Imperfect Sensors (Sonar)

This is a quick idea I wanted to throw out to INS when they get to the point of considering sensor systems.

Implement a kind of sonar. Imagine having hexagons only for friendly ships and destinations. All others require the player to spot them visually. So some sort of sensor system is needed. The game could just say that the ships have fantastic passive sensors and that they track all manmade objects constantly, giving hexagons for everyone. Personally, I would abhor such a thing.

Barring perfect passive sensors, the sonar thing is intended to bring a game of cat and mouse tradeoffs to gameplay.

When I want to see what’s around me, I ping my sensors. That triggers a spherical wave front that propagates outwards from my ship. Smaller sweep angles should be possible, controllable by the pilot (e.g. a hemisphere or less).

As the wave touches something, that something glows briefly. Ship, planet, ring, whatever. The faster the wave propagates or the farther away an object is, the less intense the glow on anything it hits.

The color of the wave fits a spectrum of colors. Red for close objects and on through to blue for very far away objects. Each color represents an entire order of magnitude of distance, allowing me to roughly estimate how far away various objects are. The timing of the wave striking them and making them glow will also tell me that, but the color spectrum is suggested as something that should be used in all ranging feedback that the player sees.

Ships can generate varying range pings (faster waves) and varying power pings (makes objects glow brighter). A fast wave makes discerning range more difficult, but if an object is 1AU away, you only want to know that it’s there. A low power ping makes spotting anything more difficult, but it helps to mask you as the pinger.

On the flip side, if I ping you, you will see me as an intense flash of light. The intensity is dependent on how far away I am from you, the power of the ping, and so forth. Generally, pinging is a way of giving away your position - if anyone happens to be looking in your direction and can separate your ping from background light.

In the interest of data tracking, only allow ping waves to travel for a few seconds, and only permit one at a time from any given player. It may be that many more ping waves are possible at one time, but just one should provide a lot of gameplay.

Fake ping generators would be a way of redirecting a player’s attention.


I look forward to seeing the working prototype that you’re going to make to support your suggestion.


While I think most everyone will agree that imperfect sensors should be feature, your ping system doesn’t seem ideal to me. Without much of a cool down people will just be flying around pinging at every opportunity turning space into some sort of epilepsy-inducing disco. I would suggest if you do want some sort of ping or pulse system it should be a consumable or have a significant cool down.

Also, if all pinging something does is emit a color, but not actually update your HUD to indicate you have found something then you will only be able to see things that you pinged in the direction you are looking. You would need to send out a ping and then spin your ship wildly to try to see all of the space around you.

Finally, A color indicator would also provide a significant advantage to those with very high resolution and fidelity monitors, not to mention the difficulty that the colorblind will have with the system. Why not simply draw a hexagon around a target and add a small number indicating its range?

I strongly support the inclusion of fallible and active sensors to enable hide and seek in space, but I just don’t see the advantages of a colorized ping. A pulsed, directional, configurable sensor system seems fine to me, but why not just have it highlight the target with a hexagon like any other sensor system?


You might want to watch bluedrakes interview (or was it that other guys one? cant remember). During that, they were flying through a canyon on the volcanic moon closely to the floor (which was lava). During that, bluedrake was told that in the game people would be able to mask their heat signature using those canyons, making them able to do a stealth approach to the enemies base for scouting purposes. At least iirc.

So yeah, there’s already imperfect sensors planned I guess?

So what should anyone that’s not able to code their suggestion do?

Because hexagons don’t appear elsewhere in the game. Bright dots do. So there is ambiguity, and it then requires skill by the player to sort out what’s going on in various conditions. For low resolution screens, antialiasing techniques (no, not full screen antialiasing) can be used to brighten a pixel or pixels to communicate the right effect. The colorblind can still recognize shades, even if they don’t see the shades that we see.

Imagine that other ship flying low near a planet.

Ping with the color system and you get a momentary flash of light from the other ship, then a flood of light as the wave plays across the surface of the planet. The lower the ship, the more closely those two events will take place. Did I see a ship or just a mountain top? Maybe I should ping again. Or reposition my ship.

Ping with the hexagon system and you get a hexagon. There he is, no question.

Yep. Apparently the system tracks line of sight to other ships. If it goes behind an obstruction, you’ll get a linearly interpolated path for the ship.

Don’t feed the trolls.

I like it.

The expanding sphere does not have to be part of a hud… perhaps small sphere in front of the player.
Transparent sphere size of a football on your desk as you scan.
When not in use it would just disappear (or get smaller…etc)
And it does not have to be visible to anyone else.
Its not light… well actually … let me try that again:
Its is electromagnetic wave modulated in not-visible spectrum :slight_smile:
Others might just register small short little sound effect indicating that hey have been struck by said wave…nothing overblown …TADAAA sound in elite comes to mind :slight_smile:

Learn to code.


And if they don’t have time to? Do they just not suggest anything? I don’t remember the devs refusing suggestions because they weren’t demo’d with code.

I think there is a misunderstanding between you guys.
I think Jafit is refering to that JB is actually someone who created some really interesting warp prototypes

So it was most likely friendly poke :wink:

Anyway if that is not the case
I think sometimes it takes less skilled person to point the more skilled one the right way.
Complex people might overlook simple yet important things.

Not everyone is gifted to code…
But we all have something. :wink:

Yep serious argument over the merits of code-less gameplay suggestions should go in separate thread.

That thread (or another one like it I read recently) is really good. Detailed exploration of the problem.

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yeah i bet people like JB will be hired sooner or later :slight_smile:

I appreciate the thought, but it won’t happen. I offered my services years ago and never received a reply. If the modding tools come out, I’ll take a stab at implementing the warp prototype in 3D to see how it works. That’s assuming that the modding tools are that extensive.

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perhaps in future :wink:

Do you mean that warp tunnel mini-game?

I mean the ship movement system that I refer to as “the warp prototype” or, more properly, “the Infinity Warp Prototype”. It’s described in this thread:

Nice work :slight_smile: I remember much discussion of interception mechanics in the past, can’t wait to see what I-Novae do.

That’s the beautiful thing about coding. No one needs to be gifted to code. You have a problem that prevents your program from doing something you want it to do, and all you have to do is divide said problem into subproblems (rinse and repeat until every subproblem can be solved by your skills). If you don’t know how something works, there’s probably a tutorial on youtube / a code snippet in every language possible. All you need is a checklist of things to do to make your code work (like obligatory header etc.)
At least that’s my impression with imperative languages.

Logical programming languages on the other hand (like prolog) is for mathematicians only.

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This is true, but only to an extent. (Source: I am red-green colorblind).

Different wavelengths are what overlap for most of the colorblind population. A very very low percentage of colorblind people are actually fully colorblind and see in greyscale, but this is not common even among the colorblind population.

Here is a graph of the absorptance of light for a person with a green cone deficiency which results in a red-green colorblindness (this could also be caused by a red cone deficiency in the opposite direction). The Green Cone’s absorptance range has been shifted upward in wavelength from where a normal person’s absorbtance range would be.

My point in saying all of this is even if the colors were to range from red to blue, it might be very very hard for a red-green colorblind person to tell the difference between the red and green part of that spectrum (especially as you hit colors that are between those two wavelength peaks).

With all of that said, I love the idea of imperfect sensors and I really like the way that you describe the sonar pinging system. I just think that we need to find a better way to represent distance that doesn’t involve color.

Then again, the color-blind population may not be large enough to warrant I-Novae spending that much time on figuring out how to design a system that accommodates them. If this is the case, I wouldn’t blame them; they wouldn’t be the first game/game-studio to not cater to the colorblind population :smile:

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I understand. The reason that it works even for color blind people is that the pings last only a few seconds, and the progression of shades is always predictable. It always goes from red to green to blue. So long as there is a discernable shade difference, you’re covered. The sweep needn’t use red to green to blue. It could shuffle the sequence around to use a sequence of shades that contrast properly. Including black to white to black to white. The feedback to the brain wouldn’t be as strong, but the system still does its job.

On top of that, the timing of a given range ping will be the same, so the time that a given shade is visible is always the same. Even a single color would give good feedback, but not as good as the color scheme.

Throw audio cues into the mix (more challenging to implement) and you’d hear a tick, then a growing whoosh of white noise. The ship, then the planet. Spaceship navigation for the deaf.

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