The Docking Process

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Re: The Docking Process

Postby ThymineC » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:11 am

CutterJohn wrote:
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.

If Josh isn't capable of getting NPCs to dock intelligently, a compromise that I would be fairly happy with would be to imagine a kind of "displacer" technology à la the tech in Iain M. Bank's The Culture series where ships are displaced into and out of stations with some accompanying visual effect. Like how it's done in EVE, but with more visual appeal.

Edit: Refining on this idea a little, a station could generate an H-field around it that can "jump" ships into hangar bays inside of it. The field attentuates in strength the further from the station you get, so each ship would need to be within a certain distance of a station to dock with it as determined by their mass. Smaller ships could be jumped into the station from relatively far away, while bigger ships would need to get closer to the station to be jumped inside. This is only if Josh can't make something like #3 feasible.
Last edited by ThymineC on Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Katorone » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:12 am

Thanks for the clarification! :D

But yes, I'd go with #3 for bigger ships, and an internal hangar with limited docking space for smaller ships.
I've seen videos of the prototype where the asteroid base had ships that were docked right next to you.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby CutterJohn » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:21 am

ThymineC wrote:If Josh isn't capable of getting NPCs to dock intelligently, a compromise that I would be fairly happy with would be to imagine a kind of "displacer" technology à la the tech in Iain M. Bank's The Culture series where ships are displaced into and out of stations with some accompanying visual effect. Like how it's done in EVE, but with more visual appeal.


I'd rather not, because that opens up many questions about why missiles and bombs aren't teleporting into ships offensively, why I'm docking at all since I could just send the cargo over, et cetera and whatnot. Technobabble begets technobabble in a never ending loop.

Still, it may be moot. Depends on the AI. I'm just remembering X3s autopillock.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Rabiator » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:21 am

Commander McLane wrote:
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.

I don't entirely agree.

#1 does not apply to NPCs, so it would have to be #2 for them. But when well implemented, #2 looks realistic enough from the outside. X3 does this (if you disregard the occasional glitches in the auto-pilot ;) , but most of the time it works).

#3 is presumably easier to implement, but I don't see a general advantage over #2. A bit less eyecandy than #2 but the difference is negligible if you do it right (make the entrance to the docking tunnel more or less opaque).

#4 is the "cheap" solution, as used in EVE online. It has some immersion-breaking factor, but is acceptable if you run out of development time.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Krin » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:34 am

Personally I like the option 3, where you sort of aim into a tunnel and then AI takes care of the rest.
I don't really like EVE's docking system, no satisfaction, but it's a fallback option none the less.

Outside of that, how about a different issue, size.

What if your ship is "too big" to dock at a given station?
Or what happens if the station doesn't have any free slots to dock onto?
I don't like the idea of a station having unlimited number of docking slots, but maybe in some cases it's just very high.

So if a station has no more free slots available, what happens?

This posses the option of having two types of docking, but possibly annoying to implement from a design perspective.
Interior and Exterior Docking.

Interior works mostly the same.
But to prevent possible abuse of say, loading up a station with multiple small ships, we bunch them together in slots.
So you could have multiple small ships on one given dock port. Like the port has a size capacity. But even then it could still get abused.

Exterior would leave ships prone and vulnerable to attack.
This could be kind of neat for various reasons.
For example, exterior and interior docking could have a small fee or tax associated with it, depending on the station. (Others might simply be free)
So exterior could be cheaper. And now lets assume this helps out saving time/speed. (Takes time to dock and undock)
It would be much faster to dock on an exterior, and helps some various missions such as transport services (taxi's) or small cargo drop-off.

Your ship should be insured regardless by yourself, that's just a good idea. A station might offer a small insurance for your ship while you are docked at the exterior, or they may not.
The chances of being attacked outside a station are slim, unless you happen to be a target, carry valuable cargo, etc.

I'm just throwing out the idea of this interesting mechanic.
Anyone have thoughts on it? :oops:
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby DWMagus » Tue Jan 21, 2014 12:48 pm

The only concern I really have is how cumbersome it'll be if it's not fast and automatic once you get further into the game.

I like Freelancer's variant. I know it was immersion breaking, but it was easy and non-intrusive. Everything else just feels a bit too intrusive for me. But that's just my opinion.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby JoshParnell » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:08 pm

My thoughts were always that it would be both #2 and #3. Currently the way docking works is that you must simply get into a "docking zone." I was planning to position these zones in either tubes or hangar-bay-type things. You will definitely be able to do it manually, but I'm pretty certain that you can just use autopilot if you like.

In general, that's probably how a lot of the game will work - do it manually if you like (and potentially gain the "human advantage"), or let autopilot do it once you've become bored of doing it yourself (e.g. docking, navigating through waypoints, etc.)

Hope that works for you all :thumbup:

The question of ship size & docking will be address in time. Docking bays will have size restrictions, and TBH I haven't decided what happens yet if you won't fit. In time :)
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Axiomatic » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:23 pm

JoshParnell wrote:The question of ship size & docking will be address in time. Docking bays will have size restrictions, and TBH I haven't decided what happens yet if you won't fit. In time :)


When you say docking bays have size restrictions, do you also refer to a limit on the number of ships a station can host?
One thing about freelancer was that the scripted ships entering and leaving created the illusion, but not the reality of stations having finite space.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby JoshParnell » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:30 pm

Axiomatic wrote:
JoshParnell wrote:The question of ship size & docking will be address in time. Docking bays will have size restrictions, and TBH I haven't decided what happens yet if you won't fit. In time :)


When you say docking bays have size restrictions, do you also refer to a limit on the number of ships a station can host?
One thing about freelancer was that the scripted ships entering and leaving created the illusion, but not the reality of stations having finite space.


Yes, bays have capacity restrictions at the moment. I'm not positive that I want to keep that facet...as I don't necessarily like the idea of getting turned away by a station that is at full capacity. But yes, currently there is a (very high) capacity restriction.

That one is certainly open to debate :)
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Katorone » Tue Jan 21, 2014 2:36 pm

Perhaps stations could ask rent when ships refuse to undock?

I'd like to compare it to a parking in front of a small warehouse. The owner of that shop wouldn't want drivers just park their cars there for fun, the parking should be for customers only.
Here, some warehouses ask that you take a ticket before being able to enter the parking. When you buy something you can get the ticket stamped and you don't have to pay for your time parked. Otherwise you have to pay a few euros per hour parked.

Of course, for social hubs/stations, things are a bit different. But I'd assume a parking space would be included in the habitat, and large parking would be installed in stations that expect a large amount of people?

Edit:
When the parking is full, ships could be asked to hold. Stations would expect people arriving and leaving regularly anyway. You could always use ErlangC to estimate how many parking spaces (lines) you need for a certain volume of buyers.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby ThymineC » Tue Jan 21, 2014 5:10 pm

CutterJohn wrote:
ThymineC wrote:If Josh isn't capable of getting NPCs to dock intelligently, a compromise that I would be fairly happy with would be to imagine a kind of "displacer" technology à la the tech in Iain M. Bank's The Culture series where ships are displaced into and out of stations with some accompanying visual effect. Like how it's done in EVE, but with more visual appeal.


I'd rather not, because that opens up many questions about why missiles and bombs aren't teleporting into ships offensively, why I'm docking at all since I could just send the cargo over, et cetera and whatnot. Technobabble begets technobabble in a never ending loop.

Yeah, that's a pretty good point. Well, Josh said they'd be a mixture of #2 and #3 so hopefully that's what will be the case. :)
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby CutterJohn » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:21 pm

JoshParnell wrote:Yes, bays have capacity restrictions at the moment. I'm not positive that I want to keep that facet...as I don't necessarily like the idea of getting turned away by a station that is at full capacity. But yes, currently there is a (very high) capacity restriction.

That one is certainly open to debate :)


I think a fair compromise would be stations always leave some space for the player. An NPC wants to dock? Sorry, we only have 19 docking slots, and they are all full. Then the player comes(or one of his ships), "Here, park in bay 20!".

That would leave the idea of limited space, without the annoyance of being unable to dock to a station at all because the stupid NPCs won't leave for whatever reason.
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Grumblesaur » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:35 pm

CutterJohn wrote:I think a fair compromise would be stations always leave some space for the player. An NPC wants to dock? Sorry, we only have 19 docking slots, and they are all full. Then the player comes(or one of his ships), "Here, park in bay 20!".

That would leave the idea of limited space, without the annoyance of being unable to dock to a station at all because the stupid NPCs won't leave for whatever reason.


Even better, and less player centric, if there is no available docking space at a station, or if there are no available docking tubes, the station could launch service drones and allow the player (or indeed any NPCs) to repair, equip, load, and unload their ships when space is full.

Now, if the station runs out of service drones, any entity looking to interface with that station will most assuredly have to wait. But one thing we should most certainly ask is, "will stations grow?"

If a station is regularly receiving large amounts of traffic, will that station expand to accommodate more spacers?
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby ThymineC » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:42 pm

Grumblesaur wrote:If a station is regularly receiving large amounts of traffic, will that station expand to accommodate more spacers?

Yes, because stations are privately owned structures owned by agents within the game who allow other agents to dock with them and use their services for a cost. If demand regularly outstrips capacity, the owner will likely be inclined towards capital investment to increase that capacity, depending more or less on how acquisitive they are.

More Coming Soon.™
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Re: The Docking Process

Postby Grumblesaur » Tue Jan 21, 2014 7:52 pm

ThymineC wrote:More Coming Soon.™


I can see it now, "Thoughts on Station Growth", by ThymineC » Wed Jan 22, 2014 4:42 am.
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