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PostPosted: Sun Jul 20, 2008 10:15 am 
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This thread is to discuss issues related to players' ability to "see" objects in the game. This includes visibility on the galaxy map and within battles.

The design already includes detection and stealth meters for objects that determine what objects can see what other objects in battles. Basically, the detection meter indicates the maximum range at which an object can detect (see) other objects, and the stealth meter reduces the range at which other objects can see an object. Details are on the v0.4 Design Pad.

A few declarations of I said so:
* Unless there's a good reason, a very similar or identical system should be used on the galaxy map.
* Presumably a player's empire owning an object should always grant that player full visibility of an object and all details about it. In principle, we could have hidden information about objects that even the "owner" doesn't known, but this probably isn't necessary for v1.0, let alone v0.4.

Some questions we still need to address include:
* Assuming the stealth / detection mechanics are the same for the galaxy map and the battle map, do we need entirely separate stealth and detection meters (and techs and ship parts and buildings, etc.) to set / modify / boost them? Either way, we can have effects that only alter the meters in one context or the other, but should the values be presented to players and stored internally as a signle or multiple meters of each type?
* How far away, measured in units of the typical distance between systems on the map, should it be possible to see the following types of objects? This is about typical objects of their type, and doesn't imply that special cases couldn't be harder or easier to see.
** Systems (stars) - Currently all these can be seen by all players. However, this makes exploration of the galaxy less interesting and could potentially give advantages to human players over AIs in that humans are better able to infer what direction to scout based on the direction towards the centre of the galaxy.
** Planets - Currently all are visible after a system is explored, but if systems can be seen before reaching them, should planets as well? Being able to see into other systems without sending ships could be a valuable ability for certain strategies that don't use a lot of ships.
** Buildings - Currently buildings are visible when the planet they are on is visible, but it might be interesting to make it generally harder to see buildings... A much more refined or advanced long-range detection system would be useful if it allowed a player to see buildings in other systems that would otherwise be undetectable.
** Other Empires' Fleets - Currently these are visible on starlanes adjacent to systems the player can see or in systems the player can see.
*** Should it matter if a fleet is in a system or travelling on a starlane?
** Ships in Other Empires' Fleets - Currently these are visible whenever their fleet is visible.
** Starlanes - Currently these are visible after one of the systems they are connected to is explored (ie. the planets in the system are visible).
*** Could you see a fleet travelling on a starlane even if the lane itself isn't yet known / visible?

* How does that distance between the early, middle and late game? Presumably techs and buildings will make it possible to see unstealthy objects further away as the game progresses.

* Are there levels of visibility? Fleets could be detected just as "a fleet", with no further information about contents, or the approximate number of ships could be known, or the exact number but no details about their designs, or rough classifications of designs coudl be known, or exact design information could be known. Similarly for planets, the environment type, whether it is populated, approximately how populated and how developed it is could be known at with sufficient levels of detection.
** What determines how much detail is available? One option is to provide more information depending on how much the detection meter exceeds an object's stealth meter and distance from the detector.
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, system, etc.)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see more additional information, etc.
** Even if the special case for detection, where objects with stealth 0 are always visible, is in effect, seeing details about the object could require meeting the above more-restrictive conditions.
** Being able to boost planet stealth could then be useful even after a planet is detected, as one could hide how developed it is from enemy empires.
* If there are levels, what are they (called) and how many are there? Presumably they should be common to all objects with fixed meter thresholds, although each object type would reveal different information, appropriate for the object, at each level of visibility.

* Should the special case for detection, where objects with stealth 0 are always visible, that is mentioned in the battle map detection vs. stealth discussion in the v0.4 Design Pad, be applicable for galaxy map detection as well? If systems are always visible, this would make sense to do, but if systems are invisible unless a player gets a detecting object close enough to see them, this is perhaps not necessary.
** Then again, we might want a way to reliably make an object visible to the whole universe on the map without requiring another special case... Perhaps a star goes nova; the whole galaxy could be expected to see this.
** Even if systems aren't always visible, we could just give systems a base stealth of 0.01 (or other suitably small but non-zero number) so that they fall under standard detection rules, and not the stealth 0 special case.

* Is it important or beneficial for players to get bonuses to detecting ships if their empire knows something about the ships that are being detected? In particular, if the player has knowledge of the ship's design, should that give a bonus, or is this too complicated to worry about? Assuming appropriate espionage functionality exists, having bonuses to detect known ship designs could make spying to steal ship design more useful, even if an empire has no plans to build such designs for its own use.

* How should we deal with cases where a more-visible object is contained within a less-visible object? For example, a planet might have stealth 5 and the system it is in might have stealth 20. A ship would see the planet before it could see the system. We can't (or won't) have any way to show an isolated planet, apparently without a system, on the map, so either the planet will remain invisible until the system can be detected, or the visible planet will force the system to be visible as well.
** If there are levels of visibility, say 1 and 2 where level 2 gives more detailed info than level 1, should a level 2 planet make its system visible at level 2 as well?
** What if the system is at level 1, which doesn't reveal the system's contents (planets) but the planet is a level 2? Revealing just the level 2 planet, but not any other planets in the system (since the system's visibility isn't high enough to reveal its contents), could be complicated and prone to UI issues and would likely be best avoided.

Other declarations:
* Other specifics of content, such as specific things that alter stealth meters of objects in
a system can likely wait until after the above issues are resolved.
* We don't need to discuss visibility from espionage or other special conditions right now.
* As usual, realism argument aren't relevant.

Is there anything else I've missed?

Relevant links:
* Stealth and Detection on the system Map
* Improved Display of Fleet icons on the Galaxy Map

Thanks to eleazar and tzlaine for input on this post.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:24 am 
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Heavily edited by Geoff

-- If detection is always a [Sensor Range - Stealth quality] = Visibility Range question, it limits the tactical and strategic utility. Two simple examples:
1. Strategic: Stealthed fleet heading to raid/do espionage on an important world. As soon as it comes close-ish to the border it gets detected regardless of any other factors. Stealth = worthless.
2. Tactical: Cloaked carriers are pointless unless they're designed to have big fast engines to keep them far away from the enemy.

On stealth being random: If it's not, people are likely to not bother making any of their ships stealthy unless they have a large tech advantage.

Making stealth a boolean variable rips out most of the strategic and tactical uses for the tech.

ECM is already in-game and split from stealth, here's why it's in this thread: In theory, ECM could prevent 'visibility' in terms of figuring out what a ship is. Could be important tactically. If this specific application is not relevant, happy to move it to another section.


Last edited by Tsenzouken on Mon Jul 21, 2008 10:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:51 am 
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Tsenzouken wrote:
-- If detection is always a [Sensor Range - Stealth quality] = Visibility Range question, it limits the tactical and strategic utility.

If Detection is less than a target object's Stealth, the target object is invisible regardless of how close it is to the (would-be) detecting object. And even if this wasn't the case, there are certainly tactical and strategic benefits to preventing enemies from seeing your fleets or ships unless they're close to the detecting object.

Quote:
On stealth being random:

Stealth isn't random and this isn't up for debate now.

Quote:
...people are likely to not bother making any of their ships stealthy unless they have a large tech advantage.

Regardless of detection ability, having more stealth means it's harder to see your ships and the detecting ships need to be closer to do so, and any stealthy ships moving towards enemy ships will be detected later, giving less time to react, and any fleeing stealthy ships will be harder to track. These are all useful advantages that will motivate making stealthy ships.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 8:54 am 
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I disagree.

The high resource cost of ships, the decrease in combat effectiveness any stealthy ship will suffer (if there is no tradeoff, it is not a strategic decision,) and the strong possibility of technological seesawing will likely make it rare.

Most players tend not to plan for retreat, so that is not likely to be a factor. I do agree with the less-time-to-react to some extent, although the actual utility of stealthing vessels is going to be heavily dependent on the tradeoff(s) for doing so and the nature of weaponry in FO's tactical engine.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:08 am 
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Geoff the Medio wrote:
* Assuming the stealth / detection mechanics are the same for the galaxy map and the battle map, do we need entirely separate stealth and detection meters (and techs and ship parts and buildings, etc.) to set / modify / boost them? Either way, we can have effects that only alter the meters in one context or the other, but should the values be presented to players and stored internally as a signle or multiple meters of each type?

I would say no. If the mechanics are the same, then techs,ship parts and effects should be able to affect any object, whether on the battle map or galaxy map.

Examples:
- Stealth Planet in galaxy map / Stealth Ship in battle
- Blind planet in galaxy map / blind ship in battle

Geoff the Medio wrote:
* How far away, measured in units of the typical distance between systems on the map, should it be possible to see the following types of objects? This is about typical objects of their type, and doesn't imply that special cases couldn't be harder or easier to see.
** Systems (stars) - Currently all these can be seen by all players. However, this makes exploration of the galaxy less interesting and could potentially give advantages to human players over AIs in that humans are better able to infer what direction to scout based on the direction towards the centre of the galaxy.

I have no problem with seeing all stars on the galaxy map. As long as you can't see their planets. However, maybe it would be possible to hide the colour of a star until you are within detection range, as all you know is their is a mass there.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Planets - Currently all are visible after a system is explored, but if systems can be seen before reaching them, should planets as well?

Yes, as you are close enough (in the system) to see the detail of the planet. Certainly there are likely to be things on the planet that won't be known until colonisation, eg specials such as nasty alien creatures, artifacts, etc.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
Being able to see into other systems without sending ships could be a valuable ability for certain strategies that don't use a lot of ships.

It depends what this is. Eg stargates, sure they dont necesarily need ships. Have gate A on your planet. Mass driver launches gate B to target planet. No ship needed, transport between worlds available.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Buildings - Currently buildings are visible when the planet they are on is visible, but it might be interesting to make it generally harder to see buildings... A much more refined or advanced long-range detection system would be useful if it allowed a player to see buildings in other systems that would otherwise be undetectable.

Maybe buildings could be seen with more spying techs, as you would not know what building does what until you go inside, unless you can analyse the exterior of the building.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Other Empires' Fleets - Currently these are visible on starlanes adjacent to systems the player can see or in systems the player can see.

Seems ok.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
*** Should it matter if a fleet is in a system or travelling on a starlane?

Depends how long a starlane is. A fleet might be closer and more detectable in a starlane then in the system through the starlane.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Ships in Other Empires' Fleets - Currently these are visible whenever their fleet is visible.

Seems ok. Only advanced stealth / detection fighting (eg fleet stealth vs fleet detection) would hid exact ship details. Maybe design details could remain hidden until their designs are revealed. Eg a ship when encountered as an enemy is assigned a blank design (screen for list of enemy designs needed here). As ships of the same type on the enemy side use their weapons and systems, or are boarded, etc, more details get added to the enemy ship design. This design is the detail seen of ships in an enemy fleet, whether the design is complete or not.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Starlanes - Currently these are visible after one of the systems they are connected to is explored (ie. the planets in the system are visible).

Maybe they should be fully visible only when travelled through. In this case only the end closest to the currently explored system is shown.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
*** Could you see a fleet travelling on a starlane even if the lane itself isn't yet known / visible?

Yes, this is the process to make the starlane visible.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
* Are there levels of visibility? Fleets could be detected just as "a fleet", with no further information about contents, or the approximate number of ships could be known, or the exact number but no details about their designs, or rough classifications of designs coudl be known, or exact design information could be known. Similarly for planets, the environment type, whether it is populated, approximately how populated and how developed it is could be known at with sufficient levels of detection.

This would be good. But I think if we go into too much detail it would lengthen turns too much by providing too much information for the player to look for.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** What determines how much detail is available? One option is to provide more information depending on how much the detection meter exceeds an object's stealth meter and distance from the detector.
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, system, etc.)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see more additional information, etc.
** Even if the special case for detection, where objects with stealth 0 are always visible, is in effect, seeing details about the object could require meeting the above more-restrictive conditions.
** Being able to boost planet stealth could then be useful even after a planet is detected, as one could hide how developed it is from enemy empires.

This is a good idea and a simplistic method.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
* If there are levels, what are they (called) and how many are there? Presumably they should be common to all objects with fixed meter thresholds, although each object type would reveal different information, appropriate for the object, at each level of visibility.

For a planet: larger scale things to smaller scale things, eg Planet type, biodivrsity, minerals, farming stats, civilisations, buildings, artifacts

For a fleet: fleet mass/size, number of ships, formation, ship types (loose guess), enemy ships designs, design detail eg lasers, shields, etc

Geoff the Medio wrote:
* Should the special case for detection, where objects with stealth 0 are always visible, that is mentioned in the battle map detection vs. stealth discussion in the v0.4 Design Pad, be applicable for galaxy map detection as well? If systems are always visible, this would make sense to do, but if systems are invisible unless a player gets a detecting object close enough to see them, this is perhaps not necessary.

** Then again, we might want a way to reliably make an object visible to the whole universe on the map without requiring another special case... Perhaps a star goes nova; the whole galaxy could be expected to see this.

There might be a case where this is used. It would be good to have the option.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** Even if systems aren't always visible, we could just give systems a base stealth of 0.01 (or other suitably small but non-zero number) so that they fall under standard detection rules, and not the stealth 0 special case.


Geoff the Medio wrote:
* Is it important or beneficial for players to get bonuses to detecting ships if their empire knows something about the ships that are being detected? In particular, if the player has knowledge of the ship's design, should that give a bonus, or is this too complicated to worry about? Assuming appropriate espionage functionality exists, having bonuses to detect known ship designs could make spying to steal ship design more useful, even if an empire has no plans to build such designs for its own use.

Only in the way I have already explained. That is once a design is revealed or partially revealed, that is the detail seen of the enemy ship. The enemy ship still has to be detected first though.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
* How should we deal with cases where a more-visible object is contained within a less-visible object? For example, a planet might have stealth 5 and the system it is in might have stealth 20. A ship would see the planet before it could see the system. We can't (or won't) have any way to show an isolated planet, apparently without a system, on the map, so either the planet will remain invisible until the system can be detected, or the visible planet will force the system to be visible as well.

Seems like too much of a special case. But, yes the planet would be seen first. I don't know if this should happen for the game. Maybe the system remains hidden, but once discovered, the planet information is revealed without need for exploration.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** If there are levels of visibility, say 1 and 2 where level 2 gives more detailed info than level 1, should a level 2 planet make its system visible at level 2 as well?

Since a system is made up of that planet plus other things, then the system should be more visible, so yes.

Geoff the Medio wrote:
** What if the system is at level 1, which doesn't reveal the system's contents (planets) but the planet is a level 2? Revealing just the level 2 planet, but not any other planets in the system (since the system's visibility isn't high enough to reveal its contents), could be complicated and prone to UI issues and would likely be best avoided.

Best be avoided.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 12:42 pm 
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For the galaxy screen, I think stars should be always visible, no matter what, and Star lanes not adjacent to discovered systems should be invisible, like we have now.
I don't think it is wise to let players be able to see directly into other peoples systems either without special means to do so, because players will not be able to reliably hide their movements from prying eyes. It should be a simple matter to look at your borders and instantly know (barring spies and other evils) what your opponent can't see.


Lastly, when it comes to stealth and detection, I think spies should have the lions share of abilities that no one else has, so they don't degenerate into mere saboteurs, assassins and thieves. The visibility system is a great opportunity for spies to be valuable scouts and informants.

Just a few opinions from your local graphics team member.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:06 pm 
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Josh wrote:
For the galaxy screen, I think stars should be always visible, no matter what, and Star lanes not adjacent to discovered systems should be invisible, like we have now.

Do you have any reasons for this? Your other comments were explained well enough, but this was just stated...


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 Post subject: Oh yeah, that....
PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 1:18 pm 
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No, I didn't really think that one out Image

I just like the way we do it now :) . Making them invisible just seems like over thinking it.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 4:36 am 
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Physics? Unless there is something physically blocking or redirecting the light a star gives off, its spectral class (and therefore temperature and mass) can easily be determined. Distance is irrelevant as a factor unless light from a new star has not yet had time to reach the point of observation. (Which, given the time scales involved in stellar formation, is highly improbable.)

Sidenote:
Quote:
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, system, etc.)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see more additional information, etc.

It would be simpler to gauge this by ratios, rather than absolute numbers.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 5:35 am 
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Tsenzouken wrote:
Unless there is something physically blocking or redirecting the light...

Realism arguments are irrelivant when other arguments have been made (and they have in this case).

Quote:
It would be simpler to gauge this by ratios, rather than absolute numbers.

Ratios seems a lot more complicated to me, particularly if we have several levels of visibility. "10 more" is always "10 more", whereas "twice" changes in amount as the baseline changes. If several levels are "twice", "three times" and "four times", then the baseline can't go over 25, or there's no way to get "four times", since meters max out at 100. And similarly, using fixed increments means a +X to stealth is exactly countered by a +X to detection, whereas with ratios, the importance of +X in either case will depend on the value to which +X is being added; for small intial values, +X is a much larger fraction, and adding +X to both stealth and detection won't necessarily get you back to the same ratio you were at before (if the initial ratio wasn't 1:1). Another consequence of that is that if the baseline meter is small, say 2 or 3, then there's very little room between the levels, and they become nearly meaningless since any significant bonus to either competing meter will overwhelm any previous difference. And, if using a ratio, special cases need to be added whenever a 0 would appear in the denominator. With fixed amount differences, the value of +X is always the same, and the additional bonus given by each tech level can be about the same and have roughly the same strategic value.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 7:31 am 
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Quote:
I have no problem with seeing all stars on the galaxy map. As long as you can't see their planets. (agreed, at least not without very sophisticated tech) However, maybe it would be possible to hide the colour of a star until you are within detection range, as all you know is their is a mass there.

This is also a realism-based argument as well. How does this enhance gameplay?

Having a meter 0-100 control detection is a mid/end game dead-end. When stealth tech hits 100 and detection hits 100, there is no further value to be gleaned from it because you can't have +10/20/30 or even +.1.

I can see we're not on the same sheet of music re:ratios. If you have a +10/20/30 system it means that there will be exactly 10 sensor/stealth technologies in the entire tree with zero refinements. Think about ratios in a more sophisticated manner than 4:1/3:1/2:1 and the utility becomes more apparent. Example:
1.3:1 can equate to your +30, 1.2:1 to +20 etc.
This system replicates the same simplicity of the other system, but allows for more gradations of technology. The gameplay value of this is that different empires will see each other differently, making scouting more valuable, or less necessary for those who've invested in sensor technology.

Additionally, there is no reason why the detection meter cannot be representational of your level of detection infrastructure rather than a determinant of the efficacy of your equipment, which would eliminate the end-game dead end issue completely. Does this make sense?


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 9:26 am 
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Tsenzouken wrote:
utilae wrote:
I have no problem with seeing all stars on the galaxy map. As long as you can't see their planets.
This is also a realism-based argument as well. How does this enhance gameplay?

It's not a realism argument; it's a statement of preference with no reason at all.

Quote:
Having a meter 0-100 control detection is a mid/end game dead-end. When stealth tech hits 100 and detection hits 100, there is no further value to be gleaned from it because you can't have +10/20/30 or even +.1.

We won't have so many large bonuses to these, or any meter, that this is an issue. The fixed 0 to 100 meter value range is somewhat arbitrary, but is a reasonable size for most purposes, and is kept the same for all meters for reasons including consistency and ease of display in the UI.

Quote:
If you have a +10/20/30 system it means that there will be exactly 10 sensor/stealth technologies in the entire tree with zero refinements.

We won't only have bonuses in increments of 10, and not all bonuses need to stack with all other bonuses.

Quote:
Think about ratios in a more sophisticated manner than 4:1/3:1/2:1 and the utility becomes more apparent. Example:
1.3:1 can equate to your +30, 1.2:1 to +20 etc.

There is nothing more "sophisticated" about "1.2" than "2"; it just changes the scaling between the base value and the size of increments. In doing so, it makes much worse the issue I noted previously about levels being numerically too close together for reasonable base meter values.

If we have defined detection levels, it will be based on an absolute difference, not a ratio. If you want to discuss it further, please do so in a brainstorming thread or a private message.


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:39 am 
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Actually that makes more sense!


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 25, 2008 1:29 pm 
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Quote:
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, system, etc.)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see more additional information, etc.


I suggest a little change like this...

Code:
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance ... There something here (but is it big or small?)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, system,...)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 30 ... Can see more additional information, etc.


or like this
Code:
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance -10 ... There something here (but is it big or small?)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance +00 ... Can see object and its basic type (ship, class)
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 10 ... Can see some additional information
*** Detection >= Stealth + Distance + 20 ... Can see more additional information, etc.


Just representing the ship by a red point on the strategic map.


This actually add some stress to the battle ( are they battleships, carriers or transports?) and may add a strategic value.

If you add a decoy ship'spart, that can be very interesting.

Decoy just pretend to be ship but at "Detection >= Stealth + Distance + X" you see the really true nature of this boggie.

just some thoughts

Nyquist


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 27, 2008 1:12 pm 
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In my opinion the stars of the galaxy and star lanes could be as visible as they are in the current version. Since as the player chooses the shape and size of the galaxy before he/she starts a game, I don`t see a reason to hide this information from the player as he/she already knows that there is for example a cluster galaxy with 500 hundred stars waiting for him/her. And if the stars are always visible we could most likely avoid the problem of an individual planet having a higher visibility than the star system that it is in. Also seeing the whole galaxy with its nebulas’ and gaseous substances might be more pleasing to the eye than just seeing a couple of stars or a single star at the start of the game.

As for planets I would hope that they will have levels of visibility, so that we could have a truly interesting exploration system as discussed in these threads:

http://www.freeorion.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=747

http://www.freeorion.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1303&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&hilit=far+corners+of+earth

Now I don`t consider it to be very exciting or rewarding to find stars of a different colour in a galactic strategy game, since it is quite obvious that there will be different kinds of stars in a galaxy. However what I would consider to be exciting is to find out what kinds of planets, specials, space monsters etc. those star systems contain, since these things determine their value to me. The same phenomena can also be found in sports game drafts. It isn`t very suprising that the draft class contains human players, however what is exciting in those drafts is the attributes that those players have and finding about them. Are they fast, powerful, skilful in some area etc.

So what I am hoping is that we could have levels of visibility for planets (and other star system contents), so that thoroughly exploring a star system would take some time. This way we could hopefully add an interesting exploration period to the early stages of a game and by doing so offer the player interesting discoveries, instead of a mindless colonisation race.

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Last edited by MikkoM on Sun Jul 27, 2008 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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