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Topics - zapkitty

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Design / Fusion: not in ten years, but now...
« on: March 30, 2010, 12:03:12 pm »
Looks like we'll have controlled fusion power generation proof-of-concept by the end of next month, that's April 2010, with a 100 megawatt operational reactor to follow by April 2011 and that's apparently already ahead of schedule...

Yep, it's the Return of the Son of the Bride of Polywell and it looks like it is indeed capable of aneutronic operation fusing protons with boron 11 and that means vast reductions in required shielding and radiation handling measures and it also means direct conversion to electrical power with existing technology... with equally vast reductions in the weight of auxiliary power and cooling gear.


.... has anyone thought about what that will do to game balance if the aliens attack 70+ years after we have such sources of fusion power?

Ground defenses blasting UFOs out of the exosphere with directed energy weapons at game start because the mooks were mistaken for missiles... naval vessels mounting railgun and directed energy weapons powered by multi-gigawatt reactors... human combat aircraft faster than UFOs and mounting energy weapons as well... irate human spacecraft chasing UFOs offworld as far as Mars at 450 kps... and not needing to refuel... human ships from Mars moving in to cut off the retreating alien ships...

... and those are very conservative estimates for human abilities at the start of the game because these things are first up in the R&D pipeline NOW and will be among the first fruits of fusion power.

It ain't fair, but it's there... I seriously wonder how we'll handle the changes.

I knew the future had caught up with the game already in some respects, but I'd not thought through what the recent developments in fusion would actually do to the game balance.

With antimatter power sources the alien ships would still outpower human ships and especially human aircraft... but not to the degree needed for the game storyline. Ground and naval facilities, not having to be flightweight, would be even more on a par with the alien capabilities as they are currently envisioned .

... oh yeah... the arguments against human mass production of antimatter also go out the window but it just wouldn't be needed for ordinary civilian purposes. Only for interstellar ship research... and military uses...

... whee!  ;D

Feature Requests / Blade Drone Hive
« on: March 08, 2010, 05:20:24 pm »
Blade Drone Hive

This would appear when raid losses make it clear to the aliens that Phalanx troops need dedicated robots deployed against them as opposed to the more general purpose bloodspider and bloodmantis.

In this case the robot is actually a stationary AI-equipped "Hive" that would deploy relatively simpleminded five-legged disposable robotic drones the size of a small dog.  Heavily armed robotic drones.

Hive Structure: Your average big alien box, about 2 meters on a side, with holes in the side and sprouting spiky antennae.

Blade Drone Structure and Weapons: Five legs, a body containing the power pack and the electronics, a sensor cluster and a plasma blade in the front... and it carries an additional explosive charge.

When Phalanx troops intrude on the raid area the Hive begins dispatching blade drones to deal with what the Hive deems as the most threatening enemy units. When a blade drone is in range it leaps at the target in an attempt to lock on with the plasma blade. If it succeeds it spends that turn killing the target and then it will explode the next turn.

Otherwise it will try again.

And again.

The blade drone's small size and pre-programmed evasive maneuvers will make it a difficult target to hit in the meantime... and there's always the chance that a drone will explode anyway if it is hit hard enough.

The actual embodiment and descriptives can be changed at will, of course, but would this seem likely to provide sufficient game variety for the effort that would be involved?

Feature Requests / Bloodmantis
« on: March 08, 2010, 01:20:20 pm »

First appearing some time after humans begin deploying homegrown alien tech gear and stunning weapons,  this creature is actually a heavily upgraded version of the bloodspider robot... but the resemblance to the terrestrial praying mantis is such as to cause the few surviving witnesses to wonder just how closely the aliens are studying other forms of life on Earth besides humans.

Structure: The bloodmantis is based on a larger, elongated version of the bloodspider chassis supported on four limbs near the front with an additional elongated body segment rearing up from above the front area where the harvested organs are stored. This near-vertical segment has a pair of "arms" near the top and is capped off with a triangular "head" equipped with variety of sensors.

To be clear, the harvested biomass is still stored in the front of the main section just as with the bloodspider so the apparent "mouth" would be where the two segments join. The upper segment "arms" and "head" mount weapons and sensors respectively.

(Stephen King, I've learned much from you... :) )


Bloodsabre: The two "arms" each terminate in a sizable curved monomolecular blade and the blades can fold back against the "forearms" in a manner very akin to its terrestrial counterpart, but that's also where the bloodmantis sports a nasty surprise...

Shocker Gun: ...  unlike the earthly mantis this folding action exposes the muzzles of a pair of electromagnetic projectile weapons buried in the "wrists" of the bloodmantis. These weapons hurl beads constructed of alien materials that are essentially flying Leyden jars... small capacitors charged up as they are fired from the weapon and delivering a stunning shock when they hit a target. The bloodmantis can adjust the strength of the charge imparted to each bead and thus can vary the shock as needed... from stunning a pesky Phalanx trooper to incapacitating a pesky Phalanx UGV.

And the bloodmantis is smart... it won't waste its beads on civilians when there are enemy combatants in the area.

Armed, armored and much tougher than the bloodspider... but has anyone got a better name for it than "bloodmantis"?

Feature Requests / Plasma and the Alien Minefield
« on: March 08, 2010, 06:35:42 am »
Yep... actual plasma this time and deadly to boot.

To be more precise, a plasmoid: a self-supporting structure of plasma and magnetic fields that, like a smoke ring, can maintain itself for a limited period of time. These exist in real life in forms both natural and artificial.

The weapon concept is derived from the plasmoid hypothesis that has been put forward as a possible explanation for a certain natural phenomenon that is itself often incorrectly cited as an rationalization for using plasma as a projectile weapon... ball lightning.

Ball lightning- rare, intermittent, transitory and not well understood. If it is indeed a naturally-occurring plasmoid then perhaps it can give us an alien plasma weapon that burns, shocks and even explodes... not from the plasma itself so much but from the fact that plasmoids can carry one heck of a charge.

The damage types would be burn, electrical shock, EMP, and concussion.

Again: not a good projectile weapon. DARPA attempts to utilize the concept involved extreme compression of the plasmoid and then accelerating it to OMFG speeds in order to get it to the target before the plasma dispersed. (OMFG is a technical term referring to speeds between 200 and 3000 kilometers per second.)

(Then again... depending on the mass of the plasmoid the recoil from that might make a plasma pistol into a very deadly projectile weapon indeed... ;D )

*ahem* back to the subject...

So an alien minefield could generate plasmoids as an effective deterrent to ground troops because the generators would not be throwing the plasmoids anywhere... the humans would be forced to come to the generators.

And there are a variety of different ways of implementing this concept that could make life very interesting for those pesky humans... and perhaps very short.

For these concepts the generators consist of a base unit about 25 cm sq with three legs. It extends an antenna-like meter-high mast at the tip of which the plasmoid forms.

  • Hide and Seek Generators:
    The buried generator only sticks up a mast when a human moves into an adjacent square, and then retracts the mast after the plasmoid is loosed. And then it moves a square, alternating between burrowing directly to the new site and getting up, walking to the new square and then reburying itself.

  • Dances with Plasmoids:
    An array of generators keeps a plasmoid constantly aloft, with the ball drifting unpredictably from mast to mast as it is recharged. Great fun when combined with hide and seek generators.

  • Plasmoids as NPCs:
    A variant of Dances with Plasmoids where an array of generators collectively senses the nearest human(s) and generates plasmoids which then migrate to the edge of the minefield waiting for the humans to come near. As the humans move the plasmoids move with them. In this case the generators stay put, letting the plasmoids do the walking.

Other ideas?

In order to keep more of the games variety of human-style weapons as valid playing options later in the game would it be possible to have certain research projects automatically upgrade similar technologies that are used in existing weapons?

An example: the side effects of coilgun power supply research and alien materials studies results in an enhanced magazine being available for bolter rifles that increases selected bolter stats with little or no extra research needed.

And speaking of bolters I noticed that ammunition capacity is a function of the weapon itself, and not of the magazine. It seems contradictory and in the case of the bolter does not allow the increase in ammo capacity that would naturally come with more efficient power supplies in the magazine.

It does seem odd and it gets in the way of implementing the banana clips for the full-auto coilguns ;D

My friends, do you suffer from... undead UFOs?

I've had this occasionally pop up, so I saved the game session and will upload it. Here is the description and the relevant console output:

As usual a UFO approaches my island base and runs into 4 base defense laser turrets. The scroll informs me that the ufo interception was successful but that the ufo was lost to the sea...

(Well, that's the point of an island base. I mean, why else would Bast have put Hawaii in the middle of the Pacific?)

... and the ufo sails on, apparently unconcerned about its recently deceased status.

The zombie ufo overflies my research and production bases while the island defenses pound away at it. The guns do more than enough damage to bring down a dozen Bomber-class ufos... but the zombie flies on.

From previous experiences it will fly on forever.

4 SAM batteries? No problem. 4 base defense lasers? Zombie ufo laughs at them. Ha! 2 Stingray interceptors packing 3 particle beams apiece and wearing alien aircraft plating? Zombie ufo plays tag with them until it gets bored and shoots them all down.

All of this in one battle? Zombie ufo gleefully handles it all! 

... undead alien spaceships are among us...

All the console had to say about the shootdown was:

music change to van_geoscape (from PsymongN1)
CP_MissionRemove: Could not find mission '' to remove.
   missions in list are: 'cat7_interest73_0', 'cat7_interest84_0', 'cat1_interest86_0', 'cat3_interest86_0', 'cat4_interest86_0',

So I saved the game with the zombie ufo

music change to van_geoscape (from ufo2)
Calling subsystems
...subsystem 'base' - saved
...subsystem 'research' - saved
...subsystem 'campaign' - saved
...subsystem 'hospital' - saved
...subsystem 'market' - saved
...subsystem 'employee' - saved
...subsystem 'aliencont' - saved
...subsystem 'aircraft' - saved
...subsystem 'installation' - saved
...subsystem 'ufostores' - saved
...subsystem 'production' - saved
...subsystem 'messagesystem' - saved
...subsystem 'stats' - saved
...subsystem 'nations' - saved
...subsystem 'transfer' - saved
...subsystem 'alien base' - saved
...subsystem 'xvirate' - saved
...subsystem 'messageoptions' - saved
XML Written to buffer (715126 Bytes)
Shutdown gametype 'Campaign mode'
Cvar 'mn_uforecovery_actualufo' wasn't found
music change to van_theme (from van_geoscape)
Wrote config.cfg.
Wrote keys.cfg
recursive shutdown

But I cannot load a game with a zombie ufo

Loading savegame xml (size 51232)
Loading savegame
...version: 3 version: 2.3-dev
...xml Size: 715126, compressed? y
mxml: Bad control character 0x10 not allowed by XML standard!
mxml: Missing value for attribute '" detectionidx="' in element aircraft!
Error: Failure in loading the xml data!
Unknown command "game_timestop" - wasn't sent to server
Shutdown gametype 'Campaign mode'
Wrote config.cfg.
Wrote keys.cfg
recursive shutdown

Okay... so do I hang garlic from my monitor or what? Salt my keyboard? Draw a pentacle on my PC case?

Design / Re: Plasma and the Nitpickers
« on: February 13, 2010, 03:30:05 am »
I've been fiddling a bit with UFO:AI off and on for some time now and I noted the extensive discussions on plasma weapons in the forums... so here I am to offer my two cents and perhaps move the ball forward a couple of yards...

... or perhaps not. You all can judge if it's something worth working with ;)

I improvised an alternative explanation for the weapons where I tried to honor the original design,  explained weapon effects sans using actual plasma and also tied the weapon to known alien techniques- in this case as a first glimpse into alien materials and nanotech. Now, nano is always suspect as a deus ex machina but I tried to keep it to a minimum (considering what's done with it later) and I also attempted to forestall for the moment the inevitable cries for a plasma flamethrower... while still enabling the plasma grenade and grenade launcher.  And giving the "plasma" substitute material inherent engineered properties might save considerable paw-waving explanation down the road.

It's not offered as a "scientific" explanation, but rather as a way to bypass the plasma minefield while maintaining story and game continuity.

(hmmm... plasma minefield...)

The following is the pseudo-briefing I wrote up for my own use just for fun. I know that offering such is not promoted here as the actual writers have to coordinate and rewrite everything themselves anyway, but I'm dropping it in merely to save time.

And indeed if anyone can fold, spindle or mutilate any of this wonkery into anything usable please feel free to do so :)

[begin ersatz text]
[end ersatz text]

Edit: Deleted the "briefing" and have posted a better and easier to read version downthread.

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