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From Concept to Code

From Concept to Code


When features appear in Phoenix, or any game system for that matter, it can seem that they have been coded in an overly complex manner or with a surprising number of restrictions. Believe it or not, it is not because designers are a bunch of bastards (that's just happy coincidence), it is generally because the initial concept has to be modified to withstand exploitation and fit in with the rest of the game mechanics.

For this I will use as an example the soon to be released code for auto-boarding to demonstrate our thinking process and prove that we do seriously consider a great many angles. Auto-boarding is a desirable addition to the game because the requirement to run turns on two consecutive days looking for position to board and then going back with a boarding ship makes the role of piracy incredibly difficult. The inability to also catch unescorted freighters as they dash between safe orbits is also frustrating. Merchants have it far too easy.


Auto-boarding
The concept is simple enough, when you spot something you want to board, you attempt to board it.

This means four things:

  • Board List
  • Initiate Auto-boarding
  • Post Boarding Actions
  • Potential Impact on Game

Board List
Defining 'wanting to board' is actually quite straightforward. It is simply having a number of parameters, such as enemy lists, do-not-target lists, target ship hulls, e.g. light hulls or less than 200 hulls.

Initiate Auto-boarding
At first glance auto-boarding should be initiated when a valid target is encountered. Auto-boarding could therefore be active and passive, much like starting a naval conflict.

With this in mind, let's look at active boarding. A ship is given a set of standing definitions that describe the ships it will automatically attempt to board during its turn. It will run its turn, scanning as per movement and orders. It a valid target is detected, boarding will commence.

Passive boarding is defined as any valid target that is scanned between turns is automatically subjected to a boarding attempt.

Post Boarding Actions
As your position will be moving on in the case of active-boarding or you are not expecting results as in the case of passive-boarding, you need to have a set of orders that are triggered as a result of a successful boarding. These should include items to deliver to captured vessel and a set of orders such as move to XXX.
Limits are again relatively straightforward. There is a TU cost to boarding, so a position can continue making auto-boarding attempts providing that it has the appropriate spare TU's.

So, on the face it, it all seems pretty simple and coding it in should be a breeze once the parameters are sorted out.

Potential Impact on Game
Not so fast, there is another step; walk-through of application to various scenarios. These need to be analysed possibly resulting in a revisit to the above three steps. This then repeats until we are happy with the application of the mechanic or have a first pass release with a view to later refinement.

First of all, the parameters for determining ships to board seem pretty basic. A small ship could be packed with troops, making mincemeat of your boarders. Maybe you wouldn’t want to board personnel carriers or for that matter warships though you might want to have a bash at heavy hulled sensor ships. Defining a boarding list on ship type may be useful. Doing this would need a thorough work out of the current defining parameters of ship types. After consideration this parameter is assigned to future refinement.

Again, you might not want to attempt to board a ship if it is in the same location as other ships as before attempting the boarding action you are not aware if any of them will be defending it. This is also assigned to future refinement as people may well keep their auto-boarding ships off the beaten track.

Active Auto-boarding
Active auto-boarding by a single ship seems reasonably bombproof based on it being almost the same as current boarding but what happens in the case of squadron orders? As all the ships in the squadron each move before the next action, all will presumably carry out their attempted boarding action. This could prove an utter disaster. Imagine a fleet of 20 pirate ships crossing the path of a single freighter with an escort of 5 reasonably powered warships. They will all arrive then each of the 20 pirate ships will systematically hurl itself against the freighter, suffering a withering attack from the five escorts. In this manner the 20 pirates could easily become 20 piles of debris. Auto-boarding could therefore be turned off for active-squadrons or at the very least the dangers should be highlighted as players can easily submit the same set of orders for 20 individual ships.

Passive Auto-boarding
First of all, let's look at the TU cost. Passive-boarding attempts can cause a position to lose TU's between turns. Currently there isn't anything in the game that costs a position TU's outside of its own turn. This does not seem consistent with the game - strike one.

What happens in the case of mutual boarding attempts, i.e. where both active and passive positions have mutually positive definitions of valid boarding targets. Should the active position act only?
Does setting a boarding list prevent a ship from itself being boarded? As boarding is defined as an attacker and a defender, if you are attacking, you cannot lose your ship. By having a small boarding party, you could theoretically risk nothing. Strike two.

If the passive position acts second, what happens in the case of squadron orders? Should the passive-boarder attempt to board every single possible target until either it runs out of TU's or is destroyed? What happens if a passive position scans a target but is not scanned in return. Does it still board or does its attempt to board reveal it, causing it in turn to be boarded by the active position? And what about a squadron of active auto-boarders encountering a squadron of passive auto-boarders. Whoever goes first has the potential to lose everything due to defenders of the ships being boarded. Strike three.



After careful consideration passive auto-boarding opens up too many situations where the results are likely to be questionable to be included in the mechanic. Does this severely undermine auto-boarding based on the general acceptance that most players tend to run ships between safe locations? Can active auto-boarding do the job alone?

A possible scenario is forthcoming. By running sequenced turns it is possible to set up an ambush and auto-board tactic. This is where two (or more) ships work together. The ambush ships are fast and sequence to move first into position along space lanes. They carry enemy lists and attempt to stop passing ships for full combat. The auto-boarder however moves after the ambush ship and through the location of the ambush point. If there is a potential position to board it will do so. If nothing is detected, then the ambush ships can be left there for another day while the auto-boarding ships regularly check the locations.

So, after a lot of consideration we have a mechanic that has useful immediate application and the potential to be developed and refined further.





 
News
Is open for business...
 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Voice of the Naplian Liberation Front ***

We are the Naplian Liberation Front. We have commandeered this station to bring you important and vital deprogramming. You are a slave of the Galactic Trouser and Tussles Imperium of Unspecified Services! We have witnessed the press ganged upon by Imperial thugs. Rounding up reporters by the thousands and throwing them in weasel dens. Mocking the Great Uncle of the Flagritz. Manufacturing consent out of a lust for imports of wheat cereals! We poor Naplians(*) are given no training and substandard equipment when preparing your nutritious breakfasts. We are sent forward by the Imperial snack commissioners with threats of triple-filing tax returns on unreasonable deadlines! Death would be preferable. We are allegedly paid a wage but have you ever tried to buy anything with just $1? Strangely none of those politicals earning $10,000 or more a week seem to care about our plight. Not to mention that the Imperials throw perfectly good meat into the grinder instead of slow cooking it in black bean sauce. They have no respect for a classic burrito! We are left grieving for young families who have never tasted quality ranch sauce. You don’t need to be a dead Naplian to know the value of a good guacamole.

* No actual Naplians included.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * GTT vs USN * GTT vs NLF * GTT vs IND * GTT vs KAS * GTT vs FET * GTT vs SSS * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Stellar Empire On Warpath ***

The newly re-united Stellar Empire continued to wage war against the Flagritz Empire to bring about galactic peace and freedom for all. The latest system to fall to the inevitable tide of history was Morroglyph in the Coreward Arm. Dewiek intransigence reached fever pitch as the FLZ facilities changed to DEN paws and subsequently became targets of Imperial truth and justice. Despite putting themselves between the past and the future, the DEN seemed to lack much will for an actual fight with Dewiek military commanders adopting “meh” as their watchword.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * GTT smacks NLF * DEN whack MRC * Slaves Liberated * FLZ Retreat * ARC in Orion Spur * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Stellar Empire Re-United ***

Celebrations were held across the vast territories of the Stellar Empire as the two-halves represented by the governments of the Imperials and Caliphate determined to unite. This followed almost inevitably from the assassination of the Caliph, a crime that has gone mysteriously unresolved. The old Caliphate ministers were ‘retired’ and at first it seemed the Imperials had managed what had alluded them for decades.

However, just as orders to claim systems for the IMP went in some places, conflicting orders to claim for the CIA came from Laton. In other systems, it seems overwhelming civilian support lies with the defunct CAL government and there are a number of CIV and CAL bases that seem to have not heeded the CIA nor IMP orders. With all the Caliphate's armaments now in the CIA’s hand and no political leadership in the old government, it seems inevitable that the civilians will be dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

A muted and cautious response from the rest of the galaxy was only to be expected given the formation of a new unrivalled superpower. The chilling effect on public discourse as the Imperial war machine taps into the substantial, if stunted, economies of the former Caliphate will surely be felt for years to come. Does this mark the 'end of history' as we know it?

More on this story inside this issue of the SSS along with: * KAS v IMP/GTT v FLZ * DEN v MRC * FOCed by IMP * BHD v DEN * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Imperials Declare War Against Flagritz ***

A declaration of war came last week after an unsatisfactory reply to Imperial ultimatums that the FLZ accept resolution of the previous war. J. Jones issued the following proclamation, "We hope this reminder will prompt them to rethink the status they removed them selves from and come back to more peaceful co-existence.” Doublegood, Viceroy, doublegood!

More on this story inside this issue of the SSS along with: * Species Guide * FEL Barter With GIants * High Times &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Orion Spur Special Edition ***

Explorers of the galaxy rejoiced as knowledge of a new periphery became common knowledge, revealing charts to forty star systems. The Orion Spur is connected to the massive Coreward Arm with rumours that the locals of the Monument system at the heart of this new periphery may have been responsible for the collapse of the HarCorp civilisation.

We have in-depth analysis and information about the new periphery inside this special issue of the SSS.

Also inside this issue of the SSS: * Naplian Liberation Front Reality Show * FLZ v FEL * Mercs in Graydown * DOM Scare Stories * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Hoedown in Graydown ***

Wimbles in the Graydown system have come under repeated attacks by mercenaries. The Wimbles having already lost two outposts have had their ships come under attack by boarders. The Wimbles are pointing a hairy finger at the GTT whilst the DEN are itching to get their paws in.

Pleasantly rotund Wolf Lord Lyceum reported the destruction of one mercenary ship, a Corsair class explorer called "Eye of the Chosen" which had earlier dropped off ground forces flying the banner of "God Hates Wimbles.” Which God and why he or she hates Wimbles has yet to be revealed. We suspect its corporation-loving Mammon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Sargasso Update * Wakerians * Naplian Liberation Front * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Breaking News: Caliph Samuel Assassinated ***

The nominal head of the Caliphate, Samuel has been murdered in broad daylight at the starbase CAL Sidon in the Fortress system. The allegedly mad zealot was on his way to meet representatives of various civilian factions when a shadowy figure *cough*CIA agent*cough* shot him dead.

The CIA issued the following statement to the SSS with a customary nudge and a wink: "In these difficult times, as we come to terms with the loss of Samuel, we are taking things one day at a time.

"Samuel was not only our Caliph, but our leader during the Second Civil War which laid the foundations for the Confederacy after he left the Human Empire and settled in the Darkfold. It is truly a sad day and one that will be marked in history as one of many great leaders who were cut down in their prime.

"We will strive now to look to the future, whilst remembering our past”

Speculation is rife that this is the first step towards a unification of the two-halves of the Stellar Empire. Others are more hopeful this is a return to the Confederacy or the mark of greater separation with the Imperial bloc. Time will tell what nebulous motives the shadowy puppet-master Laton turned out to have had and which alien faction will be blamed for the Caliph’s murder.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * HEX / FET Invade Sargasso * Magnus v Nevets Fight! * Dewiek Black Hole Disaster * FLZ Correction * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** STOP PRESS: Felini Victory ***

In an unexpected development, the FEL have scored a decisive victory against the FLZ. Destroying or maiming some 20 Flagritz Baseships in the Onwards system.

What is more remarkable than the victory was there was no subsequent comment by Crazy Uncle Flagritz. We might need to have a lie down now.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * DEN and FEL * Valhalla Fighting Pits * RIP smacked * &etc


 
***** Christmas Special Edition *****

*** Ho Ho Ho ***

Welcome to the SSS Christmas Special Edition! We the Editors have put together a nostalgic pudding treat intended to delight and tickle even the scroogiest megacorp executive. So gather your cubs, squidlets and larvae for some silliness and song. Time to catch up with some classics from years gone by, raise your glasses and drink your gluttony and shame away!

Wishing you all a merry Christmas free from Krampus Jones's invading armies!

The Editors


 

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