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Heisenberg Drive

#1
In contrast to my other recent suggestion, Positronium Minefield, this is a suggestion I would very much like to see incorporated into Limit Theory. I don't think it's very likely, though. Also the forums are kind of dead of late. Anyway.

I want to point out right at the start that the suggestion I have is really one main idea packaged along with several smaller ones related to it, and Josh may pick and choose them as he likes. I don't expect him to incorporate all or necessarily any of them.

As I'm writing this, I'm noticing that it's turning into a very, very big post, but I'll try to maintain decent formatting as best as I can. Please bear with me. :thumbup:

OUTLINE
Over the past few weeks I've been trying to think of a way to simultaneously address many of the issues that crop up with propulsion and motion in space-based games. One of the aims was to keep my ideas as compatible as possible with our modern-day understanding of the laws of physics. To that end I've been doing what I can to familiarise myself with general relativity, quantum field theory and electronics. What I've come up with is a system that I believe is scientifically plausible (enough) while resolving a number of issues I've seen raised about this area of game design, and has the potential to open up new avenues of gameplay as well.

GOALS
The proposal has been designed with the following goals in mind:
  • As a pilot, I want to be able to reach my destination in a reasonable amount of time.
  • As a pilot, I want my craft to be sufficiently maneuverable to suit my purposes.
  • As a pilot, I want the motion of my craft to be smooth.
  • As a pilot, I want control of my craft to be intuitive.
  • As a pilot, I do not want to feel that my top speed or acceleration is artificially limited.
  • As a pilot, I want deceleration to be faster than acceleration.
  • As a pilot, I do not want the motion of my craft to make me blackout, kill me or subject me to relativistic phenomena.
  • As a player, I want travelling to look and sound cool.
  • As a player, I do not want to arrive at my destination too fast, as this ruins the enjoyment of travel.
  • As a player, I do not want to be stuck in space because my engines got damaged.
  • As a player, I do not want to be stuck in space because I ran out of fuel.
  • As a player, I want the game to offer a plausible explanation for ship travel to keep me immersed.
  • As a player, I want ships to move in a way that still keeps combat interesting and viable.
  • As a player, I want there to be a potential for upgrading my setup to improve travel.
  • As the programmer, I do not want players to travel too fast, as this will cause problems with the physics engine.
  • As the programmer, I do not want to have to radically revise a lot of code to implement the system.
  • As the programmer, I do not want computing ship motion to be overly expensive, as this will reduce game performance.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make ships' motion dependent on the surrounding environment.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make smaller ships slow down when in proximity to large ships, to convey a sense of scale.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make otherwise-stationary smaller ships assume the motion of a nearby moving large ship.
  • As the game designer, I want the detectability of a ship to positively correlate with the magnitude of its velocity.
  • As the game designer, I want the power required to maintain a given velocity of a ship to positively correlate with the magnitude of the velocity.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to plausibly allow the introduction of additional fun game mechanics.
  • As the game designer, I want the propulsion system to offer a plausible explanation for derelict ships and wrecks remaining still in space rather than moving.
  • As the game designer, I want to plausibly justify having different ships move in different ways, as this allows for trade-offs, balance and promotes variety.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to plausibly allow engines to be temporarily 'crippled' to make combat more exciting for the player. This should not last such a long time that the player becomes frustrated if it happens to them.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to be interesting and unique to differentiate my game from other games.
PROPOSAL
This is how I believe propulsion in Limit Theory could be done.

Theory
“A subatomic particle is most likely to be in a particular place, such as near the nucleus of an atom, but there is also a small probability of it being found very far from its point of origin. Thus, a body could travel from place to place without passing through the intervening space if you had sufficient control of probability.” -- Michael Lockwood

The Heisenberg Drive is a fusion of two conceptual types of drives: the Infinite Improbability Drive as developed by science fiction author Douglas Adams and used within his book series The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and the stutterwarp drive concept that is used in games such as Traveller, and also by the Liir in the sci-fi game Sword of the Stars.

Like the Infinite Improbability Drive, the Heisenberg Drive exploits certain properties of quantum mechanical systems discovered by the German theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg. Heisenberg devised something called the Uncertainty Principle, which tells us that the more accurately we know one of a pair of complementary properties of a particle, the less accurately we can know the other. This is not a limitation of our measuring equipment but a fundamental property of the way physics operates. The most commonly used example of complementary variables of a particle are its position and momentum - the more accurately we know a particle's position, the less accurately we can tell its momentum, and vice versa.
Image Figure 1: Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle as it relates to the position and momentum of a particle.

In practice, this means that we can never really know the exact location of particles in space. Formerly, physicists used to think of electrons as solid particles that orbited the nucleus of atoms like planets orbit stars. With the advent of quantum mechanics and what's referred to as the wave-particle duality of matter, physicists then began viewing electrons as something exhibiting characteristics of both particles and waves and inhabiting regions of space around the nucleus of atoms known as orbitals. The shape of these orbitals and densities within them dictate the probability of finding an electron at any given point within them.
Image Image Figure 2: A visual representation of a 2s orbital (left) and a p orbital (right).

These orbitals encompass the region of space that an electron will be found with 95% likelihood. However, an orbital encompassing the region of space that an electron will be found with certainty would have to be the size of the entire Universe. This means that, although an electron will almost always be found extremely close to its nucleus, there is an extremely small probability that the electron will instead be observed in the local vicinity of Jupiter, or on the other side of the galaxy. The Infinite Improbability Drive of Douglas Adams' novels operates by manipulating probability so that the otherwise extremely unlikely event of all of a ship's constituent particles repositioning themselves light-years away from their present location is realised.

The Heisenberg Drive operates on a similar principle, by manipulating the probability density of particles within a given region of space. Unlike the Infinite Improbability Drive, the Heisenberg Drive only causes shifts of particles that it acts on by a few micrometers each activation. However, with enough computational power it is possible to initiate "jumps" billions of times per second, making it feasible to translate objects at up to thousands of meters per second through space. In this sense, the Heisenberg Drive operates like a stutterwarp drive.

The drive's method of operation leads to some interesting properties. Because the drive causes an object's position to change without actually causing it to move, it counts as an inertia-less drive. The object does not require any particular force to start and stop moving, and its "acceleration" is independent of its mass, at least from the perspective of Newtonian physics. Additionally, the object experiences no relativistic effects as its rate of apparent motion increases, and in theory it could achieve superluminal velocities. In practice, the Heisenberg Drive remains limited to subluminal travel until faster computers or stronger quantum system constraining techniques are developed.

Overview
In Limit Theory, all ships would be driven using Heisenberg drive systems over the current system of reaction thrusters. The ship's computer would make the necessary calculations, and power from the generator would be used to generate a field around the local region of space to constrain the quantum mechanical behaviour of particles within it and cause them to repeatedly "jump" in the intended direction of motion.

From the pilot and player's point of view, the process of jumping occurs so rapidly and over such small distances per jump that it appears as though the ship moves smoothly through space in a particular direction. The only visible difference will be the lack of thrusters on the ship, and additional possible visual phenomena that will be explored later.

This drive concept has many advantages over Limit Theory's current implementation. The most prominent is that it allows a way to simulate similar motion characteristics to what would occur when moving through a fluidic medium and experiencing drag while preserving a sense of realism and believability despite the game's space setting. The models proposed to characterise motion using the Heisenberg Drive are mathematically specified below under Characteristics. In brief, though, a vessel equipped with a Heisenberg Drive that starts at rest and begins moving in a particular direction will experience non-linear acceleration and a velocity that asymptotically approaches a constant (much lower than c) over time. Acceleration starts low but rapidly peaks, after which it diminishes towards 0 as time tends towards infinity. Deceleration is in general much faster than acceleration, and its peak occurs at the instantaneous moment t=0, after which it asymptotically reduces towards 0 as time tends towards infinity.

Unlike reaction-based thrusters, the efficiency of the Heisenberg Drive depends on its local environment. The drive operates at higher efficiency the further away it is from sources of mass. This means that vessels will tend to move slowly close to planets, stations and large ships. This gives a plausible justification for implementing Gazz's "wakefield" concept in A Request For Fighters. Nearby mass distorts the space-time manifold in the local region forcing the ship's navigation computer to accommodate for this, increasing the cycle time per jump and consequently reducing apparent motion. The efficiency of the drive is also affected by the presence of other vessels' Heisenberg fields and the traces they leave, and this will be discused below under Drafting.

Although the Heisenberg Drive is inertia-less, it's still a general property of the system that larger ships accelerate slower and attain lower top speeds than smaller ships. This is because more massive ships consist of more particles, generating more work for the ship's navigation computer and increasing its cycle time - this limits top speed. Additionally, the Heisenberg field required needs to be bigger and therefore takes longer to reach maximum potential - this limits acceleration.

The power required to sustain motion is a complex, non-monotonic function of the present magnitude of velocity. It will be described in more detail under Characteristics.

In the following sections, I will describe a few possible mechanics of the system and dynamics that could arise from them.[1]

Tracking
The Heisenberg Drive operates by generating a field around the ship, known as a Heisenberg field. As a ship passes through a region of space-time, the field alters the properties of that region in a semi-stable manner that persists even after the ship (and therefore the field) has progressed on. As time passes by, these regions of space will gradually revert back to normal. This effect leads to what is referred to as the trace of a vessel, as it shows the path that the vessel has traversed. This effect makes it possible for ships equipped with advanced enough sensors to track down other vessels for a short time after they have passed through a region of space. These sensors operate by scanning for anomalous characteristics and behaviour in particles they detect coming from a certain direction. When particles pass through a region of space affected by a Heisenberg field, their velocity vectors or other characteristics may differ from how they would be if they had only passed through normal space, and these sensors can use this information to calculate the path through which a vessel has taken. By noting the magnitude of anomalous behaviour at different points in this path, the direction that the vessel was travelling in can be computed too.

This opens up interesting options for gameplay. For instance, in the thread Your reputation preceding you, I speculate on the possibility of the player being able to accept vigilante contracts in response to crime reports in the system and then tracking down suspects and criminals if they leave the scene of the reported crime before you arrive through their propulsion system's trace.

You could tie in this mechanism with bounty hunting or finding a person in general. You could launch specialised probes throughout a system that are specifically equipped with sensors to monitor anomalous particle behaviour coming from all directions in space. Each Heisenberg Drive leaves behind a unique signature in its trace, so with information about the drive system that a vessel is using that the player may have extracted in some manner beforehand, they will be able to track the whereabouts of a particular NPC. As time progresses and with more advanced probes, the player will gain a finer and finer estimate of the location that an NPC is. Eventually, they may be able to find a region of space that the NPC passed through recently enough to directly observe its trace with on-board scanners.

I suggest that the game offers the player a way to directly see these traces through a particular kind of shader like the holographic one Josh uses now for command and control of fleets. This shader should make general objects in space appear blurry but propulsion traces stand out vividly, and the player should be able to activate and deactivate this ability at will. This ability should be granted only if the player's vessel is equipped with the appropriate technology and it should consume power over time.

Drafting
As noted in the previous sections, a Heisenberg Drive affects the quantum mechanical behaviour of particles passing through areas of space that it has recently travelled through. Specifically, the Heisenberg field is established to make particles tend to displace themselves in a particular direction, and this effect will linger (and slowly attenuate) after the field has passed on or stopped. Therefore a vessel could travel in the "wake" of another vessel ahead of it and find that it is able to travel faster and at a reduced energy expenditure by exploiting the fact that some of the work is already done for it. This is known as drafting and functions similarly to how drafting works in bicycle or car racing in real life, or how ducks will fly in v-formations to benefit from each other's wake.

Drafting may be used to help a fleet travel faster and remain cohesive, by letting faster vessels travel ahead and generate a wake that slower vessels can benefit from. There may even be classes of ships specialised to "leak" as much as possible and generate very powerful wakes behind them for the benefit of allies. In combat, this may be used as an intelligent tactic by allied NPC vessels in combat if, for instance, one of them has crippled or impaired engines and could benefit from riding in the wake of allies. This is probably similar to what ducks and geese do, but don't quote me on this!

Drafting can also be exploited by small ships to great effect in the presence of larger ships. Although the smaller ship's own drive's efficiency will be reduced in the presence of a significantly big ship, if it remains close enough to the ship it can get carried along with the ship with minimal computation and power required itself. This kind of mechanic is something I've seen occur in X: Rebirth. It could offer a plausible means of having carriers support squadrons of smaller ships that it maintains outside of itself, which may offer gameplay or performance benefits.

Terrain
In Weapon Types, CutterJohn raises the excellent suggestion of having "spatial terrain".
CutterJohn wrote: A long time ago, for another game, I had the thought for a 'terrain' system to break up the simplistic environment of space. Essentially the idea was a physical manifestation of the battle between ECM/ECCM in the game space, and would look rather like we'd expect clouds to look on earth. Various regions would populate the immediate battle area, each producing different effects. Some clouds would be opaque and obscure vision, others would obscure sensor readings, cause deleterious effects to weapons, make missiles go haywire, some could perhaps cause shield fluctuations or other equipment failures, or create fake ships that you waste time targeting. Some you could hide in, others would be obstacles to avoid.
The idea of ships' propulsion systems generating traces that distort the quantum mechanical behaviour occurring in regions of space they pass through ties in very neatly with the idea of spatial terrain. Since ships receive information about their local environment through sensing and interpreting radiation and particles that travel through the given volume of space, these particles and radiation could be affected when passing through parts of space where a ship's trace remains active and this could have various effects.

For one, it could confuse a ship's sensors and make it harder for the pilot to gain or maintain a lock on another vessel. Additionally, a vessel may try to hide itself from standard sensors by lurking within its own trace. While a ship with sensors equipped to scan for propulsion traces might easily locate the vessel this way, other kinds of emissions from the ship (e.g. thermal, electromagnetic) may be scrambled enough to reduce the visibility of the vessel to more common sensors.

As ships fly around within a battle area, they will "leak" more and more into the local region of space and these effects may amplify. However, it's conceivable that ships may actively use weapons to generate Heisenberg field-like traces in space which could have a number of different effects. Since these fields affect the quantum mechanical behaviour of particles passing through them, and quantum mechanics underlies most of the phenomena we're accustomed to, you could associate many gamey but still plausible effects with these weapons. These weapons could generate "clouds" (in the sense CutterJohn uses it) around the battlefield where things within them and passing through them are affected in different ways. Some types could make projectiles passing through them go faster or slower. Some kinds might affect the damage output of lasers, some may drain or empower shields, some might scramble or disable ship systems, some could reduce or speed up the motion of vessels passing through them, some could make vessels within them more susceptible to some types of damage and less susceptible to others, etc. There are countless possibilities here.

Impairments
There are two major advantages of the proposal that will be covered in this section. Both of these relate to avoiding scenarios where the player finds himself stuck in space, waiting for assistance.

In Balancing Ship Design and Faction Diversity: Ships, Gazz raises the point that having a vessel's ability to move depend on a limited supply of fuel could lead to a situation in which the player finds himself in a generally not fun state of immobility. The Heisenberg Drive proposal overcomes this limitation because it doesn't require a limited supply of fuel or propellant like reaction-based thrusters would. The motion of the ship is driven entirely by energy produced from the ship's reactor, and it may be assumed that the reactor can supply an infinite amount of energy (although obviously not an infinite amount of power :P ). The player will never find themselves in a situation where they are stranded due to running out of fuel.

Another issue is raised in regards to the topic of procedurally destructible ships and the consequences of getting your engines blown off. The topic of procedurally destructible/deformable vessels is raised by mogthew in Destructible Models and a potential pitfull of the idea is pointed out.
Gazz wrote:While it sounds cool, what about game balance and fun?

If the enemy lands a lucky hit on your starter ship and the engines are blown away, what then?
Even if you survive, you're completely screwed.

Sure, a whole support structure for "getting a tow" could be created but what would be the point of it?
It would induce a wait and a cost.
Same as if you could repair your ship to a flyable state.
But repairing doesn't work if half your ship is gone. =)
I'm personally very much in favour of destructible/deformable models, and the Heisenberg Drive concept overcomes this limitation as well. In Balancing Ship Design and Faction Diversity: Internal Modules, Gazz discusses the idea of having subsystems inside of ships that cannot be targeted and therefore destroyed. The Heisenberg field generators of a vessel are internal components and there are no external components necessary for a ship to move through space. These field generators are located adjacent to the ship's core reactor, so the only way to destroy a vessel's means of propulsion is by destroying the reactor and consequently the entire ship. The player is at risk of destruction and death, but not of being stranded in space. Therefore destructible/deformable ship modeling can be safely combined with the Heisenberg Drive concept.

However, I'm interesting in exploring other ways in which a player or NPC's propulsion system can be temporarily impaired in fun ways. The rate at which a ship can move through space using its Heisenberg drive is dependent on two things: the extent to which it can jump on each cycle, which is governed by the Heisenberg field generators; and the rate at which these cycles can occur, which is governed by the performance of the navigation computer.

One means of impairing ships on the hardware-side would be to disrupt the ability of the Heisenberg field generators to produce an effective field around the vessel. This could be caused by using weaponry that scrambles and disrupts the quantum mechanical systems being engineered around the vessel so that the ship cannot move forward very efficiently. This could be done by firing weapons that cause other Heisenberg fields to generate around the targeted vessel, which interfere with its own.

Another means of impairing ships operating on the software-side of things could be channeling large quantities of matter in the local vicinity of the ship, which as discussed earlier increase the cycle time of the navigation computer and lead to slower effective motion. Perhaps a vessel with particularly powerful navigation computers equipped to deal with significant space-time curvature could carry several rounds of ultra-dense "slugs" that could be fired at vessels and slow them down.

A third interesting means of impairing vessels temporarily could be through hacking, which is an idea discussed in Nodel UI & Oculus Rift Idea.

Characteristics
In this section I flesh out the motion characteristics of the Heisenberg Drive, the mathematical models behind them and my reasons for choosing those models.

One thing that I need to point out at this stage: The characteristics produced below assume a completely "raw" relationship between things like velocity and acceleration against time. If you're not happy with the characteristics for whatever reason, they're not at all set in stone, since in reality the flight computer will probably intermediate between the pilot and this "raw" behaviour of the Heisenberg system by presenting far more intuitive characteristics to the pilot and then translating between that and how the drive really operates, if you understand what I mean. So yeah, if you want different characteristic curves, we can totally go for that if you like.

As I've probably repeated a little too often by this point, the Heisenberg Drive operates by drawing power from a source (such as the ship's reactor) and using this to establish a field. There's a very commonly used electrical component that does this. It's called an inductor. When a circuit is closed containing a power supply (e.g. battery) and an inductor is closed, the battery produces an EMF (electromotive force) through the circuit. Without the inductor, this would cause an almost instantaneous and constant current in the circuit equal to the voltage supply divided by the resistance within the wires of the circuit. However, the thing about inductors is that they always resist a change in current, so placing an inductor in the circuit has the effect of making the current start small and slowly climb over time. The inductor causes this effect by generating a reverse EMF (in accordance with Faraday's and Lenz's laws) that the current has to work against. The work that the current does against this EMF is converted into energy that the inductor stores in a magnetic field around it. The reverse EMF is proportional to the rate of change of current in the circuit, so as this rate decreases, so does the reverse EMF, and eventually the circuit will reach a steady-state in which the inductor maintains a constant magnetic field, generates no reverse EMF, and the current flows as if there's no inductor there at all.
Image Image Figure 3: A DC circuit consisting of a battery, a switch, a resistor and an inductor (left) and associated characteristic curves (right)

For lack of an advanced enough understanding of quantum physics and electronics necessary to develop interstellar-capable spaceships and properly figure out the actual characteristics of a Heisenberg Drive, I chose to approximate its characteristics to that of the inductor.

The energy stored within an inductor is proportional to the square of the current in the circuit. The current going through a circuit with an inductor at a given time t takes the form I = a(1-e^(-kt)), where a and k are constants. Assuming that the processing rate of the navigation computer remains constant, I make the additional assumption that the velocity of the vessel is proportional to the energy of the Heisenberg field around it.

The velocity model I then use has the form (a(1-e^(-kt)))^2 = a^2(1-e^(-kt))^2.

Substituting in the values k=0.1 and a=100, I obtain the following velocity characteristic curve, with acceleration from t=0 to 100 and deceleration for t > 100.
Image Figure 4: Velocity characteristic curve of a Heisenberg drive (acceleration, deceleration)

This curve shows that the velocity of a vessel is a non-linear, monotonically-increasing function of time that asymptotes towards a configurable value. The rate at which the velocity changes (the acceleration) is affected by the constants a and k, while the top speed is determined only by a.

The diagram below illustrates a situation in which the vessel accelerates from rest from t=0 to 100, decelerates until at 50% maximum velocity and then accelerates back to full speed again.
Image Figure 5: Velocity characteristic curve of a Heisenberg drive (acceleration, deceleration, re-acceleration)

Both of these curves together show that deceleration occurs much faster than acceleration, allowing the player to bring their ship to rest faster than they can reach cruising speed. I believe this is a beneficial feature.

The acceleration model is simply based on the time-derivative of the velocity model, and the acceleration characteristics are shown below.
Image Figure 6: Acceleration characteristic curves of a Heisenberg drive (blue: acceleration, red: deceleration)

The maximum deceleration occurs at the instantaneous moment that deceleration is initiated, whereas with acceleration it increases up until a peak early on before decreasing and asymptotically approaching zero. In this case the peak acceleration is 1/20th of the top velocity, as shown below.
Image Figure 7: Peak acceleration calculation for a Heisenberg drive

Finally, we explore the relation between power expenditure and velocity.

In an inductor, the power expended generating the magnetic field at any given moment is proportional to the current through the circuit multiplied by its time-derivative. Considering velocity is assumed to be proportional to the energy of the field and therefore the square of the current, the formula I use for power expenditure against velocity has the form A*((I^2)*d(I^2)/dt) * B(I^2) * CI, where the term multiplied by A relates to the power necessary to establish the Heisenberg field, which is initially at maximum but tends over time to zero; the term multiplied by B relates to the heat output of the system. In electronics, the heat output of a circuit equals I^2*R, so here B represents resistance; the term multiplied by C is just where I imagine that a constant amount of power expenditure is necessary for general maintenance and/or leakage and this is proportional to the current. Since P = I*V, and V (the supply voltage from the ractor) is assumed to remain constant, this gives the model for power against velocity, which is shown diagrammatically below.
Image Figure 8: Power characteristic curve of a Heisenberg drive

You can see that the power demand grows to a local maximum early on, drops down as the Heisenberg field establishes, and then increases again as heat loss and leakage/maintenance become the dominant factors of the equation.

Aesthetics
As for the visual and auditory coolness of the concept, I think there's a lot of room to play around with since we're dealing with such an exotic drive concept.

On the visual side of things, I really love one of the effects that got introduced into EVE Online, I think with Odyssey. It's like this space-bending effect, you can see it at 5:30 in this video.

Since you're also flitting between points in space extremely fast, it would be nice if occasionally (perhaps when accelerating or decelerating?) you see your ship phase in and out a bit, which would just be a matter of changing its transparency.

On the audio-side, you could maybe incorporate that very aesthetically pleasing and stereotypical whine of a powerful motor as it increases or decreases its speed in correspondence with the Heisenberg field generators powering up or down.

I'm afraid that it kind of obviates the need for thrusters and would throw to waste all the nice work Josh has done on them, though.

Extensions
The idea of altering the quantum mechanical behaviour of particles in systems doesn't necessarily need to be confined just to propulsion; it can be extended to other areas of Limit Theory as well.

For instance, Josh came up with the idea of matter transport unit, but he's offered no explanation for how they could work. I'd like to propose that matter transport units work by generating extremely thin but long Heisenberg fields across space, as opposed to propulsion Heisenberg fields that create local, spherical fields. The matter transport unit would work by generating a Heisenberg field that caused particles within it to jump progressively towards the unit (in the case of receiving matter) or away from it (in the case of transmitting it). Other types of fields are possible too: you can generate a field that might simply expel matter outside of it.

GOAL FULFILMENT
This section details how the proposal meets the specified requirements for a propulsion system in Limit Theory.
  • As a pilot, I want to be able to reach my destination in a reasonable amount of time.
    • The top speed of the proposed system is completely configurable. You can set it appropriately high.
  • As a pilot, I want my craft to be sufficiently maneuverable to suit my purposes.
    • The Heisenberg field can be configured to generate motion in any direction. However, as the field is charged it gains an affiliation with motion in a particular direction, so to pull off maneuvers in which the ship temporarily moves in a direction different to its heading should require increased power expenditure. It will be possible though.
  • As a pilot, I want the motion of my craft to be smooth.
    • The velocity and acceleration characteristic curves for the Heisenberg drive are smooth and continuous, meaning that motion for the pilot would be smooth. If other velocity and acceleration characteristics are desired, these can be plausibly implemented by having the flight computer handle the details of mapping the desired characteristics to the actual ones.
  • As a pilot, I want control of my craft to be intuitive.
    • If testing finds the "raw" motion characteristics of vessels to be unintuitive, the flight computer can intermediate between it and a more intuitive set of characteristics, as described above.
  • As a pilot, I do not want to feel that my top speed or acceleration is artificially limited.
    • Unlike a proposal I made a while back in which the flight computer just cuts out the thruster when it reaches top speed, the theory behind the operation of the Heisenberg Drive gives plausible justification to it having a top speed. The reactor will need to actively work to maintain this top speed, and acceleration is asymptotic so it never quite reaches zero. Altogether this should mitigate the feeling that the top speed and acceleration of the vessel is artificially limited.
  • As a pilot, I want deceleration to be faster than acceleration.
    • The Heisenberg Drive allows for faster deceleration than acceleration at high velocities, as the Heisenberg fields discharge faster than they charge when they are approaching full establishment.
  • As a pilot, I do not want the motion of my craft to make me blackout, kill me or subject me to relativistic phenomena.
    • The Heisenberg Drive is an inertia-less drive. You can go at any speed using it without experiencing G-forces or relativistic phenomena.
  • As a player, I want travelling to look and sound cool.
    • I have suggested a few possibilities under Aesthetics to make the Heisenberg Drive visually and audibly pleasing. The exotic nature of the drive means there are a number of possible cool effects that could be justifiably associated with its operation.
  • As a player, I do not want to arrive at my destination too fast, as this ruins the enjoyment of travel.
    • The Heisenberg Drive is limited to a top speed and by a maximum acceleration rate. These are configurable and can be adjusted to make it so players and NPC's do not reach their destinations too fast.
  • As a player, I do not want to be stuck in space because my engines got damaged.
    • The Heisenberg Drive is an internal component of the ship and there is no way that it could be permanently disrupted without the ship being destroyed as a whole. There is no danger in being stuck in space due to engine damage.
  • As a player, I do not want to be stuck in space because I ran out of fuel.
    • The Heisenberg Drive requires no fuel or other limited-supply material. It operates solely based on the power output from the ship's reactor, which is assumed to be able to supply power indefinitely. There is no danger in being stuck in space due to running out of fuel.
  • As a player, I want the game to offer a plausible explanation for ship travel to keep me immersed.
    • A plausible justification for the Heisenberg Drive concept is given under Theory, established on well-founded principles within quantum mechanics.
  • As a player, I want ships to move in a way that still keeps combat interesting and viable.
    • Since Heisenberg drives confine ship motion to a limited range of velocities, combat is able to remain viable as vessels will not be able to maintain ridiculous relative velocities to each other. The interaction between vessels' Heisenberg fields can contribute to making combat more interesting, and it opens up additional combat tactics, such as vessels "synchronising" or "desynchronising" the jump patterns of their drives with one another for various practical effects during combat, as in Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep.
  • As a player, I want there to be a potential for upgrading my setup to improve travel.
    • Heisenberg Drives will have limiting characteristics that can be improved to facilitate faster, more resilient, more efficient or more covert travel in the form of upgrades.
  • As the programmer, I do not want players to travel too fast, as this will cause problems with the physics engine.
    • The Heisenberg Drive will limit vessels' motion to speeds that the physics engine can handle.
  • As the programmer, I do not want to have to radically revise a lot of code to implement the system.
    • Apart from coding new visual and auditory effects, the only code changes that need to be made to incorporate the main part of this suggestion is to revise the motion of ships (potentially, you could even keep the flight model the same) and to remove any code relating to thrusters. Other suggestions related to the main one can be implemented separately or not at all.
  • As the programmer, I do not want computing ship motion to be overly expensive, as this will reduce game performance.
    • The approach I propose should be little more computationally expensive than the current implementation.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make ship's motion dependent on the surrounding environment.
    • The efficiency of the Heisenberg Drive is dependent on the curvature of space-time around it, and so can be affected by the presence of planets, stations or large ships.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make smaller ships slow down when in proximity to large ships, to convey a sense of scale.
    • Large ships cause a slight curvature in the region of space-time around them, which reduces the efficiency of the drives of smaller ships close to them and causes them to slow down. This can help convey a sense of scale.
  • As the game designer, I want a plausible reason to make otherwise-stationary smaller ships assume the motion of a nearby moving large ship.
    • A small ship that is in close proximity to a moving larger ship will be caught within its Heisenberg field and assume a similar motion to it.
  • As the game designer, I want the detectability of a ship to positively correlate with the magnitude of its velocity.
    • The power-velocity model listed under Characteristics incorporates a heat production component (I^2*R). A ship travelling faster will need to maintain a larger current, and the amount of heat generating is proportional to the square of this current. As the velocity of the ship is proportional to the square of the current, the velocity of the ship and the amount of heat its engines produce vary in direct proportion to each other.
  • As the game designer, I want the power required to maintain a given velocity of a ship to positively correlate with the magnitude of the velocity.
    • The power-velocity characteristic given under Characteristics shows that power expenditure will positively correlate with the magnitude of the velocity except during a transient region for low velocities in which case there will be a temporary negative correlation.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to plausibly allow the introduction of additional fun game mechanics.
    • Additional fun game mechanics and corresponding dynamics are detailed under Tracking, Drafting and Terrain.
  • As the game designer, I want the propulsion system to offer a plausible explanation for derelict ships and wrecks remaining still in space rather than moving.
    • Since a Heisenberg drive allows a ship to travel through space without really moving, any ship without an active or functioning Heisenberg drive will be stationary save for forces produced by other phenomena. This justifies having derelict ships and wrecks that are stationary rather than moving through space at the rate they were travelling when they got destroyed.
  • As the game designer, I want to plausibly justify having different ships move in different ways, as this allows for trade-offs, balance and promotes variety.
    • Larger ships will tend to accelerate slower and have a lower top speed than smaller ships. Certain ships can be specialised to have particularly efficient Heisenberg drives, or to "leak" more for the benefit of allies. These all promote variety and diversity and the opportunity for balancing.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to plausibly allow engines to be temporarily 'crippled' to make combat more exciting for the player. This should not last such a long time that the player becomes frustrated if it happens to them.
    • Possible mechanics for temporarily crippling vessels is given under Impairment.
  • As the game designer, I want the system to be interesting and unique to differentiate my game from other games.
    • The Heisenberg drive is unique enough to be one feature among many that differentiates Limit Theory from other games of a similar kind.
REFERENCES
[1] MDA: A Formal Approach to Game Design and Game Research (http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j& ... 7178,d.eW0)

So again, what do you guys think? :ghost:
Last edited by ThymineC on Sun Dec 29, 2013 8:53 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#3
Thanks, Lum. :)

The most important part of suggestions are the benefits they confer to Limit Theory. So if you or anyone else doesn't feel like reading the entire post, I advise to skip straight to "Goal Fulfilment".

If that's still too long for you, at least take away this: the proposal gives a realistic justification for asymptotic acceleration. It allows the whole idea of ships having top speeds in space to make sense.

In terms of changes to the underlying ship motion code - I don't think there needs to be many. Or even any, if Josh wishes to continue with his current flight model. However, I do expect that he'll need to release Graphics Josh for a day or two. :angel:
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#4
ThymineC wrote:Thanks, Lum. :)

The most important part of suggestions are the benefits they confer to Limit Theory. So if you or anyone else doesn't feel like reading the entire post, I advise to skip straight to "Goal Fulfilment".

If that's still too long for you, at least take away this: the proposal gives a realistic justification for asymptotic acceleration. It allows the whole idea of ships having top speeds in space to make sense.

In terms of changes to the underlying ship motion code - I don't think there needs to be many. Or even any, if Josh wishes to continue with his current flight model. However, I do expect that he'll need to release Graphics Josh for a day or two. :angel:
the only thing i find that speaks against the heisenberg drive is that it does away with the need for colorful engine exhaust ports, which i would miss dearly
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#5
Cornflakes_91 wrote:the only thing i find that speaks against the heisenberg drive is that it does away with the need for colorful engine exhaust ports, which i would miss dearly
That's true, and I would miss them too, but the fact that it's an exotic drive opens up the potential for an even cooler look and feel than colourful exhausts, which I explore under Aesthetics.
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#7
ThymineC wrote:
Cornflakes_91 wrote:the only thing i find that speaks against the heisenberg drive is that it does away with the need for colorful engine exhaust ports, which i would miss dearly
That's true, and I would miss them too, but the fact that it's an exotic drive opens up the potential for an even cooler look and feel than colourful exhausts, which I explore under Aesthetics.
maybe use the heisenberg drive as cruise drive and for low speeds standard drives?
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#8
Cornflakes_91 wrote:
ThymineC wrote:
Cornflakes_91 wrote:the only thing i find that speaks against the heisenberg drive is that it does away with the need for colorful engine exhaust ports, which i would miss dearly
That's true, and I would miss them too, but the fact that it's an exotic drive opens up the potential for an even cooler look and feel than colourful exhausts, which I explore under Aesthetics.
maybe use the heisenberg drive as cruise drive and for low speeds standard drives?
That kind of ruins the elegance and re-introduces a number of problems. What's to stop someone achieving indefinitely high speeds using standard propulsion? What happens when you run out of fuel or someone blows off your engines? Do you just switch to using Heisenberg drives anyway? Then why not just use Heisenberg drives for everything? Why design a ship with two different engine technologies when you can just equip it with one and use the freed up capacity to mount extra weapons, sensors, etc?
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#9
I do believe you've achieved "Gazz status" with respect to epic, detailed posts. This is legendary :clap:

There's a lot that I love about this proposal. It's kind of mind-blowing how you basically circumvent the entire institution of velocity with quantum mechanical principles. IMO it's the most convincing and elegant explanation for a limited-velocity drive in space that I've seen so far :clap: The fact that the drive then becomes an internal component that is tightly-integrated with the ship's computer is also a superb side-effect. One could imagine far too many cool gameplay possibilities stemming from that coupling. I like how moving through space becomes a "computation," whose efficiency is bottlenecked by CPU cycle rate.

My only concerns are primarily in the aesthetics area. I have no doubt that, given some heavy graphics Josh time, we could come up with superb Heisenberg Drive effects to replace the thruster effects. I'm just not sure what they would look like, or where I would start, which means I need a good bit of thinking time. In addition, I'm sad that I wouldn't get to use lens flares anymore - but then again, that's ok, because lens flares can be used for plenty of other things :)

Other than that, implementation is no issue at all. Well, except for the proximity effects like drafting. Those will be a bit tough but I probably need better infrastructure for proximity effects anyway.

So, consider your points well-taken! I'll be mulling them over. And of course I'm sure others have thoughts on it as well? :)
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ~ Henry Ford
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#11
JoshParnell wrote:I do believe you've achieved "Gazz status" with respect to epic, detailed posts. This is legendary :clap:

There's a lot that I love about this proposal. It's kind of mind-blowing how you basically circumvent the entire institution of velocity with quantum mechanical principles. IMO it's the most convincing and elegant explanation for a limited-velocity drive in space that I've seen so far :clap: The fact that the drive then becomes an internal component that is tightly-integrated with the ship's computer is also a superb side-effect. One could imagine far too many cool gameplay possibilities stemming from that coupling. I like how moving through space becomes a "computation," whose efficiency is bottlenecked by CPU cycle rate.

My only concerns are primarily in the aesthetics area. I have no doubt that, given some heavy graphics Josh time, we could come up with superb Heisenberg Drive effects to replace the thruster effects. I'm just not sure what they would look like, or where I would start, which means I need a good bit of thinking time. In addition, I'm sad that I wouldn't get to use lens flares anymore - but then again, that's ok, because lens flares can be used for plenty of other things :)

Other than that, implementation is no issue at all. Well, except for the proximity effects like drafting. Those will be a bit tough but I probably need better infrastructure for proximity effects anyway.

So, consider your points well-taken! I'll be mulling them over. And of course I'm sure others have thoughts on it as well? :)
Thanks for the feedback, Josh. :)

I've listed some ideas under Aesthetics for Graphic Josh to have a look at. Specifically: the effect in this video that you see at 5:30 and also a kind of "phasing" partially in-and-out of visibility of the ship as it accelerates and decelerates.

Both of these are plausible and make sense given the nature of the system as well. The ship will be generating a field around it that alters the behaviour (mainly the position) of particles travelling through it. This includes bosons, such as photons. If the paths of photons become distorted as they pass through "affected" regions of space, it'll produce various refractive effects like you see in the EVE Online video.

Also, as the ship is "jumping" between points in space very quickly, it also makes sense that at some points the ship will be "not there" long enough that it will produce an effect of partial transparency.

Assuming you like these two effects, I'd recommend that the first one is used for acceleration/deceleration - the Heisenberg field changes to effect this change in velocity, causing temporary perturbations in the field that produce those kind of refractive effects.

I'd recommend the second one (the partial transparency phasing) to take effect only when the ship is exposed to some kind of sudden shock - either taking significant damage to its hull, or hitting an asteroid, etc. The navigation computer stutters a bit trying to compensate for the shock and this stuttering causes the jumping to become erratic enough to be visible to the human eye as a mild and temporary transparency effect.

Additional ideas along the line of aesthetics would be for a portion of the Heisenberg field's energy to be converted into visible light. This energy conversion into light would be accounted for under the current-linear component of my power-velocity model, the "maintenance/leakages" part. As the velocity of the ship increases (and therefore the energy of the field, and therefore the energy loss component), the photons may become increasingly more energetic. Since a photon's energy is related by Planck's constant to its frequency, you could start with like a reddish tinge around the Heisenberg fields at low velocities, which gradually changes to orange, yellow, blue, then white light at increasing intensity. Nothing too distracting, but just a suggestion if you want to add a colour component to it.
Last edited by ThymineC on Tue Dec 24, 2013 4:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#12
Lum wrote:I didn't my homework yet, but for cool non-thrusters effect could take something like the energy emanations of the Firefly's Firefly-class ships like Serenity. I could imagine some kind of waving effects because the drive (I suppose, like I've said, I'm not done with the reading...) could interfere with the shields. Well, maybe not effectively, but visualy... :?:
I kind of like that idea, yeah. Like I said to Josh, the linear component of my power-velocity model "maintenance/leakage" accounts for energy that could be lost through the less-than-perfectly-efficient Heisenberg drive that is converted into forms of energy that might show up as visible phenomena. The fact that energy is being allowed to leak from a drive that affects the fundamental behaviour of particles within space gives us free rein to implement a whole spectrum of graphical effects and remain within scientific plausibility at the third rung of the Mohs scale. :thumbup:

Serenity produces this kind of visual emanating orb of yellow light behind its engine as it travels. I could see something similar happening with Heisenberg drives - however, with this propulsion system there are not exactly any engines, so these kind of effects won't be confined to the rear of the ship like with Serenity. Instead, if you do get emanating light, it will appear all around the ship. That being said, since the ship leaves behind a trail in space as it moves, you could also have the trail emitting light as well, with the intensity of light emitted dropping off the further back you go along the trail as it dissipates all of its energy. Altogether then, you would have light emanating all around the ship and also along the trail behind it. I would imagine it might look similar to a meteor in that respect:
Image Except replacing the streak of fire with a more gentle, steady emanation of light, and making the effect a lot more subtle (perhaps only occurring around the fringes of the field and along the trail).
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#13
ThymineC wrote:Also, as the ship is "jumping" between points in space very quickly, it also makes sense that at some points the ship will be "not there" long enough that it will produce an effect of partial transparency.
I'm fully aware of my butchering the beautiful layout but...
  • the absolute speed (in relation to the universe) of an object could be expressed via it's aplpha channel.
    The faster something is going, the more it is... not there.
    (I was kinda hoping to use this for the visualisation of "stealth" in some shape or form)
  • the relative velocity (even though this is somewhat of a philosophical issue given the nature of the drive) is expressed via red/blue shift of the object.
    And yes, I know that it doesn't make sense. =)
There is no "I" in Tea. That would be gross.
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#14
Wow, that was an eyeful to get through.

Feel free to break a post up into multiple posts if you need/want to for better organization. We allow multiple postings if that's the case and feel free to also add a few reserved posts if you want to add more content later. Josh is right in terms of your Gazzification status. :)

Next, while I can't really contribute anything to the thread, I will leave with a joke:
Heisenberg was speeding down the highway when he got pulled over by a cop. The cop asks "Do you know how fast you were going?" and Heisenberg simply replies "Nope, but I know exactly where I am!"
Image
Early Spring - 1055: Well, I made it to Boatmurdered, and my initial impressions can be set forth in three words: What. The. F*ck.
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Re: Heisenberg Drive

#15
Gazz wrote:
ThymineC wrote:Also, as the ship is "jumping" between points in space very quickly, it also makes sense that at some points the ship will be "not there" long enough that it will produce an effect of partial transparency.
I'm fully aware of my butchering the beautiful layout but...
  • the absolute speed (in relation to the universe) of an object could be expressed via it's aplpha channel.
    The faster something is going, the more it is... not there.
    (I was kinda hoping to use this for the visualisation of "stealth" in some shape or form)
  • the relative velocity (even though this is somewhat of a philosophical issue given the nature of the drive) is expressed via red/blue shift of the object.
    And yes, I know that it doesn't make sense. =)
I like the first idea. The faster something moves, the more it's "not there" and the more transparent it appears. I'd still like to have the transparency temporarily go erratic when the ship gets shocked or jolted though. :)

Also, the idea of that being used for stealth is brilliant! I can already see how the Heisenberg field concept ties into this system.

Under Extensions, I describe how the Heisenberg field concept can be used to scientifically justify Josh's idea of matter transfer units. You could also imagine using Heisenberg fields as stealth technology by developing Heisenberg fields that try to maintain you in the "not there" state as long as possible each jump. Visually, this stealthing effect would appear as a transparency effect, with greater stealth corresponding to greater transparency. Mechanically, this would work because the more you're "not there", the fewer emissions you would be emitting or radiation your ship would be reflecting on average over a period of time.

There's a worry tickling the back of my mind that I'm not entirely sure if the ship is "never there", to be honest. The stutterwarp drive concept used by the Liir justifies a ship "not being there" by it repeatedly jumping in and out of the space-time manifold like a needle through fabric. The Heisenberg Drive operates by making particles simply tend to jump from one position to another. Is there any moment in between these two states where the particle is not anywhere at all? :think:

I can't say I agree with the second effect, only because I'm not sure what you mean by "relative velocity", and because blue-shift/red-shift effects would not be visible at the pretty low velocities we'd be dealing with (~order of 1000 ms^-1).

Edit: If by relative velocity, you mean, the proportion of current velocity to maximum attainable velocity of the ship - I proposed earlier that you could just have light of different frequencies and intensities emitted as the ship travels faster and slower. At low velocities, you get low-intensity red light around the fringes of the Heisenberg field, whereas at high velocities you get higher-intensity blue or white light. This would look similar to blue-shifting/red-shifting but make more sense, since blue/red-shifting is only noticeable at really high speeds due to the fact that light is really fast.

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