Game Distance Units

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marhawkman
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#31 Post by marhawkman » Tue Aug 29, 2006 8:49 am

Well.. there's a problem there. The orion race isn't scheduled to be in the game. I suppose if you skip the name "Orion" the explanation will work though.
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#32 Post by utilae » Tue Aug 29, 2006 7:35 pm

Impaler wrote: Stellar Fathoms gets a thumbs up from me. It could be explained as the distance light travels in the time it takes Orions primary moon to orbit the planet, this is equivilent to 19.2 earth days making a StellarFathom aproimatly .052% of a Light year and 80 Fathoms ~4.3 lightyears.
I don't know, I like Parsecs better.
Impaler wrote: The Orions werent realy shure how such an odd unit of measurement became so common but once it became their common unit of measure it was inevitably handed down as the defacto standard for the whole galaxy.
I'm not really sure either.

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Geoff the Medio
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#33 Post by Geoff the Medio » Tue Aug 29, 2006 9:42 pm

I like the light months suggestion. It seems logical to use "light-month" as the unit of distance, and "month" as the amount of time in one turn. Then, FTL ship speeds could be elegantly described in multiples of c.

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#34 Post by utilae » Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:11 am

Yes, light months and months as turns would be good.

Now, assuming we have that method, I was wondering about a related problem:

Let's say we have movement units in light months and turn units in months. Each star is seperated by a distance of 3 light months, engines go at speed of 1 light month. So it takes 3 turns to get to the nearest star.

But, if the stars are 1 light month apart and the engines go at 3 light months, then in one turn, we are able to travel through three stars. But if we only travel to one star, we don't get any credit, those other two stars of travel are wasted.

What do you think? Leave it at that, or is there a solution.

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#35 Post by Daveybaby » Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:39 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:I like the light months suggestion. It seems logical to use "light-month" as the unit of distance, and "month" as the amount of time in one turn. Then, FTL ship speeds could be elegantly described in multiples of c.
Except, IMHO, using months as a game turn seems even more out of scale than saying that the distance between 2 stars is 80 LY. Planets just dont get developed from nothing up to a fully populated industrialised colony in any manageable number of months. This is, to me, crossing over from the 'realism isnt important' argument into the 'yeah, but it at least has to make some kind of sense' argument.

It's sounding more and more like you should be changing the code and sticking with years and light years. Distances between stars are usually measured in light years, and years seems like a much more sensible timescale to use in terms of things like planetary development.

If the code can't easily be changed in order to re-scale the distances, then you have some serious problems in the code that need to be fixed regardless of whether your distances sound right. If somebody hard coded this stuff to only work with distances of around 80 light years then i'd start to be quite worried about how maintainable your code is in general. One of the input parameters for your galaxy generation routine should be 'stellar density', if for no other reason than you might want to tweak it for game balancing purposes later.

If youre going to start describing distances in terms of '48 light months' instead of '4 light years', and saying things like 'your planet's population has increased by 10% this month', rather than performing (what should be) a simple one line change to the code, then that sounds to me like a case of the tail wagging the dog.
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#36 Post by utilae » Wed Aug 30, 2006 9:54 am

I agree Davey Baby.

That part of code should have been done better, but we've dicussed that.

Nothing much happens in a month and it would take forever to get through 48 months. I think that if distance was in light years and turns were in months it would be a little bit better. You can say that your engines allow 1 light years travel per month, so it takes 4 months to get to a star 4 light years away. But nothing much happens in a month, so I was thinking, what about quarters of a year, so 3 month intervals for turns. My main reason for have turn units less than a year is that I don't like the idea of space combat taking a year, but it is realism, which I should ignore a little.

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#37 Post by eleazar » Wed Sep 27, 2006 10:33 pm

Daveybaby wrote:....However since FO uses a starlane style system, its not necessary that two connected stars are actually close neighbours in normal space - in fact, they could be on opposite sides of the galaxy in terms of realspace. At the same time, two very close stars in realspace could be on opposite sides of the map in the game. What i'm saying is, if you treat starlanes as some sort of hyperspace network, then you dont have to use realspace distance units at all.
I agree. (with this daveybaby's earlier post)

I see no reason that the player should know or care how far apart the stars are. What the player needs to know is how many turns it will take his ship to get from point A to point B.

We may need a unit of speed to describe how fast a ship can travel a starlane per turn. Something like, "my new scout ship can do 3.5 starlane-leaps per turn"

Starlanes also make moot the concern about the small number of stars in our game galaxy. Who says the Starlane network connects all the stars?

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#38 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:14 am

eleazar wrote:I see no reason that the player should know or care how far apart the stars are. What the player needs to know is how many turns it will take his ship to get from point A to point B.
There is more to the game than moving ships around. If an effect, say from a building, has some range in direct-line distance, the player needs to know how long that is.
We may need a unit of speed to describe how fast a ship can travel a starlane per turn. Something like, "my new scout ship can do 3.5 starlane-leaps per turn"
This doesn't really work because starlanes are not all the same length. A ship going at the same speed could go the length of several small starlanes and not go the full length of a long one.
Starlanes also make moot the concern about the small number of stars in our game galaxy. Who says the Starlane network connects all the stars?
That requires the game story to assume that the in-game stars are not the only ones in the galaxy, and that there's some reason you can go offroad to all the other stars (even at sub-light speed, you'd get there after many years which could occur in a multi-century game). This is also somewhat unsatisfying... there's all these other stars that are just ignored...? I'd rather explore the whole galaxy... even if it has only 500 stars in it.

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#39 Post by eleazar » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:50 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:
eleazar wrote:I see no reason that the player should know or care how far apart the stars are. What the player needs to know is how many turns it will take his ship to get from point A to point B.
There is more to the game than moving ships around. If an effect, say from a building, has some range in direct-line distance, the player needs to know how long that is.
It sounds like you have "units of length" as a solution looking for a problem to solve. Adding buildings with a limited range effect would also require the addition of some sort of measuring tool. Additional complexity with no obvious advantage. I suspect a simplified galaxy (i.e. starlanes only) was chosen in part to avoid that sort of thing.
If buildings with a limited range of effect were desired (which is not my understanding) then the KISS way to measure that distance is via star-lane junctions. It's also more rational as it's hard to concieve of a buidling having any kind of effect over multiple light years, unless it's a broadcasting tower.
Geoff the Medio wrote:
me wrote:We may need a unit of speed to describe how fast a ship can travel a starlane per turn. Something like, "my new scout ship can do 3.5 starlane-leaps per turn"
This doesn't really work because starlanes are not all the same length. A ship going at the same speed could go the length of several small starlanes and not go the full length of a long one.
You misunderstand. i chose the term "starlane-leaps" somewhat at random to correspond to whatever in game terms is a speed of "1", not as the the distance between 2 starlane junctions.

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#40 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:08 am

eleazar wrote:Adding buildings with a limited range effect would also require the addition of some sort of measuring tool.
The plan was to draw a circle radius-of-scope for a building on the production screen while deciding where to build it. A similar circle could be drawn if an existing building is clicked on.
I suspect a simplified galaxy (i.e. starlanes only) was chosen in part to avoid that sort of thing.
The main reason for starlanes only was to make the AI's job easier and to force chokepoints and battlefronts, rather than letting ships fly past defensive installations.
If buildings with a limited range of effect were desired (which is not my understanding) then the KISS way to measure that distance is via star-lane junctions. It's also more rational as it's hard to concieve of a buidling having any kind of effect over multiple light years, unless it's a broadcasting tower.
And if it is a broadcasting tower?

Also, It's not really that simple to measure distance by starlane jumps, as the lanes are of different lengths. Number of jumps is really not relevant to how long it takes ships to get somewhere... (rather, it is path length along the lanes).

FYI, there are actually effects-conditions for both number of starlane jumps and direct distance. It'd probably be good to add one for lane-path length, though.
i chose the term "starlane-leaps" somewhat at random to correspond to whatever in game terms is a speed of "1", not as the the distance between 2 starlane junctions.
They need a different name then... "starlane-leaps" sounds like single jumps along a signle starlane, regardless of length of lane. And aren't we essentially back to distance units then...?

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#41 Post by Daveybaby » Thu Sep 28, 2006 9:23 am

Geoff the Medio wrote:There is more to the game than moving ships around. If an effect, say from a building, has some range in direct-line distance, the player needs to know how long that is.
Range in direct line distance is irrelevant if all travel is being done by starlane. The distances on your map reflect distances via starlane, that doesnt have to equate to 'realspace' distance at all.
That requires the game story to assume that the in-game stars are not the only ones in the galaxy, and that there's some reason you can go offroad to all the other stars (even at sub-light speed, you'd get there after many years which could occur in a multi-century game). This is also somewhat unsatisfying... there's all these other stars that are just ignored...? I'd rather explore the whole galaxy... even if it has only 500 stars in it.
Ummm... well IIRC its already been decided that there wont be any offroading between stars - so youre somehow going to have to explain that anyway. One good explanation might be that the stars are so far apart in realspace (e.g. thousands of lightyears) that it would take the duration of a dozen or so entire games to travel between them at lightspeed.

And... i'd still like to see how you satisfactorily explain a galaxy with only a few hundred stars instead of tens of billions of them. Especially if its a spiral one.
And if it is a broadcasting tower?
Shrug. Then you make up some technobabble about how the transmitter creates a pseudo starlane effect to transmit the information. Youre going to have to use technobabble anyway, unless youre going to start plotting in delay factors due to the lightspeed propogation delay.
Also, It's not really that simple to measure distance by starlane jumps, as the lanes are of different lengths. Number of jumps is really not relevant to how long it takes ships to get somewhere... (rather, it is path length along the lanes).
He made it pretty clear that he knows that and that isnt what hes talking about.
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#42 Post by Geoff the Medio » Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:16 am

Daveybaby wrote:The distances on your map reflect distances via starlane, that doesnt have to equate to 'realspace' distance at all.
To clarify: Are you suggesting a uniform scaling of distances between what's on the map and "reality", while keeping the actual arrangement of stars consistent with what's on the map (geometric congruence)? Or are you suggesting having the "real" physical locations of stars be totally unrelated to what's displayed (and in fact not even having a concept of real location in space as part of the game simulation)? Unless there's a good reason not to, IMO we should assume stars relative locations are where they appear to be on the map.
That requires the game story to assume that the in-game stars are not the only ones in the galaxy, and that there's some reason you can go offroad to all the other stars (even at sub-light speed, you'd get there after many years which could occur in a multi-century game). This is also somewhat unsatisfying... there's all these other stars that are just ignored...? I'd rather explore the whole galaxy... even if it has only 500 stars in it.
Ummm... well IIRC its already been decided that there wont be any offroading between stars - so youre somehow going to have to explain that anyway. One good explanation might be that the stars are so far apart in realspace (e.g. thousands of lightyears) that it would take the duration of a dozen or so entire games to travel between them at lightspeed.
My point was not that offroading is still under discussion. The point was that I'd rather have a game galaxy that is a few hundred light years across and which actually has 500 stars, all of which can be visited by the player, than I would have a game galaxy with millions of non-visible stars and thousands of background faintly-rendered stars, which don't enter into gameplay in any way. IMO there should be as little as possible in the game universe that the player can't interact with in some way.

Also, I want to explore the whole galaxy, not just a tiny fraction that happens to be connected to starlanes. A tenuous reason for this is that without a reason why not, one would assume one could fly a sub-light speeds to non-starlane-connected stars in a galaxy will millions of stars and only a few on the lanes. Rather than explain why that can't happen, it'd be better to just have all the stars connected to the lanes. Granted, you could still raise the same question about going offroad in a 500 star fully-lane-connected galaxy, though I find it less of a problem to be able to get somewhere via lanes that aren't a direct connection than to have no lanes, as the no lanes case seems to make the alternative travel method more obviously necessary, and its absence more annoying.
And... i'd still like to see how you satisfactorily explain a galaxy with only a few hundred stars instead of tens of billions of them. Especially if its a spiral one.
I'd just declare that in the FO universe, a galaxy with a hundred stars is how things work. This is less bothersome to me than having a galaxy will many unreachable stars.
And if it is a broadcasting tower?
Shrug. Then you make up some technobabble about how the transmitter creates a pseudo starlane effect to transmit the information. Youre going to have to use technobabble anyway, unless youre going to start plotting in delay factors due to the lightspeed propogation delay.
I would assume broadcasted effects travel faster than light offroad... likely infinitely fast in most cases. But the real point is that it's not necessarily or most reasonably the case that the only distance-dependent interactions between stars would have to measure that distance along starlane pathes. Technobabble can explain either option, if desired.
Also, It's not really that simple to measure distance by starlane jumps, as the lanes are of different lengths. Number of jumps is really not relevant to how long it takes ships to get somewhere... (rather, it is path length along the lanes).
He made it pretty clear that he knows that and that isnt what hes talking about.
The argument there was that it's not necessarily KISS-complient to use starlane jumps, which he claimed the opposite of.

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#43 Post by Daveybaby » Thu Sep 28, 2006 12:13 pm

Geoff the Medio wrote:To clarify: Are you suggesting a uniform scaling of distances between what's on the map and "reality", while keeping the actual arrangement of stars consistent with what's on the map (geometric congruence)? Or are you suggesting having the "real" physical locations of stars be totally unrelated to what's displayed (and in fact not even having a concept of real location in space as part of the game simulation)?
I'm saying its irrelevant, you can have it any way you want as long as you write some suitable technobabble to explain it. If the only method of travel in the game is via starlanes then the only things that matter are distances via starlane. I agree that it makes for less confusion if there is a uniform scaling rather than having stars located at random in realspace (or even located in different galaxies on opposite sides of the universe), but only because it makes the technobabble more straightforward, and justifies having things like spiral shaped galaxies.

The gameplay in each case is identical. The only thing that changes is the technobabble. All i'm trying to do here is come up with a sensible and consistent explanation
My point was not that offroading is still under discussion. The point was that I'd rather have a game galaxy that is a few hundred light years across and which actually has 500 stars, all of which can be visited by the player, than I would have a game galaxy with millions of non-visible stars and thousands of background faintly-rendered stars, which don't enter into gameplay in any way. IMO there should be as little as possible in the game universe that the player can't interact with in some way.
Thing is, there are background rendered stars and nebulae and stuff already in there :twisted:
Technobabble can explain either option, if desired.
Exactly. The key is to try to keep the babble self consistent at all times, and consistent with the real universe where convenient. Its all about maintaining the suspension of disbelief in the player.
I'd just declare that in the FO universe, a galaxy with a hundred stars is how things work. This is less bothersome to me than having a galaxy will many unreachable stars.
Then i guess this is all down to differences of opinion in what will maintain a suspension of disbelief. To me, having a universe where galaxies work completely differently is more jarring than having starlanes connect faraway stars together.
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#44 Post by eleazar » Thu Sep 28, 2006 1:30 pm

Explanation of Starlanes
I like to think that the Orions created the starlane system somehow, that they connected the vast majority of planet bearing systems. Also that the good old speed of light we know still holds as a max (and virtually unattainable) speed of movement. Thus any offroad star systems are of vastly less strategic importance when you consider the much greater difficulty of travel & communication with the probability that there's nothing there worth having.

Communication in a Starlaned galaxy
Since travel via starlanes is much faster than the speed of light via realspace between the same 2 points, interstellar communication will predominately use the starlane, not lightspeed radio. Courier ships (possibly drone) could constantly travel between junctions, or it could be explained that energy waves can be sent down a starlane, (as they can through a Stargate).

Shape of the Galaxy
It's reasonable to assume that Starlane geometry doens't exactly correspond to realspace geometry, not only because distances are much shorter, but because a starlane space can be represented 2 dimensionally. I don't think the relative geometries should be radically (besides the loss of the 3rd dimension ;) ) different, otherwise realspace travel would gain a stategic value— if 2 stars on opposite sides of the Starlane system were actually neighbors.
I don't think we need to tell the player anything about this, unless it comes into the story. Most will be willing to accept a 2D universe merely because it's an easier UI. That which is most convenient for the player needs the least explanation.

Unit of Measure
I chose "Starlane-Leaps" or "Starlane-Blorgknots" or whatever, because it is explicitly and solely a measure of distance within a starlane. No calibration with the size of the galaxy/ distance between stars is neccesary. "Starlane-Blorgknots" are subject to no preconceptions. The length of a "Blorgknot" can be tailored to whatever is most convenient to gameplay.

All the player needs to know is the distance between stars (via starlane, not a straight line) and how fast his ships can travel it. Realspace measurements are virtually irrelevant to the citizens of FO as to the players.

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#45 Post by SowerCleaver » Sat Oct 28, 2006 11:13 pm

Very interesting discussion that affects the length of a turn, the shape of an in-game galaxy, the trait of space between stars, the history of Orions, etc.

Can I suggest an approach based on following premises?

- I do like to think the distance between stars shown in the game screen represents "realspace" rather than some off-dimensional distance. First of all, the "realspace" perception is more intuitive for me (and I suspect for most of players). Intuitive design is good design.

Secondly, this opens up the possibility of offroading (if the concept is not completely shut down by the design team). On a separate note, can we have an FTL travel that does not rely on starlanes at least in the late game? This would open up new strategic possibilities, e.g. obviating fortified chokepoints. Of course balancing will be necessary, but "FTL in realspace" sounds fun. One ramification of this is that "background stars that are within range" is not a possibility, because offroad FTL would otherwise allow ships to reach them. Background stars will just be background, far off from the cluster.

I understand possible criticism to the "realspace" concept is that (1) the number of stars in a galaxy is too small or (2) if the galaxy is full-sized, not all stars are represented in the in-game screen. Here, I raise the general defense that fun should trump realism. I would like to call the cluster of stars I see in the in-game screen as something meaningful. One option would be calling it "cluster" or something rather than "galaxy". One technobabble excuse for criticism (2) could be the black mass surrounding the in-game cluster does not allow any starlane or FTL offroading.

- I also recognize that one year would be more meaningful time unit for a turn. Therefore, defining 1 distance unit as some distance that can be traversed in a time unit other than a year would pose some semantic difficulties when applied colony productions. Hence I propose to stick with a per-year distance unit.

- Therefore, the remaining question is Geoff's initial question: what would such unit represent? My suggestion: let's first determine the "realspace" distance that would make the most sense when applied to 80 unit average star distance. I don't know the average distance between stars for a fact, but for example if the average is 8 light year, let's make the unit 0.1 lightyear.

Secondly, let's call 0.1 lightyear as 1 "Geoff Unit" or something. Why? The first Orion who discovered/invented starlane travel engine was "Geoff", and Geoff discovered that starlane can be traversed only by spatial jumps in the length of 0.1 lightyear, or for whatever technobabble/historical reasons. To commemorate Geoff, we are calling the distance 1 Geoff Unit.

Well, my suggestion therefore is "let's set the most convenient unit for us in terms of game mechanics, and explain it with technobabble/historical components". This fits in with "realspace" concepts.

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