm – Ships inside the area take damage every round.
  • Slipstream – Ships gain bonus movement speed while inside the slipstream.
  • Wormhole – Two wormholes connecting far-away points on the battlefield.
  • Charged plasma – If a ship inside this nebula fires or is fired upon, the nebula discharges a bolt of lightning on a random nearby ship.
  • Explosive gas – If a ship inside this nebula fires or is fired upon, nebula explodes, dealing damage to everyone inside the nebula and dissipating the gas.

Most of these should have a small random chance to spawn, and if a solar system is surrounded by a nebula there will be at least one of that nebula in battles there. Certain weapons could even leave behind charged plasma fields or ion storms.

Science vessels

Recently the team and I have been discussing whether there’s a role for science vessels and non-combat ships in a combat encounter. Some of the most awesome moments from Star Trek all involved on-the-fly science using equipment that wasn’t meant for combat, and we’d like to do that in Predestination. The idea would be to let you research a suite of science modules that can be used in combat, like a scanner that probes enemy ships for weak points. Some of these might have uses outside combat, so you might build an asteroid belt mining ship to gather resources and still be able to use it in combat when the system is attacked. A few ideas we’ve had include:

  • Nebula scanner – Reveals the properties of the nebula. The nebula may have a hidden property that you can reveal using this, or scanning it may increase its existing positive effects and decrease its negative effects. For example, scanning a charged plasma nebula might reveal the plasma’s frequency, giving your ships immunity from the lightning discharges.
  • Gas harvesters – Let you suck up a nebula and deploy it elsewhere on the battlefield. This could be hilarious fun 😀
  • Asteroid scanner – Reveals the composition of the asteroid. Asteroids may have hidden minerals that could be used in battle. For example, it might contain explosive material that you could detonate or add to a missile, or a rare element you can use to increase weapon damage temporarily, or something that boosts your shields.
  • Tractor beam – Alter the direction of an asteroid.
  • Slipstream/wormhole generator – Creates a slipstream/wormhole between two locations on the battlefield.
  • Shield harmonic probe – Missile that determines an enemy ship’s shield frequency when it hits, letting your fleet ignore its shields.
  • Impulse disruptor – Creates and area effect slow or decreases an enemy ship’s movement speed.
  • Electronic counter measures – Could decrease an enemy ship’s attack range, give it a chance to miss, or disable its reactive strike.

If you have any ideas of your own for nebulas, area-effect weapons or interesting ship modules, please post them in the comments! We’re at the point where we can start making practically anything and I’d love to see what kind of ideas people come up with.

About Brendan Drain

Director @ Brain and Nerd
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