Field upgrades, especially for weapons

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MatGB
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Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#1 Post by MatGB »

We've discussed a few times the idea that refinement techs should/could include field upgrades, some have been in favour in some way or other, others against. I'm fairly strongly in the "in favour" camp, I'd love to just have to add a Death Ray part to a design and not have to upgrade them constantly, I know others, especially Vezzra, have some strong objections to this.

I thought this news from NASA today was pertinent:
JPL | News | Mars Rover's Laser-Zapping Instrument Gets Sharper Vision
Work by the instrument's team members at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and in France has yielded an alternative auto-focus method following loss of use of a small laser that served for focusing the instrument during Curiosity's first two years on Mars … The repair required sending new software to be installed on the instrument.
Basically, the Curiosity, deployed on Mars, now has better lasers than it had when it landed.

From the thread most recently discussing it
Vezzra wrote:especially the idea that you can level up the firepower of fleets deep within enemy territory just by complete researching a tech doesn't sit well with me at all. The idea has been repeatedly suggested, and I've always objected, IIRC we haven't really reached general consensus on that yet.
I think I'm not clear why that specifically bothers you, I don't see it as a massive problem myself thus unless I can understand why you think it is I can't either change my mind or propose solutions to it.
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Dilvish
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#2 Post by Dilvish »

MatGB wrote:From the thread most recently discussing it
Vezzra wrote:especially the idea that you can level up the firepower of fleets deep within enemy territory just by complete researching a tech doesn't sit well with me at all. The idea has been repeatedly suggested, and I've always objected, IIRC we haven't really reached general consensus on that yet.
I think I'm not clear why that specifically bothers you, I don't see it as a massive problem myself thus unless I can understand why you think it is I can't either change my mind or propose solutions to it.
Well, thinking about it a bit right now -- given our current shield dynamics, a step up in shot damage from one tier to the next can actually be a very significant increase in the effective power of the fleet. Having to plan for that, at least for an invading fleet in your territory, just seems wrong (not to mention a pain to try to cover for the AI). Even having to plan for it on your border is a bit of a nuisance, but at least there you're already on notice that the fleet could suddenly become more powerful.

That doesn't mean that there couldn't be any field upgrades, although Geoff is quite wary of it (to say the least), I think it would be possible to work out a field upgrade mechanic for in-supply ships. To distinguish in-supply ships from out-of supply ships the designs would have to track the part tiers separately like they do now (not just have a Mass Driver which might be anything from MD1 to MD 4), and there would have to be a new design for the upgraded ship. The last time this was discussed, Geoff pointed out some of the difficulties involved in an automatic design upgrade, and I think that was his main objection to in-supply upgrades, but it strikes me now that such a thing wouldn't really be necessary.

It seems to me that the in-supply field upgrades would work fine if the mechanism relied on the player making the upgraded design; I think that would meet all of Geoff's concerns that I recall. If it turns out that deciding "what is a clearly superior upgrade" is too tricky to do automatically, then we could simply automatically determine what are valid upgrades and let the user decide which (if any) should be rolled out as field upgrades.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#3 Post by Chriss »

Whatever the mechanic, I think there should be a way to "reuse" older ships. Whether it's refitting or a form of scrapping which yields production or something else like in place upgrades...

About Front-Line, why not make upgrades require a shipyard and drydock, a stationary ship and a certain happiness (as in: not recently conquered)?
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#4 Post by MatGB »

Chriss wrote:Whatever the mechanic, I think there should be a way to "reuse" older ships. Whether it's refitting or a form of scrapping which yields production or something else like in place upgrades...
Geoff's completely opposed to scrapping/production, worries it's a way to ship production excessively, I don't actually share his concern but I don't care, but I basically agree, some sort of bonus beyond that of the reduced upkeep costs would suit me.
About Front-Line, why not make upgrades require a shipyard and drydock, a stationary ship and a certain happiness (as in: not recently conquered)?
Bookkeeping, it's been discussed a few times, I have zero clue how to do it in a way that isn't annoyingly complicated.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#5 Post by wheals »

Dilvish wrote:It seems to me that the in-supply field upgrades would work fine if the mechanism relied on the player making the upgraded design; I think that would meet all of Geoff's concerns that I recall. If it turns out that deciding "what is a clearly superior upgrade" is too tricky to do automatically, then we could simply automatically determine what are valid upgrades and let the user decide which (if any) should be rolled out as field upgrades.
I think that not having to make the upgraded design each time is the biggest advantages of having field upgrades, since it seems like a big drag to upgrade any design with any weapons whenever you research a refinement.

Off the top of my head, a possibly bad idea -- how about making the total attack capacity of ships be a meter (as was done with troop capacity recently IIUC)? The Target of the meter would be based on the power of the ship's weapons, and the power of the weapons would depend on which refinement you've researched. However, the Current value only increases to the Target if the ship is in supply range. That way, you avoid mass upgrades of out-of-supply ships, but the player also doesn't have to upgrade anything manually.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#6 Post by Dilvish »

wheals wrote:I think that not having to make the upgraded design each time is the biggest advantages of having field upgrades, since it seems like a big drag to upgrade any design with any weapons whenever you research a refinement.
The design screen could have an 'Upgrade Design' button that automates this task & makes it rather easy. I believe that would still be fine with Geoff since it would still be under control of & be supervised by the user.
Off the top of my head, a possibly bad idea -- how about making the total attack capacity of ships be a meter (as was done with troop capacity recently IIUC)? The Target of the meter would be based on the power of the ship's weapons, and the power of the weapons would depend on which refinement you've researched. However, the Current value only increases to the Target if the ship is in supply range. That way, you avoid mass upgrades of out-of-supply ships, but the player also doesn't have to upgrade anything manually.
Weapons are already handled in the manner that troop capacity was recently made to, but the second part of your idea is worth looking at. I think what you're really thinking of is more a paired-meter kind of operation, like for fuel. Unlike fuel there wouldn't be anything depleting the weapons, it's just that if they increased it would be only slowly and while in supply (like shields used to be). And it would have to be paired at the individual part level, since that is what matters for shield DR. It seems like a pretty decent proposal.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#7 Post by MatGB »

I concur, hadn't thought of that idea but it does seem to solve a lot of the problems with the other ideas.

I agree that, for me, upgrading my designs every few turns (and, indeed, having multiple different designs saved) is annoying and frustrating, especially for large ships like Titans and Fractals, it's that I want to get out of more than anything else.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#8 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Dilvish wrote:[Weapon strength meters] would have to be paired at the individual part level, since that is what matters for shield DR. It seems like a pretty decent proposal.
That would be better than a lot of other options in terms of letting a design just specify "laser" and not "laser 3", and thus eliminating all the possible permutations of different refinement levels a design could contain. Non-linear refinements, or multiple distinct refinements that modify the same part (either all affecting one meters, or affecting multiple meters per part) would also be easier, as there wouldn't need to be a distinct name for each combination of them. But this would only work for refinements that can function by modifying a meter, either part-specific or ship-general. (And cost-reducing refinements would also be fine regardless). That may not be a substantial limitation in practice, though.

I have concern about this substantially increasing the number of meters per ship object, though. That's a lot more data to move around and store for a not so essential bit of functionality. However, the (arguably) simplification of designs to not have specific part revisions, and potential to eliminate separate part scripts for various part refinement levels might make this worth the costs.

But field upgrades remain more problematic seeming to me. The suggestion to do meter refinement-related meter increases "for in-supply ships" seems to require substantial micromanagement of ships to bring them back into supply to get their meters boosted. Not as bad as having to go to a planet (or particular building) but still potentially a lot of shuttling ships back and forth as refinements are researched or unlocked over time. Perhaps even more problematic is displaying the state of paired part meters to the player. If doing field upgrades, this would be quite important for the player to keep track of which ships have or haven't gotten which meter boosts, in order to keep track of the shuttling micromanagement status.

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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#9 Post by MatGB »

Geoff the Medio wrote: But field upgrades remain more problematic seeming to me. The suggestion to do meter refinement-related meter increases "for in-supply ships" seems to require substantial micromanagement of ships to bring them back into supply to get their meters boosted. Not as bad as having to go to a planet (or particular building) but still potentially a lot of shuttling ships back and forth as refinements are researched or unlocked over time. Perhaps even more problematic is displaying the state of paired part meters to the player. If doing field upgrades, this would be quite important for the player to keep track of which ships have or haven't gotten which meter boosts, in order to keep track of the shuttling micromanagement status.
If it's done in the same way that fuel is, then it mostly wouldn't be a problem, even if you do implement the 'borders' for supply that you've suggested a few times, you have to withdraw ships to both refuel and repair (the damage control techs work best in supply range) anyway, I think it'd be a simple task to keep track of given we already have the withdraw to refuel/repair need anyway.

Your point about lots of data shuttling about is a good one though, I'd hate to introduce more lag, but I think unless it's terrible this is a good approach that solves a lot of the issues we've had with the idea.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#10 Post by Sloth »

Geoff the Medio wrote:I have concern about this substantially increasing the number of meters per ship object, though. That's a lot more data to move around and store for a not so essential bit of functionality. However, the (arguably) simplification of designs to not have specific part revisions, and potential to eliminate separate part scripts for various part refinement levels might make this worth the costs.
An alternative that would need less data is storing upgrades on the ship. For example a ship has design X and the upgrades: Mass Driver 2, Laser 2, Laser 3 and Reinforced Hull.

That would need making an upgrades txt script file where the effects of the upgrades are stored (similar to specials). Each turn all supply connected ships will gain all unlocked upgrades that they don't have already.

That would also solve issues when players capture enemy ships. The upgrades will remain even when they aren't unlocked yet.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#11 Post by Geoff the Medio »

Sloth wrote:An alternative that would need less data is storing upgrades on the ship. For example a ship has design X and the upgrades: Mass Driver 2, Laser 2, Laser 3 and Reinforced Hull.
That seems like it would require similar, or perhaps more memory actually... storing upgrades would mean storing a set of strings per ship, instead of an extra meter per part, where a meter internally is two 32-bit float numbers. A few 8+ character strings could be more than that.

Also, I have a bad feeling about tracking individual upgrades by name on a per-ship basis like that. It feels like it getting too much into the area of tracking a lot more "unique" info about each ship... They don't have user-selected promotions, or experience levels per ship, for instance, but that feels like that sort of thing. FreeOrion is really more of an empire-level game, and too much detail per-ship has bad consequences in this case...

For some reason having meters tracking current and "max" or "target" values of part meters doesn't bother me as much.

That said, something like that could probably be implemented now with just FOCS changes by using specials to implement the upgrading on each ship.

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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#12 Post by Dilvish »

Geoff the Medio wrote:The suggestion to do meter refinement-related meter increases "for in-supply ships" seems to require substantial micromanagement of ships to bring them back into supply to get their meters boosted. Not as bad as having to go to a planet (or particular building) but still potentially a lot of shuttling ships back and forth as refinements are researched or unlocked over time.
But we already have to do continual jockeying of fleets/ships back to Supply for Fuel and Repair; periodically doing it for weapons upgrades (or just coincidentally getting weapons upgrades when you do it already for fuel or repair) seems rather minor.
Perhaps even more problematic is displaying the state of paired part meters to the player. If doing field upgrades, this would be quite important for the player to keep track of which ships have or haven't gotten which meter boosts, in order to keep track of the shuttling micromanagement status.
I don't think anything very special would be needed for this. The actual time spent mid-upgrade would be quite short and I don't think a special UI element is needed for it. The overall ship damage meter tooltip being done in the same style as currently used for structure, fuel, etc., would be just fine for the player to determine if an upgrade was available but not-yet-complete, and if they really desired they could always infer the status of individual part meters by consulting the pedia page for the ship design to see how many weapons are involved.
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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#13 Post by Vezzra »

Sorry for chiming in only now, it's not because I overlooked it or didn't thought it important, on the contrary, I think it's an interesting and important topic, and wanted to think over it a bit more thoroughly. Then I got distracted (as always), and well... now I'm here ;)
MatGB wrote:
Vezzra wrote:especially the idea that you can level up the firepower of fleets deep within enemy territory just by complete researching a tech doesn't sit well with me at all. The idea has been repeatedly suggested, and I've always objected, IIRC we haven't really reached general consensus on that yet.
I think I'm not clear why that specifically bothers you, I don't see it as a massive problem myself thus unless I can understand why you think it is I can't either change my mind or propose solutions to it.
Although the discussion has progressed to a point where my objections you refer to here are probably obsolete, I still want to answer that question.

Dilvish already made a few points (which I agree to). I'd go further and think that even disregarding shields (which just add to the basic problem), being able to upgrade the combat strength of your fleet regaredless where it is (so, even in the middle of the battle zone, deep within enemy territory), is simply vastly overpowered, and IMO playing havoc with game balance.

Please consider we're not talking about a rather minor enhancement here, we're talking about a considerable jump in available firepower. One of our design goals concerning techs and research is that we do not want to have a lot of cheap, minor improvements when researching new techs, but make techs more expensive and have them provide a significant improvement instead. Meaning, if you research a weapon refinement, you're supposed to get a significantly improved weapon.

This of course means that if all ships with a lower refinement level of that weapon get that upgrade wherever they are, even fleets deployed deep within enemy territory gain a sudden, considerable boost to their firepower. That can and will upset and screw strategic planning majorly. Personal tastes/preferences of course vary, and there might be those who find the scenario and situations created by this kind of mechanic interesting, but I'm certainly not one of them. As a player, I don't want to have to worry about sudden significant increases in combat strength of the enemy fleets I'm facing, especially if they are deep within my territory.

Strategic planning would become too much of a gamble. It just feels too much of a cheat to me.

And, considering how challenging it will be even for a human to account for such dynamics, an AI will be totally screwed I think (Dilvish already pointed that out too).

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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#14 Post by Vezzra »

Dilvish wrote:
wheals wrote:Off the top of my head, a possibly bad idea -- how about making the total attack capacity of ships be a meter (as was done with troop capacity recently IIUC)? The Target of the meter would be based on the power of the ship's weapons, and the power of the weapons would depend on which refinement you've researched. However, the Current value only increases to the Target if the ship is in supply range. That way, you avoid mass upgrades of out-of-supply ships, but the player also doesn't have to upgrade anything manually.
Weapons are already handled in the manner that troop capacity was recently made to, but the second part of your idea is worth looking at. I think what you're really thinking of is more a paired-meter kind of operation, like for fuel. Unlike fuel there wouldn't be anything depleting the weapons, it's just that if they increased it would be only slowly and while in supply (like shields used to be). And it would have to be paired at the individual part level, since that is what matters for shield DR. It seems like a pretty decent proposal.
I too want to voice my support for that idea. That's definitely the best we've come up so far, so thumbs up! :D

Considering that the idea apparently got more or less general approval, and wasn't met with outright objections, only moderate concerns, I propose we give it a try. Implementation shouldn't be too hard/complicated I guess...?

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Re: Field upgrades, especially for weapons

#15 Post by Vezzra »

Geoff the Medio wrote:But field upgrades remain more problematic seeming to me. The suggestion to do meter refinement-related meter increases "for in-supply ships" seems to require substantial micromanagement of ships to bring them back into supply to get their meters boosted. Not as bad as having to go to a planet (or particular building) but still potentially a lot of shuttling ships back and forth as refinements are researched or unlocked over time.
As Mat and Dilvish already mentioned, I don't think that would be much of a problem, at least not that much more than it already is with having to shuttle fleets around for refuel/repairs. Based on my play testing experiences, most of the time most of my fleets operate within supply range anyway. The amount of fleets usually operating beyond supply range should be managable, I don't expect the micromanagement to be too bad. And I definitely expect it to be less than the micromanagement involved with the need to constantly upgrade your ship designs.
Perhaps even more problematic is displaying the state of paired part meters to the player. If doing field upgrades, this would be quite important for the player to keep track of which ships have or haven't gotten which meter boosts, in order to keep track of the shuttling micromanagement status.
Like Dilvish already said, I don't expect that to be much different from what we already have e.g. concerning the Reinforced Hulls tech. There you also need to take care your ships get upgraded eventually.

Which means by the way, that we need to display an effect accounting popup for a ships total weapon strength like it's already done for other stats (structure, detection, etc.), showing the individual weapon parts, and the max and the current meter value of the ship.

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