I didn't know which of the sub-forums is the right one to post my question to, so I choose brainstorming because it has to do with game design/concepts/mechanics. This post actually isn't so much about about suggesting ideas, more to seek clarification.
It started when I noticed that the ship shield meters in the current builds don't regenerate. Ever. According to the 0.4 design pad the shield meter of ships should be set to max at the beginning of each game turn, so obviously this is some kind of bug or simply not implemented yet. After succeeding in providing fixes for a few minor bugs, I decided to look into this shield issue next. When I browsed through the code, trying to understand what's going on, finding out where the shield regeneration code should be, I naturally came across the code implementing the regeneration of planetary shields.
It was then that I realized something very obvious, that for reasons I can't really tell had been eluding me until then: ship shield meters and planetary shield meters seem to function fundamentally different. Let me explain what I mean:
As far as I understand the concept of meters, they represent a (abstracted) concept of some kind of structures / infrastructure /whatever or the effect created by some kind of structures / infrastructure / whatever. In the case of ship shield meters: these are the result or "effect" created by some kind of "infrastructure", in this case ship parts representing shield generators. The meter in this scenario does not represent the health/condition of the shield generators, but the actual strength of the shield. The shield generator ship parts determine the max shield meter value.
According to the way shields are designed to function in the game, the current shield meter value gets reduced when the shield suffers hits, and gets regenerated to max shield value at the beginning of each game turn. The max shield meter value gets reduced when the ship suffers damage, because according to current game design reduced ship current health meter translates to "damaged" ship, translates to "damaged" ship parts, translates to reduced ship part efficiency. Since the max shield meter value is determined by shield generator ship parts, "reduced ship part efficiency" in this case means reduced max shield strength. The max shield meter value gets regenerated when the ship gets "repaired", that is it's current health meter regenerates (up to max health meter value).
That's the way ship shields work in FO. The defining difference to the concept of "armor" is the ability to regenerate the shield each game turn to max without any kind of "repair", as long as the underlying "infrastructure" (shield generator ship parts) are functional. The concept of armor on the other side is fundamentally different: armor ship parts don't create a "shield" that is something distinguishable from the parts themselfes, the parts *are* the "shield". This is reflected by the way armor is designed to work in FO: armor ship parts simply add to the max health meter of the ship, effectivly making it more durable. Because of that, the extra health armor provides does not regenerate like shields, but has to be "repaired".
Now lets have a look at planetary shields: Like with ships, planetary shields are represented by a meter, which has a max meter value (max shield strength) and a current meter value (current shield strength, which might temporarily be lower because of enemy "bombardements"). But what exactly
is represented by these values?
If we look at planetary meters in general, there is a clear pattern: planetary meters represent some kind of abstracted "structures" / "infrastructure" (mining facilities, industrial complexes, farms, troops, defence orbitals etc.). Max meter values represent the maximum extend to which a certain kind of "infrastructure" can be build up. The current meter values represent the extend to which a certain kind of "infrastructure" currently has been build up and can fulfill it's function.
So, according to this concept, in the case of planetary shields, the planetary shield meter would not
be the actual "shield" generated by "shield generators", but the "shield generator infrastructure". And here we have a problem, if we wanted to implement planetary shield conceptually identical to ship shields: we would actually need two
different meters: one representing the "shield generator infrastructure" (like the orbital meter represents the "orbital infrastructure" = amount of orbitals), and the other one the actual shield strength. Like it is with ship shields: shield generators != shield.
The way planetary shields are implemented now works this way: only one meter, max meter value is determined by techs you researched (simulating which kind of planetary shield generators you can "build"). Current meter value gets reduced by sufficiently powerful enemy fleets, and regenerates the same way as the other planetary meters. Assuming now that (like stated above), the shield meter represents the "shield generator infrastructure", "bombarding" the shield is directly translated to "damaging" the "shield generator infrastructure". This also fits with the way the current shield meter regenerates: the "infrastructure" has to be "rebuild" like the kinds of "infrastructure" represented by the other meters, if they are below max for whatever reason (changing focus, damage due to bombardement, raised max levels due to research of new techs etc.).
This kind of implementation more resembles a concept of "armor" than that of "shields", because of the lack of two distinct meters. The "shield infrastructure" is no longer distinguished from the actual shield, but the two are identical. Damage to the "protective layer" is damage to the "protective structure", as it is the case with "armor". With shields however, damage to the "protective layer" does not touch the "protective structure" (as long as the "protective layer" isn't "penetrated" of course).
Now, to be clear: I don't want to make a "realism" argument here. This has nothing to do with "realism", I just want to point out that a certain "game concept" ("shields"), which you would expect to work according to the same fundamental principles throughout the game, actually is implemented in two very different ways.
To come to the point finally: I just want clarification: is this difference intentional? Because I couldn't find any discussion dealing with this problem in the game design and brainstorming forums (I did find much discussion regarding shields and health concerning ships). But I've read only a fraction of all the threads, might have missed it, however, due to the sheer amount of text to dig through, I hope you'll forgive me if I've missed the relevant discussions
Of course I can see valid reasons for handling ship shields and planetary shields in this two different ways it is now. Handling planetary shields exactly like ship shields would require two meters, and that would a) add complexity and b) would not be consistent with the way the other planetary meters work. The question is, would that add something to the game that's worth the trouble? Having planetary shields that actually act like some kind of "planetary armor" might be sufficient, if that is what we want.
I'm still a bit new to the project to have a quick answer to that, that's why I'm writing this posting.
If however it is desired that "shields" work the same way in all it's forms (ship, planets), then planetary shields need an overhaul.
Thoughts, comments, ideas?