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The Docking Process

#1
I just discover LT about a week ago, and since then, I have watched all of the developer blogs and tech demos on the youtube channel.

In the early version of the game, you actually had to physically land on/in asteroids, stations, carriers, etc. I was wondering if this will still be a game play element. In almost all space simulators (when I say "almost all", I mean"every"), you approach a station/whatever, click dock, and then an animation runs showing your ship flying into the docking position. Will LT work the same way?

I suggest the use of a manual docking system, where the player is required to fly and land their ship inside of a station. It may seem to be very small addition, but I think this will greatly increase the immersion factor of the game. + I have always wanted to manually dock my ship +. :thumbup:
- Underdisc
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Re: The Docking Process

#2
Hi Underdisk
you will be able to land on asteroids and other in game object, but docking is different, in the fact that you can land on a station, but not be able to use it's utilities, hope this helps

welcome to the forums! :wave:

~Sly
DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS
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Re: The Docking Process

#3
I have no idea what LT is going to use, but lets look at the different docking models games have used.

1. Realistic manual. Kerbal Space Program. I think most would agree this is a huge PITA that would quickly get annoying at the amount of time taken, though it would be considerably easier in a game where there is in fact an arbitrary 'stopped', and you don't have a ship with imbalanced RCS.. :mrgreen:

2. Realistic auto pilot. Independence War 2, X3. You hard dock to a specific point on the exterior, but autopilot takes care of the actual docking maneuver, often quite aggressively, in order to save time.

3. Docking tunnel. Jumpgate used this, as does Elite. To dock you had to enter a large tunnel on the side of the station. There was no hard docking, it was just a zone barrier where you poofed out of existence.

4. Magic docking. EVE uses this. Get near the object and request docking, and poof! Docked! Easily the fastest option, but also the least satisfying.


I think options 2 or 3 would be preferable. Which is used depends on whether Josh wants us docking to the interior or exterior of a ship/station.
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Re: The Docking Process

#4
I recall Freelancer having an autodock function, where you'd target a station and it'd clip to a cutscene and pull your ship into a hangar, but I also know that there were quickdock points on every station where you could pull up very close, hit dock, and automatically go to the hangar without having to sit through a cutscene.

While I always found the quickdock to be particularly useful, that was only because A) other players and NPCs could sometimes kill you in the autopilot phase before the cutscene started, or B) the cutscene could glitch out and you'd sit there doing circles and have to restart.

As Limit Theory is singleplayer, the threat of some jerk dropping in your sorry butt and spitting a few missiles your way is less likely, though angered NPCs remain a factor. I find cutscenes to be dull, though from my experience with DarkStar One (which was rather limited, because it got boring quickly), docking manually can be a little bit hazardous, but certainly not super-hard.

Thankfully, in DarkStar One, you basically had to pull your ship into the docking port, and you'd be auto-landed in the hangar via loading screen. But in DarkStar One and Freelancer (unmodded Freelancer, anyway), you weren't flying any massive capital ships. It might be feasible to give the player the wheel when you're just parking a small freighter or fighter, but mooring a battleship to a space station is a completely different form of docking.

So ideally we'd want a system where docking will be doable for all shiptypes. Here's what I'm thinking:

You start by giving the station a ping to let them know you want to dock. Easy stuff. Then the chain of events splits from there:

If you're in a fighter, small freighter, or any other kind of ship that's small enough to fit inside the station's hangars, the station will open the door on whichever bay you need to enter, and you pull up to it slowly. Fade out to loading screen with some comms chatter, fade back in with station menus and a shot of your ship sitting in the hangar.

If you're in a larger freighter, capital ship, or any ship that is otherwise too large to fit inside the station's hangars, the station will direct you to a docking pylon (think the Harbinger docking sequence from Peragus in KotOR II), and you pull up to it, probably with autopilot, since it'd probably be a tricky maneuver. Then you get a short loading fade in/out sequence while the camera repositions to look at your ship from afar (maybe even slowly rotating) and the station's menu's pop up.
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Re: The Docking Process

#5
Grumblesaur wrote: If you're in a larger freighter, capital ship, or any ship that is otherwise too large to fit inside the station's hangars, the station will direct you to a docking pylon (think the Harbinger docking sequence from Peragus in KotOR II), and you pull up to it, probably with autopilot, since it'd probably be a tricky maneuver. Then you get a short loading fade in/out sequence while the camera repositions to look at your ship from afar (maybe even slowly rotating) and the station's menu's pop up.
Another idea might be that your BigShip needs to be within a certain radius of the station, you request to dock, and flexible docking tubes come out of the station to connect to your docking ports.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
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Re: The Docking Process

#6
Katorone wrote:
Grumblesaur wrote: If you're in a larger freighter, capital ship, or any ship that is otherwise too large to fit inside the station's hangars, the station will direct you to a docking pylon (think the Harbinger docking sequence from Peragus in KotOR II), and you pull up to it, probably with autopilot, since it'd probably be a tricky maneuver. Then you get a short loading fade in/out sequence while the camera repositions to look at your ship from afar (maybe even slowly rotating) and the station's menu's pop up.
Another idea might be that your BigShip needs to be within a certain radius of the station, you request to dock, and flexible docking tubes come out of the station to connect to your docking ports.
Maybe so: you ask for a docking permission and if granted an holographic ghost of your ship appears at the docking location.
then you have to match your ships position with the ghost, maybe an flight corridor based on the AI pathfinding could lead to the docking location.
when you match your ships position with the ghost your autopilot takes over, makes the last minor corrections to your positions and then the docking boom extends and connects your ship to the station.
The ghost could be always visible, even through the station but should change the color based upon if you can see it directly or not (blue if viewed directly, red the obscured parts)
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Re: The Docking Process

#7
To be honest, manual docking was never something I really liked.
The first upgrade I bought in X3 was the docking computer, which basically teleports your ship on the docking clamp.

So the fast docking is, the happier I'll be. :D
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
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Re: The Docking Process

#8
Katorone wrote:To be honest, manual docking was never something I really liked.
The first upgrade I bought in X3 was the docking computer, which basically teleports your ship on the docking clamp.

So the fast docking is, the happier I'll be. :D
Let thr AI dock your ship, if you stay in the flight corridor it does not even have to make course corrections.

And i never liked the magic docking computer, it broke immersion for me.
(Although i used it because its useful ^^)
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Re: The Docking Process

#9
If we can agree on the usefulness of the docking computer, can't we come up with a mechanic that's less immersion breaking but still a fast way to dock?

For small ships I'd say:
- Get docking permission, fly in the designated hangar -> zoom out to you'll see the station you're docked in and show the menu.

For BigShips:
- Get docking permission, the station projects an area that your ship has to fly in to. When in this area a docking tube extends from the station and connects to your ship -> zoom out again and show the menu.

HugeShips:
- When the mass of a ship is equal to that of a station, the gravitation between them might be too hard to allow for docking. Huge ships should therefore stay away a good distance from stations and other objects (highway repeaters?) and use smaller ships/transporters to undock/unload.
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
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Re: The Docking Process

#10
Katorone wrote:If we can agree on the usefulness of the docking computer, can't we come up with a mechanic that's less immersion breaking but still a fast way to dock?

For small ships I'd say:
- Get docking permission, fly in the designated hangar -> zoom out to you'll see the station you're docked in and show the menu.

For BigShips:
- Get docking permission, the station projects an area that your ship has to fly in to. When in this area a docking tube extends from the station and connects to your ship -> zoom out again and show the menu.

HugeShips:
- When the mass of a ship is equal to that of a station, the gravitation between them might be too hard to allow for docking. Huge ships should therefore stay away a good distance from stations and other objects (highway repeaters?) and use smaller ships/transporters to undock/unload.
Well, thats not different to what i suggested

And i dpnt think that gravitic forces should play any role for ship docking.
If you have two deathstars trying to dock with each other gravity plays a role, but for ships <10km? Not really

zooming out to show the station interface sounds good, i'll take that.
I
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Re: The Docking Process

#11
Cornflakes_91 wrote: And i dpnt think that gravitic forces should play any role for ship docking.
If you have two deathstars trying to dock with each other gravity plays a role, but for ships <10km? Not really
I'm not sure honestly, but I'm not a physicist. The moon is much smaller than the earth, and far away. Yet we still feel its pull.
I agree that we don't necessarily have to make a gameplay element out of this. It would probably suck bigtime. But perhaps it would even stand to reason that a station doesn't necessarily have the capacity to dock and unload a huge ship. A few transporters ferrying to unload this ship might go a lot faster. (And it gives work to all these NPC who're in a small transporter looking for a job)
Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master.
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Re: The Docking Process

#12
Deimos weighs 1.5 trillion tons, give or take, and has a surface gravity of 0.003m/s2, or 3mm/s2. I highly doubt a ship would approach even a fraction of that, unless, as said, we were talking death stars.

Basically, it takes a LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOT of mass to accumulate any noticeable gravity. It might be something they have to account for with microbursts of RCS if you were parked near a station for a few hours, but its not something that would complicate docking.
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Re: The Docking Process

#13
CutterJohn wrote:1. Realistic manual. Kerbal Space Program. I think most would agree this is a huge PITA that would quickly get annoying at the amount of time taken, though it would be considerably easier in a game where there is in fact an arbitrary 'stopped', and you don't have a ship with imbalanced RCS.. :mrgreen:

2. Realistic auto pilot. Independence War 2, X3. You hard dock to a specific point on the exterior, but autopilot takes care of the actual docking maneuver, often quite aggressively, in order to save time.

3. Docking tunnel. Jumpgate used this, as does Elite. To dock you had to enter a large tunnel on the side of the station. There was no hard docking, it was just a zone barrier where you poofed out of existence.

4. Magic docking. EVE uses this. Get near the object and request docking, and poof! Docked! Easily the fastest option, but also the least satisfying.
Coming from Elite, it should be no surprise that I'm firmly in camp #3.

There's also another reason to prefer this (maybe combined with #2), and it hasn't even been touched yet in the posts above this:

NPCs!

Not only we will dock regularly, but NPCs will, too, and we'll occasionally (or even regularly) watch them doing it. And I absolutely, positively, don't ever want to watch an NPC flying to a point somewhere close to a station and then—magically—pop out of existence. That would be a piss-poor substitute for docking, and a major immersion-breaker every couple of seconds (or whenever the next ship is docking). The same applies for launching from the station, of course. I don't want to see NPCs pop into existence at some point close to the station either.

Thus, what's needed is a docking process that looks like actual docking from the outside. From the four options above only #3 qualifies for that.

Note that this can be combined with an autopilot. Oolite does this. You can have you ship auto-piloted into the docking tunnel, and in fact that's the very same mechanism which also docks NPCs. Once you press the "docking" button, the game's normal docking AI takes over. There is even a quick-dock option, if you don't have enough patience to go through the whole process (which may involve queueing behind other ships that will dock first). Press a button, and you're insta-docked, but at the same time your ship clock advances 20 minutes. Which may be inconvenient when doing a time-critical mission. But the general approach is: the docking process is exactly the same for player and NPCs, and it looks immersive when watching NPCs doing it.
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Re: The Docking Process

#14
I agree with Cornflakes and CutterJohn. Accceleration due to gravity would be so weak as to be negligible for docking procedures in LT.

Let's assume an extreme case where you have a 100,000,000 kg vessel trying to dock with a 1,000,000,000 kg station whose centres of mass are 100m apart.

The force acting between them due to gravity would be 66,700 N to 3 s.f.

This would produce an acceleration of 0.000667 ms^-2 for the vessel and 0.0000667 ms^-2 for the station towards each other. Something an extremely weak H-field could easily counter. I'd prefer if the game just completely ignored acceleration due to gravity between spaceships and stations altogether, since there's really no point in worrying about accelerations this small.

Woah, broke the 10 posts/day barrier.
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Re: The Docking Process

#15
Commander McLane wrote:That would be a piss-poor substitute for docking, and a major immersion-breaker every couple of seconds (or whenever the next ship is docking). The same applies for launching from the station, of course. I don't want to see NPCs pop into existence at some point close to the station either.
This complicates design, though. Its all about levels of abstraction. The more things work like they should, the more I expect them to look like they should work as well. If I saw ships flying into a section of a station that clearly couldn't hold them, I'd be... disappointed. If they just poof from range, then whatever. Not intended to be an accurate representation.

Also, it complicates pathfinding. I like the idea of the ship going into an appropriate space, but if its going to take an NPC 10 minutes to work its way around to the other side of the station to get to the docking port... well... I'd rather not bother.

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