fixing the acceleration?

Tips, tactics, and general discussion for Evochron Mercenary and Evochron Legacy.

fixing the acceleration?

Postby heathengel » Fri Oct 06, 2017 1:39 pm

Hi all!

I just bought this game after trying out the demo, believing it had a Newtonian flight model. As I played more missions, I realized that it was not so, to my great disappointment. The only reason I avoid playing most so called "space simulators" is that they don't resemble space flight at all. I don't mind the addition of science fiction elements, warp drives etc but what is that mysterious force that prevents me from accelerating?

From what I read here, there are other unrealistic elements in the game (mostly concerning gravity), but I haven't played as much to experience them firsthand. It's a pity because it's otherwise a great game, very atmospheric, beautifully designed and rendered, from the ship models to the planets. So, I was wondering if there is any way to change the mechanics as a player, perhaps by a setting or even a mod, if such one exists.

If there isn't, could we at least find a decent explanation as to why the acceleration is capped at such low speeds? There are games 20 years old that have the basics of space flight right, which is why they are called space sims in the first place. Such a cap should have been placed beyond the reach of normal gameplay (for example reaching it only after accelerating for hours or even days). Accelerating at 10g would require ~10^7 seconds (about 115 days) to reach relativistic speeds irl.

What is the basic reason that speed needs to be capped, in your opinion? Is it difficult to implement larger distances between objects? It shouldn't be from a gameplay perspective, since the ships are equipped with jump drives that can take you from waypoint to waypoint. Acceleration and greatly varying speed brackets between encounters would create a completely new dimension of gameplay.
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Re: fixing the acceleration?

Postby Vice » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:46 pm

There are both gameplay and functionality reasons for why 'cruise' velocity is limited in the game, although you can fly faster than light in jump mode. Gameplay reasons include speed ranges being reasonably conducive to space combat involving more arcs, curves, loops, etc, using particle/object based weapon systems rather that merely high speed jousting flybys with light weapons (which in this game's universe, wouldn't result in being able to inflict sufficient damage). Speeds are generally still high enough to also allow for effective escape though, by building enough velocity in a given direction.

Functional reasons include various requirements for rendering certain things in the graphics engine and multiplayer movement systems (interpolation, prediction, and smoothing)... basically attempting to keep things reasonably smoother in those areas. So ultimately, intended gameplay and functional behaviors/goals are what guided the velocity ranges. A strict space physics presentation this game is not. Totally understand if that is a deal-breaker for you if you were looking for something else and I'll gladly terminate your key and provide a refund if you wish and if you bought the game direct.

If you take the infinite energy argument (energy requirement increases as you approach the speed of light), a game like this scales down that kind of principle to more manageable speeds, providing a similar paradigm and behavior that operates within the game's functional requirements and gameplay design. So at maximum thrust, your ship's ability to accelerate will slowly degrade the faster you go.
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Re: fixing the acceleration?

Postby DaveK » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:04 pm

This is from the Techy Guide (available from SeeJay's site):

The Explanation (or Why are we limited to less than 8000mps using sub-light engines?)

One would expect that under a constant force (the engine burn) in a friction free environment acceleration would remain constant and hence velocity would continue to increase until fuel ran out. However, there is friction in space - even interstellar space contains hydrogen and helium atoms, plus odd bits of material spat out in supernovae. Certainly not enough to slow your acceleration above a velocity of 5000 or so, though

There are a number of factors that lead to engineered limits of acceleration and maximum velocities. Firstly is the fragility of the human frame!

Ignoring Relativity and assuming we maintain the rapid initial acceleration (30 seconds to reach 5000m/s) then to reach SoL (300 000 000m/s) would take 10 million seconds = 117 days (continuous afterburner). The acceleration works out at around 170 m/s2 - so we are actually accelerating at 17g. At this time the performance of inertial damping technology (see below) is relatively poor and pilots are subjected to a much reduced but still high acceleration of 4 - 5g. Hence the need for acceleration suits. Obviously there is a limit to how long a pilot, even encased in an acceleration suit can withstand this punishment and so there is little point in developing propulsion systems that allow significantly greater accelerations to reach even higher top speeds. The result of the last improvement in Inertial Damping technology was the release and retrofitting of the IDS mutiplier system. Future improvements might see further increases in acceleration and top speed, but it will be dependent on a parallel increase in energy generation and storage technology.

Secondly is the effect of the 'muck' in space. Your ship is protected by the shield system which acts as a matter deflector (as well as protecting you from particle and laser weapons!) There is spacial distortion caused by the graviton particles in the shield matrix field. There is a limited amount of energy available to the ship and as it travels faster the shields have a greater amount of dust, molecules and ionised particles to deflect and hence have to use a higher proportion of the energy. The relativistic effect of the shield matrix on the matter it has to deflect is large; the mass increase of the particles at the point they interact with the shield hence leads to an exponentially increasing energy requirement.

Finally, there are limits imposed by the engines use of a plasma ejection system. If travel is required above 8000 mps the ships' designers decided that jump engines would the preferred method of moving from place to place. As a consequence they calibrated the ships central control AI to shunt energy to the shields at cost to the engines to ensure the safety of the ship. The ship's acceleration is controlled by the momentum of the ejected plasma and basically there isn't enough energy (nor ability of the plasma focussing system) to handle higher plasma through put or increased ejection speed - hence the speed limit is reached asymptotically (that is the speed approaches the maximum speed at a slower and slower rate)

Obviously a more streamlined shape is more efficient (but more expensive to make and maintain) - hence military ships (based on darts!) can accelerate faster than civilian ships - this is coupled with the higher specification plasma production and ejection systems in military ships, also giving them a higher maximum speed than the equivalent civilian frames. However, military designers like civilian designers still realise that combat pilots using normal engines would and should work within a limit of 5000 - 6000mps. They are expected to use the Fulcrum Jump Drive to micro-jump into and out of the fur-ball. Hence the military designers have limited the top speed of military ships via the energy distribution control AI core, just as the civilian designers did, leaving more energy available for other ship systems

:)
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Re: fixing the acceleration?

Postby heathengel » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:29 pm

Thanks for the prompt and clarifying response, when I asked for a good explanation that's exactly what I had in mind.

As I said, it's a great game with many commendable qualities (first of all being that it's downright beautiful). I'm not into game making, Concerning the reasons that you mentioned, let's start from the gameplay ones first.

In a hypothetical game universe where jump drives and other extreme high tech is available, we shouldn't impose limiting preconceptions of how combat would look in a given encounter. Our imagination (and technical prowess ;) ) should work towards enriching and multiplying the possibilities, instead of trying to fit them in a standard predefined model. One could imagine, for example, rapidly accelerating missiles that could acquire and track a fast moving ship, if fired in the right time window, giving its position to the attacker, and making it possible to intercept it at a time when it's vulnerable. Given that warp (or warp-like) technology exists, it is almost certain that inertia weapons will be around too, diminishing or preventing acceleration, as well as warp-denying weapons. One combatant could try to bring the fight to lower speeds and maneuvers, while another could be better suited to higher speeds and "jousts". Tractor beams could become more important in combat, as well as (extreme case) jump engines. Imagine jumping ahead in the velocity vector of an opponent that moves very fast, ie 60 kmps, a speed that takes a very long time to build and thus makes his motion predictable, and lay some inertia mines (or a large AoE net-like inertial weapon) that would brake him. Imagine also having "Doppler" scanners, capable of detecting very fast moving crafts at a much greater distance than slower ones. That would give players more time to react knowing that a fast mover is in the area. Fast movers should have some options to defend against these as well, requiring good reflexes and vigilance. Detection time vs relative speed would be the key balance here, and increasing the first with the second.


The simplest of all would be an inertia magnifying missile that would act as a powerful brake, giving someone the chance to take the fight to a lower speed. In game terms, speed is space. It's a vastly bigger space, the question is how to make players occupying different places in this space to interact. For that they need information (like the "Warp Doppler scanner") and means.

I understand I'm describing a different game, something that might need to be redesigned from very basic principles, but it's always interesting to speculate. Some of these concepts could be applied to the game even in its current state, like the "brake missile".

When it comes to functionality, I don't have any opinion as I don't know the details and my knowledge is limited, all my programming skills are oriented towards symbolic (and some numerical) calculations. But if I was to make a judgement call, I'd go for the best possible single player experience.

Thanks again!

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Post Addendum, Sat Oct 07, 2017 7:36 am

I'll just add a couple of more things to the thread, that I think are more directly relevant to our game. From what I read, the scale of the "Legacy" game has been much increased as opposed to the earlier Evochron mercenary (larger planets, sectors etc). I don't know if the speed limits have also been scaled proportionally, that might be worth looking into. I discovered the speed limits while trying to maneuver around a planet as I really needed more speed, perhaps around a planet 10 times smaller the speed limit wouldn't have been noticeable.

I agree that the gameplay priorities are subjective, but they do form certain coherent structures that should have some consistency. Again, that's the designer's prerogative, no doubt about it. For example, one could increase the scale of a game's world 100 times, while leaving the speed exactly the same. In my opinion, the changes introduced are inconsistent with whatever gameplay priorities existed in the earlier form.
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Re: fixing the acceleration?

Postby Vice » Fri Oct 06, 2017 7:56 pm

Interesting. Indeed, that would require a pretty different base set of gameplay rules. It also illustrates some of the challenges with such approaches. First, subjectivity. What something 'should' or 'shouldn't' do is subjective. What you view as 'important' may be 'too complicated' and/or 'in the way of desired gameplay' to others and vice versa. So one of the challenges a developer faces is how to deliver a fun experience to the audience they want their game to appeal to most along with what they want their game to be. And that's one of the benefits of being a developer, having the option to formulate basic gameplay mechanics and rules as they want them to be. It can certainly be a tricky balance between 'fun' and 'complexity/realism'. Believe it or not, the 'realism' that this game already has inhibits its appeal to a pretty large group of space-sim gamers looking for a more simplified approach to flight and combat. But for me, the developer, it's right about where I wanted it to be as the game I wanted to create.

In the realm of video games, reality is often adjusted to meet the needs and goals of a game and/or the technology on which is operates. And that goes far beyond speeds in space and includes things like sounds in space, weapon systems, external/chase views, explosions, collisions, and much more.

That's also why I've wanted to provide a free demo that players can use to determine if the game is something they enjoy or not and meets their expectations/interests or not. In this genre, there certainly seems to be a very wide range of interests and expectations. That variety is one of the elements I like about the genre also. I enjoy seeing how other developers implement such concepts in their games, including everything from flight dynamics to weapon systems. I may like/prefer some approaches more than others, but enjoy trying out most of them.
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Re: fixing the acceleration?

Postby Marvin » Fri Oct 06, 2017 8:19 pm

Too much to read right now so, in case it hasn't been mentioned, the Inertial mode does a fair job of simulating Newtonian physics.
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