Back to Dominium, huzzah! etc.

Hi folks, and a return back to Dom Dev for those tired of the flood of book updates!

To avoid getting dragged into the mire with bug-fixing the vessel mount code (which is not really a priority at the moment), I’ve decided to return to actual feature development in line with gameplay oriented features.

So, I’ve returned to the flight mechanics work with a view to locking it all down as far as I can.

Now, that’s not so simple! Flight in space – at least _realistic_ flight in space – isn’t really ‘fun’, from the game players point of view. Sir Isaac Newton’s pesky Laws of Motion act as a good spoiler for a start. Consider the following scenario…

You’re travelling at 100km/s (quite fast by any measure on Earth, but darned slow in space) quite happily heading toward your next destination, when a ship pops out of g-drive on a parallel course, matching your 100km/s and then starts hammering at your shields with everything it’s got. You want to get away, so you can either try reversing, or moving away from the attacker and hope he doesn’t follow.

Reversing… as your main engine is facing backward, to do any good you have to rotate your ship around 180 degrees and fire full thrust in the opposite direction to your travel… the ensuing acceleration results in g-forces that pretty much crush everyone in the ship. You dead.

Changing direction… likewise, side thrusters are too slow, so you spin about 90 degrees and fire full thrust. Different g-forces apply, so you’re crew survive but don’t enjoy it much, and nevertheless your attacker can still blaze away at your shields as you slowly increase distance, until they copy the manouever and give chase. You dead.

Obviously, I’m not going to set something up that goes about killing the crew of your ship just because you steered left 🙂

Firstly, we have gravity fields and inertial compensators, which allow us to ‘set aside’ most of the concerns with Sir Isaac Newtons Laws. Technically, this means simply ignoring them and allowing a ship to just change direction like the original Light Cycle from Tron, or indeed the car in Automan by simply snap-changing velocity to the new direction. That’s a bit too ‘arcade’ to be any good for what we want here.

I find a picture is often worth a thousand words, so…


So fighters – small and manouverable, capital ships – not so much.

To this end, I’ve come up with a few formulae which let the mass, and fulcrum length (the distance of the furthest point on the vessel from the centre of mass) to determine how fast a ship can rotate ‘unmodified’. In other words, how fast you can spin your ship around using your controls. This is referred to as ‘delta-phi’ – being the rate of turn in degrees per second.

Next, the thrust potential of your drive systems is determined using good old Newton, and F=ma to determine the acceleration, again unmodified. This is your delta-v, the rate of change of velocity (or acceleration).

To help alter the above and provide more ‘fun’ gameplay, the inertial compensators come into play, allowing the vessel to alter course far more rapidly than would be realistically possible, but not so much it feels like your ‘playing an arcade game’. This effect is referred to as ‘delta-p’ – being the rate of change of momentum.

Finally, the ships upgrades, available power and state of repair all modify your delta-phi, delta-p and delta-v as you fly your vessel about. Of course, this means you can modify your Capital ship to be a bit more nifty on it’s heels, but no to the extent that it can zip around like a fighter.

I’ve now implemented the delta-phi, and delta-v aspects of the above, and next I need to add the delta-p systems, before I can start balancing it all out, but already it’s starting to feel pretty interesting. Balancing this is going to be a challenge in it’s own right, and I’ve yet to prove this is a ‘good idea’, but time will tell. It’s certainly a good starting point, and highly tweakable.

That said, you – the player – aren’t going to be overwhelmed by a horrendously complicated vessel flight system! I’m aiming for a very configurable, highly modifiable, but inherently ‘dumb’ system which balances itself so that you can ‘pick up n’ play’, but also get into the nitty gritty of to get the very best out of your ship and modifications, to make it truly unique and get you out of all the scrapes you’ll get into 🙂

Next post, a bit more on the Newtonian vs Non-newtonian flight models that I’m intending to implement…


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Author: Mak View all posts by

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